The Southern Vipers clinched a thrilling victory in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final, triumphing over The Blaze by five wickets. Charlotte Edwards, at the helm of the Southern Vipers, sealed a remarkable domestic double, solidifying her status as one of the game’s premier coaches. Edwards had already celebrated success earlier in the year, claiming the 20-over cup, and she now added the 50-over title to her impressive collection of trophies, including the 2023 WIPL and Women’s Hundred titles with Mumbai Indians and Southern Brave. This marked the Vipers’ third Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy win in four years, following their back-to-back victories in 2020 and 2021.
The Southern Vipers’ triumph in this final owed much to Emily Windsor’s heroic performance, with an unbeaten 57 off 53 balls, coupled with Freya Kemp’s crucial 32 not out off 35. Their unbroken partnership of 94 runs turned the tide in their favor after The Blaze, driven by Tammy Beaumont’s resilient 76 and Josie Groves’ impactful three-wicket burst, had posed a considerable challenge.
The Vipers displayed a commendable all-round bowling effort, led by Linsey Smith’s three wickets, to overcome a shaky start. Georgia Elwiss played an assertive innings, while Georgia Adams survived some close calls. With the match reduced to 48 overs per side due to rain, Windsor and Kemp guided their team to a comfortable five-wicket victory with 46 balls to spare. Windsor’s fifty was highlighted by a key moment when she survived a dropped catch on 46 before sealing the win with a boundary off Kirstie Gordon.
Despite early setbacks, The Blaze managed to recover, largely thanks to Beaumont’s measured innings that lifted them to 154 for 5. Gordon’s cameo of 21 runs added impetus as they reached the 200-run mark, with her slog-swept six being the only maximum of the game.
Kathryn Bryce and Kirstie Gordon combined to remove Vipers’ opener Ella McCaughan and the threat of Maia Bouchier. At one point, the Vipers found themselves in dire straits at 4 for 2. However, the experience of Georgia Adams, the competition’s second-highest run-scorer, and the assertive play of Elwiss resuscitated their chase. Despite some nervy moments, including chances put down by The Blaze fielders, Adams accelerated towards the end, scoring 22 runs off 18 balls. But it was Josie Groves who turned the tide, dismissing Elwiss and Adams in quick succession, and further tightening the match by breaching Charlie Dean’s defense.
Following the early setbacks, Emily Windsor and Freya Kemp seized control of the chase, securing a late-season resurgence for the Southern Vipers. While The Blaze had initially set the pace in the competition with six consecutive victories, including a win against the Vipers, they suffered three consecutive losses before clinching a rain-affected play-off victory against South East Stars at Beckenham. In contrast, the Vipers had a challenging start to their campaign, losing four of their first seven completed games and tying one. However, they regrouped after the August break for the Hundred, storming back into contention and securing direct entry to the final.
The Southern Vipers got off to an ideal start in the final when openers Lizelle Lee and Marie Kelly both fell cheaply, scoring 3 and 0 runs, respectively, in the same over bowled by Linsey Smith, who finished as the standout bowler for the Vipers with figures of 3 for 30.
Tammy Beaumont and Sarah Bryce then put together a cautious 39-run partnership off 62 balls before Bryce was dismissed, bowled by Charlie Dean. Soon after, Georgie Boyce was adjudged lbw to Georgia Adams, further tilting the match in the Vipers’ favor.
Beaumont continued to anchor The Blaze’s innings, forming a 40-run partnership with Kathryn Bryce. However, her promising innings came to an end when she tried to hit Dean for a boundary but was caught by Georgia Adams at mid-off, putting a halt to her valiant effort to hold The Blaze’s innings together.