WWT20 Qualifiers: Scotland Claim Second Win v USA

Scotland 111-1 (L Jack 46*, S Ramautar 1 for 18) beat USA 110-2 (S Bhaskar 51*, KE Bryce 1 for 10) by 9 wickets

Jake Perry reports

Scotland’s women made it two wins out of two with a comfortable victory over USA in the second match of the ICC Women’s World T20 Europe/Americas Qualifier. In overcast conditions in Stirling another excellent performance with both bat and ball sealed a nine-wicket win for the tournament hosts with sixteen balls to spare.

After Scotland’s top order had made light work of their chase against the Netherlands the previous afternoon USA captain Sindhu Sriharsha’s decision to bat was a bold one, but openers Nadia Gruny and Shebani Bhaskar found it difficult to get their side’s innings off the ground in the face of accurate bowling from Katie McGill and Kathryn Bryce. The fourth over was add further problems, too, as the dangerous Gruny (7), having survived a confident shout for LBW in Bryce’s first over, was trapped in front by the final ball of her second.

Bryce was finding conditions much to her liking, swinging the ball prodigiously as both batsmen struggled to time the ball, and with USA at 19-1 at the end of the Powerplay scoreboard pressure started to tell in a series of swipes and misses as Bhaskar and Onika Wallerson attempted to break the shackles. Too few boundaries, however, were taking their toll.

The introduction of spin tightened things still further and the leg-spin of Abatha Maqood soon brought the second wicket as Wallerson (11) skied the ball to Priyanaz Chatterji at mid-on. New batsman Sriharsha (31*) made her intention plain with a confident pull for four, however, and with Bhaskar finding the rope with more consistency, too, the scoring began to pick up at last as the two added fifty together in rapid time.

Bhaskar (51*) brought up a good half-century as the visitors posted 110-2 at the end of their twenty overs. The third wicket pair’s careful placement and sharp running had shown what might have been, but USA’s slow progress at the top of the innings had left Scotland very much in control of the game.

Having played the supporting role to Lorna Jack’s half century against the Dutch, Kathryn Bryce immediately looked in fine touch as Scotland made a confident start to the chase. Light rain at the back end of the USA innings had continued into the beginning of the next, and the twenty year-old all-rounder unfurled a series of good-looking shots as Scotland quickly got ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis requirement. Jack was soon into her stride again, too, cutting Samantha Ramautar’s first ball for four as Scotland posted 40 in the Powerplay.

Both openers looked untroubled as they manoeuvred the ball to rotate the strike, and with inconsistent bowling finding its way to the boundary, too, USA’s total was put further into context. Despite Kathryn Bryce (37) falling within sight of the line, Jack (46*) and Sarah Bryce (7*) saw Scotland home at the beginning of the 18th over.

“The team is feeling really good,” said Kathryn Bryce. “Obviously it is tough having to sit around for a couple of days in the rain but it’s good to get out and play some good cricket.”

“The pitch is playing pretty well, it’s coming on quite nicely. If the bowler gets it into a good area it’s tough to get away, though, so [with the ball] I was looking to get as many balls into that area as I could.”

“We’re hoping to continue [our form] on into the next couple of games,” added Bryce. “To win [both games] with just a few wickets down is really good.”

It was another clinical victory for a Scotland side who have yet to be tested in the tournament, and with two spots at the ICC World Qualifier now up for grabs after the revamp of the regional event Steve Knox’s side will be confident that they have already gone a long way toward securing their berth in the next stage of the competition.

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Jake Perry writes on Scottish cricket for Cricket Scotland and CricketEurope and is a regular contributor to HoldingWilley.

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

WWT20 Qualifiers: Scotland Away to a Flying Start as Rain Relents in Stirling

Scotland 113-3 (L Jack 60, R Rijke 1 for 15) beat Netherlands 112-5 (HW Rambaldo 32*, LI Wilkinson 2 for 18) by 7 wickets

Jake Perry reports

After heavy rain put paid to the attempt to complete the opening cycle of matches at the ICC Women’s World T20 Europe/Americas Qualifier on time, Scotland recorded a comprehensive seven-wicket victory in their rearranged match with the Netherlands at New Williamfield. A magnificent half century from Lorna Jack anchored a comfortable chase for the tournament hosts as they secured victory with more than four overs to spare.

With residual moisture still affecting the outfield the Netherlands openers found runs hard to come by as they struggled to pierce the field, and Scotland’s decision to bowl first was further rewarded by Sarah Bryce’s sharp stumping of Stere Kalis (3) in the third over off the bowling of Katie McGill.

Dot balls from Kathryn Bryce, Priyanaz Chatterji and Samantha Haggo kept up the pressure on the visitors and when Haggo claimed the wicket of Babette de Leede (19), caught at point by Lois Wilkinson, the Netherlands found themselves in deep trouble at 39-2 after ten overs.

Wilkinson was soon in on the act with ball in hand, too, as Cher van Slobbe (22) edged behind to crown a wicket maiden, and although the incoming Heather Siegers (25) looked to counter-attack she was also to fall to the off-spinner, bowled by the last ball of Wilkinson’s final over.

