Tuesday, 9 December 2014

New Zealand Squad Speculation

Assuming everyone is fit... which they jolly ought to be, having (in most cases) had several months off... who will travel to New Zealand in February?

Against India last summer, England lined-up with just 3 specialist bowlers - Hazel, Shrubsole and Brunt/ Cross - with Knight, Gunn and Sciver combining to pick up the remaining overs with the ball.

Given our recent batting frailties, I'd expect a similar strategy against the White Ferns, which suggests an XI of:
  1. Charlotte Edwards
  2. Heather Knight
  3. Sarah Taylor
  4. Lydia Greenway
  5. Loz Winfield
  6. Tammy Beaumont
  7. Nat Sciver
  8. Jenny Gunn
  9. Dani Hazel
  10. Katherine Brunt
  11. Anya Shrubsole
Two others all-but certain to make the squad are Amy Jones (backing up Taylor behind the stumps) and fast bowler Kate Cross, who you'd expect to play some games on rotation, even if Brunt and Shrubsole stay fit for the whole tour. (Which, as we all know, is officially the biggest "IF" since sliced IFs!)

This leaves one, or possibly two, seats on the plane, which is where it starts to get tricky for the selectors! Laura Marsh? Danni Wyatt? Tash Farrant? My guess is that they'll hope that the "core 12" (the XI above, plus Cross) holds together for the ODIs; and then look to Wyatt and Farrant to step up for the T20s.

So... the full squad would be:
  1. Charlotte Edwards
  2. Heather Knight
  3. Sarah Taylor
  4. Lydia Greenway
  5. Loz Winfield
  6. Tammy Beaumont
  7. Nat Sciver
  8. Jenny Gunn
  9. Dani Hazel
  10. Katherine Brunt
  11. Anya Shrubsole
  12. Kate Cross
  13. Amy Jones
  14. Danni Wyatt
  15. Tash Farrant
Will the selectors agree with me? Will I still agree with me come January? Only time will tell!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Women's Ashes - Points of Order

The schedule for next summer's Women's Ashes has been announced, together with some significant tweaks to the format.

So... here are the deets:

Date Format Venue Win Draw
July 21 ODI The County Ground, Taunton 2 1
July 23 ODI Bristol County Ground 2 1
July 26 ODI New Road, Worcester 2 1
August 11-14 Test The Spitfire Ground, Canterbury 4 2
August 26 T20 Essex County Ground, Chelmsford 2 N/A
August 28 T20 County Ground, Hove 2 N/A
August 31 T20 SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff 2 N/A

There's actually quite a lot to digest here, so let's break it down!

It's great that the schedule has been announced so early - fans do need time to make their travel arrangements and book their hotels, so it is fantastic that the ECB are at last recognizing that their are women's cricket fans who want to plan ahead!

Not only that, but all of the games are taking place at proper county grounds, designed to cater for bigger crowds. (Sorry Wormsley - you are lovely, but...) Sadly, there's no Lords on the agenda; but you can't have everything I guess; and I accept that there are some draw-backs (not least financial ones) to half-opening the Home of Cricket for women's games, even if it is The Ashes.

Now on to the changes in format!

Firstly, the Test has been moved to the middle of the series. My understanding is that this was mostly driven by TV scheduling, and the need to find a window which didn't clash with any of the men's games; but I think it is nonetheless a positive move in terms of not front-loading the Big Points.

And secondly... about those Big Points: the Test will now be worth just 4 points, rather than the previous 6. The value of the Test will be argued long and hard by fans, as it has been by the administrators, so I'm told! And the bottom line is that most of us agree that the Test probably should be worth 6 points "philosophically"; but practically this makes the series too unbalanced and I think 4 is therefore a good compromise.

Finally, SKY have announced that the whole caboodle - Test and all - will be broadcast live and in full. I'm not SKY's biggest fan, but you have to give them some credit here, as well as the ECB for nudging away at them to take up the rights they've paid for and give the game the exposure it deserves.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

South Africa Face India Test

The BCCI have announced that in addition to their Women's International Championship ODI face-off, South Africa and India will play a one-off Test this November.

This will be the first time since 2007 that a women's Test has been played which didn't involve either England or Australia, so it is pretty big news - women's Test cricket looked to be in a critical condition two years ago, but the efforts of the EBC/CA have breathed new life into it, and now the BCCI/CSA are following-suit.

Of course, whether the BCCI's motivations are entirely altruistic is a question which sometimes has to be asked!

Were I a cynical man, I might suggest that India stand to benefit most directly from playing their strongest format first, and tiring the Women Proteas small squad out over 4 days, prior to their crucial 12-Pointer* WIC series.

But I'm not a cynical man... not today anyway! So for now, let's just celebrate the addition of another Test to the women's international calendar, and wish good luck to all involved!

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* Although only 6 points are a stake, because India and South Africa are effectively battling it out for 4th place in the WIC, there are 6 points more for the winner, but also 6 points fewer for the loser - hence the term "12-Pointer". (See here for a definition of the more traditional term "6-pointer" as applied to football.)

Sunday, 2 November 2014

South African Stars to Play Domestic Cricket in England in 2015

South African all-rounder Dane van Niekerk will play domestic cricket in England next summer.
21-year-old DvN is one of the brightest up-coming talents in world cricket right now. A genuine all-rounder, who would be picked for South Africa on her batting or her leg-spin bowling alone, she shone in the T20s in England back in September, top-scoring for the Women Proteas, with over 100 runs in the three-match series, and bowling beautifully, getting real turn and healthy economy.

Her scorecards from South Africa's recent series in Sri Lanka were similarly exciting. With TWO Man of the Match performances - one a 4/17; and the other a 70 not-out, off just 68 balls - she basically took home the T20 silverware single-handed!

And... rumor has it that DvN isn't the only South African star heading to England next summer either - more on that one soon hopefully, when it's official too!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Equal Prize Money Is The Right Thing To Do...

... Even If It Is "Economically Absurd"!

Prior to yesterday's Women In Sport conference at Lord's, The Boss tweeted:

"Equal prize money for our sport is economically absurd but might be overdue for others."

Overlooking the "special pleading", is she right?

The BBC's recent survey of the prize money "gender gap" doesn't show cricket in a particularly great light - the World Cup (sic!) winners get £47 thousand... the Men's World Cup winners get £2.5 million!

Would it be "economically absurd" to close this gap? It is certainly a BIG gap, so I guess closing it might be considered "absurd"... but surely it's something we should, at the very least, have an aspiration to move towards.

It is worth saying at this point that I'm NOT arguing that Lottie be paid the same salary as Alistair Cook (sorry Lottie!) nor still (as some have suggested) that there be some bizarre (and frankly unworkable) requirement to equalize their sponsorship deals.

But equalizing the PRIZE MONEY could be done over time - where there is a will, there is a way; and (as I suspect The Boss knows too, in her heart of hearts) it would be The Right Thing To Do™.

Monday, 20 October 2014

West Indies & Australia Top Women's International Championship

With the first round of matches now completed, it's West Indies and Australia leading the way in the Women's International Championship.

TEAMPOINTS
West Indies6
Australia6
England5
South Africa3
Sri Lanka3
India1
Pakistan0
New Zealand0

It's early days, of course, but it is already looking like the really interesting battle will be for the final, 4th place, World Cup qualifying slot.

The second round begins next month, with West Indies travelling to Australia, which should be an exciting series.

England meanwhile head to New Zealand after Christmas. Home advantage can be a big factor in women's cricket, as it is in "The Other Game" - West Indies whitewashed New Zealand at home; but just six months ago, the boot was on the other foot as they lost 0-3 in New Zealand. So New Zealand will be hoping to get some points on the board against England, and I think that series will be competitive too.

In the other round two match-ups, Pakistan face Sri Lanka at home; and South Africa travel to India.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Sky, Exclusivity & Bundling

Believe it or not, I don’t have a problem with paying for cricket! Despite my campaign for the 2017 Women’s World Cup in England to be made available on Free-To-Air TV, I’d be delighted to reach into my wallet for a half-decent stream of England Women’s up-coming tour to New Zealand; and although I’ll almost-certainly be at the games, I’d otherwise be happy to pay Sky to watch next summer’s Women’s Ashes in England.

But… I do have two major issues with Sky Cricket: exclusivity and bundling.

Exclusivity

Sky quite literally "own" cricket in this country - there will be no live cricket shown on Free-To-Air TV next year, meaning kids can’t/ don’t watch, and the game is slowly painting itself into a very nichey corner.

But this isn’t the biggest problem with exclusivity: it’s that even when Sky don’t want to show the games, no one else is able to do so. To be fair, Sky gave the ECB special dispensation to live-stream 3 women’s ODIs last summer, but really it needs to be codified into the contract, so that if Sky don’t want to show (to quote just one example) the group stages of the Women’s World T20, someone else can.

Additionally, it is vital that some cricket (men’s and women’s) is made available Free-To-Air - and the World Cup seems a reasonable place to start with that - after all, the football World Cup is an ‘A Listed’ event, and that doesn’t seem to have caused it to have collapsed into financial penury and irrelevance!

