Monday, 22 August 2016

Southern Vipers take KSL Title

It was short and sweet. The inaugural KSL tournament has been and gone, and it was the pre-tournament favourites the Southern Vipers that have wandered off into the Essex sunset with the trophy under their arms. 

The day had started with the Western Storm defeating the Loughborough Lightning in the Second v Third semi-final. For once Heather Knight won a toss, but decided to stick with the formula that had worked for the Storm in their league games - bowling first and chasing. It worked again. Lightning were reduced to 30/2 after the six powerplay overs, with Stafanie Taylor picking up both Dane van Niekerk and Georgia Elwiss. Ellyse Perry (64*) and Sophie Devine (21) set about rebuilding the innings, but despite staying together until the 16th over they could only move the score on to 80, before Devine skied Knight to Fran Wilson at midwicket. When Amy Jones and Evelyn Jones were both run out by Sophie Luff in the 18th over it looked as though Lightning might struggle to make it to 100, but Thea Brookes (11) and Perry took 20 off the last over from Taylor to take Lightning to 124/7. In response the Storm lost Rachel Priest (4) early doors, but Heather Knight (52) and Stafanie Taylor (34) took the game away from Lightning with a 57 run partnership in 51 balls before Taylor swept a van Niekerk full toss to backward square leg. It mattered little as Knight and Fran Wilson (23) accumulated steadily. A late flurry of wickets took the game into the last over with just one run required, with Georgia Hennessy obliging from the third ball of the over.

And so to the final. The Vipers won the toss and elected to put the Storm into bat, fearing, it seems, the finishing power of Taylor, Knight and Priest. It was the first time in the tournament that the Storm had batted first and it showed, as having made an impeccable start, reaching 71/0 after 10 overs, the Storm failed to reach a commanding total in excess of 160. For some reason it was the wobbly slow-medium of the becapped 34 year old Arran Brindle (2/15), that tied them up in the middle overs, plus she also accounted for Taylor (35) and Knight (6), caught trying to move the score along. But still the Storm had big-hitters in Priest (57) and Lizelle Lee (6). Priest brought up her 50 having hit Linsey Smith for a 6 and a 4 in the 14th over, but just as she looked to cut loose she hoisted Bates high to midwicket, where Lydia Greenway accepted the catch. Lee never really found her form and scooped a Farrant slower ball to deep long on, and had it not been for 14 off the last over the Storm would have fallen well short of the 140/5 they ended up with. Most feared it was not enough and so it proved as Suzie Bates led the Vipers to 78/0 in just the ninth over before she lost partner Charlotte Edwards (24). When Bates was brilliantly run out by Fran Wilson two overs later, the Storm perked up in the field. A direct hit from Anya Shrubsole at mid-off then saw the end of Georgia Adams (15), and Vipers still needed 37 off 33 balls. But Sara McGlashan (21) and Lydia Greenway (17) kept calm, taking 10 off the 16th over and then 14 off the 18th, to leave them needing just 6 off the last two. They managed it within five balls as Greenway hit a sweet off-drive to the boundary to finish the game.

It was the end of a good day at Chelmsford, despite a rather disappointing crowd of around 1,300, and the end of a brief, but interesting new tournament, which Clare Connor says will be expanded to the 50 over format next season, before the World Cup. The T20 version will remain in August with the same format - so no extension to home and away games as many have asked for, it seems.

Overall the standard of the games has been high. I have personally seen 11 of the 18 games played, with the Storm's spectacular run chase at Bristol probably being the highlight. Some will say that the inclusion of three overseas players has enhanced the standard of the competition. True eight of the top ten run-scorers were overseas players, but they were also the ones who had the most opportunities to score those runs. Many overseas, given similar opportunities, also failed to make any real impact, and prevented local players from being given the opportunity to show what they could do. It is a fine line to tread, but a reduction to two overseas, as was originally planned, surely has to be the way forward?

There are other issues that also need to be addressed. With small crowds are big grounds the way forward? The smaller county grounds would work better. Players also need to be paid a retainer for the tournament and not match fees only for those who play. It would make the franchises think more carefully about some of their "back-up selections" and reward the entire squad of 15 rather than only those who play. 

And finally more games is a must. It seems it will not happen in 2017, which is a huge shame. Five league games is too few. Ten league games would be better for supporters, better for the players, and make it a true competition. I also remain unconvinced about the second/third play-off before the final. Make it two semis and then the final. 

But enough carping. Congratulations to all that played in this year's KSL. It has been fun to watch.



