NEWS: England Women’s Pathway Squads Announced

The ECB have today announced the players who will make up both the England Women’s Senior Academy (EWSA) and the England Women’s Academy (EWA), the two squads that form the pathway towards selection for the full England side.

The EWSA has been reduced in size from 18 players to 14 players this year, with Izzy Cloke, Lauren Bell and Charlie Dean making the step up from the EWA to take up places in the Senior Academy.

Meanwhile a number of senior players who have played a key role in the KSL appear to have lost out in the overhaul, including Georgia Adams, Thea Brookes, Georgia Hennessy, Eve Jones, Sophie Luff and Paige Scholfield.

There has been a bit of a shake-up in terms of personnel, too, with EWA head coach Salliann Briggs stepping down from her role due to “wider work commitments” (presumably not least her role as head coach of the Loughborough Lightning KSL side).

John Stanworth, as head coach of the EWSA, will now also oversee the EWA.

Both groups will be attending a series of camps over the winter and playing a number of competitive matches in the summer to enhance their development and help them become more effective performers.

Full squads:

England Women’s Senior Academy

  • Hollie Armitage (Yorkshire)
  • Ellen Burt (Sussex)
  • Lauren Bell (Berkshire)
  • Georgie Boyce (Nottinghamshire)
  • Izzy Cloke (Kent)
  • Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent)
  • Freya Davies (Sussex)
  • Charlie Dean (Hampshire)
  • Sophie Dunkley (Middlesex)
  • Katie George (Hampshire)
  • Emma Lamb (Lancashire)
  • Bryony Smith (Surrey)
  • Linsey Smith (Sussex)
  • Ellie Threlkeld (Lancashire)

England Women’s Academy

  • Alice Dyson (Derbyshire)
  • Danielle Gibson (Gloucestershire)
  • Sarah Glenn (Derbyshire)
  • Amy Gordon (Surrey)
  • Eva Gray (Surrey)
  • Rhianna Southby (Surrey)
  • Alexandra Travers (Surrey)
  • Katie Wolfe (Middlesex)
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Women’s Ashes Preview Part 1 – England

The Women’s Ashes begins with the 1st ODI, at Allan Border Field in Brisbane, on Sunday morning – starting at just after midnight UK time, with live coverage on BT Sport and BBC 5 Live.

Instinctively, you might feel England are the favourites, having just won a World Cup at which Australia under-performed, but that isn’t how the bookies see it – at time of writing, both William Hill (11/8) and Bet365 (6/4) have England and Australia at identical odds.

The ICC’s own rankings seem to agree that it is a very close call between the two sides: both have a “rating” of 128, and you have to drill down to the second decimal place before you find England ahead by 0.05 “ratings” to claim top spot.

For me, I think the rankings have a point – England are favourites… but only just!

For the first time in what feels like forever, England have a truly settled team of players who you feel all deserve to be there. At the top of the order, Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield can write their own names on the team sheet; and although Winfield has looked slightly the lesser player recently, that is perhaps only because Beaumont has been so prolific, as she has transformed herself from a solid “county pro” to a World Cup-winning Player of the Tournament.

Then a middle-order of Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver and Heather Knight is a middle order that has some serious runs in it. It says something that if you were forced to name a “weak link” here, it would be Knight, who has actually been by some way the most successful England player in Australian domestic cricket in recent years, captaining the Hobart Hurricanes to an over-achieving semi-final qualification spot in both editions of the WBBL.

Fran Wilson rounds off the batting, with the ability to play a variety of different games according to the state of the match, and her athleticism in the field at cover/ point means you can add another 2o runs to whatever she scores with the bat.

And yet for all this quality in the batting department, that is not even England’s real strength – Australia have some good bats too! But every single one of England’s bowlers would walk into Australia’s team without question.

Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole have proved themselves time and again to be warhorses on the field of play; and whilst Jenny Gunn might not “look” too threatening these days, she weaves all her years of experience into every ball and you underestimate her at your peril!

