Friday, 30 November 2018

WBBL04 - Preview & Round One Games

The fourth edition of the Women's Big Bash League (hence WBBL04) kicks off this weekend with all eight teams in action at the CitiPower Centre at the Junction Oval in St Kilda - the home of both the Melbourne Stars and the Melbourne Renegades.

The opening match-ups are :-
Perth Scorchers v Hobart Hurricanes
Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Stars
Adelaide Strikers v Brisbane Heat
Melbourne Renegades v Sydney Thunder

Perth Scorchers v Hobart Hurricanes

made it to the final last year on the back of major batting contributions from openers Ellyse Villani and Nicole Bolton, and 23 wickets from England's Katherine Brunt. Villani and Bolton return, but Brunt does not, which leaves a gaping hole in the Scorchers bowling line-up. Not only did Brunt take the most wickets (alongside Sixers' Sarah Aley), but she also had a staggering economy rate of just 4.83 runs per over bowled. Only Sixers' Marizanne Kapp (12 wickets) had a better economy rate in WBBL03.
The Scorchers have recruited England's Kate Cross to try and fill the hole, and will be looking to medium pacers Piepa Cleary and Heather Graham to step up. It will be a tough ask.
In addition to Villani and Bolton, the Scorchers will also have the services of Aussie captain Meg Lanning, who signed for the franchise last year, but was unable to play due to her shoulder injury. Lanning was the leading run scorer in both WBBL01 and WBBL02 with over 500 runs. Her presence in the Scorchers line-up will send fear through all their opponents, and her wicket will be the most prized. 
Last year Scorchers could also call on the services of England's Nat Sciver, but she will not return for WBBL04. This year they have turned to England keeper and number 3 bat Amy Jones. After her showing in the recent Women's T20 World Cup it looks like a shrewd signing, both from a batting and a keeping point of view. Scorchers have to be one of the favourites for the trophy, despite their thin bowling resources.

Hurricanes finished plum last last year, winning just two of their 14 games. Overseas recruits Veda Krishnamurthy and Lauren Winfield failed to provide the team with the volume of runs they needed and they do not return. Windies vice-skipper Hayley Matthews does, and she will hope for a better return than last year with both bat and ball. In addition former Cane Heather Knight returns, and her Western Storm teammate, Smriti Mandhana, is an exciting addition to the batting line-up. Mandhana was outrageously good in the 2018 KSL in England, and showed a little of what she can do with her 83 against Australia in India's defeat of the ultimate champions in the group stage game of the Women's T20 World Cup. Mandhana tends to ride her luck, favouring the aerial root to the boundary, but, on her day, she is unstoppable.
Recruiting principally three international batsmen - both Knight and Matthews will bowl some off-spin too - leaves the Canes rather short on bowling, particularly having lost last year's leading wicket-taker Nicola Hancock to the Melbourne Stars. Fazackerley, Pyke, Fryett and Hepburn took just 17 wickets between them last year, with all of them getting some tap on the way. Expect Canes games to be run-fests - some they'll win and some they won't.

For this opening encounter the Canes are without both Heather Knight and Smriti Mandhana, who have yet to arrive in Australia, which is going to make their task even harder. I'd expect the Scorchers to win at a canter.

Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Stars 
Sixers were last year's champions and with pretty much the same squad as last year they will be tough to beat again. They have Aussies Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry and Ash Gardner, alongside married Saffers Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk. Sarah Aley capitalised on Kapp's parsimonious bowling last year by coming on after the powerplay and taking a hat full of wickets and Erin Burns showed that she is no mug with the bat. Add to this former Kiwi batsman Sara McGlashan, and Aussie left-armer seamer Lauren Cheatle, and you can see that they are going to be a force to be reckoned with yet again. Another shot at the title looks very likely for the Sixers.

