Match Preview: Central Sparks v Thunder
Central Sparks v North West Thunder
Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy
Saturday June 12, 2021, 10.30am
New Road, Worcester
Paul Shaw is happy to report that his North West Thunder players are giving him a sore head!
The Thunder coach has welcomed the increased competition for places within a young and emerging squad, and believes selection decisions are only going to become harder.
Shaw is having to dig deeper into his group of players for tomorrow’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy clash with high flying Central Sparks at New Road in Worcester given he will be without England duo Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone.
The pair have been called up for next week’s one-off Test Match against India at Bristol.
The Thunder are searching for win number two from their fourth game, and face a Sparks side who sit four points clear of the chasing pack at the top of the table with three wins from three games.
“There are a number of players who’ve put their hat in the ring for selection,” said Shaw, who will look to bowling options such as Alice Dyson, Laura Jackson, Sophia Turner, Daisy Mullan and Libby Heap.
“Last year it was relatively easy to pick a side and squad, but it’s getting much more challenging this summer.
“That’s giving me a few more headaches, but it’s exactly what we want.
“The pleasing thing is that on the back of a strong winter, our young players, who are 16,17 and 18, have developed nicely.
“It’s now about developing their skills and game awareness under pressure in a game scenario.
“We’re looking to expand a squad of 13 or 14 players into a squad of 18 to 20, and we’re quite close to that. If we can get there through the rest of this summer and next winter, we’ll be in a really exciting position.”
The Thunder have lost games against Western Storm and the Lightning. Sandwiched in between, they beat the Sunrisers.
Last Sunday’s defeat against Lightning came as they chased 260 and were bowled out for 125.
“We held our lines and lengths for a long period of time, but Tammy Beaumont batted superbly well for Lightning,” reflected Shaw.
“We felt par was around 230-240, but they managed to get 260.
“We started ok in the chase before losing wickets too regularly. We came away from our processes and basics, which was disappointing.
“Again, it was a good learning curve for us, and we’ve put some good things into training this week to see if we can move forwards.
“It was a disappointing result, but in three game so far we’ve scored 290 and just under 250, batting well in both those games. From that perspective, I’m relatively happy so far.
“We need to minimise our inconsistencies through the season and keep improving. That’s what we’re about really.”
The Sparks will be without England spinner Sarah Glenn and wicketkeeper batter Amy Jones, while seamer Emily Arlott has been handed her maiden international call-up on the back of nine wickets in three games.
Last weekend, in a win over champions Southern Vipers, she took five wickets, including a hat-trick.
Shaw is relishing the chance to bloody the nose of a buoyant side.
He added: “My good friend Lloyd Tennant is the coach, and he’s doing a fantastic job with them.
“They do have some strength in depth, with their Academy producing a good standard of player as well.
“We know it’s going to be tough, but it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to. It’s another yardstick for us in many ways to see where we are.”
The Sparks claimed the double over the Thunder in last season’s RHF Trophy, winning games at Edgbaston and New Road.
Both games were played in the Midlands for operational reasons surrounding Coronavirus.
The first was by four wickets at Edgbaston at the end of August and the second by eight wickets at New Road a week later.
In that latter fixture, a quartet of scores in the twenties, including 27 apiece for Georgie Boyce and Nat Brown, formed part of the Thunder’s 166-8 after they elected to bat.
Unfortunately, it was nowhere near enough as former Lancashire women’s player Eve Jones led the chase with 90 off 113 balls. She shared a century partnership with Gwen Davies.
One to watch:
Left-arm spinner Hannah Jones, one of the Thunder’s contracted players, has only played a bit part in the opening three games, bowling a combined total of 16 overs and taking three wickets.
The 22-year-old opened the bowling at stages last season and is likely to take on increased responsibility now that fellow slow left-armer Sophie Ecclestone has joined England’s Test squad ahead of next week’s one-off game with India.
Jones is a lovely rhythmical bowler to watch and will hopefully shine amidst the increase in workload.