Thursday, 31 December 2015

Looking ahead to 2016!

At the end of the year there is always a tendency to look back at what has been, and it is true to say that 2015 has been a watershed year for women's cricket, not so much perhaps on the pitch, but in it's coverage and it's credibility as a standalone, entertaining and financially-viable product. Press and television coverage of the Women's Ashes was unprecedented. Every ball was on the television, including the Test at Canterbury (much to the annoyance of some patronising know-it-all journalists - who actually know very little at all about women's cricket). Every national newspaper had match reports, and carried interviews and background pieces on the players.

The Ashes was followed by the inaugural Women's Big Bash in Australia, which has been a huge success so far, with television audiences beyond anyone's expectations. The tournament looks set to stay and to grow and is a fantastic advert for women's cricket.

But enough of looking back. Let's look forward. 2016 is jam-packed with some great cricket. Here is a quick run-down of what to look out for over the coming 12 months.

January 2016

The Final of the Women's Big Bash
After 56 T20 games the semi-finals of the WBBL will be played on 21st and 22nd January and the final will be on Sunday 24th January. Who will get there? Well my money would be on the Hurricanes, the Heat, The Thunder and, maybe, just maybe, the Strikers. First team to take home the trophy? I have to stick with my original pick and say it will be the Heat. Whoever it is it has been a great step forward for women's cricket.

Australia v India 
Just two days after the Big Bash finishes the Aussies start a three match T20 series against the Indians, followed by three ICC WC ODIs. It could be carnage! The Aussies will be in prime T20 form, a format that the Indians don't seem to like much. The Aussies also sit top of the ICC WC standings and they are likely to hand out a 3-0 drubbing to the Indians in this slightly longer format of the game. With three ICC WC ODI series to play after this the Indians will be staring down the barrel at the bottom of the ICC WC standings.

January should also give us some more details about the new Women's Cricket Super League (WCSL) T20 competition planned by the ECB for August.

February 2016

South Africa v England 

No sooner will the England players have returned from their WBBL experience than they will be on the plane to South Africa for England's first tour under new Head Coach Mark Robinson. England have just renewed the contracts of the current 18 players, plus added Fran Wilson as the nineteenth. Squad, and then team, selection will be interesting and one hopes that the England players will be up for the challenge. Languishing in fifth in the ICC WC table, no less than three wins in the three ODIs will be acceptable.

New Zealand v Australia
Two weeks after their last encounter with the Indians the Aussies will be playing their first ICC WC ODI game in New Zealand. It should be a good series. The Kiwis demolished a poor Sri Lanka side in November and will be keen to nick at least one ODI off their local rivals, if not the series win, as they did to England last February. Under new Head Coach Haidee Tiffen New Zealand  look a rejuvenated unit, but the Aussies will be strong favourites to extend their lead at the top of the table.

South Africa v West Indies
As England leave South Africa so the West Indians arrive for three ICC WC ODIs and three T20s. The Windies will be keen to cement their place in the Top Four (they sit equal top as I write this), but South Africa will know that they need the points too, with New Zealand and Australia their final two opponents. Stafanie Taylor is world class for the Windies, but she cannot win the series on her own. I think the Saffers might just pip them 2-1 on home soil.

March 2016

Women's World T20
Hard on the heels of all the ICC WC ODI action comes the Women's World T20 Cup in India. This is the fifth time the competition has been held and the Aussies have won the last three. They will be hot favourites to make it four in a row. But T20 is a tough game to call.
Ten teams will fight it out for the World Champions crown - the top eight, plus Ireland and Bangladesh, who qualified in December. The groups are :-
Group A - Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Ireland
Group B - England, West Indies, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh
The top two teams in each group make it to the semi-finals, with the final being played on 3rd April at Eden Gardens, Kolkata.
Anything less than a place in the final for either Australia or England will be a disaster. The West Indies and South Africa made it to the semis last time in Bangladesh, but they will have to fight tooth and nail with New Zealand to make it this year. India will hope to perform well on home soil (especially now that they too are contracted players), but T20 is not really their thing.
Let's hope the crowds are better than the last time India hosted a World Cup (50 overs in 2013), when the grounds were almost empty for every game.

