Thursday, 23 April 2015

Rankings - What are they good for?

The ICC have announced this week that they are going to amalgamate the women's rankings into one overall ranking. I say they announced it, but actually it came under the heading of "Other Matters", which came out of the most recent Board Meeting. All that was said was - "A new rankings system has been approved for women’s cricket, incorporating results in all three formats into a single rankings system."

As things currently stand there are Women's T20 batting, bowling and all-rounder rankings and Women's ODI batting, bowling and all-rounder rankings. You can find them here. What happens is that at the end of each series the rankings of the player's who played are adjusted up or down to reflect their performance in that series. The idea is to show the reader who are the current best players in international cricket. There are no Women's Test rankings, presumably on the basis that there have only been five Tests in the last five years and four of those have involved England and three Australia.

I have to say that I am no fan of the Women's Rankings, which are apparently calculated by a complicated algorithm, which attempts to take into account all the factors involved in any game played, but seems to produce some very odd results. For example who would you say are the five top-ranked women T20 bowlers if I asked you? [in case you want to try I have listed them at the bottom of this piece - try not to cheat. How many did you get? - be honest now].

I am even less of a fan of a system which attempts to amalgamate three completely different formats into one overall ranking, one of which (Tests) is hardly played at all, and when it is, is only played by one or two of the top cricket nations. India's Test against England last summer was the first they had played for eight years, and the subsequent India v South Africa Test was the first South Africa had played for seven years, with the previous one having been played against the Netherlands. Charlotte Edwards has played 22 Tests. West Indies Stafanie Taylor and Kiwi Suzie Bates have played none, and there are no plans for them to play any in the near future (unless the ICC are not telling us something!).

Quite frankly whatever the ICC produces it will be a nonsense.

So if we cannot rely on the ICC Rankings for anything more than an idle topic of conversation over a pint or a glass of wine at your local clubhouse, what can we rely on? The answer of course is the stats!

As a former business manager and a cricketer of some years (and still counting), I have to confess a liking for stats, although I am no slave to them. In my view the longer a player plays the more relevant their stats become. So I went off to find the stats for the current England team and then the top 20 ranked batsmen in ODI cricket. I found the England ones quite easily on cricinfo, although they do think that Arran Brindle, Holly Colvin and Suzie Rowe are current players. But my research found nothing that compared players around the world, so I did it myself. I think the results are quite interesting. Even Stephen Fry might agree, but then he is a cricket buff too! I leave it to you to make what you will of the stats. I have run up two tables - by average and by strike rate. The number after the player's name is their current ICC ODI batting ranking.

Top ODI batsmen by average

Top ODI batsmen by strike rate

I suppose the question is if you had to pick six batsmen for your World XI, who would they be? I know mine, but I bet they are not the same as yours.

By the way the five top-ranked ICC T20 Bowlers are :-
1. Salma Khatun - Bangladesh
2. Morna Nielsen - New Zealand
3. Dani Hazell - England
4. Udeshika Prabodhani - Sri Lanka
5. Shanel Daley - West Indies


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Lancs Mean Business

The Women's County Championship season (labelled slightly less inaccurately this year as the Royal London One Day Championship - it was apparently a Cup last year!) starts on 3rd May. With just eight games to play the championship could almost be decided by the end of May, by which time most teams will have played four of those games.

With the prospect of a Women's Super League and new franchises apparently looming for 2016, it has been interesting to see how the teams have set themselves up for the season ahead.

Six weeks ago I asked all the Division One and Two counties if they could let me have some basic details about their squads for 2015. First to respond were Middlesex with their full squad, closely followed by Scotland, who duly confirmed their squad and the fact that they are playing in blue "with a wee bit of tartan" (my favourite kit description ever!). Berkshire gave me their full squad with numbers the next day and Essex gave me their squad, and details of their early April Press Day. Notts gave me some details by twitter. Sussex and Devon gave me their squads, numbers and some blurb a few days later. Next to arrive was the Yorkshire squad, closely followed by Worcestershire's with plenty of detail. Lancs was the last to hit my laptop, before it was time to publish my Div 1 preview - No information had been supplied by Kent, Surrey or Warwickshire.

