Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Kent take title as contenders falter

Kent are the 2016 Women's County Championship champions - they're seventh title in the last 11 years.

As Kent beat previously unbeaten Warwickshire (who then lost the next day to Middlesex), Sussex had their game against Staffordshire washed out and then crashed to a dismal defeat against Berkshire. It means that no-one can catch Kent at the top of the league, so their last game of the season against Berkshire next week will be a victory parade.

On Sunday Kent cruised to victory over Warwickshire thanks in the main to Kiwi Suzie Bates. She hit 75 out of Kent's moderate total of 214/9 and then took 4/12 as Warwickshire subsided to 112 all out.

Meanwhile Kent's only other challengers Sussex were being frustrated by the rain, the Staffs' batsmen and their inability to catch at East Grinstead. Staffs had made it to 168/7 with Charlotte Whyle top-scoring with 47 and Freya Davies taking 3/25 for Sussex, before the persistent rain closed in and ended the game. Sussex fared little better the next day as Berkshire racked up 277/6 with former Sussex keeper Carla Rudd (79) scoring her maiden County Championship 50, and Freya Davies (2/29) again the pick of the Sussex bowlers, bizarrely left with two overs unbowled by skipper Georgia Elwiss. Sussex looked well-placed to chase down the mammoth total at 141/1 in the 22nd over, before Izzy Collis (34) was mistakenly given out stumped. Two overs later Georgia Adams, who had batted well for her 75, skied Linsey Smith (3/38) to midwicket and in Smith's next over Dani Wyatt (12) unnecessarily drove her to cover. Sussex had needed just 4.5 an over for the last 25 overs at this stage. But the Sussex innings stalled and the run-rate climbed. The next six overs produced just 11 runs. With 10 overs left Sussex found themselves needing over seven an over with only three wickets in hand. It proved far too much. Abbey Freeborn finished on 43* off 61 balls, and Sussex 34 runs short.

So attention turns to the relegation zone, with three teams due to drop out of Division One this year, to be replaced by two from Division Two - somewhat of an anomaly given the huge difference in standards of the two leagues. With Staffs winless it seemed to be a question of who would join them in Div 2? Berkshire eased their worries with their win over Sussex, particularly bearing in mind that their game to play next week is against Kent.

It ended up being Surrey that were the weekend's biggest losers as they went down to fellow relegation strugglers Somerset on Sunday by 64 runs and then lost to Staffs by seven wickets on Monday. Having been 86/6 Somerset were indebted to Nicole Richards (52) and the lower order as they scrambled their way to 188 all out. Once Somerset had removed Bryony Smith (28) and Nat Sciver (22), it was just a matter of time. Surrey capitulated in 34 overs for 124. The next day Surrey themselves recovered from being 85/8 thanks to 53* from Libby Walters and 43 runs from 10 and 11, Beth Kerins and Laura Sandy. On another day it might have been enough, but Eve Jones (110), out for a golden duck the day before, hit her first Div 1 century to lead Staffs to their first win of 2016. It will almost certainly not save them from returning to Div 2 next year, but it meant that they consigned Surrey to last place in the division, with one round of games to go. Surrey are due to take on Sussex in a re-arranged game on 17th September, by which time it may already be too late for Surrey to save themselves.

Yorkshire made sure that they will be in Div 1 next year with two wins. On Sunday they dispatched Middlesex by eight wickets (scorecard not yet on Play Cricket or Cricket Archive), chasing down 60 it seems off 20 overs in a rain affected match. Middlesex had limped to 94/8 off 33 overs, dashing in and out of the rain and with their overs gradually reduced. On Monday Yorkshire bowled out Somerset for just 60, before nervously losing five wickets chasing down the required runs. Katie Thompson took a career best 6/10 for Yorkshire, with no Somerset bat scoring more than eight. The loss and severe lack of bonus points means that Somerset are precariously poised in the drop zone with their final game against Warwickshire to come next week.

Having lost on the Sunday Middlesex were also in a spot of bother with just two wins to their name, but they beat a deflated Warwickshire on Monday by five wickets, having bowled them out for 97 (Alex Hartley 3/17), with the experienced Beth Morgan (36*) and youngster Sophia Dunkley (30) steadying the nerves after Middlesex had slipped to 34/4. They remain just outside the relegation zone and play the rejuvenated Staffs in their final game of the season next week. They could still go down if they fail to win and other results go against them.

All of which means that we think the current league placings are as below (still await official Middlesex v Yorkshire scorecard)


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Is extending the KSL to 50 overs the way forward?

