STATS: Women’s County Championship – Batting Rankings

Although Suzie Bates was arguably a bit less important to Hampshire this season than last – scoring 34% of their runs this year, compared with 38% in 2017 – she was still The Big Gear in the machine that clinched the County Championship last weekend. She was also the only player in Div 1 to score a century… and she scored two of them! Unsurprisingly, then, she tops our batting rankings.

At No. 2, Emma Lamb had another good season for Lancashire, opening the batting with Eve Jones who also makes the top 10. Lancashire’s problem is that they don’t have much else below them – between the two of them they scored almost half the county’s runs this season.

Middlesex’s Maia Bouchier had a breakthrough season – she spent last winter working hard in New Zealand, and seems to have come back with a little something extra about her – England really should be looking at her when they review the Academy squads this winter.

In Div 2, Kirstie White was the leading run scorer, but just pipped in the rankings by Nat Sciver after the England all-rounder’s crazy 180 off 98 balls against Derbyshire – doubtless not the most challenging bowling she’ll face this summer, but you can only play what they put in front of you, as the saying goes!

Div 1

Player Played Runs H/S S/R
1. Suzie Bates (Hampshire) 6 358 148 86.06
2. Emma Lamb (Lancashire) 7 339 91 81.69
3. Tammy Beaumont (Kent) 4 261 98 73.94
4. Amy Jones (Warwickshire) 5 193 68 99.48
5. Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire) 4 197 69 90.78
6. Maia Bouchier (Middlesex) 6 172 76 75.44
7. Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent) 7 223 61* 58.07
8. Leigh Kasperek (Yorkshire) 6 179 68 69.65
9. Thea Brookes (Warwickshire) 6 168 70* 66.93
10. Eve Jones (Lancashire) 7 193 61* 55.78

Div 2

Player Played Runs H/S S/R
1. Nat Sciver (Surrey) 4 273 180* 156
2. Kirstie White (Surrey) 7 331 94 70.28
3. Bryony Smith (Surrey) 7 256 119* 86.49
4. Gabby Basketter (Wales) 6 269 78 74.1
5. Sarah Taylor (Sussex) 3 200 88 93.46
6. Heather Knight (Berkshire) 3 190 105 89.62
7. Bess Heath (Derbyshire) 7 210 108 77.78
8. Georgia Adams (Sussex) 6 207 106 74.19
9. Rachel Priest (Wales) 6 174 88 86.57
10. Georgia Hennessy (Devon) 6 174 58 66.16

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate


STATS: Women’s County Championship – Bowling Rankings

Far and away the leading bowler in Division 1 of the County Championship was Notts’ Kirstie Gordon. In her 3rd season for Notts, since moving down from Scotland, she took 23 wickets, with a best of 5-18 against Warwickshire, which included Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the Warwickshire batting lineup.

The next highest wicket taker in Div 1 was Fi Morris, with 15. The former Berkshire player returned to county cricket with Hampshire after taking a break last summer, and her contributions with ball and bat were an important part of why Hampshire won the County Championship.

After ranking 2nd in 2016, but missing most of last season, Katie Thompson came back with 11 wickets at a very economical 1.7 for Yorkshire.

Meanwhile in Div 2, the standout performers were Devon’s Hazelle Garton with 22 wickets, and Sussex and England Academy’s Freya Davies, whose 6-10 to bowl Derbyshire out for 65 was the leading return in the County Championship this season.