I published the Div 2 preview a week later, by which time I had also heard from Ireland, Somerset and Staffs. No info had been received from Durham or Wales.

To date the Previews have been read over 1,200 times, which shows there is interest out there in women's county cricket.

Four counties in Divs 1 and 2 held joint Press Days with their men's teams - Middlesex, Lancashire, Warwickshire and Essex, although I am not sure that any of those interested in women's cricket were actually invited to any of them. Some good photos were posted on twitter of the days, although Middlesex's gloat of "Our pavilion is better than yours", referring of course to Lords, rang rather hollow as they have never played there and are extremely unlikely to ever do so. But, beyond twitter, media coverage was sparse, to say the least. I appreciate that it is early days and that the Women's County Championship does not have the gravitas of the Men's, but I had hoped for more.

Of all the counties it does seem that Lancashire lead the pack - off the field, at least. They are new to Div 1 this year, but they have made the most of their promotion with...well...self-promotion. They have received good local media coverage and have made others aware of this through good use of social media. They have also taken the novel step of calling themselves the Lancashire Thunder. Their press release, which I found on their website, was full of effusive claims for the new nickname. It will apparently "increase media coverage of the game, make the game attractive to new players and retain players within women's cricket." Woah!! Whether it will do any of these things is debatable, but what it does do is remove the word "Women" from the description of the Lancashire team. It shouldn't, but somehow the use of the word "women" in a sporting context, suggests "inferior to men's". Women's cricket is not inferior to men's. It is a different product, with different skills and different nuances.

It is for this very reason that I have never been a fan of double-header T20s with men's teams. Women's T20 cricket has all the subtlety that the men's game does not. In my eyes it is actually a better pure cricket product than men's T20, but that is not what attracts people to watch men's T20 cricket. They ignore women's T20 in their droves when it is played before men's games. The last T20 World Cup in Bangladesh proved the point. Crowds of upwards of 9,000 turned up to the group games played exclusively in Sylhet, but when the semi-finals and the finals were played before the men's games in Mirpur, the ground was almost empty. Sylhet, and indeed Chelmsford (where they get crowds of up to 5,000 to watch England Women play T20) have proved that there is a market for women's T20 cricket, but it is NOT the same market as for the men's T20.

But I digress. The point is that no-one is quite sure how women's cricket is going to pan out over the next few years. All that you can say is that it has come a long way in the past five years and if you were an entrepreneur or a betting man you wouldn't mind investing a few bob in women's cricket going a lot further in the next few years. Suddenly the marketing guys at county cricket clubs are waking up to this fact and to the fact that they need to start getting their ducks in a row. The winners will be those that take the time, and make the effort, to understand women's cricket and how best to market it. At the moment Lancs appear to be leading the field.


Thursday, 9 April 2015

EWA OD game stats v Shooting Stars

For those of you who like stats here are my unofficial stats from the four OD games played by the EWA against the Southern Stars.

Batting Stats

Bowling Stats


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Elwiss & Wilson gunning for England places

England's so-called Academy team are three matches in to their six match series with the Aussie Shooting Stars out in Dubai and they find themselves 2-1 down, with one ODI and two T20s to come.

The three matches to date have all followed a fairly similar pattern. England have won the toss and batted first, scored about 260 thanks to major contributions with the bat from Georgia Elwiss and Fran Wilson, and the Aussies have chased them down on two occasions and fallen just short on the other.

Both contracted Elwiss and non-contracted Wilson have been in fine form. Elwiss has scored 100(81), 65(42) and 50(39). She has also taken 1/21, 3/46 and 1/22. Wilson has scored 57(60), 50(42), and 45(54). It is not only the fact that they have scored runs, but that they have scored them at a good pace (Elwiss in particular). The only other batsmen to have gone past 50 have been Tammy Beaumont 59(82) and Evelyn Jones 50(104), in an opening stand of 118 in the second game, which consumed nearly 30 overs.

With England's senior middle order still looking like their biggest problem, both Elwiss and Wilson must be in the frame to make it into the Ashes squad (or more likely squads) for the summer. If they are to make the final 11 then realistically they will have to displace one of the current incumbents - Lauren Winfield, Lydia Greenway, Nat Sciver or Jenny Gunn.

