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As part of their pre-season preparation phase, Sunrisers visited the Desert Springs Sports Resort in Almeria, Spain at the end of March. The six-day camp, which included on and off field training and three competitive matches against other English regions, was an integral part of the pre-season training block, building on the three weeks spent training on grass at the Merchant Taylors’ School in Northwood.

We had identified competitive opportunities and time together as a squad as being key to Sunrisers hitting the 2023 season running, and the time at Desert Springs definitely seemed to do the trick.

Arriving on a Thursday early morning Ryanair flight from London Stansted to Alicante and a steady two-and-a-half-hour bus transfer, the Thursday was spent acclimatising to the resort, a gym session and planning meetings to ensure the benefits to the group of the trip were maximised.

The Friday allowed the group to play an 8 v 8 training match on the main oval at Desert Springs, giving the group the opportunity to assess the conditions and get some bat v ball training opportunities prior to the first game on the Saturday. In the afternoon the two other sides using the resort, Northern Diamonds and South East Stars played a T20 match on the main ground. This also allowed the squad to got through the matchday minus one preparation cycle for the first time in preparation for game one.

The Saturday saw us play game one, which was a 50-over match v South East Stars. Mady Villiers captained the side for the first time as deputy for captain Kelly Castle, who had just returned from Australia the previous day and was rested. Batting first, Sunrisers managed to post a total of 209 all out from 47 overs on a dry surface which was taking spin. There were a number of significant chip ins to get to the score which proved to be very competitive. In response Sunrisers took regular wickets throughout the innings, with Eva Gray making an excellent debut against her old side with 2/15 up front before the spinners ruthlessly strangled a talented Stars batting line up, bowling them out for 119 to register a 90-run win. Mady Villiers (3/26) and Abtaha Maqsood (2/1) were the other stand outs with the ball.

Game two took place on the Sunday, with a 50 over match v Northern Diamonds. Sunrisers found themselves in the field first for this intriguing encounter, with both teams having started with a win. Despite an outstanding early spell from captain Kelly Castle (2/27), Diamonds got off to a flier and at 150 – 3 after 30 overs a big first innings total was on the cards. However, the introduction of spin, and rookie leg spinner Jodi Grewcock (3/24), supported by Jo Gardner (2/37) and Grace Scrivens (2/36) the brakes were applied to the Diamonds innings. Eventually they were bowled out for an underwhelming 211. Having tinkered with the batting order to provide opportunities for all to show their worth Sunrisers made a solid start with a 50-run opening stand between Jodi Grewcock and Lissy Macleod, setting the base for a clinical run chase. A 113-run third wicket partnership between Grewock (79) and the dynamic Mady Villiers (76 off 62 balls), saw the Sunrisers home with 10 overs to spare, for a second commanding victory. With a rest day scheduled for Monday, the group took the opportunity for some social bonding with a “secret santa” style bad taste clothing evening, which provided some interesting attire for the evening which was rounded off by a now infamous Marc Broom quiz, which cannot be done justice in words.

A well-earned rest day Monday, involved some re-hydration and leisure activities, including paddle tennis, golf, mountain biking, and trips to the beach, for a variety of differing preferences. The group got back to business however in the evening with a planning and scouting meeting for the third and final game on the last day.

Game three was played on the Tuesday with a morning check out from rooms, followed by a T20 match v South East Stars. Posting a very competitive 139/6 from 20 overs with Mady Villiers top scoring with 41 and great support from Cordelia Griffith (36 off 31 balls) and Eva Gray (15 from 8). For the third time in a row the bowling unit stood up as a group strangling the Stars to death, bowling them out for 114 and registering a 25-run victory to make it three from three at Desert Springs. The match was followed by a late evening flight back into Stansted where a lot of tired and happy bodies head home into the cold Essex night.

From a pre-season camp perspective, we could not have asked for much more. We got to spend valuable time together as a group, understanding how we are going to play and win. Getting three wins was obviously a big bonus and will give us plenty confidence going into the rest of our preseason preparation.

Sunrisers have since started their campaign, with one win against Southern Vipers and a defeat to Northern Diamonds.