Saturday, 27 February 2016

WCSL team names & fixtures

So the six WCSL teams have been named  - Lancashire Thunder, Loughborough Lightning, Southern Vipers, Surrey Stars, Western Storm & Yorkshire Thunder - and here the fifteen fixtures. After the round robin stage the top four teams will compete in semi-finals, with the final to follow the same day. Finals Day is scheduled for Sunday 21st August at Chelmsford.

WCSL 2016 fixtures


Friday, 19 February 2016

Another historic day for South Africa

Another day and another historic win for South Africa over England, this time in IT20 cricket. Set to make 157 to win South Africa were just 12 runs short with 16 balls remaining and seven wickets in the shed, when rain at Newlands brought the second IT20 to a premature end. South Africa had won by 17 runs on the D/L method. It was their first ever IT20 win over England at their 13th attempt.

It was no more than they deserved as they kept pace with the required run rate from the second over onwards. Dani Hazell's third over of the game went for 15 courtesy of three well-struck 4s from Dane van Niekerk, who went on to make a match-winning 63 off 43 balls. She was equally as harsh on Heather Knight and Jenny Gunn, but England must have rued dropping her on 7 and 22, Gunn and skipper Charlotte Edwards the culprits. When she was out stumped by Sarah Taylor off Rebecca Grundy, it was skipper Mignon du Preez (47 off 41 balls) that saw her side home, ensuring they stayed well ahead of the D/L score at the end of every over.

England's 156/6 was built around another superb innings from Sarah Taylor (66 off 52 balls). She came to the crease in the second over when Tammy Beaumont (1) flashed hard at a wide ball from Daniels, but only succeeded in looping it to Sune Luus at slip. It was her tenth score in a row in IT20s of 13 or below. After 21 IT20 innings she averages just 7.66 for England at a strike rate of below 65. She does not appear to be the answer at the top of the order.

Taylor got good support from Edwards, who looked in good touch for her 34 before trying to reverse lap Luus' first ball and being bowled off stump when she missed. After Amy Jones went early it was Heather Knight (29) who then helped Taylor add 63 in seven overs. She has been in fine form on the back of a very successful WBBL campaign, and the middle order seems to suit her style of play. She was replaced by the busy Dani Wyatt (17 off 12 balls) when she clipped Shabnim Ismail to Kapp on the deep midwicket boundary. Ismail was again the pick of the South African bowlers and conceded just three off the final over of the game as both Taylor and Gunn were run out attempting to make 1s into 2s.

So that levels the series 1-1 with the final game on Sunday. England will have been pleased to have been challenged, but worried that they have failed to meet the challenge. South Africa will gain a little more self-belief, a little more support and a little more respect. They have every chance of taking the series on Sunday. They made the semi-finals of the WWT20 last time it was played in 2014. It would be a brave man who would bet against them doing the same again in India in six weeks' time.

[scorecard here]


Monday, 15 February 2016

Reasons to be cheerful for England and South Africa

England wrapped up what looks like a comfortable five wicket win against South Africa in the third ODI of the tour to take the two ICCWC points and the series 2-1.

Georgia Elwiss in full flow
(c) Don Miles
In reality the win, with six overs to spare, was far from comfortable, until Georgia Elwiss came to the crease with England 91/4, chasing 197 to win. Playing her first game of the tour replacing Lydia Greenway, Elwiss breezed past her previous best of 25* to record her maiden 50 for England in any format (for a lot of her early career she batted at 11). She went on to make 61, striking the ball cleanly and with freedom, before she was out with England needing just nine runs to win. She and Heather Knight (67*) had added 97 for the 5th wicket and taken the game away from a tenacious South African team, which seemed to have a new self-belief of their own.

Elwiss's innings was indicative of the new fearless style of cricket that Mark Robinson, along with coaches Ali Maiden and Ian Salisbury, seems to have instilled in the girls, in his brief tenure at the top of the women's game. Amy Jones, Lauren Winfield, Danni Wyatt and Elwiss all seem to have been asked to play their own pugnacious style of cricket. With the steadying influences of Charlotte Edwards and Heather Knight in the top order mix and with Nat Sciver to come back, it is a heady combination, which may sometimes come unstuck, but will make England an exciting team to watch.

