Saturday, 29 August 2015

Hove rocks as England expire

So with one game to come in the Ashes Series the destiny of the trophy has already been decided after England's batting crumbled into a heap at a packed County Ground at Hove, leaving the Aussies 10-4 up in the series with just two more points on offer.

Yet again England's bowling was good, their fielding generally sharp (with the exception of Winfield's dropped catch), but their batting was woeful. The only crumb of comfort for England was Danni Wyatt's three ball innings. She put more energy and effort into her nine minute stay at the crease than any other England batsmen in this entire series. Her dismissal (cruelly run out at the non-striker's end) was the final nail in England's batting coffin. Please England bat her at a sensible position in the final T20 and let her have a chance to show what she can do. She deserves that chance.

Having contained the Aussies to just 107/7 in their 20 overs England should have been heading to Cardiff just 8-6 down and with the Ashes still in their grasp, but poor shots from Edwards, Winfield, Sciver, Taylor and Knight left the England innings gasping for breath and clutching its chest on 28/5 at the end of the six over power play. Katherine Brunt, inexplicably still sent in at number five when England were 10/3, and Lydia Greenway did what they could to resuscitate England's fortunes, but they could only add 25 in the next six overs. England were clinging on, but they were on their second round of adrenalin.

It was at this stage that Meg Lanning, whose captaincy has been a revelation in this series, produced another masterstroke. She switched Megan Schutt to the Cromwell Road End and very deliberately moved her third man over to the leg-side, leaving an inviting gap at third man for Brunt to try and score in. Schutt bowled a good length ball just outside the off-stump, gently swinging in to the right-hander. Brunt attempted to guide it down to third man, but only succeeded in guiding it onto her stumps.

The England innings briefly twitched into life again when Wyatt walked in at number eight as she scampered through for twos and threes, where before there were only ones and twos, and scored seven off the three balls she faced. She even seemed to inspire Lydia Greenway, who had dab-swept her way to just nine off 19 balls. She hit a crisp straight drive for four off Farrell, but two balls later Wyatt was forlornly trudging back to the pavilion, as Farrell deflected another Greenway drive onto the stumps at the bowler's end.

Greenway presided over the last rites, as she hit another 11 singles and a two, before she was last out in the last over and England were all out for their lowest-ever T20 total of 87 in, ironically, their 87th T20 innings, losing the game by a comfortable 20 runs.

It was a sad end in front of 5,750 paying spectators, who had created a great atmosphere. As Sussex Chairman Jim May explained with a large smile on his face. "It is a different sort of crowd". He was right. It is not the same people who want to see men's cricket. This is a different audience, which is why there will be hardly anyone to watch the final game at Cardiff on Monday, as it is an early-start double-header with the men. Those that have paid their £45 are there to watch the men and will not rock up four hours early to watch the women. They don't want to watch the women. If this series does nothing else let us hope that it has killed the concept of double-headers as being 1) a good idea and 2) necessary.

Going forward England need to stop talking about looking to improve their batting and actually do something about it. This is not a new problem! The players they have in this squad have now been "professionals" for 16 months. There seems to have been little progress over that time despite that very focused investment. They also need to play more cricket. Even I can look good against a bowling machine in the nets. Get out and play. Get time in the middle. Batsmen bat best when they don't have to think about what they are doing or why they are doing it. Charlotte Edwards for example has played just five County Championship games and four County T20s this season. It is not enough.

The proposed Women's Cricket Super League may help, in time, but only if it is properly funded. The ECB appear to be asking a great deal from the host organisations and from the girls that will be selected to play in it. It will be interesting to see who gets the six franchises in December and what they do with them.

The next couple of years could be painful for England. They have the T20 World Cup next year and then they host the 50 over World Cup in 2017. Change takes time, but now is surely the time to start that change?


Friday, 28 August 2015

Kent have seventh title within their grasp

This Bank Holiday weekend is the penultimate weekend for the Women's County Championship, with games being played on the Sunday and Monday (Wales and Durham are now playing Saturday rather than Monday). Both Div 1 & Div 2 games are previewed below.

Division One Preview & Fixtures 

Due to the way the fixtures have worked out Div 1 table-toppers Kent actually finish their season this weekend, with away games at Middlesex and Berkshire, and they will know that two wins will give them the County Championship title for a record seventh time. Kent will be without their England trio of Edwards, Greenway and Marsh, but they will have Tammy Beaumont and Tash Farrant available for selection. But Middlesex should be at full strength with Fran Wilson back on duty, plus Aussie import Julie Hunter opening the bowling. If Middlesex can get Beaumont early they should back themselves to win. Monday's game against Berkshire will be no pushover for Kent either. If Berkshire can get a full-strength team on the park, minus Heather Knight, including players such as Rogers, Macleod, Hall, Rudd, Gumbs, Morris and Gardner they will fancy themselves to upset last year's County Champions.

Should Kent lose one or both games, then they will open the door for chasers Yorkshire and Sussex. The two teams meet in a potentially massive game on Bank Holiday Monday at Harrogate CC, but before that clash they have Surrey and Lancashire, respectively, to overcome. Surrey have had a torrid season. They have just finished bottom of the Div 1 T20 table without recording a win and they have not won a game in the Championship or the T20 competition since 21st June. Yorkshire are of course without Brunt, Hazell and Winfield, so they will be relying on their youngsters to keep up their title challenge.