Before the inaugural KSL T20 competition had even finished the ECB had issued a Press Release declaring the competition to have been a great success. Not many would argue with that, although there are a few wrinkles that could do with being ironed out - the main one being making the competition longer. The Press Release also linked to a page on the ECB website where Clare Connor answered some questions about the competition (click here to read). At the end of that piece Connor explains what is going to happen next year...

"Next summer the Kia Super League will expand to include a 50-over league competition with the six teams playing each other once either at home or away, and the teams finishing in second and third playing-off to take on the top team in a final.  The 50-over KSL will be played prior to the ICC Women’s World Cup, followed by the KSL T20 competition, which will be the same format as this year and played in a block alongside the men’s NatWest T20 Blast in August."
(since removed from the piece)

It has always been Connor's ambition to extend the competition to the 50 over format, ostensibly, it seems, so that the England players have some good quality warm-up games before the World Cup, which is being staged here in England between 26th June - 23rd July. A laudable ambition, but will it work?

There are a lot of hurdles that it will need to overcome :-

a) Will the overseas players want to come and play in England in May/June? Will Cricket Australia for example want Ellyse Perry and Meg Lanning in England while the rest of their squad are together in a pre-World Cup training camp? For that matter will any other country want this?

b) Without some, or all, of the overseas players will the standard even be as high as county cricket? Twenty four of the 72 English players in the KSL squads currently play their county cricket (if any) outside of Division One of the County Championship.

c) The games will have to be played in May and early June. This is exam time for any young English players at university or school.

d) It has been mooted that the games might be played on Wednesdays to avoid clashing with the Women's County Championship, but this would mean negligible crowds, and clashes with university and school cricket matches.

There are already plans to reduce the number of teams in Division One of the County Championship in 2017 from nine to eight, why not only promote one team from Division Two and make this seven teams? If funded properly (so that it becomes semi-professional), and if the current six Division Two players could be accommodated in those teams, the standard would be just as high if not higher. Why not make this the focus for 50 over cricket in England?

It was interesting to hear Charlotte Edwards confirm that the KSL overseas players had been impressed by the standard of the county girls that have taken part in the KSL. The standard of county cricket is not as poor as many people would have you believe. In the recent Girls of Summer book by David Tossell, Edwards said of county cricket - "When the girls score runs in county cricket, what value is that?...If they score a hundred, well you should score a hundred. If not, why not?" Edward's scores in county cricket this year have been 79, 1, 30*, 18, 34, and 2. Tammy Beaumont, who is the leading run-scorer, has scores of 72, 49, 20, 20*, 53 and 47. She scored far more runs against Pakistan. Indeed no player has scored a century in Division One this year so far. Surely this says something about the standard of bowling in the County Championship?

The KSL T20 competition works, as it is a concentrated hit of the shortest form of the game, which attracts foreign players, spectators, and, no doubt, ultimately, television coverage and therefore money. This will not be the case for franchised 50 over cricket. This will be a massive drain on the stretched resources of the current KSL franchisees.

The integrity and standard of county cricket needs to be maintained. Counties need to be encouraged to develop their local players through age-group cricket and have the pinnacle of that to play county cricket in Division One of the slimmed down County Championship. Counties who are not in Division One will need to be rewarded for players they produce who go on to play at this semi-professional level (Division One), and then KSL and then for England. If senior county cricket withers and dies, as no KSL players have the inclination/energy to play in county matches, then far from bridging the gap between county cricket and international cricket, that gap will just have become even greater.

I may be wrong? I frequently am. But is extending the KSL to 50 over cricket really the best way forward, in the long term, for English women's cricket?


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Decisive weekend in County Championship

Right, lets park the razzmatazz of the KSL, (which was won by the Southern Vipers, by the way, and not just Charlotte Edwards, despite what the Press may say!), it is time to refocus on the bread and butter of women's cricket - the Women's County Championship, with a double-header Bank Holiday weekend ahead of us. If it wasn't for the County Championship there would be no players for competitions such as the KSL and the WBBL.

Catch Up....Unfancied Warwickshire top the league table having won the three games they have played against Sussex, Berkshire and Surrey. Their games against Yorkshire and Staffs have been washed out. Behind them loom Kent, who have lost one game to Sussex, who themselves are third, having been beaten on the opening day of the season by Warwickshire.
Yorkshire, Berkshire and Middlesex have all won two games, and then at the bottom of the league sit Surrey, Somerset (one win) and Staffs (winless)...

