NEWS: ECB Announce Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy

The ECB have announced that the 8 regional Centres of Excellence will compete in a 50-over competition for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy later this season, honouring one of England’s greatest former captains, as the men are doing with the Bob Willis Trophy.

It has also been confirmed that the 8 team names are:

  • Central Sparks (Warwickshire CCC & Worcestershire CCC, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire)
  • Lightning (Loughborough University, Derbyshire CCC, Leicestershire CCC, Nottinghamshire CCC, Lincolnshire)
  • Northern Diamonds (Yorkshire CCC, Durham CCC, Northumberland)
  • Thunder (Lancashire CCC, Cheshire, Cumbria)
  • South East Stars (Surrey CCC, Kent CCC)
  • Southern Vipers (Hampshire Cricket Ltd, Sussex CCC, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire)
  • Sunrisers (Middlesex CCC, Essex CCC, Northamptonshire CCC, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Norfolk, Suffolk)
  • Western Storm (Glamorgan CCC, Gloucestershire CCC, Somerset CCC, Cricket Wales, Cornwall, Devon, Wiltshire)

These teams will compete in 2 regional groups, playing each other twice, with Sparks, Lightning, Diamonds and Thunder contesting the “North” group; and Stars, Vipers, Sunrisers and Storm the “South”. The group winners will play off for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy in the final on Saturday 26 September.

Squads will be confirmed shortly, and (quote) “the availability of England Women’s Centrally Contracted players will be known once the international schedule has been confirmed.”

MATCH REPORT: Sussex Hold The Front Paige In “El Classicoast” Against Hampshire

The second leg of the Sussex-Hampshire “El Classicoast” friendlies concluded under sunny skies at Falmer with a straightforward Sussex win, making it 2 from 2 for the host side.

Newly-appointed Southern Vipers professional Paige Scholfield, batting at 4, set up Sussex’s total of 237 with a measured 55 (from 73 balls); and emphasised her all-round talents with figures of 3-33 from 8 overs in the Hampshire reply.

Sussex eventually bowled Hampshire out for 196 in 45.5 overs, racking up a 41-run win despite a gutsy half-century from stand-in captain Emily Windsor, who was left stranded on 57*.

The home team had lost captain Georgia Adams early on in proceedings, trapped LBW to debutant seamer Gemma Lane; while last week’s top-scorer Ella McCaughan also departed early, falling LBW to Charlie Dean.

From 54-2, Scholfield guided Sussex to 129-4, offering up a couple of chances along the way, including a tricky catch to a diving Windsor at midwicket. Scholfield then added insult to injury by taking Windsor for 16 runs from the very next over, the first of Windsor’s spell.

Windsor eventually wrought some measure of revenge, having Scholfield bowled in the 32nd as she attempted one cut shot too many and dragged the ball onto her own stumps. The all-round effort from 23-year-old Windsor will no doubt have been noted by Vipers head coach Charlotte Edwards and represents a clear case for her selection in the forthcoming Regional Competition.

Sussex fought back courtesy of a feisty late flourish from Nancy “Harmanpreet” Harman, whose 42 came off just 22 balls, including a couple of huge sixes down the ground – an innings which ultimately represented the difference between the sides.

In reply, Sussex kept Hampshire quiet for the first 10 overs, eventually frustrating Ariana Dowse into sending the ball down the throat of Mary Taylor at midwicket to leave her side 29-1 at the 12-over “sanitisation break”.

With Hampshire’s regular captain and number 3 Maia Bouchier absent from proceedings, Ella Chandler attempted to hold things together but fell victim to a rare spell with the ball from Georgia Adams, who took a smart catch off her own bowling to see off Chandler in the 26th over.

From there Hampshire fell further behind the required rate, with the result looking to be a foregone conclusion until Windsor came to the party, assisted by a flurry of boundaries in the 42nd over from number 9 Providence Cowdrill (14 from 9 balls).

With Hampshire needing 71 off the final 7 overs, Scholfield ended Hampshire hopes by having Cowdrill bowled as she swung at one too many, and then removing Alex Avoth in the following over, caught in the deep.

Players from both sides will now wait nervously to hear the final Southern Vipers squad selection, due to be announced in the next couple of weeks.

NEWS: England Warm-Up Fixtures To Be Live-Streamed

With the England players now all together in their biosecure “training bubble” at Derby, the ECB have confirmed that the inter-squad warm-up fixtures which will begin on Thursday will be live-streamed on ecb.co.uk.

In a welcome move to acknowledge the long history of women’s cricket, the inter-squad teams will be named after two greats of the sport, Rachael Heyhoe Flint (1939-2017) and Janette Brittin (1959-2017).

Heyhoe Flint captained England for 10 years between 1966 and 1976 without losing a Test, later leading the charge for female membership of the MCC; while Brittin represented her country between 1979 and 1998, amassing 1,935 Test runs – still a record today.

The 24 England squad players currently at Derby will be aiming to emulate the feats of the pair over the coming days, as they seek to make a case for themselves in the forthcoming series against South Africa (fixtures TBC). The inter-squad match on Thursday will be the first time any of the squad have played since the Twenty20 World Cup back in March.

