NEWS: Tash Farrant Recalled To England Squad For New Zealand Tour As Injured Shrubsole Misses Out

South East Stars left-arm seamer Tash Farrant is back in the England squad, almost two years after losing her central contract, for the tour to New Zealand next month.

Farrant, who was let go by Mark Robinson in February 2019, has played previously under current England coach Lisa Keightley for the Western Fury in Australia’s WNCL, and was one of the beneficiaries of the ECB’s new domestic contracts in 2020. Appointed captain of the South East Stars, the Kent-based player performed strongly in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, placing 4th in our Bowling Rankings for the season.

As expected, Farrant’s fellow Star Sophia Dunkley is also included in the squad, having played the last two matches against West Indies in the summer, as is Freya Davies. Issy Wong will also travel to New Zealand with the team, but (oddly) not as part of the official squad – though she will presumably play if circumstances require.

There is also a return for Georgia Elwiss, whose injury woes meant she missed out against the West Indies.

There is disappointing news, however, about England vice-captain Anya Shrubsole, who has picked up a knee injury over the winter. She will remain at home for rehabilitation, along with Katie George, who is suffering from a recurrence of the stress fracture to her back. In Shrubsole’s absence, Nat Sciver has been named vice-captain for the tour.

England will fly out to New Zealand at the end of January to undertake a New Zealand government-mandated 14 day quarantine period, during which they will be able to train together as a squad, before playing in 3 ODIs and 3 T20s. Unfortunately, hopes of including Australia in a tri-series have fallen by the wayside due to the logistics of accommodating multiple teams in quarantine simultaneously.

England fans will be able to watch the matches on BT Sport, but may wish to stock up on coffee, as they face the dilemma of either a very late night or a very early morning for several of the fixtures!

ODI Series

Tuesday February 23: 1st ODI, New Zealand v England (Hagley Oval, 1am GMT)

Friday February 26: 2nd ODI, New Zealand v England (University of Otago Oval, 10pm GMT)

Sunday February 28: 3rd ODI, New Zealand v England (University of Otago Oval, 10pm GMT)

IT20 Series

Wednesday March 3: 1st IT20, New Zealand v England (Wellington Sky Stadium, 2am GMT)

Friday March 5: 2nd IT20, New Zealand v England (Eden Park, 2am GMT)

Sunday March 7: 3rd IT20, New Zealand v England (Bay Oval, 11pm GMT)

Full Squad

  • Heather Knight (Western Storm)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Lightning)
  • Katherine Brunt (Northern Diamonds)
  • Kate Cross (Thunder)
  • Freya Davies (South East Stars)
  • Sophia Dunkley (South East Stars)
  • Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder)
  • Georgia Elwiss (Southern Vipers)
  • Tash Farrant (South East Stars)
  • Sarah Glenn (Central Sparks)
  • Amy Jones (Central Sparks)
  • Nat Sciver (Northern Diamonds)
  • Mady Villiers (Sunrisers)
  • Fran Wilson (Sunrisers)
  • Lauren Winfield-Hill (Northern Diamonds)
  • Danni Wyatt (Southern Vipers)

NEWS: England To Tour Pakistan In October

The ECB have announced that England will make a historic visit to Pakistan, alongside the men’s team, in October 2021 for two T20 Internationals and three ODIs.

This will be the first ever visit by England to Pakistan, with Pakistan having played almost all their “home” cricket at neutral venues in recent years, due to security concerns regarding the political situation there. Meanwhile for the men’s team, it is their first tour to the country since 2005.

England will play two “Double-Header” T20s with the men in Karachi on the 14th and 15th of October; and will then stay on in Karachi for the three ODIs on the 18th, 20th and 22nd of October.

The ECB’s Managing Director of Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, highlighted the importance of this tour beyond the field of play:

“Not only will this be a cricket tour that provides valuable competitive opportunity to both teams, it should also serve as another powerful and positive message as we drive forward our equality ambitions for more women and girls to derive empowerment through the sport.”

The PCB’s Chief Executive, Wasim Khan, stressed his hopes that England’s visit would lead the way for other countries to follow:

“I am confident the women’s tour will open up opportunities for future tours that will further contribute in promoting women’s cricket in Pakistan.”

