Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Loughborough throw the big guns at Exeter

The biggest compliment Loughborough MCCU (a team combined of players studying at both Loughborough College and Loughborough University) paid to Exeter University, who they met yesterday in the BUCS Championship final, was to field the strongest team that they could possibly muster for the occasion.

It featured seven full England internationals (five of them centrally contracted by the ECB), two England Academy players, one EWDP U19 player and one Div 2 county player. By contrast Exeter had just two England Academy players, two Div 1 county players, and four Div 2 county players in their ranks. The Loughborough side which took the field would be expected to beat any of the current Div 1 county sides and would probably give the touring Aussies a decent game. The result of the match was therefore somewhat of a foregone conclusion, but Exeter gave the girls in purple plenty to think about on their way to their fifth title in a row.

Invited to bat by Loughborough on the postage stamp Nursery Ground pitch at Lord's Exeter made a poor start losing openers Amara Carr in the third over and skipper Bryony Butcher in the sixth, to
Aylish Cranston - Player of the Match
leave themselves at 11/2. But Aylish Cranstone (50) and Fi Morris (20) saw off the new ball attack of Anya Shrubsole and Beth Langston, but just as they started to build their partnership Morris was lbw to Nat Sciver. The partnership had added 55. This brought the belligerent Lissy MacLeod (33) to the crease, who wasted no time in dispatching balls to all parts of the Lord's practice ground, including a towering straight 6 off Rebecca Grundy into the neighbouring gardens. She and Cranstone had added a very lively 51 runs to the total in just eight overs before MacLeod perished chipping Georgia Elwiss tamely to midwicket. Cranstone and Phoebe Graham (10) then took the score on to 138/4, Cranstone reaching her Player of the Match fifty in the process, before both fell - Graham adjudged lbw to Grundy and Cranstone bowled behind her legs by Marie Kelly. Freya Davies (15) and Rebecca Silk (23*) set about rebuilding the innings again and together they added 35 for the seventh wicket before Davies was bowled by one that kept a little low from the returning Langston. Only 13 more were added in the last few overs to leave Exeter on 186/7 at the close.

It was never likely to be enough and Loughborough seemed determined to put bat to ball from the outset. Georgia Adams (21) crashed three straight fours off Davies's first over, but she adjusted her length and got her revenge in the fifth over as she bowled Sussex team-mate Adams with a good yorker. Had Butcher managed to hold on to a sharp chance at short cover off Sciver in the same over, before she had scored, Exeter may have put some more pressure on Loughborough. As it was it went to the boundary as did several other shots off Sciver's and Amy Jones's bats.  They had taken the score to 98/1 in the 13th over before Jones played over one from Butcher and was bowled. Elwiss came in to take over where Jones had left off and the pair moved the score swiftly on to 141, when Sciver, having just achieved her fifty, was run out by a good throw from the boundary by Silk. Relative calm ensued and Elwiss (41) fell lbw to Silk with 19 needed to win. With just seven needed Davies was thrown the ball again and removed Paige Scholfield (5), and must have been mighty close to removing Shrubsole lbw first ball, which might have sent a frisson of nerves through the purple ranks. But the umpire deemed it to be missing leg stump and Shrubsole ended the game next over with Loughborough's only six of their innings.

Full scorecard is here.


Monday, 22 June 2015

Staffs & Somerset in Div 2 driving seat

Staffordshire and Somerset remain unbeaten in Division Two of the Women's County Championship after both secured relatively comfortable victories over Essex and Wales respectively. Both are pulling away from their chasers as third-placed Devon slipped to their second defeat of their 2015 campaign at the hands of Ireland, by just seven runs. Worcestershire also lost their second game of the season, by the even narrower margin of two runs, to Durham. At the bottom of the league Scotland (who did not play this weekend) and Essex are both still winless.

Staffs and Somerset still have each other to play, of course (after being rained off at the beginning of the season). Staffs also have Devon, Essex and Worcestershire. Somerset have Scotland, Durham, Worcestershire and Wales still left to play.

Game 17 - Devon v Ireland
Ireland 165 all out (Kim Garth 54)
Devon 158 all out (Amara Carr 33)
Ireland won by 7 runs
Devon will be kicking themselves as this was a must-win game for them if they were going to keep up the pressure on the Staffs and Somerset. They had Ireland at 73/7 at one stage but a great rearguard action by Kim Garth who finished on 54 not out, allowed Ireland to get to 165 all out. It was to prove seven runs too many for Devon, who made a great start through Amara Carr (33) and Aylish Cranstone (22) as they added 66 for the first wicket, but from there on Devon lost wickets at regular intervals, with the last four batsmen being run out, with nine unused balls when the final wicket fell.

Game 18 - Durham v Worcestershire
Durham 133 all out (Catherine Chapman 31, Jo Greaves 3/24)
Worcestershire 131 all out (Lauren Rowles 44, Elysa Hubbard 4/20)
Durham won by 2 runs
Having bowled Durham out for just 133 Worcestershire were probably quite confident they could record their third win of the season, but Durham in the shape of Elysa Hubbard (4/20) and Rachel Petherick (3/19) had other ideas. Worcestershire were reduced to 89/8 and the game seemed gone, only for Lauren Rowles (44) to revive the Worcestershire innings. She and number 10 Emma Walters (4*) took Worcestershire tantalizingly to within three runs of victory, before Rowles was caught behind. Still Worcestershire had another wicket in hand, but despite surviving for several balls no more runs could be added before Durham snapped up the final wicket.

