Sunday, 17 November 2013

Holly Colvin to take a break

Sussex and England are going to be without the services of their left arm spinner Holly Colvin for the foreseeable future, after the former World Cup winner recently announced that she is going to take an indefinite break from cricket to concentrate on her career.

It will be a big blow to Sussex, who won the County Championship last year, with Holly taking 3/23 in the final against Yorkshire. It will be an even bigger blow to England, who face the Aussies in Australia in January attempting to retain the Ashes, and then move on to the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh in March. Colvin has been a mainstay of the England side since she first broke into the team as a 15 year old in 2005. She remains England's youngest ever Test player of either sex. To add to England's spinning woes Laura Marsh is still trying to come back from her second operation on her bowling shoulder and Danni Wyatt hardly bowled at all in the recent West Indies tour.

Colvin's summer this year was disrupted by a broken thumb sustained in a men's game early in the season. It meant she played only a handful of games for her county and looked generally out of salts for much of the Ashes Series. With her slow flighted spin there is very little margin for error. But it seemed in the West Indies that she had rediscovered her length (2/7 and 4/17 - her best ever ODI stats) and she helped England win the ODI series 2-0. 

In her eight year career with England the 24 year old has played in 5 Tests, 50 T20s and 72 ODIs. She has taken a total of 174 wickets (13, 63 and 98 respectively) and scored a total of 330 runs. Her 98 wickets in ODIs puts her just 8 behind England's top wicket-taker, Jenny Gunn, and she has played 43 less games). Initially she struggled with the bat, but she worked hard on her batting and has impressed in some recent performances - she and Anya Shrubsole so nearly got England over the line against Australia in the 2013 World Cup Super Six game adding 31 for the last wicket in a low-scoring game. It may trouble her that her highest score for England was just 29, but in truth she was given very few opportunities to show what she can do with the bat.

But England played her for her bowling and she rarely let them down. She was not a big spinner of the ball, but her slow looping deliveries meant it was down to the batsmen to get pace on the ball. Frequently they failed and although she may not have taken as many wickets as she would have liked, she frequently bowled miserly spells which induced mistakes at the other end.

There is no doubt that England will be a weaker team without her. Whether she will return to the game, as Sarah Taylor did after a break, seems doubtful. Her sudden departure left England with no left-arm spin option in the Senior squad. This has been swiftly rectified by the enhancement of Rebecca Grundy to the main squad from the Academy. No doubt England thought that Holly would be around for many years to come. But that, sadly, is not to be.

We wish her well in her career outside of cricket.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Young England defeat Windies

England duly wrapped up the ODI series with a second comprehensive victory over their West Indian hosts and will leave the Caribbean on a high. They should not, however, forget that they lost all three of their T20 games to the Windies, and that the T20 World Cup is just 5 months away.

But before that there is the small matter of the Ashes. Charlotte Edwards was desperate to win them in England and she will be even more fired up to retain them on Aussie soil. Once again the format will be one Test; three ODIs and and three T20s with 6 points again for the Test (being played at the WACA) and 2 points for each of the other games. Given the England men's recent game at the WACA you would have to say that a drawn Test looks extremely likely. Both teams have girls that can bat long and once in at the WACA you have to find ways to get yourself out. The series would then of course come down to the short format stuff.

The one really key point that has come out of the Windies tour is the fragility of the England batting. Only Sarah Taylor made over 50 in any of the seven completed games (55* and 100 in the two ODIs). But even she had a lean spell in the T20s and skipper Charlotte Edwards never quite found her touch in either format. Newcomers Nat Sciver and Lauren Winfield will have learnt more from the tour and have scope to improve, but the experienced Danni Wyatt, Tammy Beaumont, Lydia Greenway and Jenny Gunn failed to make an impact with the bat. That will be a concern. England will hope to add Heather Knight and Laura Marsh to their batting line-up for the Ashes trip, but they will both have been without outdoor cricket for four months, if fit. England will also hope that Sarah's sublime form which saw her score a magnificent century in the last ODI continues, but it only takes one good ball or one bad shot.

On the bowling front fast bowlers Kate Cross and Tash Farrant have shown they have the temperament for cricket at the top level. Farrant got some good shape on the ball and Cross good bounce and carry. Neither have the firepower of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, who England again will hope to be fit to face the Aussies. Holly Colvin's return to form will be much welcomed. Her slow loopy left-arm spin is a key weapon in the 50 over game, perhaps less so in the 20 over format. Fellow spinner Dani Hazell only claimed four wickets in 28 overs of bowling, and Danni Wyatt only bowled three overs in the six games she played. Jenny Gunn surprisingly was the leading wicket-taker with 13 wickets, including five in one game. It is difficult to see her as much more than a stock bowler though. Nat Sciver picked up 10 wickets including a hat-trick, but she has a tendency to be a tad expensive. When it comes to Ashes selection you need to throw all-rounders Arran Brindle and Georgia Elwiss into the bowling mix too.

If all the girls are fit and available then it is going to be a bit of a scramble to get onto the plane to Perth in early January. Paul Shaw and his team will have some difficult decisions to make.

No sooner will they be back from Australia than they will be thinking about the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh. They play their first game on 24 March against the Windies. Also in England's group are India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Beaten in the final by Australia in 2012 England will be out for revenge, but they will have to improve on their T20 showing in the Caribbean.