The CRICKETher Weekly – Episode 167

This week:

  • Who’s on track for CE Cup Finals Day?
  • Our take on THAT Thea Brookes interview
  • Where the PCA gets it wrong
  • Syd has a bonkers idea about Bryony Smith… & an excellent one about women’s county cricket


MATCH REPORT: Storm v Sparks – Prendergast Channels Bristol Breeze to Guide Storm Home

On a breezy day at Bristol, Storm cruised to a win which was ultimately far easier than the 4-ball margin on the scorecard would suggest.

Chasing Sparks’ 135, Storm got off to a decent start, with Dani Gibson playing some authoritative strokes early on, finding the boundary in each of the first 3 overs. Gibson has been a key player for Storm this season, but she couldn’t push on today, caught low at extra cover by Erin Burns for 18 off 14.

With Ami Campbell holding on to a difficult low chance to dismiss Nat Wraith, Sparks could have had an opening, but Storm continued to tick along at just over 8 an over, reaching 51-2 at the end of the powerplay with Fran Wilson having taken over from Gibson as the playmaker.

With Irish allrounder Orla Prendergast in tow, Wilson guided Storm to 77-2 at 10 overs, gradually whittling down the rate as she dinked it all around the ground in the manner of… well… Fran Wilson.

Prendergast should have been caught on 20, skying an easy chance to deep mid on, only for Georgia Davis to misjudge it horrendously coming out of the midday sun, shrivelling in embarrassment as it plopped onto the turf a yard behind her.

The partnership between Wilson and Prendergast yielded 57 runs before Wilson’s innings came to an end for 34, stumped coming down the track to Hannah Baker, easily Sparks’ standout bowler on the day.

The runs dried up a bit without Wilson’s impetus, but this was partly achieved by Sparks bowling-out trump-card Hannah Baker, turning the required 21 off the final 4 overs into something of a formality.

Sparks had a couple of opportunities to keep it interesting – a chance to stump Luff off Georgia Davis went begging, and Luff was also dropped off the first ball of the final over; but Prendergast then guided the next delivery over the ring into the vacant outfield to bring up the winning runs, the Irish international finishing 46* off 43 balls.

Sparks (who, at time of writing, are not mathematically out of the tournament, but are very close to being so) will take the positives from a productive (if chancy!) knock of 22 off 23 from Davina Perrin and a highly professional 66 off 45 balls from Aussie veteran Erin Burns.

Perrin had her first little bit of luck on 6 when a lofted drive passed inches from Sophia Smale’s outstretched right hand as it went for 4; and was then horribly dropped by Smale the following delivery. She continued to live a charmed life playing largely over the infield, until finally caught on the ring by Chloe Skelton for 22 off 23.

At the half-way mark, Sparks were 57-3 and staring down the barrel at a somewhat sub-par total. But with Burns on 17 having faced just 14 deliveries, there was an opportunity to build something defendable, and it was an opportunity Burns took, putting on 66 with Abi Freeborn.

Neither found the boundary as much as they might have liked, but both ran hard between the wickets to make up for it – going into the death overs at 99-3 with the chance to capitalise on their wickets in hand. Burns’ innings ended on the second ball of the final over but a strong death phase took them to 135 and gave them something to bowl at, albeit ultimately not quite enough.

The win keeps Storm’s slim hopes of reaching Finals Day alive, though this may change with 3 other matches completing later today.

WOMEN’S ASHES: Come Back With Your Shield – Or On It!

By Andy Frombolton

As Sun Tzu notes in ‘The Art of War’: “A military force has no constant formation, water has no constant shape. The ability to gain victory by changing and adapting according to the opponent is called genius.”

Hence for England to have any chance in the forthcoming Women’s Ashes, team selection needs to take account of the very different skills required across the 3 formats.

Playing against a formidable opposition can bring out the best in some players; whilst for others it exposes their limits. Compare these 2 tables. (Green colouring indicates improved stats compared to performances against all other teams; red means the opposite.)

With the exception of Healy in T20s and McGrath in ODIs, the best Australian players maintain or improve their performances when playing their biggest rivals, England. (Perry’s ‘underperformance’ in ODIs means her performances against England have merely been ‘very good’, not ‘exceptional’.)

