A battle between two captains who would be looking to put their last year's tactical blunders behind & looking for a renewed approach. Both can be given a leeway since it was a new competition with new rules & each skipper required that 1 year buffer to figure how what's best for this format! Both teams look very good on paper and are definitely stronger than last year courtesy of the overseas signings that they have made. Trent Rockets have been significantly hit by Meg Lanning pulling out of the competition, but still looks like a strong side. Meanwhile, Manchester has 4 overseas players who have all had a similar fate in international cricket.
VENUE: Old Trafford, Manchester
Old Trafford is generally a slow surface where the ball moves early on followed by the spinners scavenging upon the batters post-PP. The average 1st innings score at this venue last year was 121. The bowling attack of both teams looks stronger, but so does the batting. This pretty much makes the average score from the last year an unlikely one this year. The good teams shall be able to ideally breach 130 this year on a regular basis.
- Manchester's likely overseas players are Lizelle Lee, Deandra Dottin, & Lea Tahuhu.
- They possess a pace attack that many opponents will be envious of. From having 4 pacers last year to having 7 quality pacers this year is a significant improvement that the management has made. Kate Cross, Grace Potts, Lea Tahuhu, Deandra Dottin are the 4 pacers who are almost guaranteed to play. This pace attack will be supported by the spin of Sophie Ecclestone, Hannah Jones, & Emma Lamb. This is a deadly combination that is going to win games for Manchester, even if the batting falters some day.
- Considering that they have several high-profile pacers this year could see Kate Cross play a restricted role as compared to the last year. This means that she might look to operate or even bowl out before the last 20 balls commence. She could leave the death-bowling to Deandra Dottin + Grace Potts/Lea Tahuhu, and Sophie Ecclestone.
- No Alex Hartley opens up a window of opportunity for Hannah Jones, who has spent most of the time in the shadows of two England internationals. She's the one to watch out for as she'd be looking to disturb the furniture of the Rockets' RHBs.
- Mahika Gaur could be playing the game if Manchester decides to add an LAP variety which could go a long way in serving them right. The question is - Will they do it?
- Emma Lamb was always a machine in the domestic system, but now she's a well-oiled machine after having gained a lot of confidence from playing for England. This could prove huge to Manchester's chances in this tournament.
- As I expect Amy Satterthwaite to be left out, Ami Campbell could get the nod in the XI. But, she could find herself playing a role down the order as there's no vacancy at the top. She's an incredible batter who is always utilized wrongly by the teams domestically despite having the potential to succeed at the top of the order.
- Georgie Boyce & Cordelia Griffith are also about to suffer the same fate as Campbell because both these players are most likely to find themselves batting out of their comfort zones. Both these batters open when Lamb is not around, but both might bat lower than #3 in this tournament which could potentially mess up their effectiveness.
Sophie Ecclestone and Lea Tahuhu will be used as floaters. If Manchester are off to a good start or want a pinch-hitter, then one or both could be promoted. If Manchester look to add the express pace of Phoebe Graham or the LAP variety of Mahika Gaur, then one of Griffith or Campbell could miss out!
1) Lizelle Lee, 2) Emma Lamb, 3) Deandra Dottin, 4) Cordelia Griffith, 5) Ami Campbell 6) Ellie Threlkeld (wk), 7) Sophie Ecclestone, 8) Lea Tahuhu, 9) Kate Cross, 10) Grace Potts, 11) Hannah Jones
- They had signed up the best overseas players last year and had pretty good domestic players. However, the utilization of some of the players was mind-boggling. This year, the squad construction itself looks comparatively weird & the utilization is out of the picture. After the addition of all-rounder Kim Garth for batter Meg Lanning, Trent Rockets have 13 players who can bowl out of the 16. There are several areas that have been left uncovered and the team has weirdly signed up players that they didn't require.
- However, Alana King is one of the best overseas signings this year, but they already have Sarah Glenn to play the exactly similar role of an RALB who can find boundaries! I'd still prefer having two leggies than none like Manchester.
- In Kim Garth (qualifies as overseas/Irish) & Kathryn Bryce, Trent has two of the best ARs from the "Associates". But one of the two could see some time being spent on the bench because of how weirdly this squad has been built. Bryce was a definite starter before Garth arrived - Now she's not. The same fate could be suffered by Villani as well if Garth is preferred for her AR skills.
- Marie Kelly and Bryony Smith have a chance to be the most lethal opening pair in this competition as both are PP impact players. But if Villani plays, then Bryony could move down the order.
- Nat Sciver will have a huge role to play as a batter and she has it sorted. She's the perfect example of a genius batter. However, she needs to be wary of not repeating those same tactical errors as last year & also keep her bowling limited.
- Trent have 2 wicket-keeping options in Abigail Freeborn and Ella Claridge, both of whom are very good batters. While Claridge could be a better option on the WK forefront + adding quick runs, Freeborn could get the nod as she is more consistent.
- The addition of Alexa Stonehouse becomes vital for this team to ensure that they do not fall back into the same patterns of having too much of the same in their XI. Stonehouse is literally the only bowler along with Marie Kelly (when she bowls SLAO) who add something different from others.
- Katherine Brunt is in top form with the ball & will be a great individual to mentor the other pacers in the side. Her experience along with Mignon du Preez will be important as the supporting cast to Sciver.
Extremely difficult coming up with what XI they can field. It's a team that knows how to mess up & not use their resources correctly. It's what the past suggests, & I am afraid - It's what we might see again today. Emma Marlow could get the nod ahead of Kathryn Bryce because of the match being at a venue where spin plays a bigger role. However, they already have 4 spinners in the XI excluding Marlow, but they also have 4 pacers excluding Bryce. So it's tough to tell what they will do. Elyse Villani could be left out for Kim Garth. If Villani plays, then Bryony will bat at #5 which is not the best position for her as she's a PP smasher.
1) Marie Kelly, 2) Bryony Smith, 3) Nat Sciver, 4) Mignon du Preez, 5) Abigail Freeborn (wk), 6) Kim Garth, 7) Alana King, 8) Katherine Brunt, 9) Kathryn Bryce/Emma Marlow, 10) Sarah Glenn, 11) Alexa Stonehouse
Outshining the Manchester Originals bowlers is going to be hard this year, & Trent Rockets might get a taste of it in their first match.