THUNDER skipper Ellie Threlkeld believes her side’s qualification for Saturday’s Charlotte Edwards Cup Finals Day at Worcester could prove a landmark moment in the progression of women’s and girls cricket within Lancashire.

Thunder won four of their last five group games to seal a top-three berth in the group stage, winning through to New Road at the weekend, where they were beaten by eventual champions Southern Vipers in the semi-final Eliminator tie.

It wasn’t the fairytale ending the region were hoping for. However, there is a much bigger picture that Threlkeld, 24, is well aware of.

In Saturday’s team, which lost narrowly to the Vipers in a high-scoring Eliminator, Thunder fielded six homegrown players; Olivia Bell, Danielle Collins, England star Sophie Ecclestone, Liberty Heap, Emma Lamb and Threlkeld herself.

Three players - Bell, Heap and UAE international Mahika Gaur - have all come through the Thunder Academy.

And there were others in and around the squad who weren’t available or didn’t make the final eleven. England seamer Kate Cross, Seren Smale and Sophie Morris are obvious examples.

Threlkeld said: “You look now, and young girls have a real opportunity to make a career in cricket. That’s massive. 

“Hopefully we can be good role models for those and inspire the next generation.”

Threlkeld and Thunder played in a trio of double header days with Lancashire’s men at Emirates Old Trafford and Blackpool throughout the duration of the Charlotte Edwards Cup. 

They won two of those, with the game at Blackpool when they hammered cross-Pennine rivals Northern Diamonds to seal Finals Day qualification being a particularly memorable occasion.

And Threlkeld is hoping they can use that type of success to increase the popularity of the women’s game. 

The Rainford star added: “Hopefully we are inspiring a new set of players and fans, and they can see the skill on show.

“Embracing the women’s game for what it is is massive. 

“I think a lot of people are used to comparing it to the men’s game. 

“Look, it’s never going to be the same. That’s just science, that’s just biology. See it for what it is and appreciate it for what it is.”

Thunder are next in action on Sunday July 2 when they resume their 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy campaign. Ironically, they are back to New Road to face Central Sparks, bidding for their first win of the 2023 competition.