Match Preview: Thunder vs Western Storm
Thunder v Western Storm
Charlotte Edwards Cup, Group B
Sunday July 4, 2021, 11am
Chester Boughton Hall CC
The Thunder have been keen to fly under the radar this season. But now, on the back of some standout recent performances, they will be watched like hawks.
And it sounds like they are happy to take on the extra pressure.
From pre-season into the early stages of the summer, the Thunder hierarchy have been keen to stress how they are a young and developing squad still two or three years away from a realistic trophy challenge in either 50-over or T20 cricket.
Nothing has changed in that respect. But, after wins over in-form duo Central Sparks and Northern Diamonds across both formats in recent weeks, there is no doubt belief has grown.
And it is well known that confidence and momentum are key in T20 cricket.
“Who knows what we can achieve,” said fledgling seamer Sophia Turner ahead of Sunday’s Charlotte Edwards Cup T20 clash with Western Storm at Chester.
“Coming into the season, we were trying not to set our hopes too high because we’re a young squad and we knew our main priority was development, giving people chances.
“But now we’re into the season, we know we’ve got every chance of winning.
“We just needed that boost, and we’ve had that over the last two weeks.
“Beating the Sparks, then two warm-up wins over the Lightning, it really helped us go into Saturday (against the Northern Diamonds) with confidence.”
Before Saturday’s meeting with ‘Roses’ rivals Diamonds, their coach Dani Hazell described the Thunder as the most improved side across the eight regions in 2021.
They had won two of four Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy 50-over games and then added to that with a 12-run success in the Charlotte Edwards opener at Emerald Headingley.
Emma Lamb returned a brilliant all-round display with 58, 4-13, a catch and a hand in two run outs.
But 18-year-old Turner was brilliant with 1-4 from four overs in only her third senior appearance at regional level.
She had replaced Australian overseas seamer Piepa Cleary, who was unavailable but returns to the fold this weekend.
“There has been such a challenge for places over the last few weeks, right throughout the team,” said Turner. “With Piepa not being available and me coming in and doing well, it just shows the competition we have.
“Going into the game, I had the nerves with playing at a big ground in front of a crowd. It was probably the biggest crowd I’ve played in front of.
“I just knew that if I did my basics, held the right lines and lengths, everything else would take care of itself.
“That was all I could do I just had to keep it simple. Thankfully it worked out well.
“It was certainly the best day of my career. Hopefully I can build on this and we can as a team.
“It was a massive win for us.
“Coming into it, the Diamonds were top of the table in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. For us to beat them, no one expected it.
“But we knew we had every chance, even when we only had 118-6 on the board.
“We’re in a really good place at the minute.”
Thunder almost beat the Storm at Bristol in the opening RHF Trophy game in late May, eventually losing by one wicket.
That has proved to be Storm’s only win of a disappointing summer for them.
Last week, they were beaten by Sunrisers in the T20 opener. It was the Sunrisers first win as a region after 10 straight losses dating back to the start of last summer.
Previous meeting: This will be the first meeting of the two teams in T20 cricket, though Lancashire Thunder and Western Storm played each other on numerous occasions during the days of the Kia Super League.
Earlier this summer, the regions met in the opening game of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint 50-over Trophy, with the Storm winning a thriller by one-wicket at Bristol.
During the Bank Holiday weekend in late May, opener Emma Lamb scored a brilliant 121, supported by Piepa Cleary’s 79, as the Thunder posted 291-8 in 50 overs.
This was a game in which all the England players featured, with Sophie Ecclestone also making a useful 37 down the order after the visitors were inserted.
In reply, England captain Heather Knight opened the batting and hit 91 off 90 balls.
But Thunder took wickets at important stages. And when Cleary had her caught behind, Storm were 195-5 after 37 overs.
Further wickets fell as Storm slipped to 252-9 in the 46th, still needing 40 with Ecclestone and Kate Cross having claimed three wickets apiece.
Unfortunately, England seamer Anya Shrubsole turned the game with some impressive tail-end hitting, and she finished with 61 not out off 41 balls to seal a home win off the last ball.
One to watch: Alex Hartley - The left-arm spinner may have gone wicketless in the last two regional games, but don’t let that fool you into thinking she hasn’t had a significant influence on success.
Hartley has captained the side superbly this summer, none more so than in wins over Sparks and Diamonds.
She also hit the winning runs against the Sparks at Worcester and has taken a couple of absolutely stunning diving catches of late.
With increased vigour and confidence back in her game, it is only a matter of time before the wickets follow, as indicated by 2-19 from four overs for Lancashire Women in yesterday’s friendly T20 win over Ireland at Emirates Old Trafford.
Turner also returned 2-19, while the seam of Laura Jackson starred with 4-15 in a comfortable defence of a 157 target following half-centuries at the top of the order for Emma Lamb and Georgie Boyce.