On the 21st of August 2016, the inaugural Kia Super League reaches its conclusion. Finals day begins with the Western Storm and Loughborough Lightning playing an elimination match before the winner goes on to face the Southern Vipers for the title. With each team featuring at least one WHITE FERN, we can guarantee a New Zealander will be on hand to make history.
Before the tournament began we presented a guide to the WHITE FERNS in action, now here’s our guide to the five who’ve made it to finals day.
Suzie Bates, Sara McGlashan & Morna Nielsen
Southern Vipers – 1st
The Vipers’ WHITE FERNS trio gave a whole new meaning to their geographical name and they have all played important roles in seeing the Southampton-based side automatically qualify for the final. Although the Vipers and the Storm finished with identical records (four wins and a single loss), the Vipers claimed three bonus points to finish the round-robin with a two-point buffer.
Suzie Bates is one of the most consistent players in New Zealand cricket and she’s proven that again in the Super League – hitting double figures in every innings and taking a wicket in all but one appearance at the bowling crease. Her season stats place her among the top 5 players for: runs (180 – 3rd), batting average (45.00 – 3rd), bowling average (12.42 – 4th), bowling strike rate (14.00 – 5th), and economy rate (5.32 – 4th).
They probably won’t thank us for this stat but, following a couple of English retirements recently, England’s Jenny Gunn and New Zealand’s Sara McGlashan are the only two players from 2004’s inaugural T20I who are still playing international cricket. With a career spanning over 150 T20 appearances at all levels, Sara is easily one of the most experienced players in the format. Against the Lancashire Thunder (54* after seeing the side at 34 for 3) and the Loughborough Lightning (34*), Sara used that experience to guide the Vipers to formidable winning totals.
Morna Nielsen was a late replacement in the Vipers’ squad after Australia’s Megan Schutt was forced to withdraw. Given that Morna is the world’s highest ranked T20 bowler, it was a surprise that she wasn’t picked up initially. However it’s no surprise that she has continued to impress with the ball. In last summer’s Women’s Big Bash League, Morna was among the highest wicket-takers – even though she played a third less matches than the players ahead of her on the table. But it’s her economy rate that’s becoming a trademark of her bowling, whether for club or country. In the Super League she’s been going for 4.51 runs each over, the second-best RPO in the tournament.
Western Storm – 2nd
The Western Storm are the only side to beat the Vipers so far in the Super League and, in turn, the Loughborough Lightning are the only team to have beaten the Storm. That convergence of results adds to the intrigue of the finals where these three evenly-matched sides will compete for the title.
The Storm’s success so far has largely come off the bat of West Indian superstar, Stafanie Taylor. Taylor’s the leading run-scorer in the competition and has had scores of 74*, 78*, and 45 coming in to the finals. It looks like WHITE FERNS’ wicketkeeper, Rachel Priest is also finding form at the right time, hitting 50 in the final round-robin game against the Yorkshire Diamonds. The two international stars put on 101 for the first wicket in that match – sending out a warning to the Lightning ahead of their elimination final.
Loughborough Lightning – 3rd
Going in to the final round of matches, the Lightning, Storm and Vipers had each won three games and were only playing for final positions. The Lightning had the chance to move up the table and send out a warning against the Vipers, but an all-round performance from Suzie Bates saw them settle in 3rd spot.
In the opening game of the tournament, Sophie Devine made history, hitting the first 50 and first sixes in Super League history. Since then Sophie’s performances with the bat wouldn’t have met her own high standards but, in a team stacked with all-rounders, she has contributed with the ball. With five wickets in the tournament she’s among the top wicket-takers and has shown a knack for ending the innings – twice claiming the victory-sealer. The Lightning’s star all-round trio of Sophie, Dane van Niekerk, and Ellyse Perry have all put their hand up at various points so far this season, watch out if they fire together in the finals.