Team-by-team guide to Southern Vipers and their seven Charlotte Edwards T20 Cup rivals

The women’s regional domestic T20 competition which kicks off this weekend has been named the Charlotte Edwards Cup in honour of the Southern Vipers coach.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 12:22 pm
Charlie Dean, right, in action for the Southern Vipers against South East Stars in the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy. Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images.

It sees eight women’s regional teams competing for the trophy which has been named after the former England captain who played in the first-ever T20 international, against New Zealand at Hove in 2004, and remains her country’s leading run scorer in the format.

Edwards said: ‘It’s a huge honour to have my name attached to the competition. The regional players who’ll take part in the competition are at the beginning of such an exciting journey, and the pathway has progressed and developed so far since I was in their position.

‘I hope, like we saw with the Rachael Heyhoe Flint (Trophy), that players from across the eight teams can continue to impress at regional level and push hard for international selection. The new domestic set-up is a real game-changer for women’s cricket in this country and I’m really proud to be a part of it.’

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Southern Vipers' Charlotte Taylor, middle, will have a key role to play in her side's Charlotte Edwards Cup campaign. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire.

Vipers start their campaign this weekend against Central Sparks at Edgbaston.

Here, The News takes a closer look at the eight teams competing for the Charlotte Edwards Cup.

GROUP A

SOUTHERN VIPERS

Coach: Charlotte Edwards

Captain: Georgia Adams

Key player: Charlotte Taylor - Somehow, Taylor continues to bamboozle the best players in England with her arm balls. She may no longer be a secret weapon, but she is certainly a key weapon, especially in the powerplay overs.

Flies under the radar: Charlie Dean - The young off-spinning all-rounder, a former Portsmouth Grammar School pupil and Havant player, is quiet off the field but certainly not quiet on it - she is the leading wicket taker in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint so far this

Season. And while her chances to bat have been limited, the T20 format should give her more of a chance to showcase her skills in that department too.

Rising Star: Maia Bouchier – The 22-year-old is fresh from making a half-century against Storm in the third round of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, and will be looking to translate that form into 20-over cricket. Her batting has real power and she is widely considered a future England opener.

Prospects: Vipers will be hoping that they can translate their excellent record in the 20-over Kia Super League (they made it to three out of four Finals Days) into the new era of the Charlotte Edwards Cup. Opener Danni Wyatt’s availability, after she was left out of England white-ball squad, is a massive boost while 18-year-old Ella McCaughan could get a chance to shine in her favoured position at the top of the order. With leading strike bowler Lauren Bell seemingly back to full fitness after missing out on the second and third rounds of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, and morale boosted by the fact they are back to sitting pretty atop the 50-over competition, this Vipers side look like a formidable threat.

CENTRAL SPARKS

Coach: Lloyd Tennant

Captain: Evelyn Jones

Key player: Marie Kelly – Having captained Warwickshire to T20 glory in 2019 and being Sparks’ second highest run-scorer last season, Kelly is a vital component to their success. Consistently makes substantial contributions, as well as possessing the firepower to clear the boundary and has proven to thrive in this format.

Flies under the radar: Liz Russell – Russell is one of Sparks’ most reliable bowlers and is excellent at applying pressure at one end, ready for another bowler to strike. At the death, she is crucial, especially with Emily Arlott away with England, meaning her consistent bowling will come into the forefront more this season.

Rising star: Milly Home – After moving to Worcestershire ahead of the 2021 season her batting form has excelled in T20s, in particular scoring an unbeaten 88 already this season for her county. With more time at the crease, she is set to be an exciting young talent in the competition.

Prospects: Central Sparks will be feeling confident heading into inaugural Charlotte Edwards Cup with the squad consisting of numerous Warwickshire women who won the national T20 cup in 2019. In addition, exciting players from Worcestershire and Staffordshire, such as Chloe Hill and Steph Butler, make up a very strong squad. The loss of spinner Sarah Glenn to England duty may prove to be an issue, however spinners Georgia Davis and Anisha

Patel are more than sufficient to take the role. Amy Jones is another absentee to England, but there are several exciting batters in the line-up to fill the void. Ultimately, after a successful start to the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, the squad has momentum to take into the tournament.

