CENTRAL Sparks opening batter Issy Wong believes history could give her side the edge ahead of Finals Day in the Charlotte Edwards Cup.
Wong has excelled in her role as pinch-hitter and starred as Sparks beat defending champions South East Stars with 45 runs from 28 balls in their Group A clash last month.
And the Sparks and Stars face off again on Finals Day in the semi-finals with the winner going on to play Southern Vipers in the final at the County Ground in Northampton.
Wong said: “We’re really excited and we’re really looking forward to it. We worked so hard over the winter to try and get to a position where we can win things as a team and we have that opportunity on Saturday, but first we have to get through the semi-final.
“We’re happy with how we’ve gone. We’ve been in a strong group and the format is pretty quick. We took a lot of confidence from our bonus point win over the Stars and hopefully that’s something that will give us confidence on Saturday.
“I don’t know whether we’d rather go straight to the final like the Southern Vipers have. History would suggest from men’s T20 Blast competitions that it can be a bit of an advantage to have come through a semi-final so we’ll hope that’s the case for us.
“We’ve come this far and now it’s just about getting over the line.”
The 20-year-old has surprised even herself by batting at the top of the order and is better known for her fast-bowling but has enjoyed her spell starting at the crease.
Wong added: “It’s been a fun little role! I have worked really hard on my batting. I had a few good innings in the WBBL and some half-decent swings of the bat in The Hundred and that’s really grown my confidence.
“It’s a role I’ve enjoyed doing. The coaches have been really clear with what they want me to do and that’s been really helpful.
“I don’t know whether it’s a role I’ll keep for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy but I enjoy it a lot and it’s nice for me to see my hard work with the bat get rewarded.
“I tell you what, I didn’t view myself as an opening batter! I used to bat at No.5 for Warwickshire and I opened the batting at school but schoolgirl cricket is very different to playing for your region in a professional competition.
“But the coaches threw me up the top in pre-season and it’s not a role you’re ever going to turn down.”
And Wong is full of praise for her teammates, which include England internationals Amy Jones and Sarah Glenn, as they try and win the trophy for the first time.
She said: “Grace Potts has been so impressive in her first full year. She’s taken some big wickets and she’s been a brilliant partner to share the new ball with.
“And then there is Bakes [Hannah Baker] and Glenny [Sarah Glenn]. I think we’re really lucky to have two of the best leggies in the country. Grace and I come on up top and then they squeeze the middle and bowl really well in tandem.
“Obviously Amy has been world class for us at the top, as she always is, and two of our newcomers – Abbey Freeborn and Ami Campbell – have also done really well.”
Sparks head into Finals Day as underdogs but Wong is unfazed by the challenge ahead despite potential final opponents Vipers winning all six of their matches in this year’s competition.
Wong said: “Maybe it will be a bit like Man City and Liverpool in the men’s FA Cup final!
“Southern Vipers are a really good team and if you’ve qualified directly for the final you deserve to be favourites but we have to be confident too.
“We’ve played some really good games of cricket against them, and played some of our best cricket, so we can take lots of positives from that should we make it through to take them on in the final.”
Sparks will play South East Stars in the semi-finals on Finals Day (Saturday, June 11) with the game to begin at 12pm at The County Ground in Northampton.
The winner will advance to the final to play Southern Vipers with the game to begin at 4pm.