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Kia Super League Preview: Western Storm v Lancashire Thunder

Sophie Luff is confident Western Storm can make home advantage count as they seek to qualify for Finals Day in the Kia Super League.

With a record of two wins and two defeats from four games, the Storm must defeat bottom-of-the-table Lancashire Thunder at the Brightside Ground in Bristol on Saturday if they are to secure their place at Hove on September 1st.

The equation is a simple one; fourth-placed Storm must better Yorkshire Diamonds’ result in order to move above the northern county and claim the third and final qualification spot behind likely group winners Surrey Stars and defending champions Southern Vipers.

Diamonds face a tough task, needing to beat Vipers at the Ageas Bowl to be sure of finishing third in the group. Currently behind Yorkshire on net run rate, Western Storm will be seeking a favour from a Vipers team that needs to win to secure it’s own place at finals day.

A Vipers win in Southampton will pave the way for the Storm to book their place at Hove, providing they can overcome a Thunder side that has lost all four matches in this season’s competition.

Former England development squad member and Under-19 international Luff believes playing in Bristol gives her and her teammates a crucial advantage. “We really love playing at Bristol and Taunton and have a good record on those grounds,” she said. “It’s always good to come home and we’re confident we can finish the job off at Bristol. The crowd are always very supportive of us and we all really enjoy playing there.

“The crowd was brilliant when we beat Loughborough Lightning at Taunton and we need a similar result at Bristol in what is an all-or-nothing game.”

Renowned as a more than capable finisher, Luff hit the winning runs in front of her home-town crowd as Lightning were beaten by five wickets a fortnight ago. It’s a role she is fast becoming accustomed to and, in the event that the Storm are required to chase at Bristol on Saturday, the hard-hitting right-hander will happily take responsibility for helping her side over the line.

Having struck four boundaries in making 18 not out to calm Storm nerves against Lightning, she said: “It’s a role I like to play. There’s pressure, but I seem to thrive on it. If they are bowling, I like to try and target the spinners and hit over the top. It came off (against Lightning) and it was good that we managed to finish the game so well after a few jitters. I just love to play my shots and, if we’re chasing again and I’m out there in the middle, I will be positive and play my natural game.”

Star players Stafanie Taylor and Anya Shrubsole have put their injury problems behind them and Storm are expected to be at full strength against a Thunder side that is still seeking it’s first victory.

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