Kia Super League 'instrumental' to England Women's World Cup win

By Tom GarryBBC Sport
Western Storm
Western Storm won the title in the Kia Super League's second season last year
Women's Kia Super League 2018
Dates: 22 July - 27 August
Coverage: Commentary on selected games on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra & BBC Local Radio, plus coverage on the BBC Sport website

The formation of the Kia Super League in 2016 was "instrumental" to England's World Cup success, says Loughborough Lightning all-rounder Georgia Elwiss.

The six-team domestic T20 competition's third season starts on Sunday, one day before the first anniversary of 2017's Women's World Cup final win over India.

Each side will face the other five at home and away, doubling the number of group games from the past two seasons.

Western Storm beat 2016 champions Southern Vipers in last year's final.

"Having twice the amount of games is really important to keep this tournament growing," Surrey Stars captain and England all-rounder Natalie Sciver told BBC Sport.

"Since its inception it's just been growing from strength to strength. Hopefully English cricket supporters will want to come and watch the development of younger players."

This year's round-robin stage will be held between Sunday, 22 July and Saturday, 18 August, with the top three sides going through to Finals Day.

The second and third-placed sides will compete in the semi-final on Monday, 27 August from 12:00 BST at Hove, with the winner of that game proceeding to the final against the table-toppers from 16:00 later that day.

Could England have won the Women's World Cup without the KSL?

England's World Cup triumph last July ended an eight-year wait for a global trophy and came a year after the introduction of the KSL.

Asked whether that dramatic win over India at Lord's could have happened without the domestic competition's emergence, England's Elwiss said: "We could have won it, but it would have been a lot harder.

"We've learnt a hell of a lot from the Kia Super League. I've learnt loads from the overseas players coming in, and seeing how they go about their business.

"But also it's bridging a gap and it's brought younger players through, who have performed on that stage and then performed for England, so it's been instrumental in our success."

England and Yorkshire Diamonds all-rounder Katherine Brunt added: "Including this new tournament a couple of years ago was a massive shift. The improvements in the standard are really showing.

"The skill-sets and the power of each team now is two, three or four times what it was."

Which teams are the main contenders?

Both of the two previous KSL finals have been contested between Southern Vipers and Western Storm, with the Vipers topping the table ahead of Finals Day in both campaigns.

Loughborough Lightning (2016) and Surrey Stars (2017) have featured in semi-finals, but Lancashire Thunder and Yorkshire Diamonds are yet to reach Finals Day.

However, 2017 champions Storm suffered two defeats in their five round-robin fixtures last term, before going on to win the final, arguably highlighting the competitive depth within the league.

Opening fixtures - Sunday, 22 July (all 14:30 BST)
Lancashire Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (Southport)
Surrey Stars v Southern Vipers (Guildford)
Western Storm v Yorkshire Diamonds (Taunton)

"Western Storm really packed a punch last year," Brunt added. "They've got some really powerful strikers.

"They'll be a tough team to contend with, but every team has strengths and so every game will be hard fought."

England opener Tammy Beaumont, who has switched from the Stars to the Vipers, said: "We don't want the same teams in the final every season, even though I want the Vipers to be there again.

"The test this year is going to be how the domestic players go. Hopefully we'll see them come through and start winning games for their teams."

Elwiss added: "It will probably benefit us [Lightning] that there are 10 games - it will mean we can hopefully build in to the competition as it goes on. It's a marathon, not a sprint, this year."

BBC Radio 5 live sports extra coverage (all times BST)
Sunday, 22 July (14:30): Western Storm v Yorkshire Diamonds (online, then on 5LSX from 16:30 after F1 finishes)
Wednesday, 25 July (19:00): Southern Vipers v Loughborough Lightning (online)
Friday, 27 July (14:30): Yorkshire Diamonds v Lancashire Thunder
Sunday, 29 July (12:00): Western Storm v Loughborough Lightning
Tuesday, 31 July (14:30): Surrey Stars v Lancashire Thunder
Tuesday, 7 August (14:30): Lancashire Thunder v Surrey Stars
Wednesday, 8 August (14:30): Southern Vipers v Yorkshire Diamonds
Tuesday, 14 August (14:30): Southern Vipers v Surrey Stars
Wednesday, 15 August (15:00): Loughborough Lightning v Western Storm
Monday, 27 August (12:00): Finals Day