Sussex's Sunday opponents, Lancashire, are also struggling in the Championship without a victory in five games, but they have romped away with the Div 2 T20 title, which should instill some confidence in them. They will, of course, have Kate Cross back in their midst, so Sussex without Taylor and Elwiss again, will need to be on their toes.

If both teams can win on the Sunday then Monday's Harrogate game will be huge. The winner could go on to take the Championship. The loser can wave goodbye to any Championship ambitions. Yorkshire narrowly missed out on the Div 1 T20 title to Sussex on NRR, so they will be keen to avenge that loss, but they will be without opening bats Beth Mooney (returned to Australia) and Jess Watson (injured), so will be reliant on youngsters such as Cecilia Allen, Hannah Buck, Katie Thompson, Phoebe Austin and Bea Firth to show what they can do. It could be a tough ask against a strong Sussex bowling attack, spearheaded by the experienced Holly Colvin and with the new ball threat of Freya Davies.

At the bottom of the league Lancashire meet second-to-bottom Warwickshire on Monday at home. With two teams to be relegated it is a must-win game for both counties. Warwickshire will have met Berkshire the previous day and if they could secure two wins they would lift themselves out of the relegation zone with one game (against Middlesex) still to come. They will have been buoyed by recent T20 performances (albeit in Div 2) and with Amy Jones back in their batting line-up they could make life uncomfortable for the teams just above them in the league table at the current time, particularly Notts and Middlesex, who also meet each other on Monday at Middlesex's new home ground at Merchant Taylor's School. Middlesex must be favourites to come out on top with Notts missing Jenny Gunn and Danni Wyatt on England duties, but it is Notts' only game of the weekend so they will be fresh, whereas Middlesex will have battled it out with Kent the day before.

Sunday 30th August
Lancs v Sussex at Wigan CC
Middx v Kent at Merchant Taylor's School
Warwickshire v Berks at Wellesbourne CC
Yorkshire v Surrey at Harrogate CC

Monday 31st August
Berks v Kent at North Maidenhead CC
Lancs v Warwickshire at Urmston CC
Middx v Notts at Merchant Taylor's School
Yorkshire v Sussex at Harrogate CC

Division Two Preview and Fixtures 

Somerset and Staffs looked nailed on to take the top two promotion places in Div 2 but they can make sure this weekend. Somerset are at home to third-placed Durham on Sunday and then travel to Worcestershire on Monday. Durham have won their last three games against Ireland, Worcester and Scotland so could give Somerset something to think about. Somerset will know if they win both games with decent bonus points they will be promoted - a feat which has tantalisingly alluded them for the past couple of seasons.

Staffs meanwhile (without overseas leading run-scorer Molly Strano) have just the one game on Monday against a reinvigorated Essex. Essex lost their first four games in Div 2 after relegation from Div 1 last year, but they picked up their first County Championship win in the last round against Worcestershire and have had a decent Div 2 T20 campaign, just missing out on promotion back to Div 1. They take on Scotland the day before, who are currently rock-bottom of Div 2, and two wins could drag Essex out of the relegation zone and the possibility of dropping two divisions in two years. The game at Garon Park on Monday could be a tense affair. If Lily Reynolds can retain her form with the bat for Essex (she hit 170 against Worcestershire) they could make life very uncomfortable for Staffs.

Wales, currently third from bottom, take on Durham on Saturday and then Ireland on Sunday. They cannot rely on those around them losing, but they will have their work cut out to get much from these two games. Durham are on a roll and Ireland have had a good Div 1 T20 campaign and performed admirably against Australia in the recent T20 series in Dublin. Two wins for Ireland (who finish their season this weekend) or Durham, and a slip by Staffs, and both teams could still be in with a shout of promotion to Div 1 next year. Ireland's game on Monday is against Scotland, who will have travelled all the way down to Essex the day before and then back to the midlands for this game. It could be a long drive back home to Scotland on Monday evening if they fail to pick up a win.

Devon's only game of the weekend is against Worcestershire on Sunday. Worcestershire could do with the win with Wales and Essex only one win behind them, but mid-table Devon will want to prove they are better than recent results have suggested. They have lost their last three games to Staffs, Ireland and Somerset to end any hopes they may have had of promotion. It should be a good game.

Saturday 29th August
Wales v Durham at Llanarth 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
Worcs v Somerset at Romsley CC


Monday, 24 August 2015

Make or break T20s for England

Wednesday will be Australia's first chance to clinch the Ashes back from England, when they meet in the first of three T20s at Chelmsford. The second will be at Hove on Friday and the third at Cardiff on Monday.

But will England manage to take the series beyond Wednesday's game? The odds don't look good. The Aussies are the current World T20 Champions, having retained the title they first won back in 2010 when they beat New Zealand. In 2012 and 2014 they beat England in the final. They are currently on an unbeaten run of 16 T20 games, which started back in March 2014 against South Africa on their way to their third World T20 title. It is true that during that time they have only played England once (in the final), but they will be keen to extend their run.