Div 1

Player Played Wickets Best Economy
1. Kirstie Gordon (Nottinghamshire) 7 23 5-18 2.63
2. Katie Thompson (Yorkshire) 6 11 5-14 1.7
3. Anya Shrubsole (Somerset) 4 9 5-15 1.58
4. Fi Morris (Hampshire) 7 15 4-12 3
5. Leigh Kasperek (Yorkshire) 6 12 3-19 2.79
6. Katie George (Hampshire) 7 11 4-13 2.61
7. Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire) 5 9 4-16 2.35
8. Suzie Bates (Hampshire) 6 10 3-24 2.95
9. Megan Belt (Kent) 7 11 3-15 3.39
10. Laura Marsh (Kent) 5 11 3-18 3.41

Div 2

Player Played Wickets Best Economy
1. Hazelle Garton (Devon) 7 22 5-18 1.98
2. Freya Davies (Sussex) 6 13 6-10 1.85
3. Georgia Elwiss (Sussex) 4 10 4-22 1.79
4. Bryony Smith (Surrey) 7 14 5-33 2.6
5. Steph Hutchins (Devon) 7 13 4-35 2.5
6. Tara Norris (Sussex) 6 10 3-17 2.18
7. Emma Walker (Berkshire) 6 10 3-16 2.33
8. Linsey Smith (Sussex) 5 7 3-28 1.75
9. Gabby Basketter (Wales) 6 11 3-13 3.05
10. Eva Gray (Surrey) 7 11 2-8 3.06

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

ANALYSIS: Should Keepers Stand In Front Of The Stumps For Run Outs?

There is a fascinating video on the ECB’s web site which asks (and attempts to answer) the question: Should keepers stand in front or behind the stumps for run outs? (HT Joe Ashdown)

The coaches at the ECB’s performance centre up in Loughborough set up their cameras and stopwatches, and with the help of Hawk-Eye and a reconfigured bowling machine acting as the fielder, attempted to get a definitive answer.

You can watch the whole thing at the link above, but the TLDW* is that standing in front of the stumps is… well… it depends!!

The key to it… and the video actually slightly talks-around this fairly simple point… is that you have to know exactly where your stumps are – not vaguely; not roughly; but exactly!

There are two reasons for this:

  1. You need to know if the ball is already going on to directly hit the stumps, in which case you need to basically leave it alone – nothing beats the speed of the ball through the air, and if you interrupt it then you lose all the benefit of those few milliseconds you bought from standing in front.
  2. If the ball is missing the stumps, you need to be perfectly positioned to guide it on in a single movement – if you can’t do this in one smooth, gliding arc, then it actually becomes two movements and again the advantage is lost as the batsman makes their ground.

What the video shows fairly conclusively is knowing exactly where your stumps are, and perfecting the art of guiding the missing ball back on in a single arc, is really hard – even for a seasoned pro, it takes years of practice. The video’s final conclusion is that, even in the professional game, “normal” fielders at the bowler’s end (typically the bowler himself) should always stand behind the stumps; but that the very best ‘keepers could indeed buy some advantage by standing in front.

This has some interesting implications for young ‘keepers in the women’s domestic game, as it touches on the slightly awkward question of what the Women’s County Championship and Kia Super League are for? Are they competitions in their own right, where winning is all? Or does that come secondary to their other role as nurseries for future England players?

England’s Academy and pathway coaches are clearly coaching players to stand in front – and rightly so, because one day England will need one of them to step into the gloves [Ed: err…?] of Sarah Taylor.

But for a young ‘keeper playing the County Championship or KSL, if the goal is to win “this” match right now, they should probably be standing behind, because this is the optimal choice unless you’ve had the years of professional practice to perfect the techniques required to stand in front… which the young (at best, semi-pro) ‘keepers in domestic cricket have not!

It isn’t only wicket keepers who face these dilemmas. Should a young fast bowler, hoping one day to be bowling out the Aussies in the Women’s Ashes, focus on pace, even if it means conceding a few wides or no balls? Her England pathway coach would no doubt say yes; but her county coach might well prefer her to take a foot off the gas and keep the runs down in “this” match going on right now!

To be fair, these same issues arise as well in The Other Game but that is what they have 2nd XI cricket for. We have no real equivalent, and so the County Champs and Super League play both roles – competition and nursery – and that means there is no easy answer.


* TLDW – Too Long; Didn’t Watch

The 2017 CRICKETher Cricketmas Quiz

Twelve months; twelve questions; no Googling!!

