NICK HOWSON takes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Spirit squad ahead of the new campaign
Coach: Trevor Griffin
A two-time Kia Super League winner with Western Storm, Griffin re-joined the side as head coach during the off-season. Joined Sunrisers in 2020 and was promoted to the head coach role at Sydney Thunder ahead of WBBL05, guiding the team to the title in 2020-21. Enjoyed a low-key playing career and spent his formative coaching years with Devon, Chance to Shine, University of Exeter, England and Canterbury in New Zealand.
Captain: Charlie Dean
Beth Mooney: A three-time World Cup winner with Australia and one of the best opening batters around. The third-highest run-scorer in Australia's T20I history has multiple centuries in both white-ball formats and an unquestionable temperament at the highest level.
Her unbeaten 78 as part of an opening century stand in the T20 World Cup final against India guided Australia to a famous victory in Melbourne. Mooney has the most WBBL runs in history and three titles, the latest coming with Perth Scorchers.
Megan Schutt: One of only two Australia bowlers with 100 or more wickets in both white-ball formats. An Australia quick with four world titles and more than 150 international appearances will add pace and experience to the Spirit attack.
She bought up three figures in T20Is against Ireland, dismissing Mary Waldron with a clever slower ball. Her commitment to hometown franchise Adelaide Strikers means she is not yet off the mark in the WBBL, but she is regularly among the wickets (87 in 98 games, the ninth-most in history).
Megan Schutt will be pivotal with the ball for London Spirit [Getty Images]
Amelia Kerr: The New Zealand allrounder is preparing to dominate the sport for the next decade. Closing in on a century of international appearances for New Zealand and already with a double hundred (her unbeaten 232 broke Belinda Clark's record for the highest women's ODI score that stood for 21 years), Kerr is also a potent leggie with a good mix of pace.
A five-time winner of the Super Smash with Wellington, taking 96 wickets and scoring 1,253 runs, she underpinned Brisbane Heat's WBBL title win in 2019-20, claiming 17 scalps. Withdrew from the last tournament to protect her mental health.
Jess Kerr: Missed the Commonwealth Games through injury but Spirit will hope she is right for The Hundred. The older Kerr sister and among a successful sporting family who is starting to establish herself in the Kiwi team, having been an ever-present during the 50-over World Cup.
A fast swing-bowler who prioritises keeping it tight, over a regular flow of wickets, and is a candidate to bowl at the death. Back at home she helps out at Tawa Intermediate, the old school of her and sister, who works with autistic children.
Charlie Dean: It has been a stunning 12 months for the Burton offspinner. An England international, a fully contracted player, a double Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy winner and a Charlotte Edwards Cup champion.
A dozen wickets in the CE Cup, four in the RHFT and eight more in the South Africa ODIs means she comes into The Hundred in form and as one of the players to watch. Went to Australia and played in the one-off Test, picking up new teammate Mooney along the way. Full of confidence and with no fear, she'll be key to Spirit's hopes again.
Freya Davies: Atop Davies' Twitter profile is a post from 2019 celebrating Western Storm and the end of the Women's Super League. Her bio includes mentions of her time at Exeter University and her law degree, before mentioning her status as an England international cricketer.
In short, wherever the Chichester-born seamers ends up going, she will never forget about where she has come from. It has been a truncated 2022 for Davies, who made two appearances in the Ashes (another was rained off) and once in the World Cup. England have only called on her once in seven matches against South Africa, with her outings limited to the domestic formats, taking five wickets at 31.5.
Heather Knight led this area, having scored at 130 during The Hundred last year (well above her T20I average of 118), but injury will deny Spirit of their captain. If Bates can repeat her Commonwealth Games hitting, or turn back the clock to 2018 when her 670 T20I runs came at a strike rate of 135.35 then she will be a more than adequate replacement.
Mooney is one of the best aerial hitters in the women's game, taking a risk-reward approach to her batting. She scored at 125 during the 2020 T20 World Cup win, a tournament during which she scooped the player of the tournament prize. Though with the fewest sixes of any of the top dozen WBBL run-scorers in history, Mooney is the only batter with more than 400 fours in the competition.
Sophie Luff arrived from Welsh Fire during the off-season and is expected to be the one to try and replicate Tammy Beaumont's calming influence at the crease. The Taunton native has enjoyed a stellar summer, scoring in excess of 600 runs domestically, but at a relatively sedate rate.
Her 239 runs in the County T20 have come at a strike rate of 103, 158 CE Cup runs came from 137 balls and even her RHFT century was off 142 deliveries. Kerr junior, meanwhile, scores at virtually a run-a-ball for New Zealand (she hasn't yet hit a T20I maximum) and is more than capable of building a solid foundation.
