NEWS: Lydia Greenway’s Cricket For Girls Launches New Educational Resource

Lydia Greenway’s coaching organisation, Cricket For Girls, has this week launched a new online cricket coaching programme, which aims to give PE teachers and coaches the confidence and knowledge to deliver quality cricket coaching to girls.

The Cricket for Girls online resource provides a full scheme of work with supporting lesson plans, videos and resources to enable teachers and coaches to deliver a full term or season of cricket.

It will cross the age and ability spectrum, from softball to hardball for Year 5 upwards. The first level of the resource, “An Introduction to soft ball cricket”, will be available to pre-order on Tuesday 26 March and will be officially released on Monday 15 April.

The resource has been developed in consultation with schools across the past 18 months, based on discussions about what they need in order to introduce cricket programmes for girls. The key emphasis has been on providing a resource which is designed specifically for girls, a lot of whom are experiencing cricket for the first time at school and who therefore need a different approach to boys of the same age, tailored specifically for them.

Speaking at the launch of the resource on Thursday, Lydia Greenway said:

“The journey into the game for a female cricketer does not have to follow tradition. Nor should it. Girls’ cricket in schools has a blank canvas – we don’t just have to repeat what’s been done before.”

“This resource provides a fun, engaging and inspiring way of delivering cricket in schools.”

“Our aim is to break down all perceptions, challenges and barriers when it comes to cricket, and in doing so revitalise the sport.”

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NEWS: Counties – “We Will Continue Playing County Cricket From 2020 Despite ECB Plans”

In response to ECB plans to restructure women’s county cricket from 2020, several of the counties who will be relegated to “feeder county” status are planning on launching their own league in order to keep women’s county cricket alive below the top division.

The ECB’s restructure would see only the top 10 counties fielding senior county women’s sides in the new 1-division Women’s County Championship, with all other counties serving as “feeders”, developing age-group players who will then join their closest full county side.

Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire are the counties currently involved in the plan, which would see a new East of England Competition set up, contested by the 6 counties.

“We are still going to play county cricket,” one Hertfordshire official told CRICKETher. “Removing county cricket doesn’t make any sense when we are trying to grow the women’s game.”

CRICKETher understands that the ECB are aware of the plan and are attempting to limit it to an Under-21 age-group competition, in keeping with the new restructure.

However, the counties feel this would defeat the purpose of the competition, which is to ensure that older players continue to have opportunities to develop their abilities. One senior county executive said that they would play overage players even if an age limit was imposed by the ECB.

“We don’t want to interfere with the ECB’s new structure, and we will schedule our county matches so that they don’t clash with the ECB’s fixtures,” he said. “We aren’t waging war on them – we just want our girls to continue to have the opportunity to represent their county.”

It will be difficult for the ECB to force the issue, given that the new competition will formally be played outside of their direct jurisdiction, and will be independently funded by the counties from sponsorship and fundraising.

Several existing county players have already expressed disquiet about the restructure, which will see them restricted to playing club cricket – seen by many as a backward step. In the East of England, where the club structure is almost non-existent, those involved in county cricket are particularly worried that many players will be forced out of the game altogether come 2020.

“This is being driven by the players themselves,” one official told CRICKETher. “They want to carry on playing county cricket. If there isn’t that step up, they are much more likely to drop out when they turn 18.”

Should the Eastern Counties be successful they may well inspire similar independent county competitions around England in other areas where club cricket is struggling.

NEWS: County Players And Coaches Feel Proposed Restructure Is “Backward Step”

The ECB’s planned overhaul of women’s county cricket, whereby from 2020 only a top tier of 8 or 10 counties will participate in the County Championship, is sparking concerns among players and coaches that it will stymie the development of the sport.

The proposals would mean the end of the careers of approximately 250 senior county players, who the ECB hope will move into the club structure from 2020.

However, the weakness of the underlying club structure in some regions of the country effectively means that some of these players may be lost to cricket for good.

One player from a Division 3 county said:

“I understand the intent, but can’t help that feel a lot of women like myself will suffer.”

