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Hampshire set sights on title defence as Women's County Championship returns in earnest

In a 50-over competition that is set to boast a number of England internationals – and provide early form lines ahead of an Ashes summer – allrounder Emily Windsor believes Hampshire are ready to defend their crown.

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All-rounder Emily Windsor believes Hampshire are capable of claiming back-to-back Royal London Women’s One-Day County Championship titles when their defence starts this weekend.

The south-coast county claimed the trophy for the first time in the competition’s 22-year history and face a home double-header over the Bank Holiday weekend to begin their defence against Lancashire and Yorkshire, who they pipped for the title by just three bonus points last season.

Hampshire will be without prolific New Zealand international Suzie Bates, who is set to miss the first three games on India Premier League duty, while England legend Charlotte Edwards has taken up position as head coach.

But in a 50-over competition that is set to boast a number of England internationals – and provide early form lines ahead of an Ashes summer – Windsor believes Hampshire are ready to defend their crown.

“We are going out there to win the championship again but we know there will be loads of hard games,” she said.

“Again, is it such a strong league with the England players all being available so there will be a lot of competition and there are no easy games.”

Windsor admits the squad will need to find a way to cover for Bates’ early absence after the 31-year-old was the competition’s top scorer last season.

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“She is going to be a miss on the field,” Windsor said. “She has contributed in the last two years but she will also be missed in the team atmosphere as well.

“Individuals have to stand up, especially with the bat, but we have a talented side. Bates and Lottie are still massive role models. It is a bit surreal that they are you coach and team-mate.

“As players, while we are so young, we have that willingness to learn and not many other people in the country have the chance to learn from the best in the world and the two best batters around.”

Seven-time champions Kent begin at home to Nottinghamshire, who welcome back Jenny Gunn from Warwickshire.

Kent will be led by Tammy Beaumont with Tash Farrant taking over as vice-captain and Mark Dekker installed as coach of a squad that is boosted by England middle-order batter Fran Wilson.

Warwickshire will benefit from the availability of England star Amy Jones through May, following her memorable winter for the national team, and a young side has enjoyed a solid pre-season under coaches Dominic Ostler and Tom Brown.

PODCAST: Women's County Cricket Day Special with Raf Nicholson

"Our pre-season could not really have gone better," Warwickshire Women's and girls’ performance manager Laura MacLeod ahead of a tough away double-header to newly-promoted Sussex and Kent.

"With that comes a bit of pressure to translate it into good performances in competitive cricket and I'm comfortable with that. If players are going to play at a high level, they have to deal with expectations and perform under pressure. It's what successful teams do.

"There's a real sense of excitement that, at last, all the practice and preparation is nearly over and the competitive cricket is here. It's great to have Amy with us, not just as a player on the field but for what she brings to the group, and Sussex and Kent first up will be a great test for us to start with."

Yorkshire will look to go one better than last year under the guidance of new coach Sri Lankan Tharindu Perera.

The White Rose welcome back Alex McDonald, after she took two years out of the sport, with Elise Good back after a stint at Durham to compliment the likes of England internationals Katherine Brunt and Lauren Winfield and leg-spinner Katie Levick.

Yorkshire face newly-promoted Surrey in their opener at Reed’s School on Sunday before travelling to Hampshire on Monday.

Report courtesy of the ECB Reporters Network

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