The Dutch skipper’s cameo had at least succeeded in raising the tempo of her side’s innings, but despite Helmein Rambaldo (32*) picking up the mantle with some late boundaries of her own the Netherlands final total of 112-5 looked below par.

Just how much so became quickly apparent as Scotland openers Kathryn Bryce and Lorna Jack punished some wayward Dutch bowling to plunder 33 from the first four overs. The experienced pair made their intent clear from the outset, working the ball fluently around the wicket to push the Netherlands further and further out of the game, and although Bryce (21) was to fall lbw to Robine Rijke in the ninth over their partnership of 72 had put Scotland firmly in control.

Jack, playing on her home ground, repeatedly found the boundary with cuts and sweeps on her way to bringing up a 40-ball half-century in the twelfth over. It had been a terrific innings full of character and aggression, and although Leonie Bennett was to have the final word as Jack departed in the fifteenth, the inevitable was by then only five runs away.

“That was my first ever fifty for Scotland Women and it was a great time for it to happen,” said a delighted Jack.

“Kathryn and I got off to a really good start, we just looked to pick the gaps and hit a few boundaries where we could, and I’m just really proud to have helped the team over the line.”

“We knew that if two of the top five could make it into the twenties then push on we had every chance,” she continued.

“But we bat to number eleven, so even if I hadn’t done it today I would have backed the girls all the way.”

The tournament now moves into the reserve day, with USA playing Scotland then the Netherlands tomorrow (Wednesday) to complete the first cycle of matches in the double round-robin format.

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Jake Perry writes on Scottish cricket for Cricket Scotland and CricketEurope and is a regular contributor to HoldingWilley.

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

KSL Lightning v Vipers: Talking Points

Vipers bt. Lightning by 46 runs

Suzie Bates

If anyone was still wondering where we got the crazy idea that New Zealand were going to win the World Cup, we present Exhibit A: Suzie Bates in imperious form once again, taking her second consecutive Player of the Match award of the tournament. Her 119 is the highest score ever made in a “pro” domestic T20, beating the previous record 103 held jointly by Sophie Devine (in WBBL02) and Grace Harris (in WBBL01). She then went on to take 3 wickets for 15 as the Lightning were bowled out off the final ball, with the (admittedly massive) target still a distant speck on the horizon.

Sarah Glenn

The 18-year-old was perhaps a surprise selection, given that Marie Kelly had acquitted herself pretty well on her debut v the Storm. Glenn has made a few runs for Derbyshire over the past couple of seasons in Div 2/3, but nothing to write home about; so it was fantastic to see her jump feet-first into the KSL with 25 off 21 balls.

“That” Run Out

Elyse Villani was given run out at the non-strikers end off Tash Farrant’s fingertip on the follow-through, but… did she or didn’t she? The ball certainly appeared to deviate on the replay from the umpire-cam; but the view from the other end looked a lot less conclusive. Obviously Farrant felt she had got a hand on it, but you’ll “feel” a ball travelling at that speed even if you don’t quite touch it. My impression is that she probably did make contact, though others will disagree; but the really interesting question is whether she meant to? If you are the Vipers, it was smart work… if you are the Lightning, Villani was unlucky – you pays your money and you takes your choice I guess!

That “Other” Run Out

There was no doubt about the other run out Farrant effected though – that of Ellyse Perry. Georgia Adams will get the credit on the scorecard, but the ball was missing until Farrant (standing in front of the stumps, as the England players are coached to do) gathered it and diverted it on in a single, brilliant movement. That is where all those hours of fielding drills make the difference for the pros – first judging that it was indeed going to miss, and then executing the move to change the course of the ball without losing anything but a fraction of its speed. Suzie Bates or no Suzie Bates, it was the Play of the Day for me!

KSL Storm v Lightning: Talking Points

Storm bt. Lightning by 5 wickets, with 5 balls remaining

Stafanie Taylor – 1…

If yesterday belonged to the journeymen, today belonged to one of the superstars – Stafanie Taylor looked like she was playing on a different pitch to everyone else. Having already run out Ellyse Perry (of whom more later) she then took the wickets of Elwiss, Odedra and Brookes in one over, to break the back of the Lightning innings, finishing with figures of 4-5. She then went on to top-score with 34 off 32 balls, as the Storm made slightly hard work of the chase to win with 5 balls to spare.

… Ellyse Perry – 0

The Lighting got off to a good start, but that was mostly down to Amy Jones, with 21 off 13 balls. At the other end, Ellyse Perry made four more runs (25) but they took her fifteen more balls! She then took 0-17 with the ball, at an economy rate of 5.36. She wasn’t awful, but if anyone paid their money today to see Ellyse Perry the World-Beating Superstar… they would have left a bit disappointed!

Marie Kelly

Kelly entered the fray on her KSL debut in an awful situation. Lightning had just collapsed to 59-5 – there wasn’t much batting to come, and there were still 10 overs left. She had to do one thing, and one thing only: stay there! And that she did – it cost balls (at one point she was 1 off 10) but it had to be done. Then, things having finally settled down, she began to push the boat out, finishing with 18 off 30 – i.e. 17 off 20 in the second “half” of her innings. Job done, as they say!