May 2016

After a short lull the English domestic season will start on 1st May with nine county teams each playing each other to become County Champions. Last year Yorkshire won the title, and this year newcomers Somerset and Staffordshire will find themselves slugging it out with the best in the country in Division One.

June 2016

England v Pakistan
June will see the arrival of the Pakistan team in England for three ICC WC ODIs and three T20s. England will expect to pick up all the points, but it could be a good series for England to introduce some fresh faces to the squad, before the 2017 World Cup to be held in England. Coach Robinson will have found his feet by this time, so it will be interesting to see his first proper squad selection.

India v Sri Lanka
Sometime before the end of July Sri Lanka have to return to India to play at least their three ICC WC ODI games. Both sides will be desperate to get some points. Sri Lanka had seemed to be making progress as a team, but their recent results have been disappointing to say the least. It may be too little too late for India, who will finish their first ICC WC campaign with series against Pakistan and then the West Indies. A top four place may be out of sight for them by this time.

August 2016

Women's Cricket Super League
The much-heralded WCSL should kick-off in England with a two week, six team, T20 competition in August.

The franchise-based tournament aims to bring together the best of the best, but the details are still sketchy. Applications have been invited to run the teams and are now being considered. The winning bidders will be announced in January, but it looks like there will be two London-based teams, one on the south coast, one in the south west, one in the north-west and one in the midlands.

With the success of the Big Bash the pressure will be on the ECB to bring the same pizazz to the WCSL. But the ECB are starting from scratch unlike Cricket Australia who tagged the WBBL onto the existing successful Men's Big Bash teams and structure. The plan is to extend the WCSL to the 50 over game the following season, but I just cannot see this happening for a whole host of reasons.

October 2016

South Africa v New Zealand
This is the first of the 6th round games in the ICC WC and is already pencilled in to start on 8th October. The rest of the games in the round are below and they have to be played by the end of October 2016.
West Indies v England
Pakistan v India
Sri Lanka v Australia
England will almost certainly go to the West Indies in late September/early October.

November 2016

The final round of ICC WC games have to be played in October and November. The fixtures that remain are :-
Australia v South Africa
Sri Lanka v England
India v West Indies
New Zealand v Pakistan
The teams that finish in the top four positions in the table will automatically qualify for the World Cup in England in 2017. The other four will have to compete in the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier 2017, where they will be joined by six regional qualifiers. The ten teams will be competing for the final four places at the Women's World Cup. It means the bottom four could still get through, but teams like Ireland, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Scotland may have other ideas.

December 2016

And so we return to the WBBL. No doubt WBBL/2 will be bigger, better and even more fun than WBBL/1!!


Monday, 21 December 2015

WBBL - Half-term Report

With 25 of the 56 WBBL league games played it seemed the right time to review how the teams, their players, and, in particular, the England players have been getting on.

The teams & their players
[current WBBL table is here]
Against all the odds the Hobart Hurricanes (6 wins/1 loss) are the league leaders with six wins out of seven, having only lost to the Scorchers. They were the bookies outsiders when the tournament started, presumably based on the premise that they were the Tasmanian Roar in purple, and the Roar had lost all their WNCL games. But England vice-captain Heather Knight has led her team from the front and they have won a few tight games with some great bowling and fielding.
Keep up the good work.

Also sitting on 12 points at the top of the table are the Brisbane Heat (6/4), but they have played three more games than the Hurricanes. They lost their first three, but then won their next five games, before tripping up against the then-winless Renegades. The Heat look a good "team" with various players standing up to be counted when needed - Grace Harris (including a century), Beth Mooney (four 50s), a re-invigorated Holly Ferling (12 wickets), Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince (with the ball if not the bat).
Great team effort. You are all working together well.

Meg Lanning's Melbourne Stars (4/1) won their first four games, with Lanning looking unstoppable with the bat. To describe a team as "belonging" to any one individual can be rather disingenuous, but in this case it is wholly appropriate. When Lanning finally failed (20), so did the Stars, losing to the Hurricanes. The question is how often can she carry the Stars batting, and, if she can get them to the semi-final and then perhaps the final, can she continue to do it?
Some of you need to take on more responsibility. Don't leave it all for others to do.

