Shafali Verma keeps Phoenix's Hundred hopes alive with Fire win

By Callum MatthewsBBC Sport
Women's Hundred, Edgbaston
Welsh Fire 127-9 (100 balls): Smith 38 (36); Gordon 2-30
Birmingham Phoenix 131-0 (76 balls): Verma 76* (42), Jones 52* (35)
Phoenix won by 10 wickets
Scorecard; Table

India's teenage superstar Shafali Verma crunched a rapid half-century in a spellbinding partnership of 131 with Eve Jones as Birmingham Phoenix kept their slim hopes alive with an empathic 10-wicket victory over Welsh Fire in the women's Hundred.

Chasing 128 to win, Verma smashed a quite magnificent unbeaten 76 off 42 balls, after bringing her up her 50 off just 22 balls.

The 17-year-old hit nine fours and two sixes as she and Jones, who made 52 off 35 balls, combined magnificently to seal the first 10-wicket win of the Hundred with 24 balls to spare.

Earlier Welsh Fire collapsed from 75-1 to 127-9 - including losing their last six wickets for 23 runs in a 21-ball spell.

The win takes Birmingham Phoenix to four points, three behind Oval Invincibles who are currently occupying the third and final knockout place. Fire slip to seventh.

Verma lights up The Hundred

Verma grew up in Rohtak, a city in northern India, where young girls do not often pursue outdoor sports and had to impersonate her brother to play in an under-12 boys competition.

She made her international debut at just 15 - making her the youngest person to play for India.

She has dominated discussions and TV screens since her debut due to her ability to score faster than most, if not all, women.

This summer she started well, with an impressive Test debut against England that saw her score 159 runs in two innings, but The Hundred hasn't quite gone her way, with a high score of 22 and an aggregate of just 71 from her five innings.

As usual she was strong through mid-wicket and square leg, but today was about more than that. She has had a difficult three weeks, but to see her giggling in the dugout during a short rain delay was pleasing.

She then took a back seat, even blocking deliveries - trust us, she doesn't do that often! - to allow Jones to reach her half-century in a late-innings rampage.

Welsh Fire wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor - who stood and watched Verma from close proximity behind the stumps - said: "You can tell instantly from the way she sets up that she wants to hit it and hit it hard.

"It is more the sound off the bat, I know she is going to whack it, but you just wonder how far it is going to go."

It was quite the innings from Vema. It was quite the partnership with Jones.

The apprentice stumps the master

England wicketkeeper Amy Jones is widely considered as the best in women's cricket.

Her lightning-fast hands stand her apart.

It has always been a skill that she has possessed but when Jones made her England debut in 2013, such was the quality of the incumbent Sarah Taylor, she faced a battle of the gloves.

Taylor is one of the best the game has ever seen - across both the men's and women's game - meaning Jones only kept in 20 of her 41 one-day internationals and 22 of her 38 Twenty20s before Taylor retired from international cricket in September 2019 because of anxiety.

The last couple of years has seen Jones shine, rightly, and today was another of those occasions.

Up against her former team-mate, she moved to her right to collect a full toss from Eve Jones, which meant Taylor had overbalanced looking to pull away, and quickly shuffled back with her lightning hands to whip the bails off.

Taylor has done it to many. This was a taste of her own medicine.

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