BY MARCUS HOOK
South East Stars’ skipper Bryony Smith does not view having to reach Saturday’s final of the Charlotte Edwards Cup via the play-off as a disadvantage, not least because her side travel to finals day at Northampton as the defending T20 champions in the women’s domestic game.
The Stars will meet Group B rivals Central Sparks in the play-off for the chance to take on Southern Vipers, who topped Group A with six wins out of six.
“I don’t think being in the play-off game is a disadvantage at all,” said Smith. “In previous seasons, with the Kia Super League, the team who won the play-off usually went on to win the final, so we’ll take a lot of confidence from finishing top of our group into Saturday and see what happens.”
Following a thumping 56-run victory over Sunrisers in South East Stars’ final group game, Smith said: “That’s the brand of cricket we want to play. We want to be really positive, which we know isn’t always going to come off, but, fortunately, today it did. We controlled the chase with Kalea Moore, who is someone I can bank on to lower the run-rate and get me a wicket.
“Aylish Cranstone has been in great form with the bat and is playing simple cricket, really. She showed again that she can be a 360-degree player, which is what we want.”
Cranstone, who is averaging 78.33 in this year’s competition, has happy memories of last summer’s final of the Charlotte Edwards Cup.
“Me and Bryony enjoyed a 71-run opening partnership in last year’s final, against Northern Diamonds, and we’d love to do it again,” said the 27-year-old.
“Bryony is a consistent performer. She’s very calm and very level-headed. She had a fantastic year last year in both the 50-over and T20 competitions. We have quite different styles but, together, they work quite well.”
Just a couple of years ago, Cranstone was having to juggle playing cricket with a full-time job, at Epsom College. But thanks to the introduction of professional contracts, as well as The Hundred, women’s cricket has experienced an explosion since then.
“I’m not working there any more,” said Cranstone. “For the last 18 months I have been a professional with South East Stars. The school hours meant there wasn’t time to combine the two, so it has been nice to focus solely on cricket and do little bits of coaching alongside.”
Cranstone, who played for London Spirit in last year’s Hundred, but has made the switch to Oval Invincibles for this summer’s tournament, has witnessed the transformation in the women’s game more than anyone.
“The reach and the amount of people The Hundred got to was amazing,” she said. “I had a number of friends who weren’t remotely interested in cricket, but they came to watch a couple of games and just loved the atmosphere.
“The level of cricket also showed we were there to compete and there were some fantastic games.
“Surrey are also very supportive, and really passionate about women’s cricket.
“There’s a picture of me on the pavilion as you walk into the ground. But, as a county, they are leading the way in terms of showcasing women’s cricket.”