Season Preview – Central Sparks

Season Preview – Central Sparks

With Worcestershire not bidding for one of the top-tier teams next season, it looks like Warwickshire will benefit from the hard work put into developing the Central Sparks, one of the new kids on the block in 2020. You only have to look at the Sparks squad to see the talent that they have produced in the last few years. The England under-19 setup has featured several players from the Sparks ranks, and that duel development is encouraging. Charis Pavely and Davina Perin could impact the regional scene this season after their performances in Sri Lanka in the past month. Add to the mix some well-judged signings throughout their short history, and then you get the making of a team that could beat any team on their day. One of those signings, Erin Burns impacted the side, taking 12 vital wickets in her six Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy games. This season, they will be without her as she has switched to Northern Diamonds. 

Another of those shrewd signings was Katie George, a player who has aspirations of playing cricket for England once again. George has been hampered by a series of stress fractures to her back, but last season saw her take 18 wickets in the 50-over format and she chipped in with back-to-back fifties, the first of which guided Sparks to a five-wicket win against Northern Diamonds at Headingley.  

The development of Abbey Freeborn as the Sparks wicketkeeper since she joined the West Midlands outfit from East Midland neighbours Lightning has been one of the pleasing aspects of the regional competitions. Freeborn dons the gloves when Amy Jones is unavailable due to international commitments and doesn’t let her team down. She has started to score runs regularly as a clean striker of a cricket ball, with an average of 36.45, a first hundred in professional cricket and an unbeaten 107 against Sunrisers at Chelmsford. It has lifted some of the burden on Eve Jones the captain, to score the bulk of the runs. She is her team’s leading run scorer with 1297 runs in the RHF Trophy, more than double that of the player in second place. 

While the batting hasn’t always fired for the Sparks, there is one area that they have been blessed with and that is their bowlering, both with pace and spin. They are not short of new ball bowlers, and Emily Arlott and Issy Wong lead their attack. Sparks will hope that both are fit and in form having been in and around the England squad in the last few years. Arlott was unlucky that injury denied her what would have been a well-deserved cap, while Wong struggled with her run-up, which she had been working on over the winter with Matt Mason, the England bowling coach. With George adding variation with her left-arm bowling, Grace Potts makes up a quality quartet of seam bowling. A six-foot tall bowler, she made her Sparks debut in 2021 and impressed with 12 wickets as they reached the final of the Charlotte Edwards Cup final at Northampton in 2022. Ellie Anderson is also in the ranks and capable of making an impact with the ball. She is another player who has impressed at England Under-19 level and proved that the Sparks academy is full of talent. 

Looking at spin, Sparks have two excellent options. Georgia Davis, an off-spin bowler, was Central Sparks leading wicket-taker in the RHF Trophy with 27 wickets at an average of 14.77. The other spinner is Hannah Baker, the England Under-19 international whose leg spin is fast, making her one of the young players to watch. Decent returns in both regional competitions earned a call-up to England A and she toured India and New Zealand either side of the New Year. 

Key Player 

There are a few players that Central Sparks need to perform if they are going to battle it out for silverware, but with her troubles last year, it feels like Issy Wong has something to prove when she crosses the boundary ropes. There is no doubting her talent when she is in the groove, and there is also the ability to score quick runs. It will be interesting to see if Sparks send her back up the order in the T20 format, where they came so close to winning a trophy. 

Player to watch 

Charis Pavely can potentially add some fire to the Sparks middle-order, a player who likes to keep the game moving. In her breakthrough season, she scored her first fifty, an unbeaten 57 from 52 balls at Guildford and helped Sparks to a seventh-wicket partnership of 102 with Wong. 

How will they fare 

The RHF Trophy was one of the closest last season, with just six points separating third and sixth, with Sparks finishing fifth. Only Western Storm earned fewer bonus point wins than Sparks in the RHF Trophy.    

If Sparks are more consistent with the bat this season, they should be looking for a semi-final place in either the RHF Trophy or the Charlotte Edwards Cup.  

Opening fixture 

Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy: 20 April 2024 v The Blaze, Edgbaston 


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