INTERVIEW: Scotland’s Kathryn and Sarah Bryce Head to WBBL

Jake Perry Reports

Two of the brightest stars in the Scottish game will be rubbing shoulders with the best in the world as participants in the 2017/18 Rebel Women’s Big Bash League Rookie Placement Programme. Sisters Kathryn and Sarah Bryce will head to Australia to take up two-week placements with WBBL franchises Adelaide Strikers and Hobart Hurricanes in the third edition of the innovative joint venture between Cricket Australia and the ICC.

Each of the eight nominees is given the opportunity to experience women’s cricket at its very highest level, and with the added possibility of being called into the tournament itself in the event of an injury to a contracted player, too, the initiative opens up a unique window onto the elite world.

Both Kathryn and Sarah are looking forward to the experience.

“It was so exciting to get everything confirmed,” said Sarah. “It was unexpected for me at least and the family are very proud to have us both involved.”

“I’m really looking forward to visiting Tasmania,” she continued. “Being around such high-quality players and getting to see how they go about their training and everything else is really exciting.”

Whilst Sarah has been selected for the first time it will be a second trip in two years for Scotland vice-captain Kathryn, and the twenty year-old all-rounder is relishing the opportunity to be part of the programme once again.

“Having as much exposure as possible to that professional set-up helps my game a lot,” she said. “It is experience that I take back into my training and tournament play with Scotland.”

“[Last year] gave me an insight into the preparation and hard work that goes into cricket at this level. It’s not just what happens in games and in training, it’s the whole thought process that goes into it as well.”

Kathryn was placed with Melbourne Stars during the last campaign.

“I was given a bit of time to settle in then I fitted into all the training and gym schedules,” she said. “Last year I went along to watch some of the other WBBL games in Melbourne, too. The Renegades were playing as well as the Stars so I went and watched them and got to know a few of the girls, went out to dinner with them and so on.”

“I was living in the same hotel as other international players so I got to spend a lot of time with them as well. Just being in that environment and the routine of training, gym and everything else taught me a lot.”

“I had a couple of training sessions out on the MCG, too, which was fantastic. That outfield and the indoor nets are something else.”

“In Adelaide there is the main Adelaide Oval but I’m not entirely sure what facilities we’ll be using,” continued Kathryn. “But wherever it is it’ll just be good to be playing some outdoor cricket at this time of year!”

“I don’t know a huge amount about what it’s going to be like but I know the facilities and the coaches are going to be of a great standard,” added Sarah. “It will be interesting to see what resources they have and how they use them.”

The news crowns a memorable year for both players. As well as winning her fiftieth Scotland cap Kathryn scored 241 runs at 30.13 for Warwickshire in her first season in the Women’s County Championship, adding a 49-ball 73* in the T20 Championship for good measure.

Seventeen year-old Sarah also made great strides after taking over from Lorna Jack behind the stumps as both players helped Scotland to the ICC Women’s World T20 Global Qualifier.

“It’s been a really good season,” said Sarah. “Going to Sri Lanka at the beginning of the year for the [ICC Women’s World Cup] Qualifier and playing against teams like South Africa was incredible. Putting yourself up against those sorts of players was a challenge we all relished.”

“I think that having both Kathryn and me at the WBBL shows that the women’s game in Scotland is really on the up. In the past a couple of players were relied upon a lot whereas that’s definitely changing now. These days the whole team is contributing which says a lot about how we have progressed.”

“Speaking personally taking over the gloves has been great for me,” Sarah continued. “I’m just trying to keep improving all aspects of my game. Having Kathryn doing so well [has been an inspiration] and it’s nice to be able to follow in her footsteps to the WBBL this year.”

The end of the placement will not be the last Sarah sees of Australia this winter, either.

“I’ll be spending three months at the Perth Cricket Academy after the Big Bash so that will get me into a good routine of how to go about training and fitness and so on too.”

