Tuesday, 10 October 2017

No surprises in Aussie Ashes' Squads

There were no real surprises in the Ashes ODI and Test squads named by Australia earlier today. With so few players at elite level, even in Australia, there is very little room for a surprise inclusion.

A 14 player squad was named for the three match ODI series :-

Rachel Haynes, Alex Blackwell, Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ash Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani and Amanda-Jade Wellington.

Both Cheatle and McGrath are coming back from injuries, and only played one of the two WNCL games for their respective states last weekend. Both are pace bowlers, but their preparation for an Ashes series looks underdone. Their selection is as the expense of Sarah Aley and Belinda Vakarewa from the WWC squad, and as back-ups to Perry and Schutt.

The same 14 names are included in the 15 player Ashes Test squad. The only addition is the reinstatement of Vakarewa, who also only played one game out of two in the WNCL at the weekend.

Cricket Australia have also named their team (CAXI) to play in two warm-up games against England prior to the first ODI. It is effectively the Australia Academy team. Whereas England chose to load their Academy warm-up team against Australia before the 2015 Ashes series with contracted players (seven of them), Australia have not been so obliging. There are no contracted players in the CAXI thirteen, who are :-

Hayleigh Brennan, Nicola Carey, Piepa Cleary, Heather Graham, Alana King, Katie Mack, Sophie Molineux, Georgia Redmayne, Naomi Stalenberg, Molly Strano (c), Rachel Trenaman, Belinda Vakarewa, Tayla Vlaeminck.

MD
10/X/17

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Aussie international form

The first seven games of the WNCL have been played and New South Wales, ACT and Western Fury have all won both their games. These three look like the strongest outfits in the competition.

Queensland, Vic Spirit and Tasmania have all lost theirs, and Tasmania and Vic Spirit in particular look to be struggling. South Australia picked up one win against Tasmania having lost their opening fixture to Western Fury.

Here is how the Aussie contracted players and some of the hopefuls got on this weekend. Some decent form with the bat, but the form of the pace bowlers in particular must still be a great concern. The Aussie Ashes squad is due to be announced next week.

IN FORM

Nicole Bolton (WA) 
125* & 6-0-47-0 (v SA);
3-0-12-1 & 93* (v TAS)
Not sure she could have made a better start, but maybe leave the bowling to others? SA and TAS not the strongest two teams in the WNCL this year. November fixtures (NSW & ACT) will be tougher, but the Ashes will be done by then.

Elyse Villani (WA) 
139 (v SA);
10 (v TAS)
Good runs for Villani too against South Australia, but missed out against Tasmania, which kind of sums her up - inconsistent.

Rachael Haynes (NSW) 
103 (v QLD);
83 (v VIC)
Won't have done her confidence any harm at all, but an opening attacks of Johnson & Hill for QLD and Vlaeminck & Brennan for VIC are not desperately intimidating.

Amanda Jade Wellington (SA) 
5-0-50-1 & 116 (v WA);
8-1-43-2 & 0* (v TAS)
Poor day with the ball against WA, but made up for it with her maiden WNCL 100, albeit in a losing cause. Picked up a couple of late wickets v a poor TAS side.

FAIR to MIDDLING

Molly Strano (VIC) 
10-1-39-3 & 36* (v ACT);
10-1-39-3 & 5 (v NSW)
Identical figures with the ball on both days against two decent sides. Got Haynes, Perry and Stalenberg v NSW, so decent wickets. Batted very slowly against ACT (36 off 64 balls), which made no sense chasing only 203. VIC lost by 30 runs?

Beth Mooney (QLD) 
73 (v NSW);
1 (v ACT)
Nice start against NSW, but then out to her eight ball v ACT to Sam Bates caught behind. Nervy times for her in first ODI.

Ellyse Perry (NSW) 
9-1-37-3 & 17 (v QLD);
30 & 7-0-23-1 (v VIC)
Steady stuff from Perry, but Aussies will need more from her. Perhaps she was saving herself for England?

Alex Blackwell (NSW) 
6 (v QLD);
77 (v VIC)
Got some runs under her belt v VIC which will have been pleasing, including three 6s (two off Sophie Molineux).

Alyssa Healy (NSW) 
5 (v QLD);
68 (v VIC)
As with Blackwell, she put a score on the board against VIC, opening the batting. Probably would have liked to go on and make it a big one though.