Bundling

A Sky subscription with Sky Sports costs around £45 a month. That’s a lot of money when you add it all up over the year; but at least it goes to fund grass roots cricket… right?

Right?

Well… sort of!

Sky do pay the ECB a chunk of cold, hard cash, some of which goes to grass roots cricket; BUT... of your £45 Sky sub, less than a fiver (a lot less) actually goes to cricket - most of it goes to football, for which Sky pay over a billion pounds a year - an order of magnitude more than the £100m they pay to cricket. So while your Sky subscription is supporting grass roots cricket… it’s supporting Wayne Rooney & Co. a lot, lot more!

This is where the government and the courts might need to step in once again. Sky really shouldn’t be able to get away with this - making the purchase of a monopoly product (cricket) dependent upon the purchase of another (near) monopoly product (football) is surely bordering upon market abuse?

So, here's the deal Sky: I'd happily pay £15 a month, to watch all the England internationals - men's and women's. Under such circumstances, almost everyone would be better off - Sky would have another subscriber; the ECB would get their cut; and I'd be able to legally watch cricket at home. The only person who wouldn't be better off is Wayne Rooney, but... frankly... who's Wayne Rooney?

Saturday, 11 October 2014

TV Listed Events Gender Biased

The Ofcom Code on Sports [PDF] governs a list of sporting events which have to be shown on Free-To-Air TV in the UK. The idea is to ensure that the "crown jewels" of sport remain accessible to all; but sadly this list is woefully out of kilter with the times and indisputably gender-biased.

Of the 11 A List events which have to be shown live, 5 are mixed events, 6 are men's events, and none are women's events

Despite the fact that all 6 of the men's events on the A List have a women's equivalent, the women's event is excluded - cast out, with little or no accessible coverage. For instance, this year's (Women's) Rugby World Cup Final - magnificently won by England - was not shown on Free-To-Air TV, depriving 6 million girls of the opportunity to be inspired by the likes of Emily Scarratt and Katy McLean.

The secondary B List of events for which highlights have to be shown is similarly skewed - 3 mixed events, 6 men's events, no women's events,

Any right-thinking person would have to agree that this is a disgrace; so let's get it changed by demanding that the 2017 Women's Cricket World Cup is added to the A List!

Click here to sign the petition and make a difference to women's sport!

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A List - Mixed Events
  1. Wimbledon Finals
  2. The Olympics
  3. The Paralympics
  4. The Grand National 
  5. The Derby
A List - Men's Events
  1. FA Cup Final
  2. World Cup Finals
  3. UEFA Cup Finals
  4. Scottish Cup Final
  5. Rugby League Challenge Cup Final
  6. Rugby World Cup Final
A List - Women's Events
  1.  
B List - Mixed Events
  1. Wimbledon (Except Finals)
  2.  Commonwealth Games
  3. World Athletics Championships
B List - Men's Events
  1. Home Cricket Tests
  2. Rugby World Cup (Except Final)
  3. Rugby 6 Nations ("Home" Nations Matches)
  4. Cricket World Cup (Semis + Final + England)
  5. The Ryder Cup
  6. The Open Golf*
B List Women's Events
  1.  
* Technically mixed, but...

Friday, 10 October 2014

Aussie Contracted Players Hopeful Re. WICL

Southern Stars Erin Osborne and Ellyse Perry have become (as far as I know) the first Australian or English contracted players to come out explicitly in support of the Women's International Cricket League.

In an interview for the Sydney Morning Herald, Osborne is quoted as saying: "Hopefully the WICL will get up and running; bring the world's best closer." And Ellyse Perry is reported as having "agreed".

So far, support for WICL from Australia/ England contracted players has been expressed only in private - with the boards (particularly the ECB) forthright in their opposition to the project, the players know which side of the bread their butter is on!

So you have to wonder whether this represents a further softening in Cricket Australia's stance? You'd think that Perry in particular wouldn't be saying anything without having cleared it with The Powers That Be; so that has to be good news for WICL... and that's good news for us fans too, who continue to live in hope!

One Weird Trick To Inspire 6 Million Girls To Play More Sport

Everyone wants to increase participation in women's sport - MORE GIRLS PLAYING MORE SPORT is the professed aim of the government and the boards of all our biggest games: the English Cricket Board, the Football Association and the Rugby Football Union.

Coaching clinics; club open days; school visits... they're all fantastic. In cricket, the ECB's Chance to Shine initiative has reached over 2 million kids over the years.

But there's a way to reach SIX million girls and 12 million children; not to mention the 60 million adults who live here too - by showing women's sport live on Free-To-Air TV.

We all know that nothing inspires kids like being able to SEE their heroes, so let's start our women's sporting revolution with the 2017 Women's Cricket World Cup!

WWC17 is going to be one of the biggest stand-alone women's sporting events ever held anywhere - a celebration of women's sport that everyone can share.

So let's get our Women's Cricket World Cup shown live on Free-To-Air TV.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Women's World Cup 2017 Consigned To Pay-TV

The 2017 Women's World Cup in 2017 looks like being an exclusively Pay-TV affair, as BT Sport and Sky compete to win a contract which covers all ICC events - men's and women's - between 2015 and 2023.

Sky are the incumbent broadcaster, but with BT Sport looking to muscle-in on the cricketing action, they are also rumoured to have put-forward a big-money bid for the rights to show the Men's World Cups in 2019 and 2023... and whoever wins that little battle will get all the big women's events, including England 2017 and New Zealand 2021, thrown in "for free".

Of course, the ICC would respond that it isn't "for free" but I ask you this:

Do you really think Sky and/or BT Sport would have bid a penny less if the women's events hadn't been included in the package?

(The answer, by the way, is No!)

With the 2017 Women's World Cup there was/is a massive opportunity to grow the game in this country; but visibility is everything; and with the games consigned to Pay-TV, how much visibility is there really going to be?

This could have been our '2005 Ashes' moment - an event that captured the wider public's imagination!

WWC '17 coulda been a contender... and we all know how that line ends!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Serious Questions Over Spirit of Cricket Injury

The announcement of this year's Spirit of Cricket awards has led to serious questions being asked of the adults responsible for the welfare of a young female cricketer.

As detailed in the ECB press release:

The winners of the Girls’ Award is Banbury Cricket Club Under-15s bowler Amy Freeman, who was recovering from a dislocated knee at the start of the season but continued to play for her club as they were struggling to field a team. 

During one match she dislocated her other knee but continued to play on, fielding at slip, bowling from a one-step run up and apologising to her opposition as she did so. 

Amy Freeman is clearly one brave and spirited young lady, but you have to ask what on earth the supervising adults were thinking; and whether they should have allowed a minor to continue to participate with such a serious injury?

As leading women's cricket journalist, Raf Nicholson said on Twitter:

If playing on thru serious injury, risking permanent damage, is now the "spirit of cricket", it's time to get rid of the concept altogether.

I've no doubt Amy wanted to play on; but these decisions simply aren't ones we should be allowing 14-year-old girls to take for themselves; and I simply do not understand how the powers-that-be (in this case, the MCC) can possibly condone such a reckless and irresponsible approach by the coaches and/or umpires to a young player's physical well-being, risking long-term damage and (in the worst case scenario) possible permanent physical disability.

Amy is obviously an amazing and courageous girl; but serious questions need to be asked of whoever was responsible for her welfare that day; and they are questions that need answering.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

"Super" Supers 4s

The Super 4s haven't been "super" in a while... and for the past couple of years they haven't even been 4*! It's time to bring them back... and then some! Here's the plan for a "Super" Super 4s:

Four "proper" teams, with cool uniforms and badges, each with a genuine overseas "star name" - a Lanning, a Bates, a (Stafanie) Taylor or a Kapp - to spark media interest. Once a (domestic) player is selected for a team, they stay with that team - we don't chop and change every year, confusing fans and the press; but a draft system brings in new blood every season.

The tournament consists of six 'Super 4's Festival Weekends' held at proper county grounds, culminating in a "Grand Final" at Lords.

Each weekend has one 50-Over game and a T20 double-header, meaning the teams play 6 T20s and 3 One-Day games over the course of the 'season'.

At the end of the regular season, the top two teams (combining formats... again, to keep it simple for fans and the press) contest a T20 "Grand Final" at Lords, and we find a way (somehow) to broadcast this Free-To-Air on a Sunday evening.

This year's T20 at Chelmsford v India has proved that people will pay to watch top-level women's cricket, even when it isn't The Ashes - let's build on that momentum - let's make it happen!

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* There were 4 teams in 2013, but one of them wasn't a women's team.

Monday, 15 September 2014

D1/2 Play Off - Warwickshire v Somerset

A pugnacious century from Helen Shipman set the platform for a dramatic last-ball victory as Warwickshire beat Somerset at Mosley CC to retain their Division 1 status next season.

