PREVIEW: Northern Lights Ready To Shine As Scotland’s Women’s Premier League Begins

By Jake Perry

There is a new force to reckon with in the Women’s Premier League this year, with the Aberdeen-based Northern Lights making their debut in what promises to be the most hotly contested competition to date. With Watsonians and Grange now playing as separate entities and plenty of input from national and regional players, the eight-team division marks another important point in the upward trajectory of the domestic women’s game in Scotland.

Northern Lights skipper Megan McColl is in no doubt as to the significance of the moment.

“We’re really excited about having a team representing the clubs from the north,” she said. “It’s a big step forward and we’re going to enjoy playing our first game on Sunday.”

“Having the teams from Edinburgh and Glasgow come up to play cricket here is really important for the women and girls’ game in Scotland. Hopefully the Northern Lights will be the first of many more sides in the future.”

Last year saw virtually all of Scotland’s national players aligned with a WPL club – the only exceptions being Lightning’s Bryce sisters – but the addition of the Lights will make life considerably easier for those based north of the central belt.

“It was good to get involved in women’s cricket first and foremost, having only played men’s club cricket for Arbroath before,” said Megan, who scored 115 runs and took seven wickets in her three games for Watsonians/Grange. “It was great to play and see the different standards of the teams, but to have something in the north now is really good.”

“Along with myself we have Becky Glen, Abbie Hogg and Ailsa Lister [from the national set-up], as well as my sister Kirsty McColl and [Falkland’s] Emma Halliwell who are both part of the Scotland Under-19s. There’s also Zoe Baillie from Forfarshire, who is part of the emerging [group]. So we’ve got a good few Scotland players and up and coming Scotland players which will hopefully be good for our chances.”

While Carlton is again likely to be the team to beat – the depth and bedded-in structure of last season’s double-winners has enabled them to put out a women’s second XI this year – 2018 and ’19 champions Stewart’s Melville will also be amongst the favourites for both league and cup. West of Scotland, Dumfries & Galloway and RH Corstorphine also produced some excellent cricket over the course of the last campaign, as did Watsonians/Grange, who finished third in the final table. Watsonians will be the first to visit Mannofield next Sunday: before then, however, the league’s newest side is looking forward to a trip to a similarly iconic venue.

“It’ll be great to start our season at The Grange this weekend,” said Megan. “It’ll be the first time I’ve actually played there.”

“Hopefully we can make a good start, and come away with a win.”

Women’s Premier League – 22 May 2022

Grange v Northern Lights (at Portgower Place)

Carlton v McCrea FS West of Scotland (at Grange Loan)

Stewart’s Melville v Watsonians (at Inverleith)

Dumfries CC/Galloway CC v RH Corstorphine (at Nunholm)

Follow Jake Perry on Twitter

MATCH REPORT: Diamonds v Lightning – Winfield-Hill Wins It For Diamonds

Katya Witney at Loughborough

Haslegrave felt more like the Caribbean on Saturday as the North Group of the Charlotte Edwards Cup kicked off in stunning style with the star-studded Lightning and Northern Diamonds teams going head to head.

After the Northern Diamonds won the toss and elected to bat, spectators were treated to a destructive display from Lauren Winfield-Hill first up. She got off the mark straight away with an elegant flick off her pads into the leg-side and followed up with a boundary in the next over. Abigail Glen ably abetted her partner and the fifty came up for the Diamonds before the end of the fifth over.

Glen then departed for 25, looping a catch to Teresa Graves at backward point, leaving Winfield-Hill to take centre stage. The England opener took Kirstie Gordon for consecutive fours before advancing down the wicket to smash the first six of the match. She brought up her fifty off 24 balls and took her side into three figures off the first ball of the 11th over.

As the run rate slowed slightly in the middle overs, Winfield-Hill stepped up a gear, whacking three consecutive maximums in the 14th over to take her into the nineties.

It wasn’t to be a comeback hundred for the opener, however, as she was caught off a top edge on 96 looking to bring up her century in style. She left the field to a standing ovation from the away crowd.