Winfield was promoted to number three in England's recent series against New Zealand. She made 3,14 and 29 in the three ODIs she played and 1 and 48 in two T20s. She was not convincing. She had apparently been hitting the ball well in the nets, but as we know, hitting it well in the nets and out in the middle are two very different things. She was then injured (quad muscle). She was due to go to Dubai with the Academy, but pulled out a week before when her injury failed to clear up. She will therefore have games for Yorkshire against Kent, Warwickshire, and Berkshire in May to prove she is fit and in form. She really needs to find some runs soon.

Greenway had an indifferent tour to New Zealand too. She struggled with the bat in the first few games and was dropped for the third ODI after scores of a scratchy 27 and 0. She came back into the side for the T20s and two great catches seemed to restore her confidence. She batted better after that but still only scored 18*, 25 and 23. She has only one score over 50 in her last 25 ODI innings (going back 3 years), and averages 26 over that period. England are unlikely to jettison her without more thought, but her outstanding fielding cannot be allowed to dictate her automatic selection.

Sciver came into the England set-up as a bowling all-rounder, but has developed into a stylish, but somewhat frustrating batsmen. She looks the part with the bat in her hand, but tends to find ways to get out. It is early days in her career and she has been described as "the future of England cricket". Her knock of 65* in the last game against New Zealand suggested that could be true, but her performances to date in Dubai (1, 11 and 23) leave something to be desired. It would be good to see her come to the party in Dubai in the next few days.

Gunn averages less than 20 with the bat in ODIs after 96 innings, but she does have the small matter of 115 ODI wickets to her name. She has fulfilled the "reliable second change bowler who can bat a bit" role for some time now. In fact there was a period in her England career when she batted in the top three. However those days seem to have long gone. In New Zealand she started the ODI series at 7, but was soon demoted to 10, behind Brunt, Marsh and Shrubsole. She looked out of sorts with the bat scoring 1, 5 and 1 in the first three games. She also only bowled 14.4 overs during the five match series taking no wickets. Early county form could again be a key indicator.

That is not to say that Elwiss and/or Wilson are the panacea to all England's middle-order batting woes. It is worth noting the standard of the opposition they are facing out in Dubai. Australia are clearly treating this tour as an experience for some of their younger players. The Shooting Stars have seven teenagers in their squad. In contrast England have just one (the centrally-contracted Tash Farrant at 18). Three of the ten Aussie bowlers used in the last OD game did not even bowl in the WNCL (senior state cricket in Australia) in 2014/15 - opener Lauren Cheatle (16), first-change Nicola Hancock (19) and off-spinner Ashleigh Gardner (17). There is also the fact that the wickets in Dubai are great to bat on, with little movement, even bounce and lightning outfields. Having said that Elwiss and Wilson have outshone both Sciver and Beaumont, who are playing in the same games, on the same wickets and against the same bowlers. They can do no more than that.

Certainly on the batting front both Elwiss's and Wilson's stock has risen at just the right time. It will be for the England management to decide if it has sufficient upside to require a significant investment.


Friday, 3 April 2015

Women's County Championship 2015 Div 2 Squads, Preview & Fixtures

The nine teams in Division 2 for 2015 will be - Devon, Durham, Essex, Ireland, Scotland, Somerset, Staffordshire, Wales, Worcestershire. Cheshire were relegated from Division 2 last year and Scotland were promoted to Division 2 after finishing top of Division 3. Worcestershire retained their place in Division 2 after beating the Netherlands in the relegation/promotion play-off last season.

Each team will play each other just once and the teams that finish first and second in Division Two at the end of the season will be promoted to Division 1. The teams that finish eighth and ninth will be automatically relegated to Division 3 for the 2016 season.

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. No points are awarded for an abandoned game. 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.

Having failed to achieve promotion in 2013, despite winning all their games, Lancashire were red hot favourites to make it into Div 1 in 2014. They achieved their goal winning all but their last game of the season to Staffordshire. Somerset just pipped Ireland to second place in the league, beating them by 10 runs in the last game of the season. It meant they got to play against Div 1's Warwickshire to decide who played in Div 1 next year. Having missed out on promotion last year (due to the weather) they must have been heartbroken when Warwickshire achieved the required 15 runs needed off the last over (from Anya Shrubsole no less) to win by 3 wickets and preserve their place in Div 1. Ireland had a good season finishing with five wins out of eight, as did Devon and Staffs.