In this series it was not the batting that let England down, but the fielding and the bowling, combined with an exceptional batting display from Lizelle Lee and Marizanne Kapp in the second ODI. England bowled better in the final ODI restricting South Africa to 196/9, and indeed it would have been far fewer had it not been for another belligerent innings from Lee (74) ably supported by the young Sune Luus (20), who will make a top order batsman over the next few years, and also sets the standard in the field for the Proteas. She, along with skipper Mignon Du Preez and 17 year old Laura Wolvaart, took stunning catches in the second ODI to remove set English batsmen and allow South Africa to outfield the England side in all three games. If they can bring that intensity and skill to their T20 game then South Africa could well trouble England in this format too, and their Group A opposition in the WT20 next month - Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Ireland. They will back themselves to beat Sri Lanka and Ireland, and if they can sneak a win against New Zealand or even Australia (who no longer look quite so infallible), or they slip up in any of their other games, South Africa will make the semi-finals of another world championship competition.

England will be relieved to have picked up the four points they have from the ICCWC games, which takes them to 13, equal with South Africa in fourth place in the table. England have by far the easier run in in the competition with Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies to play. South Africa on the other hand have West Indies (currently second on 16 points), New Zealand (currently third on 14 points) and Australia (currently top on 20 points). The West Indies' other series is against India (6th), who are currently playing Sri Lanka (1-0 to India so far), and finish with Pakistan. They are not out of the running if they can replicate the form they recently showed against the Aussies. New Zealand are due to face Australia in five days time, before being hosted by South Africa and then finishing with a home series against Pakistan.

For now England and South Africa will focus on the T20 format of the game. They play each other on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with the latter two games being televised. The WT20 then kicks off on 15th March. It is looking like it could be the most fiercely contested world championship tournament ever.

[3rd ODI scorecard]


Friday, 12 February 2016

South Africa claim epic victory

Having won the first ODI comfortably England probably thought that their 262/9 would be more than enough to get them another two ICCWC points and an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three match ODI series.

Even as the Proteas got themselves to 113/0 with half-centuries for 16 year old Laura Wolvaart (55) and the much more experienced Trisha Chetty (66), England probably still felt in control as nearly 28 overs had been used up getting there. True Katherine Brunt had had to leave the pitch with a back spasm, which meant England were down to five bowlers, but the run rate was climbing to nearly seven an over from an original 5.26 and the spin of Dani Hazell and Heather Knight seemed to be doing the job for England. When Wolvaart departed, followed shortly afterwards by Chetty and then skipper Du Preez, South Africa were 134/3 with only 17 overs left to play. Initially Lizelle Lee (69 from 56) and Marizanne Kapp (44 from 34) seemed unable to break the shackles and the required run rate rose to 9.5 with 11 overs left. But in the 40th over (the last in the batting powerplay) Lee smashed three consecutive 4s off Jenny Gunn, taking 14 off of the over. The chase was on. Danni Wyatt's next went for 10 more; Shrubsole took the next and also went for 10; Knight's next for 12; Gunn's next seven and the 45th over of the game from Knight 18 (including four 4s from Kapp). South Africa suddenly needed just 33 from the last six overs. The game for England was gone. Both Kapp and Lee perished in the final three overs, but their beautifully paced 123 run partnership allowed South Africa to record their first win over England in the last 15 ODI games between the two sides. And they thoroughly deserved it.

