Match Preview: Southern Vipers v Thunder
Ellie Threlkeld admits she is “over the moon” at being appointed Thunder’s new captain.
Southern Vipers v Thunder
Charlotte Edwards Cup, Group B
The 1st Central County Ground, Hove
Saturday May 14, 2022, 2.30pm
Alex Hartley stepped down after two seasons in the role last month, though remains an integral part of a squad which begins its summer with a Charlotte Edwards Cup clash with Southern Vipers at Hove on Saturday afternoon.
Threlkeld takes on a role which she dipped her toe into during a pre-season tour to Dubai in March.
Whilst in the UAE as part of a historical joint trip with the Lancashire men, the 23-year-old spoke to Red Rose captain Dane Vilas, also a wicketkeeper-batter, about leadership.
“Captaincy is something I’ve always wanted to do, so to get the opportunity this year I’m really excited to get going,” said the England A star. “I’m over the moon.
“I think I’ve made it quite clear it’s always been something which has been in my aspirations.
“Then, with Alex not be available to tour Dubai, it gave me an opportunity to give it a go out there. And I absolutely loved it and got some positive feedback.
“With Alex then stepping down, it seemed like perfect timing.
“To get this opportunity at a club where I’ve been playing for a long time, I’m really proud.”
Threlkeld continued: “I had a good chat with Dane when I captained Thunder for the first time. He was really helpful and spoke about how he goes about things.
“We chatted quite a bit about the difference in being liked and being respected.
“My personality is that I want to please everyone and want people to like me. As captain, there is going to have to be some tough conversations But if I can put the team first all of the time, I’ll be respected.
Threlkeld admits she will lean on the experience of Hartley and current England seamer Kate Cross, who is available to play on Saturday. But she said: “I try and lead by example.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but one I’m really up for. I think I’m the right person for the job.”
Of her trip to Australia as part of the England A squad at the start of the year, she said: “Although there were some tough results, it was a great experience. I absolutely loved it.”
She also skippered Lancashire’s women to County T20 success on Sunday, beating Yorkshire in the final - their eighth successive win.
“We spread the Thunder squad out across three teams, Lancashire, Cumbria and the Northern Rep team,” she said. “It gave everyone an opportunity to get some big scores and take some wickets. The girls have stepped up and done that.
“Those big performances are making us really excited for the season.
“I’m really optimistic. We’ve signed a couple of players - Phoebe Graham from the Diamonds and Shachi Pai from the Lightning. They have added a lot to the squad both as players and people.”
Only last year, England legend Sarah Taylor said of Threlkeld: “She has got phenomenal hands - one of the best in the country. The world is her oyster.”
But the new captain knows she must contribute more with the bat.
She said: “This is going to be a key season for me with the bat,” she said.
“For the last few years, I’ve worked really hard on my batting and understand it’s an area I need to develop to take my game to the next level.”
It could hardly be a tougher start for Thunder, who face back-to-back Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy champions Vipers first, quickly followed by a home clash with arch-rivals Northern Diamonds at Sale on Wednesday.
Threlkeld added: “It will be a tough start, but every game will be tough. As much as we’ve improved, every other region will have done exactly the same.
“The Vipers have got some trophies under their belts, and the Diamonds are a good side as well.
“That one’s definitely a grudge match. The Roses doesn’t exist in name, but it very much does to both teams. We can’t wait.”
Thunder’s bid for silverware - a young squad, they are yet to qualify for a knockout stage across two summers of regional cricket - is set to begin with a fully fit squad minus only Sophie Ecclestone, who is on Fairbreak duty in Dubai.
It is unclear when the left-arm spin wizard will be available as the women’s IPL challenge in India later this month also looms as a possibility.
Thunder and Vipers have only met once before, in the 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy at Sale last September, which the Vipers won by three wickets.
A low-scoring affair saw Thunder slip to 59-6 before being boosted to 110 all out thanks to Kate Cross’s superb middle order 57. Left-arm seamer Tara Norris claimed four wickets.
In reply, Vipers made heavy weather of the target in front of a healthy crowd, swelled by those who had tickets for the opening day of England men’s Test Match against India at Emirates Old Trafford before its last-minute cancellation.
Cross and left-arm spinners Hannah Jones and Alex Hartley all claimed two wickets as Vipers lost regular wickets but just enough in the tank to get over the line with 16.1 overs remaining.
They went on to retain the trophy later in the month.
Player to watch:
Emma Lamb was Thunder’s standout player last summer, scoring runs, taking wickets and being a demon in the field.
Her form, highlighted by three hundreds - two competitive, one in a friendly - earned her an Ashes debut and a place in England’s World Cup squad over the winter.
Lamb’s form will be key again for a Thunder side aiming to take the next step in their development.
She heads into this match on the back of stunning figures of 5-5 from four overs in Sunday’s County T20 final victory for Lancashire over Yorkshire.
Thunder head coach Paul Shaw has hailed the exploits of six-wicket Academy star Sophie Morris after the spinner hit the headlines following a memorable debut earlier this week.
Morris, 18-years-old, claimed the remarkable figures of 6-0 from 2.2 overs on her Academy debut against Lightning at Sale on Tuesday.
The left-arm spinner has joined the Thunder’s Academy intake for 2022, and could not have made a better start with five of her wickets bowled and the other lbw as Lightning were bowled out for just 60 in a 14-over game.
Morris is a product of Birkenhead club Upton, who play in the Cheshire County League.
Thunder’s Academy played two games in the day, with opener Seren Smale also impressing.
In the game in which Morris starred, Smale led the chase of 61 with an unbeaten 35.
In the afternoon game, a full 20-over fixture, Smale, 17, opened the batting and smashed an unbeaten 109 off 80 balls in a 165-2 total.
Morris then claimed three more wickets in defence, with the hosts securing a 19-run win.
Shaw said: “Six wickets for no runs, it’s almost unheard of isn’t it. I wouldn’t want to say never again because you just never know do you.
“Sophie bowled really, really well and is a great kid - really eager to learn.
“Seren Smale, as well, we shouldn’t forget her. She got 80 in the first game and a hundred in the second.
“The pleasing thing for me is that Seren’s been working on the winter programme with us here at Old Trafford, and lots of the skills she’s been acquiring were demonstrated in those matches.
“Sophie puts a little bit on the ball, but she just bowls really accurate lines. There wasn’t massive deviation (on Tuesday), but it was just line and length.”