Stars were fairly pitiful last year, and with few changes in personnel WBBL04 may not be any better for them. Overseas players Lizelle Lee, Mignon du Preez and Georgia Elwiss all return, despite not doing anything very noteable last year. Lee and du Preez showed no great upturn in form in the T20 World Cup, and Elwiss was not even selected for the England squad. Let's not forget of course that Lee did score a magnificent 100 in the KSL final last September, but since then she has had a pretty lean time of it. When she is a hit, she is a big hit, but far too often she is a miss.
As for the bowling side of things spinners Erin Osborne and Alana King were the top wicket-takers last year and they will be required to perform as well, if not better, this year. Elwiss managed only seven wickets in more than 35 overs of seam, but she may be helped this year with the recruitment of Canes' Nicola Hancock and former Aussie Holly Ferling from Brisbane Heat. Hancock is steady, but Ferling has consistently disappointed, and cannot even get into the Queensland Fire WNCL team at the moment. They won't frighten too many batting line-ups and 2018 looks like being another tough year for the Stars.

Sixers are likely to open their WBBL04 account with a very comfortable win. If they bat first then who would rule out an Alyssa Healy 100 on the opening day of the tournament?

Adelaide Strikers v Brisbane Heat

Strikers will have been disappointed last year to have won only eight of their 14 league games, and then to have crashed out to the Sixers in the semi-final played at their home ground in Adelaide. That day none of the top order, with the exception of Tammy Beaumont, came to the party. Beaumont does not return this year, but Kiwis Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine do, and a lot will rest on their very broad shoulders, and Tahlia McGrath will have to prove her worth with both bat and ball.
Megan Schutt and new recruit,  England off-spinner Dani Hazell, will lead the bowling attack, alongside leggie Amanda Jade Wellington, plus McGrath and Devine, with a sprinkling of Bates, when she feels like it, which seems to be less and less often.
On paper the Strikers look a decent team, but they did so last year and didn't really hit the heights. It could be another hit and miss season for them.

Heat have three of the current Aussie T20 squad in Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince and Beth Mooney as the backbone of their squad, but the recruitment of South Africans Laura Wolvaardt and Sune Luus seems a bit wide of the T20 mark. Wolvaardt has found it tough to adapt her classical, methodical batting style to T20 cricket, and had no great success in the six games she played for Heat last season. Sune Luus has had no great form with the ball (legspinner) or the bat over the last couple of years, after starting her international career with a flourish. She has not bowled her full allocation of 4 overs in her last 18 internationals, and on nine of those occasions has not bowled a single over. It will be a tough ask for either of them to have a massive impact on this competition.
Heat's batting looks hideously light, which will put added pressure on Mooney at the top of the order, who had a magnificent WBBL03, but has been out of touch recently. Unfortunately their bowling doesn't look to be their strength either, so it is difficult to see how they will win many games.

This opening clash is likely to go the Strikers, who will probably have just a little too much for the Heat, but if Heat can remove Bates and Devine early it could well be a battle, albeit not a very pretty one!

Melbourne Renegades v Sydney Thunder

Renegades relied heavily on skipper Amy Satterthwaite last year, with fellow overseas player Chamari Atapattu never really hitting her straps to help her out. Sophie Molineux, better known for her darting left-arm spin, also played a prominent hand with the bat, opening the innings, and may be required to do so again, although the addition of England opener Danni Wyatt to the roster looks intriguing.
Molineux is one of three very young current Aussies in the squad. She is joined by leg-spinner Georgia Wareham and quick Tayla Vlaeminck (who is yet to play a WBBL game, although she has one T20I cap under her belt). There will be a lot of pressure on all three of them to perform on the domestic stage, having been given the opportunity to do so on the international one. Both Molineux and Wareham have shown they have no fear of putting their heads above the parapet. In a young team they will already be looked upon as leaders.
Amy Satterthwaite's other half, Kiwi Lea Tahuhu, will lead the bowling attack, alongside the untried Vlaeminck. Tahuhu is undoubtedly quick, but has a tendency to lose her radar at times. She will need to perform on the big occasions.
Renegades look an intriguing mix, and they might just pull off a few shock results if they play carefree cricket. The problem may be if they actually have some success, then the pressure will begin to mount, and it will be how they handle it.