There is one question mark over England’s starting XI though – which of the four (!!) world class spinners misses out? Laura Marsh, Dani Hazell, Alex Hartley and Sophie Ecclestone can’t all play… but you’d bet Mark Robinson wishes they could!

And then… speak of the devil… there is Mark Robinson himself – the calm, gently-spoken man, who took basically the same team that never quite convinced under the previous regime – tweaked it here and there – and won the World Cup at the first time of asking!

It is still going to be close – Australia will hit some big totals and England wouldn’t be England if they didn’t collapse at least once! But overall, there is a quiet confidence about England – they have the edge, and Australia know it – hence all the “bringing the bitch back” nonsense – they can bring back all the bitch they want… but it is England who will be bringing back the Ashes!

NEWS: England Beaten By The Rain… Again… In Brisbane

With the Women’s Ashes starting on Sunday, England suffered another exasperating day in Brisbane, as their second ODI warm-up was rained-off without a ball being bowled.

Following Monday’s severely curtailed match against a young Australia XI, England were due to take on the local WNCL team – the Queensland Fire – but the rain meant the players were unable to take the field.

Head Coach Mark Robinson said: “It’s obviously hugely frustrating but there isn’t much you can do about the weather. We’re itching to be out on grass and be competitive.”

England’s only consolation is that Australia’s own preparations have been similarly affected, as they too have struggled to get time in the middle, with their match against the Fire also totally washed-out, and then their game against the youngsters abandoned after 30 overs.

We are told England are still hopeful of scheduling another warm-up prior to Sunday’s 1st ODI, which starts at just after midnight UK time.

NEWS: England Warm-Up Abandoned Due To Rain

The first of England’s two “official” Women’s Ashes ODI warm-ups – against a young “Cricket Australia XI” – was abandoned due to rain in Brisbane.

England named 12 players – adding Sophie Ecclestone to the XI they fielded in the World Cup final at Lords – but Ecclestone didn’t even get a chance to bowl a ball, as the match was rained-off after just 18.1 overs.

With Australia having won the toss and chosen to bat, Katherine Brunt took the early wickets of Sophie Molineux and Katie Mack, before Georgia Redmayne and Heather Graham dug-in to take the Aussies to 67-2. Graham was Caught & Bowled by Laura Marsh for 28, bringing Nicola Carey to the crease, but not for long, as the rain set in and play was abandoned, with Australia on 77-3.

England will get another warm-up chance on Wednesday against the same opposition, prior to the 1st ODI next Sunday.

THE GREAT DEBATE: Women’s Tests – The Case In Favour

Heather Knight has just won a World Cup. But if you ask her to tell you about her favourite innings for England, she will tell you straight: it was making 157 in the 2013 Ashes Test match at Wormsley. “It was the making of me as a player,” she told me in a recent interview.

There are many reasons not to abandon women’s Test match cricket. I have previously articulated them here. TLDR:

  1. Multi-day cricket provides a tactical and physical challenge different to any other format. When else will female players get the chance to bat for an entire day?
  2. Women’s Tests have been played since 1934 – ODIs have only been played since 1973, T20Is since 2004. History matters in women’s cricket just as much as in the men’s version.
  3. Are you a fan of men’s Tests? If we let women’s Test cricket die, you can bet that men’s Test cricket won’t be far behind. England, Australia and New Zealand Women have all been playing Test cricket far longer than men’s teams from Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

But perhaps the most important reason is the attitude of the players themselves.

Mithali Raj recently captained her team to the final of a World Cup, but even at an event celebrating that very fact, she was quoted as saying the following: “Test matches are the ultimate test for cricketers, whether it is your temperament, skill or endurance… I feel Test matches should be played as frequently as limited over games because they churn out quality players.”