DEEP DIVE: Women’s County Cricket In 2021

By Richard Clark

Good news arrived late last week with the announcement* of the ECB County T20 Cup fixtures for 2021, as devoted fans of the weekly CRICKETher Vodcast will doubtless have noted.

(* It should not go un-noted that describing it as an “announcement” is over-egging things hugely. The fixtures appeared on Play Cricket, much like Mr Benn’s shopkeeper, ‘as if by magic’, and it is hard to escape the feeling that enthusiasm at ECB Towers for women’s county cricket and the promotion thereof is thin on the ground. Be that as it may, however…)

Having been granted a stay of execution for 2020 and 2021, last summer’s competition was mothballed initially – and ultimately cancelled – as a result of the Covid pandemic, and there had been some concern that impetus for one last fling might be lacking after a two-year gap, so it’s pleasing to see those fears allayed. The virus still holds us in its grip, of course, but let’s be optimistic and assume for now that county cricket will be played – and watched – in 2021!

The schedule looks a little different from the last T20 Cup in 2019 (and the abandoned 2020 campaign), when the format mirrored the 50-over competition in being based on three Divisions, with the lowest level organised into three regions. This time around the structure is wholly regional, based around six Groups of six teams (five in one case), and with no suggestion of a play-off system or similar to decide an overall champion.

The reasons for this are not explicit, but it is probably safe to assume that minimising costs such as travelling and overnight stops is a major factor, whether by edict from the ECB or at the request of the counties themselves. Either way there is some sense behind the change, even if it is not quite ideal in other ways.

Matches will take place over four consecutive weekends – Sunday 25th April, Monday 3rd May, Sunday 9th May, and Sunday 16th May. Once again the format is based almost exclusively around the tried and tested ‘triangular’ fixtures with three counties meeting at a single venue – the home team playing first and last – although one fixture in the North Group each week will be a straight back-to-back double-header with that Group consisting of only five teams.

Whilst the set-up works in allowing as many matches to be played as possible, it does have flaws in being limited to the four-week window.

Not everyone will play everyone else twice. In fact, some counties will not meet others at all. In the South East Group for instance, Surrey play Essex, Kent, Middlesex and Sussex twice each… but won’t cross swords with Hampshire at all. One wonders whether an extra round of fixtures could have been a simple solution to that…?

There are also some geographical anomalies. As Syd noted on the Vodcast, his beloved Berkshire have relocated to the West Midlands. So have Somerset. And Wales. To make the journey from Berkshire to Wales along the M4 one travels south of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, yet those counties are in the South West Group. And Somerset will hike through Gloucestershire to reach parts of the West Midlands. Meanwhile, Shropshire is now in the East Midlands, despite being further West than four of the West Midlands counties.

Again the reasons for this can only be guessed at, but the suspicion must be that it’s an attempt to “level up” the competition. Somerset, for instance, might have proved too strong for a South West Division containing five counties which plied their trade in Division Three last time cricket was played. If you read this and feel tempted to shoot the messenger, by the way, (a) it IS only a guess, and (b) I didn’t compile the Groups!

Some Groups will be stronger than others – if this was a World Cup we would no doubt be talking the South East up as the proverbial “Group of Death”, whereas the East Group comprises traditional Division Three counties only. My advice would be not to let that fool you, however – if it turns out to be anything like 2020’s inaugural East of England Championship then some treats will be in store from those less heralded teams. The 50-over competition there took in six matches, and four of them were settled by one run, one wicket, two wickets and on a super over respectively!

One wonders about the North Group – Yorkshire and Lancashire up against North East Warriors (Durham and Northumberland combined), Cumbria and Scotland ‘A’. At the risk of encouraging more messenger-shooting that doesn’t necessarily look like the most level playing field for one or two teams, particularly if England players are available to the Roses pair.

And that brings us on to another unknown – will England players be involved? The timing of the competition is such that it would seem to provide an ideal warm-up opportunity ahead of the international summer, but the England hierarchy may feel there is more to be gained in ‘intensive’ training camps. We shall see.