With five overs left in their innings, the Diamonds were 145 for 2 and a big total was on the cards. However a flurry of wickets followed. Lee Kasperek’s debut for the Diamonds with the bat was short-lived as she departed for seven, followed by Rachel Hopkins for a duck in the next over and Beth Langston four balls later.

Armitage batted well to anchor the innings and a four off the final ball brought the total to 177, a tough ask for Lightning but not as tough as it could’ve been when Winfield Hill was in full flow.

Emma Marlow opened the bowling for the Diamonds and immediately made it tough for both openers to score, Tammy Beaumont Beaumont and Marie Kelly only managing a single each off the first over. 

The power-play was sedate by the standards set in the first innings but the Lightning were soon able to settle into the pitch, Rachel Slater conceding three fours down the ground in the fifth over.

By the halfway point, things were looking fairly positive for the Lightning with the openers building a solid platform and the required run-rate hovering at around ten an over. Just as there may have been some slight concern building for the Diamonds, Langston made the breakthrough, bowling Kelly for 46.

Katherine Bryce came to the crease but struggled to get going, only managing four off six before she was clean bowled by Marlow.

Beaumont was the crucial wicket and as the required run rate began to climb, she teed off. She hit Langston for three fours in an over and followed up with a powerful shot over the extra-cover boundary off Kasperek to bring up her fifty.

However, Marlow took the crucial wicket for her side in the 17th over, bowling Beaumont for 59. In a superb display from the young off-spinner, she finished with figures of 2-12 off her four overs.

With Beaumont back in the dug-out, the result was pretty much decided. Munro was out in the next over and Linsey Smith took two wickets in the final over to leave Lightening well short on 138 for 7.

The day belonged to Winfield-Hill who looked a class above anyone else and will be pleased with her comeback after a difficult winter.

Both sides will be back in action on Wednesday in the next round of fixtures.

Follow @KatyaWitney on Twitter

2022 Charlotte Edwards Cup and Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Preview

The structure of the domestic season is still in flux after a) a global pandemic and b) the move from county to regional teams, but this year may be the first time we see the beginnings of a formula which future seasons will follow.

The season will begin with the T20 Charlotte Edwards Cup, starting this Saturday 14 May and culminating in a three-team Finals Day at Northampton on Saturday 11 June.

There will be two groups – Vipers, Thunder, Lightning, and Diamonds in one group; and Sparks, Storm, Sunrisers, and Stars in the other.

For the first time, the CE Cup will include a number of double-headers with the men’s Vitality Blast, and we have been promised that one of these will be televised (although there doesn’t seem to be any confirmation about which one it is – let us know if we’ve missed something!)

Then, from 2 July, teams will embark on their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy campaigns (with a break in the middle for The Hundred), culminating in a Grand Final at Lord’s on Sunday 25 September.

In a reversal of last season, it’s likely that England players will be available for much of the CE Cup, but will miss the RHF Trophy in its entirety, requiring younger players to step up in the 50-over competition.

Which team will come out on top? Who will shine? Read on for our thoughts…

(NB: A full list of regional fixtures can be found here.)

WHO’S GOING TO WIN IT?

Southern Vipers have dominated regionals since their inception in 2020, winning two RHF Trophies along the way, but they will this be the year that they become a victim of their own success? There’s a good chance they will lose four key players (Bell, Bouchier, Dean and Wyatt) to England for much of the season, and this could open the way for others to challenge them in both formats. Diamonds (or Yorkshire, as they were) have finished 50-over runners-up in for the past 5 seasons, and were also the beaten finalists in last season’s Charlotte Edwards Cup, so we’re tipping them to share the silverware with Vipers this season.

WHO WILL GET THE WOODEN SPOON?

Sunrisers took home that dubious honour last season, and have recently lost a big asset in coach Trevor Griffin. He stepped down suddenly last month, leaving Sunrisers to draft in a replacement at the last minute – Laura Marsh. It remains to be seen how well Marsh will perform in her first Head Coach role, but she’s certainly got her work cut out for her – we think it could be another tricky season for the London-based side, whose squad is not much changed from 2021.

