Kia Super League: Six teams set out on the road to Hove

We run the rule over the sides ahead of this year's expanded competition

Stars align: The 2018 Kia Super League is about to begin  •  Getty Images

Stars align: The 2018 Kia Super League is about to begin  •  Getty Images

The third edition of the Kia Super League begins on Sunday, with all six teams in action. In an expanded competition, the sides will all play each other twice, with the top three qualifying for Finals Day at Hove on August 27. Here we run the rule over those involved

Western Storm

Coach: Trevor Griffin
Captain: Heather Knight
Overseas: Stafanie Taylor (WI), Smriti Mandhana (Ind), Rachel Priest (NZ)
Last season: Winners
The 2017 champions look well-equipped once again, led by England captain Heather Knight and bolstered by new overseas signing, India batting star Smriti Mandhana. Last year's leading run-scorer in the competition, Rachel Priest - who thrashed 72 from 36 balls in the final - returns alongside allrounder Stafanie Taylor, whose bowling was a key factor in their success. Their England contingent includes Anya Shrubsole, Player of the Match in the 2017 World Cup final, and Fran Wilson, the Middlesex batsman looking to push her claims for a T20 recall. Look out for spinner Claire Nicholas, who took eight wickets (one fewer than Taylor) and had an economy of 5.47.

Southern Vipers

Coach: Nick Denning
Captain: Suzie Bates
Overseas: Bates (NZ), Mignon du Preez (SA), Amelia Kerr (NZ)
Last season: Runners-up
The Vipers have reached the final in both previous editions of the tournament, winning the inaugural competition in 2016. Last year's decider at Hove against Western Storm was Charlotte Edwards' final match as a professional, but she has been replaced as captain by a woman of huge experience in New Zealand's Suzie Bates - in her third season with the Vipers, and the only player other than Priest to pass 200 runs in 2017. Teenage sensation Amelia Kerr, who last month became the first cricketer to score a double-hundred and take five wickets in an ODI, comes in, while the arrival of England opener Tammy Beaumont from Surrey is only likely to strengthen the XI.

Surrey Stars

Coach: Richard Bedbrook
Captain: Nat Sciver
Overseas: Lizelle Lee (SA), Marizanne Kapp (SA), Dane van Niekerk (SA)
Last season: Play-off
Surrey last year became the first county to appoint a full-time women's coach, with Richard Bedbrook stepping up after previously combining the role with that of performance manager. Their 2017 campaign, in which they finished second in the group stage before losing to third-placed Western Storm in the play-off, represented an improvement but Surrey are an ambitious club and will hope to go a couple of steps further. England wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor has joined from Lancashire, which should make up for the loss of Beaumont, while their trio of South African overseas signings adds heft to the batting and bowling. In captain Nat Sciver they have one of the world's best allrounders and last season's leading wicket-taker.

Loughborough Lightning

Coach: Rob Taylor
Captain: Georgia Elwiss
Overseas: Elyse Villani (Aus), Rachael Haynes (Aus), Sophie Devine (NZ)
Last season: 4th
Loughborough will have a big hole to fill, particularly in their batting, after Australia allrounder Ellyse Perry opted not to return for a third season at the KSL. They have also lost their leading wicket-taker from 2017, with Beth Langston joining Yorkshire, but coming in the opposite direction was canny England allrounder Jenny Gunn, who along with big-hitting New Zealander Sophie Devine and Rachael Haynes, who captained Australia during the winter's Ashes, will add plenty of depth and international experience to the side. They have also added a couple of handy signings, with Linsey Smith - one of the stars of Vipers' 2016 victory - and Georgia Adams heading up to the Midlands.

Yorkshire Diamonds

Coach: Paul Grayson
Captain: Lauren Winfield
Overseas: Beth Mooney (Aus), Chamari Atapattu (SL), Delissa Kimmince (Aus)
Last season: 5th
There have been a number of changes at Yorkshire, with only six players involved last time out returning for 2018 as the Diamonds look to reach the knockout stage for the first time. Powerful opener Beth Mooney is back, having worn Yorkshire blue in 2016, while the presence of Chamari Atapattu and Lauren Winfield, looking to win her England place back, should mean plenty of runs from the top order. Langston's arrival will bolster the bowling, alongside overseas signing Delissa Kimmince, Alice Davidson-Richards, who won an England call-up on the back of her performances last season, and promising legspinners Katie Levick and Helen Fenby.

Lancashire Thunder

Coach: Alex Blackwell
Captain: Danielle Hazell
Overseas: Amy Satterthwaite (NZ), Harmanpreet Kaur (Ind), Nicole Bolton (Aus)
Last season: 6th
Things can only get better for Lancashire, after losing five out of five to finish bottom for the second year running. They will be hoping that the arrival of former Australia international Alex Blackwell as coach can inspire a turnaround - and turn will be the order of the day, much like in the men's T20 team, as Lancashire have a battery of spinners to deploy, led by captain and England veteran Danielle Hazell and the left-arm pair of Sophie Ecclestone and Alex Hartley, who has moved to her home county from Surrey. India's T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur is a marquee signing and will be expected to carry the batting, while England seamer Kate Cross has a point to prove.