Monday, 28 September 2015

England looking for new Head Coach

So the search is on for a new Head Coach for the England Women's Cricket team, following the announcement by the ECB today of the resignation of Paul Shaw, the Head of England Women's Performance, and the abolition of his post as "overseer" of all things England.

Shaw was appointed in June 2013 following the departure of England Head Coach Mark Lane the previous month, after five years in the job. But Shaw was not made Head Coach, he was appointed as England Women's & Girl's High Performance Manager. At the time Clare Connor said "The rationale for the role evolving is to reflect the scope and expansion of the England Women's programme and the skill set now required to lead that programme, the coaching/support staff and the players." That evolution was one of the reasons Mark Lane left his post. It was not a role that he wanted to fulfill.

Reverting back to a new Head Coach would appear to be an admission that the structure change has not worked. Day-to-day coaching of the England Women's team was delegated to "assistant coaches" Carl Crowe (who had been Lane's right hand man) and the newly appointed David Capel. Whether they stay in post will probably be the decision of the new Head Coach. But who will that be?

The ECB have a habit of appointing from within, but with the exception perhaps of Crowe, there do not appear to be any internal candidates with the right credentials. The problem with appointing someone from outside women's cricket is that they know nothing about it. They may have seen the odd England game on the television, but they will not have seen a county game. Although, to be fair, few of the current coaches have seen a county game either. Mark Lane got involved with the women's game through coaching Claire Taylor and Shawsey's first contact was through his coaching of Katherine Brunt at Barnsley. One of the problems of centralising England player coaching at Loughborough is that there are now fewer coaches outside Loughborough involved in individual coaching of the England women.

Does that mean that the new England coach will come from within the ECB/Loughborough set-up? It is possible but seems unlikely. Clare Connor again, but on the new appointment this time, "The women’s game is now fully professional and is in a different place to when Paul was appointed two and a half years ago. The decision to move back to a more traditional coaching structure, led by one overarching head coach, ideally with first class or international playing or coaching experience, is what we believe is now needed to take the players to the next level in their development as professional cricketers".

So who will get the job? I have to say that I have absolutely no idea. I cannot even speculate.

But whoever it is, is unlikely to have had any say in who the new centrally contracted England players will be. The contracts will run from the end of January next year, but the players are being told if they are in or out by the end of next month, before any new Head Coach appointment is made. The new coach will inherit his or her squad of players for the next 12 months. With tours to South Africa and West Indies to come, plus the T20 World Cup and a home series against Pakistan, all in 2016, this is far from ideal. There is surely an argument that the announcement of contracts should be delayed further, or the length of the contracts shortened to six months perhaps?

And what of selection? Will the current selection procedure continue, whereby the Head Coach and his assistants select the training and playing squads, and then take on board the captain's wishes for the final 11 to take to the park? This is not a process which seems to have enjoyed much success this summer. Whatever selection procedure is adopted by the new Head Coach some transparency in the process would not go amiss.

There is no quick fix to England's current problems. Reverting back to a Head Coach in touch with their players is a good start, but that is all it is.


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Academy pay for England' s poor 2015

England have named their three winter training squads, which include a total of 55 players ranging from 35 year old Charlotte Edwards down to 15 year old Rhianna Southby. The three squads are the England Women's Performance Squad (EWPS), the England Women's Academy (EWA) and the England Women's Development Programme (EWDP) (which used to be U19s, but now appears to have no age restriction).

Despite a poor 2015 for England (both in New Zealand and at home in the Ashes) the only change from last year's EWPS is the dropping of Notts' Sonia Odedra, who, after the EWA tour to Dubai, played no further part in England or England Academy games during the summer. All 18 contracted players remain, with Jodie Dibble, Beth Langston and Fran Wilson again expected to train at the same level without payment. There are no additions from the Academy, although with eight of the 18 contracted players wintering in Australia there should be some opportunities for the Academy players to be called up to train with the EWPS. The ECB have also confirmed that the current England contracts will now continue until the end of January 2016, although an announcement on new contracts will apparently be made before the end of 2015. Given the lack of movement into the main squad it seems unlikely there will be many surprises. England either have great faith in what they have or they are not impressed by what is coming through?