Kristen Beams (VIC) 
10-0-32-0 & 17* (v ACT);
10-0-52-5 & 1* (v NSW)
Rescued her weekend with four late wickets v NSW as they tried to accelerate from 273/2, but will be looking over her shoulder at Wellington's performance with ball AND bat. Skippered her team to two disappointing defeats.

Sophie Molineux (VIC) 
10-2-33-1 & 50 (v ACT);
10-0-64-0 & 62 (v NSW)
Decent time opening the batting for VIC against both ACT and NSW, but not much to write home about with the ball. Could be pushing for Ashes squad selection and could even oust Jonassen as the left arm spin option?

NOT SO HOT

Jess Jonassen (QLD)
15 & 8.1-0-42-0 (v NSW);
10-1-40-2 & 8 (v ACT)
Jonassen's batting seems to have nosedived over the last year or so. She was once regarded as decent middle order but now seems to be struggling. Picked up Dane van Niekerk v ACT, but she already had 61 by then and ACT over 200. Under pressure from Molineux.

Ash Gardner (SA) 
9-1-44-0 & 34 (v WA);
10-1-24-1 & 7* v (TAS)
Has moved to SA for this season. Struggled with the ball against a decent WA batting line up, but did better against a weak TAS team. Batting - jury is still out!

Megan Schutt (SA) 
10-1-76-0 & 5 (v WA);
7-1-17-1 (v TAS)
Has not looked the swing bowler she used to be, but the Aussies will almost certainly have to play her. Could be a key Ashes' battle.

STRUGGLING

Belinda Vakarewa (NSW) 
9-0-38-1 (v QLD);
did not play v VIC
Aussies have put a lot of resources into Vakarewa, but are yet to see the reward. Not selected for NSW's second game of the weekend. Not ideal as far as Australia are concerned.

Lauren Cheatle (NSW) 
did not play v QLD;
7-0-31-0 (v VIC)
Did not play in NSW's first game and came up wicketless in the second. Not sure if she is ready to be thrown back onto the international stage, but the Aussies may have no other choice.

Sarah Aley (NSW) 
4-0-28-0 (v QLD);
7-0-40-0 (v VIC)
Struggled. Cannot really be in the selectors' minds for the Ashes series.

MD
08/X/17

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Who will win the Ashes?

The 15 woman England squad fly out to Australia at the end of this week, and play their first warm-up game in just 12 days time.

The Ashes Series starts for real with the first of three ODIs at Allan Border Field in Queensland on 22nd October. It will end on 21st November with the last of the three T20Is. In between will be the lone four day day/night Test Match. There are two points for each of the ODIs and T20s, and four points for the Test Match. With Australia currently holding the Ashes this means that England must get at least 9 points to win the Ashes back. If the teams are tied on eight points each at the end of the series then the Ashes will remain with Australia.

Effectively then if England were to lose the Test Match they would have to win five of the six ODIs and T20Is. If they were to win the Test then they would only need to win three more games. The Test could, of course, be drawn, in which case each team would get two points each. England would then need to win four of the other games.

England are, of course, the current holders of the 50 over World Cup, which they picked up in July, defeating India in the final. Australia had already lost to India in the semi-final stage of the competition. England also beat Australia (albeit only by three runs) in the league stage of the same competition. The advantage you would say therefore was with England then. Add to this the fact that Meg Lanning, the premier batsmen in women's cricket at the moment, will miss the entire series for Australia as she recovers from shoulder surgery, and England have to be favourites, you'd think.

But, with so much riding on the four points from the first ever day/night, pink ball Test Match; new ODI regulations to be used for the first time in women's cricket (two white balls); and with the series being played in Australia, both sides look pretty even to me.

Here are some of the key areas for both sides as they head into the series.

* Some of the England batsmen found some decent form in the WWC.  Nat Sciver (2), Tammy Beaumont, Sarah Taylor and Heather Knight all hit centuries during the tournament, with Beaumont being the leading run scorer and named Player of the Tournament. Only Nicole Bolton and the missing Lanning scored centuries for Australia.

* However Ellyse Perry was the third highest run scorer in the tournament with 404 runs - her scores were 5*, 39*, 71, 66, 70, 60*, 55, and 38. It was no surprise really as she has been the most consistent batsman in the world for the last four years. Amazingly she is yet to hit her first century, despite averaging over 50. If there is one criticism that can be made of her, it is that she frequently bats too slowly. Her strike rate during the WWC was 77.5. While she may be the Aussie Rock she puts pressure on others to score more quickly.