As warm-up for these games Australia travelled across to Dublin and took on Ireland. They won all three games comfortably, as you might expect, but it was genuine game time. England by contrast have been ensconced in Loughborough and have apparently played a couple of warm-up games against a young Northants Boys XI. They are now down in Chelmsford where the rain has meant they are in the indoor nets.

The only changes to the England squad are the recalling of the two Danielles - Misses Hazell (actually Mrs) and Wyatt, who come in for Kate Cross and Fran Wilson.

Hazell is England's leading wicket-taker in T20 cricket with 65 wickets in 60 games, but the sparky and intelligent 27 year old seems to be out of favour with the England management for some reason. She looked good with the ball in hand for the EWA in the warm-up games against the Aussies, but she is not the most mobile of fielders and her batting has not been any great shakes this season.

Wyatt is a conundrum. She scores plenty of runs in county cricket, both 50 over and T20 and she is great in the field, with a magnificent arm from the boundary. Originally she was an off-spinning all-rounder, but her bowling went through a lull in 2013 and 2014 with the England skipper having no real confidence in her ability to bowl an over without a bad ball in it.

As for her batting England never seem to have really decided how to make the best of her with the bat. Early on she was promoted up the order, almost as a pinch-hitter, but this failed. She was then shoved back into the middle/late order before she again appeared in the top order against the Aussies in 2013 at Chelmsford (28) and Southampton (0). But by Chester-le-Street she was back to number 6. In the West Indies later that year she started the first two T20s at 7, but was then promoted to open for the next three (37, 13 and 12). She kept the spot for the Ashes T20s in Australia early the next year, but had a miserable time (6, 0 , 6). She was back to 7 for the South Africa T20s last summer and down to 8 in New Zealand, where she did not get to bat at all, in three games. Over the last five years she has played in 56 T20s for England with a top score of just 41 and an average of just 13.16. Quite where she fits into the current England set-up (if at all) is a matter for conjecture.

I think England will start with Winfield, Edwards, Taylor, Sciver, Elwiss, Greenway, Knight, Brunt, Gunn, Hazell, Shrubsole.

As for the Aussies they seem to be in a bit of a quandary over who should open with Elyse Villani. Nicole Bolton is not a T20 player, so Jess Jonassen seems to be the left-hander of choice. But she does not seem to like the position that much and I think someone else may get the role, possibly Healy or Perry. Somehow they will also have to accommodate rising T20 star Grace Harris. She is only here because T20 specialist Delissa Kimmince pulled out of the tour through injury, but Harris impressed in Ireland with her clean hitting and her tidy off-spin, and the Aussies will be keen to blood her against tougher opposition prior to the T20 World Cup next year.

It is difficult to see England getting close to winning any, let alone all three, of the T20s, but one person can win a T20 all on their own. Do England have such a player? They probably do. Are they likely to actually do it though? Probably not.


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Hazell & Wyatt in for Cross & Wilson in T20 Squad

Danielle Hazell and Danielle Wyatt have been called-up to England squad for Women’s Ashes NatWest International T20s.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) today announced the England women’s squad for the three remaining Women’s Ashes NatWest International T20s. The 14-strong squad features two changes from the squad selected for the Kia Women’s Ashes Test – off-spinner Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire) and Nottinghamshire all-rounder Danielle Wyatt replacing Kate Cross and Fran Wilson.

Hazell is currently the number one IT20 bowler in the ICC’s player rankings and Wyatt has scored heavily in county cricket this summer. The three NatWest IT20s, which are worth two points each to the winner, will be played on Wednesday 26 August (The Essex County Ground, Chelmsford), Friday 28 August (The County Ground, Hove) and Monday 31 August (The SSE SWALEC, Cardiff). England must win all three encounters to retain the Women’s Ashes, after Australia secured an 8-2 lead in the multi-format series as a result of winning the standalone Kia Women’s Ashes Test (worth four points) and securing a 2-1 victory in the Royal London One-Day Internationals (worth two points each). Australia require just one more win to take them to an unassailable total of ten points to reclaim the Women’s Ashes.

ECB’s Head of England Women’s Performance, Paul Shaw,“We have called-up Danielle Hazell and Danielle Wyatt for the three must-win Women’s Ashes NatWest IT20s. Together they offer us a lot of international T20 experience, with well over 100 caps in this format between them, and Danielle Hazell currently topping the ICC IT20 bowling rankings. “We know that we face a huge challenge to get back into this Women’s Ashes contest, but there is a lot of pride and fight within this England women’s squad, and I know that the players will give it everything in these last three matches.”

Charlotte Edwards (captain)
Katherine Brunt
Georgia Elwiss
Lydia Greenway
Rebecca Grundy
Jenny Gunn
Danielle Hazell
Heather Knight (vice-captain)
Laura Marsh
Natalie Sciver
Anya Shrubsole
Sarah Taylor
Lauren Winfield
Danielle Wyatt


Thursday, 20 August 2015

Ansty girls are simply cricketers

Ansty Cricket Club, in the heart of Sussex, is your average friendly village cricket club running four Saturday sides, with the 1sts and 2nds playing Sussex Premier League cricket and the 3rds and 4ths in the Mid-Sussex Stoner league divisions 4 and 5.