But in the Academy four players have lost their places - Aylish Cranstone, Georgia Hennessy, Paige Scholfield and Carla Rudd, with five girls promoted from last year's EWDP U19s - Sophia Dunkley (opening bat/leg spinner), Sophie Ecclestone (left-arm spinner), Katie George (left-arm seamer), Bryony Smith (hard-hitting top order bat) and Ellie Threlkeld (wicket-keeper bat). In addition Sussex's 17 year old Ellen Burt (right-am seamer/ middle order bat) has been added into the Academy after a good season with her county at U17 and senior level, and in the rain-affected Junior Super 3s in August.

In addition the Academy have also lost their Head Coach Lisa Keightley, who has decided to return to her native Australia. High Performance Manager Jonathan Finch steps into the role for the time being, although I understand that the ECB hope to make a new appointment early in the new year.

In the EWDP eight girls lose their places for 2015/2016, but coming in are Megan Belt, Izzy Cloke, Alice Dyson, Emily Edgcombe, Tiarna Gilkes, Sarah Glenn, Lucy Higham, Rhianna Southby and twins Erin and Lucy Staunton-Turner. Most of those that have been omitted are 18 and 19 and most of those that have been brought in are two or three years younger.

The full squads are:-

England Women's Performance Squad
Tammy Beaumont
Katherine Brunt
Kate Cross
Jodie Dibble
Charlotte Edwards
Georgia Elwiss
Tash Farrant
Lydia Greenway
Rebecca Grundy
Jenny Gunn
Danielle Hazell
Amy Jones
Heather Knight
Beth Langston
Laura Marsh
Nat Sciver
Anya Shrubsole
Sarah Taylor
Fran Wilson
Lauren Winfield
Danielle Wyatt

England Women's Academy
Georgia Adams
Hollie Armitage
Ellen Burt
Steph Butler
Freya Davies
Sophia Dunkley
Sophie Ecclestone
Katie George
Alex Hartley
Evelyn Jones
Emma Lamb
Sophie Luff
Alex Macdonald
Bryony Smith
Eleanor Threlkeld

England Women's Development Programme
Emily Arlott
Megan Belt
Maia Bouchier
Georgie Boyce
Izzy Cloke
Izzy Collis
Alice Dyson
Emily Edgcombe
Tiarna Gilkes
Sarah Glenn
Cordelia Griffith
Lucy Higham
Hannah Jones
Sophie Mackenzie
Anna Nicholls
Tara Norris
Rhianna Southby
Erin Staunton-Turner
Lucy Staunton-Turner


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

County Championship Wrap Up

It is always sad when a cricket season comes to an end, as the 2015 season here in England has just done. It is usually made worse by the fact that the sun continues to shine until the end of September, but this year Autumn seems to have arrived early in the UK, with plenty of rain falling from the sky.

Unfortunately that rain arrived a couple of weeks ago, and wrecked the end of the Women's County Championship season, when the Yorkshire v Sussex game was called off. It would have been a pivotal game, but the rules say that it does not have to be played, so it wasn't. Yorkshire went on to annihilate Lancashire in their last game of the season and the County Championship title was theirs for the first time since 2002, when the league had just six teams and five games were played in a week. Kent finished in the runners-up spot. 

At the bottom Lancashire have discovered that life in Div 1 is pretty tough. They have lost all of their eight games and have managed to pick up just six bowling bonus points. That equates to just 26 wickets taken in those eight games, not helped by batting first in seven of their fixtures, including games where they won the toss. They were also missing Kate Cross for four of their games, although she only took three wickets in the four games she did play. Will she be happy to play Division 2 cricket again next year? I am guessing she will, if the ECB will let her.

So the question was who would make the drop with Lancashire? It was between Warwickshire (the Harry Houdini's of Div 1) and Notts. Notts did what they could by beating Surrey and claiming 17 points, but Warwickshire pulled off the great escape yet again by beating Middlesex and claiming the full 18 points on offer. It meant that they finished three points above Notts. Will Notts be able to hold on to Jenny Gunn and Danni Wyatt for the 2016 season? With the promotion of Wyatt's former county, Staffordshire, to Division One next year, it may be a tough call. There is little doubt that Staffs would love to have her back. 

Coming up with Staffs, who finished runners-up in Division Two, will be Somerset. They have been so close to Division One status for the past two years, so it was good to see them get it spot on this year with an undefeated season. Sophie Luff hit a couple of important hundreds and Welsh import Gwenan Davies meant that they did not miss Fran Wilson (who left to play at Middlesex) too much at the top of the order. It will be good to see how they go in Division One next year, and whether they can entice South African Lizelle Lee back to play in the top division.