As for England Charlotte Edwards may well rue her choice to bat first on a wicket that Mignon Du Preez was not unhappy to bowl on. It is Edwards' way to like runs on the board, but at 16/3 in the 7th over England made a horrible start. Winfield and Jones both edged behind, and Sarah Taylor on her 100th ODI appearance was dropped by keeper Chetty first ball, only to be bowled next ball by the impressive Ismail (3/32). But to their credit England built a decent score based on Knight's 61, Edwards 45 and Wyatt's 27 ball 40, and an excellent finish from the tail taking 51 off the last five overs despite being down to their last pair for the last four overs. And it could have been more had it not been for three screaming catches from Sune Luus, Wolvaart and Du Preez. But perhaps those last few overs showed what a good pitch this had now become.

The win takes South Africa back above England in the ICCWC table (see here) with 13 points to England's 11. The final game of the series is on Sunday. England could well be without the injured Brunt, for whom Cross is likely to come in. If the management are true to their word then no other changes are likely, and neither is a change in style. South Africa will truly believe they can win the series. England have a fight on their hands and it will be interesting to see how they respond.

[full scorecard here]


Monday, 8 February 2016

Faith, hope and clarity

Sunday saw India pick up a consolation ODI win, and two potentially vital ICCWC points, against an Australian team that took it's foot off the gas after a long season. A team that prides itself on it's fielding dropped three clear-cut catches and missed a vital stumping, as Mithali Raj rode her luck to score a vital 89, the Indians chasing down the Aussies under par 234/5 with three wickets in hand.

Meanwhile over in Benoni in South Africa England wrapped up a comfortable seven wicket win as thunderstorms reduced an original target of 197 to just 150. For once it was England's batting that shone with confident knocks from Amy Jones (34), Charlotte Edwards (33), Sarah Taylor (41*) and Heather Knight (26*). With the ball Anya Shrubsole was head and shoulders above her contemporaries taking 4/29 as the Proteas slumped to 196 all out having been 119/1 in the 31st over. In the field Jenny Gunn and Lydia Greenway both dropped chances off Katherine Brunt, either one of which would have given her her 100th ODI wicket.

But what struck me about the two games was the varying fortunes of two potential future stars of international cricket - namely Grace Harris for Australia and Amy Jones for England.

Grace Harris burst onto the scene in Australia last year and made her debut for the Southern Stars in the summer of 2015 in Ireland. She is a no-nonsense hard-hitting batsman, with a care-free attitude to match her style of play. She likes to go big over the legside. "Grace" may be her name, but it is not her style.

Her reputation was enhanced early in the WBBL when she formed an exciting opening partnership with Beth Mooney for the Brisbane Heat, including smashing the tournament's only century, scoring 103 off just 55 balls, against the then hapless Sydney Sixers (who would have thought they would go on to reach the final?). She was a shoe-in for the Southern Stars squad to face the Indians, at least in the T20 version of the game, but she was also selected for the ODI squad too. However things could not have gone much worse for her in the series as she has scored 0, 0 and 9 opening in the T20s, and 2 and 0 in the two ODIs she batted in, coming in at 5. She will always be a hit and miss batsmen, but Australia need at least some "hits" to keep her in the line-up. It will be interesting to see how much faith Aussie coach Matthew Mott has in her with the New Zealand series and the T20 World Cup just around the corner.

In contrast Amy Jones has been in and around the England team for several years without ever really getting much chance to show what she can do. In some ways she is hampered by being a very good wicket-keeper. In almost any other international set-up she would be selected as a wicket-keeper batsmen, but England have the best keeper in the world, Sarah Taylor, behind the stumps, whom Jones has had to understudy on tour after tour. She is however a very stylish batsman in her own right.

She finally made her ODI debut in the ill-fated World Cup game with Sri Lanka in Mumbai in February 2013. Batting at 7 she scored a classy 41, second top score for England. England went on to lose and Jones did not play again in the tournament. In fact she did not play an ODI again until almost a year later, when she appeared in the third Ashes ODI at Hobart. She did not bat. 13 months after that she made a couple of appearances in the 11 in New Zealand, scoring 4 on her only visit to the crease, as England got thumped by 9 wickets. It looked as though the Ashes series last year might finally see her picked as a batsman and given a decent run, but after a good looking 15 in the first ODI at Taunton, she made a duck at Bristol in the following game and took no further part in the series, losing her place in the Test squad to Fran Wilson. She showed the management what they were missing by hitting an unbeaten 155 against the full Aussie squad in a three day warm-up game two days later. England went on to lose the Test, the Ashes series and their Head of Performance (Paul Shaw).