Back in 2011 they started a women's team on the back of several talented youngsters and a few more senior female players and coaches. The team developed and won Division 3 of the Women's Cricket Southern League in 2013 and would probably have won promotion in 2014 from Division Two, but the league structure was changed to a regional basis for clubs below the Premier league and the Championship. Effectively Ansty stayed in the same league (now known as the Wostrack League after former Surrey cricketer Jenny Wostrack), which they are on course to win this year. Promotion to the Championship should have been their reward, but the Southern League are now mooting the scrapping of the Championship next year due to many teams failing to fulfill fixtures and conceding games. It is a familiar story in women's club cricket.

Undaunted team manager Dave Burt looked around for some sensible alternative cricket for his blossoming young female stars. He felt that many of them could hold their own quite comfortably in the 3rd XI, and so the girls' names were put up for selection and selected on merit. Several of them are now regular members of the 3rd XI team - Megan Janman, Tash Sole, Lucy Western, Ellen Burt, Ellie Monk. In fact Janman has now made 14 appearances and is the 3rd XIs highest run-scorer (345 runs to date) and wicket-taker (25 wickets) with Sole (20 wickets) following closely behind her.

With the standard of games for the girls in the WCSL being rather variable and with the prospect of promotion to a higher standard of cricket next year apparently dashed again, Dave Burt suggested that the committee allow the 3rd XI to field an all-female team for just one week, to see how they got on and the reaction they got from the opposition. If it worked then it could be an option for the 2016 season. The committee agreed.

So it was that last Saturday the Ansty 3rd XI was made up entirely of female players. Their hosts and opponents, Streat & Westmeston 2nd XI (two places above them in the league) were not too phased, as they had seen a couple of the girls play in their away fixture earlier in the season. In fact Janman had scored 34 and taken 4/33, so they knew the girls could play. They were a bit taken aback when they realised the entire team was female, but the respect the girls had earned in the earlier match, meant they knew they had a game on their hands.

Streat won the toss and decided to insert Ansty on a damp wicket. For once Janman missed out, but batsmen 2-7 all got into double figures, with Western (36) and skipper Sofie Cawley (34) top-scoring, as Ansty clocked up 187/6 declaring after 47 overs. It left them 43 overs to try and bowl Streat out. Streat made a decent start reaching 55 before they lost their first wicket, and then moving on to 133/2, but a flurry of wickets curtailed their run chase and they settled for a draw finishing on 152/5. [scorecard is here]

As far as we can ascertain this is the first all-female team to take to the park in the Sussex League, and in fact it may be the first in the country? [Ed - Do you know any different?]

But that is not what this game was really about. It was not about breaking down boundaries or showing that girls can compete with the men. It was about allowing girls to be cricketers and to play their cricket at a level that suits their abilities.

Shortly after the game finished team manager Burt received an email from a member of the opposition. He said "I wanted to tell you how impressed I was with your team's performance. As a schoolmaster and Level 2 cricket coach I know how long it takes to produce play of the standard that your girls produced. It was simply outstanding and I think you and your club deserve to be congratulated on all your efforts. Every one of your players was so focused, disciplined and accurate in their play, and yet there was also a tremendous sense of unity in everything that was done". Praise indeed. Take a bow Ansty CC, manager Burt and, of course, the cricketers (who just happened to be female) who took to the pitch to represent their club.


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

No way back for shattered England

Losing the Ashes Test means that England are now 2-8 down in the Ashes Series with 6 points up for grabs from the remaining T20s. They would have to win all three of the T20s against the current T20 World Champions to retain the Ashes. They will not do so. This is a team that looks devoid of confidence in their own abilities. Almost without exception they are batting like rabbits caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck. They appear to be so terrified of making a mistake that they are literally paralysed into inaction.

It is true to say that in the last Ashes Series played in England in 2013, England did win all three of the T20s they played against the Aussies, and England are unbeaten at "Fortress Chelmsford" where they are playing the first T20 on Wednesday week (26th August). But that is all history and England have spent the past five years looking back at past glories as an indicator of future performance. It has not panned out.

Those of us who have watched England closely (and the England players in their county colours) over the last few years have frequently lamented the lack of depth to the England batting line-up. Charlotte Edwards and, to a lesser extent, Sarah Taylor, have been the props holding the batting up. England have doggedly stuck to the same players time after time after time. There have been fleeting glances of form - Lauren Winfield's 74 against the South Africans last summer at Edgbaston; Nat Sciver's 65* against the Kiwis at Lincoln in February, but there have been far more failures than successes.

Last year's Test against India should have rung some alarm bells. 12 of the 20 England wickets that fell were to lbw appeals, on a slow, low track that offered little or nothing to the seamers or spinners. The problem was players playing across the line. Professional England, as they had become, were bowled out for 99 and 202 against a team of amateurs and lost by six wickets. It was not a blip, but it was indicative of the fragility of England's batting.

In New Zealand the England middle-order simply failed to turn up for the first three ODI games, which meant England lost the ICC WC series 1-2. They are currently languishing in fourth place in the ICC WC table, seven points behind leaders Australia, having won just four out of the nine games they have played.

England have adopted a head in the sand attitude. England's demise in the Test was all too predictable and they have no-one to turn to to try and get them out of the hole they are in, bar the 18 contracted players on whom they have concentrated all their efforts over the past two years. There are no T20 batting superstars waiting in the wings, so the same batting line-up is likely to be asked to do what they can. With confidence at rock bottom they are likely to get blown away.