All of which means that this Sunday's game between Warwickshire and Kent at the Edgbaston Foundation Ground, could be the game that decides who wins the 2016 County Championship title. It seems that the ECB have decided that the England girls can only play one game this weekend, but for Kent this will not be an issue as they only have one game. For Warwickshire one assumes they will play their full team, including Amy Jones. Jenny Gunn and Rebecca Grundy, against Kent, but they will miss the game against Middlesex the following day. In form Suzie Bates has remained in England after the end of the KSL, so Kent should be at full strength. It will be a tough ask for the young Warwickshire side, but ironically the pressure will actually be on Kent to win. If Warwickshire can get early wickets then that pressure will build. It should be a fascinating game.

As I've said, win or lose on Sunday, Warwickshire take on Middlesex on Monday, with what will be an even younger squad, probably against a Middlesex's full compliment, with Fran Wilson and Alex Hartley back in Middlesex blue, after successful KSL campaigns. This game will be just as key as the one the previous day, and Warwickshire will have to dig deep (no matter what the result the previous day). It may be a tough call for Middlesex regarding their England players, as the previous day they play Yorkshire. Both games are at home and Middlesex could decide to field their strongest side against their northern rivals, given that they are struggling a bit to get many wins on the board this season, and it is almost as important that Yorkshire lose as Middlesex win.

On Monday Yorkshire make the journey from Middlesex down to Bridgwater in Somerset. Somerset will be following them down the M4 as they play Surrey at Reed's School the previous day. With three teams to be relegated from Div 1 at the end of the season these are key games for all involved. Somerset have only beaten Berkshire so far this season and their game against fellow relegation candidates Staffordshire was abandoned (so cannot be rearranged). They have to beat the teams just above them to give themselves a chance of staying in Div 1 next year.

Surrey themselves will be hoping to ease their relegation worries with wins over Somerset, and then on Monday against Staffs. They have lost four of the five games they have played this season, and two wins this weekend are essential.

Sussex are the other team with two games to play, taking on Staffs at home on Sunday and then travelling to North Maidenhead on Monday for Berkshire's only game of the weekend. If Sussex want to keep up any pressure on the top two then they need two wins and full bonus points, but realistically having dropped five bonus points already, they will need both Warwickshire and Kent to have some poor games if they are going to get past them.

Sunday 28th August 2016 - 11am start
Middlesex v Yorkshire at Merchant Taylors School
Surrey v Somerset at Reed's School
Sussex v Staffs at East Grinstead CC
Warks v Kent at Edgbaston Foundation Ground

Monday 29th August 2016 - 11am start
Berks v Sussex at North Maidenhead CC
Middlesex v Warwickshire at Merchant Taylors School
Somerset v Yorkshire at Bridgwater CC
Surrey v Staffs at Reed's School


Monday, 22 August 2016

Southern Vipers take KSL Title

It was short and sweet. The inaugural KSL tournament has been and gone, and it was the pre-tournament favourites the Southern Vipers that have wandered off into the Essex sunset with the trophy under their arms. 

The day had started with the Western Storm defeating the Loughborough Lightning in the Second v Third semi-final. For once Heather Knight won a toss, but decided to stick with the formula that had worked for the Storm in their league games - bowling first and chasing. It worked again. Lightning were reduced to 30/2 after the six powerplay overs, with Stafanie Taylor picking up both Dane van Niekerk and Georgia Elwiss. Ellyse Perry (64*) and Sophie Devine (21) set about rebuilding the innings, but despite staying together until the 16th over they could only move the score on to 80, before Devine skied Knight to Fran Wilson at midwicket. When Amy Jones and Evelyn Jones were both run out by Sophie Luff in the 18th over it looked as though Lightning might struggle to make it to 100, but Thea Brookes (11) and Perry took 20 off the last over from Taylor to take Lightning to 124/7. In response the Storm lost Rachel Priest (4) early doors, but Heather Knight (52) and Stafanie Taylor (34) took the game away from Lightning with a 57 run partnership in 51 balls before Taylor swept a van Niekerk full toss to backward square leg. It mattered little as Knight and Fran Wilson (23) accumulated steadily. A late flurry of wickets took the game into the last over with just one run required, with Georgia Hennessy obliging from the third ball of the over.