The scrap at the top in 2015 should be between these four teams - Somerset, Ireland, Devon and Staffs, with newcomers Scotland the wildcard. They were promoted as champions of Div 3 last year and will be keen to make their mark in this higher league.

Devon (finished 3rd in 2014)
Team Colours : Blue
Overseas Player : Hannah Linton
England Academy Players : Aylish Cranstone, Jodie Dibble

Devon will be looking to make that final step to Division 1 in 2015 with what looks like being a fully fit squad for the first time in recent years. They welcome back top order bat and left arm seam bowler Aylish Cranstone after a year out recovering from shoulder injury. They will be skippered once again by Jodie Dibble and will be hopeful that they can get a full season out of both her and keeper bat Amara Carr. They also welcome back Kiwi Hannah Linton for a second stint and have added the promising young all-rounder from Cornwall, Sophie Mackenzie, to bolster the seam attack and middle order. It is also hoped that former U19 Development player Rebecca Bertrand will make herself available for the 2015 campaign, which should help to cover the loss of last year’s stand out batsman Rosalie Fairbairn, who misses the season as she prepares for the birth of her first child. Perhaps the most interesting additions are the signings of Rebecca Silk and Bryony Butcher, formerly of Sussex and Essex respectively. Both bring Division 1 experience and Silk gives more balance to the spin attack of  left armers Dibble and Garton, with her off breaks. Devon are a youthful looking side that should be looking to make a serious challenge for the top two spots. 
Squad (with numbers) : Jodie Dibble (48) capt, Amara Carr (1), Lydia Harris (2), Rebecca Bertrand (3), Vicky Bowden (5), Hazelle Garton (6), Alli Kelly (8), Lauren Bowden (9), Cait O'Keefe (10), Rebecca Donahue (11), Lydia Clements (15), Bryony Butcher (20), Hannah Linton (23), Phoebe Graham (25), Rebecca Silk (26), Claire Varcoe (28), Sophie MacKenzie (32), Aylish Cranstone (44), Jodie Dibble (48)

Durham (finished 7th in 2014)
Team Colours : Dark Blue with yellow details
Overseas Player : None
England Academy Players : None
Durham only beat the two teams who finished below them in the league last year and struggled against the rest, apart from a tight, low-scoring game with champions Lancashire. Runs were often the issue. Laura Hockaday hit her maiden century for the county against Worcestershire, but could not get past 50 in any other game. Catherine Chapman was the only other batsmen to get beyond 50 during the season. Lynn McDonnell and Rachael Petherick led the bowlers. 2015 could be another tough season.
Squad (with numbers) : Laura Ellison (31) (capt), Hayley Falla (2), Laura Hockday (9), Rachael Petherick (3), Catherine Chapman (5), Danielle Peart (1), Sarah King (14), Elysa Hubbard (8), Rebecca Newark (37) , Laura Jones (4), Phillipa Rawbone (56), Lynn McDonnell (98), Caitlin Byrne (7), Jane Riddell (11), Helen Fenby (6), Courtney Coulson (26), Becky Glen (24), Caroline Jamieson (28), Courtney Rowland (97), Bethany Walker (10), Sophie Jacobson (12), Amy Hearn (16), Vanessa Watson (17), Athena Fernyhough (25)

Essex (relegated from Div 1 in 2014)
Team Colours : Blue
Overseas Player : Emily Smith
England Academy Players : Beth Langston
Essex struggled in Div 1 for the past two seasons and were relegated to Div 2 after finishing bottom last year, with just one win. They struggled to score runs all season except in their win over Berkshire (chasing down 193 to win). Overseas signing Emily Smith will keep wicket, but will not strengthen the batting a great deal. If Beth Langston and Cordelia Griffith can both stay fit and play then Essex will at least have a fighting chance, but they are are more likely to be in the bottom three than the top three.
Squad : Hannah Courtnell (capt), Beth Langston, Cordelia Griffith, Lilly Reynolds, Hannah Jeffery, Kara Toleman, Emily Smith, Mady Villiers, Kelly Castle, Shona Keaney, Jessica Bird, Florence Wilkinson, Millie Oddi, Rebecca Neill, Charlotte Hayman.