Freya Davies

Before the tournament began, Heather Knight was talking up Davies new slower ball, which we saw rolled-out* today. She ended up with just the one wicket (though it was the big one of Amy Jones) but more importantly in the T20 game a very good economy rate of 4.25, including 13 dots – bearing in mind 3 of her overs were bowled to Jones and Perry in the PowerPlay, that’s a pretty good return.

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* Rolled-out… as in rolled-out the back of her hand!!! No??? Oh… well I thought it was good, but never mind – I won’t roll that joke out again!!

OPINION: Diamonds’ Davidson-Richards & Levick Shine As Journeymen Stand Up in #KSL17

When we talk about KSL, much of the focus tends to be on the big international names – the England players and the overseas stars that everyone recognises. Whether it’s Katherine Brunt steaming in at Headingley, or Suzie Bates carving up the Rose Bowl, they’re the ones they’re all here to see!

And perhaps they’ll also ask about the “Ones To Watch” – the next generation, who might be lifting a World Cup in 2021 or 2025. Will Freya Davies be the new Katherine Brunt? Could Emma Lamb be a future Suzie Bates?

But there is also a third group of players – the “journeymen” of county cricket – who are actually just as important. They won’t pull the crowds, and they probably won’t ever play for England, but they aren’t just here to make up the numbers either!

At yesterday’s “Roses” clash between Yorkshire Diamonds and Lancashire Thunder, Chamari Atapattu (41 off 38) and Lauren Winfield (41 off 43) laid down a solid platform for the Diamonds; but someone still needed to turn that platform into an intimidating total, and that job was done at the death of the innings by Katherine Brunt (31 off 16) and Alice Davidson-Richards (22 off 13).

Alice Whaty-What-Now? (As we could almost hear some people saying from our living room 200 miles away!)

Well… although she has been involved in the Academy recently, and has definitely improved as a player over the past couple of years, “ADR” (as she is known) will likely not ever pull on an England shirt; but she is in her 8th season playing county cricket for Kent, and is now their de-facto captain. (The “official” captain is Tammy Beaumont, but TB’s England commitments mean ADR does the job most of the time.) ADR has made 92 appearances for Kent, scoring nearly 1,000 runs (a big milestone when you play a maximum of 14, limited-overs, matches per season) and taking over 70 wickets.

And now ADR is doing it in KSL too – following up her cameo with the bat, she went on to take 3-20 with the ball, and scoop up the Player of the Match award – not bad for someone who is essentially an amateur playing in a league full of big name pros!

ADR had “competition” for Player of the Match however – a spinner! Perhaps it was Dani Hazell, still ranked one of the top international bowlers in the world despite having to “share” her spot in the England line-up with Laura Marsh? Or maybe Sophie Ecclestone, who made her England debut last summer? Nope – a leg-spinner! Ah – in that case, it must have been Sune Luus – the South African superstar, who at 21 already has over 100 international wickets? Wrong again! It was another “amateur” – Katie Levick – who took 3-30, including the big wickets of Emma Lamb and Amy Satterthwaite.

If ADR still might perhaps dream of circumstances coming together where she plays for England, self-described “Sheffield lass” Katie Lev realistically probably does not; but in county cricket she is actually something of a legend. The 26-year-old is the leading wicket-taker in this year’s County Championship, with 19 wickets; and currently lies 3rd in the “All Time” list, behind Alexia Walker and Holly Colvin. Given another couple of seasons, she will likely overtake them both; so she has some serious experience to bring to the KSL stage, and if yesterday is any indication, she is ready to bring it… as a certain American president might put it… bigly!!

Of course, KSL needs the international stars – they are the ones who bring the crowds to the stands and the TV audience to their sofas. Without them, it would just be a re-named County T20 Cup – a bit of fun for the hardcore fans like us… and a bit irrelevant to everyone else.

But long-term, it also needs the journeymen like ADR and Katie Lev – they might not be the face of the game, but they are its backbone.

And without a backbone… it’s a job to stand up!

KSL Diamonds v Thunder: Talking Points

Diamonds bt. Thunder by 28 runs

Some Internationals You Win… 

She might have been a last minute KSL selection, but Chamari Atapattu proved today that she should never be anyone’s second choice, hitting the ball just as hard as she did during the World Cup. With 41 runs, 4 overs and a catch to her name, it was a pretty solid start from the first Sri Lankan to play in an overseas women’s league.

… And Some You Luus

Presumably KSL captains have at least some say over the international players who are selected to play under them. It seems baffling, then, that Lauren Winfield not only chose to bowl home-grown talents Katie Thompson and Katie Levick ahead of her international leg-spinner Sune Luus, but that she chose not to use Luus at all. It seems we weren’t the only ones questioning her choice!

Alice Davidson-Richards

We’ve seen enough of ADR at Kent over the past couple of years to know that she’s a much improved player of late, and she certainly proved it today. 22 off 13 balls and 3-20 – at 23, maybe she won’t ever go on to play for England, but she still stacks up pretty well against the top internationals in this competition.

