Season Preview – Thunder

Season Preview – Thunder

Last year the Thunder tried to reintroduce Lancashire into their name, only to quietly disappear it again as the season started. Of the regions most associated with a county, the Thunder brand could survive Project Darwin. They are always well promoted by the media team at Old Trafford and usually have one of the most slickly produced live streams of their matches. That hasn’t always translated into performances on the field with three consecutive seventh-place finishes in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. They did however, make it to their first finals day of the Charlotte Edwards Cup, only to succumb in the eliminator to the Southern Vipers, the eventual champions. 

The appointment of Chris Read as head coach could just be what helps Thunder get that touch closer to success. A fine wicketkeeper in his playing career and a captain who won trophies with Nottinghamshire could be the right choice to help Ellie Threlkeld reach her potential as a wicketkeeper and leader. 

Thunder have added three new signings to last season’s line-up, with Naomi Dattani and Fi Morris giving real quality to their middle-order. At the same time, Tara Norris, a fast bowler who can bat a bit, brings some experience to the bowling attack. 

With Deandra Dottin not returning to Old Trafford this season, it could have been a cause of concern that they would be light a senior player even if her performances didn’t always convert into what was expected. That dilemma has been solved with the overseas signings of Katie Mack, who will play most of the RHF Trophy on either side of a short stint by Georgia Voll, a young Australian with bags of talent and potential who will mainly be used in the CE Cup. Mack is no stranger to English conditions, having played for the Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred in 2021 and has had a spell at Essex in 2012. 

Thunder’s Aussie imports aren’t the only players that Thunder fans can be excited about. Mahika Gaur was only 17 last season when she broke into the Thunder team and the England side. A tall left-arm seamer who generates pace and bounce is what most teams are looking for. 

Like many regions, they are starting to reap the benefits of the England Under-19s World Cup squad from 2023. Seren Smale and Liberty Heap will look to cement their place in the thunder line-up. Smale is a wicketkeeper batter who plays assertively at the top of the order, and Heap is also a no-nonsense allrounder who likes to put runs on the board and bowls some useful off-spin. 

With the up-and-coming players starting to make their presence felt, the availability of Thunder’s England contingent may make the difference between a top-four finish and not competing for any silverware. Kate Cross is the epitome of Thunder; she bleeds red and was taken aback when the Northern Superchargers acquired her services on a less favourable side of the Pennines. If Cross is available, Thunder will have one of the most impressive opening attacks on the circuit; with Gaur and Norris added, it could be a good year for Thunder. 

England may be keen to manage Sophie Ecclestone’s workload. Ecclestone is one of the best bowlers with her left-arm spin and Thunder will take every opportunity to play her. Even without Ecclestone and the retired Alex Hartley, Thunder have a left-arm spin option in Hannah Jones, a player who quietly takes wickets. Thunder’s other spin options are Fi Morris and Olivia Bell, who already has 16 wickets from her seven List A games at an average of 12.50 and she will be eager to add to them as well as her 18 T20 wickets. Bell impressed in her semi-final appearance of the CE Cup, where she took four for 37 to rein in a rampant Southern Vipers. 

Key Player 

It feels odd getting to this point of a preview of Thunder and not mentioning Emma Lamb. Her batting is calm when she is in form, which is terrific to watch. If she can score big, and England doesn’t come calling, Thunder should win more games than they lose. Lamb should probably bowl more; a strike rate of 15 is a testament to that. 

Player to watch  

It’s a difficult one as Thunder has several entertaining cricketers and is a fairly even split between Heap and Smale; if given the opportunity, both youngsters can show that they are potentially game-changing players. This is what makes this team so fascinating to watch. 

How will they fare 

Another Charlotte Edwards Cup semi-final is possible, with an extra place open for finals day. As for the RHF Trophy, if they lose fewer days to the rain this time, there is no reason they can’t improve on their recent form; a semi-final spot may just be out of their reach. 

Opening fixture 

Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy: 20 April 2024 v Northern Diamonds, Seat Unique Riverside, Chester-le-Street 


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