THUNDER are confident they have the venom which can suck the life out of the Southern Vipers on Saturday as they bid for Charlotte Edwards Cup glory at New Road.

Captain Ellie Threlkeld leads her side into a first ever regional showpiece occasion, with Finals Day seeing them face the Vipers first (12pm) for the right to face the Blaze in the final four hours later.

Make no mistake, Thunder will have to do it the hard way to secure silverware but the Rainford wicketkeeper is confident. 

They face the defending champions first - a Vipers side coached by the woman whose name adorns this trophy, a team who are gunning for their fourth 50-over and T20 title in three-and-a-half seasons of regional cricket.

Then, if they win, they will face a Blaze side who won the group with a seven wins from seven record and are the only remaining team left unbeaten across English domestic cricket this season, women and men.

But, quite rightly, Thunder are full of belief and absolutely not fearful.

Why wouldn’t you be after winning four of the last five matches to secure qualification, including blowing away a strong Northern Diamonds team at Blackpool yesterday when they bowled them out for 96 and chased down the target in 15 overs.

“Confidence is huge, and momentum is huge. And we’ve got that building into Finals Day,” said Threlkeld, 24, whose side have bounced back well from losing their first two games to qualify.

"It was a tough few weeks as captain not knowing what to do. Now we're on the other side of it and there's definately a different feeling sat in that dressing room.

"We speak a lot about people being good players but also being good people and the environment we've created here has enabled us to tutn our season around. 

"The youngsters have really impressed - we played two Academy players against Diamonds in Sophie Morris and Olivia Bell and for them to come in a high-pressured game in front of a large crowd and to execute their skills was so pleasing for me and they'll be a big part of this team going forward."

Make no mistake, qualification is a huge deal for a Thunder side who have been battling at the wrong end of tables for much of the regional era, which began in the Covid summer of 2020.

But there have been signs of encouragement. 

"For us to bring in Academy players is brave but we want to be fearless and big decisions like that have paid off," said Threlkeld. 

"For me to lead my home county to Finals Day is brilliant and I can't think of anything better really. I've grown up at this club and I try and wear the Red Rose with pride.

"Lancashire have done so much for us and I know all the girls are grateful so it would be nice to win for them and give something back."

Thunder beat the Diamonds with a team including five players to come through their Academy programme - Liberty Heap, Seren Smale, Mahika Gaur, Bell and Morris.

Left-arm spinner Morris debuted, while offie Bell claimed a superb 3-9.

Whether they all play on Saturday remains to be seen, with a large part of that down to whether England trio Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone and Emma Lamb are released. 

The Vipers, who finished second in the group with five wins to Thunder’s four, are also waiting on news of England availability.

"I'm absolutely buzzing about Saturday," added Threlkeld. "In high pressure games it's about being calm and collected.

"I'm so proud of everyone who has been involved with the squad and it's a great group to be part of. 

"Thunder have never been in this position before and it's something we've got to embrace