NEWS: ECB Confirms 41 Domestic Professional Contracts

The eight women’s regions have today confirmed the names of the players who have been allocated professional contracts, with five assigned to each region (with the exception of Western Storm, who have six).

In addition to the 20 players who signed regional retainers earlier in the year and the five England “Rookies”, who have all progressed onto full-time regional contracts, a further 16 players have been added to the list of contracted professionals.

CRICKETher understands that the new contracts are worth £18,000 annually (substantially less than the PCA’s mandated minimum wage of £27,500), with the ECB providing the funding for 40 of them.

However, the total number of contracts on offer has been increased to 41 (instead of the originally intended 40) thanks to an additional contract for the South West & Wales region, funded jointly by Western Storm and Glamorgan CCC. Georgia Hennessy, Nat Wraith and Alex Griffiths all shone for Storm in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, and with the player allocation process led by the Regional Directors it seems that Lisa Pagett was able to provide a convincing case that all three had done enough to earn a contract.

A number of players offered contracts have established careers outside of cricket (Central Sparks’ Gwenan Davies, for example, is Head of Girls Cricket at Shrewsbury School; while Northern Diamonds’ Phoebe Graham works in marketing for Sky), which strongly suggests that at least some of the new “professionals” will be continuing to do other paid employment outside of cricket.

Perhaps the most surprising inclusion is that of Jenny Gunn for Northern Diamonds. Gunn, who is 34 years old, announced her retirement from international cricket in October 2019, and had made the decision to retire from all cricket in March 2020, only playing in the RHF due to a last-minute phone call from Diamonds head coach Dani Hazell.

The full list of contracted players is now as follows (newly contracted players in italics):

Northern Diamonds:

  • Hollie Armitage
  • Beth Langston
  • Linsey Smith (EW Rookie)
  • Phoebe Graham
  • Jenny Gunn

North West Thunder:

  • Georgie Boyce
  • Alex Hartley
  • Emma Lamb (EW Rookie)
  • Ellie Threlkeld
  • Hannah Jones

Central Sparks:

  • Eve Jones
  • Marie Kelly
  • Issy Wong
  • Emily Arlott
  • Gwenan Davies

Lightning:

  • Kathryn Bryce
  • Sarah Bryce
  • Bethan Ellis
  • Lucy Higham
  • Abbey Freeborn

Western Storm:

  • Dani Gibson
  • Sophie Luff
  • Fi Morris
  • Georgia Hennessy
  • Nat Wraith
  • Alex Griffiths

Southern Vipers:

  • Georgia Adams
  • Tara Norris
  • Paige Scholfield
  • Lauren Bell
  • Maia Bouchier

South East Stars:

  • Alice Davidson-Richards (EW Rookie)
  • Sophia Dunkley (EW Rookie)
  • Tash Farrant
  • Bryony Smith (EW Rookie)
  • Aylish Cranstone

Sunrisers:

  • Amara Carr
  • Naomi Dattani
  • Cordelia Griffith
  • Jo Gardner
  • Kelly Castle

NEWS: Women’s Hundred To Be Played At Same Venues As Men’s Competition

The ECB have announced that next year’s inaugural Women’s Hundred will be played at the same 8 venues as the men’s competition – side-lining places like Taunton and Hove, in favour of Sofia Gardens in Cardiff, and The Ageas Bowl in Southampton.

Although the ECB haven’t quite said so, it now also looks likely that many more of the matches will be “Double Headers” with the men’s teams.

Head of The Hundred Women’s Competition Beth Barrett-Wild said:

“It’s clear that the wide ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the delivery of elite sporting events and society more generally, necessitates a change to our plans from 2020.”

“The move to an integrated eight-venue model with the Men’s Competition next summer will simultaneously enable us to reduce our operational risk, protect the delivery of the Women’s Competition, and optimise the opportunity to work with our broadcast partners to provide maximum visibility and exposure for the women’s game.”

Although this will be disappointing news for fans in some parts of the country, one up-side is that it does mean we will almost certainly get live-streams (or Sky TV coverage) of every game, with the necessary infrastructure already in place at all the big grounds.

The situation will be reviewed following next year’s competition, with the ECB leaving the door open to a return to the original venues in 2022.

STATS: WBBL Bowling Rankings

Three bowlers are tied for leading wicket-taker in the league stages of WBBL 20/21 – Sarah Coyte, Nat Sciver and Sammy-Jo Johnson all took 18 wickets – but none of the 3 occupy top spot in our Bowling Rankings. That goes to Amelia Kerr, who took 16 wickets but pulls ahead of the pack thanks to having by far the best Economy Rate in the competition for bowlers bowling 15 or more overs.

