Tuesday, 28 June 2016

New professional England look the part

I'm not a huge fan of post-match interviews. I find them generally bland, boring and full of meaningless platitudes - "we will take the positives from this defeat", "we are massively excited for this that and the other", "we are massively disappointed about this that or the other" - you know the sort of thing. I have to say that unless pushed I generally don't even bother to go and set up the mini recorder as I know I am not going to bother to use any of the quotes.

Yesterday at Taunton I deigned to attend both of the post ODI series press conferences - the first with centurion Tammy Beaumont and 5ferer Katherine Brunt, and the second with new England skipper Heather Knight and Head Coach Mark Robinson. It was worthwhile.

England had just cruised to a 202 run win over Pakistan in the third ODI (gratefully grabbing all 6 ICCWC points offered for the series), thanks to 168* from Tammy Beaumont, five wickets from Brunt and a yawning chasm in class between the two sides (scorecard). That is not to denigrate Pakistan, who have only played in England once before (three years ago), cannot play any international cricket at home, and are only just coming to terms with women playing cricket at all. They knew England were in a state of flux when they left Pakistan and they saw a glimmer of hope for an upset. Mr Robinson and his band of merry girls snuffed out that glimmer at Leicester, and then proceeded to bury it further and further underground at Worcester and Taunton. For the first time in three years England looked "professional". In hindsight it was perhaps the worst time for Pakistan to have come to England.

But it could all have been so different if you go back to the first ODI at Leicester. England were chasing Pakistan's 165 - their highest ever score against England (at the time); Lauren Winfield had gone first ball; new number three Georgia Elwiss had been bowled for 12; England were 33/2; Tammy Beaumont (whose ODI average was just 17.25 from 23 games) and new skipper Heather Knight (nerves jangling) were at the crease. The pressure was really on. We had seen this scenario before. It did not bode well. 90 minutes and 20 overs later England were 129/2, Tammy Beaumont had her first international half-century and England were on their way to a 3-0 series win. As Robinson said in his post-series interview that was a pivotal moment.

And so back to those post-series interviews - The first thing to say is that the only people who were there were myself and Syd and Raf (from CRICKETher). We were the written media at the game (except for Adam Collins for the Guardian and Cathy Harris for The Times). We even had front row seats in the Press Box! It seems the Red Tops weren't that interested in the post-Lottie era if it didn't mean disaster.

First up Tammy and Katherine. Tammy couldn't stop smiling and Brunt was well.....Brunt. She is a no-nonsense, plain speaking Yorkie. They were both gracious in victory and about their personal achievements of the day, but more they both looked and sounded content and perhaps a little relieved. They both mentioned how hard the squad had been working over the last eight weeks, and for once I believed them. Asked about her slower ball when she was on a hat-trick, Brunt slapped her forehead with her hand. "Nobody knew on the pitch that it was a hat-trick ball. You get caught up in the moment. I'm just happy that I got that fifth one (wicket). What a schoolgirl error. That's really embarrassing!" She slumped her head onto the desk in mock shame. But it was towards the end of the interview that Brunt perhaps summed up where England are right now, after the recent upheaval. "I couldn't be any more inspired. It's sparked something in me. Making me want to push myself and stick around for a while longer yet." And speaking of coach Robinson she said "He's just brought the best out of everyone". It is what he seems to do.

And so on to the man himself and his new skipper. Robinson is another Yorkie and he is happy to chat and is honest and forthright in his views and his opinions. I like that. It also keeps ECB Media Manager Beth Barrett-Wild on her toes! He was rightfully proud of his team. "There was lots of pressure going into that first game" - not half? "Winning the first game was a big release. You have got to give the girls a lot of praise for how brave they have been. The girls have been relentless. It is the way that they have played. They deserve a lot of praise. We are an emerging team"

Robinson put all his faith in the girls he selected for this series. They repaid him in spades. It could not have worked out better for him and the new captain. Tougher challenges will lie ahead, and there will no doubt be some off days - that is sport! For now it is right to enjoy the series win, look forward to the T20s and then to get back to work for the West Indies tour in October. I have no doubt that Robinson and his happy crew will be doing just that.