* England opener Lauren Winfield has had a hard time of it of late. She missed the opening two games of the WWC and then only scored 117 runs in the seven games she played. Her top score was just 26. Unfortunately she did not fair much better in the KSL. Playing for the Yorkshire Diamonds she scored 135 runs in five innings at an average of 27, including one score of 58. England could do with her finding some form with the bat.

* The Aussies have their own opener problems, with Beth Mooney also struggling to recapture the form that she had when she burst into the Aussie team in New Zealand in 2016. In eight knocks at the WWC she scored a respectable, if unspectacular, 232 runs at an average of 29 and a strike rate of 71. She subsequently pulled out of the KSL citing an ongoing shoulder injury problem. It will be interesting to see how she gets on for Queensland in the opening matches of the WNCL (the Aussie domestic 50 over tournament), which starts this weekend.

* The fast bowling stocks for both sides look rather depleted. England have chosen frontline duo Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, but have no other genuine new ball bowlers in the squad. No doubt Nat Sciver and Jenny Gunn will be called upon to bolster the England seam attack. As for the Aussies they resorted to bowling Elyse Villani at the WWC, a player who hardly bowls for Western Fury, her state team. It was not an experiment that you would think they will want to repeat. They have Ellyse Perry and Megan Schutt as their frontline seamers, who may well be joined by left-armer Lauren Cheatle, coming back from injury. Their back ups are veteran Sarah Aley and youngster Belinda Vakerewa, neither of who they seem too inclined to play. It is an ongoing area of concern for the Aussies.

* Both squads do however have a surfeit of spinners - England have off-spinning stalwarts Dani Hazell and Laura Marsh, plus skipper Heather Knight, and left-armers Alex Hartley and newbie Sophie Ecclestone. Hartley has been the star of the show for England recently taking 27 wickets in her 17 ODIs to date. I think she will keep her place in the ODI format, but may lose it to Ecclestone in the T20Is and even in the Test Match.
For the Aussies they have left-armer Jess Jonassen, who has been their go-to bowler for some time now, leggie Kristen Beams, and newbie off-spinning all-rounder Ash Gardner, who they rate highly. They also have 20 year old leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington on the bench as back-up for the 32 year old Beams. Also on the reserve list is off-spinner Molly Strano, who has been pretty successful in both the WNCL and WBBL with Victoria and the Melbourne Renegades.

* With Meg Lanning sidelined the Aussies have parachuted in 30 year old Rachel Haynes to skipper them, and presumably bat at three or four. When Lanning is available she does not make the team, and only made it back into the squad at the beginning of 2017 (after three and a half years out) due to a number of injuries. It looks an odd decision, and one the Aussies may well come to rue as the series goes on. Her batting style is slow and steady and she may be a burden with the bat. I can see her working her way lower and lower down the order and not batting in the T20Is at all.

* England on the other hand will be led by Heather Knight. It will be her first Ashes as captain, but she has already skippered England through a nail-biting World Cup semi-final and final, and she has just skippered the unfancied Western Storm to a KSL triumph. She is a strong and popular leader of a very united team.

England will feel that they have never had a better chance of taking the Ashes in Australia, provided they can get over their metaphorical World Cup "hangover". Key players for England will be Nat Sciver and Sophie Ecclestone. For the Aussies the pressure is once again all on Ellyse Perry, both with bat and ball. It might just be too much for her.

MD
04/X/17

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

England's Ashes Squad

England Women announced their squad for the Ashes tour of Australia today with Lancashire’s left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone named as part of the 15.

The ICC Women’s World Cup champions depart for Brisbane on October 7, where they’ll attempt to regain the Ashes across a multi-format series that takes in three one-day internationals, a Test match and three T20 internationals. In 2015 in England, Australia ran out 10-6 winners after winning two ODIs, the one-off Test match and one T20I.

The inclusion of Ecclestone is the only change from the squad that triumphed in front of a sell-out crowd at Lord’s on July 23. Beth Langston misses out. It will be the first time that Heather Knight has led her side into an Ashes series.

Heather Knight (captain, Berkshire)
Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)
Alex Hartley (Lancashire)
Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Sarah Taylor (wicketkeeper, Sussex)
Fran Wilson (Middlesex)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

Coach Mark Robinson said: "It's a hugely exciting tour and one we are really looking forward to. Australia on their home soil will be a further test of the progress we have made.

“We said before the World Cup that the final at Lord's was never going to be our destination, it was just part of the journey, and that journey continues with this tour.