Thunder fell at the semi-final stage last year, despite not getting the most out of their three overseas players - Stafanie Taylor, Harmanpreet Kaur and Rachel Priest. All three return this year with points to prove.
Taylor has not had a great 2018 - she did not sparkle in the KSL, nor the Women's T20 World Cup. She would like to get back to the form that she had in 2016/2017 in the shortest format of the game.
Kaur scored a magical 103 for India against New Zealand in the opening game of the T20 World Cup and looks to be in fine touch with the bat, but the burdens of captaining the Indian T20 team have been sorely felt, since India's defeat to England in the semi-final of the same competition. She may not be the right sort for captaincy, but she can certainly bat. If she can clear her head of all the extraneous stuff, then she might be able to prove that she is world class in this format of the game.
As for Priest she was unceremoniously dropped from the Kiwi squad in October 2017 due to "fitness issues", and then lost her Kiwi contract. She will be keen to show the Kiwi management what they are missing.
In Rachel Haynes Thunder probably have one of the best, most adaptable, and most consistent T20 batsmen in the world today. For Australia she comes in in the middle order and finishes innings or games off. For Thunder she opens the batting with a flourish with Priest, finishing WBBL03 with 426 runs at a strike rate of over 120. 
With the squad very much as it was last year Thunder will be eyeing a place in the final, but skipper Alex Blackwell, who has retired from international and WNCL duties, may have to a back seat and allow Haynes, the overseas players, and the youngsters like Naomi Stalenberg, Nicola Carey and Rachel Trenaman to take centre stage.

This could be the best game of the opening weekend, with one stellar performance taking the game for either side. It seems that Kaur will not be in the Thunder XI, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Rachel Haynes make the most of being back out in the opener's slot and taking the Thunder to the first of many victories.

Martin Davies

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

The Windies Blog - Part Six - Done & Dusted

After nearly three weeks in the Caribbean I am, unfortunately, back behind my desk in a rain swept and grey city in the south of England. The odyssey is over and, not surprisingly, the Australians are the 2018 Women's World T20 champions, or should that be the Women's T20 World Cup champions - on the eve of the final the ICC decided they would change the name of the tournament "henceforth".

Either way the Aussies won it, and at a canter. They demolished the Windies in their semi-final and steam-rollered England in the final, despite a nervy fielding performance, which gave Danni Wyatt, England's top scorer with 43, three lives before she was eventually caught by a tumbling Meg Lanning at extra cover.

Overall the cricket in the tournament was a bit of a disappointment, with very few tight games and the divide between Australia and the rest very noticeable. Australia will undoubtedly continue to dominate women's cricket for several years to come, as no other nation has yet grasped the nettle of having a professional domestic structure, as the Aussies did two years ago. It is a level which is required below the elite contracted few at the top of the pyramid, so that there is competition for places amongst the elite, and so that there is also a natural financial progression, both up and down, a player's cricketing career.

Australia now have over 100 fully professional women cricketers. Cricket really is a realistic career option in Australia for young girls. It is not in any other country. To decide to be a cricketer in England, South Africa, India or the West Indies is still a leap of faith that you will make it to the top 20 in your country, and that you will stay there. If you cannot stay in that top 20 then cricket will not support you. If you have a potential career as a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant, then it is a very stark choice.

Despite the Aussie dominance there were glimmers of hope for other nations. England will be pleased that they made it to the final, despite their batting never really coming to terms with Windies' conditions. India looked like a side that had suddenly worked out how to play T20 cricket, and their win over Australia was thoroughly deserved, but they became too formulaic in their semi-final against England and paid the price. T20 is a dynamic game, which needs dynamic captaincy. The Windies too were a treat to watch, with their swashbuckling batting at the fore in St Lucia, along with their seam attack, both suited by the Daren Sammy Stadium pitches. On the Antigua pudding they were always going to struggle. They could be a force to be reckoned with on Australian wickets in 15 months time, when the next Women's T20 World Cup will be held.