“Some of us are perhaps ahead of the varying standard of women’s club cricket, and were finding our feet in Division 3 and 2. To make these feeders and have a select few ‘elite’ sides, where the net will be cast wider and subsequently, numbers harder to compete with, I fear my hopes of competing at a standard suitable for myself will dwindle.”

“I feel this is a backwards step.”

Another, responding to the proposals on Twitter, labelled the move a “massive shame”: “Been playing county senior cricket for 10 years and to see it end will be pretty rubbish”.

CRICKETher understands that the proposals were presented to those working in the current women’s set-up at four consultation meetings held around the country in 2018.

However, while these meetings presented an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposals, some working in county cricket feel their views have not been taken into account.

One county coach told CRICKETher:

“I think the narrowing of a growing market could do a lot more harm than good. It would strangle the rapid organic growth and increase in quality that we were witnessing at the coal face.”

“There is some wonderful cricket going on in Division 2 and 3. That is a result of hard work and natural growth and evolution of the women’s game that is going to be squashed.”

OPINION: Reading The Runes On England’s Warm-Up Win In Sri Lanka

England began their tour of Sri Lanka with a comfortable win in a “jumpers for goalposts” warm-up match against a relatively inexperienced “Emerging” Sri Lanka team in Colombo.

England fielded 13 players, with most of the squad getting a run-out with either bat or ball. Lauren Winfield top-scored with 82 (retired) as England posted 319, before bowling the Sri Lankans out in exactly 40 overs, with Heather Knight taking 4-13.

Reading the runes on England’s selections, it looks like Amy Jones, who scored 56 (also retired) will continue to open the batting in the ODIs with Tammy Beaumont; with Lauren Winfield maybe coming in at 3 ahead of Heather Knight and Nat Sciver, as she did in the 3rd ODI in India.

Bowling-wise, although Katherine Brunt has travelled to Sri Lanka, she was originally planned to be rested for this tour, and she didn’t play in the warm-up. Instead, Freya Davies opened the bowling with Anya Shrubsole – Davies finishing with 1-16 from 6 overs.

Does this mean Davies is nailed-on for the ODIs? It would be a bold statement of faith from the coach… but that’s exactly the sort of thing Mark Robinson likes to do! (Remember Linsey Smith, Sophia Dunkley and Kirstie Gordon all making their debuts together at the World Twenty20?)

England’s bowling is obviously a bit injury-ravaged at the moment, with Georgia Elwiss and Sophie Ecclestone both having flown home and straight into rehab, so other options are obviously on the table, but it looks like Sophia Dunkley is not one of them – she didn’t bowl in the warm-up, and it seems like England see her as a pure batsman at the moment.

Danni Wyatt however, did send down some overs – they were rather expensive (going at 7.8, compared to Freya Davies’ 2.3) but England clearly do have her in mind as an option.

NEWS: Bidding Process To Decide Which Counties Field Sides In Women’s County Championship From 2020

More details are coming to light regarding the ECB’s proposed restructure of women’s county cricket from 2020.

CRICKETher understands that the top 10 counties will be decided by a bidding process, whereby counties will put forward expressions of interest and the ECB will then grant hosting rights to the strongest proposals.

The top counties will be supported by 10 Academy “hubs”, and will play in a one-division Championship, while the old Division 2 and 3 counties will simply serve as “feeders”, developing age-group players who will then join their closest county side.

Revenue from the ECB’s new TV deal will be used to enable the top 10 counties to offer professionally staffed set-ups. Players will also be remunerated, though this will likely fall short of fully professional pay, at least initially.

While the bidding process is ostensibly an open one, it seems logistically unlikely that the 8 “Hundred” counties will not feature in the new Championship – not least because this will limit the amount of travelling which the top women’s players will need to do.

CRICKETher understands that Sussex are confident they will be one of the selected counties, given their extensive facilities at the Aldridge Cricket Academy funded by millionaire Sir Rod Aldridge, which leaves just one spot in the top flight remaining.

