At the top: Left to right (Danielle Hazell, Georgia Elwiss, Charlotte Edwards) At the bottom: Left to right (Natalie Sciver, Heather Knight, Lauren Winfield) © Getty Images
At the top: Left to right (Danielle Hazell, Georgia Elwiss, Charlotte Edwards)
At the bottom: Left to right (Natalie Sciver, Heather Knight, Lauren Winfield) © Getty Images

Thursday, April 6, marked a big day for women’s cricket when the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) released the list of England and overseas players who will feature in the second edition of the Women’s Super League.

In its very first year, the Women’s Super League gained much popularity with crowds nearing almost 3,000 gathering in some of the bigger grounds like The Oval, The Ageas Bowl and Headingley. In an attempt to increase that popularity, as many as 8 matches will be broadcast live — a first for women’s domestic cricket in England.

“After the success of 2016, we know we can expect to see some outstanding performances in the second season of this T20 competition,” said Clare Connor, ECB’s Director of Women’s Cricket. “Hopefully the players and the quality of cricket can inspire new participants and fans across the country.

The tournament involves six teams of 15 players each. Each squad consists of three or four England players, three overseas players, two or three England Academy players and six or seven others usually selected from the county circuit.

All 18 of England Women’s contracted players will take part in the league, along with 16 other international stars from four countries — Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and West Indies. While several players have changed teams, there are others who will make their first appearance in the league. There are also two spots (one each for the Surrey Stars and Western Storm) for overseas players that will be confirmed in due course.

For now, here is how the teams stack up.

Lancashire Thunder

RETAINED: Kate Cross, Sarah Taylor (both England), Amy Satterthwaite (New Zealand)

IN: Danielle Hazell (England), Jess Jonassen (Australia), Lea Tahuhu (New Zealand)

OUT: Danielle Wyatt (England), Deandra Dottin, Hayley Matthews (both West Indies)

After a terribly disappointing first season, Lancashire Thunder have made a fair few changes to their squad. Hazell, the England Women off-spinner, has been roped in and will replace Satterthwaite as skipper.

Thunder, who managed only 1 win from their 5 league games last season, will be counting on their new recruits to help turn things around. The West Indies duo of Dottin and Matthews, who failed to pull their weight in 2016, has been released.

Jonassen, the Australian all-rounder who missed the previous edition due to a shoulder injury, is expected to make a big impact this time. She will be joined by New Zealand pace ace Tahuhu; Satterthwaite, Thunder’s highest scorer in the previous edition (146 runs in 5 matches), and Cross, the England Women right-arm seamer.

Taylor, who has joined the England Women’s training camp in UAE almost a year after taking a break, has been retained in the squad.

Loughborough Lightning

RETAINED: Georgia Elwiss, Amy Jones, Beth Langston (all England), Ellyse Perry (Australia)

IN: Kristen Beams, Elyse Villani (both Australia)

OUT: Rebecca Grundy (England), Sophie Devine (New Zealand), Dane van Niekerk (South Africa)

One of the strongest and most dynamic teams last season, Loughborough Lightning fell just short of the final, losing to Western Storm in their play-off match. Perry, a standout with the bat, is the only overseas player to have been retained. Perry will be joined by two of her international teammates — opening batter Villani and leg-spinner Beams — both of whom will be making KSL debuts.

Captain Elwiss, wicketkeeper Jones and Langston have both been retained in the squad, while left-arm spinner Grundy has been left out.

Southern Vipers

RETAINED: Charlotte Edwards, Natasha Farrant, Arran Brindle (all England), Suzie Bates (New Zealand)

IN: Danielle Wyatt (England), Hayley Matthews (West Indies), Dane van Niekerk (South Africa)

OUT: Lydia Greenway (England), Sara McGlashan, Morna Nielsen (both New Zealand)

The defending champions have added more firepower to their otherwise consistently steady batting line up. Former England Women batter Greenway is unavailable for the tournament. She has been replaced by pocket rocket Wyatt. The experienced duo of Edwards and Brindle has been retained in the squad.

Matthews, who had a disappointing outing with Thunder last season, will be hoping she can turn that form around. Her more-than-useful off-spin will add variety to the bowling attack which will be led by England’s left-arm seamer Farrant. South African skipper van Niekerk has grown as a leader over the past year and will be an asset with both bat and ball for the Vipers. She holds the record for the highest individual score (91 off 64 balls) in the Super League.

Bates has been retained after her dominant display last year where she was the second-highest run scorer (232 runs in 6 matches) and wicket taker (8 wickets in 6 matches) in the tournament.

Surrey Stars

RETAINED: Tammy Beaumont, Alex Hartley, Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver (all England), Rene Farrell (Australia), Marizanne Kapp (South Africa)

OUT: Lea Tahuhu (New Zealand)

Sciver was one of the standouts in the first edition of the Super League. She scored 181 runs in 5 matches at an average of 90.50 and strike rate of 134. Along with Beaumont, who has been given the additional responsibility of captaincy, Marsh and Kapp, Sciver will form the core of the batting unit.

Kapp, Farrell and Hartley, all of whom have been retained, will lead the Stars’ charge with the ball.

Surrey have one overseas spot up for grabs. Apart from Hartley they do not have a genuine spin option, since Marsh’s off-spin is somewhat like medium-pace. Whether they choose a frontline spinner or a batting all-rounder who bowls a bit of spin will be interesting to see: maybe someone like Harmanpreet Kaur will fit in!

Western Storm

RETAINED: Heather Knight, Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson (all England), Rachel Priest (New Zealand), Stafanie Taylor (West Indies)

OUT: Lizelle Lee (South Africa)

Western Storm, last year’s finalists, have retained much of their squad. England Women captain Knight will continue to lead the team. Taylor, the West Indies skipper, and Priest, New Zealand’s wicketkeeper, will be expected to provide the fireworks at the top of the order, while the likes of Knight and Wilson control the latter half of the innings.

Shrubsole, whose 8 wickets last season included a stunning five-wicket haul (5 for 23) against Yorkshire Diamonds, will no doubt lead the bowling attack.

Having let go of Lee, the hard-hitting South African opener, Storm, too, have one overseas position open. Like the Stars, they are also a batting-heavy team, and a bowling all-rounder could be exactly what they are looking for.

Yorkshire Diamonds

RETAINED: Katherine Brunt, Jenny Gunn, Lauren Winfield (all England), Beth Mooney (Australia)

IN: Sune Luus (South Africa), Sophie Devine (New Zealand)

OUT: Danielle Hazell (England), Alex Blackwell (Australia), Shabnim Ismail (South Africa)

Yorkshire Diamonds boasted of one of the strongest pace attacks last season, but the likes of Brunt, Ismail and Gunn flattered to deceive. They were not helped by the batters’ failure to step up either.

Despite managing only 1 win in 5 matches, Yorkshire have retained the core of their team. Winfield and Mooney, who have stunning records with bat in WBBL, will hold the batting together, while Brunt and Gunn will take charge with ball.

While Hazell has been released, South African leg-spinner Luus has been brought in. She will be expected to carry the burden of the spin contingent. Devine will bring some firepower to the middle order, and her medium-pace will come in handy as well.

The Women’s Super League will begin on August 10, soon after ICC Women’s World Cup, with the final on August 26.