And so to the final. The Vipers won the toss and elected to put the Storm into bat, fearing, it seems, the finishing power of Taylor, Knight and Priest. It was the first time in the tournament that the Storm had batted first and it showed, as having made an impeccable start, reaching 71/0 after 10 overs, the Storm failed to reach a commanding total in excess of 160. For some reason it was the wobbly slow-medium of the becapped 34 year old Arran Brindle (2/15), that tied them up in the middle overs, plus she also accounted for Taylor (35) and Knight (6), caught trying to move the score along. But still the Storm had big-hitters in Priest (57) and Lizelle Lee (6). Priest brought up her 50 having hit Linsey Smith for a 6 and a 4 in the 14th over, but just as she looked to cut loose she hoisted Bates high to midwicket, where Lydia Greenway accepted the catch. Lee never really found her form and scooped a Farrant slower ball to deep long on, and had it not been for 14 off the last over the Storm would have fallen well short of the 140/5 they ended up with. Most feared it was not enough and so it proved as Suzie Bates led the Vipers to 78/0 in just the ninth over before she lost partner Charlotte Edwards (24). When Bates was brilliantly run out by Fran Wilson two overs later, the Storm perked up in the field. A direct hit from Anya Shrubsole at mid-off then saw the end of Georgia Adams (15), and Vipers still needed 37 off 33 balls. But Sara McGlashan (21) and Lydia Greenway (17) kept calm, taking 10 off the 16th over and then 14 off the 18th, to leave them needing just 6 off the last two. They managed it within five balls as Greenway hit a sweet off-drive to the boundary to finish the game.

It was the end of a good day at Chelmsford, despite a rather disappointing crowd of around 1,300, and the end of a brief, but interesting new tournament, which Clare Connor says will be expanded to the 50 over format next season, before the World Cup. The T20 version will remain in August with the same format - so no extension to home and away games as many have asked for, it seems.

Overall the standard of the games has been high. I have personally seen 11 of the 18 games played, with the Storm's spectacular run chase at Bristol probably being the highlight. Some will say that the inclusion of three overseas players has enhanced the standard of the competition. True eight of the top ten run-scorers were overseas players, but they were also the ones who had the most opportunities to score those runs. Many overseas, given similar opportunities, also failed to make any real impact, and prevented local players from being given the opportunity to show what they could do. It is a fine line to tread, but a reduction to two overseas, as was originally planned, surely has to be the way forward?

There are other issues that also need to be addressed. With small crowds are big grounds the way forward? The smaller county grounds would work better. Players also need to be paid a retainer for the tournament and not match fees only for those who play. It would make the franchises think more carefully about some of their "back-up selections" and reward the entire squad of 15 rather than only those who play. 

And finally more games is a must. It seems it will not happen in 2017, which is a huge shame. Five league games is too few. Ten league games would be better for supporters, better for the players, and make it a true competition. I also remain unconvinced about the second/third play-off before the final. Make it two semis and then the final. 

But enough carping. Congratulations to all that played in this year's KSL. It has been fun to watch.


Thursday, 18 August 2016

KSL Finals Day Preview

So after 15 games the Southern Vipers have made their way safely through to Sunday's final (3pm), where they will meet the winner of the semi-final game played between the Western Storm and the Loughborough Lightning (11am). It should be an intriguing day.

In the league games the only game that the Western Storm lost was by five runs to the Lightning, but they comprehensively beat the Vipers by eight wickets down at Taunton (the Vipers' only defeat). In their last league game the Vipers beat the Lightning comfortably by 59 runs, to inflict their second defeat in five games (they also lost to the Thunder). Just by virtue of the fact that they are already in the final the Vipers will probably be most people's favourites to win the competition, but whoever wins out of the Storm and the Lightning, will have had first-hand knowledge of the pitch and will be ready to play the final. Many think this could be a huge advantage.

The bottom line is that this is a T20 competition and anything could happen. Hopefully Essex will have prepared a good fast wicket, which allows the girls to score plenty of runs. Earlier in the summer England racked up 170/5 against Pakistan on this ground. Interestingly only four members of the England team that played that night have made it to Finals Day - Heather Knight and Fran Wilson (WS), Amy Jones (LL) and Tash Farrant (SV).

On paper the Lightning probably have the longest batting line-up, with a team that is stuffed full of all-rounders. They have dangerous batsmen all the way down to nine and it only takes one to come-off for the Lightning to put a decent score on the board. Top run-scorers are Ellyse Perry (126) and Dane van Niekerk (112). Lightning opened up by scoring 128 against the Diamonds, and then scored 158, 158 and 168 in their next three games, before they were bowled out for just 97 by the Vipers at the Ageas Bowl. Skipper Georgia Elwiss has used seven bowlers with Becky Grundy topping the wicket-takers (8) and Sonia Odedra (5.81) the economy ratings, ahead of internationals van Niekerk, Elwiss, Perry and Devine.