Suzie Bates, one of the most talented female cricketers there has ever been, made her debut back in 2006; she has played in global finals, was Player of the Tournament at the 2013 World Cup, but when she retires there is one thing she will rue, despite everything: “Probably as I’ve got older I feel a bit cheated that I haven’t had the opportunity to play in a Test… Test matches are the pinnacle of cricket.”

If you get the chance, just ask any of the players in the England Ashes squad right now – a squad who have just won a World Cup – what it is that they are most excited about this winter. They will all tell you the same thing: the four-day encounter against the old enemy at the North Sydney Oval. Putting on that white shirt with the three lions. That’s what they will all be hoping they get to do.

Richard Clark makes an excellent point: the players know limited overs cricket far better than they know Test match cricket. But the answer isn’t to throw away the oldest – the pinnacle – format. The answer is to play more Tests.

Over to you, ICC.

THE GREAT DEBATE: Women’s Tests – The Case Against

By Richard Clark

With the Kia Super League done and dusted, all eyes are now turning to this winter’s Women’s Ashes in Australia, and the prospects of Mark Robinson’s squad regaining the trophy Australia took on these shores in 2015 to sit nicely on the mantelpiece alongside the World Cup.

As with the last three Ashes battles, the series will be decided over a multi-format campaign, involving three One-Day Internationals, followed by a four-day Test Match, and ending with three T20 games.

It’s a format that may be considered “tried and tested” to a point, albeit with some tweaks along the way – the Test Match has been moved from the beginning to the middle of the programme since it was first introduced in 2013, and has also been “downgraded” from six points to four to decrease the emphasis on one match.

The question that occurs to me, however, is “Why?”

Why is there a Test Match?

England’s women cricketers play nothing other than “short form cricket” – be it for their clubs, counties or internationally – other than during the Ashes (barring the one-off Test against India in 2014). Likewise the Australians, as far as I am aware. Whilst Tests are still considered (rightly) to be the pinnacle of the men’s game, they are virtually alien to the women’s version.

For any player making her debut in this winter’s Test – and there will be a few on both sides – this will almost certainly be their first experience of coming back the next day (and the next, and the next) to continue a match. It will be the first time they field all day, or attempt to play a “long” innings. And that’s before we throw in the floodlit aspect, too!

That won’t necessarily make for a poor match, of course. The 2013/14 Test – played in Perth – was a captivating tussle. Lowish scoring, perhaps, but fiercely contested, and in doubt until the final morning. It ebbed and flowed as Test Match cricket should, and there were key performances from Kate Cross and Nat Sciver that “announced” their arrivals.

The Test at Canterbury in 2015, however, was (and I’m a fan of women’s cricket, remember) fairly awful to watch, and to describe it as a poor advertisement for the game would be a kindness. It seemed clear that England in particular looked rudderless in their approach the game. Whilst some of the blame for that could be laid at the coach’s door, that only tells part of the story. Sheer inexperience paid a huge part.

So why play Tests? I can think of only two reasons. Firstly, because it’s what we’ve always done – the Women’s Ashes were exclusively Test-based until 2011, and a Test has been part of the three series since. Secondly, the multi-format series is the “USP” – it’s what marks the Women’s Ashes out from ANY other cricket contest, men’s or women’s (yes, I know the men have used it but it was largely ignored as a concept by all and sundry).

Are either of those arguments enough? I can’t think of another sport that uses such an alien format in one of its highest profile contests – apart, perhaps, from the foursomes segment of Golf’s Ryder Cup. Nobody would expect footballers to turn up every four years and play five-a-side for the World Cup!

It would undoubtedly be a huge shame not to see a Test Match on the calendar, but if we really want the players to produce a contest befitting the Trophy then surely they should be playing what they know best, and that is limited overs cricket.

(Tomorrow Raf Nicholson will present The Case In Favour).

INTERVIEW: Western Storm and Wales’ Claire Nicholas Reflects On KSL Victory

Ffion Wynne talks to Claire Nicholas.