In has come former Sussex coach Mark Robinson as Head Coach, who seems to have a knack of getting the best out of players. He turned around the career of Chris Jordan when he came to Sussex from Surrey and has had a similar positive effect with troubled players like Tymal Mills and Ollie Robinson. He has seen something in Jones' batting which he likes, and he put his faith in her sending her in to open with Lauren Winfield in the first ODI against South Africa. Both have obviously been given licence to bat positively - not slog, but hit through the ball when they can and dispatch the bad balls. The first 10 powerplay overs, when only two fielders are allowed outside the circle, are a key area for scoring runs.

Jones rewarded him with 34 off 27 balls, including six fours. She was out hitting a long-hop to midwicket. It was a frustrating end to a confident knock. Listening to Robinson and Assistant Coach Ali Maiden on commentary, they will have been satisfied with her knock. It had the right intent and the right style. Their confidence in her ability allowed her to bat with the freedom she needed. If she can maintain that positive attitude, and they keep faith in her, then she may prove to be an invaluable asset at the top of the batting order, not just in ODIs, but in T20s too, just in time for the WWT20.

The next few weeks will be interesting times for both players and for the coaches that pick them.


Friday, 5 February 2016

England must win South Africa series 3-0

Australia have kicked off the 2016 installment of ICC Women's Championship ODIs (the last year of this World Cup qualifying tournament) with their current series against India. As you will see from the WCB ODI team Rankings Table below they are head and shoulders above any other side in the world having won 25 of their last 31 ODIs (81%) at the start of the series.

After game one of the India series that became 26/32 with a very comfortable 101 run victory after a rather lacklustre run chase by India in pursuit of Australia's 275/6. And after game two it was 27/33 as the Aussies cruised to another comfortable win, chasing down 252 with six wickets in hand.

Current ICCWC Table (05/02/16)
It leaves India in a huge ODI hole with just 5 points from their 11 ICCWC games. They appear to be heading for the qualifying tournament, although they still have series against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the West Indies to come.

Australia play their last game of the India series on Sunday, which is when England kick off their series against South Africa with their first ODI (this is the last series in Round 4 of the tournament). Nothing less than a 3-0 series win will do for England. The six points will take them to 15 in total and a more comfortable third place in the table, with series against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies to come.

England have had two pretty meaningless warm-up games against South Africa Emerging players. If they are the best they have behind the main squad then South Africa have some worries. The South Africa squad has some familiar names in it - Mignon du Preez, Dane van Niekerk, Marizanne Kapp (all have just returned from the WBBL), plus the exciting pace of Shabnim Ismail, who spent just one weekend with the Melbourne Renegades and picked up 3/10 against the Stars (including England's Nat Sciver). Chloe Tryon, Trisha Chetty, Lizelle Lee and Sune Luus make up the bulk of a decent side, which, on paper, looks somewhat short on batting in the ODI format and short on power in the T20 format.

England have a new Head Coach in Mark Robinson, but the team that takes the park on Sunday is likely to have a very familiar look to it for all England fans. Seven of the 15 man squad have spent the past couple of months in the WBBL in Australia - Brunt, Cross, Edwards, Knight, Taylor, Winfield, Wyatt. The other eight are Beaumont, Elwiss, Greenway, Grundy, Gunn, Hazell, Jones, and Shrubsole (Sciver was originally selected but remains in England due to an ankle injury).

The starting 11 may well look like this - Edwards, Winfield, Taylor, Knight, Greenway, Jones, Wyatt, Brunt, Gunn, Grundy, and Shrubsole.

England should be too strong for South Africa in the longer format of the game, but things might be tighter in the T20 format, when you would hope that England will be looking to find the right combinations for the T20 World Cup in India, which starts in March.