Team Preview: Loughborough Lightning— punching above their weight
For the fourth year in a row, Georgia Elwiss, the England allrounder, has been named captain of the Loughborough Lightning squad for final season of the Women’s Cricket Super League in England. Elwiss will lead what appears to be one of Loughborough’s weakest sides in the competition so far.
Hayley Matthews, the West Indies allrounder, Mignon du Preez, the former South Africa skipper, and Chamari Atapattu are the team’s international recruits and will also hold together the batting line-up. Atapattu, who was called in as an injury replacement to Sophie Devine will be expected to provide the power at the top of the order alongside Matthews and Amy Jones, the England international. The rest of the batting line-up, consisting of du Preez, Elwiss, Kathryn Bryce and Jenny Gunn will work more as the engine room— grafting through the middle overs while the rest try and explode.
With the ball, Gunn, the veteran allrounder, Kirstie Gordon, England’s young left-arm spinner, Matthews, Elwiss and Tara Norris will be key. Although Loughborough’s does not appear to be the strongest bowling attack, their bowlers will mix up the pace and continually attmept to keep the batters guessing.
It will be interesting to see how Elwiss manages her resources this time around. She has an experienced team that if find their rhythm early, can certainly punch above their weight.
Often boasting of some of the best T20I players on the circuit— Ellyse Perry, Sophie Devine, Dane van Niekerk, Elyse Villani and even Rachael Haynes— Loughborough Lightning have continually challenged for a place in the top three. In the opening season, they managed a third place finish, in 2017 they were fourth and most recently in 2018, they faltered on finals day again. On the back of some strong performances last year, Loughborough finished second on the table and found themselves in Finals day where they lost to a rampaging Surrey Stars in the semi-final.
Despite making her international debut back in 2013, Amy Jones has only recently established herself as one of the central figures of England’s batting line-up. Since January 2018, the wicket-keeper has scored 1,171 runs in international cricket, including 11 half-centuries. Despite her struggles against Ellyse Perry through the Ashes series, Jones showed glimpses of her wonderful form through her Test innings, and also during the final T20I in Bristol.
Having been a part of the Lightning squad since the very start, Jones is the club’s second most capped player with 20 matches, and third-highest run-getting with 327 runs. She has struggled to impose herself on the tournament so far, scoring only one half-century over three years. Jones’ form will be key to Loughborough’s chances this season.
Hayley Matthews burst on to the international scene with back-to-back half-centuries in ODIs against Australia in 2014. She then burst into the consciousness of the world when she smashed another fifty against the same opposition in the final of the 2016 Women’s World T20 in India. Since then, the right-hander has established herself as one of the cleanest strikers of the cricket ball going around at the moment. In May 2019, she scored her first T20I century— an unbeaten 107 against Ireland.
In two previous seasons in the WCSL where she played for Lancashire Thunder and then Southern Vipers, Matthews has scored 135 runs in 11 matches with a highest of 40. In the absence of Sophie Devine, Matthews will have to take on the double responsibility of being the team’s power player with the bat, and proving her worth with the ball as well. She is a handy off-spinner and has taken 39 wickets in her T20I career at an average of 17.79.
Player to watch:
Kirstie Gordon, the 21-year-old left-arm spinner, made her international debut for England in the 2018 Women’s T20 World Cup in West Indies. Following a successful stint there, where she played a key role in England’s run to the final picking up eight wickets, Gordon suffered an injury that kept her out of the international circuit for a while. She returned to the England setup after a successful recovery and a promising season with Nottinghamshire and England Academy.
In the 2018 WCSL season— her first— Gordon was the highest wicket taker, with 17 scalps in 11 matches at an average of 12.47 and tournament economy rate of 6.05. She showed great control through the tournament, deceiving batters with her slightly round arm release, darting the ball through at a quick pace and consistently attacking the stumps. She effectively led Loughborough’s charge with the ball, and will be expected to do the same again this season.
Loughborough have been one of the more consistent teams in the tournament without ever seeming to challenge for the title. They have a balanced unit with a good mix of batters and allrounders in the line up, but the lack of a high quality back-up to Gordon may hurt them. They also seem a little light on the power-hitting front. However, if any team has found a way to win against the odds, it is Loughborough. As hard as it may look, one shouldn’t be surprised if they play themselves into contention for a top three finish.
Squad: Georgia Elwiss (captain), Amy Jones (wk), Jenny Gunn, Kirstie Gordon, Abbey Freeborn, Lucy Higham, Tara Norris, Alice Monaghan, Kathryn Bryce, Georgia Adams, Sarah Glenn, Jo Gardner, Mignon du Preez, Hayley Matthews, Chamari Atapattu.
August 6: vs Western Storm at Loughborough University
August 8: vs Southern Vipers at Loughborough University
August 11: vs Yorkshire Diamonds at Headingley
August 13: vs Western Storm at Bristol Country Ground
August 15: vs Surrey Stars at Guildford
August 18: vs Yorkshire Diamonds at Loughborough University
August 20: vs Lancashire Thunder at Old Trafford
August 23: vs Surrey Stars at Loughborough University
August 25: vs Lancashire Thunder at Trent Bridge
August 28: vs Southern Vipers at Rose Bowl