Someset batted first, posting 220 in what was very-much a team effort, with Anya Shrubsole (49), Sophie Luff (49) and Fran Wilson (58) all contributing. Luff in particular was livid with herself when she was caught on the ring by Liz Russell, but she'd done her bit, even if the lower order couldn't quite keep up the pace - losing wickets as Somerset were all-out in their final over.

Nevertheless, the 221 they'd set Warwickshire looked like a fair-old ask. The Bears needed a hero, and they found one in Shipman, who played beautifully early on, including a couple of lovely Edwardsesque late cuts, as she and Minahil Zahoor put on 101 for the first wicket.

Shipman faces Shrubsole in the opening over of Warwickshire's reply

As she grew in confidence, Shipman began to hit over the top, riding her luck a bit, but you can't argue with the scoreboard - she'd made 124 from 143 balls, when she was caught by Moria Comfort off Jenny Withers, with Anya Shrubsole running the length of the field to congratulate the Warwickshire opener on her fine innings.

The game looked Somerset's to lose then however, and even more-so going into the final over, with Isabelle Watson and Liz Russel (Warwickshire's 8 and 9) facing England opening bowler Anya Shrubsole, needing 15 to win. But to screams of delight from the pavilion, Shrubsole's first two balls were dispatched for four, and suddenly it was on! A single followed, then another BIG heave for four and it was down to two-from-two - a single from the penultimate ball brought the scores level (which (I believe???) meant that Warwickshire had actually already survived) but they made sure of it with another single of the final ball - a thrilling end to the season; but heartbreak and tears in the huddle for Somerset, who were denied for the second year running, albeit at least on the field this time.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

England Women v South Africa 3rd T20

Thoughts & analysis:
  • Lauren Winfield's 74 off 60 balls - by far her highest score in international cricket - was exactly the innings we've been looking for her to play in this series. With Lottie failing for once, someone had to stand up; and though there were still a handful of dodgy shots in the earlier overs, she did the job that was needed - which was to put runs on the board at a decent strike-rate - over 120! I said during the Test that her biggest issues seemed to be psychological more than technical; so maybe now she has proved something, to herself and to the world, this is the start of bigger things for her? Let's hope so!
  • (I still think Heather Knight should have been opening though; and so does she, it seems - basically saying as much in her pre-match interview with Isa Guha!)
  • On the South African side, I can only once again point to Dane van Niekerk and say "I wish we had one of them!" The turn she got on the ball that saw Nat Sciver stumped was something else - a weapon like that is worth it's weight in gold, not only because of what it can do, but because of the element of doubt it places in the mind of every batsman she'll ever face from now on. Oh... and she only topped the South African batting averages in the series as well - scoring twice as many runs (105) as her next-placed team-mate, Mignon du Preez (46)!
  • I was going to write that Hazell was rubbish again; but to be fair, although she was milked a bit, it was actually Brunt and Shrubsole who were expensive - both going for 30 off their 4. Basically, England really didn't have a great day with the ball at all, but...
  • The fielding was always the one area where England's professionalism was likely to tell, and it was that which dragged them out of a decidedly sticky-looking situation going into the final overs today, when it really looked like South Africa were in with a shout. Lydia Greenway is touching upon that rarest of cricketing categories - a player who is picked for their fielding alone, vitally doing for du Preez and Kapp today; and mention must also go to Nat Sciver for her amazing direct hit from the (admittedly quite short) boundary to run out Chetty.
  • Finally... the old chestnut... double-headers! The pitiful "crowd" really must persuade the ECB to think again about this - it isn't fair on the girls to play in front of an empty stadium; and it isn't fair on the true fans, who can't go to the game without paying silly money for a men's international they don't have any interest in. (Speaking for myself, anyway!)

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Improving Women's T20

Over on Women's Cricket Blog, Martin Davies has some proposals for improving the spectacle of Women's T20 cricket - an issue Izzy Westbury also raised recently in her All Out Cricket column. Here's my tuppence:

Cricket is a complicated game - that's one of the reasons why we love it; but sometimes it's a bit too complicated. Powerplays and fielding restrictions are a case in point - if you don't believe me, ask Raf Nicholson who recently attempted to explain them to an intelligent, cricket-loving eleven-year-old boy (my son) and got precisely nowhere!

So let's ditch the poweplays and apply the same rules for the entire game.

But note that I didn't say "ditch the fielding restrictions" - they are there for a reason, to stop teams just posting 9 men on the boundary at all times. But we can simplify them, and I would propose a radical simplification - require all men to be inside the circle at the moment of delivery.

This means that there will always be the option of hitting "over the top" and the fact that the girls find the boundary less often is actually an advantage here - it makes running between the wickets all the more exciting, as the race between the batsmen and the fielders trying to run them out really comes to the fore. This gives women's cricket the distinctive character that Izzy describes thus:

"... not a boundary-hitting fest, but a game that relies on quick-thinking, innovative shot-selection and graceful strokes."

So there's no need to shorten the boundary (in this scenario, the long boundary becomes a feature not a bug) or shoot one of the players - vis-a-vis Martin's (I suspect slightly tongue-in-cheek) suggestion to reduce the teams to 10 men!

Neither of these suggestions changes the fundamental nature of women's cricket - it's still cricket, with all its traditions; and I don't think either idea requires a change in the Laws either, only in the Playing Conditions. But by ditching the powerplays and requiring all fielders to be inside the circle, we've made women's T20 cricket more exciting and more accessible. (And the fact that it plays to England's strengths more than Australia's? Pure coincidence!)

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

England Women v South Africa 2nd T20

Thoughts on England's win in Northampton...
  • Charlotte Edwards' storming limited-overs summer continues - across the ODIs and T20s she has scored over half of England's runs. (Though add on the Test and it falls back to a "mere" 37%!) 
  • A side-effect of Edwards' performances at Chelmsford and Northampton is that neither Heather Knight or Danni Wyatt have had a bat yet in this series; though Heather picked up a couple of wickets with the ball tonight. 
  • I still think Knight should be opening - Winfield looked largely unconvincing again today; and though a couple of storming shots gave notice of her potential to hit through the ball, there were still more questions asked than answered I feel.
  • On the South African side, I have been really impressed with Dane van Niekerk - she looks a very solid batsman, and bowled her leg-spinners pretty tidily here and at Chelmsford as well. Like captain Mignon du Preez, she may be even better-suited to 50-over cricket - look out for her at the 2017 World Cup when, aged 24, she'll be approaching her best years with both bat and ball!
  • England were obviously some lengths ahead of South Africa again, even though the Women Proteas performed much better today than they did at Chelmsford; but was this a performance that would win us a World T20? I'm not sure. We scored runs at "7", which is what we need to be doing, but that's a lot easier to do against an attack that bowls a fair few of loose deliveries as the Saffers did tonight, and I can't help feeling that we are still some way behind Australia, who are currently showing us what a real walloping is against Pakistan.

Monday, 1 September 2014

England Women v South Africa 1st T20

Some thoughts on England's win at Fortress Chelmsford...
  • From a South African perspective, I thought 89 was pretty-much a "par score" against an England attack that looked to have a bit more "bite" than it has so far this summer. I certainly don't think the Women Proteas should be in any way disheartened with their batting performance - remember, the historic average score in a women's international T20 innings is 108 (cf. 139 in "the other game"), so they really weren't massively short with the bat. (Although I can see why you might think so... if you mostly watched m's cricket!)
  • Shrubsole looks a different bowler in T20s - suddenly she was World T20 Anya again; and Brunt also looked the business. Hazell didn't though - this game last year (i.e. the Ashes T20 at Chelmsford) she was England's best bowler; but I'm afraid she hasn't been very good all summer and she wasn't great again tonight, so I think Farrant really has to play in the next match* - she isn't a like-for-like replacement, but she will do a similar job.
  • Why, oh why, oh why is Lauren Winfield opening the batting? I know she was "unlucky"... again... but I'm starting to wonder if the antitheses of an old adage is at work here: The more out of my depth I am, the unluckier I get! And it isn't like we don't have a solid, settled, classy opening alternative - so I really hope Heather is put back where she belongs ASAP.
  • It is a pity Danni Wyatt's one contribution was a horrible misfield, which was very out of character too - she is usually excellent in the outfield. I'd still really like to see her batting at "first drop", which I guess isn't going to happen, but I do hope she gets some chance to show in this series why we were all clamouring for her inclusion in this team.
  • Lottie. (Enough said.)
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* Assuming she is fit - and I haven't heard anything to the contrary.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

England Women in New Zealand February 2015 Tour Dates

In the next round of the Women's International Championship, England head to New Zealand for 3 WIC matches, two additional ODIs and 3 T20s.

Feb 11 ODI* Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
Feb 13 ODI* Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
Feb 15 ODI* Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
Feb 19 T20 Cobham Oval, Whangarei
Feb 20 T20 Cobham Oval, Whangarei
Feb 24 T20 Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln
Feb 26 ODI Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln
Feb 28 ODI Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln

* = WIC Match

England already have 5 WIC points on the board after their series with India. Meanwhile, New Zealand travel to the West Indies for their first-round of WIC matches this September.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Preview: England Women v South Africa T20s

In their final engagement of the summer, England face South Africa's Women Proteas in 3 T20s, at Chelmsford, Northampton and Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Much of England's team sheet writes itself, but there are still a couple of areas for debate.