Helmet Help?

When Sophie Devine comes out to bat without a helmet, one is brought out for her pretty pronto because it’s against the regulations. But when Anna Nicholls decides she is going to keep wicket against Katherine Brunt – one of the fastest bowlers in world cricket – without any head protection, there’s nothing in the rules to stop her. Time for a rethink?!

#KSL17 – Bates Leads Vipers To Big Opening Win v Storm

New Zealand’s Suzie Bates put her World Cup disappointments behind her to hit 47 not out off 31 balls to lead the Southern Vipers to an opening-day bonus-point win against the Western Storm.

On a hot day at the Ageas Bowl in Hampshire, the Vipers won the toss and captain Charlotte Edwards elected to bowl, with her opposite number Heather Knight admitting the Storm would have done the same, with the pitch having sweated under the covers after several days of rain.

Opening the bowling, Tash Farrant, having played very little cricket during the World Cup hiatus, struggled a little bit with her line, but got slightly lucky when Rachel Priest flashed at a ball which would have been called for a second consecutive wide, but Priest got a thin edge and was well caught by Carla Rudd standing up to the stumps.

At the other end, Linsey Smith continued where she left off a year ago – bowling tidily and taking the wicket of Heather Knight with a classic Smith “Sucker Punch” – a ball which looked a good length to sweep but kept low, ducking under Knight’s bat to bowl her for 1.

Having faced dot after dot, Georgia Hennessy finally started to get going in the 9th over, hitting Aran Brindle for a 6 and two 4s. But Hennessy was out 2 balls later, and remarkably those were the only boundaries the Storm scored in their entire innings.

Fran Wilson (10) was the only other batsman to reach double-figures, as the Storm disintegrated – helped along their way by a some top-draw fielding – Charlotte Edwards taking the catch to dismiss Stafanie Taylor at mid off, before running out Sophie Luff for a 4-ball duck; and then Linsey Smith topping off her contribution with the ball with a fantastic direct hit to end Freya Davies’ late 7-run cameo, hitting the stumps from outside the ring at cover point, to bowl the Storm out for 70 – the 2nd-lowest total in the KSL’s (admittedly short!) history.

As Suzie Bates said afterwards:

“When you go out to bat after a start like that, you have a lot of confidence.”

It nearly didn’t happen for her, however, as Rachel Priest fluffed a straightforward stumping chance in the first over – fumbling the ball, giving Bates time to dive back into her crease and beat the 3rd umpire review by a whisker.

But the real gift however came from Holly Huddleston, who had one of those overs that will give her nightmares for years to come. After Hayley Matthews took a single off the second ball, Bates then proceeded to hit five 4s and a 6 as the Hudd Missile misfired for four no balls, going for 34 runs off the over – almost half the total the Vipers needed.

“It is never nice to see,” Bates admitted later. “The first two, to be honest, I was licking my lips at a free hit, but then you do start to feel for a player like that. Holly had a really good World Cup and she is an outstanding bowler so I feel for her – it is her first chance in one of these leagues and she’ll be really disappointed; but she is the type of character that will bounce back!”

Ironically, it was a Vipers player – Hayley Matthews – who then played probably the worst shot of the day. Trying to dink Stafanie Taylor over the top of midwicket, the ball ended up in the hands of Georgia Hennessy on the other side of the pitch at extra cover! But it was all academic by then anyway, as Bates and Georgia Adams played out the game, Bates finishing things off with a 6 for the win inside 10 overs!

Summing up, Bates concluded:

“That was a tough wicket – it was holding a little bit and fortunately we won the toss and it was a little bit drier when we batted.”

“I thought we were outstanding with the ball – that was our strength last year – we got off to a good start and we were able to contain them and take wickets.”

Meanwhile, the Storm’s Georgia Hennessy also admitted the toss played its part, but wasn’t making excuses:

“It was a good toss to win in T20 cricket; but we should have hit the ball the ball straighter and harder earlier on and backed ourselves.”

“It wasn’t our day with the bat or ball but we’ll have a break and go again.”

The big win gives the Vipers an extra bonus point for getting the runs at more than 1.25x the rate of their opponents, and has set down a marker that they mean business again this season.

KSL Vipers v Storm: Talking Points

Vipers bt. Storm by 9 wickets, with 66 balls remaining

Nobody Puts Lottie In The Corner

Down to bat at 7, before this game started it seemed likely Charlotte Edwards might well not get a look in. Not so. Not only did she take the catch to dismiss last year’s Player of the Tournament Stafanie Taylor, she followed that up the very next over by running out Sophie Luff with a direct hit from mid on. This might be her (probable) swan song but nobody puts England’s greatest in the corner.

Linsey Smith: Not Just A One KSL Wonder?

Was Linsey Smith’s performance in last year’s KSL just a one-off, based on the fact that she was a last-minute addition to the squad and nobody had quite yet got the measure of her? Not on the evidence of today. Just 9 runs conceded off her 4 overs – and the wicket of the England captain to boot. Knight was totally deceived: Smith, totally chuffed.