Short-term there is little that England can do, bar try and inspire, enthuse and re-invigorate the current crop of players. That inspiration and leadership needs to come from the top.

Longer-term England need to take a hard look at the current contract system. The 18 players contracts are due to be reviewed in September and new contracts awarded in October. By that time the same 18 players will already have been contracted for 18 months. Should the cash be shared more fairly amongst those who have potential? Everyone below the 18 contracted players are unpaid amateurs. Even those additional players named in last year's ECB Winter Training Squad - Jodie Dibble, Beth Langston, Sonia Odedra, and Fran Wilson. For the past 9 months they have been doing exactly the same as the 18 paid players, for nothing. None of them were offered a car by KIA. Also what will happen to contracted players whose contracts may be terminated? There is no cushion of going back into county cricket and earning a reasonable salary while trying to get your place back. Chances are they will be lost to cricket for good.

England also need to look beyond the Loughborough Bubble. At the present time it seems like it is almost the only route for progression into the England set-up. The other MCCU universities do little or nothing to enhance women cricket players. In fact the second best university for women cricketers is non-MCCU Exeter University - current holders of the BUCs Indoor Title and runners-up to Loughborough for the last two years in the BUCS Final at Lords. This year Exeter just had to contend with seven full internationals, two Academy players and one U19 EWDP player in the Loughborough team that defeated them.

Clare Connor herself espoused the importance of cricket players getting an education and qualifications as well as playing the game. Even if girls reach the top the salaries are not high. Life at the top can be precarious, subject to form, favour and fitness. And even the longest careers are likely to only stretch into the 30s. That leaves a long time after cricket. Getting that education at Loughborough should not be a prerequisite to success on the cricket field. The ECB need to expand their horizons.

Alongside, or in conjunction with, the new WCSL (Women's Cricket Super League), the ECB needs to expand the centres of excellence available for women cricketers, so that young players can continue their education away from Loughborough if they chose and avoid excessive travel time to train regularly. It will also allow other coaches to feed into the development of players.

I am a fan of the concept of the WCSL, and what it is trying to achieve. There are simply not enough good players to go around the current 38 county system. But it is going to be difficult to implement if the non-contracted players are not paid. The ECB have no objection to the franchises paying their players, but they are not going to fund it, and what happens if one franchise does and another does not?

In the short-term it seems odd that none of the England batsmen involved in the Test were released to their counties this weekend to play in the final round of the NatWest County T20 competition. Surely it would have been ideal preparation? Instead they will have a couple of practice games this week against young male opponents. Australia meanwhile are in Ireland playing three T20Is against the Ireland Women's team that has beaten both Sussex and Yorkshire in Division One T20 games in the past couple of weeks.

England tour South Africa in February for more ICC WC games and in March the T20 World Cup is being staged in India. The WCSL will not come quickly enough to have any effect on England's performances in these tournaments. Indeed it will not really be up and running properly before England host the World Cup in 2017. The next few years could be tough for England on the international circuit.


Monday, 17 August 2015

Three-way tie at top of Div 1 settled by NRR!!

In the preview on Friday we suggested that it was perfectly possible for there to be a four-way tie at the top of Div 1 of the NatWest County T20 competition after the final games were played on Sunday. As it turned out three teams all finished on 24 points.

Division One
Yorkshire, Ireland and Middlesex are at Harrogate CC
Sussex, Somerset and Berkshire are at East Grinstead CC
Kent, Surrey and Notts are at Polo Farm Sports Club

How the drama unfolded
At the start of the day it was Yorkshire and Kent who were in the driving seat with five wins out of six under their belts, one win ahead of Sussex and Middlesex, but by 1.30pm the situation had altered dramatically.
Yorkshire (86 all out) had lost to Ireland (87/3) by 7 wickets; Kent (56 all out) had lost to Notts (136/4) by 80 runs (Jenny Gunn 51* and 5/3); and Sussex (95/9) had beaten Berks (92/7) by three runs ( Freya Davies 4/19).

All three teams were now level on points.

By 4.30pm Middlesex (92/5) (playing their first game of the day) had joined them there after beating Ireland (68 all out) by 24 runs.

All four teams were now level on points.

And all four teams were playing in the last games of the day and the last games of the tournament:-

Kent were playing Surrey

Sussex were taking on Somerset

and Yorkshire and Middlesex were taking on each other

Kent completed a solid win over Surrey after racking up 146/0 (including 104* for Tammy Beaumont) and restricting them to 115 all out. They moved on to 24 points

Sussex had allowed Somerset to rack up 127/8 (despite Holly Colvin's 4/10), but then managed to chase this score down reaching 130/4 in 18 overs thanks to 60 from Georgia Adams. They too moved on to 24 points.

It was now a question of who would win out of Yorkshire and Middlesex and thereby join Kent and Sussex equal on points at the top of the league.
If Yorkshire won then it would come down to a NRR calculation as each team had lost one game to one of the other two. If Middlesex won Kent would be champions as they had beaten both Middlesex and Sussex in the group matches.