I'd like to see Edwards and Knight open the batting, looking to reprise the show they put on in the 1st ODI at Scarborough, where they got England off to a flyer, playing quality cricket shots which delighted the crowd and the scoreboard!

Then I'd call for Wyatt to bat at 3 - she might make runs or she might not, but she has been in fantastic form this year, and as an added bonus you know the one thing she won't do is hang around. (But in reality I suspect Taylor will pull-rank and bat at 3, regardless of anything else!)

Assuming the selectors invoke the 'class is permanent' clause in the case of Lydia Greenway (who has not had a great season) the only other question is Winfield or Beaumont? I think TB scores too slowly to ever be an international T20 player, so "Moose" (Loz Winfield) it is then!

Bowlingwise, England will want to play Brunt and Shrubsole if they can, though if both play all 3 games it will be something of a miracle! The real dilemma is whether to play spinner Danni Hazell, who hasn't been showing the same form she did when she starred in last summer's Women's Ashes, or slow-medium left-armer Natasha Farrant, who could do a very similar job of drying-up the runs. My pick would be Farrant, and I think the selectors will agree with me, partly because England clearly see Farrant as "The Future" and will want to give her some cricket this summer, having sat her out of the Test and ODI squads.

So, here's my 11:
  1. Edwards
  2. Knight
  3. Wyatt
  4. Taylor
  5. Greenway
  6. Winfield
  7. Gunn
  8. Sciver
  9. Brunt
  10. Shrubsole
  11. Farrant
And... if you haven't already done so... please visit Martin Davies' Women's Cricket Blog for an alternative take: Can South Africa upset England in T20s?

Monday, 25 August 2014

England Women v India - The Gunn Show

The England-India series ended today with a wash-out at Lords. I feel especially disappointed for the younger Indian players, who must have been so looking forward to what may be their one chance to play at the Home of Cricket. (Their next opportunity will, one assumes, be the 2017 World Cup Final - and although 3 years is a lifetime in cricket, you'd have to say they are long shots to get there!)

Getty Images for the ECB
At the end-of-series ceremony, Charlotte Edwards was presented with a giant pelican (above) and a Blankety-Blank Cheque Book & Pen* for Player of the Series.

England were (as so often) very reliant on Edwards in this series - she scored a massive 30% of their runs, way ahead of Taylor (18%) and Jenny Gunn (12%).

At the other end of the scorecard, England's leading wicket-takers were (in reverse order) Heather Knight (21%), Kate Cross (24%) and... leading the way... (that name again) Jenny Gunn with 34%!

In other words, England's bowling was even more dependent upon Gunn (34%) than their batting was on Edwards (30%).

So I just wonder if perhaps (maybe?) the Player of the Series judges got the wrong woman? With 34% of their wickets and 12% of their runs, not to mention crucial catches and run-outs in the ODIs, I'll be remembering this series as The Gunn Show.

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* Disclaimer - Lottie (probably) did not actually win a Blankety-Blank Cheque Book & Pen... but I'm sure whatever she did win was just as cool!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

England Women v India 2nd ODI

Analysis of England's victory at Scarborough:

* Some centuries are sculpted from marble; others are chiseled out of granite. Charlotte Edwards' record-breaking knock was definitely the latter. A drive through the off side early on set the tone - it reached the boundary and was widely applauded in the stands, but it hadn't quite come off the middle of the bat. But still... a hundred is a hundred - it doesn't matter how you get 'em; and without Edwards, England would have had quite literally nothing to defend.

* Batting Tammy Beaumont so low down the order is completely pointless - she might as well not be there! Wyatt would score more runs and save more in the outfield too. I think TB probably should be playing on merit though - just coming in at 3!

* When England suggested, prior to the Test, that Heather Knight offered a fill-in spin bowling option, even those of us who had seen her take a five-for for Berkshire a couple of weeks before were raising our eyebrows. But she seems to have the 'taking wickets' thing down to a tee which is great as that was really what was needed today - they were keeping up with the run rate, so we had to bowl them out, and Knight's two wickets were crucial.

* Along with Edwards, Jenny Gunn was the real difference between the teams though - 4 wickets and a brilliant, vital catch right on the boundary to dismiss the dangerous Kaur, who I assume will actually loose her match fee this time, after another clear-cut act of dissent, following on from her reprimand in the Test.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

England Women v India 1st ODI

With 3 wickets and an assured half-century for England's vice-captain, it was starry, starry Knight as England beat India at Scarborough.

The weather played a big part in this game - not just the multiple interruptions (and eventual abandonment) for freezing rain, but the otherwise near-constant drizzle combined with a biting wind, made life difficult for everyone; but especially those more accustomed to sunnier climes - i.e. one team in particular! (I wonder if the ECB cheekily had this in mind when they scheduled the match all the way up here?)

England bowled first, and I didn't think they bowled particularly well actually. Jenny Gunn was businesslike, as we've come to expect; but Danni Hazell wasn't great, sending down a lot of loose full tosses. Hazell was outstanding last summer because she kept things so tight - she didn't look the same bowler at all today.

Heather Knight was somewhat fortunate to come away with the wickets she did, as she benefited from batsmen trying to attack her.

Neither Brunt not Shrubsole finished their overs, which suggests what it suggests - they weren't great; though Brunt looked quicker and more threatening in her foreshortened second spell - definitely hurrying and harrying the batsmen - so perhaps she was being eased back into things after so long out injured?

You can't really fault England's batting at all though. Edwards and Knight were fantastic - playing more shots in the first 20 overs than England managed in the entire Test at Wormsley! 

Taylor rode her luck a bit, but that's how she plays; and between them they put England so far ahead of the game that Messrs Duckworth and Lewis were hardly worth consulting when the final deluge brought about the abandonment of festivities. While it lasted though, it was a joy to watch - I almost (almost!) forgot the cold as I remembered that this is why we love this game!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Thoughts On Women's Cricket Blog's Clare Connor Interview

Martin Davies over at WCB has a fantastic in-depth interview with "The Boss", Clare Connor. Martin is a lawyer by profession, so you'd expect him to ask a lot of good questions; and to be fair The Boss gives some pretty straight answers.

Here are my 'key takes':

On Contracts

Connor basically admits that the "18 Full Time Professionals" thing is a bit of a fiction. The Tier 3 contracts are not a living wage (they "nearly" are) and the Tier 2 contracts aren't worth much more. This fits in with what I'd heard about the T2s - to quote, "I'd earn more working in MacDonnalds"!

I should add at this juncture, that I don't actually have any massive issues with where we are - the fact that there are contracts at all is a huge step up from where we were even a year ago. But I do just wish the ECB would be a bit more honest and not try to spin things to the point where people think that Lottie and Co. are partying in First Class with Broady and Cooky, which (a) could not be further from the truth; and (b) is already coming back to bite them.

On WICL

Having slammed the door on WICL earlier in the summer, Connor seems to back-track a little, admitting that things might change in 12 or 24 months. If I were to really read between the lines here, I'd say she's hinting that if WICL comes back as a genuine "partnership" with Cricket Australia (i.e. not an independent entity, but falling under the auspices of CA), it could still be a goer as far as the ECB is concerned.

It's no surprise that I'm massively in favour of WICL; and if it is a secret that many of the players are too, it's not a very well kept one; so I think re-opening that door, even if just a chink, is A Good Thing™ and I'm glad Connor has hinted at doing so.

On The County Championship

Two key rumours have been doing the rounds for several months now - that 2015 will see (a) coloured clothing, and (b) home-and-away rounds. Sources close to the ECB had already told me that the former was much more likely than the latter, and Connor basically confirms that here.

I think coloured clothing is great news, and I'm going to post on it separately, but just while we are on the subject: Clare, if you are reading this, please, please, please can we have names on shirts too?

One other interesting point - actually, I think the most interesting - is the admission that the top flight needs to be "more top-flight". We have to concentrate all the England players in Division 1 - it is ridiculous that none of the England batsmen playing in the County Championship this year faced either of our two fastest bowlers (Cross & Shrubsole) because they were both playing in Division 2! (And we wonder why they crumbled when faced with Goswami and Niranjana?)

On Test Cricket

Connor essentially admits that Test cricket isn't commercially viable by itself. Back-of-an-envelope calculations I made last year, with the help of someone who has good day-to-day knowledge of how much events like this cost to run, suggested that Wormsley probably made a loss - and if last year probably did, this year certainly did, with (I reckon) less than half the number of paying spectators!

The key question then is, is it worth carrying on with a format that we are going to see at most once or twice a year going forwards? Connor seems to suggest not, saying that it is "really hard to justify". That must have been tough to admit; but maybe it is the reality that we all (administrators, players and fans) have to face?

