The CRICKETher 2018 Christmas Quiz

PS – If you’ve got any questions for us for our End of Year Vodcast, please post them in Have Your Say below!

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WBBL: Mid-Term Reports See Thunder Top The Christmas Tree In Oz

Team Played Won Lost N/R Points
1. Sydney Thunder 7 6 1 0 12
2. Sydney Sixers 7 5 2 0 10
3. Brisbane Heat 7 4 3 0 8
4. Perth Scorchers 8 4 4 0 8
5. Melbourne Stars 8 4 4 0 8
6. Adelaide Strikers 7 2 4 1 5
7. Melbourne Renegades 6 2 3 1 5
8. Hobart Hurricanes 8 1 7 0 2

With Christmas falling at pretty much the mid-point in the WBBL, we take a look at who has been good… and who is on Santa’s “Naughty List”!

Sydney Thunder

With just one defeat – to the Sixers – the Thunder sit atop the tree on Christmas Day. They have been professional, rather than spectacular – perhaps indicated by the fact that their star player has been Stafanie Taylor… with the ball! Taylor has taken 14 wickets at a respectable 6.92, and has also done a job with the bat, coming in down the order and finishing Not Out in 4 of 7 innings.

Sydney Sixers

After her incredible run of form at the World Twenty20, and an opening-day 70, Alyssa Healy has subsequently had a bit of a slump with a run of low scores; but the reason the Sixers were favourites wasn’t that they had Healy – it was that they had Healy and Perry and Gardner and van Niekerk and Kapp and… you get the idea! And whereas the Thunder have been clinical, the Sixers have sparkled, especially Ellyse Perry. With 2 centuries and 3 further fifties, the Player of the Tournament is probably already decided – the only question is whether Perry will get a winner’s medal to go with it.

Brisbane Heat

Unloved and unfancied… at least by us in our preview… the Heat have upset some apple carts to sit third – on Net Run Rate, but with a game in hand over the Scorchers and the Stars. They have been helped by a couple of outstanding one-off displays – Grace Harris’s 101* against the Stars will be the one that goes down in the record books, but Sammy-Jo Johnson almost single-handedly beating the Sixers, with 51 runs with the bat and then 3-23 with the ball, was actually the bigger performance. However, consistency is going to be their issue during the run-in.

Perth Scorchers

The Scorchers have to be disappointed with only 4 wins from 8, with Heather Graham’s comp-leading 15 wickets only partly compensating for some disappointing performances with the bat. To be fair, the injury to Meg Lanning, which led to her missing 5 matches, didn’t help things. With Lanning back and in-form, scoring 75 off 50 balls to beat the Renegades with some g-force acceleration at the back-end of the innings, the Scorchers should pick things up from here and cruise through to the knock-outs. Should!

Melbourne Stars

The Stars may have been laid waste by “Bomber” Harris, but they have actually done okay overall. Veteran captain Erin Osborne has led from the front with wickets and runs, while Lizelle Lee scored a match-winning hundred to beat the Sixers, and probably has another couple of big scores in her before we’re done. The crucial player for them could be their other South African, Mignon du Preez. She is not, and never will be, a “Bosher”, but she seems to have found a way to play T20 cricket at this WBBL, taking the boundaries where she can and still running hard between the wickets – averaging 30 at a really useful Strike Rate of 128, she is giving them the backbone they will need if they are to push on.

Adelaide Strikers

The question for the Strikers was always going to be whether a great bowling attack was enough, when your batting tail starts at 3 – the answer so far has been a qualified “No!” Sophie Devine has been outstanding, averaging 50 with the bat, but it hasn’t been enough, and their bowlers are struggling to make up the difference – Devine is their leading wicket-taker, with 8, but she has been expensive, while the likes of Megan Schutt and Sarah Coyte aren’t making enough of an impact in the wickets column to really peg anyone back. They could still pull through, of course… but I wouldn’t bet money on it. (Sorry Raf!)

Melbourne Renegades

The Renegades problem has been runs on the board – Danni Wyatt has been in reasonable nick, as she usually is in Australia when the ball is coming on to the bat, but even she hasn’t really been laying on the fireworks. Wyatt aside, only Amy Satterthwaite has scored more than 100 runs for the Renegades so far… and Satterthwaite only just, with 115! With the ball, the notable performer has been Georgia Wareham – she has only taken 3 wickets, but at an Economy Rate of under 5, to which no one else in WBBL is even close!