    T20 ODI
    Bat Bowl Bat Bowl
    Av SR Av SR Av SR Av ER
Healy vs England 16 103     37 96    
vs Others 28 134     37 75    
Mooney vs England 47 137     56 88    
vs Others 40 122     52 75    
Perry vs England 35 106 24 21 43 80 27 4.5
vs Others 29 115 17 19 53 57 24 4.3
McGrath vs England 186 11 10 20 63 23 4.5
vs Others 52 137 21 16 39 71 43 5.7
Schutt vs England     16 15     20 3.9
vs Others     16 16     25 4.3
    T20 ODI
    Bat Bowl Bat Bowl
    Av SR Av SR Av SR Av ER
Knight vs Australia 15 107     29 67    
vs Others 25 118     39 74    
Jones vs Australia 10 74     9 55    
vs Others 25 128     31 82    
Wyatt vs Australia 21 122     11 65    
vs Others 22 126     27 91    
Beaumont vs Australia 18 96     35 73    
vs Others 25 111     42 73    
Winfield-Hill vs Australia 15 98     12 52    
vs Others 22 110     25 61    
Sciver-Brunt vs Australia 24 106 24 19 52 87 41 5.7
vs Others 27 118 21 21 43 128 28 4.1
Cross vs Australia     53 39     57 5.2
vs Others     21 21     20 4.2
Ecclestone vs Australia     21 18     49 4.6
vs Others     14 15     18 3.4
Glenn vs Australia     17 13    
vs Others     17 17     23 4.1

Already however the England contracted players are being incrementally withdrawn from the CEC in order to prepare for the Women’s Ashes – notwithstanding that many have looked considerably undercooked in their outings and could benefit from more competitive match practice – indicating that England plans to select their various squads from this cohort over the coming contest.

Quite simply however, England cannot afford to field teams containing players whose limitations have been brutally exposed by this all-vanquishing opposition. To do so, and expect better results than last time, would be madness.

This isn’t to advocate a wholesale replacement of the centrally-contracted cohort, but – particularly in the T20 format – many lack the 360-degree batting skills, fielding agility or bowling variations which the modern game requires.

Instead, what could be achieved by a team comprising the best of the central cohort and an influx of players unburdened by past failures and inspired by an unexpected call up? (And if this team loses? There’s no more points of offer for the magnitude of a win or loss!)

This would necessitate some difficult conversations and some potentially-embarrassing outcomes if centrally-contracted players aren’t picked, but Jon Lewis has already demonstrated that he isn’t going to be bound by the decisions or selection choices of his predecessors. Nor should he feel uncomfortable if he has to go outside of the England contracted players to assemble what he deems to be his best team. This is about trying to win the Women’s Ashes, not individual egos.

Based on performances so far this year, Bess Heath, Bryony Smith, Katie Levick, Danni Gibson and Holly Armitage need to be told that if they continue to perform over the next few weeks then an England call-up awaits.

MATCH REPORT: Sunrisers Fail To Shine In Lord’s Debut

Sunrisers continued their winless start to the 2023 Charlotte Edwards Cup with a four-wicket defeat to local rivals South East Stars – a disappointing end to their first ever fixture at Lord’s.

Set a target of 133, Stars looked to be cruising along, adding 61 runs in the powerplay. Bryony Smith continued her form from Tuesday’s match against Vipers (when she struck 83), while Alice Capsey made an exhilarating return to the side, smashing 24 from 10 balls including some glorious aerial drives.

The pair added 30 runs in just 2 overs, but Capsey was out in the seventh, falling to a very good catch from Mady Villiers, diving forwards at long on.

Smith survived a couple of difficult caught-and-bowled chances from Villiers and Abtaha Maqsood to reach 38 from 27, finally holing out to deep midwicket in the 12th.

Stars continued to lose wickets at the back end, including two in the 16th over to Grace Scrivens, who appeared very much to be directing on-field proceedings, having regular conversations with Dane van Niekerk between balls.

But a calm innings from Phoebe Franklin (30 off 36), and a final boundary punched hard through point by Kira Chathli, finished the job with an over to spare.

Sunrisers had rejigged their batting line-up after defeat to Central Sparks at Chelmsford a week ago, with van Niekerk making her long-waited debut for the side, while Villiers was promoted to open alongside the South African.