LIGHTNING

Coach: Rob Taylor

Captain: Kathryn Bryce

Key player: Kathryn Bryce - The 23-year-old skipper, who also captains Scotland Women, opens the bowling, bats at three and has been consistently reliable since joining Lightning in 2019.

Flies under the radar: Lucy Higham - Part of the Lightning set-up since 2016, off-spinner, middle-order batter and sharp fielder who has shown the benefit of that experience with bat and ball in the past two seasons.

Rising Star: Teresa Graves – The 22-year-old medium pace bowler is the twin sister of Lightning off-spinner Yvonne. Graves took nine wickets and made 82 runs in the first four Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy matches, catching the eye as a player on the up.

Prospects: Led by all-rounder Kathryn Bryce, who recently became the first Scottish batter or bowler to break into the ICC Twenty20 top 10 rankings, East-Midlands-based Lightning will hope to take the momentum of back-to-back wins in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy into the Charlotte Edwards Cup. Coached by Rob Taylor, who took Loughborough Lightning to Finals Day twice in the Kia Super League, they bat deep, can often call on up to eight bowling options and are strong in the field. Expect left-arm spinner Kirstie Gordon, eager to force her way back into the England reckoning, to be prominent among the bowlers, where the form of medium pacer Teresa Graves has made up for the loss through injury of Bethan Ellis. South African-born Michaela Kirk is a candidate to open the batting alongside wicketkeeper-batter Sarah Bryce, who is due a score after a slow start to the RHFT season, with Lightning confident of being contenders.

SOUTH EAST STARS

Coach: Johann Myburgh

Captain: Tash Farrant/Bryony Smith

Key player: Bryony Smith – Will be acting captain with Farrant away on international duty. Both her power-hitting at the top of the order and her off-breaks will be vital to Stars’ hopes of success.

Flies under the radar: Grace Gibbs – Her muscular hitting suits the ‘finisher’ role in the middle order while her medium pace bowling will have greater prominence in the absence of Farrant and Freya Davies.

Rising Star: Alice Capsey – Hasn’t yet hit the heights of last season, but the 16-year-old’s a huge talent whose skills with bat and ball make her one to watch in this shorter format.

Prospects: Stars are among the franchises hardest hit by England call-ups, losing key batter Sophia Dunkley, skipper Farrant and her fellow seamer Davies, the leading wicket taker in Kia Super League in 2019.

In the absence of the latter pair wrist spinner Danielle Gregory, who has bowled better in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy than her figures suggest, and Smith’s off-breaks come to the fore. There may be opportunities too for Development Squad quick Emma Jones, currently studying veterinary science at Cambridge, to make her Stars’ debut.

The knock-on effect of Farrant and Davies’s absences is more pressure on batters to deliver, so Dunkley’s void must be filled too.

If Smith and Alice-Davidson-Richards can prosper in the power-play, youngsters like Capsey, Chloe Brewer, and Kira Chathli, who may get the nod over Rhianna Southby for wicketkeeping duties due to her greater batting prowess, can help build winning totals.

GROUP B

NORTHERN DIAMONDS

Coach: Danielle Hazell

Captain: Hollie Armitage

Overseas: Sterre Kalis (Netherlands – full competition) was overseas last summer, but she now qualifies as a local player via a pre-settled status visa.

Key player: Katie Levick - Sterre Kalis, Hollie Armitage and Linsey Smith were considered. But leg-spinners are gold dust in T20. Levick is the most prolific bowler in English women’s domestic cricket with 236 wickets.

Flies under the radar: Jenny Gunn - With bat and ball, the England legend continues to shine with little fuss. Must carry a spade in her kitbag because she often digs the Diamonds out of trouble down the order!

Rising Star: Leah Dobson - Scarborough-born batter, 19, yet to make her Diamonds debut. Once smashed 161 off 81 balls opening for Yorkshire Under 17s. Given a chance, she could be fun to watch.

Prospects: Diamonds director of cricket James Carr has described their start to the 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy as “imperfectly perfect”. They have won three out of four games so far and sit top of the table, but two of those wins (Lightning and Stars) were come-from-behind successes and could easily have been defeats. In short, there is plenty of room for improvement. The Diamonds look well suited for T20 cricket, with power and innovation with the bat and variety with the ball. It would be no surprise to see them challenging at the business end of the competition, and they start with a blockbuster ‘Roses’ clash with Thunder at Emerald Headingley on Saturday afternoon. For the early stages of the competition, they will be without Katherine Brunt, Nat Sciver and Lauren Winfield-Hill due to England ODI duty, but they have shown previously they can cope with their absence.