And talking of the West Indians, the crowds, particularly in St Lucia, were brilliant. The atmosphere for the West Indies v England game was fabulous, and when the Windies won they were genuinely dancing in the stands. They all seem to have natural rhythm, although they must also all have hearing problems!

Another gripe though has to be the umpiring, which was poor, and in some cases laughable. Quite how any umpire, at any level, could have missed the massive snick that Nat Sciver got to a wide deliver that she edged behind in the Windies game, is beyond comprehension. I loved Dan Norcross' tweet later in the game when Anya Shrubsole clubbed one to Deandra Dottin at cover point...

There were also a lot of poor lbw decisions, many of them missed on review by teams that had no experience of the DRS system that was available to them for the first time. And the whole "running on the wicket 5 penalty runs" drama in St Lucia was ridiculous, and put added pressure on young inexperienced cricketers, just trying to play the game. Women's cricket deserves the best umpires that are available, not the ones that may be the most politically correct. Let's hope that the best get to stand in Australia in 2020.

And finally how did I get on with my predictions :-

No 1 - Chloe Tryon will be the leading player for South Africa
No I can't claim that one, although to be fair, none of the South Africans looked that flash in this tournament.

No 2 - Ireland will break several records...that they don't want to break
It was a tough tournament for Ireland, as it was always going to be. They are the only amateur set-up in the tournament. They did lose to New Zealand by eight wickets, with 75 balls to spare, which was a T20 World Cup record.
The other "record" Ireland broke was that they were the first team to successfully use DRS to overturn an umpiring decision.

No 3 - Mithali Raj will open the batting for India and bat too slowly
Well not right, but perhaps the thinking behind the prediction tallied with that of the Indian management, as Raj did not open in India's opening victory over New Zealand, but helped herself to 50s at the top of the order against Bangladesh and Ireland, and then missed the Australia group game through "illness". She was then dropped for the semi-final rematch with the Aussies, which India lost, since when all Hell has been broken loose.
So, wrong, but in a "rightish" sort of way?

No 4 - Shemaine Campbelle will be the West Indies player of the tournament
Others had better tournaments, but Campbelle showed her potential with her match-winning knock of 45 against England. One for the future.

No 5 - Nat Sciver will be England's player of the tournament
I think I will claim this one. In St Lucia she turned up with the ball as England filled their team with spinners, perhaps at the expense of her batting. In the semi-final she and Amy Jones used both their skills and their noggins, to get England into the final, as the Indians lost the plot.

No 6 - New Zealand will not make it to the semi-finals
Spot on. After their opening defeat to India they were always playing catch up and by the fourth day of the tournament their T20 World Cup was over as they lost to Australia.

No 7 - Sri Lanka will win a big game against England, South Africa or the WindiesThat's a definite "No", although they did take a point off of England...but only with the help of the rain. If Bangladesh could bat then they would have lost to them as well, but they can't so they will be at the 2020 T20 World Cup as of right. Let's hope they can reverse the current downward trend.

No 8 - Harmanpreet Kaur will be India's player of the tournament
Well she was certainly up there for the Indians. Her majestic 103 against the Kiwis was the innings of the tournament, and her 43 against the Aussies was only overshadowed by Mandhana's 83. Her captaincy in the semi-final was my only concern. 

No 9 - Sophie Molineux will be THE player of the tournament
Molineux actually had a very quiet tournament, even though she played every game ahead of Jess Jonassen. She only took 4 wickets and got hit for 45 runs in the Indian defeat. Aussie management obviously have a lot of faith in her though. Watch out for her in the WBBL.

No 10 - THE BIG ONE - Australia will win the WWT20
It's the one I actually started with when I first wrote my predictions down and there was never much doubt, despite the wobble against the Indians.

