Date: 28 August 2019
Venue: Stanley Park, Blackpool
Match 28 of the final edition of Women's Cricket Super League (WCSL) may be a dead rubber, but it holds so much more for the teams competing - Lancashire Thunder and Surrey Stars. The latter's name in this regard is surprising to many since they were the defending champions entering this season. Thunder, on the other hand, certainly had a team capable of winning a few matches and punch above their weight, but it was not to be.
Thunder's campaign had most components of a blockbuster movie - tense finishes, one-sided matches and a dramatic tie against Southern Vipers. They have seen it all apart from a win next to their name. The game against Vipers as well as the one against Yorkshire Diamonds - where they agonizingly lost by nine runs - were hard ones to swallow.
Thunder have themselves to blame as they did not seize the moments when it mattered the most. Their batters failed to get going and put any partnerships of substance. Apart from Harmanpreet Kaur, no one stood up to the challenge when required. The biggest disappointment for Thunder was Sophia Dunkley, who failed miserably with both bat and ball, registering only 89 runs in the nine matches.
Their bowling, too, didn't live up to the expectations as apart from Sophie Ecclestone (12 wickets) no one else managed to tie the batters down. Kate Cross and Alex Hartley picked up 10 and six wickets respectively but their economy rates were relatively high.
Thunder would most definitely want to win their last game against Stars as they would not want to end WCSL without winning a match in the last season.
Stars' fortunes took a massive U-turn when their third match of the tournament against Southern Vipers was washed out. They started the season with a bang with two wins and they certainly looked likely to defend their crown. However, that was not to be as Stars faltered and lost their next five matches where their batting and bowling failed to click together.
Their batting looked too dependent on the trio of Natalie Sciver, Sarah Taylor and Lizelle Lee. The rest rarely stood up if the three failed, as the game against Vipers on Sunday (August 18), when they were shot out for 89, showed. Bryony Smith has been the biggest disappointment mustering just 73 runs in the eight matches, which has put added pressure on the middle-order to score runs.
Their bowlers started off the tournament on a good note. The trio of spinners, Laura Marsh, Dane van Niekerk and Mady Villiers, played a crucial role in their only two wins supported by Marizanne Kapp, who tied down the batters with her economical bowling.
The bowlers fell apart and lost their way dramatically in the last five matches and teams scored in excess of 175 on two occasions and that didn't help matters. Marsh and Villiers suffered the most as their economy rate swelled beyond eight runs per over.
Stars will look to avoid their seventh straight loss when they meet Thunder on Wednesday (August 28) in Blackpool.
Batters generally are expected to carry the mantle of the side when it comes to T20 games. This is where Thunder have lacked. Kaur, being the lone warrior, has scored 255 runs at a strike rate of 112.33, with two fifties in this season. It is the most runs by a Thunder batter by a distance - Tahlia McGrath with 178 runs comes next. Thus, once again, it is hard to look past Kaur as a key player.
Only time will tell whether the Indian T20I captain can carry her team to their first win in two years. Whenever she has churned the runs, Thunder have looked a different side. Drawing the curtains with another Kaur special wouldn't be a bad way to sign off.
The failure of Lee hampered Stars' progress to finals day. In her second game of the season, she struck a fine half-century in typical Lee fashion. That was, however, the only innings of note she has played so far. Post that, her form tapered off and so did Stars' fortunes.
Lee would be hoping to finish the tournament in style and head to the ODI and T20I series against India next month in a good space.
It is a home match for Thunder and what better way than to give your fans a win in your last match of WCSL. The weather forecast looks good with temperatures hovering in mid-20s. The Stanley Park in Blackpool is hosting its first-ever WCSL game. Thus, it is largely an unknown commodity as to what the track and the conditions have to offer.
Lancashire Thunder: Kate Cross (c), Alex Hartley, Sophie Ecclestone, Sophia Dunkley, Georgia Boyce, Emma Lamb, Natalie Brown, Danielle Collins, Alice Dyson, Ria Fackrell, Ellie Threlkeld, Eve Jones, Harmanpreet Kaur, Sune Luus, Tahlia McGrath.
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, Lizelle Lee, Dane van Niekerk