The announcement that The Blaze would rise from the ashes of the Lightning last November changed how the team was viewed. The team based in Loughborough during the first two years of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy had failed to set the competition on fire with a series of underwhelming performances and were very much seen as the poor relation of the women’s game.
The move to Trent Bridge has changed that perception, a point that captain Kirstie Gordon and Head Coach Chris Guest pointed out as The Blaze reconvened on their first day back training after the players were scattered amongst the different teams during the Hundred.
“The exciting thing is we’re at this point in the season with something still to play for, which has not been the case in the past.” Said Guest. “We’ve got a clear goal and are not shying away from it. At the start of the season, we said we wanted to change our mentality around becoming a side that wins.” No one can deny they have done this following an unbeaten run to the Charlotte Edwards Cup Final before being beaten comfortably by Southern Vipers, a side they face in the final round of group games.
With four group games to go before the serious business of the finals, Guest and his side know what is expected: “We’ve got a bit of a buffer at the top of the table at the moment, but we know that we’ve got four really challenging games of cricket coming up that we need to win and keep that momentum going.”
It isn’t going to be easy with a Midland’s derby to kick things off at Edgbaston against Central Sparks on Tuesday, followed by a trip to South East Stars on Sunday; Stars are the only team to beat The Blaze in the 50-over competition with a tense two-wicket victory at Welbeck before the hiatus for the Hundred.
They also will be without key players for some of the upcoming four games with international call-ups; Tammy Beaumont and Nat Sciver-Brunt are with England, while Sarah and Kathryn Bryce are with Scotland in a World Cup qualifying tournament and Nadine de Klerk is with South Africa. Marie Kelly has also been added to the Knight Riders CPL squad as a replacement for Dane van Niekerk.
It is something that The Blaze have prepared for; as Gordon states, “We’ve got a really good depth in our squad, and it will be a great opportunity for some of the girls to get an opportunity to be in the eleven, but also to play a key role and hopefully, they can step up to that.”
The Blaze have strengthened their squad by signing Lizelle Lee as a replacement for de Klerk as their overseas player. Gordon is excited about having played with Lee during the Hundred for Trent Rockets. “She was just starting to find form at the right time. So, hopefully, she can continue that form for us. And I think, more than anything, she’s a great person with a lot of experience to have around the group, and I think she’ll settle in really well.”
The front runners know that they aren’t going to have it all their own way in the next three weeks, but they are ready to give it their best shot, and with the pain of the loss in the Charlotte Edwards Cup final, they are determined to make sure they get over the line on the last day of the season.