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    South East Stars find form as Sophia Dunkley leads them to victory
South East Stars find form as Sophia Dunkley leads them to victory
Sophia Dunkley's half-century paved the way for Stars. Source: Surrey CCC/Getty Images

South East Stars find form as Sophia Dunkley leads them to victory

Sophia Dunkley responded to her omission from the England squad for the upcoming series against Pakistan by smashing a blistering 67 off 89 balls to lead South East Stars to a commanding five-wicket victory over Sunrisers in this top-of-the-table Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy clash at Northampton.

Brilliantly supported by a destructive Alice Davidson-Richards (50), the pair shared a second-wicket stand of 105 as the Stars chased down 223 for victory in 47.5 overs after skipper Bryony Smith (34) laid the foundations in a 53-run opening partnership with Tash Farrant.

Dunkley, who had been urged by England coach Jon Lewis to get back to playing her best cricket, hit some aggressive boundaries early on but paced her innings perfectly, relying on exquisite timing and placement to keep the scoreboard ticking. Phoebe Franklin was there to see her team home after she and Davidson-Richards departed.

Alexa Stonehouse, Davidson-Richards, and Kalea Moore took two wickets apiece as Sunrisers failed to capitalise on winning the toss and batting first for the first time this season, losing wickets at regular intervals as they posted 222 for nine.

Flo Miller (30) top-scored, with several others making starts before falling to soft dismissals. Extras (29) made the second biggest contribution to Sunrisers' total, with Stars conceding 19 runs off wides.

Sunrisers went into the game top of the table with 15 points from four games, just one point ahead of Stars, and they lost Amara Carr in just the second over when she fell lbw to England quick Farrant without scoring.

Batting proved difficult early on on a sluggish pitch with a slow outfield after yesterday's torrential rain. With batsmen struggling to force the ball out of the crease, most of Sunrisers' boundaries came off full tosses or short deliveries.

In-form captain Grace Scrivens (15), fresh from an unbeaten century against Central Sparks, helped Sunrisers to 43 before she was bowled by Stonehouse.

Cordelia Griffith made 28, driving a full toss from Farrant over square leg for six before she chipped Stonehouse to Franklin at midwicket.

The stars then turned to spin twins Kalea Moore and Dani Gregory, who bowled 12 overs in tandem, with Moore striking in her fourth over, bowling Mady Villiers.

Northamptonshire opener Jodi Grewcock (24) combined with Amu Surenkumar (25) to take Sunrisers to three figures, but their fightback ended when Grewcock tamely edged Moore for the simplest of catch-and-bowl chances.

Leg spinner Gregory struck when she bowled one to Surenkumar, who drove loosely, and Franklin took another straightforward catch at midwicket.

When Stars went back to Franklin's seamers, Northamptonshire's Jo Gardner pulled hard but Farrant took a good diving catch at midwicket to leave Sunrisers seven wickets down and just 148 on the board.

Miller's innings ended when she top-edged Davidson-Richards, with substitute fielder Bethan Miles taking an excellent over-the-shoulder catch. Nicola Hancock (16) then tried to play Davidson-Richards down the leg-side and gave Franklin her third catch.

Sunrisers had their last wicket pair to thank for taking them past 200 as Esmae MacGregor and Kate Coppack shared an unbeaten, enterprising stand of 35.

For the Stars, Smith played an aggressive hand (six fours), driving down the ground and through midwicket. She smashed Hancock and Villiers over long-on for two more boundaries before scooping Hancock high over fine leg for another as she took Stars past 50 in the eleventh over, well ahead of the required run rate.

Before being bowled by Grewcock's first delivery, Farrant (20), in her new role as opener, threaded the ball perfectly between two offside boundary fielders for four. Smith's stay came to an end three overs later when she was trapped lbw by Villiers.

That brought Dunkley to the crease and she looked in good touch from the outset, hitting Villiers over leaping midwicket and pulling her hard for another boundary.

Meanwhile, Davidson-Richards got off to a good start, smashing Grewcock to the ground and greeting Gardner with a drive to the ropes to bring up Stars' 100. She stepped down the track to deposit Scrivens over long-on for six but fell when she tried to cut Villiers and edged back to Carr.

Franklin smashed boundaries through the covers and down the ground with relish. Despite some nerves when Dunkley was caught behind off MacGregor with Stars on 205 for four, and when Aylish Cranstone was given out lbw to Hancock, Franklin remained calm and hit the winning runs with 13 balls to spare.

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