Suzie Bates in action. ©Sky Sports

Match Preview: Southern Vipers vs Western Storm

Date: 11 August 2019

Venue: Rose Bowl, Southampton

The thing about good teams is, they always find a way. No matter how dire the situation may seem, or how heavily the odds are stacked against them, they find a way to win.

On three occasions during the 2019 edition of the Women’s Cricket Super League in England, teams have been pushed against a wall, and on all three occasions, it is the ‘better’, more experienced team that has found a way to win. It was Surrey Stars on day one, Southern Vipers on day two, and finally Western Storm— arguably the most consistent of the three— on day three.

Vipers are on a roll. They outplayed Lancashire Thunder in their first match and snuck home by two wickets— courtesy a courageous reverse sweep from Amanda Wellington— in the following game. After their nightmare season in 2018 (where they finished last), Tammy Beaumont’s team have started this edition of the WCSL on a high.

In their third match of the tournament, Vipers will come up against Storm, one of the strongest and most balanced teams in the tournament. Finalists in 2016, winners in 2017 and a third place finish in 2018, Heather Knight’s charges have clearly been the most consistent side in the competition. They have started the 2019 season on a similar note.

When both teams play on Sunday (August 11), it will be the seventh time they go up against each other. Western Storm have won three games so far, Vipers have won two, and one match has been washed out.

One key performer from these matches was Stafanie Taylor. The West Indies skipper, who used to play for Western Storm has shifted sides and will turn out for Vipers this time around. How she will respond, playing against her former team will certainly be interesting.

In the last encounter between the sides, Storm crushed Vipers by nine wickets, as Smriti Mandhana— in the middle of a purple patch— smashed an unbeaten 43.

This third round match of the 2019 WCSL is going to be a tightly contested game. Both sides match up nicely— strong batting units with competent bowlers as well.

With the likes of Danielle Wyatt, Suzie Bates, Beaumont, Taylor, Maia Bouchier and Thea Brookes in the batting line-up, Vipers appear like they could certainly challenge the might of Storm with Mandhana, Rachel Priest, Knight, Fran Wilson, Sophie Luff and Deepti Sharma in their ranks.

Once again, for both teams, it will be about finding a way to win. Which of them will keep their unbeaten record in tact?

 

Key Players:

Suzie Bates

Bates loves playing at the Rose Bowl— in eight matches, she has scored 243 runs at an average of 48.60 and a strike rate of 119.12, and has also picked up eight wickets. She also loves playing agains Western Storm— through three previous seasons of the competition, Bates has amassed 210 runs in six matches, at an average of 52.50, while also picking up four wickets.

In two matches of the competition so far, the former New Zealand skipper, has only managed 23 runs. However, the threat of Bates will continue to loom large through the course of the competition— more so over Storm. Through the course of her career, the right-hander has often been able to cast aside indifferent form and play an innings of substance— the ‘Snake Pit’ would be a good place to start. Either way, Knight will be desperate to tie her down, for if she gets away early, Bates is very hard to stop.

 

Rachel Priest

When Western Storm is in action, often all eyes are on Smriti Mandhana. In the opening partnership, Priest tends to fly under the radar. Despite her absence from the international circuit since the 2017 World Cup, the right-hander is still regarded as one of the most destructive batters on the circuit. She is the sixth highest run-getter in the WCSL so far with 601 runs in 27 matches, including one of only four centuries scored in the league so far.

Although she is yet to make a score of any impact in this edition of the WCSL, Priest’s ability to get on top of the bowling early is something Storm will count on. She can find the boundary with ease, scores heavily off the front foot, preferring to go over mid-wicket and long on, but also plays a mean cut shot. The right-hander’s record against Vipers is second to none—162 runs in five matches at a strike rate of 132.78, including a match-winning half-century in the 2017 final. No other batter has managed more runs against them.

On what is likely to be a batting friendly surface in Southampton, Priest could potentially be a big impact player for Storm. Her use of the sweep shot and power down the ground could cause some problems for Vipers’ spinners.

 

Conditions:

Over the last three seasons of the WCSL, eight matches have been played at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, of which Vipers have won six. They are a hard team to beat at home, and with the form they have shown so far, Storm will certainly be wary.

While not all games have been high-scoring, the 150-mark has been breached on four occasions— twice in three times in 2018. Traditionally, the pitch has suited the batters, so one can assume— considering the batting strength of both teams— that Saturday’s match too will be a high-scoring one.

 

Squads:

Southern Vipers: Tammy Beaumont (c), Danielle Wyatt, Charlie Dean, Lauren Bell, Tash Farrant, Maia Bouchier, Carla Rudd, Paige Scholfield, Thea Brookes, Marie Kelly, Issy Wong, Fi Morris, Suzie Bates, Stafanie Taylor, Amanda Wellington.

Western Storm:  Heather Knight (c), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Freya Davies, Danie Gibson, Ellie Mitchell, Claire Nicholas, Sophie Luff, Naomi Dattani, Amara Carr, Sonia Odedra, Alex Griffiths, Smriti Mandhana, Rachel Priest, Deepti Sharma.

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