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Match Preview: Western Storm v North West Thunder

Match Preview: Western Storm v North West Thunder

Western Storm v North West Thunder 

Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy
Saturday May 29, 2021, 10.30am
The Bristol County Ground, Bristol 

Emma Lamb is confident the North West Thunder can build on the encouraging early season performances from many of their players in Lancashire colours.

A series of county T20 fixtures through April and May served as a warm-up for this Thunder’s commitments in the two regional competitions, the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and the Regional T20.

The former competition starts this Saturday when the Thunder travel to Bristol to face the Western Storm (10.30am).

Rain played its part in the early summer county fixtures, but Lancashire were unbeaten, winning all four matches that there were played, with Lamb scoring an unbeaten 119 off 73 balls in one match.

A number of other key players such as Georgie Boyce, Hannah Jones and Ellie Threlkeld - all contracted professionals alongside Lamb - also found form. 

Another to get valuable game time was Australian overseas all-rounder Piepa Cleary, heightening hopes that the Thunder can better last season’s haul of two wins from six matches in the shortened RHF Trophy.

“It gives us confidence after last year,” said all-rounder Lamb.

“This season is a bit of a fresh start for us, and it’s good to go into this competition feeling good with a few wins behind us even though it’s in Lancashire’s name.

“Let’s hope we can carry that on for the Thunder.”

First up, the Thunder face a Storm side who will be amongst the favourites for the title. 

They narrowly missed out on the final last year, but they were champions of the old Kia Super League twice (2017 and 2019) in four years. 

All the England players are available to start the competition ahead of their four-day Test Match with India next month. 

That means Sophie Ecclestone and Kate Cross are available for the Thunder and England captain Heather Knight and fellow 2017 World Cup winner Anya Shrubsole for the Storm.

“I think we’re going to have a good season. I certainly think we’ll win more games than we did last year,” continued Lamb. “I didn’t play a lot last year because I was in the England bubble, so I’m really looking forward to it.

“We just want to find consistency and build a strong team. 

“Hopefully if we start well, we can carry that through.”

Preston’s Lamb, 23, is on the fringes of the England set-up. She was in the senior training bubble for much of last summer and has played England Academy cricket already this year.

“I hope I am close (to a senior call-up),” said the top order batter and off-spinner.  

“I’m pretty happy with how I’ve started this summer. But it’s not something I think about loads. I just want to do well for the Thunder and if that comes, then so be it.”

Silverware is not a barometer for Thunder success this summer. A young and emerging squad, head coach Paul Shaw is more concerned with slow but steady development ahead of a more realistic challenge for trophies in two or three years.

Former England coach Shaw has already made a big impression on the players, as have support coaches such as former England men’s players Stephen Parry and Craig White.

Lamb added: “We’ve got some amazing coaches to work with, and it’s just given us so much confidence going into the season.  

“Shawsy’s big thing is to be relaxed whilst still putting in the hard work.

“We have values that we want to stick to whether we win or lose. Commitment is one and honesty is another. They are the two keys for us. 

“The commitment we have shown in our training and preparation will certainly stand us in good stead.” 

Squad: Alex Hartley (C), Emma Lamb, Georgie Boyce, Ellie Threlkeld, Piepa Cleary, Nat Brown, Sophie Ecclestone, Kate Cross, Laura Marshall, Danielle Collins, Hannah Jones, Laura Jackson, Sophia Turner. 

Previous meeting: This is the first meeting between the North West Thunder and the Western Storm under the banner of Regional competition. 

But the Lancashire Thunder and Western Storm were regular opponents in the days of the Kia Super League T20 tournament, played between 2016 and 2019.

The two sides met six times in four seasons. Unfortunately, the Storm won on all six occasions.

The most recent was at Chester Boughton Hall in August 2019, with the Storm victorious by five wickets in a thriller chasing a target of 160.

The Thunder’s 159-8 total, having elected to bat, was built around 50 off 37 balls from India’s Harmanpreet Kaur before her compatriot Smriti Mandhana led the visiting chase with 72 off 43. In the end, the Storm won off the penultimate ball.

One to watch: Piepa Cleary. The Thunder’s Australian overseas all-rounder is a regular for Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash at home. A seamer and a middle order batter, Cleary, 24, has been playing county cricket for Lancashire in the early stages of this summer.

Despite her young age, Cleary will provide the squad with valuable knowhow: “She’s been a professional cricketer for eight years and is in the Australian Academy set-up, the Shooting Stars,” said captain Alex Hartley. “The experience and knowledge she can bring to our seamers is something I can’t because I’m not a seamer!”

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