Sunday, 26 June 2016

T20 Round Up

The rain managed to intervene in many of the scheduled games in the first full weekend of T20 fixtures, but in the games that survived there have been some remarkable results. Bear in mind that teams only get 1 point each for a cancelled/abandoned game, whereas a win is worth 4 points. With teams only playing seven games in Div 1 & 2 this year, having two games cancelled is a massive loss of potential points. The flip side is that if you can get your game on, when others cannot, AND you can win, you are at a huge advantage. Berks in Div 1 and Worcestershire in Div 2 were the big winners this weekend.

Division One

The three games between Middlesex, Sussex and Yorkshire were all called off without a ball being bowled.

But in Wokingham, Berkshire picked up two huge wins, as Div 1 favourites Kent lost both their opening T20 games, against their hosts and newly-promoted Lancashire. The scores were

Kent 95/8 (Alice Davidson-Richards 26, Alice Macleod 2/9, Linsey Smith 2/10, Fi Morris 2/10)
Berks 96/4 (Rachel Priest 38, Alex Rogers 20, Megan Belt 2/20)
Berkshire needed one to tie and two to win from the last ball. They were attempting to complete the first run when the ball was shied at the stumps, missed and they then completed the second run on the overthrow.

Lancs 90/9 (Natalie Brown 23, Jennie Jackson 2/15, Tash Farrant 2/17, Megan Belt 2/21)
Kent 84/5 (Suzie Bates 25, Natalie Brown 2/10, Nalisha Patel 2/20)

Berks 91/6 (Linsey Smith 29*, Sophie Ecclestone 2/11)
Lancs 55 all out (Emma Lamb 26, Hardy 3/3, Morris 3/21)

Division Two
At Usk CC only one of the three games could be completed

Wales 151/4 (Lauren Parfitt 74, Gabby Basketer 43, Bethany Walker 2/29)
Durham 98/8 (Claire Thomas 2/8, Sara Jenkins 2/18)

The Durham v Surrey and the Wales v Surrey games were both abandoned.

At New Road they managed to complete two games...just, with Worcestershire the big winners.

Worcestershire 145/3 (Thea Brookes 76, Miranda Veringmeier 37, Elsa-Marie Evans 2/22)
Staffs 96/6 (Evelyn Jones 48)
and in their second game, the game was called off after 5 overs of the second innings were completed (the minimum required for the game to stand)
Worcestershire 99/6 (Thea Brookes 47, Beth Dodd 2/11, Kelly Castle 2/13)
Essex 20/3 (after 5 overs) (Clare Boycott 2/14)

The game between Essex v Staffs was cancelled.

And finally in Div 2 Hampshire were demolished by Somerset in a standalone game
Hampshire 87/9
Somerset 88/0


Friday, 24 June 2016

County T20 leagues get underway

This Sunday sees the start of the 2016 County T20 competition with three main divisions, and a fourth division split regionally into three more smaller leagues.

In Division One this season are :-
Berkshire, Kent, Lancashire, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Sussex, Warwickshire, Yorkshire

In Division Two are :-
Durham, Essex, Hampshire, Somerset, Staffs, Surrey, Wales, Worcestershire

In Division Three are :-
Cheshire, Cornwall, Derbyshire, Devon, Herts, Northants, Oxfordshire, Scotland, Shropshire

Division One - Quick Preview
Last year Sussex won the Div 1 title but only on NRR ahead of Yorkshire and Kent, with all three teams finishing on the same number of points. Technically the league started last Sunday when Warks were due to play Notts, but it was rained off. With 4 points for a win and only seven games, getting one point for a cancelled game is a bit tough.

Berkshire - will miss Heather Knight for first few games and could struggle, but they have recruited Rachel Priest as a batsman, who could be their saviour.

Kent - with Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway no longer on England duty, plus Suzie Bates and others there will need to be a steward's enquiry if they don't win the title this year.

Lancashire - won all their games in Div 2 last year, but lost every county championship game in Div 1. T20 may be their game but this will be harder than last year.

