Women's Regional team guide 2021: North West Thunder

Who are the ones to watch? Who are the England stars? How did they do last season? All your questions answered ahead of the new Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and Regional T20 campaigns...

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Thunder Hub: Player profiles, grounds guides, latest news and much more

Captain: Alex Hartley

Head coach: Paul Shaw

Home grounds: Emirates Old Trafford (Manchester), Chester Boughton Hall (Chester), Sale Cricket Club (Sale)

Team background

North West Thunder draw their players from Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria.

Unsurprisingly, their entire squad currently represents Lancashire.

However, several players, including Sophie Ecclestone, Laura Jackson (both Cheshire), Alice Dyson (Derbyshire), Liberty Heap, and Alice Clarke (both Cumbria), started their junior careers – or enjoyed loan spells with - other counties.

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Captain Alex Hartley

What happened last season?

A mixed bag for Thunder in 2020, who finished third in a tough North Group with two wins and four defeats.

Getting their season off to a winning start against Lightning, Thunder suffered three successive defeats – Central Sparks (four wickets and eight wickets) and Northern Diamonds (73 runs) – before bouncing back with a convincing 72-run victory over Lightning.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t carry the winning momentum into their final match of the season, losing by six wickets to table-toppers Northern Diamonds.

Nat Brown topped the run-scoring charts with 189 runs, including one half-century, while wicketkeeper Ellie Threlkeld and opener Georgie Boyce also reached triple figures. Alex Hartley stole the show with the ball, finishing the competition with the fourth most wickets in the country.

Who are the England stars?

Thunder have two of England’s top bowlers at their disposal in Sophie Ecclestone and Kate Cross.

Despite being just 22 years old, Ecclestone is an automatic pick on the England teamsheet and the premier spinner in the international set-up.

Currently topping the ICC T20I bowling rankings, she has 100 international white-ball wickets to her name in just 69 appearances and is renowned for her miserly left-arm spin. It’s unclear how many matches she’ll be available for but when she does pull on the Thunder shirt, she’ll certainly bamboozle a few batters.

Medium-pacer Cross, meanwhile, has 60 wickets in all-formats at international level and has over 15 years of domestic cricket under her belt, representing Lancashire at county level, Brisbane Heat and Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash, Western Australia in the Women’s National Cricket League, and Lancashire Thunder – who she also captained – in the Kia Super League. An experienced campaigner in a youthful squad.

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England international Kate Cross

Who are the old heads?

Two words: Alex Hartley. The 32-cap England international and 2017 Cricket World Cup winner captains Thunder and very much leads from the front.

With a point to prove in 2020 after losing her central contract, the spinner was her side’s leading wicket-taker with 11 wickets, including a best performance of 4 for 8 against Lightning.

Supporting Hartley is Nat Brown who, despite only being 30 years old, is very much the veteran in the squad. She made her Lancashire debut in 2006, lives and breathes the Red Rose culture, and is the anchor in the Thunder XI, filling the Ben Stokes role of batting allrounder with ease.

And then there’s Ellie Threlkeld who seems to have been around forever but is still 22 years old. Long touted as a potential successor to Sarah Taylor and Amy Jones, Threlkeld is not only a safe pair of hands with the gloves but also with the bat, scoring 114 runs in 2020 to finish the season as Thunder’s second-highest runscorer.

Who are the young players to watch?

Teenage spinner Liberty Heap is a hugely exciting prospect. The 17-year-old burst onto the scene in 2020, taking five wickets in four appearances and bowling with an economy of 4.78. In her best performance against Lightning, she controlled the latter stages of the match and collected 3 for 39, conceding 3.4 runs per over and bowling just four extras. A Sophie Ecclestone in the making.

Also keep an eye on allrounder Laura Jackson and spinner Hannah Jones. Batting at No.3 was perhaps a baptism of fire for Jackson but with the ball she shone, conceding just 2.68 runs per over in three appearances.

Jones, meanwhile, is yet another promising slow orthodox spinner in the Thunder ranks and picked up four wickets in 2020 – a total she will no doubt improve on this season.

Squad: Alex Hartley (c), Georgie Boyce, Natalie Brown, Alice Clarke, Daniella Collins, Kate Cross, Rebecca Duckworth, Alice Dyson, Sophie Ecclestone, Liberty Heap, Laura Jackson, Hannah Jones, Emma Lamb, Daisy Mullan, Olivia Thomas, Ellie Threlkeld, Sophia Turner

Fixtures

Heyhoe Flint Trophy: May 29 – Western Storm (a), May 31 – Sunrisers (h), June 5 – Lightning (h), June 12 – Central Sparks (a), September 10 – Southern Vipers (h), September 12 – Northern Diamonds (a), September 18 – South East Stars (a)

Women’s T20: June 26 – Northern Diamonds (a), July 3 – Western Storm (h), July 9 – Sunrisers (h), August 25 – Western Storm (a), August 28 – Sunrisers (a), August 30 – Northern Diamonds (h)

Additional reporting by Richard Clark

OTHER TEAM GUIDES

Central Sparks

Lightning

Northern Diamonds

South East Stars

Southern Vipers

Sunrisers

Western Storm

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