Heather Knight. ©Western Storm

One of the most – if not the most – popular sides in the Women’s Cricket Super League (WCSL), Western Storm is captained by Heather Knight, the England captain. The core of the team is largely the same as it was in 2018, with England cricketers like Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson and Freya Davies, the fast bowler. Sonia Odedra, who played a Test match for England in 2014, has found a place in the squad too. She last played in the WCSL for Loughborough Lightning in 2017.

Among the three foreign slots, two are occupied by Indians. Smriti Mandhana, who had a sensational maiden stint in the WCSL last year, has retained her place while Deepti Sharma makes her maiden appearance in the WCSL. The third overseas recruit for Storm is Rachel Priest, the veteran Kiwi wicketkeeper-batter, who was with them even in the last season. She had the second-best strike rate in the side in 2018 after Mandhana’s.

Sophie Luff, who has represented England Academy and plies her trade in the English domestic circuit, along with Knight, Davies, Wilson and Priest have played 25 games each for Storm, which is the most by a player in WCSL for any side. Thus, with a team that has remained much the same through the previous years, Storm’s consistency at winning games and reaching the finals twice comes as no surprise.

 

Previous WCSL:

Western Storm is the only side to have made it to the top three in the table every single season. Two finals appearances in three editions are enough reasons to explain their popularity. While they lost to Vipers in the inaugural edition, they came back to win the trophy in 2017 – defeating the Vipers, a sweet revenge. Last year, they fell short against Natalie Sciver and Surrey Stars in the semi-final.

 

Key Players:

Smriti Mandhana

421 runs – one ton and two half centuries at an average of 60.14 and a strike rate of 174.68 in nine innings with 21 sixes: Mandhana had a tremendous 2018 WCSL. Apart from being the leading run-scorer, she had hit the maximum sixes in the season as well. More recently, following a tremendous run in the international circuit which saw her win the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint medal as ICC’s Cricketer of the year, the Indian opener hit a swashbuckling 90 in the Women’s T20 Challenge in India in May.

Mandhana will be key to Storm getting good starts with the bat. Her ability to clear the field will come to her aid when the fielding restrictions are on. Her record in limited overs internationals in the last 12 months suggests that she has been increasingly consistent. Storm would have a large amount of hopes pinned on her as they venture out in search of another title.

 

Anya Shrubsole

Although Shrubsole didn’t have the greatest of Ashes series, she still is a key figure in the England dressing room and more so for Western Storm. For a team heavy on batting, she is the leader of the bowling attack that is not the richest in terms of experience.

In the World T20 in 2018 in the West Indies, Shrubsole had picked up seven wickets at an average of just over 12. She had conceded runs at less than five-an-over. Despite an indifferent Ashes, Shrubsole is still the figure to look up to in the Storm dressing room.

 

Player to Watch:

Deepti Sharma makes her WCSL debut this season. Wth tracks in England increasingly getting weary, Deepti’s off-spinning abilities will come to the fore. Her rising stocks in international cricket couldn’t be more evident with both Storm and Lancashire Thunder making a beeline to sign the young Indian allrounder, before she chose the former.

Deepti picked up a four-fer in the recently held Women’s T20 Challenge in India. She was in the heart of a batting collapse that Velocity had in that tournament, where they lost five wicket for zero runs when just two runs away from a win – Deepti picked three of them.

Her last visit to the United Kingdom was a memorable one – the World Cup of 2017. She was India’s leading wicket-taker then and fifth in their run-getter’s list as well. A bowler with a batter’s mind, Deepti sure has it in her to make this season her own. If she does that, rest assured that Storm won’t have a forgettable season.

Deepti Sharma in action. ©ICC

Deepti Sharma in action. ©ICC

 

Expectations:

Consistency and victory is like a chicken-and-egg tale. The core of Western Storm’s squad has largely been the same with Stafanie Taylor being the only big name missing in this season. They seem to have all bases covered and if only there has to be a finger pointed somewhere, it would be towards their bowling attack. Yet, Storm will have to have a real bad day in order to not lift the coveted trophy and etch their name as the winner of the final season of the WCSL.

 

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

 

Fixtures:

August 6: vs Loughborough Lightning at Haslegrave Ground
August 10: vs Lancashire Thunder at The Cooper Associates County Ground
August 11: vs Southern Vipers at The Rose Bowl
August 13: vs Loughborough Lightning at Bristol County Ground
August 15: vs Yorkshire Diamonds in York
August 18: vs Lancashire Thunder at Chester Boughton Hall CC
August 20: vs Southern Vipers at Bristol County Ground
August 21: vs Surrey Stars at The Cooper Associated County Ground
August 25: vs Surrey Stars at Woodbridge Road
August 28: vs Yorkshire Diamonds at The Cooper Associated County Ground

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