Middlesex - Likely to be without Fran Wilson and Alex Hartley for the first few games which could wreck their chances of glory.

Nottinghamshire - struggled a bit last year and they are now without Danni Wyatt and Jenny Gunn. Could struggle again despite good form in Div 2 of county champs.

Sussex - a young team hampered by injuries and England call-ups, but Sara MacGlashan might help. Consistency with the bat may be their biggest issue.

Warwickshire - flying high in the county champs they were promoted from T20 Div 2 last year. Could cause a few upsets.

Yorkshire - with Beth Mooney once again joining their ranks they are likely to go well in this comp.

Fixtures this Sunday 

At Wokingham
Berks v Kent
Berks v Lancs
Lancs v Kent

At Radlett
Middlesex v Sussex
Sussex v Yorkshire
Middlesex v Yorkshire


Thursday, 23 June 2016

England heading in the right direction

So after a stormy couple of weeks in England there are mixed thoughts on the England v Pakistan ODI series, which England lead 2-0 after two comprehensive victories - by 7 wickets at Leicester and 212 runs at Worcester.

The first is one of sympathy for Pakistan, who arrived here about 10 days ago and have since been greeted by a typical English June - torrential downpours! It meant that their proposed warm-up games against the England Academy and the England U19s (EWDP) failed to materialise and they had to settle for two 25 over games on the same day against England and a make-shift Loughborough team. It was no way to prepare for a series in the foreign conditions that England offers compared to Pakistan on only their second tour to these shores (they were last here in 2013).

It was then perhaps just as well they lost the toss before Wednesday's game and batted first. It allowed them to at least try and find their feet, and to their credit they scored more runs against an England team than they have ever done before - 165. England knocked them off comfortably with 18 overs in the bag. Had England batted first then a score in excess of 300 would have been on the cards, as it was at the start of the second ODI in Worcester, when Pakistan invited England to bat.

As England amassed 235 for the first wicket, with Tammy Beaumont (104) and Lauren Winfield (123) helping themselves to maiden international hundreds, it became apparent that 300 was easily in reach. And with Nat Sciver's late 33 ball onslaught, which saw her score 80, and England add 132 in the last 10 overs, England went to a record 378/5. Pakistan surpassed their previous day's total by one run, but were never in the game.

For England two victories means four points in the ICC Women's Championship and a move to a more respectable third in the ICCWC table (see here). With seven games left to play England probably need another eight points from their remaining seven games to ensure they qualify for the WWC. They should get two more on Monday, which will mean they need at least three wins from their six remaining games against the West Indies and Sri Lanka. They will be disappointed if they do not take at least eight points from those games.

Victory over Pakistan should never have been in doubt, but with the departures of Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway, and the absence of Sarah Taylor, it made good copy to suggest that England might struggle against the up and coming Pakistanis. In reality their 50 over form never suggested they would get close to England, particularly playing in England. And so it has transpired.

This has been a very gentle introduction for Heather Knight and her team, but it has been a useful one. The batsmen have filled their boots and have thrown a few monkeys off their backs. It makes even more sense of Mark Robinson's decision to jetison players now rather than wait until the end of this series or after the World Cup. This team now has time to build and develop.

Their next test will be in Jamaica in October and I expect them to come back probably with all the ICCWC points. This is an England team which is finally going places after several years in the doldrums.


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Pakistan tour kicks off with two games v Eng Academy

The Pakistan tour of England kicks off this week with two 50 over warm-up games against the England Academy in Loughborough. On Wednesday they play at the Loughborough Carillon CC (now cancelled) and on Friday at Loughborough University ground.

With Pakistan having not played in England for three years they will be hoping that their batsmen can spend some time at the crease, getting used to English conditions, and their bowlers can get a few overs in their legs. As for the England management they will be hoping the Academy bowlers can give Pakistan a hostile welcome, and their batsmen knock off any runs with the minimum of fuss.

Following on from these games the Pakistan team play three ODIs (all of which count towards the ICC Women's Championship) and then three T20s. Details on all the games are below, with links for ticket sales.