On top of this, of course, we should see ‘unofficial’ 50-over competitions later in the season too. Surrey’s website confirmed the return of the London Championship for a second season at the same time as revealing their T20 fixtures, and the East of England Championship will also be back, with Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire joining Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire & Norfolk from last season in a ringing endorsement of its success.

Hopefully many other counties will look to play friendly matches, or maybe even follow the lead set by others and form their own regional competitions.

And finally – Women’s County Cricket Day will be back! No date set yet, but we can confirm that it will be one of those four ECB T20 days. Look out for further announcements in the New Year!

Full Fixture List here (select required Division from the drop-down menu):

ECB Women’s County Championship (play-cricket.com)

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Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68

VIDEO: The CRICKETher Weekly Vodcast – Episode 40

This week, on our 40th episode:

  • Why Pakistan’s tour of South Africa in Jan 2021 is good news for women’s cricket
  • Our thoughts on the revised schedule for the 2022 World Cup in New Zealand
  • The return of county cricket in 2021 (yay!)
  • Trevor Griffin’s ambitions to be England coach

Plus, why are we at the Edgbaston Foundation Ground? Watch to find out!

OPINION: The Rich Get Richer; The Poor Get The Picture

“The rich get richer; the poor get the picture” sang Pete Garrett on Midnight Oil’s 1982 hit Read About It.

One of the saddest realisations of the past decade has been the way that technology, far from being the democratising force we had all once hoped, has mainly been used to enhance and entrench the riches of the richest. Jeff Bezos buys another private island, while his minimum-waged delivery drivers struggle to pay their rent; Bill Gates pockets another billion, while his software subjects office workers to unprecedented levels of semi-covert surveillance.

The benefits of economic growth over the past 10 years have been disproportionately channelled to those who need it least, as the iron laws of the market have asserted themselves with a ferocity not seen since the early stages of the industrial revolution.

For a long time sport resisted these laws. The greatest footballer of my lifetime – Diego Maradona, who died a couple of weeks ago – grew up in a a third-world slum. In our own sport, England’s greatest allrounder, Enid Bakewell, was born in a mining village in Nottinghamshire. If you could hold a bat, or kick a ball, it didn’t matter where you were from.

Of course, this was only ever true in microcosm, especially in cricket. On an individual level, you were always more likely to succeed if you came from a wealthy family or went to a good school.

Zoom out further, to a national level, and the picture becomes starker still – money talks… loudly and incessantly. No one doubts the talent of players like Ellyse Perry and Meg Lanning; but the unprecedented levels of “investment” (which, after all, is just a polite way of saying “money”) that have been poured in by Cricket Australia have undoubtedly been a factor in their success.

Thus far, however, that investment has mostly been systemic – it’s investment in the clubs; the training facilities; and the coaches – and the human factor has remained the key wildcard. You can have all the “investment” in the world, but 18 year old Hayley Matthews can still walk into a World Cup final and rough you up, with talent that no money can buy… right?

Yes… but also… no.

A recent piece by Brittany Carter – How women’s cricket is being influenced by Major League Baseball – describes the use of a something called a “Blast Motion Sensor”. This is a high-tech gizmo which attaches to the bottom of the bat during training, and syncs up with an app to analyse the player’s bat swing, providing them with feedback which allows them to pinpoint areas of improvement to increase the power of their swing.

Human coaches have always done something like this, but this technology automates and enhances the degree of analysis and feedback possible from a human coach, allowing the player to fine-tune their game beyond the Nth degree.

This tech is being used today in domestic cricket in Australia, to augment the skills of the next generation; and it is undoubtedly amazing.

What it isn’t, however, is cheap; and that’s the grit, because like all tech, this stuff costs money – real money, that the 1% have and the 99% don’t; money that will buy an edge for the next generation… but only for those who can afford it. No girl in Moga, India (where Harmanpreet is from) or Barbados, West Indies (where Hayley Matthews grew up) will have access to these wonders.

And so in cricket, as in life, the 1% will pull away, using technology to fortify and magnify all the advantages they already have, leaving the rest – the 99%, also known as “us” – standing at the side of the road, peering in awe at their increasingly distant tail-lights.