Game 19 - Essex v Somerset
Somerset 101 all out (Hannah Jeffery 3/6)
Essex 72 all out (Cordelia Griffith 22, Anya Shrubsole 4/18, Jenny Withers 3/12)
Somerset won by 29 runs
In another low-scoring game Somerset came out on top. They only just scraped past 100 themselves, bu then they bowled out opponents Essex for just 72, with only Cordelia Griffith (22) making double figures. It was Anya Shrubsole (4/18) that blew away the Essex top order, with Jenny Withers claiming the wicket of Griffith and two more, as Essex slipped to their fourth defeat in four games, following relegation from Div 1 last year.

Game 20 - Wales v Staffordshire
Wales 174/8 (Lauren Parfitt 30)
Staffordshire 175/5 (Molly Strano 47*, Evelyn Jones 40)
Staffordshire won by 5 wickets
Staffs maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a comfortable victory over Wales. Wales made steady if unspectacular progress throughout their innings with five batsmen getting into double figures, but none going on beyond 30. In reply Evelyn Jones and Charlotte Whyle opened up with a partnership of 70 before Jones was run out. There was a slight middle order wobble but Aussie Molly Strano (47*) continued her fine season holding the Staffs' innings together and getting them over the line with eight balls and five wickets to spare.


Kent go top as Yorkshire flay Middlesex

Kent have clambered their way back to the top of Division One of the Women's County Championship courtesy of an easy victory over Warwickshire, and league leaders Middlesex crashing to a nine wicket defeat at Yorkshire, which keeps Yorkshire right in contention too.
Surrey and Sussex have kept themselves in the hunt for top-spot with solid wins over Lancashire and Notts respectively. At the bottom things are looking bleak for Lancashire as they have now lost four from four.
But the England players on Ashes' duty will miss the next three games for their counties (19th July, 30th & 31st August), so things could all change before the season reaches it climax on 13th September (Kent having completed their fixtures on 31st August).

Div 1 Results and Reports

Game 17 - Lancashire v Surrey

Lancashire 78 all out (Nat Sciver 5/27, Sarah Clarke 4/11)
Surrey 79/4 (Susie Rowe 35*)
Surrey won by 6 wickets
Lancashire's disappointing first season in the top flight continued as they were skittled out for just 78 runs in less than 38 overs, losing their fourth game of the season, as Surrey romped home in less than 20 overs. Nat Sciver did the early damage claiming five of the top six wickets for just 27, and, who else, but Sarah Clarke (4/11) dispatched the last four Lancs' batsmen with her flighted leg breaks (she already has 14 wickets in Div 1 this year). Surrey made light work of getting the required runs, although they did lose four wickets in the process. Susie Rowe (35*) saw them home after Nat Sciver went for a bright 28, including five 4s.

Game 18 - Sussex v Notts
Notts 132 all out (Jenny Gunn 39, Danielle Wyatt 36, Holly Colvin 4/20, Erin Osborne 3/28)
Sussex 133/5 (Sarah Taylor 39)
Sussex won by 5 wickets
Sussex ran out very comfortable winners against Notts who quite simply could not put enough runs on the board to challenge the Sussex batting line up. Inserted Notts were soon two down as Sonia Odedra called her partner Georgie Boyce through for a suicidal run only to see her easily run out. Odedra herself then went edging Freya Davies to Georgia Elwiss at gully in the fifth over. Notts were 21/2. But Jenny Gunn (39) and Danielle Wyatt (36) made the most of some attacking fields set by Sarah Taylor, as Sussex strived to dislodge the two key Notts' batsmen. Eventually it was the spin combination of Holly Colvin (4/20) and Erin Osborne (3/28) that initially frustrated the pair and then took their wickets - Wyatt attempting to launch Colvin over mid-on and edging high to slip and Gunn eventually plopping one back to Colvin, having stood firm the ball before when it seemed she had edged the ball behind to Taylor. In the same over Aussie Zoe Richards departed for a duck and Notts were 103/6. Osborne returned as Colvin completed her spell and accounted for nine and ten, and then Freya Davies removed the jack's off stump to end the Notts innings.
In response Sussex lost Georgia Adams in the second over to Wyatt for a duck, but Georgia Elwiss (27) and Sarah Taylor (39) took the Sussex score past 50 in the 9th over and seemed to be cruising, before Elwiss was bowled by a full loopy off-break from Wyatt. Sussex's progress was stalled but not halted. Taylor continued to bat positively, despite losing Izzy Collis (10), with Paige Scholfield also hitting a breezey run-a-ball 25, but then Taylor fell to Gunn, caught at mid-off looking to go over the top. At 99/4 Notts might have felt they had a glimmer of a chance, but Osborne and Holly Colvin saw Sussex home easily in the 29th over.

