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Polly Starkie Previews the 2022 Charlotte Edwards Cup


With the season starting and a summer of cricket stretching ahead, I thought I would preview the eight regional teams and who to look out for. Last summer, South East Stars claimed the trophy — much credit to 2021 break out star Alice Capsey who hit 40* to sail her team to victory.



South East Stars


With the defending champions in mind, how is the squad shaping up for 2022? In comparison to other teams in the competition, the Stars are quite a young team but by no means does this make them inexperienced. The Stars have superstar Alice Capsey as mentioned before who is both vital for their batting line up especially when boundaries are needed. After an insane season in the Hundred, regional competitions and then her call up to the England A side in Australia, Alice has tons of cricketing experience all over the world — hopefully she has a strong start to the season despite still doing her A-Levels.


Another upcoming player is Alexa Stonehouse who at only 17 has signed for Trent Rockets in the upcoming Hundred. Making her debut for Kent and South East Stars last season, she is full of potential and will be a great addition to the squad, hopefully playing regularly for them. Receiving her first professional contract this year, Danielle Gregory is another player to watch this season. Danielle won the Hundred with the Oval Invincibles last year and was retained for the 2022 season. Her leg spin bowling baffled batters last season and with a winter as a professional in the bag, Danielle’s season is looking exciting — you won’t miss her and her epic plaits! Some more senior players in the side — at only 27 and 24 — are Alice Davidson-Richards and Bryony Smith. Both Alice and Bryony spent January in Australia playing for England A where Bryony captained the side — a role which she will have in the Stars team for a large amount of the season. Their experience and leadership skills will be key to their success, and they are also both excellent all-rounders.


Central Sparks


A team which on paper should have gone further was Central Sparks. It is a cricketing crime that Sparks have so many uncapped England players who have been overlooked for England call ups. Where do I start: Eve Jones, Emily Arlott, Issy Wong, the list continues! Eve Jones is unstoppable. She has a whirlwind of a season last year in the regional competition, smashed it in the Hundred where she was the 4th highest run scorer and got a call up to play for the Renegades in the WBBL in Australia and then returned to Australia a month later for the England A tour. All this and still no England call up! The fast-bowling attack of Issy Wong and Emily Arlott and spinners Anisha Patel and Hannah Baker are shaping up the bowling lineup nicely. Issy Wong’s batting can’t be overlooked either — a recent knock of 94 from only 33 balls!


Ami Campbell and Abbey Freeborn joined Central Sparks from Northern Diamonds and Lightning respectively. Ami finished last season’s performances on a high with scores such as 60, 76, 26 & 48 within the last few weeks. After her first winter as a professional cricketer, it will be exciting to see what she can do at Sparks. Abbey was the only non-international player from the Trent Rockets squad to be retained for the 2022 season and is both a handy wicketkeeper and batter. Sparks also have Davina Perrin, an unbelievable young talent breaking into the Sparks side last year at only 15!


Southern Vipers


I just hope they don’t get any more silverware this year! The Vipers have been super successful in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy (50 over) however in the Charlotte Edwards Cup, named after their own head coach, they did not make the finals. I have a feeling that this will spur them on for this season and their match-winning intent will not back down. The star for the Vipers last season was off-spinner, Charlie Dean who despite not being regionally contracted, got an England call up in September 2021 and went on to have a successful series against New Zealand. She then was selected for the Ashes and World Cup squad and was a vital part of the England squad. Although this success is incredible and very well deserved, it is a slight loss for the Vipers as the England commitments may interfere with the fixtures.


Another huge bonus for the Vipers is Anya Shrubsole who recently retired from international cricket. She will be part of Southern Vipers as a player-coach and so will play the whole domestic season but will also be coaching young fast bowlers in the team. The Vipers have depth in their batting lineup with recent England debutant, Maia Bouchier and match-winner, Emily Windsor. Captain and dare I say, all-rounder, Georgia Adams will be vital with both bat and ball, similarly Georgia Elwiss and pace bowler Lauren Bell. It would be fair to say that they are by no means short of talent and have lots of options, but will someone be able to take the title from them?


Northern Diamonds


The serial chockers of the women’s domestic system! In comparison to the other regional sides, the Diamonds are a slightly older squad with some young talent waiting to break into the squad. Skipper, Hollie Armitage is definitely one to watch with both bat and ball. It would be good to see her bowling herself as she has picked up quite a few wickets in county and warm up matches. Newly contracted Katie Levick is another name to watch out for. Lev is a handy leg spinner and is looking ready to take plenty more wickets after her first professional off-season.


A more recent signing is New Zealand off-spinner, Leigh Kasperek. Despite being overlooked by New Zealand selectors for the World Cup, she had a fantastic season for Wellington and is a very exciting addition to the Northern Diamonds. England legend Jenny Gunn is a more obvious name to look out for but one which should not be overlooked. Last season, she had quite a few 3 and 4 wicket hauls including in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Final, and she offers lots of experience and knowledge as a senior player.


Sunrisers


Sunrisers are a team which I am hoping will have a more promising season this year. Unfortunately, the team only have one centrally contracted player, Mady Villiers and so in terms of that elite level expertise and experience, they are slightly unlucky. Despite that, they do have lot of talent within the squad. An example of this is 2021 break out star, Grace Scrivens who age 17 played in the Hundred, earned herself a professional contract and most recently has captained Kent in the T20 County Championship. The all-rounder may not bring tons of experience to the team, but she is of a generation emerging who play fearless cricket and she is extremely cool and calm under pressure. Naomi Dattani is another player that should not be overlooked. Recently in a game for Sunrisers at Lords for Women’s Day, she scored a century — a remarkable achievement especially at the Home of Cricket!


