Team Preview: Brace for surprises from Lancashire Thunder
England’s right-arm seamer Kate Cross is the skipper of the Lancashire Thunder. She takes over the reins from Danielle Hazell, the former England off-spinner, who retired earlier this year. Sophie Ecclestone, currently England’s premier spin bowler, and the leading wicket-taker in the Women’s Cricket Super League (WCSL), also continues to be a constant feature in this club’s outfit.
Sophia Dunkley, the allrounder, and Alex Hartley, the left-arm spinner, are the other two capped English players in the Lancashire squad. Harmanpreet Kaur, India’s T20I captain, who debuted in the WCSL last year, has re-signed with Lancashire for 2019 and will continue to play a pivotal role in the team. Sune Luus, the leg-spinning South African allrounder, who has the best figures in T20Is by a South African cricketer, and Tahlia McGrath are the other two overseas recruits for Thunder.
Aside from the changes within the squad, Lancashire have made a late change in their back-room staff as well. Mark McInnes has been announced as the head coach of the team and will take over from Alex Blackwell, the former Australian captain who has accepted a job in genetic counselling offered to her in a children’s hospital.
After being the wooden-spoon holders in the first two editions of the tournament, Thunder narrowly missed out on a semi-final berth to Surrey Stars on the basis of their net run rate in the 2018 edition. While it was a promotion on the table, they’d want nothing less than a top-three finish this time round.
The slow left-arm bowler holds one of the keys to the Thunder’s success. She was the ICC emerging player of the year in 2018 and was also England’s leading wicket-taker in the recently-concluded multi-format Ashes series. While the hosts did struggle to notch up a win, Ecclestone’s performances shone out like a star in the dark sky.
She has been a constant in the Thunder side right from the inception of the tournament. Understandably, she is the joint-leading wicket-taker in the WCSL, alongside Hartley, a fellow left-arm spinner. Her 27 wickets in the tournament have come at an average of 17 and she has conceded just over six runs per over.
The Indian T20I skipper made her maiden appearance in the WCSL last year, but failed to set the stage alight. She started the tournament with a bang, smashing a six off the penultimate ball in her opening game to seal a win for Lancashire. However, her form quickly fizzled out. At the back end of the tournament, Kaur showed her capabilities with a quickfire 74 in the Thunder’s penultimate game last season, including a hit that shattered the window of a van. For a team short on batting prowess, Kaur’s presence would boost that aspect and expectations from the Indian would be high.
Her strike rate of 151.85 in the WCSL is the highest by anybody who has batted for Lancashire Thunder. That she has hit the most sixes for them is a plausible fact. If she could be a bit consistent, the red-clad side would be the team to beat.
Player to Watch:
Sophia Dunkley, the young allrounder, was transferred over to Lancashire after having been part of Surrey Stars’ championship winning team last season. One of the finds of the WCSL, Dunkley impressed in her maiden batting innings in international cricket in the 2018 Women’s T20 World Cup against West Indies. She showcased great temperament and batting smarts, guiding England out of a tricky situation with a valuable contribution lower down the order. Her finishing prowess down the order is well-known from her outings for the Stars.
For a side with bowling as their strength, Thunder would benefit from Dunkley’s presence. She’s scored over 150 runs in the competition with a best of 66. With the ball, she has six wickets to show – the lesser number owing to the less chances she got. She could be the dark horse for Thunder.
Lancashire Thunder have flattered to deceive time and again. Their current squad, although slightly rejigged, doesn’t inspire a great more confidence than what teams of the previous seasons did. However, if the tracks this season offer something to the bowlers, one would be foolish to put not to put their money on them.
Squad: 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.
August 6: vs Southern Vipers at Aigburth
August 8: vs Surrey Stars at Woodbridge Road
August 10: vs Western Storm at The Cooper Associates County Ground
August 13: vs Yorkshire Diamonds at Aigburth
August 15: vs Southern Vipers in Hove
August 18: vs Western Storm at Chester Boughton Hall CC
August 20: vs Loughborough Lightning at Old Trafford
August 23: vs Yorkshire Diamonds at North Marine Road Ground
August 25: vs Loughborough Lightning at Trent Bridge
August 28: vs Surrey Stars at Stanley Park