“The whole winter is going to be a great experience and both of us will be looking to bring back as much knowledge to Scotland as we can.”


Jake Perry writes on Scottish cricket for Cricket Scotland and Cricket 365 and has contributed to ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket.
Twitter: @jperry_cricket
Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

STATS: Women’s County Championship 2017: Batting Rankings

Div 1 Stats – Other Divisions Are Available!

The Women’s County Championship can be an unforgiving place to be a batsman – matches are mostly played on used club pitches, often with huge boundaries (in contrast to KSL) and unforgiving outfields where the ball will quickly run out of puff. So if you are thinking these numbers look low… perhaps they are, but there’s a reason!

Sophie Devine tops the 2017 batting rankings, largely thanks to one of the greatest innings in the history of the Women’s County Championship – 122 off 78 balls for Warwickshire versus Middlesex. (Incidentally, this was the only century scored in Div 1 this season.)

Middlesex’s own Beth Morgan comes in at No. 2 – six years after retiring from England duty, she still looks a classy player, with the numbers and consistency to back it up – having reached double-figures in all 7 innings, with a high of 80 against Yorkshire.

The leading run-scorer this season was Notts’ veteran skipper Sonia Odedra with 253 – including carrying her bat for the 79* which deprived Yorkshire of the County Championship title in the final game. (Notts won the match, finishing on 178-4 – if they had finished on 178-5, Yorkshire would have got the one extra bonus point they needed to win the title.)

Batting Played Runs Strike Rate
1. Sophie Devine 4 159 135.9
2. Beth Morgan 7 245 71.85
3. Amy Jones 3 136 127.1
4. Sonia Odedra 7 253 63.57
5. Danielle Wyatt 4 163 94.22
6. Amy Satterthwaite 7 242 63.35
7. Rachel Priest 5 146 97.99
8. Katherine Brunt 2 146 94.19
9. Evelyn Jones 6 218 59.73
10. Hollie Armitage 6 192 54.55
11. Marie Kelly 7 140 72.54
12. Anna Nicholls 7 140 70.71
13. Georgia Hennessy 6 152 61.79
14. Sarah Taylor 3 118 69.41
15. Catherine Dalton 5 94 87.04
16. Kathryn Bryce 7 127 60.19
17. Sophie Ecclestone 7 100 70.92
18. Danielle Hazell 3 98 72.06
19. Alice Davidson-Richards 5 140 49.47
20. Lissy Macleod 7 104 65

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

STATS: Women’s County Championship 2017: Bowling Rankings

Div 1 Stats – Other Divisions Are Available!

The star turn of this season’s Women’s County Championship was undoubtedly Sophie Ecclestone, with a massive 27 wickets in 7 games for title winners Lancashire. (By comparison last season’s top-ranked bowler – Kent’s Megan Belt – took just 16 wickets.) Ecclestone took two 5fers, including 6-12 in the crucial final match of the season, which catapulted Lancashire over Warwickshire and Yorkshire to the title.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire leg-spinner Katie Levick eased past one “C.M. Edwards” into 3rd place in the “All Time” list of Div 1 wicket-takers, with another 21 wickets this season.

In a season more than ever dominated by spinners, only one fast bowler made the top 10 – Holly Huddleston. Huddleston might not have had a great KSL (though Finals Day is still to come) but 50-over cricket is really her game, and she showed it again in this year’s County Champs.

One to watch for the future is Berkshire’s 17-year-old off-spinner Emma Walker, who made the list at No. 11 in her debut season, with 11 wickets including a 5fer against Middlesex. (She also top-scored for Berkshire in their last match against Kent!)

