WCSL Series Preview: The Road to Hove is set for a final journey
The anticipation of the fourth Women’s Cricket Super League has somewhat been diminished by the fact that it will be the final time that these sides compete for this title. The Hundred takes its place from 2020. It is with a certain amount of sadness that this competition draws to a close – it is set to be one of the most interesting. The WCSL is ready to go out with a bang.
The road to Hove is an exciting one with a round-robin group stage where each team plays each other both home and away. There will be a mix of smaller grounds with character like the ones at York, Guildford, Taunton and Arundel with the grand old grounds such as Trent Bridge, The Oval, Old Trafford and Headingley offering for the ride as well.
Surrey Stars, under the leadership of Natalie Sciver, are the current champions. They are one of three teams to have won since the WCSL was first introduced in 2016. No team has yet defended the title, but Stars look the most equipped to do so.
Surrey have players of ‘star’ quality. Their three overseas players are genuine match-winners and certainly qualify as ‘hot property’ in the T20 format: Marizanne Kapp, Dane van Niekerk and Lizelle Lee. They also have a good mix of youth and experience – England internationals and county players combined. If they don’t make finals day it will be a big surprise.
There is a small ray of comfort for the other sides and Loughborough Lightning in particular – the losing finalists have gone on to win the next edition of the competition.
What differs for Loughborough Lightning is they have three new overseas players. Mignon du Preez is a good signing – a solid middle-order batter who keeps the scoreboard moving. Hayley Matthews, the West Indies allrounder and Chamari Atapattu, the Sri Lankan, also have the potential to be big players for Lightning. However, you feel the loss of Rachael Haynes, Elyse Villani and Sophie Devine is going to be pivotal. Especially Devine who has the power and determination to change the course of a game on her own.
Georgia Elwiss, however, has some good domestic players at her disposal. Amy Jones is an exceptional wicketkeeper-batter and will look to put a poor Ashes behind her. She will also have the services of Kirstie Gordon, Sarah Glenn and Lucy Higham in the spin department, while the pace battery will be taken care of by Tara Norris and Elwiss up front.
A side that has made some astute signings this season is Yorkshire Diamonds. Perennial underperformers over the history of the KSL, they have made additions to the squad that certainly make them competitive. Alyssa Healy is an inspired signing and the wicketkeeper-batter can win them games on her own. While Jemimah Rodrigues, the young Indian, and Leigh Kasperek, who came in as a replacement for Chloe Tryon, are both more than useful players themselves.
They do, however, look a bowler-heavy side. The likes of Katie George, Katherine Brunt, Linsey Smith, Kasperek and Beth Langston can bowl sides out, which may prove crucial as they look a batter short.
The batting will rely heavily on Lauren Winfield, Healy and Rodrigues and that isn’t the worst combination to turn to.
There is a strong Indian contingent in Western Storm with Deepti Sharma joining Smriti Mandhana. Mandhana had a productive time in 2018 with Storm and if she replicates that form, the team will be in a strong position.
Western Storm has made every finals day in every edition, having never finished outside of the top three. They have a consistent core to their squad and will again be led by Heather Knight.
That core, including players such as Freya Davies, Fran Wilson, Sophie Luff, Anya Shrubsole, Naomi Dattani and Rachel Priest, is joined by Sonia Odedra from Loughborough Lightning. This gives Western Storm a greater depth than usual. Over the history of the competition, they are the most consistent in terms of selection.
Southern Vipers were the inaugural winners in 2016. Last year was a blip for them as they did not make finals day. That campaign never got off the ground but they should turn things around this season. They have a new captain in Tammy Beaumont, who replaces Suzie Bates.
Their international contingent of Bates, Stafanie Taylor and Amanda-Jade Wellington has a match-winning pedigree in T20s, as do their England internationals Beaumont, Danni Wyatt and Tash Farrant. That experience will be needed to guide a young squad.
Izzy Wong is a pace bowler to look out for. At only 17, she has attracted the attention of England’s coaching staff. And so has Lauren Bell, another promising young bowler.
The final side in the KSL this year is Lancashire Thunder. Under a new captain in Kate Cross, Thunder will be looking to finally make it to a finals day having narrowly missed out last year.
They have lost Alex Blackwell as the coach just recently but are still a well-run outfit. Mark McInnes is an experienced coach and will serve as an astute guide to Cross and co.
There is no one more dedicated to Lancashire’s cause than Cross. She has some very talented players at her disposal. There are few batters who are more explosive than Harmanpreet Kaur when she is in the mood and with Sophia Dunkley alongside Lancashire Thunder can take games away from the opposition.
Sophie Ecclestone has shown calmness beyond her years and with her classical left-arm spin, she has been among wickets. With Alex Hartley and Emma Lamb in the side, the spin department is well stocked. Sune Luus may find she has more of a batting brief for the Thunder and has done so for South Africa at times.
Tahlia McGrath has found herself outside the Australia squad of late and the KSL could just be the platform to prove she is worthy of being back in that side.
As usual, the side looks balanced and makes calling a winner increasingly difficult. If one of the outsiders make a good start, we could be seeing the fourth winner of the KSL come the first of September.