Danielle Gibson finished the women's competition with the highest strike rate of any batter to score four or more runs. Having started the tournament in among the tail, she ended it in the middle order, hitting 34 from 19 balls to help beat Welsh Fire in Cardiff. There is certainly enough evidence to convince that it can work again. She repeated the trick for Western Storm in the CE Cup, scoring an unbeaten 24 from 14 balls to beat Central Sparks, before a punchy 26 was enough to overcome Sunrisers.
Only Welsh Fire and champions Oval Invincibles scored slower than Spirit last season, with only two players inside the top 21 strike rates in last season's competition. A frugal bowling performance got them to within touching distance of the top three, but even that isn't available to them this term. They'll need to find more power with the bat to ensure they're around at the sharp end of the competition. Losing Knight just over a week before the tournament starts leaves a chasm of experience and quality even in arguably her least favourite of the three forms.
Frey Davies offers a new-ball threat [Getty Images]
Schutt and Davies are the likely new-ball pairing for Spirit. While the Aussie is capable of bowling in virtually all conditions - watch out for her in-swinger to right-handers - Davies' height means she poses an altogether different challenge. With a T20I economy rate of 6.14, Kerr may be best used at the death to help tidy up the innings but expect her to be deployed in single-set bursts.
Grace Ballinger is the wildcard of the attack. The 20-year-old left-armer has been offers a point of difference. A steady domestic campaign was illuminated by a brilliant five-for against Thunder, dismissing all the top three before the end of the seventh over. Gibson and Naomi Dattani took five wickets between them last season and will again be called upon to take on a portion of the workload.
Dean has 56 T20 wickets since June 2017 and is unsurprisingly showing real promise after a year with the England setup. Kerr will offer the devastating combination of wickets and a low scoring rate and will be key in the middle sets when sides look to get on with it. Alternative options come in the form of Grace Scrivens and Nancy Harman, who has arrived from Trent Rockets, though neither bowled a ball last time out.
Ten-ball over candidate
Dean filled this role three times last season and feels like the most obvious contender again. Davies was also given a whirl, but Knight didn't use the innovation with great regularity - only six times in eight games.
Spirit will be hoping Beth Mooney clicks into top gear [Getty Images]
Gibson can be billed as a three-dimensional cricketer in this format. She took six catches last season and added three more in this year's Charlotte Edwards Cup. The grab to dismiss Mignon du Preez was one of the best of the last campaign.
Who takes the gloves?
Only Alyssa Healy has more WBBL dismissals than Mooney, who will offer balance to the line-up by taking the gloves despite ditching them to establish herself internationally. Nat Wraith and Amara Carr are the back-up options.
Changes from 2021: Alongside the departure of all three overseas stars, Tammy Beaumont's exit was among the most eye-catching moves during the off-season. Aylish Cranstone's exit is a curious one, too. Mooney, Schutt and the Kerr sisters are heavyweight additions, however. Sophie Luff beefs up the batting line-up, too.
Ground: Lord's may not be to everyone's taste but it is a British sporting institution. That status was enhanced with the first domestic women's final in the shadow of Father Time last summer and it won't be a one-off. England return there for their first fixture since the 2017 World Cup final. Among other things, the ground is famous for its slope; seamers are more effective from the Pavilion End, while swing bowlers will prefer bowling from the Nursery End.
Sound from the ground: BBC Radio presenter Jess Iszatt is the resident DJ at Lord's this summer. She has already appeared at the likes of Glastonbury and Secret Garden Party this summer. Live performances come from the likes of Celina Sharma and SOFY, while multi-platinum pop band Bastille will headline the final on September 3.
Fixtures: August 12 – Southern Brave (a, 3pm), August 14 – Northern Superchargers (a, 11am), August 20 – Trent Rockets (a, 3.30pm), August 24 – Welsh Fire (h, 3pm), August 27 – Oval Invincibles (h, 3.30pm), August 30 – Birmingham Phoenix (h, 3.30pm)
Squad: Beth Mooney, Amelia Kerr, Megan Schutt, Sophie Luff, Amara Carr, Freya Davies, Naomi Dattani, Charlie Dean, Danielle Gibson, Chloe Brewer (replaced Heather Knight), Alice Monaghan, Grace Scrivens, Jess Kerr, Natasha Wraith, Nancy Harman, Grace Ballinger
Possible XI: Beth Mooney, Naomi Dattani, Amelia Kerr, Sophie Luff, Danielle Gibson, Natasha Wraith, Alice Monaghan, Grace Ballinger, Charlie Dean, Freya Davies, Megan Schutt