It was a great three weeks, in two great countries, and it was a privilege to be there. It was a shame that most of the "mainstream cricketing press" weren't.

Martin Davies

Friday, 23 November 2018

The Windies Blog - Part Five

And then there were two! And perhaps not surprisingly it is the two with the most professional set-ups, who have made it through to the final - Australia and England.

Last night at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium Australia trounced the Windies, with Alyssa Healy recovering from her concussion to win her fourth Player of the Match award for her 46 at the top of the Aussie innings. It set up a score of 142/5, which looked a decent score on a slow outfield, but not insurmountable. But the Windies lost Hayley Matthews and Deandra Dottin with their score on 15, and from there they never looked like getting into the game. Players came and went at regular intervals and the Windies were soon all out for just 71.

It was a disappointing end to what had been a good tournament for the team. They had beaten England in their group game in St Lucia and topped Group A, but in front of 10,000 passionate Antiguans they couldn't deliver when it mattered against a team that could.

So it also proved with England against India. On a wicket that was getting slower and more difficult to score on as the evening went on, India had themselves well placed at 88/2 with Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet Kaur at the wicket. They had just taken 10 off the 13th over from Nat Sciver and had then launched Kirstie Gordon for a 4 and a 6 in the 14th over, before Rodrigues was needlessly run out going for a second run. In Gordon's next over Kaur then tried to go big again, but only succeeded in lobbing up a catch to Sciver at cover point. It was the beginning of the end of the Indian innings. From 88/2 they slumped to 112 all out in the last over of their 20.

But still this game was far from dead. India had gone into the game with six spinners and, in turn, they were each thrown the ball, but every one of them bowled too short, and with no-one in close on the leg-side after the initial powerplay, Amy Jones and Nat Sciver simply milked the ball to the legside for 1s, 2s and the occasional 4. 62 of the 82 runs off the bat after the powerplay came on the legside.

Skipper Kaur never looked to change the tactic and England just continued to make steady progress, after losing Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt early, both to the slog sweep. The game was won by a 4 from Jones in the 18th over, which took her to 53* - her maiden T20I 50, including her first 6. Sciver finished 51*.

So Friday is a day off. Some of the middle order batsmen will probably go for a bit of a hit, just in case they are needed in the final, which will be at the same ground on Saturday at 8pm local time. We can only hope for a better, quicker wicket, but this ground at Antigua rarely, if ever, produces one. Let's also hope that the locals turn up again, even though their beloved Windies girls will not be in the final. It is likely to be a good match, but Australia will start as firm favourites. The carrot for England is that they have the chance of being double World Champions - both 50 over and 20 over.

Interestingly only five of the England players that will take the field tomorrow (we'd expect an unchanged team) played in that tense 50 over World Cup final against India. For the other six, including non-contracted Academy players Kirstie Gordon and Sophia Dunkley, it will be an almost dream-like scenario.

The team that wins will be the team that handles that pressure the best.

Martin Davies

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

The Windies Blog - Part Four

So we have moved on from St Lucia, where it was raining again as we left, to Antigua, for Thursday's two semi-finals - West Indies v Australia and India v England, and then the final on Sunday.

Somewhat bleary-eyed we made it to the small George F L Charles Airport, just outside Castries, in the north of the island shortly after 6am to catch the Liat Airlines ATR 72 twin-propellered plane for the 55 minute north to Antigua. Joining us on the flight were Nasser Hussein, Charlotte Edwards, Natalie Germanos, Henry Moeran, and Ebony Rainford-Brent, amongst others, plus the tv production crew complete with cameras and other bulky equipment. If this plane went down then women's cricket coverage could have been set back several decades. Well we'd all like to think so anyway. The painful truth is few people would actually notice. As it was the plane obeyed the laws of physics and stayed in the air, until we touched down safely in Antigua, where it was sunny and hot.

