Central Sparks 242 for 3 (Jones 84*, Green 64) beat Western Storm 241 for 8 (Wraith 39) by seven wickets
Sparks captain Jones grafted her way to 84 from 113 balls, while New Zealand international Green plundered a quickfire 64 from 56 deliveries with 10 fours as the visitors chased down a target of 242 with 35 deliveries in hand at the Cooper Associates County Ground in Taunton.
The two staged a match-winning alliance of 106 in 15 overs for the third wicket, while in-form Abi Freeborn made a useful 44 as the visitors broke down Storm resistance to prevail with something to spare.
Nat Wraith top-scored with 39 and shared in a defiant stand of 64 with Katie Jones, and Sophia Smale and Chloe Skelton added 60 for the eighth wicket as Storm fought back from 113 for 5 in the 29th over to post 241 for 8 after being put into bat.
But a succession of batters failed to capitalise on good starts as Sparks took wickets at regular intervals to remain in control, Katie George claiming 2 for 49 against her former teammates and off-spinner Georgia Davis weighing in with 2 for 32 from 10 overs with two maidens to take her haul in the 50-over competition to 25 this season.
A sixth win in 13 group games means Sparks will go into their final fixture against South East Stars at Edgbaston on Saturday in the knowledge that victory could secure them a place in the finals later this month. Having suffered three straight defeats, bottom-of-the-table Storm will be looking to salvage some pride when they conclude their campaign against Thunder at Old Trafford this weekend.
Having fallen just short with the bat, Storm needed to take early wickets if they were to put the visitors under pressure. Sure enough, slow left armer Smale took the new ball and bowled Beth Ellis in the seventh over with the score on 14.
But the experienced pair of Jones and Freeborn steadied the ship in a reassuring partnership of 83 in 17.5 overs for the second wicket to keep the chase on track. Emboldened by the brilliant unbeaten hundred she scored in her last innings against Sunrisers at Chelmsford on Sunday, Freeborn helped herself to six boundaries to break the stranglehold exerted by Storm’s bowlers.
She had scored 44 from 57 balls and had her sights on a half-century when she played across the line to Alex Griffiths and was bowled with the score on 97 in the 25th over.
Crucially for Sparks, Smale put down an extremely difficult return catch in the next over to give Jones a life on 41, and the former England batter took full advantage to move to 50 from 79 balls. If Jones played cautiously as befitted her status as captain, Green adopted a more aggressive approach as the partnership realised 50 in 46 balls.
The pugnacious Green struck seven fours on her way to a 47-ball half-century, the 30-year-old Kiwi effectively taking the game away from an inexperienced Storm team that did themselves no favours by conceding 30 in extras. Smale eventually had Green stumped by Jones to finish with 2 for 38, but Jones remained at large to see the job through with Ami Campbell.
Put in to bat on a used track, Storm struggled to build the partnerships necessary to post a truly competitive total. Four top and middle order batters played themselves in to pass 30, but none was able to reach 50 let alone go on and stage the meaningful score needed to propel their team into a position of ascendancy.
Emma Corney and Alex Griffiths began well enough in an opening stand of 38 until the latter was bowled by George for 18, while Grace Potts struck in the following over, knocking back Sophie Luff’s off stump to reduce the hosts to 43 for 2.
Davis and Hannah Baker then claimed combined figures of 2 for 49 in 12 overs as spin frustrated Storm’s quest for momentum during the crucial middle overs. Davis struck first ball from the River End to remove Corney for 32 and Baker beat Niamh Holland in the flight and bowled her for seven. Beth Ellis accounted for experienced campaigner Fran Wilson, held at mid-wicket for 30, as stuttering Storm subsided to 113-5 in the 29th over.
Wraith and Jones provided a much-needed change in tempo, the sixth wicket pair staging a restorative stand of 64 in 9.3 overs as Storm displayed character aplenty to fight back. Making only her sixth appearance of the season, 17-year-old Jones sent her first three scoring shots to the boundary to announce herself in style, while Wraith adopted a similarly aggressive stance to effect a temporary change in the balance of power.
But these two fell in successive overs, Wraith playing across the line and being bowled by George for a 48-ball 39 with 5 fours, and Jones stepping in front of a delivery from the returning Davis and departing for 32, her highest score for Storm.
Having reduced their opponents to 179 for 7 in the 40th, Sparks’ efforts to wrap the innings up quickly were stymied by Smale and Chloe Skelton, who mustered lower-order resistance in the form of a spirited alliance of 60 in 10.2 overs. Deploying clever improvisation, teenager Smale raised 30 from 32 balls before offering a return catch to Emily Arlott in the final over, while the resourceful Skelton finished unbeaten on 26.
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