Professionals Beaten By Amateurs Line Unfair

Amusing as it is to see the ECB hoist by their own petard, after pushing the "we're all pros now" line so vigorously over the past few months, the angle taken by most of the press this morning on India's win is unfair on the players - this was not a case of 'Pros Beaten By Ams' but more like 'Semi-Pros Beaten by Semi-Ams'.

Most of the England players are not 'full time professionals' in the sense we would generally understand it.

For starters, one of them (Sonia Odedra) is not a pro at all - she is not centrally contracted, and has a proper job.

The rest are centrally contracted, but many of them continue to work two days a week for Chance To Shine. This means that either they haven't had a weekend off for the past 4 months, or they are not training professionally 'full time' - which by any normal definition means '5 days a week'.

Overall, my understanding is that of the players who took the field on Saturday, just two are genuinely 'full time professionals' - able to fully and independently support themselves over the medium-to-long-term playing cricket; and not dependent upon shared housing, secondary sources of income or 'The Bank of Mum and Dad'. (Though to be fair, a couple of others are quite close and will be genuine full-time pros this time next year most likely.)

But what about India? Are they really 'amateurs'? Well, they are certainly not 'full time professionals' but most of them aren't quite amateurs either. For example, those who work for Indian Railways are employed partly as cricketers, not the "full-time ticket collectors" depicted by the press. In reality, Indian Railways is effectively acting as a sponsor of women's cricket, in the same way Chance To Shine did in England up until four months ago. It isn't an ideal situation, and many think the BCCI (which isn't exactly short of a few bob) should be doing this job; but genuine 'full time amateurs' the players are not.

So it isn't like England were beaten by a team of girls who hadn't picked up a ball for six months, because they'd been picking up tickets instead! They were beaten by a team of players who train several times a week, in decent facilities, with proper (albeit not 'full time') coaching/ medical support and so on - basically, the same situation that England were in not too long ago.

I guess none of this really matters - the press need An Angle and they found one. (As someone once said, the press always seen to write with accuracy and authority... except when they write about something I know about!) And one little post on one little blog probably isn't going to set the record straight, especially as it slightly contradicts the 'party line' from the ECB. But I do feel sorry for the players on this one - it is almost like the press are saying that they were expected to win this Test just because they are 'full time pros' and India are 'amateurs' - which would be unfair, even if they actually all were.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

England Women v India Day 4

So... that's that as far as Test cricket goes for another year. India looked delighted with their win, and certainly they deserved it. The calm assurance of Mithali and Pandy at the crease this morning could not have contrasted more sharply with the gulp-inducing nervousness of Tammy Beaumont and Loz Winfield on Day 1; and although Charlotte Edwards said afterwards that the pitch had flattened-out I can't help wondering if the difference was as much mental as environmental.

Perhaps the toss was the key - had England won it and bowled themselves, it would have been India under that pressure on the first morning, and things might have been very different.

Clare Connor said afterwards that it had been a great Test match. I have to say I can't honestly agree... and I've a funny feeling in her heart-of-hearts she wouldn't really agree either. Unlike last summer's Ashes Test, there were no battling big innings or thrilling bowling spells - Jenny Gunn's Man of the Match performance was workmanlike but little more. (Sorry Raf!) Overall, the run rates limped along (well under 2/over in the 4th innings) and there were few "shots" played. Even the wickets were dull LBWs rather than the splattered stumps or daring diving catches of which cricketing memories are made.

And so to Scarborough and Lords for the ODIs. You'd have to say England remain favourites; but with India's victory here will come a renewed confidence, so it is going to be a close series, especially with the added impetus of International Women's Championship points at stake. Let's hope the weather is kind and gives us a series to remember; because I'm afraid this Test kind-of wasn't.

Friday, 15 August 2014

England Women v India Day 3

Brief random thoughts from Wormsley:

* Although Jenny Gunn's battling 50 made a game of it, this has been India's day, with their bowlers doing a job to finish England off before they got out of sight; and their batsmen looking VERY comfortable - more so, in fact, than the 2/over run rate would suggest.

* The Indian's approach has been pretty low risk - hence the anaemic run rate - but I guess if it wins them the game tomorrow, then all's fair in cricket, as in love and war. But... it hasn't been the most pulsating day in living memory.

* Although Heather Knight (eventually) got a wicket, her early introduction smacked of desperation at a point where England didn't (yet) need to be desperate. Also... is it a tacit admission that they should have played Hazell?

* Can England still win this Test? If they can get Mithali out early, yes - but the way she is playing, you'd have to say India have the edge. It could still be close though - bring on the final day!

England CAN Bat, So Why Have't They? Some Thoughts...

England's batting has been pretty woeful at Wormsley; but why?

Players? Are these the right 6 batsmen to be facing the Indians in this Test? You'd have to largely say yes! You can argue the merits of picking Danni Wyatt for the T20s... and indeed I have! And there is perhaps a case for finding a place for Amy Jones, maybe batting at 6 if you shuffled Edwards back to the top of the order? But overall, these players are the best we have; and they perform week in week out in the county championship, so what else is different?

Pace? There isn't a speed gun at Wormsley; and there certainly aren't any in the county championship; but even to the naked eye it is clear that Goswami and Niranjana are a couple of degrees faster than anyone playing in Division 1 of the County Championship*. So I wonder if England are getting out to shots that would have worked fine for them in domestic cricket? After all, the ball only has to come on a fraction of an inch faster to turn a leg glance into a leg-before.

Pitch? It is possible the pitch may also be contributing here - the Women's County Championship is mostly played on club grounds, with part-time ground staff, who with the best will in the world aren't going to produce the kind of track that the Getty billions buy you at Wormsley. Combined with the fact that the curators were explicitly asked by the ECB to manufacture a pitch with more in it for the bowlers than last year's bore-draw Ashes road, and this is perhaps the result? (Again, the ball only has to come on that little bit quicker to make a big difference!)

Pressure? As we all know, women's Tests don't come along very often - the next one is basically a year away! That creates the kind of mental stress which can fold even the coolest bastman - "It's my one chance: don't blow it; don't blow it!" (Doubtless the players will tell you they weren't thinking that, but...) Having a big crowd willing you on can also add to the sense of responsibility I'm sure, and while some feed on it, maybe in other cases the only thing it feeds is their anxiety?

Umpires? Are these top-flight umpires more likely to confidently call marginal LBW decisions than those in the county championship? I've really no evidence for this whatsoever; but there have been a lot of LBs, and I wonder if the benefit of the doubt just swings a different way with the amateur / semi-professional umpires we get in domestic cricket?

At the end of the day, if England make even another 30 today - putting the pressure on India this time, with Cross and Shrubsole steaming in to win the match for the home side - all this will be forgotten. So... here's hoping it will be!

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* England's fastest bowlers - Cross and Shrubsole both play in Division 2.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

England Women v India Day 2

Random thoughts on Day 2:
  • There is an annual festival held at Wormsley called Words & Wickets, which seeks to celebrate cricket and literature. This year's event took place a month or so ago; and it is becoming increasingly apparent that they didn't tidy-up properly afterwards - they took the "Words" home with them, but they left a couple of "Wickets" behind, and now they've bred out of control. Like Rampant Rabbits at an Ann Summers party, they're popping up everywhere and no one seems to know quite what to do with them - 26 in 2 days is crazy; and you wouldn't bet against the other 14 falling tomorrow!
  • To be fair though, my main memory of today will be not wickets but RAIN! It was so heavy at one point that I had to wonder if we were all part of some elaborate ECB marketing tie-up to promote Russell Crowe's new Noah movie!
  • Unfortunately for England however, the ground staff did a bang-up job, and play restarted all too soon, with those naughty wickets rabidly resurfacing to do for Edwards, who was actually looking in pretty good nick before the break, and Greenway, who really will want to forget this Test (8 + 1) almost as much as Heather Knight (1 + 0)!
  • However, all will be forgotten if Gunn and Taylor can put on even another 30-odd tomorrow to give the seamers something to bowl at - 120 will be a fair old target in the context of this game, and both sides will have everything to play for.