The ECB have also today confirmed that Tim Macdonald has been appointed as the new Senior Assistant Coach after taking the role on an interim basis earlier in the year.

MATCH REPORT: Sussex v Hampshire – Hampshire Purged By McCarthy

Cassidy McCarthy took two crucial wickets at the death, as Sussex beat Hampshire by 1 run at the Aldridge Academy in Brighton.

Chasing 156, Hampshire reached 152-8, with 25 balls remaining and Charlotte Taylor set on 19 not out before McCarthy intervened, bowling both Taylor and then Providence Cowdrill to snatch victory by the closest of shaves.

On paper it was a match Sussex should have won easily, with all three of the Southern Vipers “pros” – Georgia Adams, Tara Norris and Paige Scholfield – wearing the blue of Sussex Sharks, against a young Hampshire side which included two debutantes – England Academy Training Squad fast bowler Alex Avoth, and Berkshire wicket keeper Mia Rodgers.

Opening the bowling to Adams and Ella McCaughan, Avoth was hit for 14 in her first over, but came back in her second to dismiss Adams (14), who was beaten for pace, looking to flick it over midwicket, and clean bowled. McCaughan (36) however ploughed on, putting on a fifty partnership with Izzy Collis (23) before adding another 30 with Rodgers predecessor at Berkshire, Carla Rudd, who did her case for a spot on the Vipers squad no harm at all with 22. From 114-3 though, Sussex collapsed somewhat, with no one else reaching double-figures as they were bowled out for 156 inside 40 overs, with Avoth finishing with 3-35.

Hampshire’s reply was very-much a collaborative affair, with no one apart from Ms Extras (27) making more than 23, though Maia Bouchier (21), Charlie Dean (22), Emily Windsor (23) and Alice Monaghan (22) all made it into the twenties; with Beth Harvey taking crucial wickets for Sussex in the middle overs to keep the Sharks on top.

With Hampshire stumbling at 123-7 it looked to be all over bar the shouting, but Taylor had other ideas as the Sussex attack fed her favoured cut shot with a string of half-volleys outside off stump. McCarthy however kept her nerve, bowling first Taylor for 19 and then, having conceded a wide to take Hampshire to within one run, doing the same to Cowdrill to bring home the win for Sussex.

NEWS: Clare Connor Praises “Pioneering” Chance To Shine Secondary School Girls Programme

ECB Director of Women’s Cricket Clare Connor has labelled Chance to Shine’s Secondary School Girls Programme, an initiative funding cricket coaching and leadership development for girls aged 11-16, as a “pioneering project”, which is “setting a beacon for girls to be able to aspire to [leadership] opportunities”.

Connor was speaking on the day Chance to Shine revealed that the Programme, which so far has reached 1,700 girls across the country, has had a significant impact on the confidence and leadership abilities of those enrolled in the programme.

Research conducted by the Centre for Sport, Physical Education & Activity Research at Canterbury Christ Church University found that by the end of the programme there was a ‘statistically significant’ increase in the number of girls who said they were active every day (from 34% to 39.6%). This was also reflected in changing the girls’ attitudes towards the sport, with just over three quarters (78%) saying that they ‘wanted to play more cricket than before’.

Young Leaders were first trained to take on coaching responsibilities in sessions and then supported to put those skills into practice in after-school clubs and organising and leading primary school cricket festivals. The research showed statistically significant growth in the following key leadership traits:

  • Confidence – ‘I feel confident’ 39% -> 45%
  • Resilience – ‘If I find something difficult, I keep trying until I can do it’ 50% -> 57%
  • Creativity – ‘I come up with new ideas’ 31% -> 39%
  • Adaptability – ‘I try to change activities so that everyone can take part’ 44% -> 56%

“It makes you quite emotional seeing girls thriving playing cricket,” Connor said. “Focusing the attention on girls developing their leadership skills, their self confidence, their ability to communicate and be role models is a really pioneering scheme.”

“This is about the next generation of female leaders. We want women and men to have equal opportunities in the workplace, and this scheme is setting a beacon for girls to be able to aspire to these kind of opportunities.”

“Sport historically has communicated with and catered to men and boys. What Chance to Shine is doing through this programme is redressing the balance.”

The hope is that Chance to Shine can now work alongside the ECB to deliver their new strategy for women’s and girls’ cricket, Inspiring Generations, by supporting as many girls to play the sport in secondary school as possible.

However, the current Secondary School programme is at threat from a significant decrease in fund-raised income due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and may not take place next year.

For more information about how you can help ensure that their work continues, please email info@chancetoshine.org.

Q&A – The Return of Domestic Cricket

What’s Happening?

Domestic cricket is coming back! While the BCCI wriggle-out of international series, and prevaricate on the Women’s IPL-Lite, the T20 Challenge, the ECB have committed to holding a “proper” women’s domestic tournament in what’s left of 2020.

Is That A Good Thing™?

