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    Unbeaten 106 from Nadine de Klerk to weather the storm
Unbeaten 106 from Nadine de Klerk to weather the storm
Nadine de Klerk finished the match with a slog sweep for six. Source: Getty Images

Unbeaten 106 from Nadine de Klerk to weather the storm

South African all-rounder Nadine de Klerk struck a magnificent unbeaten 106 as The Blaze fought back to beat Western Storm by four wickets in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy at Trent Bridge.

Chasing 276 for victory, the home side looked set for a fifth defeat in six matches when they slipped to 137 for 6 after Natasha Wraith's impressive career-best 73 in the Storm innings.

But 24-year-old De Klerk turned the tide in a superb unbroken partnership of 139 runs with 21-year-old wicketkeeper Ella Claridge (64 not out), whose half-century was her first in women's regional cricket, as The Blaze won with 12 balls to spare.

Earlier, wicketkeeper-batsman Wraith shared a fourth-wicket partnership of 93 with skipper Sophie Luff (37), who had put on 66 for the second wicket with Fran Wilson (34), before useful lower-order runs from Chloe Skelton (29 not out) helped Storm make the most of the absence of England duo Heather Knight and Danielle Gibson to post 275 all out in 48.1 overs. Blaze captain Kirstie Gordon took 4 for 40 to take her wicket tally to 11.

England opener Tammy Beaumont, who was not selected for the upcoming T20 series against Pakistan Women, made 41 and shared an opening partnership of 52 with Teresa Graves (24), but The Blaze looked to be suffering again in the absence of England's Nat Sciver-Brunt and Scotland internationals Kathryn and Sarah Bryce before De Klerk and Claridge's heroics won the day.

The Blaze had won the toss and Sophie Munro removed Alex Griffiths with the second ball of the innings, edging to Beaumont at slip, but Gordon had to wait until the 14th over to see her decision to bowl first rewarded again, making the breakthrough with her own left-arm spin when Wilson's sweep flew off a top edge to short fine leg.

Gordon then bowled Smale to leave Storm on 70 for 3, with the Blaze skipper looking to apply the squeeze with spin at both ends.

But Wraith and Luff countered by going on the offensive, adding another 50 off just 40 deliveries, with Wraith hitting Gordon for a maximum before dismissing leg-spinner Josie Groves with three fours in four balls.

The fourth-wicket pair plundered more runs against the off-spin of Lucy Higham before Groves, who replaced England's Sarah Glenn in the only change to the Blaze line-up, returned to have Luff caught at long-off thanks to an excellent catch by Munro.

Wraith continued unchecked, surpassing her previous best of 68 when she pulled left-armer Ballinger for her 11th four.

She fell in the next over, caught behind off a top edge, and when Gordon then dismissed Katie Jones and Niamh Holland in the space of four deliveries, the home side looked to be regaining control with Storm 207 for 7.

But Skelton, who hit the unfortunate Ballinger for five successive fours, led the way as the Storm tail wagged, the last three wickets adding 68 vital runs, punctuated by second wickets for De Klerk and Munro before Graves ended the innings with her only delivery.

In reply, The Blaze was going well until the final over of the opening powerplay, when Smale struck with her first ball as Luff turned to spin for the first time. The left-armer produced the thinnest of tickles as Graves, who had played well for her 24, was caught behind on the leg-side.

From 52 not out, Blaze stumbled badly. Smale took the crucial wicket of Beaumont, whose swing and miss ended with her middle stump off the ground, before leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington removed Marie Kelly with the help of an excellent catch from Griffiths at gully and had Beth Gammon leg before.

Gordon fell for 16, adjudged leg before trying to work Skelton's off-spin through the on-side, and Munro was bowled through the gate by seamer Griffiths.

Storm was now well on top with Blaze 137 for 6, but there was no shifting De Klerk, who pounced on almost every delivery that was short or wide to complete her second half-century for the East Midlands side off 62 balls with six boundaries.

Having lost five partners before this milestone, she finally found one to stick with her in the increasingly confident Claridge, whose fifth boundary, a powerful drive through the covers off Skelton, set up a century partnership for the seventh wicket in 17 overs, with 37 needed from the final six.

De Klerk brought up her hundred from 112 balls with 12 fours, before wrapping up the match with a slog-swept six off the bowling of Griffiths.

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