Kerr’s ability to genuinely turn the ball both ways remains a potent weapon it seems, despite the scepticism early on in her career from certain parts of the commentary box that her googly is too obviously telegraphed. Even if you can “read” her out of the hand (and there are actually top international players who privately admit they can’t) it is still another thing to worry about, forcing a more defensive mindset on the batter; and at the end of the day, numbers like these don’t lie.

Sarah Glenn’s first season as an overseas star on the T20 rollercoaster has to be deemed a success. Though things probably didn’t go quite as well with the bat as she might have hoped, she excelled with the ball, taking 16 wickets at an Economy Rate of a shade over 6, putting her at No. 3 in the rankings.

From an Aussie point of view, I wonder if Hannah Darlington at No. 8 could actually be the answer to their long, and thus far somewhat ineffectual search for a young seamer who can stay fit for more than 10 minutes. (Don’t bother looking for Tayla Vlaeminck on this list – she’s injured again!) Darlington might not be “quick” quick, but neither is Megan Schutt; and like Schutt, Darlington seems to put the ball in the right place consistently enough to trouble the batters. Having had a breakthrough season last year, this was her Difficult Second Album™ and she’s risen to the challenge with another 15 tidy wickets.

Just behind Darlington, Grace Harris has had a good all-round season – coming in at No. 20 with the bat and No. 9 with the ball, despite only bowling 21 overs (Sarah Glenn by comparison bowled 48.2 overs).

Finally… can we talk briefly about Hayley Matthews? She’s 15th in the Bowling Rankings, but way down at 42nd in the Batting Rankings… again! When are we going to realise that she is actually a bowler (and gun fielder) who can bat a bit, and realign our expectations accordingly? I guess it is all about those first impressions from the 2016 T20 World Cup, but I’m not really sure it is helping her now?

As ever, we welcome your comments below!

Player Matches Wickets Economy
1. Amelia Kerr (Brisbane Heat) 13 16 5.37
2. Sarah Coyte (Adelaide Strikers) 14 18 6.51
3. Sarah Glenn (Perth Scorchers) 13 16 6.04
4. Sam Bates (Sydney Thunder) 14 15 5.76
5. Nat Sciver (Melbourne Stars) 12 18 6.97
6. Sammy-Jo Johnson (Sydney Thunder) 14 18 7.22
7. Jess Jonassen (Brisbane Heat) 13 16 6.48
8. Hannah Darlington (Sydney Thunder) 12 15 6.45
9. Grace Harris (Brisbane Heat) 13 13 5.61
10. Taneale Peschel (Perth Scorchers) 13 13 5.95
11. Amanda Wellington (Adelaide Strikers) 14 17 7.81
12. Marizanne Kapp (Sydney Sixers) 13 13 6.14
13. Shabnim Ismail (Sydney Thunder) 14 12 5.93
14. Alana King (Melbourne Stars) 10 12 6.00
15. Hayley Matthews (Hobart Hurricanes) 11 12 6.03
16. Megan Schutt (Adelaide Strikers) 14 11 6.04
17. Darcie Brown (Adelaide Strikers) 12 10 5.52
18. Heather Graham (Perth Scorchers) 12 11 6.91
19. Nicola Carey (Hobart Hurricanes) 13 11 6.92
20. Sophie Molineux (Melbourne Renegades) 12 11 7.00

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

STATS: WBBL Batting Rankings

The top spots in the 20/21 WBBL Batting Rankings are very much a case of The Usual Suspects – so much so that when I challenged The Editor™ to name the top 5, she got it right off the middle of the bat, without hesitation, deviation or repetition; though it is perhaps worth highlighting that Alyssa Healy takes first place, despite having scored fewer runs than any of the rest of the top 5, due to her outstanding Strike Rate of 161.

Beth Mooney is in pole position to finish as the leading run-scorer, though at the time of writing there are still the semis and final to play, and she could be caught by Meg Lanning, Sophie Devine or even potentially Heather Knight, who has continued her outstanding run of form in Australia, dating back to… well… she has always done well in Australia, but 2020 will certainly be one she’ll particularly remember, having also averaged 64 in the T20 World Cup back in 2020 BC [Before Corona].