The Storm have used the same eleven players for all five games played so far, with six bowlers sharing the workload. Anya Shrubsole and Stafanie Taylor (8) are the leading wicket takers, and Shrubsole (5.42) is only just behind Heather Knight (5.4) in the economy stakes. Taylor also has the small matter of 220 runs to her name (14, 9, 74*, 78*, 45), with Knight on 141 next in the list. After slow starts Lizelle Lee and Rachel Priest have also chipped in with 50s to their names. Heather Knight is yet to win a toss for the Storm, who have batted second in every game they have played to date, but they have proved they are good chasers.

The Vipers have used 14 players out of what has turned out to be a 16 player squad. Linsey Smith was allowed to play as a temporary replacement against the Thunder, despite the Vipers having 12 fit members in their squad at the time, and was then added as a full replacement for the injured Daisy Gardner. She has spun herself to the top of the Vipers' wicket-takers (8) at 4.33 runs per over, ahead of Suzie Bates (7) and Morna Neilsen (5). She has certainly enjoyed bowling at the Ageas Bowl, but Chelmsford might be slightly different. Kiwis Bates (180) and Sara McGlashan (113) lead the Vipers' run-scorers, helped no doubt by the fact that they both played some county cricket here in England (for Kent and Sussex) before the tournament started.

As for predictions I have put mine in a sealed envelope in my non-existent wall safe, and the envelope will not be opened until Finals Day is over. I will, of course, reveal my predictions at this time. I am quietly confident.

It would be great to see a full house at Chelmsford - you can get tickets here. At just £5 for both games it is an absolute steal. Under 17s are just £1. With the weather forecast looking good it will be a great day, full of tension, excitement and some great cricket. I am pleased to say that I will be there.


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Stars keep Finals Day hopes alive

In a must-win game for both sides it was the Surrey Stars that produced the more clinical performance as the Lancashire Thunder waved a rather sad farewell to their KSL Finals Day chances.

Having failed to defend 161 against the Western Storm in their last game it was perhaps inevitable that the Stars would opt to bowl first when they won the toss in this one. It produced immediate results when Hayley Matthews' miserable tournament with the bat continued, as she was adjudged lbw to Marizanne Kapp (2/18) for a second ball duck. She clearly felt that she hit it (and may face ECB censure for her protestations to this effect), but when the luck is against you nothing much goes right. After a first over maiden Lea Tahuhu gave Emma Lamb width outside the off stump, allowing her to take 16 off the second over. It was probably Thunder's only bright spot of the afternoon at Guildford, in front of a crowd of probably close to 1,000. Lamb went in the fifth over failing in her attempt at a lofted drive off Kapp again, and being easily caught at mid-off. It meant that Thunder made it to the end of the powerplay on 30/2. They would only add another 72 runs in the next 14 overs as they were strangled by the spin of Alex Hartley (3/11) and Laura Marsh (1/21).

Amy Satterthwaite (34*) and Laura Macleod (17*) were content to knock the ball around and had Hartley taken an easy high return catch off her own bowling to remove Satterthwaite when she was on 10, Thunder probably would have struggled even more. The pair added 38 for the third wicket in 6.4 overs, but collapse was just around the corner. Macleod inside edged a low Hartley full toss onto her stumps; in the same over Deandra Dottin top-edged a sweep third ball to short backward square; next over Danni Wyatt played down the wrong line to Marsh and was bowled; and in the next over Tash Miles was run out after being sent back by her skipper. Thunder were in tatters at 69/6, having been 66/2. Kate Cross' attempts to go aerial then proved fruitless. Dropped at long-on she then lofted another to long-off, off Hartley, and departed. Ellie Threlkeld then became the second run-out victim, again sent back by Satterthwaite and Nat Brown was the third, run out off the last ball attempting a second run. Thunder finished on a disappointing 102/9. Satterthwaite finished on 34* off 43 balls.

