Central Sparks weren’t too far off from being a force in the Charlotte Edwards Cup and the Rachael Heyhoe Flint trophy in 2021. They finished third in the RHF Trophy and qualified for the play-off with second-placed Northern Diamonds, where they bowed out.
Sparks are a well-run club with a real sense of the region it represents, and no one lives that more than captain Eve Jones. The opening batter is well respected by her players, having been elected their skipper before their inaugural campaign, Jones is also the leading run-scorer for the club.
There have been a few changes to the squad this season, with Marie Kelly and Abbey Freeborn exchanging places, Kelly joining Lighting and Freeborn settling in the West Midlands. However, with Amy Jones due to be on England duty, adding another wicketkeeper to the squad makes sense, especially with Chloe Hill moving to Southern Vipers.
The West Midlands side is an example of a club producing talent that isn’t too far off the England set-up. Everyone knows what an exciting prospect Issy Wong is, a bowler of genuine pace; Emily Arlott, her opening bowling partner, received a call-up for England last summer but never quite made the starting line-up against India.
One of the great mysteries of recent times is how Eve Jones hasn’t been part of the England squad, an England side devoid of left-hand batters. But, with England’s openers failing to set the world alight, then surely Jones is worth looking at, especially if the whole point of the regional competitions is to unearth players ready for the international arena.
Sparks also have strong spin bowling stocks with leg-spinners in England’s Sarah Glenn, Anisha Patel and Hannah Baker and off-spinners Georgia Davis, Ria Fackrell and Stephanie Butler.
The squad has a well-balanced feel with players for all situations. Eve Jones leads from the front, and Amy Jones oozes class, with Glenn and Wong capable of teeing off, then the middle-order has the likes of Gwenan Davies, the left-hand wicketkeeper batter who can rotate the strike and accelerate towards the end.
Ones to watch
If you had seen Davina Perrin bat at Worcester at the end of last season, it would have been difficult to believe that she had only just turned 15. She is a technically sound opener who times the ball well; Perrin is well suited to play alongside skipper Eve Jones, who takes the pressure off Perrin to belt the ball from the start. In a recent pre-season match against Lightning, it was difficult to tell who was the senior partner.
Grace Potts is a pace bowler next in line off the Sparks production line. Signed up for Manchester Originals, the 19-year-old could find herself given more opportunities to play at the top level this summer.
Opening fixture: 14 May, Western Storm, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff