PREVIEW: Kia Super League 2018

The third edition of the Kia Super League – KSL03 – begins this weekend, with all 6 teams in action on Sunday afternoon: Stars v Vipers at Guildford; Thunder v Lightning at Southport & Birkdale; and Storm v Diamonds at Taunton.

We look at the squads… and make our predictions!

Southern Vipers

Last season’s runners-up, Southern Vipers have strengthened in all departments – out the door from the team that lost last year’s final go Georgia Adams, Hayley Mathews and Linsey Smith; replaced respectively by Tammy Beaumont, Sara McGlashan (ex-New Zealand, but playing as a “domestic” player on a British passport) and Amelia Kerr – significant upgrades in all cases. With Katie “Lieutenant” George’s rapid promotion up the England ranks since KSL02, they will have an all-international opening bowling partnership with her and Tash Farrant; and an all-international top 4 of Beaumont, Danni Wyatt, Suzie Bates and Mignon du Preez. Perhaps the only question is how much of a look-in England’s next generation (Charlie Dean, Maia Bouchier and Lauren Bell) get this season – carrying drinks may be a rite of passage… but it doesn’t bridge many gaps! [Syd Egan]

Suzie Bates, Tammy Beaumont, Danni Wyatt, Tash Farrant, Mignon Du Preez, Amelia Kerr, Katie George, Paige Scholfield, Maia Bouchier, Charlie Dean, Arran Brindle, Carla Rudd, Lauren Bell, Sara McGlashan, Fi Morris

Western Storm

Reigning champions Storm have a very similar squad to last year, which is a good omen given that their strength has always been a healthy team environment where overseas and non-overseas alike contribute fully. Assuming Anya Shrubsole is back to full fitness after missing the ODI series v New Zealand with a side strain, their bowling looks strong, with Sussex’s Freya Davies and Wales’s Claire Nicholas two of the best non-internationals in the competition. Meanwhile they’ve signed Smriti Mandhana to bolster their batting, as well as Naomi Dattani, whose innings v Surrey in the T20 London Cup this season was a sight to behold. They’ll make Finals Day for sure. [Raf Nicholson]

Heather Knight, Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Freya Davies, Rachel Priest, Stafanie Taylor, Smriti Mandhana, Sophie Luff, Claire Nicholas, Lauren Parfitt, Danielle Gibson, Naomi Dattani, Lissy Macleod, Amara Carr, Rebecca Silk

Surrey Stars

With their strong South African backbone of Lizelle Lee, Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk, the Stars are looking good for another visit to Finals Day, after their third-placed finish last season. Sarah Taylor’s arrival strengthens them further, although it isn’t great news for future England hopeful, wicket-keeper Rhianna Southby, who may find herself sitting on the sidelines as a result. Whether the Stars can go better than third this year may depend on how young-guns Sophia Dunkley and Bryony Smith step up – both have been in great form at county and for England Academy, and this is their chance to show the world what they can do on the bigger stage, so if they can grab it… who knows! [SE]

Nat Sciver, Dane Van Niekerk, Lizelle Lee, Marizanne Kapp, Aylish Cranstone, Grace Gibbs, Hannah Jones, Mady Villiers, Rhianna Southby, Sophia Dunkley, Eva Gray, Laura Marsh, Sarah Taylor, Bryony Smith, Gayatri Gole

Loughborough Lightning

It’s all change at Lightning this season with a shake-up both at squad level and with a brand new coach in Rob Taylor after Salliann Briggs left for pastures new in March. The loss of Ellyse Perry, who has elected to stay home in Australia, will be a big blow to their hopes, only slightly softened by the return of Sophie Devine from the Diamonds, fresh from her mammoth century in the 3rd ODI against England. Key to their performance could be the signing of Kirstie Gordon, who has deservedly picked up her first KSL contract on the back of a strong domestic season: she finished far and away top of our County Championship bowling rankings. A mid-table finish seems most likely, however. [RN]

Georgia Elwiss, Amy Jones, Jenny Gunn, Sophie Devine, Rachael Haynes, Elyse Villani, Izzy Cloke, Linsey Smith, Sarah Glenn, Georgia Adams, Tara Norris, Kirstie Gordon, Jo Gardner, Abi Freeborn, Lucy Higham

Yorkshire Diamonds

Yorkshire have yet to make it to a KSL Finals Day and although they have significantly reshuffled their squad, it is difficult to see that changing this season. Beth Mooney’s return could be significant – when she is at her explosive best she can win matches single-handed – and Lauren Winfield will be desperate to impress after sitting on the sidelines for England for much of the summer, but whether that makes up for the loss of Sophie Devine back to the Lightning is debatable. One to watch, if she gets a game [Do we sense a theme here? Ed.] may be Helen Fenby – she has impressed for the Academy, but this will be a very different stage to playing for Durham in Div 3 of the County Championship. [SE]

