cricket:image:1441729 [900x506]
cricket:image:1441729 [900x506] (Credit: Getty Images)

The players we can t wait to see in the MLB Futures Game

The Blaze 220 for 5 (Higham 62*, S Bryce 61) beat Western Storm 217 (Wilson 67, K Bryce 4-20) by five wickets

Lucy Higham and Ella Claridge staged a superb unbroken match-winning partnership of 105 in 22.3 overs to guide The Blaze to a five-wicket success over Western Storm in a hard-fought Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy contest at Cheltenham.

Pursuing a modest victory target of 218, the visitors made a great start to their chase, courtesy of a hard-hitting 61 in 54 balls from opener Sarah Bryce. But the outcome was in doubt when The Blaze slipped to 115 for 5, and they were ultimately indebted to their sixth-wicket pair, Higham and Claridge raising unbeaten knocks of 62 and 43 respectively to seal the win with 7.3 overs remaining.

Fran Wilson had earlier top-scored with 67 and added 62 for the third wicket with Sophie Luff after Storm had been inserted on a flat pitch. But Luff's dismissal, run out by Kathryn Bryce for 31, sparked a collapse in which the home side went from 133 for 2 to 217 all out in 16.2 overs, their last eight wickets realising just 84 runs. Bryce finished with 4 for 20 from 8.5 overs as Storm were dismissed inside 47 overs.

Rooted to the foot of the table, Storm have now lost their last five matches in the 50-over format and face testing fixtures away to Central Sparks and leaders Southern Vipers in the space of the next week. The Blaze remain in fifth place after registering their fourth win of the season and will approach Sunday's away game against title-chasing Northern Diamonds in confident mood.

Storm may have lost the toss and had to bat beneath low cloud cover, but they nevertheless made a decent start, Corney and Smale growing in confidence and fluency in an opening stand of 57 that afforded the innings solid foundations.

Kirstie Gordon ended the partnership, bowling Corney in the act of slog-sweeping for 23, while legspinner Josie Groves held a catch off her own bowling to send back Smale for 32 as Storm slipped to 71 for 2.

Wilson and Luff then forged an alliance characterised by quick running and aggressive intent, raising 50 for the third wicket in 13.2 overs as the sun came out and conditions for batting improved. But their burgeoning stand was ultimately undermined by confusion, Luff guiding a ball from Gordon to backward point and setting off on a run, only to be sent back by Wilson and run out for a 41-ball 31 by Bryce's throw. A partnership that had promised a good deal was terminated on 62 with the score on 133.

Determined to make amends, Wilson went to her second 50 in as many games at the Festival via 53 balls, adding 35 in five overs with Nat Wraith to afford the innings renewed impetus. Cassidy McCarthy's express pace accounted for Wraith, caught and bowled for a 21-ball 20, as The Blaze fought back once more.

Wilson had scored 67 off 68 balls when, pursuing a ninth boundary, she drove at a length ball from Heather Graham and found long-on, while Amanda-Jade Wellington was bowled by Grace Ballinger without scoring as the innings began to unravel. Kathryn Bryce then single-handedly wiped out the tail, removing Alex Griffiths, Issy Wong, Niamh Holland and Ellie Anderson in the space of seven balls from the Chapel End.

Needing a good start with the ball, Storm made early in-roads, England star Tammy Beaumont falling to Wong for six. But Sarah Bryce seized the initiative thereafter, adding 47 for the second wicket with her elder sibling as The Blaze reached 75 for 2 at the end of the 10-over powerplay. Ultra-positive from the outset, the 24-year-old Scot raced to a 36-ball 50, which included seven fours and a six and served to force Storm onto the back foot.

Undeterred, the home side weathered the storm and Griffiths bowled Marie Kelly to at least stem the flow of runs. Skelton then removed Heather Graham before claiming the crucial wicket of Bryce, who played back to a full delivery and was bowled as the visitors lurched to 115 for 5.

With a further 103 runs required, Claridge and Higham sought to stabilise the innings, the sixth wicket pair initially adopting a low-risk approach to see off the threat posed by Wong's pace and Wellington's legbreaks. As their partnership grew in stature, so their willingness to pursue boundaries increased, Higham in particular playing with fluency as the finish line came within sight.

Higham brought up a 60-ball 50 in the 39th over, sweeping Smale for her sixth boundary to attain that landmark and put the outcome beyond doubt.