Ireland (finished 4th  in 2015)
Team Colours : Green
Overseas Player : None
England Academy Players : None
Ireland had a decent season in 2014 winning five of their eight games and finishing level with Staffs in fourth place in the league and 2015 will be a big season for them. Veteran Clare Shillington topped the batting in 2015, but only she and Cecilia Joyce got past 50. 17 year old leg-spinner Elena Tice was top wicket-taker last year (18 wickets) and she will be a key weapon this year. Ireland will also be hoping that the influential and experienced Isobel Joyce, who missed two months in the middle of the 2014 season, will be fit for all their games this year. With World Cup qualification also looming at the end of the year Ireland will need her. Should be in contention for promotion.
Squad (with shirt numbers): Hannah de Burgh Whyte (32), Laura Delany (14), Emma Flannagan (20), Kim Garth (34), Jennifer Gray (29), Cecilia Joyce (44), Isobel Joyce (33), Shauna Kavanagh (85), Amy Kenealy (18), Louise McCarthy (47), Kate McKenna (46), Lucy O'Reilly (99), Eimar Richardson (8), Rebecca Rolfe ((5), Clare Shillington (11), Elena Tice (48), Mary Waldron (81)

Scotland (promoted from Div 2 in 2014)
Team Colours : Blue with a wee bit of tartan
Overseas Player : None
England Academy Players : None
Scotland arrive in Div 2 as Div 3 champions having lost only one game, to Northants, in their 2014 season opener. They are a young and enthusiastic bunch ably led by veteran Abbi Aitken. Scotland's player/coach and number 3, Kari Anderson (Carswell), was the most consistent with the bat, finishing with a league average of 85 thanks to four not outs in seven innings. She also topped the wicket-takers. Her potential absence on the pitch this year will be a big blow. Scotland too are involved in the World Cup tournament in November, so will be challenging themselves in their first season in Div 2. They may find life quite a bit tougher.
Squad (with shirt numbers): Abbi Aitken (91) capt, Charlotte Bascombe (19), Sarah Bryce (6), Kathryn Bryce (17), Kari Carswell (82), Priyanaz Chatterji (7), Lynne Dickson (13), Annette Drummond (8), Briony Gillin (46), Kirstie Gordon (24), Sam Haggo (42), Lorna Jack (10), Abtaha Maqsood (9), Caitlin Ormiston (33), Liz Priddle (16), Ollie Rae (14), Rachel Scholes (5), Kirsty Strachan (1), Fiona Urquhart (27), Nadia Wheeler (23), Kathryn White (11), Lois Wilkinson (73), Ruth Willis (4)

Somerset (finished 2nd  in 2014)
Team Colours : Maroon
Overseas Player : Lizelle Lee
England Players : Anya Shrubsole
England Academy Players : Sophie Luff
Somerset have missed out on promotion for the last two years and you get the feeling that that boat may have sailed. They are unlikely to see much of Anya Shrubsole, although they didn't see much of her last year (she only bowled 18 overs in county games). They have also lost Fran Wilson to Middlesex. But they have bolstered  their batting line up recruiting Gwenan Davies from Wales and South African international Lizelle Lee, who could have a huge impact. 2014 saw the emergence of young bowlers Lorraine Szczepanski & Cassie Coombes who both made a significant impact and a great deal may rest on their shoulders again this year. Lee could be key to another promotion challenge.
Squad (with shirt numbers): Anya Shrubsole capt (41), Lizelle Lee (67), Beth Howe (3), Cassie Coombes (5), Emma Godman (19), Georgia Adcock (7), Georgia Tulip (13), Gwenan Davies (33), Gwyn West (20), Jackie Hawker (21), Jenny Withers (9), Lauren Shrubsole (16), Lorraine Szczepanski (10), Moira Comfort (1), Sophie Luff (6)

