Analysis: Pace vs. Spin distribution
Cheltenham was expected to be a track for the pacers to make merry in the first 12-15 overs of an innings. The venue is known for that & that's what the CC game that ended just one day before this clash suggested as well.
Western Storm went spin-heavy with their attack on a green pitch and bowled 32 overs of spin despite having 3 very good pacers in the side. Lauren Filer just bowled 4 overs, while Dani Gibson & Katie George bowled 7 overs each. Filer, in particular, was more surprising. While she struggled in her first spell, nothing made sense for her to be given only 4 overs, unless she had a niggle later.
South East Stars nailed their bowling distribution. They did the exact opposite of what the Storm did & it was the right thing too. They just bowled 11 overs of spin in total and backed their pacers on that pitch.
Analysis: Bowling utilization
Western Storm got the first use of the pitch as SE Stars opted to bat first. When you expect the pacers to be taking the new ball on a green track, it was Claire Nicholas who started with her off-spin. Storm bowled 3 overs of spin in the PP and by the end of the PP, they had conceded 70 runs with just 1 wicket which was picked up by Gibson.
Compare this to SE Stars who conceded 48/1 in the PP and bowled 14 overs of pace flat out at the start of their innings. What was evident was that it was a pre-game plan to utilize the pacers upfront and back them even if they concede runs. After every over, Kira Chathli nonchalantly changed ends without bothering if she needed to call for a helmet or not, in case a spinner was being brought on. That's because Alice Davidson-Richards stuck to the plan of bowling the pacers.
Alexa Stonehouse repaid the trust as she bowled a fantastic spell of 5-0-9-1 in the PP and threatened the inside and the outside edge of Sophie Luff & Alex Griffiths quite often.
At the death, the teams again went the opposite way than each other. While Storm went spin-heavy in the last 10 overs, SE Stars only bowled pace to wrap up the game in 8 overs of death-bowling.
Sophie Luff continues to churn out runs
Skipper Luff continued to wage the lone battle again and put in a fight to take the game deep. She went past Lauren Winfield-Hill to become the leading run-scorer for this year's RHF Trophy and has scored 29% of the team's runs.
Her proactive nature of batting was on show again as she mixed boundary-hitting well with maneuvring the field well. If Dani Gibson & Katie George bat higher up the order when Luff is in the middle, these pairings could become formidable in complementing each other. Something, that Storm needs to contemplate, especially in Gibson's case who is batting too low.
Excellent leadership on show by Alice Davidson-Richards
One of the key takeaways was Richards' leadership in the absence of Bryony Smith & Aylish Cranstone. and how she rotated her bowlers. She was the most experienced bowler in the side and was in top form, but she was the last change after using 6 bowlers. The big reason was that she backed the youngsters even if they were leaking runs. She started with Stonehouse & Franklin and then brought in Ryana-Macdonald-Gay & Eva Gray as the 1st & 2nd change bowlers after which she resorted to a bit of spin.
Chloe Skelton - Another talented player from the Western Storm spin factory
Western Storm is a factory for producing very good spinners & Chloe Skelton adds to the long list of very good spinners in the side. The team has hugely benefitted before with the likes of Claire Nicholas, Nicole Harvey, Fi Morris, Lauren Parfitt, etc. Sophia Smale has had a great start, and it was time for Chloe Skelton to show her mettle. She bagged only the 2nd 5-fer for a Western Storm player in what was a display of beautiful flighted off-spin bowling that coaxed several SE Stars batters.