Claire Nicholas was quite a remarkable and unique find of the second edition of the KSL – at 30 years old, a professional contract at such a late stage of her career came completely out of the blue, but the opportunity was one that she simply could not turn down. Nicholas, who has played all of her county cricket for Wales, comments upon the instrumental role of Western Storm’s Head Coach Trevor Griffin in her experience, due to his understanding of her different lifestyle to the other members of the squad. ‘I found fitting in training, conditioning and gym work all very challenging,’ she explains, ‘mainly due to the fact that I was holding down a full time job and bringing up a young family.’ This challenge did not restrict Nicholas, however, as she was trusted with the new ball by captain Heather Knight and finished with 5 wickets at an impressive economy of 5.92.

This responsibility of opening the bowling was described by Nicholas as her biggest challenge during the competition, due to the calibre of the players to whom she bowled (Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine and Hayley Matthews, to name a few!) and the fact that it was a very new role for her to fulfil. Nicholas names Devine (Yorkshire Diamonds) as the most difficult batsman she came up against during the competition, as she was dispatched for two consecutive sixes during her early spell, but the leadership of Knight allowed her to demonstrate resilience, change her plans and control the situation much more effectively.

The influence of the international stars, combined with the support of the coaching staff, also had a vital impact upon Nicholas’ performances, demonstrating the significance of the KSL in developing county players and providing them with an incredible opportunity to play with and against the world’s leading cricketers. ‘They brought so much experience, professionalism and character to the squad,’ Nicholas describes, ‘and I had to pinch myself during my first training session when I bowled at the likes of Heather Knight, Stafanie Taylor and Rachel Priest. They really inspired us non-international players to raise our own games to compete with them, and I have learnt so much that I hope to pass on to players in Wales.’

The inclusion of two Welsh players in the Storm squad (batsman Lauren Parfitt was also involved in their winning campaign) gives Nicholas great hope for the future of the county as she aims to inspire the younger generation to follow in their footsteps. ‘Cricket Wales is fantastic in its setup and the level of coaching that we receive as players is second to none. Now that Lauren and I have made that vital step into KSL cricket, it paves the way for others to do the same and I have no doubt we will see plenty more Welsh players involved in the future.’

The whole experience was surreal from start to finish for Nicholas, having been initially astonished to be given the opportunity to play professional cricket to finishing eventual winners, and playing a vital part in that success nonetheless. After their initial thrashing at the hands of 2016 winners Southern Vipers (having been bowled out for just 70), very few would have predicted that Storm would eventually win the competition, claiming revenge against Vipers in the process. Nicholas commends Knight’s strong leadership for the turnaround, highlighting her decision-making and the faith that she showed in all her players in difficult situations as the deciding factor in their victory, alongside monumental performances from Rachel Priest and Stafanie Taylor,

Storm’s county players also played a significant role in the team’s victory. ‘We all had to raise our game to contribute to the team’s success. From Sophie Luff’s countless dives on the boundary to save valuable runs, to Georgia Hennessy’s crowd-pleasing sixes, we all chipped in at some point to get us over the line,’ Nicholas states. ‘Away from cricket, we all got on so well as a team, which I also think was instrumental in our success. We grew as a team, and this allowed Trevor and the coaching staff to get the best out of us as a unit.’

After such a successful first taste of professional cricket, Nicholas is already looking forward to the challenges that next season will bring. Let’s hope that the next edition of the KSL will draw attention to plenty more county players aiming to make their mark in the competition.