Famine vs Feast

Sometimes sides are bowled out for 70 because the other team bowl beautifully. It’s probably fair to say that Storm didn’t quite fall into that category today. If they’d left the wide ones alone and punished the mediocre balls, life would have been a lot rosier. As it was, Georgia Hennessy was the only player in the entire Storm line-up to hit a boundary.

Meanwhile Vipers knew they only needed to plod along at 4 an over but went for it hammer and tongs to finish things off with 11 overs still in the bank. “I wanted to be really aggressive,” Suzie Bates told us after close of play. “I’ve got the power and I’ve got to back myself to clear the boundary. When you see the men’s rope and then your rope, sometimes it is a little bit of a kick up the bum to prove that you can clear the men’s one.” The fact that she finished things off with a six really did epitomise the difference between the sides.

Storm Blown Over

Before the tournament Heather Knight explained Storm’s rationale for swapping Lizelle Lee with Holly Huddleston this time around: “We had too much batting – Sophie Luff and Fran Wilson both coming in too far down the order. With the overseas allocation we felt like we wanted an extra seam bowler.” After being bowled out for 70 in 18.5 overs today, with Huddleston’s second over of the day going for 34 runs, you sense they might yet come to rue that decision.

KSL: James Piechowski’s Big #KSL17 Preview

James Piechowski takes an in-depth look at the 6 teams competing for the 2017 Kia Super League.

Lancashire Thunder

Thunder look to be significantly stronger than last season and should offer a much bigger challenge for a top 3 finish. This is a good thing, as they finished bottom of the pile last time out. They are one of the more nicely balanced sides now, and have a good mixture of youth and experience.

Top of the billing will be the England wicketkeeper and World Cup winning hero Sarah Taylor, who is something of a specialist in T20 cricket as well. She has an excellent international T20 average of over 30, and will be very welcome back into the Thunder line-up. The top of the batting order will also include internationals Satterthwaite and Jonassen, and the very promising Emma Lamb, with perhaps Eve Jones and then Brown and Miles competing for the remaining spots.

Spin bowling is well catered for, and Thunder have one of the stronger spin attacks, boasting England’s Dani Hazell and Sophie Ecclestone, plus fellow left-armer, Australia’s Jess Jonassen. The pace attack is slightly more limited but will feature New Zealand international quick Lea Tahuhu after a move from Surrey Stars, and England’s Kate Cross. Neither are particularly known for their economy rates, although they can take those all-important early wickets. If Thunder do leak a few too many runs though, their batting is more than capable of making up for it.

It will be interesting to see if Taylor does keep wicket for Thunder or if that job is given to Ellie Threlkeld, who may earn herself a place in the team on her own merit in either case. Thunder kick-off with a tough Roses battle away at Headingley, but then have the relative luxury of 3 home games on the bounce. They will be hoping to already be through to finals day, by the time they face their tricky final league fixture away at Western Storm. But I have a feeling that the final group match could be a crucial battle, as these two sides might be neck and neck challenging for qualification. Thunder will be hoping they can get the upper hand, but home advantage will be with Storm.

Prediction: 4th

Strongest XI: Lamb, Taylor, Satterthwaite, Jonassen, E. Jones, Miles, Hazell, Tahuhu, Threlkeld, Cross, Ecclestone.

Loughborough Lightning

After a solid showing in the first edition of KSL, in which they came third, Lightning ‘s squad for this year shows they remain a strong side, who could at their best put up a challenge for another appearance on finals day. However, they might not make it this time – the squad, whose England players didn’t see much action in the World Cup, hasn’t been improved as much as some other teams.

Last year Lightning’s squad had a glut of all-rounders, so it’s interesting to see that this time they’ve gone for a more specialist overseas trio. It’s all Australian, with world-class all-rounder Ellyse Perry returning, and she brings with her compatriot leg-spinner Kirsten Beams, and destructive hard-hitting batsman Elyse Villani.

Lightning’s England contingent might not have featured in the World Cup winning run, but they are still very good players who are more specialised for T20 cricket. Georgia Elwiss will probably resume her opening role, and expect to see all the internationals and probably Scholfield and Brookes (who both impressed in KSL 2016) with Boyce possibly given an opportunity as well in the middle order. Their batting is powerful, and their bowling has a good mix of pace bowlers. Spin is a bit more limited, with only Beams and Grundy as recognised turners, although they’re both very capable performers who’ll probably max out their overs in each game. Seeing as spin is likely to be such an effective option though, both to contain batsmen and take wickets, this is a potential weakness.

To make things harder still, Lightning face 3 away games this season. They start with a potential stumbling block at Taunton against the Storm, although at least they will be able to rely on what is always a good batting pitch. Things don’t get any easier as they face Vipers next, followed by Diamonds and finishing with another tough trip to the Oval to play Stars. Lightning will have done very well to qualify this year I feel.

Prediction: 6th

Strongest XI: Elwiss, Villani, Perry, Jones, Odedra, Boyce, Brookes, Scholfield, Beams, Langston, Grundy.

Southern Vipers

Vipers are the defending champions and look to be strong contenders again this year. They should be able to reach finals day, but the main concern appears to be the lack of specialist bowlers available if any of the all-rounders start to spray it around. If they do concede more runs though, their spruced-up batting line-up might well be able to make up for it.

