Monday, 14 April 2014

2014 Women's County Championship Division One Preview & Fixtures

The same nine teams will contest  Division 1 of the Women's County Championship in 2014 (now known officially as the Royal London Women's One Day Championship, apparently) as did in 2013. They are Berkshire, Essex, Kent, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Yorkshire.

Each team will play each other just once and the team that finishes top of Division One at the end of the season will be the champions. There will be no Championship Play-Off as there has been in previous years. The team that finishes bottom will be automatically relegated to Division 2 for the 2015 season. The winner of Division 2 will be automatically promoted to Division 1 for the 2015 season. The team that finishes second from bottom in Division 1 will play the team that finishes second in Division 2 with the winner playing in Division 1 in 2015.

Positions in the league will again be decided on the average number of points a team achieves from completed, but not cancelled or abandoned games (which are ignored). Teams are awarded 10 points for a win and 5 points for a tie. Bizarrely they are also awarded 5 points for an abandoned game, even though such games are ignored. Up to 4 batting (RR of 4 RPO required) and 4 bowling bonus points (9+ wickets) can be achieved, making a maximum of 18 points per completed game. The full rules are here.

Last year Sussex, Yorkshire and Kent all won six matches and lost two, but it was Sussex and Yorkshire that fought out the play-off, which Sussex won by 95 runs to become the Women's County Champions 2013 - the sixth time they have taken the title in its 17 year history (Kent and Yorkshire have both won it five times and the now defunct East Midlands once). Indeed Sussex and Kent have dominated the Championship for the last 11 years.

So what are the teams' prospects for the 2014 season? I have outlined my thoughts below, but there is one huge proviso. How many of the ECB contracted England women will actually play for their counties? Even before they were contracted the ECB would prevent them from playing if they had a niggle or a strain. With more and more international cricket you would have to expect that this will only get worse. With the first games in less than three weeks it will be interesting to see how many of the England girls are allowed to play in the first weekend of games.

Berkshire (last year 5th)
Heather Knight carried her team through 2013 with the bat (603 runs at an average of 100.67) and was pretty handy with the ball. The challenge for 2014 is for some of her teammates to stand up and be counted. The experienced Amanda Potgeiter returns to the ranks after an army tour of Afghanistan, and Aussie import Corinne Hall may add some power to the batting. But they may struggle if Knight's prolific form of last year does not extend into 2014.  
Squad - Heather Knight (capt), Daisy Gardner, Alex Rogers, Amanda Potgieter, Corinne Hall, Lissy Macleod, Fi Morris, Carla Rudd, Linsey Smith, Imogen Brown, Emily Gerke, Rosie Inns, Sherisa Gumbs, Georgina Dean, Isa Guha

Essex (last year 8th)
Essex found it difficult to score runs and take wickets last year, which lead to them winning just two of their league games. They lost the relegation play-off game with Surrey and should have faced Somerset for the right to stay in the top-flight, but the game was cancelled and thus they survived. They are very likely to struggle again this year and relegation must be a concern. England's Beth Langston heads their bowling attack and opened the batting frequently last year. Their overseas player this year is teenage West Australian batsman Heather Graham. She will need to hit the ground running when she lands on 25th April.
Squad - Jo Cook (capt), Hannah Courtnell, Beth Langston, Karen Baker, Heather Graham, Cordelia Griffith, Lilly Reynolds, Beth MacGregor, Laura Owen, Hannah Jeffery, Bryony Butcher, Mady Villiers, Kelly Castle, Kara Toleman, Sharanya Sadarangani, Shona Keaney, Grace Melhuish

Kent (last year 3rd)
Kent's core is England quintet Charlotte Edwards, Lydia Greenway, Laura Marsh, Tash Farrant and Tammy Beaumont. And when all are fit and available it is a formidable line-up. But Kent's 2013 season was disrupted by injuries and they relied heavily on their young bowlers last year, including Tash Farrant, Grace Gibbs, Charlotte Pape and Megan Belt, who rarely let them down. But they did lose two key matches to Sussex and Yorkshire, which ultimately cost them a place in the play-off final - the first they had missed in 10 years.There is no doubt they will be strong again in 2014 if they can get their England players on the field, and the addition of former Kiwi leg-spinner Erin Bermingham won't do them any harm (she has just been awarded the Canterbury Magicians Bowler of the Year Award). The team everyone wants to beat.
Squad -Charlotte Edwards (capt), Lydia Greenway (vice), Alice Davidson-Richards, Charlotte Pape, Deanna Cooper, Erin Bermingham, Grace Gibbs, Hannah Jelfs, Holly Summers, Jenni Jackson, Laura Marsh, Megan Belt, Sarah Kennett, Tammy Beaumont, Tash Farrant​

Middlesex (last year 7th)
An up-and-down season last year with wins against Sussex and Warwickshire, but losses to fellow strugglers Essex and Surrey. Tash Miles and Cath Dalton lead the batting, but the bowling was more problematic. The Meatballs are a charismatic side, but that may not be enough to prevent them slugging it out at the bottom of the league again with Surrey and Essex.
Squad - Beth Morgan (capt), Maia Bouchier, Catherine Dalton, Naomi Dattani, Sophia Dunkley, Alexandra Hartley, Emma Inglis, Raveena Lakhtaria,  Natasha Miles, Anna Nicholls,  Ria Raval, Helena Stolle, Danni Warren, Hannah Wakeman, Izzy Westbury