BREAKTHROUGH KID?

Our pick last season – Grace Scrivens – ended up not quite getting the opportunities she deserved, and being ultimately overshadowed by Alice Capsey; but she’s come into this season looking like she means business, with a string of captain’s knocks for Kent, so we almost went for her again. However, it’s actually another Kent player – Alexa Stonehouse – who we’ve got our eye on for this summer. The 17-year-old left-handed allrounder doesn’t bowl with lightning pace (yet!) but she looks to have good control (a-la Freya Davies) and she’s also been smashing it with the bat at Academy level. She’ll be playing for South East Stars in regionals, but has also been snapped up by Trent Rockets for The Hundred.

GOLDEN OLDIE?

We hope Marie Kelly won’t be too offended to be labelled a “golden oldie”, but to be fair, she has been playing senior domestic cricket since 2011! The 26-year-old made a big call at the end of the 2021 season, choosing to leave Central Sparks for Lightning, presumably in the hope of more opportunities with the bat. So far at least it looks to have been a smart move – she’s already smashed 69 from 29 balls in a warm-up against Sunrisers, and is likely to be opening the batting for Lightning come Saturday. If she can carry her pre-season form into the Lottie Cup, it could be a fun few weeks!

OVERALL MVP?

Syd: It must be more than 10 years ago now that Don Miles (of womenscricket.net fame) first told me about a kid who’d been setting fire to the County Age Group record books down in Sussex – that kid was Paige Scholfield, now coming into her prime aged 26. After a quiet season in 2021, following a back operation that spring, Scholfield looks ready to take on 2022 fitter and stronger than ever – there’s extra zip to her bowling, and more power in her hitting. With so many Vipers players likely to be called up for England duty, this is Scholfield’s chance to shine, and she looks in form to grab the opportunity with both hands.

Raf: Assuming Emma Lamb gets to play a decent amount of cricket for Thunder this season, she is going to be vital to both their campaigns, sitting atop the order and bowling her usual reliable off-spin. She’s just recorded Lancashire’s best ever T20 bowling figures, taking 5 for 5 in the T20 Cup Group 1 Final against Yorkshire as her side lifted the trophy, after earlier hitting 62* from 34 balls in the semi v Notts. The only snag will be if she gets another England call-up (but she probably won’t mind that too much as and when it happens!)

FULL SQUADS:

(NB: Some squads had not been fully confirmed at the time of writing.)

Central Sparks: Eve Jones (captain), Emily Arlott, Hannah Baker, Clare Boycott, Thea Brookes, Steph Butler, Ami Campbell, Georgia Davis, Gwenan Davies, Poppy Davies, Ria Fackrell, Abbey Freeborn, Sarah Glenn, Milly Home, Amy Jones, Anisha Patel, Davina Perrin, Grace Potts, Liz Russell, Issy Wong

Lightning: Kathryn Bryce (captain), Grace Ballinger, Tammy Beaumont, Sarah Bryce, Ella Claridge, Piepa Cleary, Bethan Ellis, Kirstie Gordon, Josie Groves, Teresa Graves, Beth Harmer, Lucy Higham, Marie Kelly, Michaela Kirk, Sophie Munro, Katie Midwood, Alicia Presland, Lenny Sims

Northern Diamonds: Hollie Armitage (captain), Katherine Brunt, Leah Dobson, Yvonne Graves, Jenny Gunn, Bess Heath, Rachel Hopkins, Sterre Kalis, Leigh Kasperek, Beth Langston, Katie Levick, Emma Marlow, Nat Sciver, Rachel Slater, Linsey Smith, Phoebe Turner, Lauren Winfield-Hill

South East Stars: Bryony Smith (captain), Chloe Brewer, Alice Capsey, Kira Chathli, Claudie Cooper, Aylish Cranstone, Alice Davidson-Richards, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley, Tash Farrant, Phoebe Franklin, Grace Gibbs, Eva Gray, Dani Gregory, Emma Jones, Ryana Macdonald-Gay, Kalea Moore, Rhianna Southby, Alexa Stonehouse, Kirstie White