Vipers’ middle order will miss the experience of Greenway and McGlashan. They have more dashers this time around in Matthews and Wyatt, so may be able to elevate their totals; but with Edwards, Bates and Du Preez, the latter especially impressing in the World Cup with her improved ability to work the ball around and pick the gaps, they still have plenty of solid runs in the side. That’s not even mentioning former England international Brindle, or promising Senior Academy member Adams. Overall, I have few concerns about the batting, but more about the bowling.

Much of the bowling may fall to Farrant, George and Smith, all relatively inexperienced; with all-rounders Brindle, Bates and Matthews possibly asked to contribute a lot with the ball as well. Like Lightning, they do not appear to have many spin-bowling options available, and may have to even call on Wyatt to put the odd over in (she does so competently for Melbourne Renegades).

Vipers have been given the rub of the green in terms of their fixtures. with the advantage of 3 home games for the second year running. They will know just how to play on an Ageas Bowl pitch which is often quite slow and sticky. Vipers open up against Storm and then play away at Lightning. They finish against Diamonds in a fixture scheduled to be played at the picturesque Arundel.

Prediction: 2nd

Strongest XI: Bates, Matthews, Edwards, Adams, Wyatt, Du Preez, Brindle, Rudd, George, Farrant, Smith.

Surrey Stars

Having just missed out to Lightning in qualification for last year’s finals day, Stars will be looking to go one better this time around, and on paper it certainly appears that they have the squad for it. With some explosive batting and accurate wicket-taking bowling available, Stars will be looking for a much improved performance this year, and should be serious contenders for the title.

Stars have 4 full England Internationals, and 3 very capable overseas imports as well. With a dashing top order capable of  taking the game away from any side, Stars have a strong and long batting line-up. Expect more than a runs feast or two from Beaumont, Smith and Lee at the top of the order. Sciver will be a player to look out for as well, although I don’t think we’ve really seen enough of what she can do in T20 cricket yet. Her T20 record so far is not as impressive as that in 50 over games.

Stars’ bowling is very well served, with Kapp and Farrell certain to turn in some impressive figures. There is also the England spin duo of Marsh and Hartley to contend with, who confounded so many in the World Cup with their flight and turn. They work splendidly in tandem. Expect Sciver to also usually put four overs in, although after that the bowling options start to dry up – the next most likely to turn their arm over is probably Sophia Dunkley. Perhaps their main weakness may be a tendency to batting collapse – as one of the younger sides, there isn’t as much experience available in the middle and lower order. I can see them being restricted to a much lower total if they lose early wickets.

It is also worth noting that Surrey Stars do have some of the stronger county players available – the likes of Cranstone, Griffith, Dattani and White perhaps have an edge over some of the squad players available to other sides. Stars could feasibly play any 2 of their county players on top of the 7 Internationals (or in Farrell’s case, former internationals) and 2 England Senior Academy players available – so they have good depth to their squad as well.

Stars have been given the fillip of 3 home games this year, and will play all of them at The Kia Oval. First they take on Diamonds, then they travel up to Manchester to play Thunder at Old Trafford, in what is sure to be a humdinger, as they say. Stars finish their league campaign with another home game against Lightning.

Prediction: 1st

Strongest XI: Smith, Beaumont, Lee, Sciver, Kapp, Dunkley, White, Griffith, Farrell, Marsh, Hartley

Western Storm

After losing out to Vipers in the final last time out, Storm will be looking to make it to finals day once again and go that extra step to the title. Their squad is very capable, with a strong mix of solid and aggressive batsmen and some serious bowling to contend with too. It would be unwise to discount them from the final reckoning.

Storm have strengthened their bowling attack this year with the inclusion of Kiwi quick Holly Huddleston. This is a smart move, as their pace attack (apart from Shrubsole) was too limited last time around. However, as Lee has now moved to the Stars, Storm are stuck with promoting their more inexperienced middle-order players up a position. This may result in Wilson, Luff and Hennessy moving out of their comfort zones a bit.

Pace bowling is now well catered for, with Shrubsole and Huddleston likely to open up, and Davies and Hennessy offering solid changes. Storm will however be concerned about Shrubsole’s injury worries which may see her missing vital matches, in what is after all a very short league. The bulk of spin bowling is likely to be from Knight and Taylor, with Dibble perhaps contributing overs if she makes it into the team.

Storm have only been granted 2 home games this time, and I can see them facing a tough start away to Vipers. They play Lightning at Taunton next, then must travel all the way up to York to face Diamonds. Their final fixture is against Thunder at Bristol. Qualification may be somewhat more challenging than the way they cruised through last time. It could be tight between Storm and Thunder for possibly the third qualification spot – and maybe Shrubsole will be the determining factor for Storm.

Prediction: 3rd

Strongest XI: Priest, Taylor, Knight, Wilson, Luff, Hennessy, Macleod, Shrubsole, Huddleston, Dibble, Davies

Yorkshire Diamonds

After a disappointing first season, there’s hope that Diamonds will be much more competitive this year, and some good reasons to think that they will. Their squad is experienced and more in-form and potent this time out, and if things go really well, they are in with a decent shout of a qualification place.

