Heather Knight says Berkshire are aiming for a top-three finish in the Royal London Women's One-Day Cup
Captain Heather Knight says Berkshire's goal is a top-three finish in the Royal London One-Day Cup.
Last Updated: 22/05/14 8:33am
The England women's opener steered her county to a tight one-run victory over Nottinghamshire in their opening match of the competition and has challenged her young squad to step up again and show they are capable of improving on last season's fifth-place finish.
Bolstered by the arrival of Australian Corinne Hall and the return of experienced Amanda Potgieter, Knight is bullish about her team's prospects.
"We've set ourselves the goal of a top-three finish which is quite ambitious considering we are probably the underdogs in the league, but I think we can do it," she said.
"It was a very tight game against Nottinghamshire on a standard early-season wicket and a difficult one to captain - we did very well to defend 141 in the end.
"This was the sort of tight game that we lost last year so getting over the line was brilliant. We've got such a young squad that if we can keep these players together for a few years it will be exciting times."
Berkshire were forced to rebuild after Knight was bowled by Sonia Odedra for a duck, the middle-order of Hall (20), Carla Rudd (27) and Alex Rogers (27) resisting an attack that featured Australian Megan Schutt (3-31) and England duo Jenny Gunn and Danni Wyatt.
"Carla, our young keeper who is involved with the England Academy, has always been brilliant with the gloves but it looks as though her batting has really come on this year," said Knight.
"Our opening bowlers Linsey Smith and Daisy Gardner then started really well, taking a few wickets early on, before Fi Morris, our young off spinner, bowled brilliantly."
Morris finished with 3-17 off 10 overs, a haul that included the wicket of top-scorer Wyatt (26), as Nottinghamshire finished agonisingly short, bowled out for 140 in 48 overs.
But Sussex - who bowled Essex and Warwickshire out for 116 and 118 respectively - on their way to victory in their opening two games should provide a still stiffer test, even though England women's wicket-keeper-batter Sarah Taylor is ruled out of the game through injury.
Sussex and England's Georgia Elwiss has competition figures of 6-35 after two games and is averaging 28.5 at the top of the order, while Arran Brindle grabbed 4-16 against Essex and 2-24 against Warwickshire.
But Knight is drawing inspiration from last season's clash between the teams, which Sussex won by two wickets - despite an opening stand of 115 between Knight (79) and Morris (47) - as Brindle scored a vital 51.
"Sussex are always pretty strong and they've got a few good players in their ranks," admitted Knight. "We will go in as underdogs but we pushed them close last year and they were champions.
"If we can put in a good performance and individuals stand up then we'll have a really good chance of sneaking a win which will put us in a really good place for Monday's game against Surrey.
"With massive competition for England places this summer, it is really important for young players to perform in these county games to push for places in the national squad."
Knight is still on a high after hitting 50 for MCC Women against a powerful Rest of the World Women's XI in Monday's historic match at Lord's, staged to mark the bicentenary of the current Lord's Ground.
England skipper Charlotte Edwards and Knight shared an opening stand of 98 in 20.2 overs but MCC Women could not keep up with the rate, succumbing to 242 all out after being set an imposing 284 to win off the back of breezy knocks by Meg Lanning (59), Mithali Raj (67) and Ellyse Perry (49).
"It was an amazing and very special day," said Knight, "and a really good showcase for women's cricket as well - and hopefully we can repeat it in the future.
"We were quite happy they only got 280 in the end because they looked like they were on for about 350 at one point! It was brilliant to play against the best players in the world and what a great day it was.
"It was a wonderful feeling to raise my bat at Lord's for the first time and put some runs on with the skipper although it was a shame we didn't push the Rest of the World a little bit closer."
Watch England Women take on South Africa in this September's NatWest Women's International T20 Series live on Sky Sports.