Yorkshire batted first and made 116/4 (Alex Macdonald 52*). Middlesex started off strong in reply and were 29/0 after three overs, but at the start of the fourth over they lost Tash Miles, and then in the sixth Sophia Dunkley, to be pegged back to 35/2. By the half-way stage Fran Wilson (29) and Cath Dalton (6) had taken Middlesex to 54/2. They needed 63 off the last 10 overs. In the 13th over they lost Dalton, quickly followed by Wilson and Dattani in the 15th over. At 73/5 Yorkshire seemed to have the game under control, but Beth Morgan (25*) and Izzy Westbury (21*) made one final charge for Middlesex. They got it down to 19 off the last two overs and then 10 off the last one, and then four off the last ball. But they could only manage one, leaving Yorkshire victors by 2 runs.

As the NRR calculation needed all the group match scores for all three teams no definitive calculations could be made until all the results went up on the Play Cricket website, which did not happen until 5pm today. It showed that Sussex had won by 0.05NRR (see final table here) from Yorkshire, with Kent third.

At the bottom of the table Notts pulled off a magnificent Houdini act securing wins against Kent and Surrey to lift themselves out of the second relegation place. Two further defeats for bottom club Surrey consigned them to Div 2 T20 cricket next year, where they will be joined by Somerset, who gave themselves a chance of escaping the drop by convincingly beating Berkshire by 47 runs, but then lost to Sussex as they charged for the title.

Division Two
Derbyshire, Cheshire and Warwickshire are at Denby CC
Essex, Wales and the Netherlands are at Billericay CC
Durham, Staffs and Lancashire are at Durham City CC

In Division Two Lancashire won both their games against Durham and Staffs to remain unbeaten and ensure promotion to Div 1 next year as Division Two champions. They will be accompanied by Warwickshire who also won both their games to finish clear in second place ahead of Essex. Two defeats for Staffs and the Netherlands ruined their chances of promotion, and Durham's win over Staffs was enough to consign Derbyshire and Cheshire to Div 3 T20 cricket next year.


Friday, 14 August 2015

Who will be Div 1 & 2 T20 Champions?

This Sunday is the final weekend of the NatWest Women's County T20 competition. Here are the fixtures

Division One
Yorkshire, Ireland and Middlesex are at Harrogate CC
Sussex, Somerset and Berkshire are at East Grinstead CC
Kent, Surrey and Notts are at Polo Farm Sports Club

Division Two
Derbyshire, Cheshire and Warwickshire are at Denby CC
Essex, Wales and the Netherlands are at Billericay CC
Durham, Staffs and Lancashire are at Durham City CC

Division One - Preview (hold on to your hats this may take a while)
There is a very plausible scenario where four teams could all end up on 24 points at the top of Division One - Yorkshire, Kent, Sussex and Middlesex. Yorkshire and Kent are in the driving seat as they currently sit on 20 points (five wins out of six games), whereas Sussex and Middlesex have 16 points (four wins from six games). If either Yorkshire or Kent win both their games on Sunday then they will finish on 28 points. They are not playing each other, so this is very possible. If they both win both games, then it will be Yorkshire that take the title as they beat Kent in the group fixture.
[Check out the current league table here]

Yorkshire have a rampant Ireland (fresh from wins over Sussex and Notts last weekend) and title-chasers Middlesex to play. The last game at Harrogate will be Yorkshire v Middlesex. If they have both defeated Ireland then it will be all to play for in that final game. A win for Middlesex would mean they equal Yorkshire's points tally.

Meanwhile down in Canterbury Kent have Surrey and Notts to play. They currently fill the last two relegation places in Div 1, Surrey without a win to their name so far in T20s this year (and now without Rachel Candy, safely back in New Zealand) and Notts with just one win to date over Somerset. It seems that Kent have the easier fixtures and they should have the benefit of the return of Tammy Beaumont and Tash Farrant. But with Surrey and Notts scrapping for survival and with Danni Wyatt back in Nott's colours things could get tastey down at Polo Farm CC.

Just over the border in Sussex, Sussex will be taking on Somerset and Berkshire. After a disappointing defeat to Ireland last week they know they have to win both games to stand any chance of winning the division. Opponents Berkshire are relatively safe from relegation (it is statistically possible) having already secured three wins, but Somerset could find themselves being relegated to Div 2 next season if they do not at least pick up one win.

So if all four teams finish on 24 points what will happen? The rules state that "when more than two teams have equal points, the team that was the winner of the most number of matches played between those teams will be placed in the higher position". In my scenario Yorkshire will have lost to Sussex and Middlesex; Middlesex will have lost to Sussex and Kent; Kent will have lost to Yorkshire and Sussex will have lost to Kent. Which would put Kent and Sussex in top spot and they would have to be separated by the dreaded net run rate.

Division Two - Preview
Division Two is Lancashire's to lose. They are currently unbeaten and the only team that can realistically stop them taking the title are Staffordshire, who they meet along with Durham at Durham City CC. Lancs would have to lose both games and Staffs win both for the two teams to finish on the same points at the top of the league. If this happened then Staffs would potentially be the champions as they would have beaten Lancs in their league fixture, but only if no-one else finishes on 24 points too! Lancs play Staffs at 1.30pm and then finish their season against Durham in the final game of the day.
[Current Div 2 Table is here]

In fact Netherlands, Staffs and Warwickshire could all finish on 24 points if they all win both their games. Realistically they should be fighting it out for the second promotion spot behind Lancs, but it could be a four-way tie at the top!