Lauren Winfield, Katherine Brunt, Beth Langston, Alice Davidson–Richards, Beth Mooney, Chamari Athapaththu, Delissa Kimmince, Helen Fenby, Katie Levick , Sophie Munro, Bess Heath, Thea Brookes, Alice Monaghan, Gwen Davies, Katie Thompson

Lancashire Thunder

The surprise appointment of Alex Blackwell as coach could be crucial to marshalling a team who have finished bottom of the table in both previous editions of the KSL. Bravely, they’ve persisted with the route of selecting their squad largely from local players who also play county cricket for Lancashire. Emma Lamb – who’s had a good season for Lancashire at county, finishing second in our Div 1 batting rankings behind only Suzie Bates – will presumably open again, alongside overseas stalwart Amy Satterthwaite. Nicole Bolton is their new overseas signing, playing in KSL for the first time, while Alex Hartley joins them from “down South”; but will that be enough to propel them to the opposite end of the table? I’m not convinced. [RN]

Danielle Hazell, Nicole Bolton, Georgie Boyce, Natalie Brown, Kate Cross, Rachel Dickinson, Alice Dyson, Sophie Ecclestone, Alex Hartley, Eve Jones, Harmanpreet Kaur, Emma Lamb, Natasha Miles, Amy Satterthwaite, Ellie Threlkeld

PREDICTIONS

Raf:

  1. Vipers
  2. Storm
  3. Stars
  4. Thunder
  5. Lightning
  6. Diamonds

Syd:

  1. Vipers
  2. Storm
  3. Stars
  4. Lightning
  5. Thunder
  6. Diamonds

 

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9 thoughts on “PREVIEW: Kia Super League 2018

  1. This should be an interesting, penultimate KSL this year. Quite a few players changing allegiance, whether by choice of the individual or otherwise. Since inception of the league it has proved rather difficult for new, home grown talent to break through. Katie George and Sophie Ecclestone are very worthy exceptions. However, opportunities are provided in age group squad training for each team.
    The KSL may have missed a trick by not creating a 2nd XI match competition, but the constraints of finance, time and availability may have made this impossible.
    Maybe there will be an opportunity to develop this for the 100 ball format, although it might end up as a 50 ball match! Or 75!

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  2. I’m going with Syd’s prediction on the specious grounds that Lightning always arrives before Thunder.

    More seriously, you say that Thunder are selecting their squad, bravely, through their local development. So, I am still trying to puzzle this out: how are the squads selected/assigned? I thought that, in a lot of the cases, the ECB effectively uses a lottery, at least for overseas players.

    How much, if at all, are the players paid?

    Yes, I’m late to this party and you’ve probably answered all this before, so if you’re fed up with the question, perhaps just provide a link? Ta.

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    • This is a good question. In the two previous seasons squad announcements seem to have been very much “centrally co-ordinated” whereas this year the whole thing has been much more piecemeal.

      Have the teams been given more autonomy this year to do their own recruitment? Has the ECB had its attention elsewhere, perhaps (can’t think where, though…), and is its commitment to the KSL lessening as a consequence, leaving the teams having to muddle along with less support from the top? Or do the teams prefer it this way, with more autonomy to do their own thing?

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    • ECB assign the contracted players, and have tried (less successfully) to keep a balance with the Academy players. Pay is minimal for domestic players, and slightly-less-minimal for o/seas.

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  3. Hard to look past the Vipers especially with the arrival of Tammy Beaumont.

    On a personal note, I just want to say how delighted I am that there is a game at the Cheltenham festival (and that’s not just because it’s a five minute walk from my flat!) It’s one of the best outground experiences in the country and I say that as a Somerset fan! So to have the Western Storm there is a really good thing.

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  4. As you say Vipers, Storm and Stars still look a class apart.

    I think your picks for finals day are correct, but just for the sake of it, I’ll go with Stars as runner-up and Storm in 3rd, and Dunkley to make the World T20 squad.

    One change for Surrey that should be interesting to follow is that every over they bowled in 2016 & 2017 was delivered by an internationally capped player. That won’t be the case this season.

    With those being the same three sides that made finals day last year, it might on the surface seem like this season is shaping up to be a bit dully predictable. but I think it’ll be the best and closest yet.

    Lighting’s are the toughest team to gauge IMO. Their batting still looks pretty strong on paper, but the loss of Perry and the number of changes will probably count against them.
    The good thing about this expanded season is that it gives teams time to find (or lose) form though.

