Preview: Kia Super League Finals Day

Preview: Kia Super League Finals Day

Western Storm (pic via YouTube, with thanks)

The fourth and final Kia Super League Finals Day will take place at Hove on Sunday.

The popular tournament, which has done so much for the women’s game in England, has been brought to an end with the introduction of the Hundred set to replace it from next season.

Hove will once again provide the venue and, after a record crowd witnessed the Surrey Stars’ victory last year, another big attendance is expected at the home of Sussex.

Western Storm have gone straight through to the final by virtue of finishing top of the group. The Storm were utterly dominant, winning nine of their 10 group matches, with their only defeat coming in their last fixture against Yorkshire Diamonds when their Finals Day place was already secure.

England captain Heather Knight has been one of the many England players who have bounced back from their disappointing performance in the Ashes.

Knight has made three fifties in the competition for Storm so far, averaging nearly 40 while also chipping in with five wickets. Overseas players Rachel Priest and Smriti Mandhana have also impressed and runs at the top of the order have been a key factor behind their success in the group stage. With the ball, Freya Davies has been hugely impressive, taking 18 wickets at an average of just 11.72.

The Storm were the 2017 champions but lost in the semi final in 2018 to the eventual winners Surrey. They have been the more consistent side over the four seasons of the KSL and have set the standard again this year. They start as favourites and will be hugely tough to beat for the winner of the semi final.

Before the Western Storm take the field at 4pm, Southern Vipers and Loughborough Lightning will clash in the semi final. The two sides met in the final round of group matches on Wednesday night at the Ageas Bowl, with the Lightning coming out on top by 36 runs.

That result was a fourth straight win for Loughborough – levelling their head-to-head against the Vipers this season – and they are looking to bounce back from their 2018 disappointment when they were beaten in the final having finished top of the table at the end of the group stage.

England opener Amy Jones has been a star for the Lightning with the bat this season, including an unbeaten 74 against the Vipers which took her over 300 runs for the tournament. Mignon du Preez heads the averages with 246 runs at 49.20 at an impressive strike rate of 144.70.

With the ball, spin has proved the way for success for the Loughborough Lightning. Sarah Glenn and Kirstie Gordon have both taking 10 wickets and are averaging under 20.

Last year was the first Kia Super League Finals day that did not feature the Southern Vipers but they are back for 2019.

West Indian Stafanie Taylor was one of the stars of the tournament in the early weeks but she has missed the last four games through injury. Danni Wyatt has been in scintillating touch at the top of the order having made 110 from just 60 balls against Surrey, the second highest score in the history of the KSL.

Captain Tammy Beamount has also looked in good touch, scoring 183 runs at 23. It remains to be seen if she keeps wicket in the semi-final, having shared that duty with Carla Rudd throughout the competition.

Tash Farrant has led the attack for the Vipers, taking the new ball and picking up 12 wickets at 14.33. Her economy rate of 6.45 is particularly impressive given most of her overs have been bowled in the powerplay.

17-year-old Isabelle Wong has made her debut in this year’s tournament and impressed in front of the Sky cameras against Loughborough – claiming her first wicket.

The Western Storm quite rightly have the favourites tag for this year’s Finals Day having performed so well in the group stage.

The Vipers will have a degree of home advantage, having played a group fixture at Hove, and will hope to use that to give them an edge.

Loughborough have found form and will also be looking to write the wrongs from the 2018 season.

It is all set up for an excellent finish to a fine tournament as the curtain falls on an important competition for the women’s game.

The KSL has bridged the gap between county and international level, allowed domestic stars to rub shoulders with and learn from the very best players in the world and has produced excitement among young girls across the country – crucially showing that there is a career path as a cricketer.

Fingers crossed Sunday proves a fitting finale.

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