England Women v India Day 1

Random thoughts on where it all went wrong at Wormsley -

  • Prior to the Test, all the talk was of whether England would pick one spinner or two. In the end they went with 'Plan C' - no spinners - which was certainly a surprise; but I think it actually made sense. Word behind the scenes was that once England decided to play six batsmen, it came down to a straight toss-up between Odedra and Hazell; and they just concluded that the former was more likely to take wickets in conditions which were certainly not unfriendly to a bit of swing and seam.
  • Where England got it all wrong however was the batting order. You obviously don't open with your two best batsmen; but not opening with your two best openers is all kinds of crazy, and they paid for it big-time. It was a bad toss to lose, in the only Test of the summer, so the pressure was on and England needed level heads to deal with that. In other words, what they needed was Edwards' experience at the top of the order. What they got was Winfield and Beaumont batting together far too early in the day - feeding off each others nerves and discomfort, and inducing a collective wobble that saw the team get bowled out for a score they'd have been ashamed of in a T20!
  • I felt really sorry for Sonia Odedra, because while she can bat a bit-and-a-half at county level, she wasn't picked as a batsman here, and having to make her international d├ębut walking out at 79/8 was not ideal to say the least! That she hung around for half an hour and made "a" run was actually a massive positive then - it showed the world the character and fight which some of us have long know she has! When it came to her bowling, I thought she looked pretty solid, and although she didn't take a wicket, I'm sure there's one coming - hopefully first thing tomorrow!
  • A couple of other minor points:
    • Three slips (plus gully) was one slip too many for England. Third slip never looked like taking anything, and with runs at a premium the man would have been better-off deployed in the outfield, where Winfield and co were having to run their socks off. (To be honest, it looked a bit over-premeditated: "This is our plan, and we're sticking to it no matter what!")
    • Jenny Gunn was obviously England's hero; but I thought she bowled maybe two overs too many towards the end. With Goswami and Niranjana looking reasonably comfortable, obviously playing for the close, England should have changed things up a little sooner and given Nat Sciver more than 3 overs.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Grundy Injury Opens Doors For Odedra & Wyatt

An injury to Beccy Grundy has given Paul Shaw the opportunity he needed to frantically back-pedal over the ridiculous omission of Danni Wyatt from England's T20 squad.

Grundy has suffered a "femoral stress reaction"! No - I've no idea either! But it means she's out for the rest of the summer; opening up a gap in all 3 squads - Test, ODI and T20.

Steph Buttler comes into the Test squad, but unless Hazell gets hit by at least 3 buses, I can't see Butler playing; which means Odedra is now a dead-cert! (Yay!) (Although it would mean, disappointingly, that she would no longer be my official "favourite player never to have played for England"!)

Odedra will also stay in the camp for the ODIs, with Wyatt then coming back into the squad for the T20s - which is exactly where she should have been all along, having scored pots and pots of runs in this years county championships, bowling or no bowling!

As Raf Nicholson put it on Twitter: "Sense prevails!!"

Quite!

Royal London Women's One Day County Championship Cup Review

It's hard to believe that the RLWODCCC is over already - not half way through August! I guess this new calendar makes sense, in that it allows the England players to participate in the entire caboodle; but it is still a private disappointment that I have to wait until NEXT YEAR to see another county match!

I've come to love watching the domestic game from up-close on the boundary. Earlier in the summer I attended a day of the men's Test v Sri Lanka at Lords, and while the view from yeigh-high in the stands was fantastic, the whole experience was also slightly disorienting. Where I really wanted to be was up by the rope, somewhere around deep backward point, sitting on my deck-chair with the grass under my feet!

It was fantastic to be proved completely wrong (at least for the moment) about the Spanish Footballisation of women's county cricket! (I predicted that one impact of professionalism would be a two-horse, Barca/Madrid style race for the championship between Kent and Sussex; with everyone else fighting it out for third.)  However, it does have to be said that the failure of my prediction was mostly because it was more of a one-horse race this year, as Kent swept all before them in the 50-over competition.

Sussex's implosion in the final third of the championship was certainly unexpected, but in retrospect not entirely inexplicable - retirements, injuries and ECB directives for contracted players not to bowl/ bat/ keep - all took their toll. But they'll be back; and I certainly wouldn't rule out my Spanish Footballisation prediction over the longer term, with the fantastic support that Sussex get from their "brother" club down on the south coast, including the most professional coaching setup in the women's domestic game.

At the nether-end of the table, Essex were relegated, and Warwickshire look likely to join them. I saw Warwickshire play Berkshire in the final round... or more accurately, Warwickshire play Heather Knight, who scored a century and took a fifer... and it wasn't pretty - with players standing disinterested in the outfield; and in one case completely ignoring a fielding opportunity because the girl in question was too busy grouching to her (boy?)friend on the boundary that she hadn't had a bowl yet!

My local team, Berkshire, ended up a creditable third - though partly because two of their most difficult games (Sussex and Kent) were cancelled; and I feel compelled to admit that the T20s (where they scraped through the relegation play-offs) are perhaps a fairer reflection of where they stand.

Finally, my 'Team of the Year' would have to be Middlesex - one of only two all-amateur outfits in the championship - who proved what you can achieve by being "A TEAM" - rather than a collection of individuals who happen to turn up at the same ground on the same day! Much credit for this must go to Beth Morgan, their Captain Fantastic, for building a team spirit that is clearly unmatched elsewhere; and I can't wait to see how they build on this next year - I'm looking forward to it already!

Friday, 8 August 2014

England's Batting Order Dilemma

England go into next week's Test against India with a strong batting line-up: Edwards, Taylor, Greenway and Knight would all walk into any team in the world. And although controversies persist about the omission of Wyatt from the T20 squad, I think the (assumed) selection of Beaumont for the Test makes sense, especially as she offers a back-up wicket-keeping option.

But dilemmas aplenty remain, in particular regarding the batting order.

In last summer's Ashes Test, Edwards came in at 4, England lining-up as follows:
  1. Knight
  2. Brindle
  3. Taylor
  4. Edwards
  5. Greenway
But by January, Edwards was back in her more customary opening role for the Test at the WACA:
  1. Edwards
  2. Knight
  3. Taylor
  4. Greenway
  5. Brindle
(Edwards came in later in the second innings, but only because she had to, having been off the field with an injury.)

So, which order will England go with this time?

A straight swap of Beaumont for Brindle, with Beaumont coming in at 5? Anyone who has ever seen Beaumont play will know that this makes no sense - she is a defensive accumulator. When I saw her open with Edwards for Kent against Middlesex this year, she had made just 4 when Edwards was run out for 44. And yet she still went on to make 53 - the top score of the innings. So, Beaumont needs TIME... and she likely won't get that coming in at 5.

But equally, batting Edwards down the order seems like a waste, especially given that she appears to be in better form than ever; while relegating Knight would seem a particularly retrograde step for England's new vice-captain and captain-elect.

I wonder if the answer for the Test (not the ODIs and certainly not the T20s!) is for Beaumont to come in at 3 and for Taylor to drop-down?

Taylor has generally occupied the Number 3 slot in the mould of David Gower - all class and flowing elegance. Beaumont would have to draw a very different interpretation of the role, being more of a Jonathan Trott-like brick wall. But I think that's something she could do, and it makes the most of her talents, which England will need to do if they are to prevail.

So, here's the batting line-up that I'd go with:
  1. Edwards
  2. Knight
  3. Beamont
  4. Taylor
  5. Greenway

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Lifting The Veil Of The Knight

As anybody who was at Wormsley for last summer's Women's Ashes knows, England's new vice-captain Heather Knight, can bat long. Her 157 was one of the great innings of women's Test cricket, especially given the match situation, with England truly in the deep stuff at 113/6.

Even back then though, innings like this were becoming the rule rather than the exception. She had already scored over 800 runs for Berkshire that summer, topping the domestic averages with two centuries and five fifties.

This season has been a little quieter, but her final innings of the Women's County Championship - 72 not-out against Middlesex and 101 versus Warwickshire - suggested a player coming back to her best at the perfect time for the start of the international season. The latter innings was particularly impressive, as she drove beautifully, keeping her head amid the chaos of what was otherwise a typical Berkshire collapse!

Now Knight has been named England vice-captain; and although no one has quite used the words "succession plan" the thinking in the England camp is clearly that she will succeed Charlotte Edwards when the current skipper retires, which she is expected to do after the World Cup in England in 2017.

So the question is... why Knight? She certainly wasn't the "obvious" choice - that would have been wicket-keeper-batsman Sarah Taylor. Chippy in the field and good with the media, Taylor is the closest thing England have to an Ellyse Perry-style "superstar". In contrast, Knight is quiet, reserved and modest; and clearly less-than-comfortable in front of a camera lens - which is (let's face it) part of the job of England captain.

One reason may be that Knight is two years younger than Taylor; and though that might not seem a lot, it does mean she will be 27 when she succeeds, not 29. Taylor also has long-term fitness concerns - wicket-keepers are particularly prone to "niggles" and Taylor is no exception. So, if you were to ask which of the two is absolutely guaranteed to still be playing in 2018, you'd have to say Knight.

However, I think there are also some deeper considerations.

As a cricketer, Sarah Taylor is pretty-much the finished article by now; whereas Knight is more malleable - Taylor would be the captain she is; whereas England can make Knight the captain they want her to be.

This goes for media profile too; and one does wonder if the letters "K" and "P" came up in discussions? (England have long-tolerated Charlotte Edwards occasional tendency to go off-message - but they would rather have someone who they can be sure won't!)

Knight is also a very different kind of captain to Taylor. Taylor's brilliance on the field can translate to a certain brashness off it with fellow players, especially those that haven't lived-up to the very high standards she sets herself... and the problem is that that is often everyone else on the pitch! In contrast, Knight will be a bit more 'pastoral' - and that is going to be an important part of the captaincy going forwards, as England tour more in the professional era.

