Date: August 6, 2019
Venue: Headingley, Leeds
The Ashes just ended five days ago, and the girls from Australia decimated England. The men’s version of the traditional rivalry is underway now - again, Australia have taken an early lead. Add to it the T20 Blast that is in progress in various parts of England and the men's World Cup seems like a long time ago! It is in this backdrop that another tournament is going to put its head up and say, “Hey there, watch me too!”
In the broad cricketing narrative of the Ashes and the Blast, the Women’s Cricket Super League that begins on Tuesday (August 6) is reduced to a postscript. However, it is upto the teams in action to ensure that the postscript is the event that people await eagerly.
On Tuesday evening, in what is the third game of the tournament, the reigning champions Surrey Stars will take on Yorkshire Diamonds. It is an away fixture for Surrey, though that is the last thing that is going to bother them. The previews have had it that their stable squad has the looks of being able to defend their title.
Natalie Sciver, after a pedestrian Ashes, would love to audition (even if in her case it is not) for the looming T20 World Cup, that is just months away. Mady Villiers, who had a memorable international debut in the third T20I of the multi-format Ashes, will also be buoyed by the occasion.
Facing the Stars will be Yorkshire Diamonds led by Lauren Winfield, with the ever-reliable veteran Katherine Brunt by her side. They have progressively improved in the tournament – their number of wins in each edition is testimony to the fact. In the history of the competition, of the four times that these teams have squared off against each other, the Stars have won twice while the Diamonds have a win to show with an abandoned game.
However, the last time they came face to face in 2018, the Stars were decimated by the combination of Beths – Langston (3/14) and Mooney (44 not out off 30 balls). Two of the three games have been low-scoring as well.
As the lights at Headingley will be switched on, who will revel and who will squint?
In the three T20Is played as a part of the multi-format Ashes, Brunt was dismissed only once. Almost always she walked in and was the catalyst that England needed in order to post decent totals. The veteran all-rounder will hold the key if Diamonds are to their campaign with a bang. In Diamonds’ penultimate match in 2018, they were left needing 11 runs-an-over in a run chase of 155 against Lancashire Thunder. Though the middle and lower-order order crumbled, Brunt kept Yorkshire in the hunt with an unbeaten 44 in 25 balls, eventually falling short by nine runs. Overall, Brunt has 322 WCSL career runs at a strike rate of 133.05.
With the ball too, the fast-bowler is ever reliable. She will lead the attack with the ball and guide the likes of Langston and Katie George through their paces. Her never-say-die attitude is something that has stood out through her entire career. Diamonds will be hoping that the veteran can pull off something special in the final edition of the WCSL and help them get over the line.
Dane van Niekerk
On a high of clinching multiple honours on Cricket South Africa's awards night on Saturday (August 3), van Niekerk will be raring to go for the Stars, more so after the year South Africa had in international cricket. Over the past year, she has scored 230 runs, average 38.33 between dismissals in T20Is, apart from picking nine wickets at an average of 11. She had a modest WCSL last year with not much to show. However, more recently, as a part of the South Africa Emerging side that whitewashed Bangladesh Emerging at home, she scored an unbeaten fifty and picked up a wicket, too, in the only outing that she had in that series. Having game time is very vital and she would have sure warmed up to the task. Expect Surrey to rely on her all-round expertise.
It is a day and night game in Leeds, where the weather is expected to be cloudy, with temperature soaring around the 20-degree mark. In the last two seasons in the WCSL, three matches have been played at this venue. Not once has a side managed to successfully chase a target down. However, the prospect of chasing under the lights is often an irresistible one and expect the captain who wins the toss to insert the opposition in.
Yorkshire Diamonds: Lauren Winfield (c), Katherine Brunt, Alice Davidson-Richards, Katie George, Linsey Smith, Hollie Armitage, Georgia Davis, Helen Fenby, Cordelia Griffith, Bess Heath, Beth Langston, Katie Levick, Alyssa Healy, Jemimah Rodrigues, Leigh Kasperek
Surrey Stars: Natalie Sciver (c), Laura Marsh, Sarah Taylor, Bryony Smith, Amy Gordon, Mady Villiers, Aylish Cranstone, Gwenan Davies, Grace Gibbs, Eva Grey, Hannah Jones, Rhianna Southby, Marizanne Kapp, Lizelee Lee, Dane van Niekerk