Surrey Stars start their Kia Super League today away to Yorkshire Diamonds, writes Marcus Hook.
It was the corresponding fixture last year that sparked the Stars’ miraculous KSL comeback. Few would have predicted that Surrey’s women would go on to win the 2018 title, after being blown away for 66 by the Yorkies.
Aylish Cranstone, who bats at six for the defending KSL champions, said: “The defeat to Yorkshire woke us up a bit. Quite a few people were hurting after that one, because it was so embarrassing. But it shook us up. We had to win from there on in, so we had to regroup. There was a real common goal – a bit like ‘we can’t lose, otherwise we’re out of the competition.’”
Surrey then embarked on a run of four straight victories, culminating in a 66-run win over Loughborough Lightning in the final at Hove that owed much to South Africa’s Lizelle Lee, who made a match-winning 104 off just 58 balls.
“Lizelle’s really chilled, always laughing and then she just flicks a switch,” said Cranstone.
“She felt she wasn’t getting the runs she had wanted, but we were all still behind her and believed she could do it. It’s a very supportive unit.
“In terms of retaining the title I, personally, don’t feel any added pressure. There are a few new faces [in the squad], so it’ll be a little bit different, but it’s such a tough competition. Because all the teams are so strong, it’s a bit like anybody can win it. We played well, in the end, to win it last season, but you can’t take anything away from the other teams. It all comes down to what happens on the day.”
While the KSL has put English women’s game on the map, many of the players have to balance their cricket with earning a crust.
“This is the first year I haven’t had to do temp jobs and then quit when the Kia Super League starts,” said Cranstone. “I’m currently head of girls’ cricket at Epsom College, but I also coach the county Age Group girls. It works well for me and it’s something I enjoy.
“Previously, when I’ve had full-time jobs, I’ve run myself into the ground juggling work with the intense training and matches. But the KSL has given me so much, in terms of what I’ve learnt from the overseas players and the England girls, like how to deal with the pressure situations.”
Upcoming fixtures: August 6: Yorkshire Diamonds at Headingley; Aug 8: Lancashire Thunder at Guildford; Aug 12: Southern Vipers at the Kia Oval.