    Diamonds have the potential to make some massive scores. They had the 2nd highest run rate last season, and the addition of Mooney, Kimmince and Brookes (who has the 3rd highest SR in the KSL, behind only Villani and Brunt) should cover for the loss of Devine, who only had one decent inings last year.
    Bowling still looks a bit unbalanced to make finals day.

    Unsurprisingly, the Thunder have had the worst stats for both batting and bowling over the first two seasons combined.
    I think they should fare a bit better in 2018, especially with the ball.
    Hartley and Hazell are the 2nd & 4th highest wicket takers in the KSL. The weather we’ve had this summer should suit them, not to mention Ecclestone, who I think will vie with Kerr for top wicket taker this season.
    Even so, they’re probably over-reliant on one or two players for any real firepower with the bat.

    Couple of landmarks to to look out for:

    Beaumont needs 111 runs to bring up 1,000 runs in all formats this summer.

    No uncapped English player has ever made a fifty in the KSL. With twice the group matches this season, that should hopefully change this year.

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  5. I’ve been looking forward to this year’s KSL for a while now. I agree that Vipers, Storm and Stars again look best-equipped to proceed to finals day. But with 10 matches for all teams in the league stage, I hope (and indeed think) that Diamonds and Thunder will both pick up some wins this time. They certainly have good enough squads to do so. I’m thinking that the league may be a bit more competitive for the other sides.

    A few points for discussion. For me it’s yet to be proved if bringing in Kerr for Linsey Smith will be an upgrade for Vipers. With the bat, sure (not that Smith was ever asked to do much in that department). But remember Smith herself returned a lot of pretty handy figures, so Kerr will have to do well to beat that. Looking at the Vipers squad it seems pretty likely to me that at least 1 if not 2 of the three “future England” players you mention may well get picked. They’ve not got too many spinners, so may well have to expand those options. In fact, spin bowling may turn out to be a weakness, we’ll have to see.

    One team for who spin definitely won’t be a weakness is Thunder. With most grounds around the country currently parched and bone-dry, spin might be even more important than normal this year. And apart from the 3 England spinners Thunder also have Kaur, Satterthwaite and Bolton who could potentially turn their arms over. Plus Cross for pace. Could we see 16 overs of spin per game from them this season? It looks possible. It’s a shame their batting still looks a little light. They may need to try and keep wickets in hand more then some other sides, to give their big hitters some room to try and finish off the innings.

    Storm are strong all-round and have a knack of performing well under pressure. They don’t look to have too many major weaknesses. It’s hard to see them finishing outside the top three.

    Stars, although their squad is very strong will still need to play at least 3 of their county players, so will be asking them to step up if they want consistency throughout the league. I think the loss of Rene Farrell could cost them a bit, unless she can effectively be replaced by the other bowlers. I’m hoping for good things from Dunkley and Smith this year.

    Diamonds are a side that look decent on paper and have the potential to do well. It’s interesting that you both think they’ll finish bottom. I don’t know about that. I see only 9 players who are sure to start, so I think players like Fenby have a chance, as otherwise Diamonds’ spin attack is looking a little thin. Their medium pace attack looks strong, though, with 4 good options.

    Lightning are sure to be slightly enigmatic again, especially considering all the changes. They are capable of finishing in the top three, but will have to play very well to do so. From what I can see, even if Gordon plays Lightning will need to play at least 2 of their other county players from 6. Picking up Smith was a good move but otherwise their spin attack might be a bit light of recognised talent. Not having Becky Grundy won’t help. In fact, bowling overall is a bit less well appointed than some other sides (they have lots of all-rounders but not many specialist bowlers), so they might need all the runs those big-hitting Australians and New Zealander can provide!

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  6. I’m like everyone else really looking forward to the start of the this years compitition. I do have a concern though and a gripe. I do fear that some of the Academy players will struggle for opportunity. I can’t see Dunkley batting higher than 7 for Surrey which will be criminal.
    I also can’t believe there hasn’t been universal condemnation from the likes of Raf and Syd on the Vipers extra overseas signing on a British passport. How can this help the chances of our younger players getting proper opportunities? The Vipers management need to take a long hard look at themselves.
    Just on the point about there been no second eleven K.S.L competition, well there has and it has taken place at Taunton College this week. It’s for under 19s but obviously plays the same role.

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  7. Thanks for clarification on the Taunton Festival, but surely that is a snapshot of emerging talent? However, I totally agree the development of home grown, younger talent is hampered still by the abundance those from overseas, some really worth a place, but not all I believe. I fear my wish for a second tier of regular, competitive matches tonrun alongside the main KSL teams is a bit of a dream.

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