SUNRISERS

Coach: Trevor Griffin

Captain: Amara Carr

Key player: Naomi Dattani - Sunrisers need someone to stand up and Dattani has the talent to do so with bat and ball. She has T20 winning pedigree – with Women’s Twenty20 Cup and KSL winner’s medals.

Flies under the radar: Cordelia Griffith – The batter has had a few starts without going big in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy but scored 187 runs across four T20 innings for Middlesex this summer.

Rising Star: Kelly Castle – The Essex captain has been the surprise package of the Trophy with six wickets and a fifty. Her low skiddy action will be useful in or out the powerplay.

Prospects: The Sunrisers are still pointless across two seasons of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy but a change of format could, they’ll hope, mean a change in fortunes.

One massive positive for the Sunrisers is the recent T20 form of their batting line-up – with Naomi Dattani, Grace Scrivens and Cordelia Griffith making up three of the top eight top run scorers in the county matches earlier this summer. Another is that they took Trophy table-toppers and holders Southern Vipers to the final ball of a recent warm-up match, only to lose by a run.

The bowling attack is capable of skilful bowling, if they can tidy up their extras problem, and the batting has plenty of talented quick scorers – with Lissy Macleod, Jo Gardner and the aforementioned trio all able to clear the boundary. If they hook it together then they might not remain pointless long.

THUNDER

Coach: Paul Shaw

Captain: Alex Hartley

Overseas: Piepa Cleary (Australia - full competition)

Key player: Emma Lamb - Dynamic opening batter and canny off-spinner who has already scored a century for the Thunder in 50-over cricket this summer. Her game looks ideally suited to T20 cricket.

Flies under the radar: Piepa Cleary - Australian overseas all-rounder with nearly 50 WBBL appearances for Perth Scorchers Down Under. Steadying influence with ball (seamer) and bat in a young Thunder side.

Rising Star: Hannah Jones - Contracted left-arm spinner, 22, has played second fiddle to England’s Sophie Ecclestone in early stages of the 50-over campaign. Now is her time to shine. Lovely, languid action like Ecclestone.

Prospects: The Thunder’s aim at the start of the summer, including the 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, was to further develop their young squad and bloody some noses of the more experienced teams along the way. A haul of two wins in four matches is a profitable return, especially as it included a win over previously unbeaten Central Sparks at Worcester. The aim will be the same again for Paul Shaw, Alex Hartley and co, and they will get a shot at arguably the biggest scalp immediately when they open the competition with a trip to Emerald Headingley to face ‘Roses’ rivals Northern Diamonds on Saturday afternoon.

Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone will miss at least the early stages of the competition due to England one-day duty.

Having only recently dropped the ‘North West’ prefix to their title, they are now just known as Thunder.

WESTERN STORM

Head coach: Mark O’Leary

Captain: Sophie Luff

Key player: Sophie Luff - Promoted up the order last season, Storm’s talismanic captain emerged from the shadow cast by Heather Knight with a series of big scores. If she fires, Storm will be competitive.

Flies below the radar: Nat Wraith - A tidy performer behind the stumps, her ability to stand up to quick bowling creates pressure, while her clean-hitting renders her a potential match-changer with the bat.

Rising star: Now a full-time professional cricketer, Academy product Danielle Gibson is ready to accept responsibility for leading the attack in the absence of Anya Shrubsole. Also a more than handy performer with the bat.

Prospects: Much has changed since Storm triumphed in the 2019 Kia Super League final, and expectations have had to be tailored accordingly. Overseas stars Smriti Mandhana and Rachel Priest will not be returning, while Heather Knight and Anya Shrubsole are away on England duty,

Freya Davies and Fran Wilson have moved on and key spinner Claire Nicholas is on maternity leave and not expected to be available until near the end of the campaign. Much will instead depend on the ability of senior players Sophie Luff, Fi Morris and Katie George to lead from the front and inspire a group that is essentially young and short on experience at this level. Emerging talents Lauren Filer, Danielle Gibson, Emma Corney, Niamh Holland and Mollie Robbins will be eager to establish themselves, but attaining consistency is likely to be a challenge for a side that comes into this tournament on the back of three straight defeats in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.