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    Sophie Luff's excellent performance contributed to the Storm's decisive victory
Sophie Luff's excellent performance contributed to the Storm's decisive victory
Sophie Luff raised an unbeaten fifty. Source: Getty Images

Sophie Luff's excellent performance contributed to the Storm's decisive victory

Western Storm secured their first victory in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy after overcoming Thunder by 66 runs at Emirates Old Trafford. An unbeaten 76 by Sophie Luff marked the culmination of a commendable comeback by Western Storm, who amassed 252 for 6 from their 50 overs following a remarkable display of spin bowling by Sophie Ecclestone.

England spinner Ecclestone took three wickets for 16 runs off her 10 overs, but three strong partnerships enabled the Storm to add 162 runs from their final 30 overs, posting a challenging score. This proved sufficient as Thunder collapsed to 186 all out off 42.4 overs, with Sophia Smale and Chloe Skelton taking three wickets apiece.

Western Storm made an early breakthrough as the Thunder set off in pursuit of 253. Seren Smale cut a short delivery from Lauren Filer to Dani Gibson at cover for 9.

Emma Lamb and Katie Mack rebuilt with a positive 62-run partnership off 69 balls. Mack launched Amanda-Jade Wellington for consecutive sixes at the start of the leg spinner's second over.

Wellington responded with two key dismissals, removing Mack for 28 and Lamb for 38, reducing Thunder to 85 for 3 at the start of the 19th over. This quickly became 104 for 6 after 25 overs as three wickets fell for six runs in a challenging period for Thunder.

Off-spinner Skelton had Fi Morris caught behind for 16, then bowled Naomi Dattani first ball. Alex Griffiths found an edge from Ecclestone that was well taken by wicketkeeper Nat Wraith standing up.

Skipper Ellie Threlkeld and Kate Cross rallied Thunder with a partnership of 69 off 83 balls. Cross made a patient 36 before being bowled by left-arm spinner Smale. Threlkeld was dismissed for 32 when lbw sweeping at Skelton two balls later, leaving the hosts 173 for 8 in the 40th over.

Smale concluded the match with the dismissal of Mahika Gaur and Phoebe Graham for 10 runs, thereby securing a decisive victory.

The Storm team made an excellent start after being put in to bat, with Griffiths and Smale posting a second consecutive fifty opening partnership in the face of some disciplined bowling by the England duo Cross and Gaur.

Griffiths had accelerated the scoring, but was bowled for 24 after attempting a wild slog at Ecclestone. This was the first of three wickets to fall for nine runs in 17 balls. Smale, who had been fortunate to survive a run out chance when on 4, was bowled for 23 by Ecclestone after playing back and being beaten by a turning delivery. Fran Wilson chipped Graham to Dattani at mid-on for 7.

Gibson achieved three boundaries off her first seven deliveries, but was unable to respond to a quicker, turning delivery from Ecclestone, resulting in her dismissal for 16 with the fourth wicket falling on 80 at the end of the 19th over.

The Storm team responded well to this challenge, with captain Luff and Wraith forming a strong alliance of 70 runs across 17 overs to counter the control exerted by the Thunder spinners, with Ecclestone playing a key role.

Wraith achieved the first six of the match off Hannah Jones before being dismissed by a superb catch by Ecclestone at mid-on off Graham for 38 runs.

Luff received valuable assistance from Niamh Holland, who contributed 22 runs in 24 balls in a 46-run partnership, and Wellington, who made a rapid unbeaten 31 runs in 19 balls in the closing overs.

Luff, who reached her fifty from 82 balls, played a pivotal role in maintaining the team's performance. She initially consolidated after coming to the crease in the 15th over, before providing the late acceleration as Storm added 83 from the last ten overs to set a target that proved to be more than enough.

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