Looking forward to 2016 the ECB must change the rules on cancelled and abandoned games. They are currently a nonsense. Abandoned games (ie games that are started and not finished) cannot be replayed, and cancelled games do not have to be replayed if one team does not want to. This has always allowed teams to manipulate who they do or do not want to play if the weather intervenes. The rule has to be that abandoned and cancelled games MUST be played. If not then they are conceded and the willing team gets a full bonus points win. I would also like to see the season extended to 12 games. With the current nine teams in the league this would mean eight regular games and then four additional games (there are various formulae that can be used to make these as fair as possible). In 2017 it would be easier to reduce the league to seven teams, playing home and away, perhaps with the goal of having four divisions of seven teams ultimately, which might keep things fresh.

Certainly the County Championship will need some spicing up. Next season the inaugural Women's Cricket Super League T20 competition is due to start, and the season after that there is due to be a 50 over competition, which will undoubtedly impact on the standard of county cricket. Basically the more senior players will not be playing it. But the ECB cannot afford to let it wither on the vine. It needs to be supported, encouraged and properly financed, albeit perhaps reduced from the current 38 teams. It will be the proving ground for up and coming players and the home to those that want to play at a good level, but do not have the time or the ambition to play in the Super League or beyond. 


Thursday, 10 September 2015

County Champs reaches conclusion

So it looks like this will be the last weekend of County Championship fixtures despite the fact that there are two unplayed games in both the 1st and 2nd Divisions.

In Division One if Yorkshire beat bottom of the table Lancs and get 17 or 18 points in the process, then they will be the champions, despite the fact that have a game outstanding against Sussex who could beat them to the title (more here). If they get 16 or less then Kent will be the champions, unless Sussex can beat Berkshire with full bonus points and then it would come down to NRR between Kent and Sussex.
At the bottom Lancs are already relegated back to Div 2, but either Notts or Warwickshire will join them there next season. Notts perhaps have the easier task as they take on Surrey at home. Surrey have had a miserable season and have not won a game since 21st June, although they got to within one run of Yorkshire in their last outing. Warwickshire take on Middlesex, who beat Kent handsomely in their last match and will want to end the season on a high.

In Division Two Somerset and Staffs are both promoted, but it is a question of who will win the Div 2 title. Both are unbeaten and locked together on points, and they take on Wales and Worcestershire respectively. A win is essential, but it could all come down to bonus points. As they have not played each other (cancelled due to rain), if they finish equal top on points then the team with the better net run rate over the season will win the title.
At the bottom Scotland are heading back down to Div 3 but they would love to pick up their first win of the season against mid-table Devon, who are safe from relegation as the two teams below them, Essex and Durham meet in a "winner stays up" match. If Durham win they are safe come what may. If Essex win then they need to get at least three extra bonus points out of eight available to save their bacon.

Division 1
Notts v Surrey at Welbeck CC
Sussex v Berkshire at Horsham CC
Warwickshire v Middx at Egbaston Foundation Ground
Yorks v Lancs at Harrogate CC

Division 2 
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


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Yorkshire say "No" to Sussex replay request

It is the climax of the Women's County Championship. Three teams are fighting it out for top spot. Just 0.5 of an average point (don't ask!) separates the teams. In a recent piece I wrote that the I hoped that the cancelled games from the previous week involving those three teams would not decide the Championship. But it seems that they probably will.

One had hoped that the lessons had been learned from the 2012 season where Essex qualified for the play-offs after playing just two of their league games and declining to play others that had been cancelled. But it seems not. The league rules have not been tightened up.

Kent, who sit top of the league, were due to play Berkshire two weekends ago, but the game was called off due to rain. It seems that game will not now be played. On the same day Sussex had travelled all the way to Harrogate only to watch the rain fall. Following the Royal London Women's One Day Cup Rules and Regulations, Sussex (currently third) requested that the game be replayed before the cut-off date of 28th September. Yorkshire (currently second) have declined due to the non-availability of some of their players. In the circumstances you would think that they would therefore forfeit the game and that Sussex would take full points (10 for the win and a full 8 bonus points).

But you would be wrong. "For a match to be rearranged both counties need to agree to replay it. In the event that they do not agree to replay, the original result of a cancelled fixture remains." This is the official line from the ECB. Is this really right?