We collected the people carrier at the airport and drove south across the island, following the detailed instructions we'd be given by Debbie to English Harbour and her luxury villa, our home for the next 7 days. Greeted by Charmaine we quickly made ourselves at home, before wandering out to the gorgeous Pigeon Beach and then into town to find somewhere to eat that evening.

On the way we had driven past the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, which looked a little forlorn whilst empty, but will be rocking on Thursday, with the Windies playing in the first game. Should they make it to the final there is likely to be bedlam in the stadium, and tickets for Saturday's game will become a prized commodity.

Tuesday at the villa was a quiet day with frequent heavy rain showers, but hot sunshine in between the showers. It was a pleasant day to wallow by the pool and watch a myriad of cream butterflies float up the hill and over the villa, and the yellow finch (turns out it is actually called a Bananaquit - much more fun)
Bananquits feeding (C) Don Miles
and hummingbird battle for sugared water from the feeder.

Meanwhile in the harbour the Magnificent Frigatebirds (and they are well-named) splashed violently into the blue water close to the moored boats, fishing, not outside the off-stump, but for real.

Tomorrow the build-up to the semi-finals starts for real with the pre-match Press Conferences at the ground. I am not sure what you can usefully say before a game, apart from we'd really like to win and we'll be trying our hardest to do so. There will be idle speculation about the pitch, balance of the teams, and opposition players who are deemed to be threats. It all means very little. What matters is what happens on the field on Thursday. I am very fortunate to be able to say that I will be there.

Martin Davies

Sunday, 18 November 2018

The Windies Blog - Part Three

We have our semi-finalists - India, Australia, England and West Indies.

An unchanged England team beat an abject South Africa on Friday here in St Lucia to effectively secure their place in the semis, which was confirmed a few hours later when a rampaging West Indies pulverised the plucky Sri Lankans. The St Lucia crowd were in fine voice and there are rumours of a sell-out crowd of over 10,000 for the West Indies v England game on Sunday, which will decide who tops Group A and will play the Aussies in the semi-final.

Yes the Aussies, because they lost comfortably yesterday to India in their table-topping match. Smriti Mandhana finally found the form she had left in England after the KSL, smashing the Aussie attack for 83 off 55 balls. It allowed the Indians to put 167/8 on the board and the Aussies never looked like getting there, hampered as they were by Alyssa Healy not batting as she had "mild concussion" after colliding with Megan Schutt as they both attempted to take a catch. Denied her boundary-laden start the Aussies looked strangely inept. Beth Mooney has not really been timing the ball too well, and her new opening partner Elyse Villani also looked out of sorts. It meant a powerplay that elicited only 39 runs with both openers gone. Meg Lanning and Rachel Haynes tried to rebuild, but could not do so and then got out, to leave the lower middle order with far too much to do. The Aussies were bowled out for 119 in the last over.

The bookies still make the Aussies favourites to win the tournament, and by some margin, with England second favourites, followed by India and the West Indies. As for me, having nailed my colours to the Aussie mast before the tournament I will stick with them, but I have been pleasantly surprised by both the Indians and the West Indies. Both have played some great cricket and they will both believe they can win this tournament.

As for England they have not really been tested yet. This afternoon with 10,011 West Indians against them they will be. It is going to be a tough challenge, but a win for England will set them up mentally for a semi-final against the old enemy. A loss means a re-run of the 2017 World Cup final with the Indians, who might just have the self-belief to get over the line this time. It is going to be a tense afternoon.

Martin Davies

Thursday, 15 November 2018

The Windies Blog - Part Two

Watch This is blaring out (as it does at very regular intervals throughout all the games), and Bangladesh have just taken a wicket with the first ball of the crucial Sri Lanka v Bangladesh game. Crucial - well the teams that finish in the top four of each group will automatically qualify for the next WWT20 in 18 months time in Australia. There is plenty to play for, even if neither of these teams has any real ambition of getting to the semi-finals.

