Rachel Priest’s 55 keeps Western Storm out in front

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Western Storm 158 for 4 (Priest 55) beat Loughborough Lightning 118 all out (Davies 4 for 27)

Rachel Priest rediscovered her touch to propel top-of-the-table Western Storm to a 40-run Kia Super League victory over Loughborough Lightning at Bristol.

The former New Zealand international opener top-scored with 55 from 43 balls and shared in stands of 47 and 64 with Smriti Mandhana and Heather Knight for the first and second wickets respectively as Storm posted 158 for 4 after being put in.

Lightning never recovered from the loss of early wickets and were dismissed for 118 in 18.2 overs, undone by England pace bowler Freya Davies, who claimed 4 for 27.

Bidding to reach Finals Day for a fourth consecutive season, Storm completed the double over Lightning and now boast a 100 percent record from four games in 2019.

Having chased successfully in their opening three outings, Storm found themselves in the unaccustomed position of posting a score and defending it.

Hitherto short of runs, Priest and Mandhana set the tone in a fast-scoring opening stand that spanned 5.2 overs and laid solid foundations.

Yet to post 50 this season, Indian star Mandhana plundered three successive fours at the expense of Sri Lankan offspinner Chamari Atapattu. But her serene progress was terminated in the next over, the 23-year-old left-hander hoisting a half volley from Kathryn Bryce to deep mid-wicket and departing for a 22-ball 29.

Thereafter, Priest seized the initiative, sweeping and cutting to good effect against a Lightning attack that sought to take pace off the ball on a slow pitch. Understanding what was possible in the conditions, Storm’s experienced opener scored a majority of her runs backward of square, running well between the wickets and accruing eight fours, most of them the product of deft placement.

Afforded a life when dropped in the deep by Matthews off the bowling of Jenny Gunn on 35, Priest eventually perished in the 14th over with the score 111, held at deep midwicket in the act of trying to hit Matthews for six.

If Lightning believed her dismissal would bring them much-needed relief, they were quickly disabused of the idea by in-form England captain Knight, who ensured there was no let-up in the rate by striking three fours and two sixes in an impressive innings of 45 from 37 balls. Knight was within sight of a third 50 in as many matches when, attempting to straight drive Georgia Elwiss, she was superbly caught one-handed by Georgia Adams running round from mid-off.

Quick between the wickets, Sophie Luff and Deepti Sharma then added 19 for the fifth wicket as Storm produced a strong finish.

In need of a fast start, Lightning lost Matthews and Atapattu during a powerplay which yielded just 30 runs. Matthews was pinned lbw by Davies for two, while overseas star Atapattu lost her off stump to offspinner Claire Nicholas.

Worse followed when Amy Jones, having scored 20 from 17 balls, was run out by Knight in pursuit of a dubious single, while skipper Elwiss slapped Knight straight to deep long-on for 12 as Lightning subsided to 55 for 4 at halfway.

Davies claimed two wickets in five balls in the 15th over, removing Adams for 17 and South African Du Preez for 30, Gunn fell to Sharma for four and Sarah Glenn was run out by Naomi Dattani as Storm tightened the screw.

Davies completed a fine performance by having Tara Norris caught at the wicket, while Sharma trapped Gordon lbw to signal the end with 10 deliveries unused.