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Lancashire Thunder hopeful Blackwell can make the difference

Lancashire Thunder hopeful Blackwell can make the difference

Lancashire Thunder hopeful Blackwell can make the difference

Sophie Ecclestone will start her third season with Lancashire Thunder as an established England player – and confident the Red Rose team has grown in the past two years and are ready to learn from their two previous campaigns.

Thunder – captained by Ecclestone’s international colleague Dani Hazell – have yet to taste much KSL success, propping up the table in both 2016 and 2017.

But with Australian legend Alex Blackwell now at the helm, they have renewed confidence.

Blackwell – who played over 250 international games for the Southern Stars and won multiple World Cups – will make her coaching bow in this year’s tournament.

Alongside Blackwell, local girl and fellow spinner Alex Hartley has returned north after two years as a Surrey Star to further bolster the ranks. She will make a formidable northern spinning trio with Cheshire’s Ecclestone and Hazell, who is from the north-east.

With domestic players Eve Jones and Emma Lamb in form and the signing of India IT20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur – plus two more overseas players to be announced soon – mood is high in Manchester, ahead of an opening match against Loughborough Lightning at Southport on July 22.

“We’ve not had the best of times across the last two seasons and we obviously haven’t won as many games as we would have liked,” said Ecclestone, who has shone for England since last year’s tournament.

“The tournament is very open and we’re confident of doing better this time round. We are hoping that we can win a few more games and perhaps to progress to the finals. Who knows what we can achieve?

“It’s a tough competition and a great place to learn. It features some of the best players in the world and obviously we are going to have to compete well.”

Ecclestone’s county side Lancashire – who form the foundation of the KSL side – surprised many by winning last year’s Royal London County Championship and although they weren’t able to replicate that this time round it offers belief that they can pull together and show similar form in the KSL.

“The KSL means a lot,” said Ecclestone. “It tightens the group. We have obviously played county cricket together and most of us play for Lancashire so we know each other very well. To hopefully win it together would be a great achievement for us.”

Lancashire Thunder’s KSL fixture list, which also includes matches at Liverpool and Blackpool, and a double header at Emirates Old Trafford on August 3 when Thunder play reigning champions Western Storm before the Vitality Blast fixture between Lancashire Lightning and Leicestershire Foxes – is available here.

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