At the other end of the table Derbyshire are languishing at the bottom without a win to date and will need to pull off two wins against Cheshire and Warwickshire if they are to have any chance of surviving the drop into Div 3 next year. With two teams to go down Cheshire are themselves under a bit of pressure as they only have 8 points, as do Wales. Wales have mid-table Essex and Netherlands (who have four wins under their belts) as their final two opponents of the season at Billericay CC. Just one win for Cheshire and Wales should see them safe.

In fact Netherlands, Staffs and Warwickshire could all finish on 24 points if they all win both their games, which could match Lancs current score. If they were all to tie then it looks like it would be a net run rate shoot out between Lancs and Warwickshire.

Let's hope the weather doesn't play too much of a part in deciding who wins and who loses their top of the table or relegation scraps. Crazily cancelled games give teams just one point each which could totally wreck any team's chances. Fingers crossed for some sun.


Test Match - Day Four tactics

So here we are at the last day of a Test Match, which is a bit of a novelty this summer. The Aussies are 90/4 in their second innings and they lead England by 190 runs.

In the series the Aussies lead 4-2. There are four points if you win the Test or two each, if it is a draw. After the Test there are three T20s worth two points each. As the holders of the Ashes England only have to draw the series to retain the Ashes.

The weather looks set fair, which means it looks like we will get in a full day's play (100 overs) and I think they may be able to add another 10 overs (actually 9 it seems) to try and make up for some of the overs lost yesterday, which would mean 108 (now 107) overs available today (allowing for the two lost during the innings changeover)

If you were the respective coaches how would you approach today? Here is what I would do...

Aussie Coach
I would start from the premise that I want 90 overs to bowl England out. That gives 80 overs with one ball and then 10 overs with a new ball at the end if required. I would be quite confident that I could bowl England out in the fourth innings in 90 overs. It took the Aussies 84.4 overs in the second innings of the match. So that would give them about 18 overs this morning to move their score on. I would want another 100 runs if possible to give a lead of around 290.
I would tell Jonassen and Blackwell to adopt a relatively cautious approach for the first 5-10 overs (probably not necessary to tell Blackwell that after yesterday's knock!), but from there on to move up the gears. With wickets in hand they could add plenty in the last 5-10 overs if Jonassen is still there and with Healy, Coyte and Schutt still to come. I would not want to be bowled out for less than 140.
When bowling I would give the new ball to Perry and Schutt and tell them they have four overs each to take as many wickets as possible. I would then chuck the ball to Jonassen and Beams (hopefully she is fit enough to bowl) and tell them to take the rest of the England wickets, with men all around the bat. Game over!!

England Coach
I would tell the girls that they are still in this game. Bowl the Aussies out for 40 more runs and we can win this game at a dawdle!
If this does not happen, and we end up chasing 290 I would still say that we can win and that we need to win, if possible, but that we do not want to lose.
I would tell Katherine Brunt that she is opening the batting with Lauren Winfield, Nat Sciver that she is three, Sarah Taylor that she is four, and Georgia Elwiss that she is five. I would tell them all that they have licence to bat freely, but not just to swing the bat. Hit the bad balls, run the singles and get the scoreboard ticking! They only need to score at just over three an over to win, and if they can get to 150 after 40 overs with just two or three wickets down, then the game will be there to win (140 off 50 overs with six wickets in hand). 
If things don't quite go according to plan and early wickets are lost and the game looks like it is getting away from us, then it will be time to shut up shop with Heather Knight, Charlotte Edwards, Laura Marsh and co into solid defensive mode. 
[Will England actually adopt this approach given their new positive attitude? Not a chance! The sad thing is that they probably won't even give it any consideration].

In about 10 hours we will know what actually happened. It will be a fun day.


Monday, 10 August 2015

Women's Cricket Super League is a step closer

The ECB have today announced that the Women’s Cricket Super League has attracted strong interest at the first stage of the host award process.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has received 28 ‘expressions of interest’ in the opening stage of the process to determine the six team hosts for the inaugural Women’s Cricket Super League.

The opportunity to host a team was outlined last month and laid open to any forward thinking cricket-minded organisation, both from within and outside of the traditional cricket landscape. 

The range of ‘expressions of interest’ submitted feature:

·         All 18 First Class counties, on their own or in collaboration with other local partners
·         A broad geographical spread across England and Wales
·         A diverse variety of organisations, including innovative partnership working between cricket bodies, educational institutions and local authorities

The Women’s Cricket Super League will start in the summer of 2016 and during its first season will be comprised solely of T20 cricket.  From 2017 onwards the structure will develop to both T20 and 50-over formats.

Speaking about the strong opening response to the award process, ECB Director of England Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, said:

“The level of interest shown in becoming a Women’s Cricket Super League team host through the initial ‘expression of interest’ process has been remarkable and reflects a strong, national appetite for a new and dynamic competition. 

“Despite levels of participation in sport and exercise being a concern across the UK, participation in women’s and girls’ cricket has seen pleasing growth in recent years.  We are really excited about the innovative opportunity that the Women’s Cricket Super League gives us to reach new participants and attract new fans to the game, and we are determined to make the most of this opportunity. 