The traditional prominence of the southern counties in the women’s game means that large areas of England are likely to be unrepresented in the new Women’s County Championship.

Current players who represent the counties which are not successful in the bidding process will be encouraged to play club cricket as an alternative.

MATCH REPORT: 3rd T20, England v India – “Walk this way…”

Ravi Nair reports

In the intervening day between the second T20I and today, there was some talk about India’s running (or walking) between the wickets. India’s captain Smriti Mandhana in an interview said, among other things, that India needed to work on their running, that they hit either fours or dots, that they needed to rotate the strike more, and so on. CRICKETher’s very own Syd Egan then proved this, using numbers and tables, and probably slide rules and the differential calculus as well. But a lot of this sounds like captain’s waffle, or overanalysis to the spectator, until she sees it exemplified for herself in an actual match. And that, as if made to order, was what happened in the third and final (“dead rubber”) T20I between India and England in Guwahati.

Simply put, England won by one run, after a fantastic final over by Kate Cross in which she took two wickets and gave away only one run. But behind this lies a tale. In their last three overs India scored three boundaries, England none. Yet in their 18th, 19th and 20th overs India scored 19 runs, while England scored 26. It means that Shrubsole and Dunkley, one extra from a wide aside, ran the equivalent of nearly 500 metres each in 19 deliveries. The Indians managed 60. England allowed one dot ball in those three overs. Mithali Raj alone played out six, with Fulmali adding another three at the end of the Indian innings. Just one more would have given India a tie. Two more, the match.

Even without the final score and these reflections on it, the match was an exciting one. It was a dead rubber, the series had been decided. But it was a Saturday and the eventual crowd at Barsapara was the largest of any of the six matches in the tour. Mandhana wanted her first win as captain, and her team wanted to keep the overall score all square, at three matches each team. Heather Knight, however, may have been thinking slightly differently. Katherine Brunt, England’s most effective bowler this tour, was rested. And, on winning the toss, Knight decided to bat. Perhaps she was challenging her team to bat first and win even though they knew the Indians preferred chasing. Perhaps she was testing her entire squad, which has lost more resources before and during this tour than Spinal Tap lost drummers. Whatever the reason, it was set up for Mandhana to play the innings that all cricket fans wanted to see: a big one, in a chase, leading to a win.

Danni Wyatt set off just as one expects, like a greyhound out of the traps. Tammy Beaumont wasn’t far behind. Each hit a six. Each hit fours. India kept their discipline and refused to give away a single extra. So England reached 50 in exactly seven overs with Wyatt on 24 and Beaumont on 26. In the next over, with right arm finger spinner Anuja Patil bowling, Wyatt for whatever reason saw the ball going wide, very wide, of off, but couldn’t resist stretching for it. Result: top edge caught at third man.

After which it was another England mini-collapse. Sciver didn’t seem to know where the ball was going after it pitched when the leggie Poonam Yadav was bowling, played and missed a couple and then heard, rather than saw, the third take her off stump, spinning from middle and missing her outside edge. Beaumont, believing this was the right time for it, charged Patil, missed, and was stumped. Taniya Bhatia makes few if any mistakes in situations like this.

Amy Jones and Knight did some repair work, and Jones was beginning to look like the batter we had seen in the WWT20 in the Caribbean, making her most useful score of the tour to date, when Knight decided to stretch forward to Ekta Bisht. The ball evaded her outside edge, and Bhatia took the bails off while Knight was still stretched, her back leg behind her as though in a yoga pose, and her foot about 10 cm in front of the crease. But that wasn’t enough. Mandhana brought Deol on to bowl her right arm leg spin and Lauren Winfield was deceived and trapped in front. England had lost five wickets in the space of scoring 31 runs. After the powerplay England had looked on course for a score in excess of 140. Now it looked as though 100 might be ambitious.

Nine runs later even Jones was gone. With her score on 22, she was dropped by Mandhana at mid off. To celebrate, she lofted Deol over Mandhana for four. Full of the joys of the Indian Spring she decided to do it again, and this time holed out to Shikha Pandey who had moved slightly finer at the boundary for just this eventuality. Significantly, the English batters had crossed over by then so Dunkley, who hadn’t yet scored, but had at least faced, got to play out the last two deliveries of the over.