The pair added 32 for the first wicket – though van Niekerk was put down twice in Phoebe Franklin’s opening over – but could not build enough of a platform to take Sunrisers to a winning total.

Paige Scholfield made the initial breakthrough in the fifth over, as van Niekerk’s wild swing found air and she was bowled, before Villiers bottom-edged onto her own stumps two overs later.

Sunrisers then sunk from 40 for 2 to 64 for 6, thanks partly to some atrocious running between the wickets. Scrivens was undone by a poor call from Cordelia Griffith and a piece of good fortune – Chathli fumbled the throw-in from Bryony Smith at midwicket, but the ball ricocheted off her foot and dislodged the bails anyway.

Griffith was then involved in an extraordinary mix-up with Amara Carr, which saw the two batters almost collide halfway down the wicket. Carr had to make an emergency diversion around Griffith, and was run out at the non-strikers end.

An unsettled-looking Griffith holed out to Tash Farrant at deep square leg two overs later.

It looked like humiliation for Sunrisers, until Jo Gardner and Eva Gray ensured their team at least made a decent fist of it, with a partnership of 48 for the seventh wicket, which lifted the home side above 100.

But Gardner ultimately became the third run-out victim of the innings, coming down the track from the non-strikers end while Gray remained firmly in her crease.

Sunrisers have work to do before their bottom-of-the-table clash against Thunder on Saturday.

MATCH REPORT: Vipers Win Falkland War

Southern Vipers triumphed over South East Stars by 6 wickets to get their Charlotte Edwards Cup title defence off to a flier, in spite of a record-breaking first-wicket partnership of 134 between Bryony Smith (83) and Sophia Dunkley (53).

Vipers made easy work of the 170-run target set for them by Stars, with Charlie Dean (20*) hitting back-to-back boundaries against Phoebe Franklin to take them over the line with 7 balls to spare.

The game was hosted by Falkland Cricket Club in Newbury, making it the first ever professional cricket match to be hosted in the county of Berkshire.

Vipers have always played their home games in either Hampshire (Ageas Bowl) or Sussex (Hove), so it was nice to have a reminder that the regional side also incorporates Berkshire. A crowd of roughly 400, including 150 local schoolchildren, enjoyed the match from the boundary edge; and after Vipers sealed the win, home-grown bowler Lauren Bell was mobbed for autographs.

Vipers won the toss and opted to bowl first, but looked to be ruing their decision after a mammoth, dual onslaught from Smith and Dunkley. Smith looked the most comfortable of the two, enjoying delicious helpings on the leg-side, pulling Georgia Adams for back-to-back sixes over midwicket, and forcing Anya Shrubsole out of the attack in her first competitive game of the season, after her two overs went at 13.5.

Smith was put down on 51* by Linsey Smith, who dropped a skier running in from cover. In the end, only a messy run out in the 15th over, courtesy of a throw-in from Alice Monaghan on the deep midwicket boundary, prevented her from progressing on to a century.

Dunkley fell in the next over, stepping across her stumps to cut but succeeding only in sending a thick edge through to the keeper, allowing Vipers to stifle their opponents in the final few overs. The crowd particularly enjoyed the spectacle of local hero Bell finishing the innings with two wickets in the final over – bowling both Alice Davidson-Richards and Tash Farrant – although they were denied the hat-trick by a whisker, as the ball whistled over the stumps of Kira Chathli.

In reply, Maia Bouchier (30 from 18) got things underway with a glorious drive down the ground for four, as part of a wayward, 18-run opening over from Ryana Macdonald-Gay. Bouchier shared a 50-run opening stand with Danni Wyatt, but was run out in the 5th over after Wyatt called for a second run, chancing the arm of Paige Scholfield in the deep.

Vipers overseas wicketkeeper Nicole Faltum was caught by a diving Dunkley at cover off Freya Davies, while Wyatt herself chipped one up to backward point 10 runs short of a half-century.

But the platform had been laid, and with the target in relatively easy reach, Georgia Adams (29), Georgia Elwiss (28*) and Dean simply had to place the ball well, run hard, and watch the scoreboard tick along.

The CRICKETher Weekly – Episode 165

This week we discuss the start of the Lottie Cup:

  • The evolution of batting in English domestic cricket
  • Who is winning the race to be England wicketkeeper in the Ashes?
  • Is Heather Knight MIA?
  • Plus, do the ICC’s new Playing Conditions about mandatory helmets go far enough?


