All you need to know about Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy 2023
Krithika V writes provides a team-by-team guide and the players to watch out for this season of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy 2023.
Named after the legendary Rachael Heyhoe Flint, the eponymous 50-over tournament will be underway from April 22, 2023. This is the fourth edition of the tournament, and the first three editions have featured the same finalists.
While the Southern Vipers won the first two editions, the Northern Diamonds finally got one back in 2022.
Northern Diamonds (champions in 2022; captain: Hollie Armitage; head coach: Dani Hazell)
The Northern Diamonds and Southern Vipers have featured in all three finals of the RHF Trophy. In the 2022 final, the Diamonds finally defeated two-time champions Vipers. However, this is going to be a tricky season for them as they have lost a few experienced players.
The have lost Linsey Smith, who ended as the leading wicket-taker in 2022, to Southern Vipers, and Nat Sciver-Brunt to Blaze, the new Nottingham-based team; and the legendary Jenny Gunn and Katherine Sciver-Brunt have retired. Meanwhile, they signed up Chloe Tryon until August.
Key players: The experienced Lauren Winfield-Hill ended as the leading run-scorer of the 2022 edition, and scored a century in the recently concluded Fairbreak Invitational T20. Katie Levick, meanwhile, has 297 career wickets across the two limited-overs formats – the most in the history of England domestic cricket; she was also the leading wicket-taker in the 2022 Charlotte Edwards Cup.
Key youngster: Nineteen-year-old all-rounder Phoebe Turner is the one to keep an eye on. She signed her first regional contract recently, and scored fifty against the Sunrisers during a pre-season practice game.
Southern Vipers (runners-up in 2022; captain: Georgia Adams; head coach: Charlotte Edwards)
After helping Mumbai Indians lift the inaugural Women’s Premier League, Charlotte Edwards is back to coaching the Vipers, who will be raring to go this year after missing out on a hat-trick of trophies.
Their strong 19-member squad includes Academy graduates Sophie Mitchelmore and Mary Taylor as well as international stars Danni Wyatt, Charlie Dean and Lauren Bell.
However, when the international stars leave for national duty, they will have to fall back upon experienced players like Charlotte Taylor, Georgia Adams, and Georgia Elwiss to stand up.
The Vipers have lost Carla Rudd, who has retired after a stint with the Vipers since 2016; Tara Norris, their leading wicket-taker in 2022, who moved to Thunder; and Paige Scholfield, who will play for South East Stars.
Unlike other teams, Southern Vipers did not get to play the pre-season warm-ups. Three of their games got called off because of pitch conditions. However, they played an inter-squad game, where Adams and Dean captained the two sides. McCaughan and Adams were the standout performers with half-centuries.
Key players: The experience of Georgia Adams and Georgia Elwiss, both of whom will be available for the entire season, will come in particularly handy when the international stars leave for national duty.
Key youngster to watch out for: Mary Taylor picked up 2-18 for Sussex against Hampshire Pathways in the ECB Women’s T20 County earlier this month. She had also notched up a 121-ball 151 in the 2022 South Central Regional Cup, against Dorset Cricket Board.
South East Stars (reached playoffs in 2022; captain: Bryony Smith; head Coach: Johann Myburgh)
South East Stars was among the teams affected by national call-ups in 2022. Sophia Dunkley, Alice Capsey, Alice Davidson-Richards, Bryony Smith and Freya Davies were part of the England squad last year, and may be unavailable this season as well. Of England’s centrally contracted players, only Freya Davies is available for the first-round games.
The Stars have lost Eva Gray to Sunrisers, Chloe Brewer to Central Sparks, and Rhianna Southby to Southern Vipers. They have roped in all-rounder Paige Scholfield, who was part of the Vipers for the past three years.
Key player: Tash Farrant will return to the team after being sidelined because of a back injury in the last edition. She finished the Fairbreak Invitational T20 with three wickets and 95 runs.
Key youngster: Only 16, wicketkeeper Jemima Spence may not be a regular in the XI, but is one for the future. She scored a half-century in the first warm-up match against Central Sparks that the Stars won.
The Blaze (sixth in 2022; captain: Kirstie Gordon; head coach: Chris Guest)
The Lightning will call themselves The Blaze this year. They have signed up two superstars for the season, Nat Sciver-Brunt and Sarah Glenn, who will join England teammate Tammy Beaumont. However, they all will be on national duty after the initial rounds.
