Western Storm 169 for 5 (Luff 78, Knight 34) beat Sunrisers 128 for 6 (Dattani 53) by 41 runs
For once cast in the role of chief support, Knight contributed 34, while Gibson made a valuable 26. Kelly Castle took 2 for 16 and Mady Villiers 2 for 33 as Sunrisers did their best to staunch the flow of runs.
Storm made an inauspicious start to their innings, Fi Morris dancing down the wicket to a wide delivery from Villiers and being comprehensively stumped by Scarlett Hughes for two in the first over. Dattani and Grace Scrivens initially kept Knight and Luff quiet as runs proved hard to come by during the first four overs.
But Knight swept and drove consecutive balls from Villiers to the boundary in the fifth to afford the innings momentum and the next two overs, sent down by Jo Gardner and Abtaha Maqsood, yielded 20 more runs as the second wicket pair found their rhythm.
Intent upon fine-tuning ahead of next month’s one-off Test match against South Africa women on this ground, England captain Knight helped herself to five boundaries and ran hard between the wickets in a workaholic alliance with Luff, which served to build a solid platform. These two propelled Storm to 71 for 1 at the halfway stage, but Sunrisers temporarily redressed the balance when Gardner pinned Knight in front and, in the next over, Hughes executed a smart leg-side stumping to account for new batter Fran Wilson off the bowling of Castle.
There was no stopping Luff however, Storm’s captain raising 50 from 42 balls as she pressed down on the accelerator in partnership with Gibson, who adopted a characteristically aggressive approach to put the fielding side under sustained pressure for the first time.
Luff plundered a straight-driven six off Scrivens and then clipped the next ball behind square for four as the fourth wicket partnership realised 50 from 27 balls in the 17th over. Gibson proved adept at rotating the strike as Luff, sensing a hundred might be within her grasp, launched a late assault on Sunrisers’ death bowlers.
There was palpable relief within Sunrisers ranks when Castle trapped Luff lbw with the score on 151 in the 18th over. Storm’s captain left the field to a standing ovation, having blazed 10 fours and a six in attaining her highest score of the season.
Gibson departed three balls later, the third batter to be stumped by Hughes, this time off the bowling of Villiers, as Sunrisers belatedly made in-roads. There was still time for Katie George and Georgia Hennessy to offer a late flourish, the sixth wicket pair adding 16 in nine balls to hoist Storm to an imposing total.
Storm further stamped their authority with the ball, Claire Nicholas bowling Villiers without scoring and Gibson dismissing Scrivens lbw for four as the openers perished inside three overs. Gardner played down the wrong line and was bowled by a Gibson in-swinger, at which point Sunrisers were 29 for 3, their reply fatally undermined by the loss of early wickets.
Former Storm allrounder Dattani attempted to carry the fight to the home side, but the task was a demanding one when the visitors reached halfway on 48 for 3, requiring a further 121 at 12 an over. Nevertheless, the 28-year-old Londoner gave it her best shot, going to 50 with her ninth four and dominating a stand of 56 in eight overs with Castle, who was content to play second fiddle.
Now fully recovered from the back injury that derailed her fledgling England career, George brought the fourth wicket stand to a shuddering halt, having Dattani held at mid-off to claim her first wicket of the season and reduce Sunrisers to 85 for 4. Hennessy produced a slower ball to account for Mia Rogers, brilliantly caught by Knight at mid-on, but the game was already up for the visitors by then.