Game 19 - Warwickshire v Kent
Kent 209/8 (Tammy Beaumont 67, Charlotte Edwards 37, Georgia Davies 3/23)
Warwickshire 125 all out (Megan Belt 3/20, Tash Farrant 3/23)
Kent won by 83 runs
Invited to bat Kent made their usual solid start through Tammy Beaumont (67) and Charlotte Edwards (37), the pair adding 90 for the first wicket, before Edwards was unfortunately run out at the non-striker's end as the bowler deflected a Beaumont drive onto the stumps. 30 runs later Kent's serene progress came to a juddering halt as they lost Lydia Greenway (5), Laura Marsh (0) and Beaumont in the space of five overs, leaving them on 133/4. Alice Davidson-Richards (27) and Kara Sutherland (23) decided to consolidate and they took the score to 184/6 before they were both out, together with keeper Lauren Griffith. Kent managed to push the total beyond the maximum bonus point 200 mark before they ran out of overs, setting Warwickshire 210 to win. As they stumbled to 41/5 Warwickshire never looked like being in contention. Only Georgia Hennessy (35) and Liz Smart (24) offered much resistance as Tash Farrant and Megan Belt picked up three wickets apiece as Warwickshire were bowled out for 125 in the 43rd over.

Game 20 - Yorkshire v Middlesex
Middlesex 174 all out (Fran Wilson 45, Katie Levick 3/??)
Yorkshire 175/1 (Lauren Winfield 99*, Beth Mooney 69)
Yorkshire won by 9 wickets
(no scorecard yet available)
Yorkshire restricted table-toppers Middlesex to just 174 as they bowled them out in the 42nd over of their innings. Fran Wilson top scored as Middlesex failed to set Yorkshire anything remotely resembling a challenging target.
Yorkshire openers Lauren Winfield (99*) and Aussie Beth Mooney (69) looked to be taking Yorkshire to a ten wicket win, before Mooney was caught on the boundary off Hartley with just six runs needed to win. Unfortunately there were not quite enough runs required for Winfield to complete a well-deserved century, but no doubt the Yorkshire skipper was happy enough with her own form and the thumping nine wicket win.


Saturday, 20 June 2015

EWA remain unbeaten

The England Women's Academy team made it four wins out of four this season as they comfortably beat a strong Loughborough University MCCU team, which included England's Anya Shrubsole and Fran Wilson, plus the Academy's own Georgia Adams and Paige Scholfield. For Loughborough it was a great chance to warm-up before their BUCs final at Lords next Tuesday against Exeter University.

EWA players Sophie Luff, Steph Butler, Aylish Cranstone, Freya Davies, Alex Hartley, Evelyn Jones, Emma Lamb, and Carla Rudd were joined in the EWA team by EWDP U19s Emily Arlott, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Katie George, and Cordelia Griffith.

Invited to bat Loughborough were soon in trouble at 13/2 as opening bowlers Freya Davies and Katie George each picked up a wicket (Marie Kelly and Adams), but Wilson (55) and Shrubsole (36) then added 76 for the third wicket before Shrubsole was out lbw to Hartley. Scholfield then entered the fray and looked to be in good touch, but with the score on 124, she lost her partner as Wilson advanced down the wicket to Hartley (2- 30) and was bowled. Just six runs later Scholfield too was gone, lbw to Ecclestone trying to force a full-length ball to the legside, and from here the Loughborough innings imploded as they lost their last seven wickets for just 29 runs. Chief destroyer was Davies, returning at the start of the batting powerplay to claim three wickets in 19 balls for just six runs to finish with figures of 4-29 and bowl out Loughborough for 153.
Freya Davies drives another ball to the boundary
(picture courtesy of Don Miles)

But things did not look good for the EWA as they slipped to 13/3 as Lamb, Dunkley and Cranstone were all removed, and when Griffith (33) and Jones went in quick succession the score had only moved on to 71/5. Loughborough looked to be in control. But EWA skipper Luff (38*) was solid in her defence and knew she had plenty of time.

Initially she and Carla Rudd (13) took the score beyond 100, but the decisive, and winning, partnership was with Davies (25*). Together they added an unbeaten 45 as the EWA cruised past the required score in just the 36th over with four wickets still in hand.

The EWA next take on Whitgift School on Tuesday, the same day as the BUCs final which will mean that again several U19s are likely to be given the chance to show what they can do.

A full scorecard is available here.


Friday, 19 June 2015

County Champs reaches half-way stage

Attention turns again to The Women's County Championship as it reaches it's half-way stage this Sunday with the fifth round of fixtures being played. We look at all the fixtures in Divs 1 & 2 and try to pick some winners.

Division One
Lancashire v Surrey at Urmston CC
Sussex v Notts at Billingshurst CC
Warwickshire v Kent at Egbaston Foundation Ground
Yorkshire v Middlesex at Harrogate CC