Stars knew they had to win, and preferably within 16 overs to claim the extra bonus point. Tammy Beaumont (45*) and Bryony Smith (30) set the ideal platform. They hit 49 in the first six overs, including 10 4s between them. Smith departed in the seventh over, caught on the deep midwicket boundary, but by then her job was done. Nat Sciver, dropped at midwicket when on 1, finally achieved a KSL batting average when she pulled a Matthews' half-tracker straight to Dottin at deep square. It mattered little. Stars were 78/2 in just the eleventh over. Beaumont kept the scoreboard ticking over, despite losing Cordelia Griffith (7) for company, and Stars got over the line with the second ball of the sixteenth over when Kapp hit Satterthwaite for 4.

It means that Thunder effectively join the Diamonds in missing out on Finals Day. Stars kept their hopes alive with their final game on Super Friday (all six teams play) against Loughborough Lightning at Loughborough. They have to win and hope that either Lightning or Storm trip up in their remaining games. Given that Lightning's last game is away against the league-leading Vipers, that is probably not a scenario that the Lightning will want to consider. It means their Friday clash will be full of tension.

Meanwhile, slightly later on Friday, down in Taunton, the Storm will be attempting to seal their place in Finals Day as they take on the Vipers. Should they fail then they will have another attempt on Sunday when they play their last game against Yorkshire Diamonds at Headingley.

The field has narrowed, but all three top spots are still up for grabs for the four teams left in contention.

Lancashire Thunder 102/9
Amy Satterthwaite 34*, Alex Hartley 3/11, Marizanne Kapp 2/18
Surrey Stars 106/3
Tammy Beaumont 45*, Bryony Smith 30

full scorecard here


Monday, 8 August 2016

Storm blow Stars away

Western Storm pulled off a remarkable comeback victory against the Surrey Stars, thanks to a blistering 38 runs from the last 11 balls that West Indian batsman Stafanie Taylor faced. It was a game that the Stars had always looked like winning after posting a daunting 161/6 with Nat Sciver 90* from just 45 balls. But somehow it all unravelled for the Stars in the last four overs as Taylor went berserk.

Little did the crowd of around 500 realise what was in store for them as the Stars won the toss and set off at a good pace on a good track with a lightning outfield and short boundaries. Anything that got through the infield was a four. For the Storm Anya Shrubsole (1/12) was impeccable in the powerplay, conceding just five runs from her three overs, but still the Stars were going nicely at 39/1 at the end of the first six, Bryony Smith (19) having been bowled by Shrubsole. In the seventh over Cordelia Griffith (14) was caught at backward point, which meant Sciver walked to the crease to bat with her England team-mate Tammy Beaumont. She survived two early scares as she was dropped on 2 at deep square by Taylor, and then could have been run out two balls later if the ball had been taken cleanly. She needed no second asking. She was brutal on anything short, and the Storm gave her far too much short. She pulled merrily into the onside, invariable beating the two fielders on the boundary. At the other end Beaumont (13) was run out by a good bit of fielding by Taylor off her own bowling, Marizanne Kapp (2) was bowled by a beautiful yorker from Freya Davies (2/38), who then also had Sciver caught at deep square, only for the ball to be called a no-ball on height. There was no doubt it was Sciver's day. Davies then removed Beth Morgan (5), before Sciver unleashed four 4s off the 17th over from Taylor. Naomi Dattani (6) was run out off the first ball of the last over getting Sciver back on strike, which allowed her the chance for a second 6 and a sixteenth 4 as she finished unbeaten on 90. She is yet to be dismissed in the KSL, although the Storm will think they had their chances.
Stafanie Taylor unleashes another boundary
(C) Don Miles
In response the Storm made a disastrous start plunging to 17/3 in the fourth over having lost Rachel Priest (7) run out after a mix-up with Taylor, and Heather Knight (6) and Fran Wilson (0) both lbw to Sciver and Kapp respectively. South African Lizelle Lee, who had two ducks in her previous two KSL games, came to the crease. The Storm needed runs from their imports, and finally they got some. Taylor continued to push singles, but Lee preferred to find the boundary, which she did eight times on the ground and twice in the air for a maximum. She brought up her 50 in the 13th over off 35 balls, as Laura Marsh was dispatched for 17 runs and the pair brought the runs required down to 69 off 42 balls. If they could continue the onslaught then it looked like the Storm might pull off an unlikely victory. But with another flash of genius, Sciver (who else) changed the game as she dived to her left at short cover to catch another screaming drive from Lee (53) off Lea Tahuhu. It meant the 14th and 15th overs produced just three runs and the equation was back up to 66 from 30 balls.