The Blaze has also signed up South African all-rounder Nadine de Klerk, a star with the ball for South Africa in this year’s T20 World Cup match against England.
Key players: Apart from England internationals, the team will feature Kathryn Bryce of Scotland, who ended as the leading wicket-taker of the recent Fairbreak Invitational T20. Georgie Boyce, too, is coming into the tournament after scoring 59(83) against Sunrisers and 50*(37) against Northern Diamonds in the warm-up matches.
Key youngster: Josie Groves, the 18-year-old spinner, grabbed five wickets in this year’s U19 World Cup. In the last edition, she had made 55 and picked up 2-34 against Southern Vipers.
Sunrisers (eighth in 2022; captain: Kelly Castle; head coach: Andy Tennant)
Sunrisers come into this tournament after winning all five pre-season practice games. Grace Scrivens, the 2022 leading run-scorer as well as wicket-taker of the Sunrisers, played key role in this streak with two hundreds. Against the Stars, she made 101 when the second-highest score in the team was seven.
The Sunrisers have also signed up Dane van Niekerk for the season. Her experience may turn things around for a side that has lost 19 of their 20 matches so far.
Key players: The Oval Invincibles duo of Mady Villiers and Dane van Niekerk holds the key for the Sunrisers, apart from the breakout star Grace Scrivens.
Key youngster: Scotland international Saskia Horley is someone to watch out for here. She scored 51(66) for New South Wales Women in the final rounds of WNCL in February.
Western Storm (fourth in 2022; captain: Sophie Luff; head coach: Trevor Griffin)
Heather Knight and Fran Wilson are two of the biggest names in the team. However, Knight will not be available for the full season. Wilson (84) and captain Sophie Luff (56) looked good in the warm-up game against Central Sparks. The team will depend on them once again.
Danni Gibson is yet another experienced player to keep an eye on. She scored 76 and 56 in the last two matches of the RHF Trophy 2022. The team also features youngsters like Sophia Smale, Chloe Skelton, Lauren Filer and Niamh Holland, all of whom have been handed maiden professional contracts this year.
Key players: Chloe Skelton made heads turn with her off-spin in the last edition. She picked up a fifer against South East Stars as well. Lauren Filer ended as the leading wicket-taker for Western Storm in 2022. Against Thunder, she broke the stumps into two to dismiss Laura Marshall.
Key youngster: Teenage spinner Sophia Smale helped the Oval Invincibles win The Hundred in 2022, and went on to take 10 wickets in this year’s U19 World Cup.
Thunder (seventh in 2022; captain: Ellie Threlkeld; head coach: Paul Shaw)
This year, Thunder have acquired Tara Norris (from Southern Vipers), Fi Morris (from Western Storm), Naomi Dattani (from Sunrisers), Steph Butler (from Central Sparks), along with Hannah Rainey of Scotland, and Deandra Dottin, who returns to the squad as an overseas player.
England players Emma Lamb, Kate Cross and the World Cup winner Alex Hartley will be available for at least the initial rounds.
During their pre-season tour, Thunder played the UAE team in Dubai as well as the Mumbai U19 Boys (Lamb got a hundred) and the Girls Senior Development (Cross completed a hat-trick).
Key players: Apart from the England international cricketers and Deandra Dottin, the experience of Naomi Dattani and Ellie Threlkeld might bring in some fortunes for the team.
Key youngster: Liberty Heap did show off her attacking skills in the recently concluded U19 World Cup. She scored 149 runs at a strike rate of 143. This could be the breakout season for the youngster.
Central Sparks (seventh in 2022; captain: Eve Jones; head coach: Lloyd Tennant)
The Central Sparks have signed up Katie George, Chloe Brewer and Erin Burns for the season. The Australian all-rounder will be available from May to July for the Sparks. England international Issy Wong returns to the team as well after helping the Mumbai Indians win the Women’s Premier League.
The Sparks lost both their pre-season warm-up games. Captain Eve Jones made only 24, and will look for a fresh start in the tournament. However, Davina Perrin, the break-out star from 2022, scored a half-century against South East Stars.
Key players: Apart from Issy Wong, Grace Potts is expected to play a major role here. She was the leading wicket-taker for the Sparks in the last edition.
Key youngster: Leg-spinner Hannah Baker was impressive at the U19 World Cup, finishing as the leading wicket-taker for England. She grabbed three wickets in a couple of warm-up games recently. Watch out for her googly.