Southern Vipers: Georgia Adams (captain), Lauren Bell, Maia Bouchier, Charlie Dean, Georgia Elwiss, Nancy Harman, Chloe Hill, Freya Kemp, Ella McCaughan, Alice Monaghan, Tara Norris, Carla Rudd, Paige Scholfield, Anya Shrubsole, Charlotte Taylor, Emily Windsor, Danni Wyatt

Sunrisers: Kelly Castle (captain), Amara Carr, Kate Coppack, Naomi Dattani, Jo Gardner, Gaya Gole, Cordelia Griffith, Lissy Macleod, Abtaha Maqsood, Sonali Patel, Mia Rogers, Grace Scrivens, Katherine Speed, Mady Villiers

Thunder: Ellie Threlkeld (captain), Georgie Boyce, Nat Brown, Alice Clarke, Danielle Collins, Kate Cross, Rebecca Duckworth, Alice Dyson, Sophie Ecclestone, Phoebe Graham, Alex Hartley, Liberty Heap, Laura Jackson, Hannah Jones, Emma Lamb, Laura Marshall, Daisy Mullan, Shachi Pai, Seren Smale, Sophia Turner

Western Storm: Sophie Luff (captain), Emma Corney, Emily Edgcombe, Lauren Filer, Katie George, Danielle Gibson, Alex Griffiths, Georgia Hennessy, Niamh Holland, Steph Hutchins, Heather Knight, Fi Morris, Claire Nicholas, Lauren Parfitt, Nat Wraith

MATCH REPORT: Yorkshire v Lancashire – Jobs For The Boyce

Katya Witney at Weetwood 

Winning her second toss of the day, Langston again elected to bat in the much-anticipated roses match.

Elise Good showed her intent immediately opening the batting, hitting Nat Brown over her head to get the scoreboard ticking in the first over. Hannah Buck scored the first boundary of the innings, tickling Brown off her hip and down to the fine-leg boundary.

However, Phoebe Graham halted the opener’s advances, sending the ball crashing into Buck’s stumps as the right-hander looked for an expansive drive.

After being dismissed off the third ball she faced in the morning game, Armitage looked in the mood to score, driving her first ball aerially down to the boundary.

Good departed in Alex Hartley’s first over, chipping a catch to Sophia Turner at short mid-wicket who took it well jumping to her left. Yorkshire ended the powerplay at 20 for 2.

Armitage continued to advance the run rate, scoring a boundary down to long-on off Emma Lamb’s first delivery. Phoebe Turner matched her energy, lofting Hartley over her head in the 7th over for another boundary but was out caught attempting to cut the ball to the rope off the last delivery of the over.

Yorkshire reached the halfway stage of the innings on 48 for 3, with a fair platform to build on. However, they had a stroke of luck minutes later as Armitage was dropped on the long-on boundary off a difficult chance.

Langston and Armitage upped the ante in the middle overs, taking their side to 74 for 3 by the end of the 13th, but Armitage was bowled off Hartley’s last delivery, the ball clipping the top of the bails leaving the white roses 88 for 4 going into the final five.

Langston fell shortly afterwards, and Yorkshire were in danger of squandering the platform they had built. Rachel Slater went next, coming down the wicket to Lamb and getting herself in a tangle, Jess Woolston followed her back to the dug-out in the next over.

Yorkshire limped to 109 for 8 at the end of their innings and, considering Lancashire’s total of 174 for 3 on the same pitch that morning, they looked well short.

Indeed, with Georgie Boyce scoring consecutive boundaries off the second and third ball of the innings, fears that Yorkshire did not have enough on the board were well-founded.

A six from Lamb put Lancashire a third of the way to their target by the end of just the third over.

Yorkshire didn’t take their chances either as Boyce was badly dropped at mid-on off the last ball of the fourth over and dropped again shortly after. Boyce then went on to bring up Lancashire’s fifty in the sixth over with back-to-back fours off Rachel Slater.

The white roses dropped Boyce yet again in the seventh over, this time compounded by the fielder tipping the ball over the boundary for six. Boyce brought up her half-century with the following ball.