Will Knight be a success? It is going to be a tough job living up to the legend that is Charlotte Edwards, especially in an era which is going to become increasingly competitive, as the other international sides improve and professionalise. While World Cup finals have never been child's play; the groups and semis sometimes have been. But now, with the emergence of West Indies and South Africa to challenge to traditional "Big 4", that will be less and less the case. So it isn't going to be easy for Knight - she will need to 'bat long'. But as everyone knows... that's one thing she really can do!

Monday, 4 August 2014

England Squad - Thoughts On Odedra, Knight & Wyatt

Nice Surprise Of The Day

Notts' Sonia Odedra is what I believe the men call a 'Journeyman Pro' - good enough to have had a long and successful career at the top of the domestic game, but never quite getting her opportunity at international level. But that could all change at Wormsley. With fitness doubts persisting around at least two other bowlers, this could be Odedra's big chance; and no one deserves it more.

Least Surprising Surprise Of The Day

Heather Knight has superseded Jenny Gunn as vice-captain, and (barring "events") will succeed to the helm when Charlotte Edwards retires in 2017.

Genuine Disappointment Of The Day

I know everyone... including the player herself... thinks I've got it in for Danni Wyatt; but I honestly haven't and I'm genuinely shocked and disappointed for her that she hasn't been included in at least the T20 squad, despite having had a storming domestic season with the bat, including a starring role in yesterday's T20 finals victory for Notts!

You have to ask, is TB really going to score more runs more quickly than Wag in the shortest format? Yes, TB has some strong numbers this year, but she has accumulated her runs - starting slowly (sometimes very slowly e.g. v Middlesex) and building big(ish). All the evidence suggests TB is not the player we need coming in at 5 in a T20; and it does leave you wondering how much county cricket the selectors have actually watched recently?

(Having said this, TB is absolutely (and correctly) nailed-on to play in the Test though.)

My Test Team

Edwards, Knight, Taylor, Greenway, Beaumont, Sciver, Gunn, Odedra, Hazell, Cross, Shrubsole

So... yes, I think Odedra will play! (But Martin Davies thinks not!)

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Royal London Cup - Whither The Cancelled Games?

So... Kent have been declared County Champions. They were awarded the cup on Sunday, and the ECB have made it official on their web site!

But... what about the cancelled games?

According to the competition rules (I read them so you don't have to!) teams are strongly encouraged to reschedule cancelled games - the home side are expected to arrange this, but should they not do so, the away side may step in and reschedule it themselves.

In Kent's case, they have two games which could theoretically be rescheduled; and were they to be replayed later in August, Kent would presumably be without their England players - in other words, there is every chance they would lose both games, and have to hand over the cup to Surrey!

However, there is a caveat/ get-out. Rescheduled games have to be personally approved by Clare Connor (she is explicitly named in the rules) so presumably if anyone did try to force replays, she would just not approve them.

I don't have a massive issue with any of this - as far as I am concerned, cancelled games are part of cricket, and they should probably just be voided there and then.

But I do think it is symptomatic of the way cricket tends to be run at ECB Towers - making rules which are then ignored when it isn't convenient! And that, I do have a bit of a problem with!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Royal London Cup: Berkshire v Warwickshire

England's Heather Knight scored a century and took five wickets as Berkshire beat Warwickshire by 67 runs at Wokingham Cricket Club.


Berkshire won the toss, and electing to bat looked like a great decision as Knight and Alex Rodgers took them rapidly to 49 before Rodgers was bowled by Georgia Hennessey. Knight looked back to her brilliant best in this match, driving beautifully; but Berkshire otherwise did not have their best day, with nobody else making more than 20, and three batsmen bagging ducks, as Isabelle Watson and Georgia Davies took 3 wickets each.

Knight reached her century; but was then the last man out in just the 43rd over, stumped coming down the wicket as she tried to hit out. (Hitting out really isn't her style and it showed!)

Chasing 199, Warwickshire seemed to be ahead on points after 20 overs, at 53/2 with Berkshire's bowling looking a bit toothless.

But then Knight brought herself on, bowling the most "medium" of medium-pacers off a very short run-up. Even her biggest fan would have to concede that she didn't look particularly threatening... and I do concede it...  but one wicket fell, and then another and another; and before anyone knew it she had a fifer, as Warwickshire collapsed to 123 all out, with Hennessey top-scoring with 48.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

International Women's Championship Ups The Ante

The ICC Women's Championship really is a bit of a "game-changer" for international women's cricket.

Not only does it act as a 'Future Tours Program' for women's cricket, ensuring that everybody plays everybody else over a two-and-a-bit year cycle; but it also adds an extra competitive edge by acting as a qualifying tournament for the 2017 World Cup in England.

Just four of the eight teams involved in the Women's Championship will qualify directly for the World Cup; though there are two caveats here:
  1. The "bottom" sides get a BIG second-chance, via a qualifying tournament with the "minor" nations; and given the disparities between the "major" and "minor" nations, you've got to think that in all likelihood they would still qualify anyway.
  2. You also have to wonder what would really happen in practice if England (as hosts) or India actually failed to qualify? Surely TV/ sponsor pressure would be overwhelming to include them regardless?
Nevertheless, direct qualification is still a major incentive; and it is clear we are seeing the impact of this in the news coming out of New Zealand.

First, the board have (for the time-being) sorted-out their stand-off with the players over contracts. You may recall that in April 2013, four leading players were offered coaching jobs; but a year later, captain Suzie Bates quit, saying that the demands of the role were too onerous, leaving no room for training or recuperation.

The situation has been resolved by granting 10 players an annual stipend in addition to their match fees and expenses. It isn't a huge amount of money; but it is an improvement on the previous situation; and leaves the 10 leading players in a much healthier situation.

Second, New Zealand cricket have reacted to the challenge of the Women's Championship by appointing two big names - Jacob Oram and Matthew Bell - to the women's coaching staff for the period leading up to their crucial tour to the West Indies this September. With those automatic qualification spots up for grabs, this series matters to New Zealand like never before, and West Indies are one of their key competitors in the fight.

Oram and Bell bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the New Zealand women's setup - and they are going to need it, because the competition is getting fierce as England, Australia, India, West Indies, New Zealand and South Africa all scrap it out; with Pakistan and Sri Lanka also in the mix with the potential to cause an upset at any time.

It's going to be an exciting couple of years for international women's cricket!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Tickets Please! (Please!) (Pretty Please!)

England Women are playing India in two ODIs at Scarborough in North Yorkshire next month; and even though Scarborough is a Fair old trek from Wokingham, I'm going - I've booked my Scarborough hotel room and paid my Scarborough train Fair!

(Although at the price I paid, perhaps it should be called a Scarborough train Unfair!)

(But I digress!)

(And... no more Scarborough Fair puns!)

(Promise!)

Anyways... having paid almost £300 for travel and accommodation, I was keen to get my tickets for the games. I know women's ODIs don't sell out very often, but when you've paid that much, you don't take your chances... right?

So I toddled off to the web site advertised on the poster, only to see the following:

"Tickets are not available online."

Yes, you read that right - it's 2014, and tickets are not available online!

But at least (the web site tells me) there is a "Ticket Hotline" open during "normal office hours".

So I called the ticket hotline today, only to be told that tickets are not available over the phone either. "You can buy them on the gate!" I was helpfully informed.

What?

Have I landed in the middle of an episode of Fool Britannia?

We're having a cricket match - would you like some tickets?

Yes please!

WELL YOU CAN'T HAVE THEM! HA! HA!! HA!!! HA!!!! HA!!!!!

I officially despair.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Berks/ Middlesex/ Sussex T20s

Random thoughts on a top two days at Wokingham:

  • The new style competition worked really well. Final qualification went down to the wire, with Sussex needing to restrict Berkshire to 93 in the last game, having made 130 themselves. In the end, Berkshire did just enough, putting Middlesex through to the finals.
  • It was great to see Middlesex - one of the few all-amateur teams left - have such a good couple of days. (Although Sussex will argue that it was more that they (Sussex) just had a really bad day "at the office" on the Tuesday.)
  • Talking of "at the office"... it is a pity that the tournament couldn't be scheduled for a weekend. There were a handful of fans there (more than at a regular county fixture) but there would have been even more if it hadn't been a "school" day.
  • I didn't see all the games (see above!) but my Player of the Tournament was Georgia "G" Adams - she batted quickly and classily - like a mash-up between stylish Sarah Taylor and zippy Danni Wyatt. If England were to look beyond the contracted players for this summer's T20s against South Africa... which they almost certainly won't... they wouldn't have to look far to find an opening batsman who can get them off to a smart start.
  • Also worth a mention in dispatches is Beth Morgan - Middlesex would not be where they are without her, in her capacity as player, captain, coach, psychologist and everything else in-between! (And all for the love of the game - no shiny new central contract (or shiny new Kia Sportage) for her!)

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Kia Deal a Huge Baby-Step

Let's not kid ourselves - the Kia deal announced by England women yesterday is a baby-step - it is worth a small six-figure sum, much of which is "in kind" via the loan of 20-odd (admittedly gorgeous) cars. The players are understandably chuffed about their new rides, but I hope they don't become white elephants, particularly for the Tier 3 players who will still be shopping in Aldi tomorrow, even if they'll be driving there in a car you'd more expect to see parked outside Waitrose!