The Sydney Thunder (3/2) won their first three games, but lost their last two to the winless Strikers (courtesy of a blistering 71 off 47 balls from Sarah Taylor) and the Heat. Stafanie Taylor and Alex Blackwell are carrying their batting.
Need to buck your ideas up if you are not to slip to the bottom of the pile.

Just about everyone's favourites before the tournament started (not mine I hasten to add), the Perth Scorchers (3/3), have largely failed to deliver. They beat the Heat and the Sixers early on, but have lost subsequently to the Heat, the Hurricanes and even the Sixers. Their big guns have really not fired with the exception of Suzie Bates, but she is now being replaced by Deandra Dottin.
Need to knuckle down and get on with the job in hand or your goose may be cooked.

The Adelaide Strikers (1/4) were also firm favourites to do well, based as they are around the successful South Australia Scorpions, and with English-import Sarah Taylor in their midst. Taylor finally turned on the style against the Thunder to get the Strikers first two points on the board.
Expect much more from you than we are currently seeing. Too much chatter and not enough action.

The Melbourne Renegades (1/4) also recorded their first win last weekend against the high-flying Heat. A surfeit of spinners doesn't seem to be doing the job for them and none of their batsmen have reached 50 yet in five games. Could be a long T20 campaign for them.
You are obviously trying hard. Keep working at it. Winning isn't everything.

Bottom of the pile, and likely to stay there, are the Sydney Sixers (1/6). They had been abject until they finally beat the Scorchers last weekend. They didn't just lose their first six games, they got marmelised (four times by 9 wickets!). In seven games they have only taken 17 wickets and their batting looks feeble, despite Ellyse Perry doing her best to shore it up.
Best to write off this year and look to come back bigger, better and stronger next year.

The English Players

There are nine current England players out in Oz for the WBBL and these are their numbers to date.

Batting Stats

Bowling Stats

Heather Knight has probably been the most consistent, with both bat and ball, and Sarah Taylor finally produced an innings of quality against the Thunder. Consistency has never been her strong point. Lauren Winfield has been batting in the middle order for the Heat, hence four not out innings, which keeps her average high. Her 48* was a crucial knock in the win over the Scorchers. More worrying has been the batting form of Charlotte Edwards (Scorchers), Nat Sciver (Stars) and Danni Wyatt (Renegades). After a decent start Sciver has struggled in her last few games. Edwards has never really got going and has three single-figure scores in her last three knocks. Wyatt's best knock of 28* was in the Renegades last game. One can only hope she can continue on an upward curve.

As for the bowlers, behind Knight, it has been rather mundane so far. Katherine Brunt burst on the WBBL with 4/17 in her first game, but has only taken two wickets in four games since. She has been miserly however. Danni Wyatt  picked up four wickets in the Renegades only win and has been tight, going at only just over five per over. Laura Marsh has had a couple of good games with the ball, but has only bowled her full compliment of four overs once. Both Kate Cross and Nat Sciver have been expensive in claiming seven wickets each. It has to be said that T20 is a notoriously difficult gig for the bowlers, particularly those who bowl in the first six powerplay overs. The England girls have actually done OK without setting the WBBL on fire. Compare the England girls stats with Ellyse Perry who has just three wickets for 145 runs from 21 overs at an economy rate of nearly 7 per over.

The WBBL continues on Boxing Day when the Stars take on the Scorchers. It is the start of a brutal period for the Scorchers as they play six games in seven days. If there is one gripe about the WBBL it must be the rather haphazard scheduling. Perhaps 56 is too many games?


Thursday, 17 December 2015

Huge WBBL weekend

This weekend is a massive one for the inaugural WBBL. Not only are there 13 of the 56 league games being played over the three days, but two of the games - Heat v Strikers (Sat pm) and Sixers v Scorchers (Sun am) are on free-to-air-television in Australia (ONE). It is important for the competition that these games are good to watch - runs, wickets, catches. The men's Big Bash has also started now, so comparisons will inevitably be drawn. The girls really need to put on a performance to showcase what women's cricket is all about.

