Match Preview: Thunder v Lightning
North West Thunder v Lightning
Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy
Sunday June 6, 2021, 10.30am
Chester Boughton Hall Cricket Club
Kate Cross and Piepa Cleary, the North West Thunder’s new ball pair, believe the side’s seam bowling future is extremely bright.
England international Cross and Australian overseas Cleary have opened the bowling in the Thunder’s opening two Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy games, helping to secure one victory and almost another.
The Thunder are notoriously spin heavy, with captain Alex Hartley, Sophie Ecclestone and Hannah Jones all slow left-armers. Then there is all-rounder Emma Lamb and her rapidly improving offies.
The named six made up the Thunder bowling attack in the one-wicket defeat against Western Storm at Bristol on Saturday and in the 36-run win over Sunrisers at Chester Boughton Hall on Monday.
And there is every chance they will do so again this coming Sunday when the Thunder host the Lightning at Chester in the third fixture (10.30am).
That is the last fixture all the England players are definitely available for pending selection for the mid-June Test Match against India.
After Sunday, the attack will have to be changed, with Ecclestone a certain pick and Cross making a strong claim.
Alice Dyson played four matches last season but hasn’t featured yet this, while Cross has thrown up two other seam bowling options.
“We have Laura Jackson and Fi (Sophia) Turner sat on the sidelines,” she said. “They are two young girls, but they’ve been amongst the better bowlers in the winter from what I’ve heard.
“It’s frustrating for them that they’re not getting an opportunity, but it’s great from a squad point of view. We’re not hiding anyone.
“When the England players leave the tournament, that’s when other girls can get their opportunities and put names in the hat for selection when the England girls do play.
“That’s what you want. You want it to be a nightmare for the captain to pick the team.
“And I feel like that’s where we’re getting with women’s cricket.
“We played an intra-squad game last Monday when I came back from England to play. And I can’t remember a time when we’ve been able to field two strong teams like we did.
“Normally, we’re looking externally to get a warm-up fixture.
“We have a lot of young girls coming through. It’s just about exposing them to that pressure and giving them opportunities.”
Cleary has come over from Western Australia, and despite only being 24-years-old part of her role is to help develop the youngsters having been a contracted professional for eight years Down Under.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Cleary said. “Everyone who I’ve seen, even the younger Academy girls when we had the intra-squad game, look really good.
“They’re quite raw at the minute, so it’s about getting as much cricket as possible into them.
“They all have a lot of natural talent and work really hard. The combination of those two, I think they’re going to be set up well for the next few years.
“I try and talk to the young seamers as much as I can.
“Because I’m from Oz, people have a lot of questions for me about general cricket knowledge I suppose. There’s also a bit of, ‘What are the beaches like?!’
“I’ve been in the WA set-up for quite a while, and I do a bit of that stuff back home as well.”
The Thunder are in buoyant mood ahead of a clash with a Lightning side who have started this summer with back-to-back defeats.
Cross added: “I’ve seen such a big difference in the confidence of the team from playing two games at the beginning of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint last year to playing two at the start of this summer.
“We have such a young squad, and it’s exciting. You are starting to see that development out on the pitch now.
“We’ve got 250 or more, pretty much, twice in two games, and that’s really pleasing to see.
“The fact we went toe to toe with Western Storm who, on their day, are pretty much one of the strongest teams in the country just goes to show how far we have come.
“We said from Saturday to Monday that we just wanted to improve on that performance, and we did. Our aim is to improve again on Sunday.
“We’ll just focus on ourselves and not worry too much about how Lightning got on because, on the day, anyone can turn up and win, which is a good sign for the tournament.”
One to watch: Kathryn Bryce. Lightning captain and star all-rounder. Scotland international skipper who opens the batting alongside younger sister Sarah.
She took four wickets opening the bowling with her medium paced in-swingers in Monday’s defeat against the Northern Diamonds and will pose a threat again on Sunday with both bat and ball.
The 23-year-old from Edinburgh this week made history by becoming the first Scot, female or male, to be ranked inside the top 10 batting or bowling player rankings by the ICC.
She is seen as the 10th best T20 women’s batter in the world and also the third best T20 women’s all-rounder on the world behind Nat Sciver and Sophie Devine.
Previous meeting: The Thunder did the double over the Lightning at either end of last season’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, winning at Trent Bridge first up at the end of August and then at Aigburth in mid-September.
They were actually the Thunder’s only two victories of the season.
The latter, on Merseyside, was a remarkable fixture which saw the hosts triumph by 72 runs defending a target of 189 after Nat Brown’s measured 52.
The Thunder, having elected to bat, lost regular wickets and were indebted to Brown’s 82-ball innings in the middle order as she lead the recovery from 50-3 on a spin-friendly surface.
That of course benefited the Thunder, and captain Alex Hartley had a day out she will never forget.
With her left-arm spinners, she claimed an incredible 4-8 from 10 overs.
Like the Thunder, the Loughborough based Lightning side were three down in the fifties. But they failed to recover and were bowled out for 116 inside 40 overs as only three batters made it into double figures.
More of the same this weekend, please!