With Brunt and Gunn two of England’s strongest performers in the World Cup winning side, there is reason for positivity for the Diamonds. Despite the loss of Mooney, Hazell and Blackwell, the signings have been shrewd. Kiwi Sophie Devine is always capable of winning matches with her clean striking, big hitting and also her potential to take wickets. Sune Luus can also perform well with both bat and ball, and the late inclusion of Chamari Attapattu could be a game-changer too. A wild card for sure, the Sri Lankan tends to be unpredictable but she has undeniable quality with the ball and especially with the bat.

Diamonds now have one of the strongest sets of all-rounders in the KSL. Other players like Armitage, Levick and Davidson-Richards are all on an upwards curve, and may be looking to push for further recognition by England. Their batting line-up is suitably experienced and explosive now as well. Both spin and pace bowling are well catered for – the Diamonds have, on paper, done an admirable job at ironing out their main weaknesses. Now it’s all down to how well they perform.

It will be a big early test for the Diamonds as they take on Thunder in the local derby first up. They next travel to Stars and then Lightning, the first 2 of 3 tricky away fixtures which finishes with a real challenge, taking on Vipers on the final day. If the fixtures had fallen kindly for Diamonds I might have given them more of a chance to qualify, but as it stands I think they will do well to push for a top-3 spot.

Prediction: 5th

Strongest XI:  Winfield, Armitage, Devine, Attapattu, Davidson-Richards, Brunt, Gunn, Luus, Graves, Butler, Levick

Kia Super League 2017 Preview

Syd Egan and Raf Nicholson talk to the key players and give an overview of each side’s prospects.

Plus for the in-depth view, check out James Piechowski’s Big #KSL17 Preview!

Lancashire Thunder

Dani Hazell (C), Sarah Taylor, Kate Cross, Amy Satterthwaite, Jess Jonassen, Lea Tahuhu, Sophie Ecclestone, Emma Lamb, Eve Jones, Ellie Threlkeld, Natasha Miles, Natalie Brown, Alice Dyson, Rachel Dickinson, Ella Telford

Last Year: 6th

The Big Signings: Dani Hazell, Sarah Taylor*, Jess Jonassen, Lea Tahuhu, Eve Jones

Dani Hazell Says: “We’ve got a good squad together. Hopefully we can enjoy the fact that it’s Twenty20 cricket, it’s exciting, and the crowd get behind you.”

“We’ve got a few of the Academy girls in – we’ve got Emma Lamb, Eve Jones, Ellie Threlkeld – some really good youngsters coming through. This is a really good chance for them to put their name out there – you never know when you’ll suddenly get called into an England squad, so it’s good for them to play under the pressure of being on Sky, on the radio, in front of crowds.”

Raf Says: Thunder struggled last year, especially losing Sarah Taylor in the run-up to the tournament, but the World Cup proved that the world’s best wicketkeeper is back, and in form to boot. Lancashire have also just been crowned County T20 champions, and this is a squad which includes many of those same players – now is their time to shine in KSL too.

Prediction: Runners-Up

Loughborough Lightning

Georgia Elwiss (C), Amy Jones, Beth Langston, Ellyse Perry, Kristen Beams, Elyse Villani, Paige Scholfield, Thea Brookes, Georgia Boyce, Becky Grundy, Sonia Odedra, Marie Kelly, Sarah Glenn, Lucy Higham, Abi Freeborn

Last Year: 3rd

The Big Signings: Kristen Beams, Elyse Villani, Marie Kelly

Amy Jones Says: “Our squad’s been together a lot recently, and our pre-season started a bit earlier than some of the other teams, which hopefully can stand us in good stead. We just missed out on the final last year – I think the occasion maybe got to us a bit. We didn’t play as we had going in. We’ve been working a lot on treating each game as it comes, playing with freedom, knowing our strengths and sticking to those really.”

“Georgie Boyce was in our team last year, but didn’t get a go – I’d like to see her in the team this year because she’s such a talented batter and she hits the ball very hard. And Marie Kelly, my Warwickshire captain, is in the team for the first time this year, which is very good to see – she’s a really good all-rounder, and a good person to have around.”

Syd Says: I think they are going to struggle with the bat – they’ve lost Dane van Niekerk, Sophie Devine and Eve Jones this season, who between them accounted for 40% of their runs last year – whilst van Niekerk was probably also their best bowler – which leaves an awful lot resting on the (tired?) shoulders of Ellyse Perry.

Prediction: Group Stages

Southern Vipers

Charlotte Edwards (C), Tash Farrant, Danni Wyatt, Arran Brindle, Suzie Bates, Mignon du Preez (Replaces Dane van Niekerk), Hayley Matthews, Georgia Adams, Katie George, Linsey Smith, Ellen Burt, Tara Norris, Izzy Collis, Carla Rudd, Charlie Dean

Last Year: Winners

The Big Signings: Danni Wyatt, Mignon du Preez, Hayley Matthews

Tash Farrant Says: “One of our sponsors is Southampton Uni and we stay in accommodation there. That really helped us – we really gelled as a unit. Team dinners, Come Dine With Me nights. Hopefully this year will be the same.”

