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Blaze bring the heat to avenge defeats for historic Charlotte Edwards Cup win

<span>The Blaze celebrate after winning the Charlotte Edwards Cup in Derby.</span><span>Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images</span>
The Blaze celebrate after winning the Charlotte Edwards Cup in Derby.Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

A year ago, Kirstie Gordon was in tears after her side, The Blaze, broke their perfect run in the group stages of the Charlotte Edwards Cup by falling at the last hurdle, suffering a seven-wicket defeat to Southern Vipers in the tournament final. Three months later, they were again beaten into second place by the Vipers in the 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.

On Saturday at Derby, Gordon finally avenged those defeats by leading her side to an historic seven-wicket win in the last final of the Charlotte Edwards Cup. If it was not quite poetic justice – their win came not against the Vipers but against the South East Stars, after Stars saw off reigning champions Vipers in their earlier semi-final – it was, nonetheless, the sweet taste of first-time silverware, and it tasted pretty good.

“Last year hurt. When you lose two finals, you look in the mirror a bit and you worry that you’ve blown your opportunity,” Gordon said. “Finishing top of the group again and coming and having to play a semi final, there is that fear. I’m buzzing.”

As it turned out, the final was an almost direct repeat of Blaze’s semi-final triumph against Central Sparks, which had been sealed by 1.45pm on Saturdayyesterday afternoon: both times, Blaze won the toss and chose to bowl first. Their opponents should not have been surprised: Blaze have been the most successful bowling unit in this tournament – more wickets taken than any other side, at a better economy rate – and here, in the final reckoning, they kept Stars to a sub-par 141 (only one more, incidentally, than Sparks had put on the board in the semi-final).

Again mirroring the semi-final, there was a key intervention from 19-year-old leg-spinner Josie Groves, who followed up her two for 16 against Sparks with three for 33 here, crucially dispatching the two heroes of Stars’ semi-final triumph against Vipers in successive overs after the powerplay. England’s Sophia Dunkley was fresh from scoring 49; Paige Scholfield had slammed an unbeaten 34 from 22 balls: Groves had both of them stumped before you could blink – Dunkley with a turning beauty.

Stars had begun with a lopsided powerplay: over one was a wayward, 22-run affair from Grace Ballinger, but the next five brought just 24 more runs, and cost them two wickets. By the time leading wicket-taker Gordon added a 22nd scalp to her competition haul, Stars were amid a death-over choke which saw them lose three wickets off the final four overs while adding just 16 more runs.

Perhaps the only real difference from Blaze’s semi-final was that this time, from the moment Scottish sisters Kathryn and Sarah Bryce came together in the fifth over of the run-chase, the result never felt in doubt. Stars’ five-run win against Vipers in the day’s second semi-final had been fought tooth-and-nail, sealed only in the final over; the tight scheduling allowed them a mere 30-minute break before it was time to begin warming up for the final, and the 79-run Bryce partnership visibly ran the Stars fielders ragged.

A half-century apiece ensued, and though Kathryn was bowled round her legs by Dani Gregory in the 15th, that simply left the honour of hitting the winning runs to her younger sister. Gordon labelled it “a masterclass in how to chase”. “I love this group, I love playing with this team,” she added, her voice cracking with emotion. “Everybody wants to stand up in the big moments.”

The women’s domestic teams will morph from regions into counties at the end of this season, but Gordon has nonetheless confirmed that The Blaze (who are “becoming” Nottinghamshire) will retain their team moniker. Some have questioned that decision – wasn’t the whole point of the restructure supposed to be alignment with the men’s team? – but the evidence of Saturday suggests that it is, undoubtedly, the right call. Who wants to change a winning brand?