Southern Vipers have been the team to beat over the first two seasons of the Kia Super League. They won the inaugural season and finished runners-up last year.
They have not only had the resources and players to back this up, but they have had strong and experienced leaders. Suzie Bates and Charlotte Edwards have been at the core of this. Bates will take over the captaincy duties as Edwards moves upstairs to a more supervisorial role.
Vipers have recruited well, Tammy Beaumont joins from Surrey Stars, and is joined by Paige Scholfield from Loughborough Lightning, and Maia Bouchier will make her KSL debut after impressing for Middlesex.
If you were to compile a list of the best cricketers in women’s cricket, then there is little doubt that Bates is one of the first names on it.
An accomplished and attacking batter. She has played in both the past two seasons of KSL and averages 61.50, which shows just how important she is. This year though the batting looks even stronger at the top of the order so the pressure to score runs may be eased.
Her 72 ball 119 not out last year at Derby will live long in the memory. It was as destructive an innings that has been played at the 3AAA County Ground.
The Overseas Players
At first glance, it looks as if Vipers have four overseas players. Suzie Bates the captain, Mignon du Preez and the New Zealand pair of Amelia Kerr and Sara McGlashan. The last of these players, however, has a British passport so she is not considered to be an overseas player. It has riled some people who feel that the purpose of this competition is to develop England players. Vipers will argue that their aim is to win the competition.
Mignon du Preez is a former captain of South Africa and still plays an important part for them. As a middle-order batter, she has the ability to score all around the ground and keeps the game moving. She is also a very good fielder.
Kerr is a young leg-spinner who caught the eye with the bat in the recent ODI series against Ireland.
The England Internationals
With the retirement of Charlotte Edwards, Tammy Beaumont moves from Surrey Stars to represent the south coast side. Beaumont has been in great touch and gives the Vipers some real quality at the top of the order.
It will be the second season at the Vipers for Danni Wyatt who moved from Lancashire Thunder last year. Wyatt was able to show much promise into spectacular results for England of late and will hope to use this tournament as a springboard for the World T20 later in the year.
There aren’t many left-arm pace bowlers in the world but Vipers have two of them. Tash Farrant has been around for a while despite only being 22.
She is joined by the most recent cap for England Katie George who has impressed England Coach Mark Robinson who likes her ability to run in and bowl fast and at only 19 expect her to be around for a long time to come.
Best of the rest
Maia Bouchier was part of the Middlesex team that won the county T20 competition. A promising batter who during the winter will be looking to establish herself in the Vipers team.
Paige Scholfield moves from Loughborough Lightning but plays her county cricket for Sussex. She opened the batting for her county season and like Bouchier will be looking for a place in the Vipers middle-order.
Carla Rudd is an experienced wicket-keeper and will keep the gloves despite Tammy Beaumont having kept for the Surrey Stars.
Vipers also have a spin option in Charlie Dean the Hampshire all-rounder who has impressed as part of the side that won the county championship this year. This could be a big year for her and there will be times where Bates will rely on her to take wickets.
They have been to finals day every year so far so don’t back against them doing so again this year. They have an experienced captain in Bates. She has some experienced players she can rely on to produce the goods. Expect them to be there or thereabouts.
Suzie Bates (c), Mignon du Preez, Amelia Kerr, Sara McGlashan, Tammy Beaumont, Danni Wyatt, Tash Farrant, Katie George, Paige Scholfield, Maia Bouchier, Charlie Dean, Arran Brindle, Carla Rudd, Lauren Bell, Fi Morris