“We’ve got a really good young bowling side – Linsey Smith, who did so well last year; and Katie George as well – they’ll want to hit the ground running like Linsey did last year.”

Raf Says: This looks very similar to the side who won the inaugural trophy last season, and in such a short competition, a side who have already gelled together is always going to be at an advantage. With Charlotte Edwards, Suzie Bates and Arran Brindle there’s also a huge amount of wisdom in this side – the issue might be that, compared with other sides in the competition, most of their “big names” haven’t spent all that much time in the middle lately.

Prediction: 3rd

Surrey Stars

Nat Sciver (C), Tammy Beaumont, Laura Marsh, Alex Hartley, Marizanne Kapp, Lizelle Lee (Replaces Harmanpreet Kaur), Rene Farrell, Bryony Smith, Sophia Dunkley, Grace Gibbs, Aylish Cranstone, Cordelia Griffith, Hannah Jones, Naomi Dattani, Kirstie White

Last Year: 4th

The Big Signings: Lizelle Lee, Kirstie White*

Tammy Beaumont Says: “There were so many performances where we’d go alright with the bat and then not so good with the ball, like in the Storm game where we got 160 and then didn’t defend it, and then at the Vipers game we only ended up getting 90 but we actually bowled pretty well. It’s a case of trying to put both things together. To finish 4th in the end was a good effort, but we’re hoping to go a bit better this year.”

“We’ve got a couple of new faces in the squad. Hannah Jones is one to watch – she’s certainly developed well with her batting and her bowling, and she’s a bit of a gun fielder – hopefully she’ll go well. Sophia Dunkley missed out last year with concussion, but she’s a decent leg spinner and a very aggressive batter. Bryony Smith went really well last year opening the batting with me, some really great cameos – and she’s been on the England Academy programme this winter.”

Syd Says: Tammy Beaumont and Alex Hartley were, of course, two of the stars of England’s World Cup win; whilst Marizanne Kapp is probably the best fast bowler in the world right now; but it is the quality of the Stars lesser-known players that might just end up making the difference this season – the experienced Kirstie White, the smart Aylish Cranstone, and (alas!!) the young Surrey duo of Smith & Jones.

Prediction: Winners

Western Storm

Heather Knight (C), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Holly Huddleston, Stafanie Taylor, Rachel Priest, Georgia Hennessy, Sophie Luff, Freya Davies, Danielle Gibson, Claire Thomas, Lauren Parfitt, Jodie Dibble, Amara Carr, Lissy Macleod

Last Year: Runners-Up

The Big Signings: Holly Huddleston, Lissy Macleod

Heather Knight Says: “We’ve added to our squad – we’ve got Lissy Macleod, a very talented cricketer who plays for Berkshire, hopefully we can get the best out of her. We’ve got a few Welsh girls too, Claire Thomas and Lauren Parfitt. We were probably a little bit batting heavy last year – Sophie Luff and Fran Wilson both coming in too far down the order – so that’s why with the overseas we’ve gone for Holly Huddleston: a bit more firepower and bowling at the death.”

“Freya Davies learned a lot from last year. She’s improved her skill level a lot. She came along to quite a few of the net sessions during the World Cup and seeing her bowl, it’s quite exciting to see how she’ll go. She’s developed her slower ball even more and is a lot more tactically astute than she was last year. Georgia Hennessy as well is a player that you never quite know what’s going to happen, but you know something is going to happen! She’s got that X factor, she’s a brilliant character – she bats, she bowls and she’s quite fiery as well!”

Raf Says: Lissy Macleod is a great addition to this side – she’s held many an innings together for Berkshire, and her county captain Heather Knight will know by now how to get the best out of her. But Storm relied heavily last year on some great performances from Stafanie Taylor, and she’s surely going to be severely demoralised after her team’s World Cup performance, so I think they could struggle.

Prediction: Group Stages

Yorkshire Diamonds

Lauren Winfield (C), Katherine Brunt, Jenny Gunn, Chamari Atapattu (Replaces Beth Mooney), Sune Luus, Sophie Devine, Hollie Armitage, Alice Davidson-Richards, Anna Nicholls, Katie Levick, Katie Thompson, Steph Butler, Laura Crofts, Teresa Graves, Maddie Walsh

Last Year: 5th

The Big Signings: Chamari Atapattu, Sune Luus, Sophie Devine, Laura Crofts

Lauren Winfield Says: “This year we’ve got more depth in our batting than we had last year, which will hopefully come in useful.”

“In terms of young players, we’ve got a number of players who could make a name for themselves this tournament and it’s hard to choose just one; but look out for Alice Davidson-Richards, Hollie Armitage and Laura Crofts.”

Syd Says: The Diamonds have some top, top players – I’m a huge fan of Sune Luus and Sophie Devine is a big signing for them – but despite their Yorkshire county core, they still feel like a team who somehow won’t quite be as strong as the sum of their parts.

Prediction: Group Stages

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* Back from injury