Either Carlton or West of Scotland will be crowned as Women’s Premier League champions this weekend at the climax of what has been a fascinating competition. While the holders go into the final round as favourites to retain their title, West will be looking to capitalise on any last-minute slip-up to claim their first-ever league win.
With near-identical records – both have been beaten only once this season – either would be worthy winners of Scotland’s foremost domestic tournament.
“We’ve had a strong year,” said West captain Lauren Payas, a former Gibraltar international. “Beating Carlton in our first game put us in a good position for the rest of the season. We’ve had some games either rained off or conceded so we haven’t been able to play as many games as we would have liked, but I think we’ve done really well as a team.
“Our juniors have really shown their [worth] which has been really good to see, because a lot of them have been here since we started the team back in 2018. To see them progress to where they are now has been great. West of Scotland is a really inclusive club and it’s a really enjoyable environment to be a part of.”
“To be honest I think we’ve surprised ourselves a little bit,” said Carlton skipper Annette Aitken-Drummond. “We started with the loss to West, and with it being such a short season we thought that we’d maybe lost our chance. We were seeing Northern Lights putting 300 past teams and Stew-Mel doing really well but we kept taking each game in turn, hoping that we could build some consistency.
“But the Northern Lights game was the real turning point for us,” she went on. “It was such a tight match, and to go into it with real belief and then have Sammy [Haggo] go out and get 61 off 32 balls at the crucial moment, it won us the game and made our season, really.
“But we still have another game to go at RHC, and hopefully it goes in our favour.”
The competitiveness of this year’s tournament has been its biggest story. Dumfries & Galloway’s win over Northern Lights last weekend was the latest in the series of pivotal results that have shaped the outcome of the campaign: the upcoming Beyond Boundaries Scottish Cup will be a tricky one to call. But for Annette, the way her side has responded to the challenges it has faced has been most pleasing of all.
“It’s definitely been tougher this season,” she said. “The league is certainly much stronger: there are teams out there who have really pushed us to the limit, and we’ve been without our Scotland players for a lot of the time as well. We didn’t have Sam at the start and then we lost Abbi [Aitken-Drummond] halfway through, so what’s probably the most pleasing thing for me is the way in which our younger players have really stood up and performed when they had to.
“Our ability to bat deep is maybe our biggest strength: a few of the other teams might rely on one or two batters, but when it’s come to the crunch this season we’ve had batters step up at five and six when we’ve needed them, which then takes the pressure off the openers and allows them to go in and play their natural game.
“We’ve also bowled incredibly well,” she went on. “I know I’m like a broken record when I talk about attacking the stumps, but last season, even though we did the double, we did bowl outside off quite a lot and were happy with maidens. But we’re not happy with that now: we want to take wickets and bowl the opposition out, and that has really shown this season in a couple of our bowlers. Zaara [Dancu] getting four wickets at the weekend for example, all bowled, shows just how much we are attacking the stumps, and that’s really, really good to see.”
While Carlton are bidding for their third WPL crown, West are looking for their first major honour.
“We didn’t really know how we were going to go this season,” said Annette. “We didn’t know how strong Northern Lights were going to be, but we knew that West were going to be as they traditionally are and that Stew-Mel would have their star players as well. So for us to be able to win it for the second year in a row would be a pretty incredible achievement, and show the hard work that’s gone in at the club over the last couple of years.”
“To win the title would be fantastic because the girls put in so much hard work over the winter and then the summer in their training at West, so it would be a great reward for their efforts,” said Lauren. “We’re happy to be playing cricket, but taking some silverware home would be great as well.”
Women’s Premier League – 3 July 2022
Grange v McCrea FS West of Scotland (at Portgower Place)
Stewart’s Melville v Northern Lights (at Inverleith)
RH Corstorphine v Carlton (at Royal High School)
Watsonians Dumfries CC/Galloway CC v (at Myreside)
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