By Alex Smith, ECB Reporters Network
“We quite like having Charlotte down at the Ageas Bowl.”
Georgia Adams isn’t talking about the actual Charlotte Edwards - Southern Vipers’ head coach - but the trophy which bears her name.
Vipers are hoping to defend the Charlotte Edwards Cup on Saturday at New Road, but will have to come through a midday Eliminator against Thunder, with The Blaze waiting in the 4pm final.
“We don't want to relinquish the trophy,” said captain Adams. “We're put in another finals appearance, which is great. We've had another successful group stage in this format.
“But we always say that it doesn't really matter how you go in the group stages, when it gets to the finals, it's 50/50 on the day.”
Since forming for the Kia Super League in 2016, the Vipers have been at all but one Finals Day across the KSL, Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and Charlotte Edwards Cup – winning four trophies along the way.
By contrast Thunder and The Blaze are newbies at the business end of tournaments. Especially for Thunder skipper Ellie Threlkeld who has played in every match for the Thunder set-up since 2016.
"It's my first Finals Day, and in previous years we've not come close,” said Threlkeld. “To get there is a huge deal. We'll be going in as underdogs, but that's a good thing. If we go out and play our cricket like we have done today, every game is winnable for us.
"I couldn't be happier. If you'd have asked me would I take this position a couple of weeks ago when we had a tough start to the season, I'd have absolutely snapped your hand off.
"I'm really proud of the way the girls have turned it around, and it's testament to the people in our dressing room. We've worked hard, and we've got ourselves to Finals Day.”
The gap across the regions has significantly closed this year, with Vipers no longer head and shoulders ahead of the rest.
“We have always felt like we’ve had a target on our back,” admitted Adams. “We set out in year one and spoke as a group that we wanted to be the team to beat and the team people were fired up to play.
“We have achieved that and our reputation speaks for itself now.
“The standard is going up and up every year and it is exciting to see the table mixed up. It is how it should be from an entertainment perspective. It has been a lot more level and competitive.
“It has been tougher for us this year but I can’t fault this team for the way they’ve adjusted.”
Adams pin-pointed bowling as the greatest area for improvement across the regions, noting how Western Storm’s Lauren Filer has increased her bowling speed by 5mph.
And she is fearful, and thrilled by, Thunder’s 17-year-old talent Mahika Gaur.
She said: “Gaur looks like she’s going to be a jet and has so much potential. As a tall left-arm bowler who can swing the ball in, she is going to be an exciting player and one to watch.”
Vipers will have England internationals Danni Wyatt, Charlie Dean and Freya Kemp available after they were released to play ahead of England's preparations for the upcoming Women’s Ashes.
Adams revealed the secret behind Vipers’ continued success – and it has a lot to do with personality...and colours.
She explains: “We were quite clinical with the sort of characters we wanted in and around the group. When we are looking to sign players or with academy players coming up it isn’t just about their skillset but whether they are the right person and a good fit for the group.
“We went through that process with Linsey Smith [who signed from Diamonds in the winter]. She was perfect for the group because we don’t have another Linsey.
“We give her a lot of jip about being a ‘red’ because that is what her spotlight profile is but we didn’t have any ‘reds’ in our team.
“It is quite in-depth but it is characterised into colours. ‘Reds’ get into the battle, chase the big cheese, are a little more fiery and wear their hearts on their sleeve.
“A ‘blue’ would be an Anya Shrubsole, so very logical, very factual and very careful in decision-making. I’m a green which is a people person.
“Linsey gave a big team talk before the Diamonds game. Typically, a lot of players in the team are ‘greens’ but Linz told us to dig deep and find our inner ‘red’.
“Anya dug as deep as she possibly could to find that ‘red’ I think it showed by taking four wickets and in some of her wicket-taking celebrations!”