This widened to 56 from the last four overs as Tahuhu bowled another decent over. In the 17th over new bat Sophie Luff (21) took the initiative crashing Kapp for 11, as Taylor added two more singles to the total to be 36 off 37 balls. Finally in the 18th over Taylor let rip, stepping across her stumps and slog sweeping Alex Hartley for consecutive 6s, having already flayed her through extra cover the ball before. 18 off the over reduced the chase to 25 off 12 balls. Taylor and Luff managed a boundary each off Nat Sciver's 19th over which went for 11.

14 were needed from the last with Luff on strike. There was much discussion in the Stars' camp and eventually they decided to bowl Tahuhu, despite Kapp and Farrell both having an over in the locker. Luff pushed the first ball for one and the stage was set for the ice-cool Taylor. Tahuhu bowled full and Taylor drove her over the fielder at long-off for 6; she then went shorter and was picked up to the midwicket boundary where Kapp dropped the catch and the ball flopped over the boundary. Just one was needed off the the next three balls, but Taylor wasn't going to hang about, driving the next ball off the edge to the third man boundary. The Storm had won by five wickets and Taylor finished on 74* off 48 balls.

Surrey Stars 161/6
Nat Sciver 90*, Freya Davies 2/38, Anya Shrubsole 1/12
Western Storm 165/5
Stafanie Taylor 74*, Lizelle Lee 53, Nat Sciver 2/17

full scorecard here


Saturday, 6 August 2016

Lightning beat Storm in run-fest thriller

Loughborough Lightning, playing their second game in three days on the same strip at Loughborough, just managed to cling on for a five run win over Western Storm despite a heroic knock of 74 (46b) from Storm skipper Heather Knight.

Lightning had posted a daunting 158/8 thanks in the main to an 83 run partnership between Amy Jones (46) and Ellyse Perry (44). Lightning had made a good start through Dane van Niekerk (18), but she was one of three wickets to fall in the powerplay, leaving them on 31/3. Jones and Perry steadied the ship until the tenth over, by which time they had moved the score to 53/3, but they then took 61 off the next six overs, before Freya Davies had Jones neatly stumped by Rachel Priest. Perry went not long after, but Eve Jones hit a powerful 25 off 14 balls to keep the momentum going for the Lightning, who finished on 158/8.

The Storm needed a good start in the powerplay, but tight bowling from Sonia Odedra (2/20) and van Niekerk (1/28) kept them down to just 27 for the loss of Stafanie Taylor and then Priest, bowled heaving at Becky Grundy. Knight and Fran Wilson (21) took the score to 70/2 after 11 overs, with the Storm still needing almost 10 an over to win. It was Knight's cue to really get going, regularly finding the boundary all around the ground. Unfortunately Storm had no-one to match her hitting ability. Wilson fell trying to hit straight over the top and Lizelle Lee edged behind for a duck. Georgia Hennessy joined her skipper with 54 still needed off five overs. 15, including a pulled 6 from Knight, off the 17th over from the previously parsimonious Odedra, reduced the equation to 32 from 18 balls, and the Storm looked like they might be in with a sniff of a dramatic win. But only eight came from the next over from van Niekerk and then seven from the 19th from Elwiss, which also ended with the unfortunate run out of Knight at the bowler's end, as Elwiss deflected a Hennessy drive onto the stumps. It left 17 required off the last over without Knight and it proved just too much.

It meant that Lightning's campaign was back on track with two wins from three games played and Storm are now one and one after two games. Storm meet Surrey Stars at Bristol on Sunday and Lightning next play at home again against Surrey Stars next Friday. On this showing both teams probably deserve a place in Finals' Day, but it is no foregone conclusion that either will make it.

Loughborough Lightning 158/8
Amy Jones 48, Ellyse Perry 46, Eve Jones 25, Anya Shrubsole 2/26
Western Storm 153/5
Heather Knight 74, Sonia Odedra 2/20
full scorecard here


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Thunder shock the Lightning

Lancashire Thunder pulled off a shock win over the Loughborough Lightning after an impressive batting performance put an imposing 164/8 on the board. The Lightning had no answer losing early wickets until Paige Scholfield (38) and Thea Brookes (30* ) put together a partnership of 69 for the ninth wicket.

Thunder's impressive total was built around a classy innings from Amy Satterthwaite of 52 from 32 balls. She drove with supreme class and elegance. In contrast Deandra Dottin's equally impressive 42 off 29 balls was all about power. She muscled the ball to the boundary on eight occasions and recorded a 6, but only due to four overthrows from a scampered 2. The only genuine 6 belonged to Satterthwaite, and it was an immaculate straight drive off compatriot Sophie Devine. It was not a great day for any of the Lightning bowlers - Ellyse Perry went for 39 off her four overs and Georgia Elwiss 37 off her four, but she did at least get two wickets. Devine only managed two overs for 22 runs.