MATCH REPORT: Blaze Enjoy The Boyce Of Summer At Beckenham

New kids on the block The Blaze continued their unbeaten 2023 season with a 5-wicket win against South East Stars in the opening round of the Charlotte Edwards Cup at Beckenham, thanks to a stolid 63 not out from no.4 Georgie Boyce.

Stars had scored an above-average 160, and when Nat Sciver-Brunt and Tammy Beaumont were dismissed in the 9th and 10th overs – sparking a Blaze collapse of four wickets for 22 runs – it looked like the home side were on course for a win.

Beaumont and Sciver-Brunt had both shown signs of brilliance: Sciver-Brunt’s six off Danielle Gregory thudded into the sight-screen, while Beaumont – perhaps as a signal of intent to the England selectors – chose to open up the innings, and pulled Ryana Macdonald-Gay for a maximum over midwicket in the third over.

But Sciver-Brunt was caught in the deep for 19. Eight balls later, and two runs short of her half-century, Beaumont fell to a brilliant diving catch by Bryony Smith at cover. Sarah Glenn, meanwhile, holed out to Alice Davidson-Richards in the deep for 4.

It was left to Boyce to bring home the bacon, hitting a series of well-placed boundaries and one sweet six smashed over the head of bowler Paige Scholfield, which gradually whittled the target down.

Boyce was dropped at cover in the 17th over, allowing her to bring up a 28-ball fifty. Meanwhile, her partner Nadine de Klerk (16* off 15) survived an edge through the hands of diving wicketkeeper Kira Chathli in the ante-penultimate over, as Stars felt the pressure.

With just two runs needed from the final over, bowled by Davidson-Richards, The Blaze reached their target with four balls to spare.

Earlier, on a blustery day at Beckenham, The Blaze had won the toss and chosen to bowl first. They were at full strength with Beaumont, Glenn and Sciver-Brunt – making her debut for the East Midlands region – all present and correct, while Stars did without Alice Capsey, sitting out as a precaution after a recent foot injury.

Bryony Smith played in customary fashion, smashing 14 runs off the first over from Grace Ballinger, before playing straight into the hands of Marie Kelly at long on in the second.

Tash Farrant, promoted to no.3, was trapped LBW trying to sweep left-armer Ballinger, while Scholfield was caught trying to go over the top, handing Sciver-Brunt her maiden Blaze wicket.

When Sophia Dunkley was bowled playing around a straight one from Glenn in the 7th, the Stars were 48 for 4 and looked in trouble.

But a 68-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Phoebe Franklin (53) and Kira Chathli (24) led the recovery, before a late flourish of 24 off 13 from Davidson-Richards propelled their total to 160 for 8.

It proved enough to make the game exciting, but not quite enough to seal a win.

The CRICKETher Weekly – Episode 164

On Women’s County T20 Finals Day, we continue our deep-dive into women’s domestic cricket:

  • New contracts for Scotland – and how the ECB can help grow Scottish cricket via the regions
  • The problems with women’s club cricket…
  • …and what that means for the future of women’s county cricket

OPINION: What should a sportsperson be paid?

By Andy Frombolton

How much should Claire Fahey (the reigning and six-times Real Tennis Champion) be paid? Or a netball player in the UK Super League? Or a badminton player ranked #40 in the world?

Few readers would be surprised to learn that neither Fahey nor the netballers earn very much whilst a badminton player with a good global ranking (#33-#50) might typically make just £37k; probably rationalising that these are relatively ‘minor’ sports (in terms of popularity) and that the financial rewards available to players would obviously therefore be commensurately modest.

Which provides the starting point for this article; no one has the right to be paid for playing sport.

In life there are essential public roles like doctors, teachers, soldiers, etc. and Society determines how many of each role are needed and how ‘valuable’ each is (salary) whilst legislation enshrines equality in terms of reward for equivalent jobs.

However, for private sector roles (which includes professional sports) Society doesn’t determine how many people are engaged in any particular activity or their salaries (except a minimum salary for employees) and it’s self-evident that:

  1. a business can only employ people if it generates revenue, and
  2. the number of employees and their level of pay will be determined by the amount of revenue generated.

