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    Ryana MacDonald-Gay was instrumental in the team's defeat
Ryana MacDonald-Gay was instrumental in the team's defeat
Ryana MacDonald-Gay led the rout of The Blaze's top order. Source: Getty Images

Ryana MacDonald-Gay was instrumental in the team's defeat

England seam bowler Ryana MacDonald-Gay achieved a personal best with five wickets for 31 runs before opener Tash Farrant continued her impressive start to the season with an unbeaten 68 runs as South East Stars secured their second consecutive victory in the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy, thumping The Blaze in their match in Leicester.

England player Tash Farrant, who scored a career high 94 runs as Stars won the first match against Southern Vipers last weekend, led the way as Bryony Smith's team secured an eight-wicket victory, reaching their target in just 159 balls.

The margin of victory could have been greater, but for a competition-record partnership that prevented The Blaze from suffering a more significant defeat. After winning the toss and choosing to bat, they were reduced to 49 for nine. Skipper Kirstie Gordon and number 11 Grace Ballinger's stand of 77 was the highest for the 10th wicket by any side since the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy was launched in 2020.

England's Sarah Glenn returned for The Blaze for her first action since suffering a concussion injury a month ago. Last season's runners-up were still without four first-choice players due to international commitments, with three others injured.

The Blaze were severely weakened at the top of the batting order, and from the outset were in a difficult position. Opener Marie Kelly, one of their more experienced batters, was dismissed by MacDonald-Gay's opening delivery, the ball bottom-edging into her stumps.

​​In her next two overs, MacDonald-Gay achieved two wickets, with Sophie Munro and Ella Claridge unable to respond effectively to the balls bowled at the stumps.

The Blaze had a challenging start, but MacDonald-Gay's new-ball partner Phoebe Franklin quickly turned the tide. She removed South Africa all-rounder Nadine de Klerk and Glenn in the space of four deliveries, with neither making a run. De Klerk was caught behind, and Glenn edged to second slip. The score dropped from 16 for 3 to 17 for 5.

Teresa Graves was dismissed at extra cover off Franklin, and the Stars celebrated again soon after as MacDonald-Gay bowled out Daisy Mullan.

A boundary from Graves and Bethany Harmer gave The Blaze a glimmer of hope, but it was short-lived as another straight ball from MacDonald-Gay accounted for Graves and gave the England A bowler the reward of a first five-wicket haul in women's List A cricket.

The Blaze were 39 for seven, and there was no respite as the England seamer Alice Davidson-Richards took over at the Bennett End and picked up a wicket first ball as Harmer was caught at backward point; MacDonald-Gay added to her impressive morning's work by taking a fine, one-handed catch.

With Davidson-Richards dismissing Cassidy McCarthy, The Blaze were 49 for nine with barely 75 minutes played. It appeared that the end was approaching rapidly.

Gordon and Ballinger had a different approach, however. The last-wicket pair held up the Stars for more than an hour and a half, taking a mature, measured approach that saw them resist any temptation to throw the bat and concentrate instead on working the gaps in what is English domestic cricket's largest playing area, with only a quarter of their runs coming in boundaries.

Ballinger achieved a personal best of 18 runs in the previous List A match before being dismissed leg before wicket to the off-spin of a relieved Smith. Gordon's unbeaten 41 runs represented her best List A score in English domestic cricket.

Their efforts had at least given themselves and their fellow bowlers a larger total to defend than had seemed likely. It was still not sufficient to prevent the Stars from achieving their goal, for whom Smith made 34 from 33 balls before Farrant took charge, hitting five fours and two sixes in her 81-ball innings.

Both Farrant and Smith made effective use of the shorter, straight boundaries before Smith was dismissed by a catch at mid-on following an 82-run opening stand. Gordon was the only other bowler to have any success, bowling Scholfield.


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