With her team needing just seven to win in the twelfth over, Lamb chipped the ball in the air, and finally Yorkshire took a catch, an easy chance falling to Woolston. However, the result was now a formality.

Boyce wrapped it up in the following over, sealing the deal somewhat anti-climatically with a leg-by.

It was a statement from Lancashire. Despite riding their luck slightly, they looked the far better side, taking advantage of their regional and international players. They will take some beating on finals day next weekend.

Follow @KatyaWitney on Twitter

MATCH REPORT: Yorkshire v Northern Rep – Slow Start Costs Reps

Katya Witney at Weetwood 

On an overcast day at Weetwood CC, far from the glorious sunshine of the week before, Yorkshire held out against the Northern Representatives to claim a thrilling victory.

Yorkshire won the toss and elected to bat but were soon in trouble after Summer Carrington took the wickets of Buck and Armitage in her second over.

At 19 for 2, edges continued to fly. Phoebe Turner got a thick edge on a ball from Abigail Glen which flew through the vacant slip region and hit another up in the air a few balls later, narrowly avoiding the hands of two chasing fielders.

Turner rode her luck, giving a couple of half-chances to the Rep fielders but she was finally bowled by Emily Sutton in the eighth over, leaving Yorkshire 39 for 3.

Bath Langstone showed positive intent from the off as she came to the crease, flicking her first delivery from Sutton elegantly down to the leg-side boundary. Elise Good followed up in Sutton’s next over, skipping down the wicket and belting her down the ground for four.

However, just as Langston and Good were looking productive for the White Roses, Good mistimed an aggressive shot off Sachi Pai, getting a leading edge straight to Alice Clarke at mid-off.

Emma Marlow now joined Langston at the crease and after hitting Pai for a powerful four down the ground she was almost caught at square-leg, the ball falling just short of the fielder.

Marlow was out the following over, swiping at a ball from Ray and only succeeding in edging through to the keeper leaving Yorkshire 84 for 5 going into the final five.

Despite the steady flow of wickets, Yorkshire managed to keep the runs ticking over. Rachel Slater was caught off a no-ball from Ray in the 16th and dropped twice in consecutive balls in the 18th before she was bowled by Glen.

After an entertaining finish from the tailenders, Yorkshire set a target of 118.

Rebecca Duckworth and Abigail Glen made a slow start for the Northern Reps, unable to score fluently off some tight bowling from Beth and Rachel Slater.

However, after the first boundary came in the seventh over the Reps were able to gain some momentum with Glen taking Grace Hall for 11 off her first over.

By the halfway stage, Yorkshire were still searching for the breakthrough with the Reps’ openers having scored 47, just shy of where Yorkshire were at the same stage but without the loss of wickets.

It was beginning to look ominous for Yorkshire until Armitage found an opportunity in the 13th over, taking the crucial wicket of Glen, bowled off a full delivery.

The Rep’s slow scoring rate in the first few overs began to hurt them as they struggled to up the pace. Despite Duckworth’s best efforts playing a couple of beautiful cover drives off Armitage, the Reps found themselves needing 44 off the final five. Not impossible, but tough.

Hall’s well bowled slower ball gave Yorkshire the wicket they were searching for in the 18th, Duckworth departing for 38 and bringing Alice Clarke to the crease.

The Reps were scoring at the required ten an over, however, helped by an unfortunate misfield from Rachel Slater who tipped a catch over the boundary for six and needed 16 from the final over to claim victory; but Hall held her nerve well after bowling a full toss, limiting the Reps to nine off the over and seeing her side home in thrilling fashion.

Follow @KatyaWitney on Twitter

MATCH REPORT: Sussex v Kent – Sussex Hand Kent First T20 Losses In 2 Years

A swashbuckling 88 off 62 balls from captain Grace Scrivens was not enough to prevent Kent going down to the second of two defeats in the T20 Cup versus Sussex at BACA in Brighton – Kent’s first reversals in the format since before the pandemic.