No one would seek to argue that the examples cited at the start of the article are ‘unfair’ – a sports body cannot distribute money it doesn’t have and players choose to participate in full knowledge of the likely rewards. Yet for more popular sports such as football, cricket and rugby much current debate about how much female sports players are (or ‘should be’) paid chooses to ignore these basic business principles and instead seeks to theorise ‘what constitutes a fair salary?’ as if this figure is independent of the revenue their sport generates.

Ignoring government grants, any sport has four possible revenue streams:

  1. fans who are willing to pay to watch the sport in person;
  2. media companies which are willing to pay for the broadcast and digital rights (the costs being recouped via subscriptions and/or advertising);
  3. sponsorship; and
  4. merchandise.

Hence the number of fans, their willingness to pay to watch the sport, and how attractive they are to advertisers and/or sponsors determines the amount of money coming into a sport and thereby establishes a cap on how much can be spent on sustaining and growing the sport (including wages for staff and players).

Premier League football is a pure manifestation of this model, albeit one which benefits massively from being an established product with a large fanbase which is attractive to certain advertisers / sponsors and whose willingness to pay is well-understood. The cricket WPL utilises the same model, although it differs in that the sums involved can only be justified on the expectation of a significant increase in the fan base and that this fan base can be monetised. The WPL investors and sponsors are thus taking significant risks regarding both the potential market and the willingness of fans to pay for a product which has hitherto been free (or very cheap). But in both cases the same fundamental business principle applies – (over time, in the case of the WPL) revenue must exceed outgoings.

Looking to examples in our everyday lives, no one would argue, for example, that a successful restaurant should cross-subsidise a less popular one and we readily accept that customers decide which establishments prosper and which fail. Similarly, we don’t expect all bands or comedians to be equally popular – fans will determine who does well. At the same time however, we might also recognise that some groups of people are over-represented in some sectors or that there are barriers to entry which means some groups are under-represented, and any just Society would want to ensure that under-represented or disadvantaged groups have the same chances to succeed. This isn’t only fair-minded, the consumer benefits too. Who wouldn’t want wider choice, more variety, new offerings? But critically the objective of any such targeted intervention cannot be ‘equality of outcome’ but ‘equality of opportunity’. Provided everyone has the same chance to be e.g., an actor or an entrepreneur then the market must ultimately be free to assign a value to people’s efforts; some restaurants will be more popular than others (not necessarily based on the quality of the food) and being a good actor doesn’t guarantee that your play will sell out if the audience prefer (based on criteria which they alone decide) to spend their money elsewhere.

Cricket is rightly concerned about ‘equality of opportunity’. If women (or e.g., some ethnic groups or people living in certain areas) haven’t previously felt that cricket was a game for them then all cricket fans should want to address this whether their motivation is acknowledging historical societal injustices, inclusion or simply wanting to maximise the number of people who enjoy the sport (playing or supporting). Regarding this final point, when there are so many activities competing for people’s time and money and the viability of many small clubs is in doubt, cricket’s survival (as both a spectator and player sport) depends in its ability to both maintain and expand its fan base.

Fans of women’s cricket, myself included, were genuinely excited by the recent WPL auctions and the potential for the best players in the world to earn serious amounts of money, but it also prompted me to question some of the arguments deployed regarding pay in the women’s game. Surely, it’s disingenuous to approve when the free market delivers an outcome I like (such as the WPL), but to argue that fundamental business principles (i.e., pay should be linked to revenue generated) aren’t relevant when they produce outcomes which I don’t?

I anticipate that some readers are ready to accuse me of positing that women players don’t deserve to be paid the same as the men or that the women’s game isn’t the ‘equal’ of the men’s game, but they should note that this article hasn’t made any reference to salaries in the men’s game or hypothesised what a fair salary might be. So far, this article has simply put forward 2 criteria for reward in any sport: firstly, that no one can expect to be paid for playing a sport unless there’s a fan base to fund them (whether directly or indirectly); and, secondly, provided that everyone has the same ‘equality of opportunity’, that the free market should subsequently determine their level of reward.