So this is a baby step... but as baby steps go, it is also HUGE!

It proves that there are companies out there who are prepared to sponsor women's sport. It shows that women's cricket is a viable commercial proposition. It hints at a new future for our sport - one where we sign our own deals and build our own partnerships. Women's cricket needs to embrace the possibilities - today our own sponsor; tomorrow our own TV deal; one day... maybe sooner than you think... our own independent sport.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Bookmark: England Women Future Tours Program

With the ICC Women's Championship effectively acting as a 'Future Tours Program' for women's cricket, we now know pretty-much exactly when and where England Women will be playing over the next couple of years.

Summer 2014 India (H)
South Africa (H*)
Winter 2014/15 New Zealand (A)
Summer 2015 Australia (H)
Winter 2015/16 South Africa (A)
Summer 2016 Pakistan (H)
Autumn 2016 West Indies (A)
Sri Lanka (A)

Home fixtures in bold.

* Not part of the ICC Women's Championship. 

Hopefully this isn't the only cricket we will see between now and 2017; but even if it is, it still means we have a lot to look forward to!

Friday, 4 July 2014

England-India ODIs To Be Live Streamed

The ECB have announced that this summer's 3 ODIs between England and India will be live-streamed over something which I believe the kids call "the intertubes".

This is fantastic news for fans who can't get to the games, which take place at the end of August, at Scarborough Cricket Club and Lords.

The implications of this are particularly interesting, as they build on the precedent set by the streaming of last summer's Lords ODI. Technically speaking, SKY TV own the 100% exclusive broadcast rights to all cricket played in England - from men's tests right down to village! But with SKY not interested in screening these ODIs, a deal has been done allowing the ECB to grab them back.

I'm usually the first person to criticise the ECB for their (many) inadequacies; so on this occasion let me be the one to sing their praises - the fans have been calling for it, and the ECB have made it happen - THANK YOU ECB!


Sunday, 29 June 2014

Royal London Cup: Berkshire v Middlesex

Heather Knight made her first real "score" of the county season as Berkshire beat Middlesex by 5 wickets on a sunny Sunday in Wokingham.


Put into bat, Middlesex started strongly, with openers Helena Stolle (29) and Natasha Miles (41) putting on 83 for the first wicket; but Berkshire's bowlers were on top from then on, with Fi Morris taking 3/17, as Middlesex ended all out on 173, with only Beth Morgan (22) putting up much resistance in the later overs.

In reply, Berkshire's captain Heather Knight took a long time to get going - she was still on just 10 when Corinne Hall became the second of Maia Bouchier's 3 victims, with The Beavers looking perhaps in a little trouble at 36/3.

However, with Middlesex's attack depleted by the loss of Izzy Westbury to a shoulder injury, sustained whilst batting earlier in the day, Knight and Amanda Potgieter (38) took Berkshire to 120 before Potgieter was well bowled by Sophia Dunkley. But with Knight looking increasingly confident, playing largely straight down the ground as is her wont, Berkshire got home by 5 wickets, with 8 overs to spare - Knight finishing on 66*.

It is worth noting one other significant contributor to the day's affairs - Ms Extras, who made a whopping 69 runs over the two innings, 52 of them coming in wides, including a couple of 4s. I'm not sure I'd go quite so far as to say that the 35 wides Middlesex conceded cost them the game, but they certainly didn't help!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

WICL: The Case Against - Keeping Women In Their Place

As we all know by now, the ECB don't want their cricketers playing in the WICL. But why? What is the case against? It seems to come down to this:
  1. It's a private company.
  2. Er...
  3. That's it!
Pretty-much the only case anyone has been able to make against the WICL is that it is a private company.

And much as I applaud multi-millionaire Giles Clarke's sudden conversion to radical communism and the abolition of private property, I'm having a hard time believing it!

Lizzy Ammon has gone slightly further here (in an otherwise supportive piece) by suggesting that a private company might threaten the "reputation of the game" and hinting that a private company might carry more risk of corruption; but if Clarke is really worried about malfeasance, he'd be better off doing more to tackle actual, proven corruption in the men's game, rather than railing about possible corruption in a women's tournament that hasn't actually happened yet!

So, what's the real truth? I guess like most things in life, it's about power. Power to control the women's game, and ensure that it doesn't become financially competitive with men's cricket. It's about keeping women 'in their place' on the sidelines, earning pocket-money salaries that Clarke himself wouldn't get out of bed for. That's why Clarke really opposes the WICL. And oddly enough... that's why I support it!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Royal London Cup: Middlesex v Surrey

Middlesex beat Surrey by 4 wickets on an inclement day in north London.

Surrey, put into bat on a mizzly morning, looked to be in real trouble as they slumped to 93/8, but a 9th-wicket stand of 84 between Catherine Robson and New Zealander Rachel Candy dragged them up to 177 off their 50 overs.


Middlesex replied slowly, and at the half-way point looked to be falling a bit short, finding themselves at 79/5 after 25 overs; but former England star Beth Morgan became the difference between the two teams as she swiped her way to 79* from 91 balls. It wasn't the prettiest innings, but it was mighty effective and took Middlesex past their target with 2 overs to spare.

It has to be said that Surrey missed the bowling of Nat Sciver, who spent much of the game fielding on the boundary and looking none too happy about it, apparently at the behest of the ECB. I know that the contracted players are England's first and foremost, but it is a pity that when the fans do turn up to county games, they don't get to see the stars make a full contribution.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Edwards, Knight & Taylor To Play Aussie State Cricket

Giles 'Mystic Meg' Clarke may have told England's contracted players that there's no WICL in their future this winter; but three of our biggest stars have been handed a rather nice consolation prize - the chance to play state cricket in Australia's WNCL.

Sarah Taylor will keep wicket for the South Australia Scorpions; Heather Knight will be stepping out for the Tasmanian Roar; while Charlotte Edwards will captain the Western Fury.

The WNCL is arguably a much more challenging environment for these top players than English domestic cricket; so not only will the three teams involved benefit, but the players will too.

The England stars won't quite be playing a full season - they are scheduled to return home at Christmas, so they'll miss the chance to play in the WNCL finals in February.

But my real hope is that this is part of a deal with Cricket Australia which will see some Southern Stars playing in our own Women's County Championship prior to next year's Women's Ashes in England. (In which case... I call dibs on Meg Lanning for Berkshire right now!)

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Super 3s 3rd OD In Brief, Plus What Have We Learned?

In a match reduced to 20-overs by torrential rain, Charlotte Edwards' Rubies beat Heather Knight's Sapphires by 8 wickets.

With the Sapphires put into bat, Knight made a run-a-ball 42, but everyone else found runs hard to come by as the Sapphires totalled-out at just 88 from their 20 overs.

The Rubies then knocked them off in less than 12 overs, with Lottie hitting 50 off 39 and... stop me if you've heard this before... everyone else finding runs hard to come by.

So what have we learned from this years Super 3s?

Well... Lyd and Lottie can bat - they topped the averages to the surprise of absolutely nobody! Danni Wyatt didn't have too bad a time with the blade either - averaging 40-odd. (I haven't seen Wag play this year, but I've heard good things from more than one person who has, which is great news for England fans!)

The bowling numbers are a bit more interesting, with Rebecca Grundy leading the way with 10 wickets, ahead of Alex Hartley and Steph Butler, both with 8. But whether any of them will get much of a look-in over the more established names when the England teams to play India and South Africa are announced remains to be seen. (My guess is not!)

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

WICL: Clarke Comes Out Swinging

Giles Clarke came out swinging this morning, and sadly for Shaun Martyn and Lisa Sthalekar of the WICL, it wasn't that sort of out... or that sort of swinging!

The ECB's press release was hard-hitting and aggressive, with Clarke and corner-man Clare Connor coming out 100% against the WICL.

Connor's emphatic opposition to the project was something of a surprise to me, as she had previously expressed a much more positive public stance.

Clare Connor's position just a few months ago: an "exciting addition" to the calendar.

Head Honcho Giles Clarke (who is clearly leading the charge on this one) claims that "there is no support or interest for this proposed event" but I can assure him that there is plenty of both among the fans and the players.

Clarke, who made his millions at that well-known charitable institution Majestic Wines, then goes on to criticise the WICL for being a "privately run competition" as if: (a) that made a difference to anything; and (b) he would never do anything for money.

A completely random picture of Giles Clarke. (No idea who the other bloke is.)

To say I'm disappointed is an understatement; but I suspect my feelings are nothing compared to those of the players who are being denied the chance to participate in the WICL - the kind of opportunity men's cricket players take for granted, as they earn their six-figure-sums from their Big Bashes and their IPLs.

Will any of the England players rebel? Maybe not - people generally don't when you hold a gun to their head. But let there be no doubt that this is exactly what the ECB are doing.