Hopefully the Sixers will perform better against the Scorchers than they did at Perth last week, where they were bowled out for 81 and lost by nine wickets. They have lost four from four, and they have lost them all badly, so they must be hoping that at least one of their stars (Perry, Healy, Kapp, McGlashan or Marsh) come off in a big way.

The first game features the Heat, who got their campaign on track winning their last three games to stand 3/3. The Strikers however lost twice to the surprise league-leaders the Hobart Hurricanes. In one game they went down by just two runs, but in the other they were bowled out for just 83 runs and lost by 9 wickets. I think they will do better this weekend and this could be one of the games of the weekend.

Other matches to watch out for are...

Thunder v Strikers on Friday - the Thunder have only played one game against the under-performing Sixers, and this could be a much sterner test for Stafanie Taylor and co. The Strikers really need to get their weekend off to a good start.

Hurricanes v Scorchers on Saturday (two games) - The unbeaten Hurricanes take on the Scorchers twice on their visit to Sydney. The Scorchers haven't really hit their straps yet, but they have the firepower to cause the Hurricanes a few headaches this weekend.

Stars v Hurricanes on Sunday - Stars third game of the weekend is against the Hurricanes. Meg Lanning smashed her team through the first weekend of fixtures with 75* and 90. The Hurricanes will be hoping to get her early and see what the rest of the Star's batting line-up is made of.

Heat v Thunder on Sunday - this is the last game of the weekend. It will be both the Heat's and the Thunder's fourth in three days, with the Thunder travelling from their first game of the day at Allan Border Field to the Gabba, where the Heat will have played in the morning. It is not something the players are used to, so the Heat might just have the edge.

Come Sunday night the league table could look very different from the way it looks now (see here), I think the Heat, Stars, Scorchers and Thunder will be at the top. At the bottom I think it will remain the Renegades and the Sixers, but you never know in T20.


Sunday, 13 December 2015

England should let Knight captain T20s in SA

It is very early days in the WBBL out in Australia, but originally 16/1 outsiders, Heather Knight's Hobart Hurricanes, could not have made a better start to the competition. Against all the odds they have won their first four games on the bounce against the Melbourne Renegades (twice), the Sydney Sixers, and the pre-tournament favourites the Perth Scorchers. It means they top the nascent league table ahead of the Brisbane Heat (3/3), followed by undefeated Melbourne Stars (2/0) and the Perth Scorchers (2/1).
[click here for points table]

The Hurricanes, based in Tasmania, are effectively the same squad as played under the Tasmanian Roar banner in the WNCL and finished plum last, losing all six of their 50 over games. Knight only joined them for their last three games, but Veronica Pyke remained their captain.

Before the start of the WBBL Knight was announced as the skipper of the new Hobart Hurricanes women's team. She has skillfully led them to four wins out of four. Victories have been based on some solid, if unspectacular batting - Knight herself has scored 26, 38, 50 and 25 at a strike rate of just over a run-a-ball - and some dogged bowling and fielding displays. Four run outs and some great catches against the Renegades reduced them to 86 all out chasing the Hurricanes 121/5.
[match highlights from two games v Renegades]

The wickets have been shared around amongst the six bowlers that Knight has used (the Hurricanes have fielded the same 11 for each of their four matches). Top of the pile is the very experienced 34 year old Ronnie Pyke with eight wickets and an economy rate of just over 4 runs per over. She has been backed up by the miserly Julie Hunter, who bowls with Pyke or Knight in those vital opening six powerplay overs. Hunter and Knight have six wickets apiece at 4.5 and 5 runs per over respectively. New Zealand import Amy Satterthwaite has not only strengthened the batting, but has been a revelation with the ball, taking the pressure off the slightly younger Brooke Hepburn and Erin Burns, although both of these two have been around the game for several years. All three have wickets to their name. The Hurricanes look like a tight unit and they are responding well to their new skipper, to whom England will need to turn at some stage in the not too distant future.