Opening the batting in the second match of this double-header, 18-year-old Scrivens treated the Sussex attack with growing contempt, building to a crescendo in the 17th over when she walloped fellow teenager Mary Taylor for 15 runs including her only 6.

Dominating both sides of the wicket, Scrivens was assisted by some woefully poor fielding, perhaps reflecting that the County T20 Cup is now essentially an amateur competition. In those circumstances, you’d expect a full-time professional to be a class above, as indeed Scrivens was. With Charlotte Edwards taking notes from the boundary, it wasn’t hard to wonder if we might be witnessing a future England coach get an early glimpse of her future England captain?

Ultimately Scrivens fell in the final over – stumped coming down the track to Chiara Green – but the 145-7 on which Kent finished looked like a good total on a chilly, overcast day, with some big boundaries that held the ball up in its tracks, with fielders more than a few times able to retrieve it having come to a standstill a few feet short of the rope.

In reply, Sussex lost Mary Taylor early, bringing Georgia Elwiss to the crease. Elwiss was initially happy to play second-fiddle to Ella McCaughan, on her way to 32 off 35, but upon McCaughan’s dismissal picked up the pace in a partnership of 79 with Paige Scholfield. Scholfield’s 47 off 27 broke the back of the chase, and although she was comically run out, ending up at the same end as Elwiss who had shown absolutely no interest in a second run following a quick single off Ryana Macdonald-Gay, the stage was set for Nancy Harman to help finish things off with a quick-fire 15 off 8 balls – her and Elwiss getting Sussex home with 6 balls to spare.

It gave Sussex their second victory of the day, after a somewhat less exciting match earlier had seen them win by 8 wickets, having restricted Kent to 90-7 off their 20 overs, with Scholfield taking 3-14, bowling with visibly more zip than last season, having apparently fully recovered following a back operation last spring.

A run-a-ball half-century from McCaughan did the business for Sussex in the chase, with a little help from Scholfield (27 off 17) to get the job done with 6 overs to spare. Sydney Gorham was the only Kent bowler to take a wicket, snagging the scalp of Elwiss caught behind; though 17-year-old Alexa Stonehouse (0-10 off 3), who is heading to Trent Rockets in The Hundred this year, also looks like she may be one to keep a close eye on over the next couple of seasons.

BOOK REVIEW: Stumped: One Cricket Umpire, Two Countries by Richard Harrison

Stumped – a memoir of the author’s days as a cricket umpire – is a book of two innings: the first his early years, umpiring men’s league cricket in Kent; and the second, his seasons umpiring women’s cricket in Melbourne.

Its 200-odd pages are divided more-or-less chronologically into 51 short chapters, the very longest of which can be read in a couple of minutes, almost all of which centre around a particular match, often using it to reflect upon a wider facet of the game: pubs (very much part of the game in Kent apparently), teas, LBWs, and so on!

For women’s cricket aficionados, the second half of the book will obviously be the focus. After umpiring a handful of men’s games upon his return to Australia after his years as an expat in England, and not enjoying the more combative experience, Harrison informed the convenors of the Cricket Victoria Premier Umpire’s Panel that he would continue as an umpire only if he were able to stand exclusively in women’s cricket.

They acceded, and so the next few years were spent in the women’s game in and around Melbourne, watching the rise of the likes of Sophie Molineux, Elyse Villani, and of course Meg Lanning, about whom he describes a memorable incident arising from the Australian captain-to-be encroaching upon the pitch when fielding at silly mid on during a club match.

“By law, that is a ‘No Ball’ and I called and signalled exactly that,” writes Harrison.

“What followed was a wildly disproportionate reaction from [Lanning] as she expressed her obvious displeasure and absolute disbelief at the decision…. In the end, I suggested that she should contact the MCC, if she wanted to seek any clarification (or have the law changed).”

The whole book is chock-full of such anecdotes, recorded with wry, dry Aussie humour, which slip down like a pint of bitter on a hot day. And like that pint of bitter, it will be followed by another and another, until the barrel is dry. It’s the kind of book to have by your side, ready for a wet weekend when you still need your cricket fix. And in that regard, it won’t disappoint.