Nottinghamshire (last year 4th)
A rather non-descript performance in 2013 with Dani Wyatt leading the run-scorers in a rather pedestrian batting line-up, which did them no favours. Jenny Gunn seemed to take a backseat in the six games she played, bowling few overs and batting down the order.They will need her and Wyatt to lead from the front if they are to have a successful season.
Squad - no details available

Surrey (last year 9th)
Surrey, like Essex, struggled with both bat and ball last year, with the one ray of light being England's new all-rounder Natalie Sciver, although even she only took six wickets and scored 277 runs at an average of just less than 40. They won only one game, but did beat Essex in the relegation play-off game, so survived the drop to Division 2. If Susie Rowe plays more than she did last year they might win a game or two, but it looks like being a tough season for them once again.
Squad - includes Cecily Scutt (capt) and Rachel Candy

Sussex (last year 1st)
Last year's champions will be pushed all the way this season. England legend Sarah Taylor takes over the captaincy of a young squad which will miss the services of stalwart Holly Colvin. Georgia Elwiss will be keen to prove to England that she is a top quality all-rounder, and opening bowler Freya Davies will be keen to enhance her growing reputation with the ball. She skippered the Sussex U17s to an unprecedented County Championship and T20 double last year, in which Paige Scholfield, Izzy Collis, Megan Janman, Abbey Freeborn, Ellen Burt and Anna Harris all featured. A strong bowling unit they will look to their England trio (Taylor, Elwiss and Brindle) to lead the way with the bat. Without them the pressure will be on the youngsters.
Squad - Sarah Taylor (capt), Arran Brindle (vice), Georgia Adams, Ellen Burt, Izzy Collis, Freya Davies, Georgia Elwiss, Abbey Freeborn, Chiara Green, Anna Harris, Megan Janman, Izi Noakes, Tara Norris, Sophie Parnell, Hannah Phelps, Paige Scholfield, Rebecca Silk, Alexia Walker

Warwickshire (last year 6th)
Promoted from Div 2 in 2012 they had a solid if unspectacular 2013 in Div 1 winning four and losing four. Scoring runs was their main challenge with no batsmen managing to get more than 162 in the season. It is difficult to see where their runs will come from in 2014. But England's Amy Jones will hope for a better season with the bat, and the returning Helen Shipman and the young Georgia Hennessy will be aiming to stake their own claim for England places. England's new left-arm spinner Becky Grundy will again lead the bowling attack.
Squad - Fran Clarkson (capt), Kayleigh Alsop, Nadia Bacciochi, Laura Crofts, Darcy-Chantell Evans, Becky Grundy, Georgia Hennessy, Rachael Howells, Amy Jones, Marie Kelly, Sian Kelly, Aneesha Patel, Lizzie Russell, Helen Shipman, Lizzie Smart, Isabelle Watson, Minahil Zahoor

Yorkshire (last year 2nd)
Made the Championship play-off last year, after a few seasons in the doldrums, but finished second best to Sussex. During the season they actually beat both Sussex and Kent, but lost to Berkshire and Warwickshire. England trio Dani Hazell, Lauren Winfield (the new skipper) and Katherine Brunt (if she is fit) will lead the way and they have some good youngsters in Jess Watson, Hollie Armitage and Alex MacDonald (on loan from Gloucester). Still a young team, they will do well to repeat last year's performance, but will be there or thereabouts. First game of the season against Kent could set the tone.
Squad - Lauren Winfield (capt), Dani Hazell (vice), Jess Watson, Kathryn Doherty, Ami Campbell, Hollie Armitage, Alex Macdonald, Hannah Buck, Laura Spragg, Aimee Simms, Beatrice Firth, Katie Levick, Cecilia Allen, Kennedy Nuttall, Katherine Brunt

2014 Fixtures

Sunday 4th May
Division 1
Kent v Yorkshire
Notts v Berkshire
Surrey v Warwickshire
Sussex v Essex

Monday 5th May
Division 1

Middlesex v Kent
Notts v Essex
Surrey v Yorkshire
Sussex v Warwickshire

Sunday 25th May
Division 1

Berkshire v Sussex
Essex v Surrey
Kent v Warwickshire
Yorkshire v Middlesex

Monday 26th May
Division 1
Berkshire v Surrey
Kent v Essex
Notts v Sussex
Warwickshire v Middlesex

Sunday 15th June
Division 1
Essex v Berkshire
Middlesex v Surrey
Warwickshire v Notts
Yorkshire v Sussex

Sunday 22nd June
Division 1

Essex v Warwickshire
Notts v Middlesex
Sussex v Kent
Yorkshire v Berkshire

Sunday 29th June
Division 1

Berkshire v Middlesex
Essex v Yorkshire
Kent v Notts
Surrey v Sussex

Sunday 20th July
Division 1
Essex v Middlesex
Kent v Berkshire
Surrey v Notts
Warwickshire v Yorkshire

Sunday 27th July 
Division 1
Berkshire v Warwickshire
Middlesex v Sussex
Surrey v Kent
Yorkshire v Notts


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