In Div 1 unbeaten Middlesex make the long journey to Harrogate to take on Yorkshire. Lauren Winfield and Katherine Brunt should be in the Yorkshire line-up, but it will be interesting to see if Dani Hazell makes it on to the field. She was absent from Yorkshire's recent T20 games in Surrey, where they beat Surrey, but lost to Sussex. Yorkshire will also have played Notts in a T20 match at Headingley tonight (Friday), before the same men's T20 Blast fixture. Middlesex will be buoyant after winning their first two County Championship games (against Surrey and Lancs) and their first two T20 games (against Notts and Somerset), but Yorkshire may prove tougher opposition particularly on home turf.
Sussex host the mercurial Notts at Billingshurst, which could prove to be the game of the weekend. Danni Wyatt is in sparkling form with the bat in T20 cricket, but can she convert that to the longer format? Sussex will hope not. They should be at full strength, and after a shakey start to the season they seem to have got their ducks in a row and look a formidable side in all formats.
Kent will be hoping to take full points from their encounter with Warwickshire to keep themselves in the title battle, before losing their England contingent for the remainder of the Championship season. But Warwickshire beat Surrey in their last County Championship game and if they can put some runs on the board then they could give Kent a good run for their money. They are a young team under the leadership of 24 year old England left-arm spinner Rebecca Grundy. Could she get one over on her illustrious England skipper?
Finally in Div 1 Lancs host Surrey for whom not much has gone right since they beat Sussex and Berkshire on the opening weekend of the season. They have subsequently lost in the County Championship to Middlesex and Warwickshire and they lost both their opening T20 games on Sunday to Yorkshire (by 10 wickets) and Sussex (by 8 wickets). They will be looking to bounce back against Lancs who have yet to pick up a win in the top flight of the County Championship. If Rachel Candy and Sarah Clarke are back in for the fixture then Lancs might still be winless come Monday.

Division Two
Devon v Ireland at Tiverton Heathcoat
Durham v Worcestershire at Durham City CC
Essex v Somerset at Felsted School
Wales v Staffordshire at Ynystawe CC

Staffordshire sit at the top of Div 2 with three wins out of three, but suffered a torrid time at last weekend's Div 2 T20 matches, losing to the Netherlands and Warwickshire. Mind you Wales, their opponents on Sunday didn't fare much better, losing to Cheshire and Durham in the same division. Staffs look likely to make it four from four.
Somerset are also unbeaten so far this season and Essex are the team that have to find an answer to South African opener Lizelle Lee, who is getting great support at the top of the order from Gwenan Davies, Sophie Luff and Anya Shrubsole. Over 300 could be on the cards again if Somerset get to bat first.
Devon need to beat Ireland to keep their title challenge on track. Ireland have struggled for runs after scoring over 300 in their first game of the season, and so are won two lost two so far this season. Jodie Dibble has been scoring plenty of runs at the top of the order for Devon and they look like they might be too strong for Ireland, but this could be the game of the weekend in Div 2.
Finally Worcestershire have made a great start to the season with wins over Scotland and Wales in the Championship. Durham pasted Scotland in their last Championship game and had a decent opening to their Div 2 T20 campaign last week, beating Wales and narrowly losing out to T20 surprises Cheshire. This could go either way.


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Women's Cricket Super League to start in 2016

The ECB have today announced that a new Women's Cricket Super League will start in 2016. Amidst a blaze of camera crews and familiar cricket faces from Sky, TMS and the like, Clare Conner, the Head of Women's Cricket in England, sat patiently outlining what she described as the "most significant development in women's cricket for a very long time". Her enthusiasm for the project was obvious and the amount of media attention almost unprecedented in the women's game. It was exciting to be part of it, and one can only hope that the product that is produced at the end of the day is just as exciting.

The headlines are that there will be six Women's Cricket Super League teams, with the ECB investing £3M in the project over the next four years. In 2016 the six teams will compete only for a T20 prize, which will include some money, both for the players and the organisation that is running the team - quaintly referred to as "the host". In 2017 this will be extended to a new WCSL 50 over competition as well. Quite who those "hosts" will be is not clear yet, as the ECB are asking for "Expressions of Interest" from organisations that want to be involved in the project - these could be existing counties, universities, sporting organisations such as the MCC or indeed organisations involved in any sport. The ECB is basically open to offers. Hosts will need to prove a business case to the ECB to be awarded one of the six team franchises (although pointedly this was not a word that was used during the Press Conference) and they will be tied in for four years. How do you make your case? Well you will need to tick the ECB's checklist of criteria which relate to expertise, standards, coaching model, engagement with the community, growth forecasts and general business development. Franchises will hopefully be awarded by the end of 2015.

If you are lucky enough to be awarded a hosting position, then in Year One the ECB will give you half of what they estimate it will cost to run your team for the year. The other half will apparently be value in kind, by way of facilities, expertise, existing coaching staff etc. The reality is that the host will probably have to stump up some of their own cash, or cash that they have derived from commercial sponsors. Quite what the cost of running a team is deemed to be seemed to be a moot point, but it sounded as though the ECB would contribute substantially less than £100,000 in the first year to each team, but that this would grow in subsequent years.

Unlike the Aussie state system none of this money is earmarked for salaries. The ECB would like the players (outside of the 18 contracted players) to be paid, but they are not insisting that this is a part of the host's model. It will be a matter for the host's themselves. As for ECB contracted players they cannot apparently be paid additional sums, although how long this would be sustainable seems doubtful. Are they really going to play more competitive cricket for no more money? How will hosts attract the best contracted players to come and play for them, rather than the team down the road? And what of those just outside the 18? If you can offer them even a small amount of cash to play, then surely your team is going to be more appealing? Failing to dictate, and initially pay for, player salaries may save the ECB cash, but it is a black hole of future problems. Match fees, player expenses and "overseas players contributions" are apparently catered for in the funds allocated to hosts by the ECB.

Those problems, and possibly many others, will land on the desk of the shortly to-be-appointed ECB Women's Cricket Super League General Manager. He or she will be busy over the next few months.