If you scour through the Rules and Regs you won't find anything to contradict this. In fact you will find nothing in the rules that deals with this situation at all. Basically if it suits you not to play a cancelled game, then there is no obligation on you to make any effort to sort it out at all, and no penalty for your choosing not to do so. Quite why the rules bother to state that "If the home side is unable to find a suitable venue then the away team shall be offered the opportunity to host the match" is baffling. If the home side simply do not want to play then they can simply say "no thanks".

So that leaves the games that are due to be played this weekend as the last games of the season. Quite simply Yorkshire know that if they beat bottom of the table Lancashire and get 7 or 8 bonus points then they will win the league. They know that if they were to play their cancelled game with Sussex and lose then they would have no chance of winning the league, and Sussex's chances would be enhanced, if they also scored more than 15 points. It seems it is a risk Yorkshire are not prepared to take, so they have simply refused to play.

As for Sussex, there seems to be nothing that they can do. If they beat Berkshire on Sunday and take full points then they will be level with Kent at the top of the league, but Yorkshire will be able to pass them too with 17/18 points from their last game.

And if it rains on Sunday, or Yorkshire or Sussex don't win with enough points, then Kent will be the champions. All in all not a desperately satisfactory way to end women's cricket's premier competition.


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Packed 2016 for England

So the Ashes are over. The debriefs, inquests and analysis can begin.

That is it for international cricket for the England players for 2015. Many will return to their counties for the final weekend of County Championship fixtures on Sunday 13th September, and for some it will then be a trip to Australia for the WNCL (starting 9th October) and/or the Women's Big Bash League, starting on 5th December. Already signed up are Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Charlotte Edwards, Heather Knight, Laura Marsh, Sarah Taylor, Lauren Winfield and Danni Wyatt. Currently contracted England players have been told that they will have to return to the UK before the WBBL semi-finals (21/22 Jan) and the final (24 Jan) are played, to prepare for the tour to South Africa, but Cricket Australia are hoping that the ECB may have a change of mind.

Before that the ECB should announce the new central contracts for England players, which should start on 1st October 2015 for one year. The announcement for the men is usually made in mid-September. In addition the ECB are expected to name shortly an England Women's Winter Training Squad, plus England Academy and age group squads.

All this precedes an unprecedented packed schedule of international and domestic cricket in 2016. England have ICC Women's Championship tours to South Africa, West Indies and Sri Lanka to fit in before the end of the year, plus the T20 World Cup in India starting in mid-March. On top of that they host Pakistan in June (again to include the three ICCWC games) and the inaugural WCSL T20 tournament is pencilled in for two weeks in August. Just add to that the Women's County Championship and that makes a massively busy year.

What England's schedule in 2016 looks like :-

February - tour to South Africa
7th Feb - 21st Feb - 3 ODIs and 3 T20s

March - T20 World Cup India
11th March - 3rd April

June/July - Pakistan tour England
Probably 3 ODIs and 3 T20s

August - Women's Cricket Super League - T20 competiton
15th - 28th August (approximate dates)

Aug-Oct window - tour to West Indies
Probably 3 ODIs and 3 T20s

Oct - Nov window - tour to Sri Lanka
Probably 3 ODIs and 3 T20s


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Div 1 Results and Round-Up

Only four of the eight scheduled games could be played this weekend due to excessive rain throughout the country.
League leaders Kent lost to Middlesex, while chasers Yorkshire and Sussex both won, but Yorkshire only by the skin of their teeth after a spirited fightback by Surrey, who fell just one run short. (Check out what this means at the top of the division here)
At the bottom Warwickshire picked up a vital win at Lancs on Monday, which puts Notts down into the second relegation place.
Notts finish their season at home against Surrey and Warwickshire finish theirs against Middlesex, also at home.
Lancs two losses means they will go straight back down to Div 2, no matter what the result of the local derby with Yorkshire on 13th September.

[league table here]

Yorkshire 174/6 (Elise Good 56, Sarah Clarke 3/27)
Surrey 173/8 (Sarah Clarke 51, Laura Spragg 3/33)
Yorkshire won by 1 run
Yorkshire made hard work of reaching 174/6 in their 50 overs, but it looked to be too much for Surrey as they slipped to 76/5 at the halfway point in their reply, but Sarah Clarke (51) and Bryony Smith (35), kept plugging away and they took Surrey into the last 10 overs needing 53 to win. From there on in Surrey managed to keep it at about a run a ball, with 19 needed off the last three overs and then seven from the last six balls with three wickets in hand, including Clarke. But with three needed off the last two balls, Clarke was caught at deep midwicket and Surrey could only manage one off the last ball, to leave Yorkshire winners by one run.