It's Wednesday and Australia are already into the semi-finals after a comprehensive win over arch rivals New Zealand yesterday evening in Guyana. Yet another 50 from Alyssa Healy - her third in a row - which also gave her her third Player of the Match award, as Australia moved to three from three. But it was no walk in the park and if New Zealand had fielded better things could have been very different. As it is their tournament is all but over. India play Ireland tomorrow and if they should win (they are 1/80 to win with the bookies), then New Zealand will know their fate before they bowl a ball in their last group game immediately afterwards. A period of soul searching in New Zealand is almost certain. Yet another failure on the World stage and a very poor 2018 overall could mean changes.

Going back, England finally got their campaign underway with a workmanlike win over Bangladesh, with Mark Robinson taking the opportunity to blood all three newbies - Linsey Smith, Sophia Dunkley and Kirstie Gordon. Smith and Gordon took wickets, with Gordon finishing with 3/16 and the Player of the Match award. Dunkley took a catch, but was not needed with the bat. England restricted Bangladesh to 76/9 with Ayasha Rahman hitting 39 of the first 42 runs, and then lost Danni Wyatt first ball and Tammy Beaumont for 2. If Amy Jones had been caught early on then life could have got really tough, but Jones 28* and Nat Sciver 23 broke the back of the chase and Heather Knight finished it off, when the teams returned after a heavy shower of rain and England's target had been reduced to 64. Team selection for Friday's game with South Africa could be interesting. This is not a pitch which merits three spinners, let alone three spinners with the same left-arm action.

After this Sri Lanka v Bangladesh game happening in front of me, South Africa will take on the Windies. Both have a win and two points under their belts,  and another win will put them in a strong position, but even the team that loses can still qualify. Both still have England to play, who sit on three points from a win and an abandoned game. If England beat them both they will be through, but lose to one or the other and they could come unstuck.

For now the atmosphere is quite subdued at the Daren Sammy Stadium. I have a feeling it may get a little more raucous later on... did!

After Sri Lanka had duly beaten Bangladesh, who once again failed to get to 80 in 20 overs, it was time for the Windies v South Africa clash. The crowd had grown to about 3,000 and as Deandra Dottin carved Shabnim Ismail for 6 over third man they went bonkers. It was fabulous to be there. "That's the way man!" shouted the St Lucian gent in front of me. "Naah you mean woooman" his mate corrected. "Naah she de man!" They loved it.

They weren't quite so pleased as Windies batters came and went, but at least they took the total passed 100. It was something for their big quicks to get their teeth into. And they did, backed up by some great fielding and four wickets from off-spinning skipper Stafanie Taylor, as South Africa crumbled, losing their last five wickets for just one run, to lose by 31 runs chasing just 107.

With each falling wicket the crowd noise got louder, as the self-belief grew in the Windies players and their raucous supporters. It was a great atmosphere and wonderful to watch as a neutral. England's  encounter with the Windies on Sunday may be a more painful watch.

Before then they take on a cowed South Africa on Friday. On this lively wicket Ismail and Kapp look a handful, but with the ball coming onto the bat it might be a wicket to suit Danni Wyatt, Amy Jones and Heather Knight's  batting styles. It will be a contest. Whether England will have the right bowling attack for this pitch is perhaps more in question.

Mark Robinson only has one more seamer to call on in Tash Farrant. She will get swing, but tends to kiss the surface rather than bang it in. It means her margins for error are pretty small. Despite her debut 3fer this is not a pitch to suit Kirstie Gordon's slow left arm loop. She may miss out.

Off-spin may be the way forward with the ball skidding through, which could mean Dani Hazell gets a recall. It's a tough decision for Robinson. He will know that a win on Friday will mean England are almost on the plane to Antigua, rather than back to Gatwick. Sri Lanka could also get to 5 points if they were to beat the Windies in their final game on Friday too, but England's net run rate looks likely to pull them through, even if they were to finish level on points with the Lions.

If the weather plays ball Friday at the Daren Sammy Stadium should be another blast.