  1. I certainly enjoyed watching all the matches I went to. Regarding the number of overseas players, I think 3 is about right for now. Some say that 4 would be more appropriate and there is an argument for that.

    It's true that some England players given opportunities to perform, didn't really do so, and plenty of county players were "walking wickets" so to speak. And others were passengers or to be kind, "specialist fielders". I believe Cait O'Keefe for instance played every game for Western Storm but didn't bat or bowl once? If the Internationals bring higher totals, and more media attention, that's argument enough for some.

    I know that the younger players need to fail a few times, it needs to happen to some extent for the players to improve, but I do think if the number of International spots was reduced to 2 we would see sub-80 scores more often, and fewer 140+ scores. Certainly for a couple of years or so. So for overall balance I would be tempted to leave it at 3 for now. Besides, if an International is not performing, their team is under no obligation to play them. We've seen the "minor knock" excuse used to rest, or leave out a player for a game or two before, and I'm sure we'll see it again. Maybe in 2 or 3 years the number of International spots could be looked at again.

    From what Connor has said about next year's KSL formats, my understanding was that their priority was to introduce the 50-over format competition first and foremost. It was an either-or for doubling the KSLT20 matches, so that would have to wait until the following year. I think this option is probably best, seeing as the ODI World Cup will be upon us and also it will be very interesting to see what the 6 host sides do with their team rosters to accommodate the longer format. Will they want bigger or more varied squads, or will some players be a specialist for one format or the other? This is only likely to increase the opportunities for up and coming county and Academy players.

    I think we need to be careful to introduce these new, evolving competitions gradually to help reduce the impact lower down the participation pyramid. There are plenty of people who deal with club cricket who still think the whole idea is a bad one!

  2. My concern over and above the concerns raised above is what is happening to the club and county matches, with many club sides unable to put out a full strength team, selected KSL not being allowed to play in other matches. Where are non selected players any chance for experience against top England players and where is their chance to shine?

  3. When the dust has settled and the ECB review the KSL there are a few things that need looking at.

    For me, the most pressing is the lamentable opportunity that has been afforded to Academy batsmen. In the 15 matches (so ex. finals day) there were 150 top 5 batting slots available and an Academy player made it into one of these slots on only 31 occasions. The distribution of these 31 opportunities makes interesting reading - SS (10), YD (8), SV (7), LT(6), LL(1) and WS (0). The 31 occasions compares to 69 for overseas, 39 for England and 11 for retired England.

    Yes, everyone knows why the ‘names’ (aka the overseas players) are used – to draw the media attention and crowds. Long term, though, having aspiring England players sitting on their backside merely watching isn’t going to get us very far. Loughborough Lightning perhaps best illustrates this point. Brookes and Scholfield nearly won them their 2nd match batting at 8 and 9 yet never made it into the top 5. Evelyn Jones was given one chance on the top 5, scored 33 off 30 balls, and was then ‘dropped’ out of the top 5 for the semi-final (and had the pleasure of watching one of their ‘names’ spend 30 balls scoring a mere 21 runs in that semi-final!). Western Storm shouldn’t avoid criticism either – they only used England (x10) and Overseas (x15) in their top 5 (and they repeated this in the semi-final and final). Perhaps it was good news that Vipers, having at least used Academy players 7 times in their top 5 (and once more in the final) won it.

    It is worth remembering that branded cricket is synthetic. It’s a marketing mirage and, yes, winning is important, but England’s longer term success is more important. It was created to bridge the gap between county and international level but it isn’t going to do that if the England and Overseas players occupy the crease.

    Next year, each team should be constrained to reach at least 10 occurrences of Academy players batting in their top 5 across 5 matches.

    Well done to Surrey Stars who blazed a trail in this respect (Smith x 5, Griffith x 5). If they can reach the ’10 threshold’ so can others.

    Presumably Vipers will be red hot favourites next year when Lottie and Lydia won’t count as international players (nor Brindle for that matter) so they could have these 3, 3 England players and 3 Internationals !

    Turning to the idea of a 50 over competition. Forget it – at least for now. The franchises have not yet established themselves (hardly surprising when some of them had only 2 home matches). Expand the T20 to more matches – yes, I can see the logic in that.

    1. Agree with the thrust of your response, but you do have to look at the players involved & also the opportunities given to Academy bowlers by the teams. For example WS only had 2 Academy players, Luff & Davies. Davies opened the bowling in every game. Luff (a middle order bat) batted at 6.

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