“We now look forward to exploring each different approach, finding out who the six eventual hosts will be, and then working with them to create the high performance environments which are best placed to secure England’s success on the international stage for years to come.”

ECB Women’s Cricket Super League General Manager, Jo Kirk, who was appointed in July, added:
“The variety of the organisations involved and the extent of collaborative work outlined within the ‘expressions of interest’ received is really exciting.  We are now looking forward to seeing how each of the 28 plans develop through the invitation-to-tender window.

“Internal ECB assessments of responses and interviews of prospective hosts will take place during October and November.  It is anticipated that the final confirmation of the hosts for the six Women’s Cricket Super League teams will be announced during December 2015.”   


Five Predictions for the Ashes Test

Here are my five predictions for the Ashes Test which starts tomorrow at the Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Canterbury. If you can get along it would be great to see you there showing your support for England and for Women's Cricket.

[Please note that I am usually wrong in any predictions that I make, so please take the following few lines with a large pinch of salt!]

Prediction 1
Australia will bat first - CORRECT (Aus won toss & bat but Lottie would have bowled anyway)

Prediction 2
Fran Wilson will make her Test debut for England - INCORRECT

Prediction 3
Charlotte Edwards will not open the batting for England  - CORRECT!!

Prediction 4
Kristen Beams will take five wickets in an innings - INCORRECT

Prediction 5
Australia will win the Test - CORRECT

If I do well I will keep count and let everyone know. If I do badly I will probably delete this post under the European Union Blogger's Prerogative Rule (2012 - revised 2014).

Fingers crossed for a great Test!


Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Ashes Test Preview - England would settle for a draw

I expect England to name an unchanged squad of 14 for the one and only Test Match, which starts at Canterbury on Tuesday. So the 14 from whom they will pick the starting 11 will probably be:-
Edwards, Brunt, Cross, Elwiss, Greenway, Grundy, Gunn, Jones, Knight, Marsh, Sciver, Shrubsole, Taylor, and Winfield. I would expect Jones, Elwiss and Marsh to miss out when the teamsheet is handed over at the toss. [In fact England have today named the same squad with the exception that Fran Wilson replaces Amy Jones]

England are 2-4 down in the series and they really need to win this Test Match if they can, but what they cannot afford to do is lose it. There are four points for a win and two points for a draw. If they were to go 2-8 down with just the three T20s to play (worth two points each), they would need to win all three T20s to retain the Ashes, as a drawn series means the holder gets to keep hold of the trophy. That would be a massive ask. But if they were still just two points down at the start of the T20 series, two wins would be enough to keep the Ashes in England. Still tough, but perhaps a little more doable.

All of which means that England are in a bit of a difficult situation when it comes to the right attitude for the game. I think they will attempt to play it safe. Neither Charlotte Edwards, nor the England management, could be said to be anything other than conservative. There will be no adventurous declarations from England (if they are afforded that luxury).

The Aussies on the other hand are in a great place at the moment. They won the second and third ODIs convincingly, and in their last warm-up game against a strong Academy squad (which included seven contracted England players) their batting was majestic, with centuries for Ellyse Perry and Alex Blackwell, plus a good-looking 79* from Jess Jonassen. True it was a great batting track, but Perry, Blackwell, Jonassen and Meg Lanning (who missed out in that game) all look like they can bat for a long time. England will have trouble bowling Australia out once, let alone twice. They will not be helped by the fact that the women play their Test cricket with a Kookaburra ball. It swings and seams less than the Dukes' ball that the men use in England. Apparently Dukes do not make a women's ball that is good enough to last 80 overs. A fact which Dukes' MD Dilip Jajodia strenuously denied to me when I spoke with him this week. If this Test does not go England's way then perhaps talks with Dukes may re-open, so that the girls can use a similar ball to the men.

I can see the Aussies batting long....very long, whether they get first dig or not. At the top of the order they have Nicole Bolton, who has the perfect Test Match batting temperament. Her opening partner will be the more aggressive Elyse Villani. She has calmed down a lot since she first appeared for Australia, but she will still give England chances. I would not be in the least bit surprised if Lanning or Perry made a hundred, if not a double hundred. They are both very focused individuals. After the new ball has gone, which could be after less than 20 overs, batting will get much easier. There could be a lot of work for the spinners, probably Grundy and Knight, but Grundy is no great spinner of the ball, and I cannot see either being a great wicket-taking threat.

That said, of course, the same is true for the Aussie bowlers. I doubt there will be much in the pitch for them either and they will have the same issues with the ball. England need someone in their top order to bat long - Edwards, Knight, Greenway, Winfield or Sciver. The Aussie attack did not look too penetrative against the Academy. Seven of the top nine Academy batsmen got into double figures, but only Fran Wilson managed to score over 50. They batted comfortably for 89 overs against the Aussies before declaring. With 100 overs bowled in a day in Women's Test cricket that is the least that England will have to achieve.

Without seeing the pitch it is always difficult to predict what may or may not happen. But I cannot see England forcing a win. If they can bat with authority and play straight then I can see them getting a draw, but it will need some application. That is the very least that you would expect from a team that are now paid to play for their country. The pressure is on, but that is how professional sport works.