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Edwards: 'We were miles off the pace, to have pulled it off is remarkable'

Southern Vipers coach hails turnaround in form that captured latest trophy of stellar career

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Anya Shrubsole and Charlotte Edwards share a laugh, Southern Vipers vs Blaze, Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final, Northampton, September 24, 2023

Anya Shrubsole and Charlotte Edwards share a laugh  •  Getty Images

Charlotte Edwards' mum called it "a miracle" but in truth, Southern Vipers had it coming, even if it didn't feel like it at times this season.
The first team to claim the domestic double, with a convincing five-wicket win against Blaze in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Final at Northampton on Sunday, has been building a juggernaut under the guidance of a coach who has also won the inaugural Women's Premier League title and the Women's Hundred in the space of six months.
But while the prospect of winning both the 20-over competition which bears her name and the 50-over title was prominent during Vipers' 2022 campaign, when they won the former but lost the final of the latter as Northern Diamonds prevented them from winning a third RHFT in a row, this achievement came against the backdrop of an unremarkable start to the season which saw them ranked fifth when the competition paused in August for the Hundred.
Vipers won their last five group games, including three after the mid-season resumption, to qualify directly for the final, in which they defeated the same opposition as in the Charlotte Edwards Cup title decider in June.
"I just can't believe it," Edwards said. "To think that the team has played the way they have done, stood up when they needed to. We were miles off the pace, if I'm honest. I just felt we had the momentum coming into today, but finals are finals and you never quite know. To have pulled this off is quite remarkable, as my mum says, 'a miracle'."
It was Edwards' 11th final and seventh trophy in 12 campaigns as coach - and she isn't finished. After a 10-day break, she will head to Australia to join up with Sydney Sixers for the upcoming WBBL, where her side will be looking to go one better than last season's runners-up finish.
"I've got good players, good staff, good people, and people who are committed and are winners," Edwards said of her successful teams. "When I recruit, I look at the character."
A case in point is Emily Windsor, whose match-winning 57 off 53 balls on Sunday was typical of what Edwards described as her effectiveness, smarts and "big heart". Two years ago, Windsor had played a similar knock when Vipers defeated Northern Diamonds at the same ground for back-to-back RHFT titles.
Windsor was well supported on this occasion by Freya Kemp, one of three 18-year-olds in Vipers' Final line-up , alongside Ava Lee and Mary Taylor, which proves that Edwards is also building for the future. Kemp was making her return as a batter only during this domestic season after a back stress fracture interrupted a promising start to her England career as an allrounder.
"That is as good as I've seen her play, and for England that is a massive highlight," Edwards said of Kemp. "Once she gets bowling again, she will be one of the best allrounders in the world.
"I just prepare the team as best I can. If we'd lost today, it wouldn't have made me a good or bad coach; that's what coaching is about - preparing the players and hopefully getting the reward for the players when they do well like that. It is something special. Watching Kemp bat like she did was the highlight of my season."
Windsor was also full of praise for her batting partner, with whom she shared an unbroken stand of 94 for the sixth wicket after Vipers had slipped from 100 for 2 to 109 for 5.
"She has the most unbelievable amount of talent, and I think we've seen that," Windsor said. "Early on in the innings, I was saying to her: 'Let's be there at the end, mate; let's be the ones who do this.'
"How she played is probably the best I've seen her play. She played with maturity, at points she was telling me to calm down, which is a challenge for her. It is really special for her to be there at the end; she probably should have hit the winning runs."
It was Windsor who completed the job with a four over deep extra cover off Kirstie Gordon.
"I don't know what it is, but throughout my career, when it's been tough and when there's pressure on, my game has just seemed to go up a gear," Windsor said. "But I think when I was out there today, I just wanted to do it for the team. It has been a special year for this group; the squad and all the playing staff have dug so deep just to get us to this position. To go straight through to the final, we couldn't even believe that. To win it is probably the most special that we have done."
Windsor also paid tribute to her coach: "For me, Lottie just gets the best out of every player that she has in her team. She treats everyone as individuals. She gets to know her players on and off the field, and she knows what makes us tick.
"That is why teams perform for her: people love playing for her, it's a great environment. She just always finds a way of making things fun and getting the best out of her players. It is an absolute pleasure to play under her. Her knowledge of the game is pretty phenomenal, and the experiences that she has had."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women's cricket, at ESPNcricinfo