Knight has skippered her adopted Berkshire team since early in the 2012 season, taking over from Isa Guha, having come to the county in 2010 from her native Devon. But at Berkshire her resources have always been rather limited, often relying on her own abilities to get the results that have kept the county in Division One of the Women's County Championship. Now it appears that she has the, albeit rather limited, resources that she needs to get the results that put her team at the top of the league.

The Hurricanes will do very well to stay there, but they have already shown their mettle closing out tight games against the Renegades and the Strikers (effectively the Adelaide team that won the WNCL) by four runs and two runs, defending just 125 and 117. There will be tougher games to come as the Hurricanes leave Tasmania for mainland Australia, but if they can win just half of their remaining 10 fixtures they are likely to find themselves in a top four spot and a place in one of the semi-finals. And then who knows?

Just a few days after the WBBL ends Knight will be on a plane to South Africa with England, where they play three ODIs and three T20Is against the Proteas. After that in March England will be heading to the T20 World Cup in India. Perhaps the time is right in South Africa for new Head Coach, Mark Robinson, to hand over the England T20 captaincy to Knight, with a view to her leading her country in the WT20 tournament that follows so soon afterwards. It will be a tough call for Robinson to make as this is his first tour with the England girls and he is still to meet the nine players who are plying their trade in the WBBL. But if Knight can lead her Hurricanes into the WBBL semi-finals or even the final itself, then she will have thrown down the gauntlet to the new England Head Coach. The question is will he pick it up?


Monday, 7 December 2015

WBBL makes successful start

The Women's Big Bash T20 competition has got off to a flying start in Australia with the first three games played in front of crowds of over 1,000 people (albeit they did not have to pay). [scorecards here]

The first two games were on Saturday at the Junction Oval in Melbourne where the Melbourne Stars, led by Meg Lanning, took on the Brisbane Heat, in two games, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It was the Stars that came out on top by 20 runs and then 10 runs, as Meg Lanning dominated with the bat, scoring 90 and 75*. For the Heat Grace Harris swung hard for 42 and 37, and Jess Jonassen made 52 not out as the Heat fell just short. It goes without saying that Lanning's wicket is going to be key for Stars' opponents. It may pay teams to attack her early on in her innings with perhaps a slip and gully for the pace bowlers, and with off-spin, if available, as this has proved effective in the past. She does seem to be in a different class though once she gets going.

On Sunday the two Sydney teams - Thunder and Sixers - got their WBBL campaigns underway, and, against the odds, the Thunder came out on top by 9 wickets, thanks to a great bowling performance which restricted the star-studded Sixers (Healy, Perry, McGlashan, Kapp, Sthalekar) to just 101/9 in their 20 overs, and some sublime batting from West Indian Stafanie Taylor. Star of the show with the ball was 17 year old left-arm seamer Lauren Cheatle who took 4/20, with Rene Farrell also getting through her four overs for just eight runs. It is pressure like that that takes wickets, not necessarily for the bowler themselves, but for the team. With little pressure from the required run rate Taylor started slowly, but then launched into the Thunder's bowlers, including Ellyse Perry (0/24 off two overs). The game was over in the 14th over.

Next weekend the tournament really swings into gear with nine games in three days at three different venues - Aquinas College in Perth (four games involving the Scorchers, Heat and Sixers), Aurora Stadium in Launceston (four games involving the Hurricanes, Renegades and Strikers, including two day/nighters) and one match at the WACA (Scorchers v Heat). The schedule means that the Hobart Hurricanes will play four of their 14 games within two days, which could be tough.

It is probably too early to speculate on who might end up winning the inaugural WWBL trophy, or indeed who might get to the semis and the final, but we may have a slightly better idea after next weekend.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Cool Irish heads in last ball drama

Despite nursing a slightly fragile head, Isobel Joyce managed to send one final blog from Thailand after Ireland beat Bangladesh for the first time, off the very last ball of the game, to win the final of the WWT20Q. For more details on the dramatic game click here. Ireland's next challenge is the WWT20 in April, where they and Bangladesh join the top eight nations for the World T20 crown. They can't wait...

Winning the final of a world event is a dream come true. Winning is always great but winning the way we did yesterday is a step above, especially after the drama on the last ball.