Martin Davies

Sunday, 11 November 2018

The Windies Blog - Part One

It's Sunday 11th November 2018 and I'm sitting at my desk looking out to the north west from the top of the Caribbean island of St Lucia. Several hundred metres below the sea is lapping gently onto a white sand beach sporting the usual paraphernalia of an upmarket resort hotel - sun beds, volley ball net, kayaks, two-man catamarans (I'm sure they have a proper boaty name, but I don't know it). It is a beach we have tried to get down to, but have so far failed. A trek on foot had to be aborted when we were confronted by a neighbour's rottweiler and impossibly dense undergrowth. An excursion by car was met with a barriered entrance to the swanky hotel and two hefty guards. A night raid is being planned...

It is just coming up to 9am and there is some hazy sunshine. It makes a pleasant change. Our group has been in our villa just north of Gros Islet, in the very north of the island, for three days and sunshine has been something which has been in short supply. Rain, on the other hand, has not! Sweeping showers over the first two days gave way to biblical rain yesterday, which left the precipitous roads gushing with water. It was not ideal timing as England were due to open their account in Group A of the Women's World T20 (and I use the term "women's" deliberately. When the men play it is the Men's World T20 - I use the terms not to be sexist, but just to distinguish between the two).

By the time photographer Don and I had  made it into the ground having picked up our Press Passes and negotiated the muddy rivers that flowed around the car park, not to mention the somewhat treacherous stairs to the Media Centre, it was already apparent that the day's game against Sri Lanka would not be taking place. In fact the games scheduled to take place tomorrow here in St Lucia (England v Bangladesh and Sri Lanka v South Africa) are in serious doubt. That would be more bad news for England, as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are both teams that England would expect to beat comfortably - not so South Africa and West Indies - the other two teams in Group A.

Shortly before 4pm the game was officially called off and CRICKETher's Raf and Syd dutifully went off to the "Post Match Press Conference". Mainstream media want quotes, no matter how bland and inane they may be. I'd rather Heather played cricket than had to answer questions to which everyone knows the answer she is going to give. Buzz words - disappointed, looking forward, ready, move on.

In an effort to spice up proceedings journalist Adam Collins lobbed in the grenade question "With the forecast as it is, do you think consideration should be given to moving the games to another country?" Pull pin, count to seven and then lob.....It was not a question that Heather could possibly answer. It was posed to create a hook for a story on a quiet news day and perhaps as a barb at the ICC for scheduling these games here in St Lucia at the back end of the rainy season. It was always a risk, as is our being here to watch the games. The ICC are apparently "considering the idea", although no-one from the ICC has said this is the case. Given that it is now "an issue" it IS probably now being discussed, but at what level and with how much vigour, who knows?

As it is the tournament goes on. Group B based in Guyana - Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and Ireland - has no such weather issues and got off to cracking start with a fine victory for India over New Zealand, which puts them in the box seat to take one of the two semi-final places allocated to the teams that finish first and second in the group. A majestic 103 off 51 balls for Indian skipper Harmanpreet Kaur was possibly one of the best T20I innings that I have ever seen. Superb timing and magnificent shot selection. Not power hitting, but powerful cricket.

Australia then thumped Pakistan, but probably not as hard as they would have liked. They will have tougher games. And then West Indies took on Bangladesh in a Group A clash, presumably scheduled so that the hosts could appear on the first day of their home tournament, despite all their other games being in St Lucia. On a slow, worn pitch Windies would have been worried when they stumbled to 18/3 and then 50/5 with 3/5ths of their overs gone. But they managed to get beyond a 100, and then bowled Bangladesh out for 46, with Deandra Dottin helping herself to a World T20 record of 5/5 by bowling quick and straight. The Bangladeshis lack of a straight bat accounting for most of the carnage.

Which brings us back to today. Two more games are due in Guyana - India v Pakistan and Australia v Ireland. We will all be sitting in front of the tv with the aircon blasting away watching intently.