Women’s Ashes Squad: Reaction and Thoughts

A few brief thoughts:

  • This squad contains all of the 13 players that played in the World Cup, which does make sense – why change a winning formula?
  • Sophie Ecclestone coming into the squad is a no-brainer. A few weeks back we watched her take 6-12 against Warwickshire – she didn’t just deny them the Championship title, but actually bowled Lancashire back into contention (they went on to win it). Then at Chelmsford last week in the warm-up match she set the the pink ball on fire – taking 3 wickets in one over and finishing the first innings with 5-34. If there had been any doubt left in Mark Robinson’s mind, Ecclestone stomped all over it.
  • Having said that, I’m a bit surprised that Beth Langston, Tash Farrant AND Freya Davies are all being left behind. Australia are a much stronger side with the bat right now than they are with the ball (cf: Chamari Atapattu and Harmanpreet Kaur). I’d personally have gone for a bowler-heavy squad – especially given that England have to bowl Australia out twice in order to win the Test match. Essentially you’re relying on Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole to take the strain across four days – and that worries me. Especially because…
  • … do we know how fully recovered Anya Shrubsole is from the side strain that left her sitting out of the first half of the Super League? Given her propensity to not last out for the whole of these long Ashes tours without picking up an injury or two, it seems even more strange to send her out with a pre-existing one, and NOT send back-up.
  • England now have two left-arm spinners at their disposal throughout the tour, which creates an interesting selection dilemma for Robinson. On the one hand you surely don’t drop Alex Hartley, given the way she bowled in England’s World Cup game against Australia? On the other hand Mark Robinson clearly thinks Ecclestone is the future (especially now she’s finished school – something he specifically mentioned in the press release), or she wouldn’t be on the plane at all. Perhaps Robinson might even play both of them in the same match?
  • For the last women’s Ashes in Australia (in Jan/Feb 2014) England got around the 15-player squad restrictions by naming a separate squad for the T20 leg of the series. They haven’t done that this time, for reasons known only to Robinson & co, and I think it could be an error. This is a long old tour – last time around they could barely cobble together 11 fit players by the end of it, and the ECB’s own Beth Barrett-Wild was threatened with having to take the field! Of course they (sort of) have Kate Cross and Amy Jones at their disposal were anything to go wrong – but that’s not quite the same as having an extra player actually in the camp.

NEWS: Women’s Ashes Squad – Ecclestone In For Langston

England have announced their squad for the Women’s Ashes in Australia next month. The 15-player squad is largely the same squad which won the World Cup this summer, with just one change – left-arm orthodox spinner Sophie Ecclestone, who was the leading wicket-taker in county cricket this season, comes in at the expense of fast-bowler Beth Langston.

England will also have Kate Cross and Amy Jones semi-available as potential injury replacements, with both already out in Australia playing domestic cricket.

Full Squad:

  • Heather Knight
  • Tammy Beaumont
  • Katherine Brunt
  • Sophie Ecclestone
  • Georgia Elwiss
  • Jenny Gunn
  • Alex Hartley
  • Dani Hazell
  • Laura Marsh
  • Anya Shrubsole
  • Nat Sciver
  • Sarah Taylor
  • Fran Wilson
  • Lauren Winfield
  • Danni Wyatt

The series begins with the 1st ODI in Brisbane on October 22nd and ends with the 3rd T20 in Canberra on November 21st. All matches are expected to be broadcast in the UK, with the limited overs games being shown live on BT Sport, whilst the Test will be live-streamed on the Cricket Australia web site.

NEWS: Lauren Winfield Special Guest at Cheshire Women’s End of Season Awards

Martin Saxon reports.

The Cheshire Women’s Cricket League was delighted to welcome Lauren Winfield as the special guest at its annual end-of-season presentation dinner, held this year at Hazel Grove Golf Club.

Before presenting the prizes, she told the audience how a ‘journey’ towards the 2017 World Cup win began after the England team’s disappointing exit from the World T20 in 2016. From that point, everything was geared towards the following year’s World Cup, and the England opening bat spoke at length about how the team put themselves in a position to challenge for honours once again, but also explained how they bounced back from setbacks such as losing an ODI in the West Indies via a horrendous collapse, and even losing the opening match of the 2017 World Cup campaign.

