Southern Vipers are the defending Kia Super League (KSL) champions and again the team to beat. All with an “unbelievable” batting line-up that has only gotten better from when they raised the trophy last August, according to their attack leader Tash Farrant.
“Obviously everyone wants to beat us this year,” said the 21-year-old. “But we have a really good squad and we are ready to keep our title.”
That squad, winners by seven wickets over Western Storm in the inaugural final of the tournament, now includes England pocket-rocket batter Danni Wyatt and West Indies’ 2016 World T20 hero Hayley Matthews, both moving to the club from Lancashire Thunder.
“She is so bubbly and an unbelievable batter and fielder,” Farrant said of the former. “Then having Hayley Matthews. With those two in we have such powerful batting. Our line-up does look unbelievable; it’s never ending. If I was another team, I would be a bit worried.”
Farrant didn’t believe they had the “best team on paper” in 2016 but triumphed as a squad that was bound together closely. “We worked really well as a team and we did a lot together,” she recalled. “We all stayed in accommodation together. We had really good team cohesion.”
The left-arm seamer cited the leadership of legendary captain of the squad Charlotte Edwards and New Zealand skipper Suzie Bates in charting that course to victory.
“You are always going to be in good stead with those two,” she said, having played under Edwards in county cricket since she was 14. “She has always been my captain; I love playing under Lot. She is so focused and knows so much, but is so good because she can also have a right laugh. Especially now since she retired. I think she is really enjoying the Vipers.”
The defending champions do lose some experience in the middle order, with Lydia Greenway and Sara McGlashan – the two who were in the middle when the title-winning runs were scored last summer – both declining the chance to be part of the title defence.
But Southern Vipers demonstrated first-hand last year of the benefits of giving opportunities to younger players too, with no better example than Linsey Smith, the teen spinner starting the season outside of the squad altogether before becoming an integral member of the champion side.
“Linsey got brought in and first game took a four-for,” Farrant said.
“She then played well and got straight into the England Academy. So it is perfect for the county and younger girls coming through. It’s how the girls playing county can show themselves.”
Reflecting on her own game, Farrant says the KSL is the “key” part of her summer as one of three contracted England players not to feature in the triumphant World Cup campaign.
“The girls did unbelievably in the World Cup,” she said. “But the players who missed out, and the Academy girls, this is the time where we need to show what we can do. So this tournament is really important for us. You want to show yourself on the big stage.”
Farrant acknowledges that it hurt not being part of the squad during a home World Cup, but that she has age on her side in trying to break into the national team on a regular basis.
“The KSL for me is so important to show what I can do it against the best players in the world,” she said.
Southern Vipers get the 2017 Kia Super League underway on Thursday 10 August when they host their final opponents from last year, Western Storm, at the Ageas Bowl.
Stay up to date with all the goings on in the competition – including tickets, fixtures, results and team news – using our dedicated Kia Super League section.