Yesterday’s KSL Finals Day was really the story of four captains.
Captain One: Georgia Elwiss, the Loughborough Lightning leader. For some KSL teams – Southern Vipers, Western Storm – their choice of captain was obvious; but for Lightning, it was coach Salliann Briggs who decided on Elwiss, after sitting down with a number of her players to talk it through. And who can argue it was the wrong choice? Briggs knows her players inside out; and Elwiss has the intelligence required of an excellent captain.
But she is also one of the least experienced captains in the competition – and inexperience, in a pressure situation, can find you out. There was one odd decision in particular that stood out: with Storm chasing 125, Elwiss chose to open the bowling with seamer Beth Langston, who conceded just 1 run off her first 2 overs – and then never came back on, even when Storm appeared to be cruising to their target.
“My gut instinct was to keep changing the bowlers around,” Elwiss said by way of explanation after the semi-final. It’s probably not the best maxim to live by. By contrast, Vipers bowled Arran Brindle for four overs straight in the final simply because she was clearly making life difficult for the batsmen.
Captain Two: England’s own Heather Knight. It was, of course, her fifty which guided Storm’s chase in the semi-final; and credit to her for that. But equally, after Storm had lost Stafanie Taylor halfway through their innings in the final, it was probably her responsibility to hang around and see them to a good total. She failed to do that, pulling the ball straight to Katie George at deep backward square leg in the 15th over, and you could tell from the way she slammed her bat as she walked off that she was furious with herself.
Then, after Vipers lost Edwards and Bates, Knight had the opportunity to turn the screw on her opponents as they slowly edged towards their target. With 3 overs to go, they still needed 20 runs, and they also needed their captain to keep her cool. But on the second ball of Anya Shrubsole’s over Knight picked up the ball and, without hope of achieving very much, shied at the stumps, earning Sara McGlashan and Lydia Greenway an overthrow. It was the mark of a captain who seemed to be out of options, and wasn’t quite sure what to do.
Shrubsole’s over went for 14 runs and Vipers surged to victory.
Vipers lift the trophy. Photo credit: Ruth Conchie
Captain Three: Charlotte Edwards – a legend if ever there was one; a player who captained England over 200 times, more than anyone else is ever likely to; a player who is used to captaining on the big stage. Edwards downplayed her own role in the post-match press conference – “This team runs itself; I just pull a few strings”, she said – but she also, tellingly, stressed that “I’ve really sensed the team behind me [during the tournament]”. Only the best captains inspire that kind of loyalty.
Edwards’ knowledge and experience mattered twice-over in yesterday’s final. Firstly, she made the decision to bring Arran Brindle into the attack in the 9th over, and bowl her for four overs straight – a spell in which she conceded just 15 runs, and removed both Stafanie Taylor and Knight from the reckoning. It turned things in the Vipers favour. Another captain might have hesitated to bowl Brindle; might have turned elsewhere. Edwards – good friends with her for so many years now – knew exactly what she was capable of.
And then, of course, there was her 24 off 18 balls to lay the foundations for Vipers’ successful run chase. While Edwards hasn’t shone with the bat during Super League, it showed what she so often displayed for England – that on the days when it really matters, she will come through. “I kept backing myself,” she said, after raising the trophy aloft. “I really enjoyed today. This is what I miss playing in and I love these sort of occasions.”
It’s not that Edwards was seeking revenge – she has said repeatedly that she is not bitter about Mark Robinson’s decision – but if she was, winning the inaugural KSL wouldn’t be a bad way to show Robinson and everyone else that she has damn well still got it. Just in case we ever doubted it.
The Victorious Captain. Photo Credit: Ruth Conchie
But I said four captains – and no, I didn’t lose count! Because Vipers didn’t just have one captain out there on the field yesterday, they had two.
Suzie Bates was instrumental in Vipers’ path to the final, both with the bat – with scores of 25, 15, 45*, 57 and 38 – and in the way she so calmly stepped into Edwards’ shoes halfway through the first game, even when Vipers had just seen their captain limping off the pitch with a likely concussion. Even since she returned to resume the captain’s mantle in the third game, we’ve seen the unfamiliar sight of Edwards – not the most collaborative of captains towards the end of her England reign – being instructed where to field not by a bowler, but by the current New Zealand skipper.
“When you’ve got experience around you,” Edwards said, paying tribute to Bates after the final concluded, “that’s what really helps.” Bates might have been just pipped by Stafanie Taylor for Player of the Tournament, but it was a close run thing. Vipers will surely be hoping that she’ll be back in orange for next year’s Super League.