There are six changes from the Pakistan squad that last played 50 over cricket in the Caribbean last October, winning one of their four ODIs. Bismah Maroof, Nahida Khan, Muneeba Ali, Sadia Yousuf, and wicket-keeper Sidra Nawaz were all in the Pakistan WWT20 squad. The only new cap is 24 year old Aiman Anwar. Sana Mir will continue to captain the ODI side, but she has handed over the T20 reins to the experienced Bismah Maroof. Javeria Khan, who broke her thumb at the WWT20 is also fit and returns to the squad.

England will be heavy favourites to win both the ODI and T20 series, but they are a team in transition, without Charlotte Edwards, Lydia Greenway and Sarah Taylor, and are under the new leadership of Heather Knight. There may well be a few new faces on the field for England with Fran Wilson and Alex Hartley likely to get an opportunity to show what they can do. Batting seems to be the weakest suit of both teams, but England have the advantage of playing in their home conditions, and being in the middle of their season. Pakistan will do well to get close to a win.

Pakistan ODI and T20 squad: Javeria Khan, Nahida Khan, Sidra Ameen, Bismah Maroof (T20 capt), Muneeba Ali, Sana Mir (ODI capt), Nida Dar, Iram Javed, Asmavia Iqbal, Anam Amin, Sania Iqbal, Sadia Yousuf, Aiman Anwer, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Nain Abidi


15 June - 10.30am - 50 over warm-up v England Academy - Loughborough Carillon CC

17 June - 10.30am - 50 over warm-up v England Academy - Loughborough University

20 June - 2.00pm - ODI at the Fischer County Ground, Grace Road, Leicester - tickets

22 June - 10.30am - ODI at New Road, Worcester - tickets

27 June - 10.30am - ODI at the Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton - tickets

3 July - 2.30pm - T20I at Bristol County Ground - tickets

5 July - 2.00pm - T20I at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton - tickets

7 July - 6.30pm - T20I at the Essex County Ground, Chelmsford - tickets


Monday, 13 June 2016

Rain turns County Championship into tactical minefield

Rain ruined the fourth round of games in the Women's County Championship, with just three games out of seven being completed in the top two divisions.

In Division 1 Kent kept up their push for a seventh Championship title with a crushing win over last year's champions Yorkshire, who were without opening bowlers Katherine Brunt and Beth Langston. Yorkshire managed to restrict Kent to 206/6 off their 50 overs, but were then rolled over for just 54, with only two batsmen making double figures and Kent off-spinner Megan Belt taking 5/8.

It means that Kent have taken full bonus points from every game they have played so far, even their defeat to Sussex, which leaves them breathing hard down the necks of current leaders, the unbeaten Warwickshire. The two teams meet on Sunday 28th August when the WCC resumes and the winner will have the Championship in their pocket by the close of play. Kent will have Berkshire still to play and Warwickshire will have Middlesex and Somerset. Technically they also have Yorkshire and Staffs to play (both games cancelled), but, given the ridiculous WCC rules, they are unlikely to play either of them as it would be of no benefit to them to do so.

The rain has also created a similar position at the bottom of the league with some teams desperate to play games they think they might win, and others happy to avoid games they think they might lose. There seems little incentive for Surrey to agree to replay yesterday's cancelled game with Sussex. They have the two teams below them in the league still to play - Somerset and Staffs, and will be hoping to beat at least one of those teams. Yorkshire with games against Middlesex, Somerset and Sussex know they need at least one more win to be safe and are apparently keen to play Warwickshire. But Warwickshire have nothing to gain by playing them, so it seems unlikely to happen.

The one cancelled game that might get played is yesterday's Berkshire v Middlesex, if Berkshire have enough money to restage it! Both teams will believe that it is a game they can win, which would take them to the potentially magic three in the wins' column. Berkshire are likely to be the more desperate as they only have Sussex and Kent left to play. Middlesex still have Yorkshire, Warwickshire and, most importantly, Staffs. They may be content to see how those games go before entering into any meaningful dialogue with Berkshire over restaging their game.

