Following on from a brilliant debut season, and coming hot on the heels of an amazing World Cup, this year’s Kia Super League is set to be another feather in the cap of women’s cricket. Olly Oulton previews each team’s chances for the season ahead.
England Stars: Danielle Hazell (C), Sarah Taylor, Kate Cross
Overseas: Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu (both New Zealand), Jess Jonassen (Australia)
Key Player: Sarah Taylor
Why: She’s a unique talent behind the stumps, and innovative and breathtaking with the bat. Taylor provides an X-factor which can often prove to be the difference in the shortest form of the game. Coming off a stellar World Cup campaign, she’ll be desperate to succeed in her first Kia Super League.
Keep An Eye On: Emma Lamb, 19
Described as “the standout batsman on show” by Mark Robinson on an England Academy tour last April, Lamb, a top-order bat, has shown promise from a young age – she averaged over 100 at under 17 level for Lancashire. Lamb is part of an upcoming group of players at Lancashire who received high praise from Sarah Taylor: “The set up in Lancashire is one of the best in this country so I am very much looking forward to working with the young talent who proved formidable in the recent England Academy tour to Sri Lanka.”
Last Season: 6th
What Happened: Last season was an enormously disappointing campaign for the Thunder – they notched up just a single victory against the Loughborough Lightning, thanks to a half century from New Zealand star Amy Satterthwaite.
It’s hard to see the Thunder doing quite as poorly this time around, especially considering the additions of Dani Hazell and Sarah Taylor to their squad. But they lack the overseas quality to truly challenge, especially if Amy Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu remain disheartened by New Zealand’s poor World Cup showing.
Final Word: “We’ve got a good squad together, and hopefully we can just enjoy the fact that it’s T20 cricket. That [Lancashire’s county T20 win] is a really good form. The girls are obviously in a bit of form, and we’ve got some really good youngsters coming through” – Danni Hazell
England Stars: Georgia Elwiss, Beth Langston, Amy Jones, Becky Grundy, Sonia Odedra
Overseas: Elyse Villani, Kristen Beams, Ellyse Perry (all Australia)
Key Player: Ellyse Perry
Why: She’s the leading allrounder in women’s cricket. Perry comes into the Kia Super League off the back of a hugely impressive World Cup for Australia, including five consecutive half-centuries, remarkable the third time she’s achieved the feat. She starred in the KSL last year, and with her consistency unmatched by anyone else in the world, expect her to do the same again.
Keep An Eye On: Marie Kelly, 21
Allrounder Kelly looks set to make her first appearance in the Kia Super League this year, after working her way through the ranks at Warwickshire, a side she now captains. Her batting highlights include scoring 201* off 145 balls for Warwickshire under 15’s. Now a member of the England Development Squad, Kelly will be hoping to make an immediate impact for the Lightning this year.
Last Season: 3rd
The Lightning made it to final’s day thanks in part to a stunning 91 off 64 balls from South African captain Dane van Niekerk against Surrey Stars. They came up short, however, against a strong Western Storm outfit in the semi-final.
The loss of van Niekerk to injury is a blow, but the addition of Villani’s ball-striking should lessen it. Despite lacking in English star players, this is a team that knows each other well, and may prove to be more than the sum of its parts.
Final Word: “It’s great to play at big grounds. We all loved playing at Loughborough last year, I loved playing there and would like to play more games there because it was such a good atmosphere. But Derby should be good, a double header on Sky Sports, a chance for us to try and perform under pressure – more pressure than normal. I think all the girls will be looking forward to playing at a big county ground” – Amy Jones
England Stars: Charlotte Edwards (C), Danni Wyatt, Tash Farrant, Arran Brindle
Overseas: Suzie Bates (New Zealand), Hayley Matthews (West Indies), Mignon du Preez (South Africa)
Key Player: Hayley Matthews
Why: She’s the most exciting young talent in the world. The teenager exploded onto the international stage with a match-winning 66 in the World T20 final in 2016, while her off-spin marks her out as a proper all-round option in a team full of them. The West Indian possesses brutal power and a cricketing brain which belies her age.
Keep An Eye On: Georgia Adams, 23
A stylish opening bat, Adams led from the front last season. With a run-a-ball 41 in the opening game against Surrey Stars, the right-hander set the tone for the rest of the campaign as the Vipers romped to the title. Newly appointed captain of Sussex and a senior England Academy member, she will look to lead by example again this year.
Last Season: 1st
A series of superb performances from the Vipers saw them lose just once all campaign. Tash Farrant described the Vipers as not the “best team on paper”, but having “really good team cohesion”. This sense of unity carried them all the way to the final, where a seven-wicket win over Western Storm saw them crowned champions.
Even if the Vipers do no more than emulate last season’s level of performances, they would be hard to bet against this time round. But with the added firepower of Matthews and Danni Wyatt, they appear to be nailed-on favourites. For captain Charlotte Edwards, victory would be the perfect way to cap a long and illustrious career at the top level.