The first competition will be the WCSL T20 probably for 16 to 18 days in August 2016. The year after the 50 over competition will start, possibly with just five games per team, but more likely ten. It will be a question of scheduling as England are also hosting the Women's 50 over World Cup, plus there will still be the WCSL T20 competition and county cricket fixtures. Asked if players would be expected to play in both WCSL fixtures and county fixtures, Connor suggested that all but the top 25 players in the country would probably end up playing in both.

So far from seeing the WCSL as the demise of county cricket, Connor confirmed that the ECB would continue to invest as much, if not more in the county game, and also would be looking to reinvest in club cricket, described by Connor as "a bit of an abandoned child at the moment". There is a realisation that these form the base of the pyramid that leads to elite players at the very top. But interestingly county cricket will not involve Scotland, Ireland or the Netherlands after 2017. Players from these teams would be regarded as overseas players for WCSL purposes, and WCSL teams will be limited to just two overseas players.

So will you be watching the WCSL on your television next year? Naturally the ECB would love this to be the case, but they are currently tied in to a deal with Sky until 2019. Does the WCSL fall under this agreement? That may be for the lawyers to decide. Free-to-air coverage would be ideal, and would make hosting a team even more appealing. If the games are going to be on tv then hosts would find it infinitely easier to encourage team sponsors onboard. At the moment television coverage looks doubtful, but if the Women's Big Bash in Australia proves to be a ratings success on Aussie television then this might speed matters along.

Is this good news for English cricket? Undoubtedly. There is a lot of flesh to be put on the bones and plenty of wrinkles that will need to ironed out over the next few months and years. But this is a huge step towards "professional women's cricket" and a bigger pool of better players for England to choose from in years to come. Clare Connor and the ECB are to be congratulated on a job well done so far. Hopefully the WCSL will be the catalyst to more good women's cricket, more interest from commercial sponsors and television executives, and more interest from the general public. Exciting times indeed!


Sunday, 14 June 2015

Results from today's Div 1 & 2 T20 games

Results from today's games (gleaned from twitter):-
(full scores and review will be online soon)

Division One
Berks bt Ireland by 8 wickets
Ireland 104/5 (Laura Delany 32*, Berkshire 107/2 (Heather Knight 54*, Alex Blackwell 42*)
Middx bt Notts by 9 wickets
Notts 134/4 (16 overs) (Danielle Wyatt 89,  Middx 135/1 (Sophia Dunkley 66*, Tash Miles 42)
Yorks bt Surrey by 10 wickets
Surrey 122/7 (Alex Macdonald 4/28), Yorks 125/0 (Beth Mooney 62*, Lauren Winfield 53*)
Kent bt Ireland by 46 runs
Kent 144/4 (Tammy Beaumont 61, Charlotte Edwards 53), Ireland 98/5
Notts bt Somerset by 27 runs
Notts 142/2 (Danielle Wyatt 103), Somerset 115
Sussex bt Yorks by 8 wickets
Yorks 84/6, Sussex 88/2 (Georgia Adams 40, Georgia Elwiss 34)
Kent bt Berks by 4 runs
Kent 117/4 (Charlotte Edwards 39), Berks 113/8 (Heather Knight 27, Megan Belt 3/19)
Middx bt Somerset by 10 wickets
Somerset 48 (Danni Warren 3/6), Middx 49/0
Sussex bt Surrey by 8 wickets
Surrey 116/8 , Sussex 117/2 (Georgia Adams 57*)

Division Two
Cheshire bt Wales by 48 runs
Netherlands bt Staffs by 7 wickets
Essex bt Derbyshire by 6 wickets
Warks bt Netherlands by 90 runs
Lancs bt Essex by 15 runs
Durham bt Wales by 4 runs
Warks bt Staffs by 9 wickets
Cheshire bt Durham by 4 runs
Lancs bt Derbyshire


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

First round of T20 action starts this Sunday

Attention turns to the shortest format of the game this weekend as the first round of Nat West Women's County T20 fixtures are played across the country on Sunday.

This year the same four division format has been retained from last year, but this year all 9 teams in each division will play each other in a league structure over four separate Sundays. Three teams meet at one venue and play each other in three games on the same day (10.30am, 2.00pm and 5.00pm).

The teams in Div 1 this year are :- 
Berkshire, Ireland, Kent, Middlesex, Notts, Somerset, Surrey, Sussex and Yorkshire.

The first round of fixtures are on Sunday 14th June. The Div 1 fixtures are :-

Berkshire, Ireland and Kent at Finchampstead CC
Kent (runners-up last year) are likely to be at full-strength for this first round of games and Charlotte Edwards and the rest of her England contracted players must be favourites to come out with two wins, against Berkshire, who should have Heather Knight and Alex Blackwell at the top of their order, and newcomers to Div 1 T20 Ireland. But Kent have been known to slip up in T20 games and could do so again. Ireland have had a bit of mixed start to their season in Div 2, but they might fancy their chances against Berks. It could be a tight battle, but I think Berks will just come out on top.

Middlesex, Notts and Somerset at Edmonton CC
Notts and Middlesex made it to the final three last year, and Notts won the trophy after all three teams won one of their two games on Finals Day. Middlesex demolished Kent, but then got blown away by Notts. Notts lost to Kent, but by only 2 runs, so their NRR was the best of the three teams.
If Notts are at full strength they will be difficult to beat and they really like this format of the game. Watch out for some explosive hitting from young Georgie Boyce, England's Danni Wyatt and Aussie Zoe Richards for Notts. Somerset were promoted from Div 2 of the T20 competition last year as runners-up to Ireland, but this year they have South Africa's Lizelle Lee opening the batting for them. If she gets going it could be carnage. Middlesex are capable of beating anybody on their day, so all three games should be crackers. If you are near to Edmonton CC get down there.