Izzy Joyce with the WWT20Q trophy
Before any tournament, the captains, coaches and managers of all the teams are gathered together and the various regulations and logistics are gone over. It can get a little tedious going to these meetings as they rarely differ but yesterday afternoon I was extremely glad I had paid attention.

In the meeting, they mentioned mankading (running out a batsman backing up). The bowler cannot have completed their action before taking the bails at the non-strikers end. Lo and behold, the last ball of the game, Salma Khatun decides to mankad Laura Delany - cue wild celebrations from the Bangladeshis. They didn't seem to realise either that we still had another batter to come or that they were yet to bowl the last ball.

As soon as this happened I jumped to my feet, ran to the boundary and told Laura to stay put. Khatun had completed her action before attempting to run Laura out. The umpires conferred and eventually retracted their decision. The stage was set for Lucy O'Reilly to pull the next ball over midwicket for the one run we needed and as soon as she made contact I was sprinting onto the pitch.

I don't think I've ever been as happy to win a match in my life, lifting the trophy was one of the best feelings I've ever had.

Isobel Joyce

Friday, 4 December 2015

WWT20Q Final - Ireland are here to win

On the eve of the WWT20Q Final against Bangladesh Izzy Joyce confirms that, despite having already qualified for the WWT20, the job is not yet done...

Yesterday was a huge day for both Scotland and us because the winner of the ICC Women's World T20 Qualifier semi-final claimed the coveted last available place in the ICC WWT20 taking place in India in March 2016.

Before the game you set your plans, you do everything you can to prepare, imagine all the permutations and then more often than not, it all goes out the window when it comes down to it. Bowling changes, field placement, you can go over and over it all but you still need the players to do their job on the day, and that's exactly what happened yesterday.

We haven't taken many wickets in the first six overs in any match this tournament, but what we have done is put pressure on and then starved the opposition of runs outside the powerplay. We did that really well against Scotland and the later it got in our fielding innings, the more difficult they found it to up the run rate.

All of the bowlers did their job in the semi-final but two stood out in particular. Lucy O'Reilly who took three wickets and has gone for very few runs in every game, and Ciara Metcalfe who is invaluable as a legspinner by virtue of her consistency.

We didn't manage to bowl Scotland out but we kept them down to 78, and still the nerves weren't all gone. They soon were though, because Shillers and Cecelia blasted us to 20 after just two overs to take the wind out of the Scottish sails.

The Scotland supporters on the sideline were still singing their songs but our two openers didn't let up and piled on the runs in the first six, taking full advantage of the fielding restrictions. Shillers was out with the total in sight, and Kim Garth was happy to finish the job with Cecelia with plenty of time left over.

The celebrations were somewhat subdued because winning the semi-final is not what we came here to do, our aim was always to win the tournament and go into the World Cup as the best team outside the top 8.

The plans are set, we've done all we can to prepare. We've imagined all the permutations, bowling changes and field placements, here's hoping it all goes to plan. 

Isobel Joyce 

Women's Big Bash - 59 T20 games in 50 days!

Tomorrow the inaugural Women's Big Bash (WBBL 01) kicks off with the Melbourne Stars and the Brisbane Heat playing two T20 games against each other at the Junction Oval in Melbourne. There will follow another 55 games in the next seven weeks as the eight teams - Adelaide Strikers, Brisbane Heat, Hobart Hurricanes, Melbourne Renegades, Melbourne Stars, Perth Scorchers, Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunder - try to reach the semi-finals on 21st and 22nd January and then the final on Sunday 24th January.

It is the biggest thing to happen in women's cricket, since...well...ever. 

All the players are being paid to play (albeit only $3,000 - $10,000 (about £1,500 - £5,000)) and in addition to all of Australia's home-grown stars - Perry, Lanning, Healy, Blackwell, Schutt, Coyte, Bolton, Villani et al, the tournament has attracted some foreign imports, keen to be part of the most competitive T20 competition there is. England has provided nine players - Brunt, Cross, Edwards, Knight, Marsh, Sciver, Taylor, Winfield, and Wyatt, New Zealand six - Bates, Devine, McGlashan, Nielsen, Priest, and Satterthwaite. The West Indies have provided Dottin, Taylor, King and young Hayley Matthews, and South Africa du Preez, van Niekerk and Kapp.

