SOUTHERN Vipers got their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy title defence off to a solid start, beating Lightning by four wickets in the opening round of the 2021 competition at the Ageas Bowl.

Despite a fiery spell from left-arm spinner Kirstie Gordon (four for 35), who bowled her 10 overs straight through and took out all four of the Vipers top order, Vipers reached their 215-run target with 3.1 overs to spare - the highlight a 55-ball half-century churned out by Danni Wyatt.

Earlier, Lightning had been restricted to an under-par 214 for nine thanks to a zippy spell from left-arm seamer Tara Norris (3-47), who also held a good catch in the deep to see off Tammy Beaumont (57).

Vipers had initially looked easily on course in their chase, reaching 51 without loss in the opening powerplay.

However, Gordon - introduced in the 10th over - induced a miscue from last year’s leading tournament run-scorer Georgia Adams (28) and followed it up with the crucial wicket of Wyatt.

By the time she was done, Vipers had sunk to 135-4, only the end to her 10-over spell allowed Charlie Dean (32) and Paige Scholfield (38*) the breathing space to get the job done.

Earlier, Lightning had won the toss and chosen to bat, but were reduced to four for four in the first 10 overs.

Opener Sarah Bryce and South African import Michaela Kirk both departed for ducks. Bryce fell in the very first over of the day, caught behind slashing outside off at a Lauren Bell delivery, to a huge roar from the newly-returned crowd.

Sister Kathryn, fresh from a not out 45 for Scotland against Ireland earlier in the week, fared slightly better with 13, but became the first of Norris’s three victims in the sixth over when she miscued a pull shot and was caught in the deep.

ICC number one ranked ODI batter Beaumont did her best to anchor the innings, sharing a crucial 59-run partnership with Lucy Higham (32) and bringing up an 86-ball half-century in the 32nd over.

However, she holed out to Norris at deep backward square leg two overs later and while a 34-run partnership between sisters Teresa and Yvonne Graves at the back end of the innings allowed Lightning to clock up just over 200, it proved not quite enough on a good wicket.

Norris finished with three for 47 from her ten overs and Charlotte Dean took two for 52.