Surrey, Sussex and Yorkshire at Horsley & Send CC
These three teams battled it out for 4th, 5th and 6th last year on Finals Day with Yorkshire just winning out over Sussex. Yorkshire's Lauren Winfield, Katherine Brunt and Alex Macdonald can all give the ball a thump, but they will be up against Sussex's class bowling attack, and Surrey's demon leg-spinner Sarah Clarke and Kiwi Rachel Candy. Will it be the bowlers or the batsmen that come out on top? Don't forget Surrey have England batsman Nat Sciver in their ranks and Sussex have Sarah Taylor - just the ICC's Number Four ranked batsmen in the world! One good performance either way could settle each contest, which should make the day great to watch for the neutral.

The teams in Div 2 this year are:-
Cheshire, Derbyshire, Durham, Essex, Lancashire Netherlands, Staffordshire, Wales, Warwickshire

The Div 2 fixtures are :-
Cheshire, Durham and Wales at Timperley CC
Wales who finished fifth overall in Div of the T20 last year could kick-start their campaign with two wins this Sunday against Cheshire (6th last year) and Durham (7th last year). The Cheshire v Durham game is likely to be tight, but Durham might just come out on top.

Derbyshire, Essex and Lancs at Denby CC
Derbyshire won T20 Div 3 last year and have therefore been promoted. They will have their work cut out to get much out of Lancs or Essex. But Lancs are having a bit of a torrid time in Div 1 of the County Championship and Essex are struggling in Div 2, so these games might be closer than one might imagine. Derbyshire have nothing to lose and will no doubt give it their all.

Staffs, Netherlands and Warwickshire at Fordhouses CC
Netherlands were the other team promoted from Div 3 of last year's T20 tournament - runners-up to Derbyshire, but both Staffs and Warwickshire will feel they can win T20 Div 2 and are unlikely to show them any mercy. The Staffs v Warks game will probably be the best in Div 2 this weekend.


Friday, 5 June 2015

Who will make the England Ashes Squad?

So it looks like England will not name their squad of players that will represent England in the Ashes Series - three ODIs, one Test and three T20s - until the beginning of July.

I expect the squad to be probably 15/16 players and there will be no designation of who will play in which format. In the past this was done before the series started, only for injury and form to require changes to be made as the series went along. I anticipate that the pared-down squad for each format will be announced a few days before each format begins.

Delaying the squad announcement until early July will also give the players in contention a few more chances to show what they can do. There are county T20 fixtures on 14th June, followed by County Championship  games on 21st June. There is also then apparently an England v England Academy game on 30th June in Loughborough. The recent four day fixture (the "Loughborough Test") with this moniker actually turned out to be a practice match for the Winter Training Squad of 22, plus a few Academy players. This could well be the same, and it could be a last chance to impress before the squad is announced.

As things stand it is very hard to see England picking any player outside of the 18 contracted players. Of those 18 two missed the Loughborough Test - Danni Wyatt with her shoulder injury, which she picked up slipping over batting against Berkshire two weeks ago and Jenny Gunn, who has a foot issue. Both I understand hope to be back playing very soon.

Assuming therefore that the entire squad is fit which 15/16 will get the nod?

The first names on the squad list will be Charlotte Edwards, Sarah Taylor and Heather Knight. They have all been in a bit of form with the bat in the County Championship and each one of them got a score in the Loughborough Test. Knight's bowling form does look to be a bit of an issue and I suspect she may have a current back issue, but I could well be wrong. This is just from her body language at Loughborough.

Next on the list will be Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole. They have been the mainstay of England's pace attack for the last three years, and will no doubt continue to be so this summer, although both have been a bit expensive of late, guilty of bowling too short on occasions. Both have been working hard on their batting and it would not surprise me to see them migrate to the all-rounders role (possibly sooner rather than later), with less expected of their bowling. Kate Cross is the next pace bowler in the pecking order and will be selected. She has had a well-documented effect in the men's game early this season, but she has found wickets hard to come by in the women's game - just two in the three Women's County Championship matches and only one in two stints at the Loughborough Test. This may be down to a matter of respect. She gets it in the women's game, but perhaps she does not in the men's?

As for spinners off -spinner Dani Hazell and left-armer Rebecca Grundy  seem certain to keep their places in the squad. Hazell has a knack of taking wickets although she can be expensive. Grundy is generally pretty miserly but is a less attacking option.

The ninth name into the squad will undoubtedly be Amy Jones. Her name is pencilled in early as the back-up keeper to Sarah Taylor, but she also has a right to be considered as a middle-order batting option, particularly after her fine century at the Loughborough Test. She is a very selfless player, who has probably not had as many chances as she deserves. I would like to think she will get them this summer, but I think once again poor form or injury for others will be her only way into the final 11.