Bowling Played Wickets Economy
1. Sophie Ecclestone 7 27 2.76
2. Katie Levick 7 21 2.68
3. Anisha Patel 7 14 2.93
4. Kirstie Gordon 7 13 2.89
5. Sophia Dunkley 4 11 2.56
6. Kaitie Thompson 7 10 2.48
7. Linsey Smith 4 9 2.34
8. Rebecca Grundy 7 10 2.76
9. Jodie Dibble 7 12 3.73
10. Holly Huddleston 4 9 2.8
11. Emma Walker 6 11 3.44
12. Liz Russell 3 10 3.41
13. Sophie Munro 4 10 3.58
14. Ellen Burt 7 10 3.62
15. Rachel Dickinson 7 9 3.3
16. Teresa Graves 5 7 2.86
17. Alice Davidson-Richards 5 8 3.28
18. Megan Belt 7 9 3.76
19. Natalie Brown 7 6 2.57
20. Izzy Westbury 5 11 4.87

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

INTERVIEW: USA Captain Sindhu Sriharsha – “We are eager to show what we can do!”

Jake Perry in Stirling

In a week which has typified the extremes of Scottish summer weather, ‘frustration’ has been the buzzword around the ICC Women’s World T20 Europe/Americas Qualifier in Stirling. For players, coaches, officials and fans alike it has proved to be a difficult week as the effects of heavy rain have repeatedly foiled best-laid plans, and with one reserve day already used and the other likely to be required, too, the road to the Global Qualifier will have been a long one for the two teams that eventually progress.

For Team USA frustration has been particularly acute. Taking part in their first ICC event for several years Anand Tummula’s side is anxious to make its mark, and despite falling to defeat against Scotland in their opening match USA captain Sindhu Sriharsha is confident that her side has much more left to give.

“It’s definitely frustrating to have been working so hard back home and then having to wait on the bench once we got here so it was good to get a game,” she said. “Considering that we haven’t played international cricket for almost five years we were all eager and hungry to get out there and show the cricket fraternity what we can do.”

“But having said that [our performance against Scotland] was disappointing as I have seen the girls do so much better. We haven’t properly showed our skills yet but I’m confident that we are going to put up a better show when we next get out onto the field.”

“Every game is crucial for us and we want to go out there and win the next two. Be it Scotland or Netherlands, we believe that we are a good team and that we can compete with both of them.”

Bengaluru-born Sriharsha is one of the most experienced members of this new-look US team. The classy top-order batsman was appointed captain earlier this year, and as she looks toward the remainder of the week the twenty nine year-old is happy for her side to continue in their pre-tournament role of dark horses.

“Being the unknowns is a nice place to be,” she said. “Although to be honest with you it has worked both ways, too, as we haven’t seen much of Scotland or the Netherlands either.”

“But whatever is said beforehand about any of the teams doesn’t really matter. They have a bat, we have a bat, they have a ball and so do we, so ultimately any kind of analysis we do means nothing if we can’t go and execute our plans on the field.”

“On any given day whoever makes the lesser amount of mistakes wins the match. It is anybody’s game.”

American cricket has been much in the news recently after the expulsion of the USA Cricket Association (USACA) from the ICC in June ended a protracted period of significant turbulence. Under the stewardship of ICC Americas, however, the sport is rebuilding and confidence is growing.

“ICC Americas have taken over the running of cricket in the US right now,” said Sriharsha. “In women’s cricket we have had a few camps and we have been able to get a large number of girls to come and try out for them.”

“Cricket has a lot more traction in the country now that the ICC has taken over. They are trying to get schoolgirls involved as well which is going to be key for us to improve the grassroots level of US cricket.”

“It is still a work in progress but I know that ICC Americas will continue to do everything they can to grow cricket in the USA.”

Thursday’s game between USA and the Netherlands is likely to prove pivotal in determining the identity of the team to join Scotland in the final stages of the qualifying process toward the next Women’s World T20 in 2018. Whatever happens, though, this has been a tournament which has marked the beginning of a new era in American cricket. Whether they qualify or not, Sindhu Sriharsha’s side will always look back on a wet week in Stirling as the time when the USA Women’s team finally took its first steps back onto the international road.


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: 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


* Back from injury