“Sophie Ecclestone has finished school now and has had a great summer domestically. Her selection will provide another option to our attack.”

Captain Heather Knight said: “Ashes tours don’t come around too often so it’s always a special opportunity. Australia are going to be very strong opponents on their home soil so we’ll have to be at our best, across all three formats.

“Winning the World Cup was a dream come true but it doesn’t get much bigger than the Ashes. We weren’t able to win in 2015 so I know that the whole group will be intent on regaining the trophy this time round.”

MD
26/IX/17

Friday, 22 September 2017

Ecclestone key to England's Ashes campaign

Uncontracted 18 year old left arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone will undoubtedly be one of the first names on the England squad list to tour Australia next month.

The squad, which is due to be announced next Tuesday, has just come through a three day, day/night, pink
ball trial match, in which 21 England players combined with five teenage lads from the Essex performance squad. Sixteen of the eighteen contracted players were on show - Kate Cross and Amy Jones have already headed off to Australia where they are due to play for the Perth-based Western Fury in the WNCL. The other five players invited to play were Sophie Ecclestone (yet to be contracted although she has already played for England), fast bowler Freya Davies, keepers Ellie Threlkeld and Rhianna Southby, and left arm seamer Katie George.

Sophie Ecclestone
© Don Miles
In the Sapphires' first innings they managed to score 190 all out in 64.1 overs. Tammy Beaumont top scored with a stylish 76, and, having opened, she was the last wicket to fall. Heather Knight looked in good touch for her 35, and Danni Wyatt added a gutsy 27 off 62 balls. At one stage she had just 2 runs off 32 balls. Unfortunately there were no runs for Lauren Winfield (0), Sarah Taylor (0) or Fran Wilson (2).

The chief tormentor of the Sapphires was Sophie Ecclestone. She continued her county and KSL form in this fixture, and could be the key to England regaining the Ashes.  She took 5/34 off 16.1 accurate overs. She spun the occasional ball, but it was her changes of pace and her darting arm-ball which brought her the wickets - four bowled and one lbw. The other wicket takers were Sciver 2/23, Hazell 2/38 and Shrubsole 1/27.

Having bowled the Sapphires out at the end of the second session of play, it meant that the Emeralds started to bat at just after 7pm as dusk fell. They made an unmitigated hash of it, losing their top five batsmen for just 25 runs, which included three of the Essex lads, plus Nat Sciver (8) and Georgia Elwiss (0). Two more of the Essex lads staged a brief recovery, but at 46/7 things were looking ominous for the Emeralds. But Anya Shrubsole (42) and Dani Hazell (19), dug in and saw the Emeralds to 67/7 at the close of the first day.

In the sunshine of Wednesday afternoon, and with the pink ball now already 26 overs old, batting seemed much more fun, and Hazell will have been disappointed to have ended her knock dangling her bat outside the off stump to Katherine Brunt and edging through to the keeper. The pair had added 47 for the eighth wicket. Shrubsole and Tash Farrant (16*) then added another 29 before Shrubsole was bowled by Gunn and the innings ended shortly after with the Emeralds 56 behind. Jenny Gunn took 5/15 from 10.5 overs, Beth Langston 3/24 and Brunt 2/34.

The Sapphires' second dig started badly with Tammy Beaumont nicking off to Shrubsole for a duck, Farrant bowling Winfield for 4, and Heather Knight lbw to Shrubsole for 16, leaving them on 25/3. It was down to Fran Wilson (64) and Danni Wyatt (35) to rebuild the innings and this they did, although Wilson, dropped on 2, looked like a batsman striving for form for the first hour of her two and a half hours at the crease. But she battled on through and the pair took the Sapphires' score to 96 before Elwiss bowled Wyatt and had Brunt lbw in the same over, as the dark set in again. But as the sky went black, Wilson seemed to light up. Suddenly her timing was back as she dispatched Elwiss over the square leg boundary for a slog/swept 6 and crashed Hazell to cow corner for 4. She lost Gunn for 11 bowled by Elwiss, and then fell herself bowled by Nat Sciver. 153/7 was taken on to 189 with the last pair of Hartley and George at the crease. Having blocked out five balls of the last over from Davies, George inexplicably decided to chance a suicidal run to square leg off the last ball of the day and only succeeded in running out her partner. The Emeralds would come back on Day Three needing 246 to win. The wicket takers were Elwiss 3/28, Shrubsole 2/18, Farrant 2/30, Hazell 1/20 and Sciver 1/36.

