Western Storm won the final Kia Super League after a brilliant 78 not out by captain Heather Knight helped seal a six-wicket win over Southern Vipers at Hove.
The 2017 winners pulled off a KSL final record chase of 173 with an over to spare with Knight trumping a superb 73 by England team-mate Danni Wyatt in Vipers’ 172 for 7 and becoming the only player in the tournament’s four-year history to pass 1,000 runs in the process.
Storm lost opener Smriti Mandhana in the first over but Knight received good support from Rachel Priest (27) and Fran Wilson (18) to get the innings back on track. They still needed 64 off eight overs after Wilson and Sophie Luff departed in the 12thover but the big-hitting Deepti Sharma gave Knight superb support in an unbroken stand of 71 from just 33 balls for the fifth wicket.
They got the equation down to a manageable 23 from three overs and Sharma relieved any tension by hitting Wyatt’s off spin for successive fours. In the penultimate over she hit Bates for three boundaries, striking her over long off to seal victory with her ninth four. The Indian all-rounder, who earlier took the vital wicket of Wyatt, finished on 39 off just 22 deliveries while Knight scored her runs off 53 deliveries with nine boundaries and three sixes.
Vipers will feel they let a winning position slip, although there was something special about the ball striking of Knight or Sharma towards the end of the chase. Leg-spinner Amanda Jade-Wellington took 2 for 31 but Lauren Bell conceded 12 runs in extras by bowling four wides and two no balls and the normally reliable Bates went for 39 from her four.
Vipers had earlier been indebted to another brilliant performance by Wyatt, who made 73 off just 42 balls to take her to the top of the tournament run scorers with 466, including five fifties.
Wyatt and Bates had put on 71 in the powerplay in their semi-final win over Loughborough Lightning and this time they gave their side another great platform with 62 in the first six overs.
Bates was looking in ominous form too and had 26 off 19 balls out of an opening stand of 65 when she was superbly caught one-handed off her own bowling by Sonia Odedra in the seventh over, but skipper Tammy Beaumont ensured their momentum was maintained by helping Wyatt put on 69 from 47 balls for the second wicket.
Beaumont had some luck when she was dropped off successive balls in the 12th over when she was on ten. Wyatt reached her 50 off 27 balls and was looking to clear the rope for the third time when she was well caught by Anya Shrubsole at long-on in the 15th over. She hit ten fours and two sixes with eye-catching power and placement on both sides of the wicket.
Maia Bouchier was run out without facing off the next ball and Storm had another breakthrough in the 16th over when Shrubsole picked up Beaumont for 33 to a catch at fine leg. Storm had fought back well by only conceding 55 runs in the last eight overs and took that momentum into their chase.
Heather Knight (Storm captain) said: “I thought at the break we’d done well to drag it back to 172 because the way Danni Wyatt was batting at one stage, it looked like we’d be chasing 200. We’ve got terrific belief in our side from winning games in a lot of difficult situations over the last couple of years. We knew if we got a couple of partnerships and one person was in at the end that we could win.
"We know we have a lot of depth in our batting line-up and if we could hang in there we could get close because it was an amazing wicket and you got full value for your shots. We felt that if we didn’t let the rate get too high we could catch up at the end and that’s what we did.
"Deepti (Sharma) took the pressure off me massively at the end with her innings. I was delighted we finished the job and gave the KSL the send-off it deserved. The Vipers played their part and I thought it was a great game."
Tammy Beaumont (Vipers captain) said: “I’m pretty gutted but all credit to Heather (Knight) who played brilliantly. I thought 172 was a good score but we probably left a few runs out there and then perhaps didn’t bowl or field as well as we did in the semi-final. Heather paced her innings perfectly and then Deepti (Sharma) came in at the end and played really well too.
"I’m really proud of the girls because for most of the tournament we only had four overseas players but the domestic and county players have really stepped up during the tournament. Girls like Lauren Bell, Maia Bouchier have been brilliant and it’s great that the KSL have given young players that stage to perform."