Western Storm are discovering their very best form in the Kia Super League at exactly the right time.
So says head coach Trevor Griffin, who insists confidence is sky high following restorative back-to-back wins in the women's domestic T20 competition.
Beaten by defending champions Southern Vipers in their opening game at the Ageas Bowl, last season's runners-up announced themselves with a whimper earlier this month. But the players have since responded to that chastening experience in fine style, defeating Loughborough Lightning and Yorkshire Diamonds to get their quest to make Finals Day in Hove on 1 September back on track.
“It's all about how you finish, not how you start,” said Griffin. “If you're going to have a really poor performance in this competition, then it's probably best to get it out of the way right at the beginning.
“We simply didn't turn up in that first match against the Vipers and there was some real soul searching among the players after that one. We knew the only way was up from there-on in.”
Required to beat Lightning on home soil at Taunton, Storm mustered a much-improved display to register a five-wicket triumph and restore lost confidence.
Griffin's charges then headed to York for Sunday's showdown with Diamonds in the knowledge that victory would put them in a strong position to qualify for the finals. If they stuttered at times against Lightning, Storm moved up a gear to register a near-perfect 10-wicket success in the north.
“We've talked about improving with every game and peaking towards the end of the month and Sunday's performance was definitely a step up,” added Griffin. “Because this is a short tournament, momentum is important. We are improving with every game we play and building momentum.”
Rachel Priest scored a brilliant unbeaten hundred, staging a record Kia Super League stand with captain Heather Knight, as Storm successfully chased down 160 to move into third place in the group. It was an outcome that will fill the players with confidence ahead of crucial group stage encounters against Surrey Stars and Lancashire Thunder this week.
Griffin commented: “The manner in which we went about our business and executed our game plan against Yorkshire will help instil belief. Surrey Stars are up next and they are a very strong side this year. We know we will have to up our game again, but the players are capable of doing that.
“The players will go into that game full of confidence, believing they can keep the winning run going. We have two games left and we have to win both if we want to be sure of being there at Finals Day.
“That was our aim before the competition started and, after winning the last two games, our fate is in our own hands.”
Inspirational all rounder Stafanie Taylor has survived an injury scare after being struck on the hand by a ball during the triumph over Diamonds and will almost certainly line up for the Storm at The Oval tomorrow.
She will undergo a fitness check before the squad departs for London, but Griffin is confident the Jamaican will be ready to face the Stars: “It was a major concern at the time Stafanie took a ball to the thumb, because she had to come off and go to hospital.
“She had some x-rays taken and, fortunately, they didn't show up a fracture or anything else untoward. The physios will have a look at her before the game, but all the early indications are that she will play at The Oval.”
He added: “Stafanie has great skills and is an important player for us in terms of the balance of the side. But she is also a leader and has a lot to offer off the field as well. The other players feed off her.”
Pre-tournament favourites, the Stars beat defending champions Southern Vipers at the Ageas Bowl on Sunday and top the group with a 100 per cent record from three outings.
They boast England's Natalie Sciver and Tammy Beaumont among their ranks and have been strengthened by the arrival of Lizelle Lee, who played for Storm last year. Griffin admits: “They are the team to beat this year. On paper, they appear to have the best side and tat has been borne out by results so far.
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.