Final Word: “Obviously I was disappointed [not to get selected for WC] but I’m looking forward to the Super League. I’m buzzing for the girls, you still feel part of the team, we’re a squad of 18. But the Super League will be great for me, especially being involved in T20 stuff, try and do well and get my name back into the mix” – Tash Farrant
England Stars: Nat Sciver (C), Tammy Beaumont, Laura Marsh, Alex Hartley
Overseas: Marizanne Kapp, Lizelle Lee (both South Africa), Rene Farrell (Australia)
Key Player: Nat Sciver
Why: She’s the most destructive ball-striker in the world. Sciver’s ODI stats – average of 45, strike rate of 104 – beggar belief. At the World Cup she was the only player to make more than one century, so she’s in prime form, and with her medium-pace deceptively effective, there is perhaps no other player more capable of changing a game on her own.
Keep An Eye On: Sophie Dunkley, 19
Selected for the England Women’s Development Programme at 16 years old, this young allrounder continues to go from strength to strength. A promising leg-spinner – Dunkley claimed the brilliant figures of 4-7 against Yorkshire back in May – and middle-order batter with a career-high score of 142, don’t be fooled by Dunkley’s tender age. She’s already a force.
Last Season: 4th
A disappointing campaign for the Stars, who failed to reach finals day. Captain Nat Sciver put this down to an inability to “put the batting and the bowling together at the same time”.
With Tammy Beaumont and Nat Sciver both fresh from stunning individual World Cup campaigns leading the Stars into the new season, their prospects look promising. England spinners Alex Hartley and Laura Marsh could also be key to their success.
Final Word: “It’s going to be interesting to see how things go this year, obviously Marizanne Kapp had a great World Cup. We’ve got probably the freshest bowler coming in, Rene Farrell. She was really good for us last year so it will be interesting to see how we go. The domestic girls have seen what they have to do, and they’re the ones that are going to get us over the line this year. We had a great vibe last year, even if we didn’t always put it onto the pitch” – Tammy Beaumont
England Stars: Heather Knight (C), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson
Overseas: Rachel Priest, Holly Huddleston (both New Zealand), Stafanie Taylor (West Indies)
Key Player: Anya Shrubsole
Why: She’s a player for the big occasion. Shrubsole showed an ice-cool temperament at the most pressure-filled of moments to seal both of England’s knockout triumphs at the World Cup. In a format geared towards tight finishes, such a gift could be key.
Keep An Eye On: Sophie Luff, 23
A determined top-order bat, Luff makes no secret of her desire to one day play for England, and spoke at the start of the season about how she felt a strong summer was key to her ambition. Consecutive unbeaten centuries for Somerset in the County Championship completed the first part of her mission, and a series of good performances in the Kia Super League could catapult her from the development squad into the full England setup.
Last Season: 2nd
Only a very strong Southern Vipers side halted the Storm’s progress, with a comprehensive seven-wicket victory in the final. A settled side, superbly led by England star Heather Knight, showed the level of consistency needed to succeed in this quick-fire competition.
Perhaps lacking in terms of overseas star quality, especially with last year’s key player Stafanie Taylor coming off a poor World Cup, the Storm will rely heavily on the likes of Shrubsole and Knight if they are to challenge for the top prize again. As good as those two are, it could prove a bridge too far.
Final word: “It’s quite a short sharp tournament, you’ve got four or five games and then finals day, so you’ve really got to hit peak form, and we are hoping that will be the case. We were probably a little bit batting-heavy last year so that’s why with the overseas we’ve gone for Holly Huddlestone, to give us a bit more firepower and good bowling at the death as well, so fingers crossed we can win” – Heather Knight
England Stars: Lauren Winfield (C), Katherine Brunt, Jenny Gunn
Overseas: Sophie Devine (New Zealand), Sune Luus (South Africa), Chamari Atapattu (Sri Lanka)
Key Player: Katherine Brunt
Why: The England stalwart is a proper match-winner. Her aggressive fast bowling is her strongest suit, but her power-hitting down the order has proved invaluable to Yorkshire and England alike through the years, while her competitive attitude mean Diamonds won’t lose any game without a fight.
Keep An Eye On: Stephanie Butler, 23
A tidy off-spinner, Butler was selected for the inaugural Kia Super League following strong performances for England Academy – she took seven wickets in a series against Sri Lanka A and Australia’s Shooting Stars. If the Diamonds are to improve upon their poor showing last season, then their promising stars, with Butler at the forefront, will have to shine bright.
Last Season: 5th
The Diamonds’ bowling attack, led by England veterans Katherine Brunt and Jenny Gunn, were fairly consistent. But a relative lack of batting depth was ultimately their downfall. A disappointing year for the Yorkshire outfit.
The Diamonds simply had to recruit well to give them any hope for the upcoming season, but although overseas players Sophie Devine, Sune Luus, and Chamari Atapattu are good players in their own right, they aren’t the match of the superstars the other sides can call on.
Final word: “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” – Lauren Winfield, speaking to crickether.com
Who do you think will win this year’s Kia Super League? Let us know in the comments!