The tournament has its own sponsor - rebel - the leading retailer of sporting and leisure equipment and clothing in Australia, and eight of the games will be televised on free-to-air television in Australia, including the semi-finals and the final.

The tournament has also attracted a few other stars. Former tennis player Ash Barty has switched to cricket to play for the Brisbane Heat. Her switch has attracted a lot of media attention, but whether her cricketing skills will stand up to the test is questionable. The WBBL has also enticed two former Aussie favourites out of retirement - 39 year old Shelley Nitschke for the Adelaide Strikers and 36 year old Lisa Sthalekar for the Sydney Sixers. It will be interesting to see how they cope with a game that has moved on very fast since they retired.

As well as the big international names some of the players to look out for are :-

Amanda-Jade Wellington (Adelaide Strikers) - Named this morning in the Striker's squad this young leg-spinner could be a match winner.

Beth Mooney (Brisbane Heat) - Plied her trade with Yorkshire in England last season and looked a classy left-hand opening bat, who hit the ball straight beautifully. She is made for the first six overs of a T20.

Delissa Kimmince (Brisbane Heat) - Should have been on the plane to England with the Southern Stars for the Ashes tour, but got a lower back injury, which ruled her out and allowed her team-mate Grace Harris (Brisbane Heat) a chance to show what she can do. Like Harris, Kimmince hits the ball....hard.

Lauren Cheatle (Sydney Thunder)  - The 17 year old left-arm quick had a good first WNCL campaign with NSW and could trouble a few top order batsmen. Under the experienced wing of Alex Blackwell she could be a useful weapon.

Rachel Priest (Melbourne Renegades) - she is a well-capped New Zealand international, but she is in a purple patch at the moment and could score big for the Renegades, who may have to rely heavily on their internationals to get them some runs.

Hayley Matthews (Hobart Hurricanes) - the 17 year old West Indian obviously impressed the Aussies when she toured there with the Windies in 2014. She has yet to fulfill that early potential she showed, but maybe the faster Aussie wickets will again suit her confident batting style.

Cricket Australia have said that they are not that bothered about the numbers that turn up to the games, which are free, unless they are double-headers with the men. Ironically I think they would have got potentially more spectators if they had charged just a small sum for tickets, say $5 or $10. The mere act of paying something for your ticket makes you value the experience more and mean you are more likely to attend. CA's mantra is that it is all about inspiring girls to play cricket, and they seem to think that the eight games on television are far more important than the other 51 games being played. Given the fantastic crowds that came to the Ashes games in England last year, then they might be missing a trick. At sensible prices people will come.

This is a big test for women's cricket in Australia. 59 games in 50 days is a lot. Hopefully the games that are on television will be good games, and crowds will go and watch their local franchise. They are of course piggy-backing on the back of the men's BBL (which has the same teams), which is firmly established in the Aussie psyche. That gives them some instant credibility, but it is potentially a two-edged sword in that the girls may be compared to their hard-hitting male counterparts. Women's T20 is not a slog-fest.

I commend CA for the money and effort that they have put into the tournament and the commitment of the franchises to the women's teams, but I can't help feeling that they may have bitten off more than they (and the Aussie general public) can chew. Rather than moving down from seven state teams they have moved up to eight franchises, diluting their own resources. The 20 odd internationals fill the gap to some extent, but many of them played in the WT20 last year too, before the Big Bash was born. I can't help thinking that single franchises in Melbourne and Sydney, rather than two in each, would have made for a better competition.

In England the ECB will be looking on with interest as they plan their own Women's Cricket Super League T20 tournament for next season. The plan there is for six teams and games played in a two week window. The six team format will also be the premier 50 over competition the year after.

But enough of this negativity. The Aussies have done a great job of hyping up the interest in the tournament and the mere fact that the girls in each team will get to play 14 top quality T20 games in seven weeks will allow them to hone their T20 skills ahead of the T20 World Cup in March 2016.

I have to say I wish I was out there to watch it.