It is fantastic news, and definitely A Good Thing™!

Which Teams Will Be Involved?

We’re talking about the 8 new regional teams which broadly align geographically with The Hundred sides – so there’s one based around Middlesex, one in the West Country, one in Yorkshire, another in Lancashire, etc. etc..

What Are The Team Names?

Several of the teams have chosen to carry-forward their brands from the KSL – so fans will still be able to watch the Southern Vipers and the Western Storm, as well as new teams like the Sunrisers in Middlesex/ Essex.

What’s The Format?

This will be 50-over cricket, with the teams playing in two regional groups (presumably north and south) followed by a national grand final.

What Will The Competition Be Called?

We don’t know yet, but The Enid Bakewell Trophy would look to be a popular choice!

Which Players Will Be Playing For “My” Team?

Apart from the 20 players who were given regional retainers, even the teams don’t know yet! A handful of players have made informal agreements to play at a particular side, but all the rest of the spots are still up for grabs. Players have been told to treat the “friendly” county matches which are going on at the moment as trials, where they can make a case for themselves!

Will The England Players Be Playing?

Probably not – the England squad are currently strictly “bubbled-up” under government COVID-19 regulations, in preparation for a hectic international series versus South Africa at Derby in September; and England will be reluctant to let anyone out of that bubble because they will then have to re-quarantine (a-la Jofra Archer) before being let back in to the bubble, in the event that they are needed.

Will The Players Be Paid?

In more good news, the answer is YES – everyone that plays will get a match fee. It won’t be huge, but in the light of the current situation this is great for the players.

Where & When Will The Games Be Played?

This is still TBC – even the regional directors don’t know yet – so expect an announcement in the next couple of weeks.

Will I Be Able To Go And Watch?

That’s partly up to the government, as these matches will count as “Elite Sport”. This means they are covered under completely different COVID-19 regs to club or women’s county cricket, which are “Recreational Sport”, so TLDR… no one can give you a definitive answer on that yet.

Will The Games Be Live-Streamed?

That will likely be up to the teams to organise themselves. (Additionally, there are technically some restrictions on live-streaming when Sky are also showing live cricket, so that may factor-in too if Sky decide to enforce their exclusivity rights.)

What About County?

There will definitely be some county fixtures, but that’s up to the counties themselves to organise – keep a close eye on Twitter, as they’ll probably deliberately be flown slightly under the radar, certainly at the bigger counties, to keep everything COVID-safe.

OPINION: The London Cup – A Surrey State Of Affairs

On paper, you wouldn’t have given Surrey too much of a prayer in last night’s London Cup – I certainly didn’t, telling our YouTube viewers (above) that while there were two teams that could win the match, only one would… and that one wasn’t going to be Surrey!

How wrong was I?

Despite having no “pros” to Middlesex’s three – though you’d think Hannah Jones and maybe Aylish Cranstone will be added to the “pros” list for the Stars when it is expanded to five later this summer – Surrey finally pulled off a win in the London Cup at the sixth time of asking. Surrey Director of Women’s Cricket Ebony Rainford-Brent, whose brainchild the cup was back in 2015, was so delighted with the result that she stood at the gates of The Oval giving everyone, including us, socially distanced high-fives as they left the ground!

Surrey did it against the odds by winning some big moments… and losing one crucial one – the toss! Middlesex opting to bat might have been the right call by the book, but with so much rust in everyone’s gears after the non-season we’ve had so far, it proved to be a big mistake, as they failed to score a run in the first two overs, whilst losing the wicket of captain Naomi Dattani.

The Dattani wicket was a big moment in retrospect, because it set the tone – the ball was leaving her quite sharply, and might even have been called a wide if she’d left it, but she swung at it so vaguely that her bat flew out of her hand in the opposite direction and the edge went through to Rhianna Southby, whose catch was controlled and confident – everything that the shot that preceded it wasn’t!

Of the Middlesex pros, only Cordelia Griffith really looked the part, hitting 30 off 23 balls, including the game’s only maximum. Veteran (though she probably won’t thank me for calling her that!) Tash Miles gave Griffith a bit of support, until she got this…

A Ball of the Season contender in any season from leg-spinner Dani Gregory! There aren’t many who can do that, but Gregory’s challenge is that England don’t pick bowlers – particularly spinners – based on the ability to bowl a magic ball. England value consistency over turn, and that’s what they get from Sarah Glenn. Can Gregory add the consistency, without losing the spin? If she can, she’s going places!

Even having restricted Middlesex to 108, Surrey still had a lot of work to do, and whilst their top order all got starts, none of them pushed on, so by the time Kira Chathli came to the crease, with 5 down and 50-odd still needed, it looked a really big ask.

Then Chathli did this…

I’m a bit of a traditionalist sometimes – scoops belong on Fleet Street, not on a cricket pitch – but you can’t argue with the result, and having faced-down a Required Rate of 8.4 at one stage, Chathli found herself the hero of the hour… of the day… of the season, such as it has been so far, having ensured that the London Cup was, for once, a Surrey state of affairs!