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‘You never get bored of winning’ – Southern Vipers aim to wrap-up regional era of dominance

Southern Vipers were coached to a domestic double by Charlotte Edwards in 2023
by Katya Witney 4 minute read

On the eve of the final season under the regional system, the Southern Vipers‘ leadership duo of Charlotte Edwards and Georgia Adams speak to Katya Witney on what’s made the side the dominant force of the regional era.

Charlotte Edwards doesn’t miss a trick. As she watches her players in the nets fewer than two days before the start of the season, she’s anxious to make sure everything runs according to her plan. “If things don’t move at my pace I get a bit antsy,” she says, surveying training proceedings. “I want us to be efficient, and I don’t want us to be wasting time.”

If you were looking for a point of difference that has made Southern Vipers the dominant side of the regional era, you don’t have to look far beyond Edwards’ magic touch. Last year, aside from a historic double title-winning campaign with the Vipers, she coached Southern Brave to Hundred victory and was behind Mumbai Indians’ win in the first edition of the WPL.

However, it’s the Vipers that she sees as her primary vocation. After Mumbai’s final game in this year’s WPL, she was back in Southampton the following day. Despite her role as one of the first global coaches of the women’s game, the Utilita Bowl is never far from her mind.

“I’m in constant contact with all of the coaches on a daily basis when I’m away,” says Edwards. “And the players very much know that. I’m so lucky, I’ve got so many great people at the club that when I’m away, I feel completely secure that everyone is going to be looked after,” she explains before re-confirming that regardless of where she is in the world, she remains in control. “But I check in every day,” adds Edwards.

“They’re probably fed up with me. But I make sure every session is going to plan and players are doing what we expect of them. If they’re not, they’ll get a call from me to say, ‘Come on, you need to be better.’ Or they’ll get a nice call to say, ‘You’re doing a great job’.”

The start of the 2024 season has an added layer of meaning for Edwards and the Vipers squad. Aside from aiming to defend both domestic trophies, Project Darwin is set to kick in at the end of the season, making it their last year in their current form. While Hampshire have been awarded Tier One status, the regional system will cease to exist, and new sides will start the era afresh.

In the bubble of the winning environment which has been created in Southampton, with its extensive player pathway and integration into the Hampshire consciousness, you don’t need to step too far outside to see the reason for the change.

“If you asked me six months ago [whether the restructure is needed], I was thinking, ‘Why is there a need for this?’” says Edwards. “Everything felt like it was going well, but I think I was in a different situation. I was here, I felt like it was running well and we had integration [with the men’s sides] already. So it didn’t feel like it was necessary.

“But when I talk to other teams and other regions, I think it is necessary. You need to feel part of a club. Our girls absolutely feel part of Hampshire Cricket. We might be Southern Vipers, but we’re part of Hampshire Cricket through and through, whereas I know there have been challenges in other regions with that.”

As a testament to the Vipers’ integration at Southampton, as they train ahead of their opening Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy game, their nets are just over the boundary rope of an ongoing Hampshire men’s second XI match. Keeping an eye on both sets of proceedings is Keith Barker, who’s been helping out the extensive Vipers coaching staff with their fast-bowling stocks over the winter.

This season will be the first that attack goes into without Anya Shrubsole, who retired at the end of last season. Her absence – along with the number of players they lose to England duty at various points in the summer – has required future planning and regeneration over the last few years, over which they’ve recruited a breadth of players.

“Something I really pride this group on is that I want the right people here,” says Edwards. “Firstly it’s about the person; sometimes the cricket becomes secondary. Linsey [Smith] was here years ago and we wanted to get her back to the region. Freya Davies was another person we targeted. We knew our bowling stocks were less after losing Anya, and she’s the same type of player, and I’d heard great reports of her from players who’d played in the same teams as her. She was an obvious choice for us.”

“Although we won two trophies last season, we didn’t actually play at our best. We targeted some real areas this winter. Fielding was one of them, bowling against left-handers was another one, although we’ve not got many of them to bowl against, and our all-round batting in 50-over cricket is something we’re focussing on across the board.”

Last season, the Vipers were ranked fifth in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint table by the August break for The Hundred. At that point, they’d won three out of ten games with only four left to play. After the break, they went on to win all four of those games and subsequently gained automatic qualification for the final.

A significant amount of credit for the start of that golden run has to go to Georgia Adams’ individual run of form. She scored 81 in the Vipers’ first match in September, which ended in a tight nerve-wracking win over Northern Diamonds, and followed it up with 71 in her next outing.

“We assessed quickly that we were going to use the Rachael Heyhoe Flint to try and develop some of our younger players,” says Adams. “It’s not just about the trophies; one of my proudest moments was seeing a handful of our academy players step up into senior cricket and perform. Ava Lee had an outstanding summer with the ball and proved instrumental in winning us the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final in the end. We started to see Mary Taylor thrive at the top level.”

“After the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final I remember having a moment and looking at our director of cricket Adam Carty and saying, ‘I don’t know if it’s going to get any better than this’. He looked at me and responded with, ‘It probably won’t, so we need to make sure we enjoy it while we can and stay hungry moving forward’. You never get bored of winning. Competitive nature takes over and working with Lottie [Edwards] is great as well because she shares my competitiveness and my hunger to win.”

Adams finished the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy last year as the second-highest run-scorer, and fourth on the wicket-taking charts. The central role Adams has had in the Vipers’ success, both on and off the field as a leader and a player, stands alongside Edwards’. They share a sense of responsibility to the Vipers, no matter what incentives might be available to them elsewhere as the game continues to expand.

“I would never miss a Vipers game, no matter the financial incentives” says Adams, who spent the winter playing in the WBBL and in Australian state cricket for New South Wales before joining up with England A in New Zealand. “I just wouldn’t do that. As captain of the team and someone who’s very driven to continue to win trophies with the Vipers, I just wouldn’t be willing to miss that, even if it was for a high financial reward.”

While the set-up Edwards and Adams have played such a pivotal role in will continue into 2025, this year marks the end of their current incarnation. Having won at least one trophy in each year of the regional era, they have two opportunities this year to sign off this phase with a statement. Regardless of what comes next, the Vipers have exemplified a level of dominance few teams are able to reach. Retaining that silverware would be a fitting end to what’s unquestionably been the Vipers’ era.

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