The first session of Day Three was attritional, some might even have said dull. The new pink ball did nothing for any of the Sapphires' seamers, but the Essex openers were content to block everything. Fortunately number three, Robin Das, injected some pace into proceedings just before the first break, and the Emeralds were nicely placed on 84/1 from the first 35 overs of the day. After the break Das fell, but this brought Sciver (28*) to the crease, and she looked very much at home. She and Joe MacGregor took the score to 128/3, by which time the rain clouds were beginning to gather in the distance. Georgia Elwiss (5*) had just hit her first boundary off her 20th ball faced, when the umpires decided that the light rain had turned into something heavier. It turned out to be the last ball of the match, with the game abandoned shortly after 6.30pm, with the Emeralds finishing on 143/3 and the match drawn. The wicket takers were Brunt 1/26, Gunn 1/13 and Hartley 1/22.

Positives from the game were the batting of Beaumont, Wilson, Sciver, Knight (although it would have been nice to see her go on to a bigger score), and Wyatt. On the bowling front Ecclestone stood out of the spinners, and there were consistent spells from the main seamers. Disappointments were the the lack of runs for Winfield and Taylor (who did not bat in the second innings).

So who will make the squad for the Ashes? in my view there are 10 certainties :-

Heather Knight
Anya Shrubsole
Tammy Beaumont
Katherine Brunt
Sophie Ecclestone
Jenny Gunn
Beth Langston
Nat Sciver

Fran Wilson
Lauren Winfield


If Sarah Taylor is fit you can add her to this list. If not then you can add Amy Jones.

I think the other four places are up for grabs, but I think they will probably go to

Alex Hartley
Dani Hazell
Laura Marsh
Danni Wyatt


We should find out for sure on Tuesday morning.

MD
22/IX/17

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

A heartfelt tribute to Jan Brittin

England cricket great Jan Brittin sadly died today at the age of just 58.

I never saw her play, but she was obviously a classy bat and an inspiration both to those who played with her, and those who watched her play. One of those was friend and photographer Don Miles. "JB" is one of the reasons why Don has spent the last 25 years following and recording on film, and digitally, the women's game. Here is what he had to say on the great JB.

"I admired her in every way both as a cricketer and a person. She was head and shoulders above every one of her era, as BB (Barbara Daniels) will be happy to tell you, and she'd be the second in line with the talent. 

She was also very supportive of me, showing none of the early suspicion of a guy on his own that many did at first. 

She encouraged me to keep carrying the camera even though early results were not much good - they look terrible in retrospect - and always gave the impression that she genuinely didn't know how good she was. I sensed no false modesty in her at all - a very rare attribute.

Don't look at the stats - they tell at most 10% of the story - you just had to see her play, and listen to that quiet voice that always managed to say just the right thing. She was truly amazing".

She will be sadly missed.

MD
12/IX/17

Monday, 11 September 2017

Aussie Ashes' squad takes shape

Australia's 13 contracted players (minus the injured Meg Lanning) have started a week long Ashes training camp at the Bupa National Cricket Centre, together with Sarah Aley, Ashleigh Gardner, Molly Strano and Belinda Vakarewa, making up what looks like the Aussies' Ashes training squad.

Training camp attendees :-

Kristen Beams
Alex Blackwell
Nicole Bolton
Lauren Cheatle
Rachel Haynes
Alyssa Healy
Jess Jonassen
Beth Mooney
Ellyse Perry
Megan Schutt
Elyse Villani
Amanda-Jade Wellington
Sarah Aley
Ash Gardner
Molly Strano
Belinda Vakarewa

It is difficult to see any other players being drafted into the Aussie squad for the Ashes series, particularly given that there is only one weekend of WNCL fixtures before the Ashes series starts on 22nd October with the first ODI. In fact both teams have warm-up games on 16th and 18th October prior to the first ODI.

Full Ashes fixture list

16th October - 50 over warm-up games for England and Australia
18th October - 50 over warm-up games for England and Australia
22nd October - 1st ODI at Allan Border Field
26th October - 2nd ODI at Coffs International Stadium
29th October - 3rd ODI at Coffs International Stadium


3rd - 5th November 3 day warm-up games for England and Australia
9th - 12th November - Only Test Match at North Sydney Oval

17th November - 1st T20 at North Sydney Oval
19th November - 2nd T20 at the Manuka Oval
21st November - 3rd T20 at the Manuka Oval

MD
11/VIII/17