Further down the list there are a couple of interesting placings, including Georgia Redmayne who is a new entry in the top 10 at No. 9. After moving from the Hurricanes to the Scorchers last season, she hit the road again to join the Heat, and she’s been a huge part of why they haven’t flopped this year, despite losing the likes of Mooney and Sammy-Jo Johnson, hitting 332 runs at 118 – a big step up from last year, when she scored 137 runs at 95. Also at the Heat, Laura Kimmince (The Artist Formerly Known As Laura Harris) has had a remarkable season – you quite often see a tail-ender with a Strike Rate of over 200, having made 20 or 30 runs in the season, but to score 140 runs at 203 is absolutely outstanding, coming in at 5 or 6 and taking the “closing” role to a new level.

Among the younger prospects, Courtney Webb has had another good season for the Renegades. Still only 20, she pushed on from last year, which is what you really want to see from an up-and-coming player – improving her Strike Rate from 97 to 112 as she contributed 246 runs, including a match-winning half-century off 33 balls against the table-topping Stars.

Player Matches Runs Strike Rate
1. Alyssa Healy (Sydney Sixers) 13 402 161
2. Beth Mooney (Perth Scorchers) 13 524 119
3. Meg Lanning (Melbourne Stars) 13 458 129
4. Sophie Devine (Perth Scorchers) 11 448 130
5. Heather Knight (Sydney Thunder) 14 403 128
6. Mignon du Preez (Melbourne Stars) 13 375 126
7. Elyse Villani (Melbourne Stars) 13 341 123
8. Rachel Priest (Hobart Hurricanes) 13 354 118
9. Georgia Redmayne (Brisbane Heat) 13 332 118
10. Ellyse Perry (Sydney Sixers) 13 390 97
11. Laura Wolvaardt (Adelaide Strikers) 14 347 105
12. Lizelle Lee (Melbourne Renegades) 13 261 122
13. Rachael Haynes (Sydney Thunder) 14 268 109
14. Laura Kimmince (Brisbane Heat) 13 140 203
15. Courtney Webb (Melbourne Renegades) 13 246 112
16. Katie Mack (Adelaide Strikers) 14 251 110
17. Stafanie Taylor (Adelaide Strikers) 10 226 113
18. Nat Sciver (Melbourne Stars) 12 194 130
19. Jess Jonassen (Brisbane Heat) 13 212 113
20. Grace Harris (Brisbane Heat) 13 240 95

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

VIDEO: The CRICKETher Weekly Vodcast – Episode 34

This week on the vodcast, Raf and Syd discuss:

  • The state of play in WBBL
  • Is Sophie Devine the best batter in the world?
  • Velocity bowled out for 47 in the Women’s T20 Challenge
  • Should we have a full Women’s IPL next year?

Plus… who are the 4 players in our new credits? Answers at the end of the vodcast!

OPINION: Bouchier Ban Is A Failure Of The System

The news that Maia Bouchier has been suspended from bowling for an illegal action is a devastating blow for a player who opened the batting and the bowling for Hampshire in the final season of the County Championship last summer. Although she didn’t bowl much in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, and had a good season coming in at 3 for the Southern Vipers, scoring 214 runs at an average of 31, her future England claims were considerably bolstered by her allrounder status, which now looks to be in jeopardy unless she can make a substantial correction to her action.

The ECB’s official press release accompanying the announcement reads somewhat sternly:

“The 21-year-old has been advised to undergo remedial work on her bowing action before requesting a re-assessment. Bouchier will remain ineligible to bowl in ECB competitions until she is able to pass an independent re-assessment of her bowling action.”

This puts all the responsibility on the player, but the truth is more concerning. This hasn’t come out of nowhere – Bouchier didn’t wander in to a dressing room in 2020 having spent 21 years in the desert! She’s been on the county scene since she was 14, and has been part of the England Academy setup for over five years, so the real question is how on earth did things get to this stage?

Were her coaches not aware that there was an issue? Did it not occur to someone in the Academy at Loughborough, with all that money and technology at their disposal, that there was potentially a problem which needed fixing years ago?

What’s the point in investing tens of thousands of pounds in a player’s future, as England’s Academy programme has in Bouchier over the years, if they can’t spot and remediate a technical issue like this well before it gets anywhere near an independent assessment panel?

In the space of less than a month, Maia Bouchier has seen the highs and lows of being a professional athlete – from seeing her name in lights in the RHF Trophy, to seeing her name in headlines that read like a rap sheet.

But Maia Bouchier hasn’t failed – the system has failed her, and it needs to take a long hard look at itself while it undergoes remedial work before requesting reassessment.