Despite poor form against the Shooting Stars in Dubai and an iffy start to the County Championship, Nat Sciver's name will almost certainly feature in the squad and in the 11 to play in the first ODI on 21st July. Her final innings in New Zealand showed what she is capable of, but England desperately need her to fire early. Lydia Greenway will also make the squad, but she was dropped from the starting 11 in New Zealand after some poor batting displays and she looks vulnerable. Lauren Winfield has been in decent form for Yorkshire in their two games thus far this season and hit a decent 56 in the Loughborough Test. It looks like England are considering her as a possible opening bat in the longer formats of the game (she currently has the job in the T20s), allowing Charlotte Edwards to prop up a middle order that has been found wanting on far too many occasions recently. After her exploits in Dubai with the bat against the Shooting Stars and a crisp 71 in the second innings at Loughborough, plus her ability to bowl, Georgia Elwiss, is likely to find her name in the squad. She is an attacking option, both with the bat and the ball. She might have to sit out the first few games, but could well get a chance later in the series, depending on results and player fitness. Finally long-serving Jenny Gunn's name will be in the 15. She had a miserable time out in New Zealand, but I cannot see England leaving her out of the squad. It was a great shame that she was not fit enough to play in the Loughborough Test, where she could have shown what she can do, but she has had a reasonable start to the season with Notts, if county form counts for anything?

So that leaves just one or two places in the squad. Of the 18 contracted players you have Tammy Beaumont, Tash Farrant, Laura Marsh, and Danni Wyatt left. I think one or two will be taken from here. The four others in the Winter Training Squad were Jodie Dibble, Beth Langston, Sonia Odedra and Fran Wilson. Who gets the final couple of slots is a matter of conjecture and overall squad make-up. There could even be a couple of surprises, but I think that is unlikely unless there are injury issues.

As for the starting 11 in the first ODI I think they will go with :-
Winfield, Knight, Taylor, Edwards, Sciver, Greenway, Brunt, Shrubsole, Gunn, Hazell, Grundy

As for my 11 I would go with :-
Winfield, Knight, Sciver, Taylor, Edwards, Elwiss, Jones, Shrubsole, Brunt, Hazell, Grundy


EWA outplay Wilts Boys

The Wiltshire U15 Boys towered over most of the England Women Academy players, but on the cricket pitch the girls played the smarter T20 cricket and won both games they played, in their opening fixtures of the EWA's development game season. True the girls were older than their male counterparts (ages ranged from 17 to 23) and the boys admitted that they had not played a T20 game together as a county, but that did not detract from the fact that the girls out-thought the boys on the pitch with their choice of bowlers, fielding positions and general game management. In all of this they were exceptionally well captained by Somerset's Sophie Luff.

In the first game the EWA made a rather tentative start losing both openers Emma Lamb and Evelyn Jones for 6 runs apiece in the powerplay, leaving them on 18/2 after the first six overs. Paige Scholfield (10) briefly added some impetus before she was caught at wide mid-off. After 10 overs the EWA were struggling on 38/3, and they continued to struggle as Alex Macdonald was bowled for 11, and Luff was caught at mid-on. Carla Rudd came in for the last four overs and hit 21* off 15 balls to take the final score to 99/6 at the end of their twenty overs. It seemed unlikely to be enough against a team of hard-hitting young lads.

As it was it proved to be just enough. Nine off the first over from Freya Davies looked to be an ominous start, but she followed that up with a maiden, as did left-arm spinner Alex Hartley and at the end of the powerplay Wilts were on 23/1, with Macdonald claiming the opening wicket. Steph Butler then bowled her four overs on the trot conceding just seven runs and claiming one wicket, as Wilts limped to the thirteenth over with 42/4 on the board. Butler's bowling partner had been Tara Norris, who claimed 2/15. With three overs left the game looked dead and buried with Wilts still needing 36 to win, but Wilt's Will Thomas suddenly came to life crashing 11 off the 18th over from Macdonald with a towering 6 over long off. He then did the same to Davies's second ball of the 19th and claimed 4 next ball as he was dropped on the long-off boundary, Hartley dislocating her finger in the process. But Davies kept her cool and had Thomas well caught by Jones on the midwicket boundary. Wilts still only needed 10 off the last over, but Macdonald restricted them to just four singles to leave EWA winners by five runs.

scorecard for Game 1

In game 2 it was Wilts turn to bat first, but the EWA made a great start with Davies opening with a maiden which also included a run out, and Butler conceding just three runs from the second over and claiming the second Wilts' wicket. Davies added the third wicket in the 5th over and another run out left Wilts precariously poised at 25/4 as the powerplay ended. After 10 overs they had reached 41/4, but from there on in Wilts began to motor thanks again to Will Thomas, who scored 67 off 52 balls, before he was out in the 18th over caught by Jones - a steepling catch at mid-off. Norris had earlier picked up the 5th wicket and with two overs to go Wilts were 100/6. Just four came from Davies' 19th and five from Macdonald's last with another wicket to leave the EWA chasing 109/7.

After 26 runs from the first two overs the EWA never looked back. They lost Emma Lamb caught behind for 13 in the third over, but after that Jones (36*) and Luff (37) accumulated steadily, pushing and running sharp singles to keep the score ticking over. Wilts had no real answer and as Luff attempted to hit the winning run in the 18th over she was caught at extra cover. Jones completed the job with the first ball of the next over, for a comprehensive eight wicket win.

scorecard for Game 2

EWA team - Sophie Luff (capt), Steph Butler, Izi Collis, Freya Davies, Alex Hartley, Evelyn Jones, Emma Lamb, Alex Macdonald, Tara Norris, Carla Rudd, Paige Scholfield,


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

England B hold out for the draw

England B skipper Anya Shrubsole led her team from the front, not with ball, but with the bat, as she ended the Eng B second innings 75 not out, ensuring that Eng B held out for the draw that they deserved.