Whether you feel positive or negative at this point may well depend on the opportunities you see for the women’s game. If you view the potential fanbase for women’s cricket and the scope for revenue generation to be limited, regardless of how high the standard is or how well it’s marketed and sold, then you may not like the outcome of applying these two criteria. But, if you don’t accept that reward should be linked to popularity and revenue generation, then how do you rationalise (and accept) the differing rewards accruing to today’s top women cricketers compared to the Real Tennis world champion or a UK netballer or a top badminton player?

Alternatively, you might, like me (and, more importantly, people like the WPL franchise holders, media companies and sponsors), envisage a future where women’s cricket can develop a large fan base which is willing to pay to watch the support and which is attractive to advertisers and sponsors.

What would that take? Fundamentally it would require the women’s game to have complete financial and marketing independence – with all the associated risks and opportunities. Are the current administrators willing to accept autonomy with its corollary of accountability? At one stroke, this would serve to end all debate about how the women’s game is currently promoted and its share of co-mingled revenue. It would be for this women’s administrative body to decide the structure of the game, which formats were played, the scheduling of matches and how the game was promoted. It should also have the right to strike separate deals with broadcasters and sponsors. (The ICC is already committed to selling the rights to women’s tournaments separately, initially just in India.) The competence of this board and the quality of its decisions would solely determine the game’s ability to generate and maximise its revenue. (One point of clarification, I’m only talking about pay and reward in the professional game. Given the wider and indivisible benefits to cricket of having more people playing cricket identified earlier in this article, ‘the men’s game’ should continue funding all women’s age group and county cricket.)

Secondly, any cross reference to men’s pay would be rendered irrelevant. The women’s sport would be a stand-alone business and, within its budget, the various woman’s administrative bodies would have complete freedom to decide the structure of the game including the number of professionals and their salaries.

Instead of aping the format of the men’s competitions, they could experiment to find out what works for women’s cricket. Is there demand for weekends / festivals of women’s cricket e.g., with all 8 UK regional teams playing at one venue over the course of a weekend or a few days? What would be the market for playing two T20 internationals in a single day? Could an Anzac team or an International Development team be invited to play in the CEC or RHF (with reciprocation for player development)?

Similarly, it would a decision solely for the women’s board if, for instance, they wanted to play more Tests. Marketed differently these games might be extremely popular but, conversely, if these games needed to be subsidised (just as the men’s game subsidises their 50 over competition and even county cricket) this decision would have a direct and transparent impact on the funds available for other activities.

Perhaps a media outlet which doesn’t currently show cricket (e.g., Facebook or Amazon) might seek the rights? Or new sponsors and advertisers might emerge who value the potentially-different demographics of the fan base? One of the manufacturers of cricket equipment might see an opportunity to take a large share of the growing women’s market. Perhaps the women’s administrators or players might decide to take an ethical stand regarding e.g., betting sponsors? Could a co-operative structure work whereby players owned tournaments and kept all the profits?

Notwithstanding the day-to-day separation of the women’s and men’s games, there’d remain both a need and a benefit for men’s and women’s administrative bodies to work closely together on issues of synergistic or mutual concern. Arrangements like double-headers should still continue; the hosts benefitting from spectators spending more time at the ground and the women’s game enjoying the greater exposure (although there’d need to be data-driven discussions regarding sharing of ticket receipts – something which, to date, the ECB has shown no desire to empirically quantify).

Obviously, there’d need to be a transition period for the women’s game to prepare for the new arrangements (and for extant media deals to expire), but the fundamental question is ‘does the women’s game want to assume responsibility for its destiny?’

The opportunity exists to create a business model which provides excellent salaries for professional players and which can sustain the necessary pyramid of talent. Women’s sport shouldn’t be sold or marketed as an hors d’oeuvre for the ‘main’ (male) event or ‘double the airtime’ for a few dollars more. This devalues the sport and the players whilst entrenching the conditions for irritation and lingering resentment. (If budgets are squeezed in the future, the situation might arise where ‘the men’s game’ starts to question the equity of the current arrangements?) Surely, now is the time to devolve as much responsibility as possible to the male and female formats.

It is pure speculation what the end result would be. Done well, there is undoubtedly a scenario where regional professionals could be paid more and the top players considerably more. Conversely, it might transpire that the game cannot support the current structure and a different arrangement is required. But wouldn’t it better if the outcome was in the hands of a dedicated body whose only focus and ambition was for the success of women’s cricket?