PREVIEW: Lightning vs Thunder
Georgie Boyce is backing Thunder to consistently repeat the gold standard performance which did for Northern Diamonds at Sale on Wednesday.
Thunder’s new vice captain was a star performer in what she described as a team effort against last season’s beaten finalists, securing a 56-run victory.
In a game which included England duo Nat Sciver and Lauren Winfield-Hill in opposition colours, Boyce opened the batting and posted an excellent 65 off 56 balls in the home side’s 148-7.
In reply, wickets were shared around as the Diamonds subsided to 92 all out.
Over the first two seasons of regional cricket, Thunder have put in some excellent performances, though just not consistently enough to make the knockout stages of either the Charlotte Edwards Cup or the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
However, confidence is high that this season will be different.
And the next step on the journey is a Group A clash with Lightning at Leicestershire’s Grace Road on Saturday (2.30pm), when Boyce and co will be bidding for a second win in three games.
“That is the standard we want to meet,” said Boyce. “We’ve parked what happened against the Vipers on Saturday, and Wednesday is the team we want to be.
“Lightning are a good side, but if we play like we did against Diamonds we can beat anyone.
“There are two big names missing from our team (Sophie Ecclestone and Kate Cross), and they had Sciver and Winfield-Hill in theirs. It just shows what quality we have.”
Nottingham-born Boyce, 23, is clearly loving her cricket at present.
She was announced as new captain Ellie Threlkeld’s vice earlier this month and has also spoken with extreme fondness about her developing opening partnership with Emma Lamb, with whom she shared 95 to lay the foundation for Wednesday’s win at Sale.
“I’ve played with Emma for ages, and the batting partnership we’ve formed I’ve never experienced anything like it anywhere else,” she said.
“We’re comfortable and confident with each other. But if one of goes, ‘Come on mate, why did you do that?’, we know it’s coming from a good place.
“I’m really enjoying batting with her, and I hope she is with me because we’re building something really special here. If we keep going, we’ll win a lot of games.”
On her new role alongside wicketkeeper Threlkeld, she continued: “For me to be vice and Ellie to be captain, at such a young age as well, it’s a challenge we’re really looking forward to getting our teeth stuck into.
“We’re in a period where we’re quite a young team, and that means we can take this team in any which way we want to. That’s a really positive sign.
“We’ve played a serious amount of cricket together, and we’re really good friends.
“I’m definitely the calmer one, and Ellie is the one running around like a headless chicken. People call me horizontal!
“We’re different characters, and I think the difference we have in personality will definitely help the team and help us bounce ideas off each other.
“But it’s not just me and Ellie, we’re trying to create a team full of leaders. A bowler can say, ‘I want this, X, Y, Z’. Also, another bowler with experience could come in and say, ‘Have you tried this or that?’”
Having spoken about aiming to repeat Wednesday’s performance more consistently, Boyce believes Thunder are very well placed to do so having learnt some lessons from the back end of last season.
Heading into the final two rounds of last season’s CE Cup in late August, immediately after the Hundred, Thunder had a chance of reaching Finals Day. But they tied at Sunrisers and lost at home to the Diamonds to miss out.
They then had a similar run of form in the RHF Trophy, albeit ending the season with an impressive win over South East Stars.
“It was the first time that some of these girls have played more than 20 games a season on the back of a really long winter,” said Boyce.
“Post Hundred, some of the girls were clinging on by the skin of their teeth if I’m being perfectly honest - and I’m sure they won’t mind me saying that.
“Now, we’ve done it and experienced it, we know what to do, and we can’t use that as an excuse again.
“We’re going to play this amount of cricket every year from now on.
“We’ve got fitter throughout the winter and have the learnings from last year.
“If we do have to give and take a bit throughout training when things are hectic, that’s what we’ll have to do.
“Ultimately, we’re here to win games of cricket, and we can’t tail off the way we did post Hundred because we had a good chance of reaching Finals Day. It was a big disappointment.”
Lightning have lost their opening two games this season, against the Diamonds and the Southern Vipers. They are set to include England’s Tammy Beaumont and Australian all-rounder Piepa Cleary, the latter who was Thunder’s overseas player last year.
Player to watch
Laura Jackson was outstanding against the Diamonds on Wednesday, setting the tone in defence of 149 with the wickets of England stars Lauren Winfield-Hill and Nat Sciver.
The contracted all-rounder, took the new ball and bowled both as the visitors slipped to 3-2 and never recovered.
If she can repeat the dose and add the scalp of another England batter, Tammy Beaumont, to her list, it will set the 24-year-old up for a big summer ahead with Thunder and Manchester Originals.
Thunder were struck down by Lightning at Chester Boughton Hall in a Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy clash last June, losing by 134 runs on the back of Tammy Beaumont’s 89.
Beaumont and Lightning captain Kathryn Bryce (74) underpinned Lightning’s 259-5 from 50 overs, which Thunder unfortunately didn’t threaten.
Emma Lamb’s 42 was the top score in 125 all out, with left-arm spinner Kirstie Gordon, a six-time England international, claiming an impressive 4-23 from 10 overs.