The day had started out quite bright, but with a strong gusty wind the clouds soon rolled in, and the day was punctuated with drizzle and the odd heavy shower, plus arctic temperatures. Despite the forecast for bad weather Eng A skip Charlotte Edwards decided not to declare overnight with a lead of 289, but to bat on for 30 minutes. Georgia Elwiss (71) and Alex Macdonald (25*) were given licence to open their shoulders and Elwiss took a particular liking to Rebecca Grundy's left-arm spin dispatching her to long-on and cow corner four times in two overs. But Grundy got her revenge when another lusty blow by Elwiss was well caught on the midwicket boundary by Paige Scholfield. Two more overs brought another 12 runs and Edwards called them in on the stroke of 11 o'clock. It meant Eng B needed 325 to win in around 90 overs if the rain did not intervene.

They made a solid start through Tammy Beaumont and Evelyn Jones, with Beaumont looking in very fluent form with the bat. They saw off the opening bowlers - Kate Cross and Tash Farrant- but within two overs of Dani Hazell's off-spin, Eng A had their breakthrough. Jones was lbw propping forward for 8 and Eng B were 46/1.

After a short break for rain and with just 10 minutes to lunch Georgia Elwiss then got one through Fran Wilson's drive to bowl her middle stump for 5. Beaumont meanwhile had made her way to an excellent 50.

Immediately after lunch the game swung firmly the way of Eng A, when first innings centurion Amy Jones (10), having driven Cross for two sumptuous 4s, was bowled by her, and then Lydia Greenway was another Hazell lbw victim for a duck. Eng B looked in trouble at 81/4, but Beaumont was still there. She and Nat Sciver (47) then added 81 for the fifth wicket, either side of another rain break. Both looked untroubled, until Sciver went back to a full ball from Alex Hartley and was lbw, and Beaumont's innings was ended as she swotted a rank long-hop from Elwiss to Luff at cover point, where she juggled the ball before taking the catch. Beaumont had made 84 and deserved a hundred.

Eng A were jubilant. They had Eng B 162/6 and were closing in on the win they thought, but they had not bargained for Shrubsole's determined batting effort. Eng B gave up on the win and decided to dig in. Unfortunately Katherine Brunt became Hartley's second lbw victim, propping a long way forward, but adjudged to be in line. Seven down, but with renowned stonewaller Laura Marsh (remember the Ashes Test?) striding to the crease all was not lost for Eng B. She duly obliged. Either side of another rain break she and Shrubsole added 33 runs, but more importantly they took another 16 overs out of the game, and saw Eng B into the last hour of the match (17 overs). Marsh (11 off 54 balls) was staunch in her defence. Shrubsole was judicious in her shot selction and punished the bad ball as the Eng A field encircled the bat. She did give two chances but neither Edwards at slip, nor Farrant at square leg could hold on to them.

Three overs in to the final hour Marsh finally capitulated, yet another lbw victim to Hazell. Had Georgia Elwiss hung on to a catch at slip off the incoming Beth Langston (7*) two balls later the game could have been Eng A's. But the chance went down and Shrubsole moved on to 50 and beyond, taking as much of the strike as she could. After 78 overs the Eng B innings closed on 273/8 just 51 behind Eng A's total, with Shrubsole 75 not out.

It had been a testing time for the bowlers on a good batting track and a good test of England's four day skills, so infrequently used. I will leave the review of who did what and who has enhanced or diminished their Ashes claims for later in the week. I need to thaw out first.

Match Scorecard (unofficial)


Monday, 1 June 2015

Eng A build solid lead on Day Three

England A finished Day Three on 230/6 giving them a lead of 289 over England B with a day (potentially 100 overs) left to play in this game, although the weather still might have something to say about that.

Day Three had started wet and windy and no play was possible until 1.15pm with the close fixed at 6.15pm. Eng A started their second innings with Heather Knight (2) this time joined by Sophie Luff (52) at the top of the order. Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole took the new ball for Eng B, and Shrubsole made the early breakthough having Knight lbw in the second over. This brought Sarah Taylor to the crease and she immediately took the attack to the bowlers on this good wicket. She was ruthless on anything short and it was a surprise when, having moved onto 33, she was lbw to Beth Langstone with the score on 62.

England captain Charlotte Edwards (48) came in at 4, and she and Luff decided that careful accumulation was the way forward. They added 63 for the third wicket over 24 overs before Luff clipped Brunt to midwicket where Grundy took an easy catch.

Edwards was joined by Georgia Elwiss, who, after a nervy start, started to find her feet and the boundary. They had added 56 before Edwards (48) flicked Nat Sciver to the leg side, but off a leading edge, and she was caught on the short leg side boundary by Brunt.

Lauren Winfield (5), batting at 6, flashed at a short ball from Sciver and was caught behind and Dani Hazell (10) was lbw to Shrubsole late in the day. Georgia Elwiss remains 59* batting with Alex Macdonald 5*.

With the weather due to deteriorate late afternoon on Day Four, Charlotte Edwards may be tempted to declare overnight. But this is a good pitch and Eng B should be able to hold out for a draw if they bat sensibly.