Staffordshire (finished 4th  in 2014)
Team Colours : tba
Overseas Player : Molly Strano
England Academy Players : Steph Butler, Evelyn Jones
Staffs were due to have South African Dane van Niekerk as their overseas player for 2015, but when that fell through they picked up promising young Aussie off-spinner Molly Strano. If she makes the Aussie Ashes touring squad she will not play much of the season, but she and Steph Butler may prove an interesting combination. Much will be expected of opening bat Evelyn Jones after her swift elevation to the England Academy this winter. The left-hander will be looking to make some big runs this season. Staffs are likely to be in the top four again, but there are other teams that again look stronger in this division this year.
Squad : Elsa Evans capt, Francesca James, Molly Strano, Steph Butler, Evelyn Jones, Elysse Lally, Charlotte Whyle, Kathryn Whyle, Amy Carnwell, Lucy Kelsall, Cheryl Allcock, Alex Hale, Charlotte Steele

Wales (finished 6th  in 2014)
Team Colours : tba
Overseas Player : None
England Academy Players : None
Wales struggled for runs against the decent sides last year and with the loan of key bat Gwenan Davies to Somerset they are likely to struggle in 2015. Lauren Parfitt will probably shoulder most of the burden for runs and wickets and she will need some of her young players to help her out, if Wales are not to be fighting relegation come September.
Squad : yet to be announced

Worcestershire (finished 8th in 2014)
Team Colours : tba
Overseas Player : None
England Academy Players : None
Worcestershire struggled in 2014 beating just relegated Cheshire in the regular season, but then survived with a win over Div 3 runners-up Holland in a low-scoring play-off game. Lauren Rowles takes over the captaincy full time this year having performed really well in the role last year having deputised for Thea Brookes towards the end of 2014. Brookes should be available for the whole of the 2015 season and her experience and quality will be invaluable in providing the team with firepower at the top of the order, and quality spin bowling and athleticism in the field. Emily Arlott had a wonderful breakthrough year in 2015. Having been involved in the England Women’s Development Programme over this past winter, it will be interesting to see how she progresses. Charlotte North returns on loan from Yorkshire again for 2015.
Squad : Lauren Rowles capt, Naomi Heyward, Emily Arlott, Rachel Baldwin, Clare Boycott, Thea Brookes, Jo Cull, Vicky Evans, Jo Greaves, Abi Houghton, Jess Humby, Charlottre North, Sarvi Razavi, Emma Waters


Sunday 3rd May
Devon v Essex at Exmouth CC
Staffs v Somerset at Bloxwich
Wales v Scotland at St Helens Swansea CC
Worcs v Ireland at Kidderminster Victoria CC

Monday 4th May
Devon v Durham at North Devon CC
Somerset v Ireland at Bath CC
Staffs v Scotland at Oakmoor
Wales v Essex at Pontarddulais CC

Sunday 24th May
Devon v Wales at Sidmouth CC
Durham v Staffs at Durham City CC
Essex v Ireland at Felsted School
Worcs v Scotland at Barnt Green CC

Monday 25th May
Durham v Scotland at Durham City CC
Somerset v Devon at Taunton CC
Staffs v Ireland at Meakins
Worcs v Wales at Kidderminster Victoria CC

Sun 21st June
Devon v Ireland at Tiverton Heathcoat
Durham v Worcs at Durham City CC
Essex v Somerset at Felsted School
Wales v Staffs at Ynystawe CC

Sunday 19th July
Durham v Ireland at Durham City CC
Essex v Worcs at Garon Park, Southend
Somerset v Scotland at Brislington CC
Staffs v Devon at Milford Hall CC

Monday 17th Aug
Durham v Staffs at Durham City CC

Sunday 30th Aug
Essex v Scotland at Billericay CC
Somerset v Durham at Midsomer Norton CC
Wales v Ireland at Newport CC
Worcs v Devon at New Road, Worcs

Mon 31st Aug
Essex v Staffs at Garon Park, Southend
Scotland v Ireland at Wellesbourne CC
Wales v Durham at Newport CC
Worcs v Somerset at Barnards Green CC

Sun 13th Sept
Devon v Scotland at Exmouth CC
Durham v Essex at Durham City CC
Somerset v Wales at The County Ground, Taunton
Staffs v Worcs at Meakins