This is, of course, a ludicrous situation, as has been pointed out to the ECB on numerous occasions, but it is one that they seem to have no interest in fixing. It would be hugely ironic if it were to rain on 28th August and the Warwickshire v Kent game were to be cancelled, and the title's ultimate destination be settled by the weather.

Meanwhile two of the three games in Division 2 did go ahead, albeit shortened by the weather. Notts beat Devon by 98 runs with a first championship century for Notts' skipper Sonia Odedra, and Worcestershire consigned Essex to their fifth defeat in five games as they chased down a revised target of 132 in 28 overs, by scoring the runs required in 25 overs with eight wickets in hand. Aussie Chloe Piparo lead the run chase with 58*. Notts look destined to challenge for promotion and Essex look almost certain to be playing their cricket in 2017 in Division 3. Sad times for a county with a good record in women's cricket, an enthusiastic set-up, and probably the best supporters in women's cricket, who regularly pack out Chelmsford, where the Finals Day of the KSL will be hosted this year.


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Lydia Greenway retires from international cricket

ECB Press Release

Four-time Women’s Ashes and double World Cup winner Lydia Greenway retires from international cricket

·         ECB’s Director of England Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, hails Greenway as a “match-winner” and “a model professional”

England batsman Lydia Greenway has announced her retirement from international cricket.

After making her England debut in the first Women’s Ashes Test of the 2003 tour to Australia, Greenway went on to represent her country a further 224 times, comprising 14 Test caps, 126 One-Day International (ODI) appearances and 85 Twenty20 International (T20I) matches.  As an innovative middle-order batsman known for her vast array of sweep and reverse-sweep shots, she struck over 4,000 international runs, and was widely regarded as one of the best fielders in the world, taking a total of 121 international catches.

During her 13 year England career, Greenway won the Women’s Ashes four times, including playing an integral role in the team’s success on home soil in the first multi-format Women’s Ashes in 2013, when she hit a match-winning 80 off only 64 balls to seal a series deciding win in the second T20I at the Ageas Bowl.  She was also an important part of England’s victorious 2009 ICC Women’s World Cup and ICC Women’s World T20 squads.  

Lydia Greenway said:

“During recent discussions with Mark Robinson about his focus on developing new players against Pakistan this summer, it became clear that my involvement with the England team might be limited moving forwards.  Whilst in the past I have been in a similar position and have fought for my place, I now feel that at this stage in my life, it’s time to take a step back and retire from international cricket with immediate effect, allowing the next generation of players to develop on the world stage.

“I feel extremely privileged to have represented England for 13 years, and I am very proud of what I have personally achieved during this time.  However, the success of the team and the people I have played with is what will make the memories so special.  The double World Cup victories in 2009 was an amazing period for the team, and I will be right behind the girls as they pursue another World Cup win on home soil next year. 

“I’d like to thank the ECB for getting the women’s game to where it is now, all the coaches I have worked with, my team mates, and most importantly my family and friends for their unconditional support throughout my international career.”   

ECB Director of England Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, added:

“Lydia has made an immense contribution to the England women's cricket team over the past 13 years.  A member of the 2009 team that lifted two World Cups in the space of six months and a member of the 2005, 2008, 2013 and 2014 Ashes-winning teams, she should be incredibly proud of her numerous contributions to England success.

“With the bat, Lydia has been a match-winner on countless occasions, none more memorable than when she struck the Ashes-winning runs at the Ageas Bowl in 2013.  Her 80 not out from 64 balls, in front of a 10,000 strong crowd, was a remarkable innings under pressure. 

“For several years, Lydia has been the best fielder in the women's game.  Indeed she took fielding in the women's game to a new level of athleticism: her sliding, catching and diving stunning audiences, both live and on television.  Lydia has played every one of her for 225 games for England with a smile on her face.  She has been a model professional, a fantastic role model through her work with Chance to Shine, and a wonderful team member.  I wish her every success as she moves in to the next phase of her life.”

Greenway will continue to play domestic cricket, representing the Southern Vipers in the inaugural Kia Super League this summer, alongside playing for Kent in the Royal London Women’s One-Day Championship.