(Photo: Getty Images)
By Adam Collins
This second edition of the KSL is destined to surpass the first with England’s World Cup players ready to grow in stature alongside an increasingly strong overseas contingent. Expect Southern Vipers to battle hard in what may be Charlottee Edwards’ swansong but Yorkshire Diamonds have a point to prove.
England contracted: Tash Farrant, Danni Wyatt
Overseas signings: Suzie Bates (NZ), Hayley Matthews (WI), Mignon du Preez (SA)
The matchwinner: Charlotte Edwards ©
Last year: Champions
An “unbelievable’ batting line up, according to England seamer Tash Farrant, and one that’s only getting better.
The defending champions already boast retired international greats Charlotte Edwards and Arran Brindle, alongside prolific New Zealand captain Suzie Bates. Now you can add England pocket-rocket Danni Wyatt and last year’s World T20 Player of the Final, 19-year-old Bajan Hayley Matthews to that list.
With the ball, Farrant, the attack leader, has spoken of her hurt as one of three centrally contracted players who missed out on a World Cup berth. This is her chance. Taking opportunities is something Linsey Smith knows all about, coming from outside the squad to become the revelation of the league last year with her left-arm spin, earning a spot in the England academy.
As for Queen Lottie, at 37 years of age, the assumption is that this is the last we will see of England’s greatest ever woman batsman. Don’t miss the chance. As for the question of who can knock her side off? That’s much harder to solve.
England contracted: Nat Sciver ©, Tammy Beaumont, Laura Marsh, Alex Hartley
Overseas signings: Marizanne Kapp (SA), Lizelle Lee (SA), Rene Farrell (Aus)
The matchwinner: Nat Sciver
Last year: 4th
Reality never matched expectations for the sole London club in KSL one. Surrey were slow out of the blocks before ultimately falling short of finals day. The problem then was batting – despite having the power, it seldom translated. Tammy Beaumont was the prime culprit, never making it to 50. But after leading the World Cup for runs – making 410 of them – and winning the Player of the Tournament gong, there’s no doubting the opener’s new gear.
Nor Nat Sciver, another who flourished on the world stage yet struggled to impose herself on this competition last time around. As Stars captain, she will have at her disposal both of England’s World Cup winning spinners.
But not Harmanpreet Kaur, the Indian revelation unable to take her place due to a shoulder injury. Yet with Marizanne Kapp’s seam and Lizelle Lee’s hitting, Sciver does have two South African matchwinners – not to mention Rene Farrell, the Australian death-overs specialist. They will surely find a way to the post-season this time around.
England contracted: Heather Knight ©, Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson
Overseas signings: Stafanie Taylor (WI), Holly Huddlestone (NZ), Rachel Priest (NZ)
The matchwinner: Stafanie Taylor
Last year: Runners-up
After coming so close to winning the inaugural pennant – controlling so much of the final – the task is harder this time around for Heather Knight’s side in the absence of spearherad Anya Shrubsole for at least the opening two games. That doesn’t sound like long, but in a five-match regular season it’s plenty. Kiwi Holly Huddlestone will fill the vancancy as attack leader with Freya Davies the other seamer Knight has earmarked as one to watch, reportedly picking up a yard of pace through the winter.
Of course, any side with Stafanie Taylor is going to be a contender, the West Indies’ captain tallying more runs and wickets than any last summer. She will be ably supported at the top of the order by experienced New Zealander Rachel Priest and England’s middle-order cool customer Fran Wilson.
Then there is Knight herself, who goes from strength to strength as a leader and a batsman. After taking England to the top of the world, she has the chance to cap a perfect summer.
England contracted: Georgia Elwiss ©, Amy Jones, Beth Langston
Overseas signings: Ellyse Perry (Aus), Elyse Villani (Aus), Kristen Beams (Aus)
The matchwinner: Ellyse Perry
Last year: 3rd
The hardest hit by off-season wheeling and dealing, losing New Zealand powerhouse Sophie Devine to Yorkshire and South African skipper Dane van Niekerk. However, last year’s semi-finalists have doubled down on their Australian strategy, adding Elyse Villani’s ball-striking and Kristen Beams wrist-spin to the dominant all-round abilities of Ellyse Perry – arguably the world’s most complete player.
Loughborough are the only side without a member of England’s triumphant World Cup XI, captain Georgia Elwiss receiving a medal but never getting beyond the subs bench. Wicketkeeper/batsman Amy Jones is another to have featured prominently in the England set-up only to miss the biggest moment of them all. Both have ample motivation.
Jones has said in the lead-up to the tournament that the women in purple believe their comparative advantage is found in the close proximity of Loughborough, the side collocated at England’s centre of excellence. But unless their big guns from abroad can fire consistently, it might be a year for consolidation rather than a realistic tilt at the title.
England contracted: Danielle Hazell ©, Sarah Taylor, Kate Cross
Overseas signings: Amy Satterthwaite (NZ), Jess Jonassen (Aus), Lea Tahuhu (NZ)
The matchwinner: Sarah Taylor
Last year: 6th
They may have been cellar-dwellars first time up, winning just the one game, but in a competition designed to be even as possible, Sarah Taylor’s absence was always going be a hole the Thunder could not fill. But the inverse of that is with the game’s best keeper/bat now back in business, they have the recruit of the year. That alone should more than make up for losing Hayley Matthews.
A new captain is in charge, off-spinner Danielle Hazell given the challenging task of moving from rivals Yorkshire Diamonds. After taking the arm-band last winter for the national side when Heather Knight was injured, she is highly rated as a leader in England HQ.
Last year’s captain, New Zealand all-rounder Amy Satterthwaite, stays at the club, with Australia’s most economical spinner Jess Jonassen and the Kiwis’ quickest seamer Lea Tahuhu also both recruited to Old Trafford. They have the chance to start their season the best possible way: knocking off Yorkshire at Headingley in a Roses match today. Tasty.
England contracted: Lauren Winfield ©, Katherine Brunt, Jenny Gunn
Overseas signings: Sophie Devine (NZ), Sune Luus (SA), Chamari Atapattu (SL)
The matchwinner: Sophie Devine
Last year: 5th
Recruits don’t come bigger than Sophie Devine. For New Zealand and in the Women’s Big Bash League the huge-hitter has broken attacks routinely with her straight hockey-slap sixes. Yorkshire were another to repeatedly struggle with the bat last time around, so the Kiwi is the perfect import.
Coming into last season, the Diamonds were rated as favourites by a host of pundits. Yet losing their first three games, they were the first team eliminated. One enduring image of the 2016 competition was their captain Lauren Winfield in tears when losing to Surrey to end their chance at glory.
But she now has the confidence of a World Cup champion, not to mention a couple of other veteran bowlers in her ranks – Katherine Brunt and Jenny Gunn – who have twice climbed the biggest mountain in cricket. That experience won’t be for nothing.
Nor will the acquisition of Sri Lankan Chamari Atapattu, who smashed a World Cup 178 against Australia. Sune Luus rounds out the international contingent at Headingley, fresh from a six-wicket haul against Australia. One thing is for sure: the leggie will always toss it up and give herself a chance. Another side that surely must go up the table.