Middlesex 238 all out (Fran Wilson 90, Beth Morgan 77)
Kent 146 all out (Tammy Beaumont 32) 

Middlesex won by 92 runs
Middlesex looked to be in all sorts of bother at 48/3, but this just meant that Fran Wilson (90) and Beth Morgan (77) had more time at the crease together. They put together a 143 run partnership which saw Middlesex finally amass 238 all out to the last ball of their innings. In reply Kent never really got going. After 25 overs they were 64/3 and when Beaumont (32) was run out a short while after drinks all hope was gone for Kent. But with bonus points potentially crucial they past the 100 mark and looked like reaching 150, having been 132/8 with six overs to go and then 146/8 with 10 balls to come, but Jelfs and Belt fell to consecutive balls to leave Kent 4 short of another bonus point.

Lancashire 198/9 (Nat Brown 56, Holly Colvin 3/19, Izzy Collis 3/19)
Sussex 199/4 (Alexia Walker 50*, Holly Colvin 48*)

Sussex won by 6 wickets
Nat Brown was chiefly responsible for Lancashire posting 198/9 at Wigan where the wicket had a very short boundary on one side. Holly Colvin picked up 3/19, as did leg-spinner Izzy Collis. Nalisha Patel and Sophie Ecclestone added an unbeaten 35 for the last Lancs' wicket. In reply Sussex lost a couple of early wickets before Collis (34) and Paige Scholfield (33) added 50 for the third wicket. Both went smashing long-hops to deep square, but veterans Alexia Walker (50*) and Colvin (48*) saw Sussex home comfortably in the 41st over.

Warwickshire 109/1
Match Abandoned

Lancashire 86 all out (Emma Lamb 37, Katie Green 3/19, Georgia Davis 3/28)
Warwickshire 87/2 (Amy Jones 30*)
Warwickshire won by 8 wickets
Warwickshire completed a huge win, in all senses, against Lancs on BH Monday, when no other games were played.
Having been inserted Lancs struggled to make 86 all out in 31 overs, with only Emma Lamb (37) making it into double figures. As the drizzle continued to fall Warwickshire made short work of the reply and claimed a maximum 18 points, which will help their relegation battle no end.

Yorkshire v Sussex - Cancelled

Berks v Kent - Cancelled

Middlesex v Notts - Cancelled


Don't let cancelled games settle Div 1 Title!

Defeat for Kent at the hands of Middlesex, and wins for both Yorkshire (just) and Sussex on Bank Holiday Sunday set up the Monday games (Berks v Kent and Yorkshire v Sussex) as key matches in deciding which of the three teams would walk away with the 2015 County Championship title. Unfortunately the weather intervened and neither game got underway, so yet again a women's competition is thrown into uncertainty.

As things stand Kent are currently top of the league with an average of 15 (105 points in 7 games), followed by Yorkshire on 14.83 (89 points in 6 games) and Sussex on 14.5 (87 points in 6 games).

Kent have completed their scheduled fixture list, but should replay the cancelled Berkshire game before 28th September. Yorkshire still have Lancashire to play on 13th September and Sussex have Berkshire to play on the same day. They too should replay their cancelled game before the end of September. But will either cancelled game get played?

Under the league rules counties have seven days to agree a date and venue for the cancelled fixture. If the home side cannot sort it out then the away side are entitled to. All fixtures must be played by 28th September. But the counties have a very poor record of cancelled games being reorganised, especially this late in the season.

If the cancelled games are not played then if Yorkshire beat Lancashire and score seven or eight bonus points, they will win the league. If they score 6 bonus points they will be level with Kent on 105 points, but Kent's win over Yorkshire would mean they win.

However if Sussex were to beat Berkshire and claim full bonus points (8) then they too could finish on 105 points, which could see a three-way tie, for which there is no provision in the league rules.

If it ends up just being Kent and Sussex at the top then it would come down to which team has the highest net run rate for all completed matches, as the teams tied in the notorious Beckenham encounter earlier in the season.

Let's avoid all that and get the games played and have a proper winner of the 2015 Women's County Championship.