This left Shrubsole and Dunkley to make the best they could out of the three overs left to them. As related earlier, they did not score a single boundary between them, but ran about half a kilometre each to take the final score up to 119, and India’s target to 120: a score they had not yet reached thus far in the T20 series. But it was an achievable score, a disappointing one from England’s point of view, and on an easy paced pitch that offered nothing like the seam or turn of the Wankhede pitches, it was the perfect opportunity for Mandhana to show what she could do.

She did.

For 58 runs over 39 deliveries Mandhana gave us left-handed elegance and unstoppable strokeplay, the likes of which has not been seen since the retirement of Brian Charles Lara. Glides through third man, pulls off the hip, lofted drives to long off and long on, pulls and cuts led to eight fours and a six, along with 20 runs she actually ran, in the remaining 29 deliveries. Little wonder that her partners at the other end, Deol and Rodrigues, contributed 12 runs in total to India’s first 59.

It didn’t last, however, as Mandhana, looking to gently stroke Laura Marsh on the off side, under-edged the delivery and saw it bounce back onto her stumps. Until then the match was over and India were walking it. Eight runs later Deepti Sharma attempted a quick two, and Raj ran as hard as she has in the last few months, but it was Sharma, slow on the turn and accelerating slowly on her way back, who found herself about 20 cm short as Jones gathered and took the bails off as neatly as a stumping.

Even so, it should have been India’s game but, perhaps traumatised by the run out, Raj refused anything that looked like a sharp run. She was going to be there until the end, and she was not going to run out any of her partners, waving them away as they looked at her whenever it was her call. Time was still on India’s side, as was Fulmali, who had shown her talent in her debut in the previous match. The lack of singles, however, meant that the required rate was rising, going from 4.5 with six-and-a-half overs left to a full 6 per over for the last three.

Knight, inexplicably, ignored Wyatt, who had bowled two overs for just seven runs, and went back to her seamers, Sciver, Shrubsole and Cross, for the last three overs. Raj hit Sciver three times to mid on but refused to run. Even so, the over seemed the end of the fight for England as she did manage two fours, using the pace the spinners would not have given her, and taking a single off the last ball. India needed just 9 in the last two overs.

Shrubsole managed to keep her discipline, Raj managed to curb any mad impulse to take quick singles, even though the first two deliveries were walked through for one each. And then, on the last ball, Raj once again used Shrubsole’s pace to get herself a four.

Which left, as we know, Cross with the unenviable task of defending three runs in the last over, with India only four wickets down. Somehow she did it, bowling straight at Fulmali and giving her no room to swing her arms, changing her length slightly from ball to ball so that Fulmali could not set herself up for it beforehand. Jones missed a stumping too, on the third ball, as it beat Fulmali coming forward, but bounced off Jones’ gloves. Before Jones could pick it up and remove the bails, the batter was back in her crease. On the fourth delivery, trying to take the pressure off, Fulmali holed out to Shrubsole at mid off. Next ball Anuja Patil jumped about halfway down the track, swinging for dear life and, inevitably, missing. Jones made up for her earlier miss, Patil was out, and Pandey came in for the last ball of the innings needing a three or better to win. She skewed it out to Beaumont at point who flung herself on it and then carefully sent it back without running any danger of an overthrow and, though the Indians ran, they could only get one.

Game over, and huge release and relief for the England camp.

Mandhana will look at the next few months, when India have no matches coming up, and consider deleting Aerosmith’s “Walk this way” from the playlist of every one of her teammates. The England squad, if they are Kate Bush fans, will consider “Running up that hill” was definitely worth it. Heather Knight, however, looking grim rather than triumphant at the presentation, might be wondering exactly how much of her squad’s depth she is going to have to test on the next leg of the tour, and be singing to herself (albeit without Ariana Grande’s satirical tone), “Thank you. Next.”