For the fifth time in the nine years since the League adopted the current awards format, Appleton’s Emma Barlow won the Division One batting award. She also shared the Division’s fielding award with Didsbury’s Hannah Jones, who also won the T20 bowling prize.

Barlow and Jones weren’t the only ones to receive more than one award either. Not only did Alison Smith captain Wistaston Village to the Division Two title this year, but she also had an outstanding personal season, finishing top of the batting and bowling rankings in Division Two, and coming second in the fielding category.

Kate Coppack scooped a bowling award in the league and a batting award for T20, as well as being chosen as the Coach’s Player of the Year for the Cheshire senior county team.

Another recipient of two awards was Chester Boughton Hall wicketkeeper Nic Capes.

Dawn Prestidge was second or third in as many as four of the CWCL performance award categories, but did not manage to bag a first place. However, Cheshire captain Prestidge did pick up the award for the county side’s Players’ Player of the Year, in a year when Cheshire hopefully started a revival in their fortunes by winning Division 3B of the county T20 tournament.

Players from nine different clubs received individual performance awards, but there were none for league champions Oakmere, whose successes this year really have been a team effort, with many different players contributing. For the first time in recent years, the Division One lead changed hands on a dramatic final day, and after Chester Boughton Hall’s four-run defeat by Didsbury, Oakmere were able to clinch the Championship by completing a seven-wicket win over Appleton.

There was one prestigious award for a member of the Oakmere club however when John Bone won the President’s Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Cricket in Cheshire. John has umpired many League matches over a long period, and has served on the League Committee as Umpires & Scorers Representative, as well as acting as a selector for the county side.

Many thanks also go once again to Di Totty and Alan Thomas for organising yet another superb event, and at the end of the formal part of the evening Di and Alan were presented with gifts to acknowledge their contribution to League Dinners over the years. This year’s event marked ten years since the first presentation dinner, held at The Tytherington Club in 2007. The CWCL likes to think of itself as a trailblazer in women’s club cricket, and believes it may be the only women’s club league that hosts a formal presentation dinner, not to mention the only one that runs three T20 competitions alongside the main league, and the only one that has a league representative eleven.

INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE AWARDS

BATTING – MOST RUNS BOWLING – MOST WICKETS FIELDING – MOST CATCHES & RUN OUTS WICKETKEEPING – MOST CATCHES & STUMPINGS
DIVISION 1 Emma Barlow (Appleton) Sammi Short & Kate Coppack (both Chester BH) Emma Barlow (Appleton) & Hannah Jones (Didsbury) Nic Capes (Chester BH) & Gaby McKeever (Stockport Trinity)
DIVISION 2 Alison Smith (Wistaston Village) Alison Smith (Wistaston Village) Megan Cureton (Oxton) Katie Bennett (Wistaston Village)
DIVISION 3 Rachel Warrenger (Hawarden Park) Alex Wilson (Woodley) Nicole Baker-Tunney (Stockport Georgians) Maz Linford (Didsbury 2nd XI)
T20 COMPETITIONS Kate Coppack & Ali Cutler (both Chester BH) Hannah Jones (Didsbury) Emma Royle (Stockport Trinity) Nic Capes (Chester BH)

TEAM HONOURS

Competition Winners Runners-up
League Championship Oakmere Chester Boughton Hall
League Division 2 Wistaston Vilage Leigh
League Division 3 Stockport Georgians Didsbury 2nd XI
T20 Divisional Competition Chester Boughton Hall Deemons Stockport Trinity Fire
Knockout Cup Chester Boughton Hall Deemons Didsbury Swordettes
Development Knockout Cup Didsbury 2nd XI Stockport Georgians
Indoor League Appleton Oakmere

OTHER AWARDS

Cheshire WCCC Coach’s Player of the Year: Kate Coppack

Cheshire WCCC Players’ Player of the Year: Dawn Prestidge

President’s Award (Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Cricket in Cheshire): John Bone

Tea Cup (Club with best matchday catering): Leigh