In the winter, a new, exciting signing of Scottish leg-spinner, Abtaha Maqsood came from the Sunrisers camp. Abtaha came to our attention during the Hundred in 2021 when she played for Birmingham Phoenix and impressed last year and has been retained. She will be a key wicket-taker and has experience playing all over the world for Scotland. Another exciting player is Cordelia Griffith. Cordelia finished last season on a high, scoring 49,91,63,69 & 32 in the last few games. It is vital for Sunrisers that her good form continues and her time with Manchester Originals in the Hundred will give her some further batting experience.


Lightning


Similarly to Sunrisers, Lightning only have one centrally contracted player, Tammy Beaumont who has not regularly played for them due to England commitments. Lightning is a young squad but after a few warm-up games, their season does look hopeful. Lighting’s latest signing is Marie Kelly — a powerful batter and a player who can bowl with both arms and most styles! In the 2022 T20 County Championship she hit 50 from 15 balls, the fastest recorded fifty in women’s T20 cricket, beating Lizelle Lee’s 17 balls for Surrey Stars v Lancashire Thunder in 2019. She went on to score 60 from 27 balls. Her form has been incredible in the warmup matches and County Championship, her recent scores being 69 (29), 32 (13), 99 (61), 60 (27) and a total of 260 runs at a strike rate of 200.00. Her move to Lighting has clearly worked for her and she will be a very important player.

The Bryce sisters are a pair to be feared on the field! Between them, they bowl, bat and wicket-keep and are two of Scotland’s most senior players. Kathryn’s big knock last season was against Central Sparks where she scored 162, holding a huge partnership with her sister, Sarah scoring 90. The team would not be complete without their final Scottish player, Kirstie Gordon. Kirstie has international caps for both Scotland and England and most recently went to Australia to play for England A where she picked up 9 wickets across 7 games. Last season, in the Hundred, she was Birmingham Phoenix’s highest wicket-taker with 15 wickets in hand. Very few teams have a slow left-arm orthodox bowler, so she definitely adds something unique to the bowling attack.


Western Storm


Western Storm is looking like a stronger side by the minute. It’s clear that they have struggled the last few seasons however, with new players they seem to have gelled quite well. Katie George is one of the most promising bowlers in the side however due to a back injury she didn’t bowl last season. This has not affected her performances in the field. She is one of the most dynamic fielders and has taken some incredible catches. I don’t know when we will see her back bowling but for Storm’s sake, it would be useful if it was soon! Skipper Sophie Luff is looking to retain her incredible form from the back end of last season. In the last few games, she clocked up totals such as 60*, 65, 70 and then to wrap up the season she hit 157* against Sunrisers.


Two promising all-rounders are Danielle Gibson and Georgia Hennessy. Gibson had a strong season last year and played for London Spirit in the Hundred where she was retained. She has been part of England Academies and Development teams since her teenage years and there were a few voices questioning why she wasn’t selected for England A tour. She will be very much in contention for those opportunities in the near future if she can continue her form. Hennessy had some good innings last season but just lacks slight consistency. If she can find a good rhythm this season, she will become a batter to fear. She picked up 7 wickets in the final 6 games of the season and so potentially her bowling maybe the standout element this season.


Thunder


Thunder have got a few changes to their squad this season as have an additional professional contract, funded by Lancashire County Cricket Club. Former Northern Diamonds player Phoebe Graham joined Thunder at the end of last season for her second year on a professional contract. Phoebe has also moved Hundred side to the right side of the Pennines and is extremely knowledgeable about cricket and especially the rise of women’s sport through her organisation “Tip ‘n flip”. Recent England debutant, Emma Lamb is another exciting player for Thunder. Although she hasn’t been given many opportunities by England selectors, she made a few half-centuries in the England A tour against Australia A back in January. Emma has experienced high pressure situations in her games for England and that understanding, and experience will be key for Thunder in must-win games. I must add that she got a five-fer in the T20 County Championship Final, so will be a key all-rounder!


Alex Hartley is one of the more well-known members of the team, winning and World Cup with England, co-hosting a podcast with her teammate Kate Cross and being a regular summariser on Test Match Special — most recently in the Ashes and World Cup. Unfortunately, due to media commitments in Australia and New Zealand training has been on the low other than the odd club match or nets session. As fans of the game, this was a slight concern and after stepping down from the captaincy, we were left unsure as to her role in the team. However, on the first day of the T20 County Championships, Hartley came out with the best ever recorded figures of a Lancashire Women’s player (4/5). She has taken 13 wickets in the County Championship making her top of the table and this break from training has clearly not been a hindrance!


Thunder has been a young team since its start but there is lots of exciting talent coming through in all areas of the game. Bowlers Liberty Heap and Sophia Turner are becoming more regular players in the squad and batter and wicket-keeper Alice Clarke has had some promising innings for the Academy side.



Concluding, there are plenty of talented cricketers to look out for without a doubt! With increased professionalism and a wider pool of players, the standard is constantly increasing, and you will not want to miss these matches. The big question is, who will win? My biased but well-informed opinion would be Central Sparks but of course, Southern Vipers are always menacing opposition!


For the full set of fixtures, see the link below.


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