In reply Lightning lost the wickets of Dane van Niekerk, Devine and Perry in the powerplay to be 36/3 after the first six overs, and it could have been worse had Sophie Ecclestone not shelled an easy catch off Elwiss at mid-off off Hayley Matthews. It looked like it might be a very costly mistake as Elwiss (20) and Amy Jones (27) looked to be rebuilding the Lightning innings, but Jones's crashing drive was deflected back onto the stumps by bowler Dottin, and Elwiss had to go run out. It was the pivotal moment of the game. Amy Jones battled on for 27 before she hit an Ecclestone full toss straight down deep square's throat. The Thunder were 76/6 with only nine overs to come. It was not a position from which they seemed likely to recover, but that was not to take account of the power hitting of Scholfield and Brookes! They took Lightning to within sight of victory at 157/8 with 7 balls to come, before Scholfield heaved once too often and was bowled by Dottin. It left Hayley Matthews with the last over to bowl and just 8 to win. But Matthews kept her cool removing Grundy and then Langston to bring the Thunder home by 6 runs.

Lancashire Thunder 164/8
(Amy Satterthwaite 52, Deandra Dottin 42)

Loughborough Lightning 
(Paige Scholfield 38, Thea Brookes 30*, Amy Jones 27, Sophie Ecclestone 3/23, Hayley Matthews 3/25)

full scorecard here


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

KSL Games 4 & 5 - Preview

The opening weekend of the Kia Super League has to go down as a success on almost all fronts - decent crowds, good weather, good bowling, some great fielding - but perhaps the only let-down has been the batting, with the three losing teams only managing to score in the 80s. But batting is a pretty unforgiving art - one mistake and you are on your way. There is no doubt that all the girls were nervous and there was pressure to perform on the big stage. It seems, on the whole, the bowlers handled it better than the batsmen, but I expect that to change as the tournament goes along.

And so the show rapidly moves on to the next few games - they will come thick and fast over the next two weeks. This week sees Loughborough Lightning host Lancashire Thunder on Wednesday and then Western Storm on Friday; on Thursday Surrey Stars take on Yorkshire Diamonds at the Oval in a floodlit game; also on Friday the Southern Vipers travel to Blackpool to take on the Thunder; and then on Sunday the Storm will battle it out with the Stars at Bristol. So by Sunday evening the Lightning, the Thunder, the Stars and the Storm will all have played three of their five league games.

First up are the Lightning, who comprehensively defeated the Yorkshire Diamonds in their opening game (read here). They take on the Thunder, who lost to Western Storm in their first (read here). The Lightning will be the favourites on home turf, but their strong top order could be well tested by the Cross, Ecclestone, Dottin bowling combo that the Thunder have at their disposal. If they can get amongst them, then this match could be a lot closer than people think. Thunder's problem against the Storm was their batting. It looks rather thin, but it only needs Matthews, Dottin or Wyatt to come off and they could be in business. It is generally a good batting track at Loughborough, so one of these three will really need to get their hands through the ball. The same of course applies to Lightning's international top order of Elwiss, van Niekerk, Devine, Perry and Amy Jones. Devine could be the key wicket for the Thunder, as she looks in good form with the bat. My head says the Lightning will win, but I just have a nagging doubt. Could Thunder pull off a shock?

Thursday gives the Stars and the Diamonds the chance to get some points on the board after opening game defeats, and my money would be on the Diamonds to take away at least two points, if not three, from the game. Surrounded by a lot of inexperienced young batsmen there is a huge amount of pressure on Stars' Tammy Beaumont and Nat Sciver not to give away their wickets. Naturally that stifles their strokeplay and frustrates them. In Brunt, Hazell and Gunn the Diamonds have the bowlers to compound that frustration. I also wonder if we might see Beth Mooney promoted to open the batting with skipper Lauren Winfield for the Diamonds. The left/right combination is annoying for bowlers, and Mooney has the ability to hit in the V really well. Perhaps if the Diamonds bat first, so she has not already spent 20 overs behind the stumps? We shall see.

Given that the Lightning are involved in the Friday game against the Storm I will wait to see how the Lightning play on Wednesday (a game that I will be going to see) before previewing that game, the Thunder v Vipers clash, and Storm's Sunday outing against the Stars.