Hobart Hurricanes

The positive for the Hurricanes is that they’ve had some close games. But unfortunately not close enough to actually get more than the solitary win on the board. Heather Knight and Smriti Mandhana have hit enough runs to keep the wolf of embarrassment from the door; but they have been poor with the ball and their fielding has been terrible, bordering on amateur at times. Surrey Stars coach Richard Bedbrook has been now flown out to Hobart to try to rescue something for the ‘Canes from the season – we wish him luck… he is going to need it!

BOOK REVIEW: The Fire Burns Blue: A History of Women’s Cricket in India

The Fire Burns Blue: A History of Women’s Cricket in India by Sidhanta Patnaik & Karunya Keshav

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At the Women’s World Cup Final between England and India in July 2017, we were privileged to share the press box with three wonderful colleagues from India, two of whom have now collaborated on a new book recounting the history of women’s cricket in India, from the founding of the first modern teams in the early 70s, through to that dramatic day at Lord’s.

The story they tell begins, like the finest post-modern novel, near the end – with Harmanpreet’s remarkable 171 not out in the semi-final against Australia – before, with little pause for breath, we are whisked back nearly 50 years to the founding of the Women’s Cricket Association of India by a group of girls who, long before Cyndi Lauper, just wanted to have fun.

Sidhanta and Karunya proceed to take us on a 500-page journey – from the early days of travel by second-class train ticket, playing at third-class grounds in front of a handful of spectators; to flying business class to compete at global tournaments, cheered on by a TV audience of millions.

The tale is engagingly told through the eyes of the key protagonists – the players and administrators – many of whose stories are set down here on record for perhaps the first time. The borrowed bats and the dormitory pranks are one thing; but the authors don’t shy away from the more difficult issues, such as how one deals with one’s period in the middle of a vital match.

It is a book for the reader, rather than the statistician or the academic historian – matches are recounted more by a shot remembered here, or a ball recalled there, rather than with the clinical details of a traditional report. Sometimes reading a cricket book can feel like a drowning by numbers, but this book takes a more anecdotal – more human – approach; and is all the better for it.

Controversies, such as the 1986 tour to England, when a diplomatic incident was created as India slowed their rate to a 7-overs-an-hour crawl in pursuit of a draw in the first Test, are dealt with in a balanced manner – and notably more equitably than they have been in English print, where the Indians have been accused of “[playing] the diva card to new extremes” to quote just one example!

If there is one small criticism it might be that the writers are a little too ready to believe the propaganda of the other boards – particularly Cricket Australia and the ECB – that things are so much greener on the other side of the fence, compared to the privations endured over the years by the Indians – we have to tell you, they really aren’t!

English readers should also prepare themselves for a fair smattering of Hindi – it is (loosely) translated in-line, but it can be hard work nonetheless.

Overall though, The Fire Burns Blue remains a thoroughly affable read which deserves a place under your Christmas tree this season.

PREVIEW: #WBBL…. Already?

Hang on… wait… it’s #WBBL already? I only just got used to typing #WT20! And now there’s another hashtag? It’s all too much!!

It’s all a bit too much for some of the players too – several of them, including England’s Heather Knight, who must feel like she has spent most of the last week on a plane, won’t be appearing this weekend. (The England players are required to take an 8-day post-tournament break, so we’ll see them next week hopefully!)

There are 23 televised matches, which you can watch in England via BT Sport, starting tonight at 2:45 am (i.e Saturday morning) with the Sixers v the Stars. All of the non-televised matches will be live-streamed at cricket.com.au, so it will once again be possible to watch every game your team play. (And I guess every game, as long as you have enough screens!)

Here at CRICKETher, Syd will be once again supporting the Hobart Hurricanes, due to a long-nurtured sense of fatalism and some vague Berkshire connections; while Raf will be rooting for the Adelaide Strikers, as long as they’ve still got Sophie Devine playing for them! [Yup – check – they have!]

Adelaide Strikers

After a disappointing past few months in international colours, the Dynamic Duo from New Zealand – Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine – will probably feel the pressure is off a bit as they pull on a different coloured jersey, and this could be bad news for everyone else. With Bates and Devine to open the batting the will be hoping to get off to some big starts, and their batting isn’t even their strong point! Their bowling includes current World No. 1 Megan Schutt, former World No. 1 Dani Hazell, Sarah Coyte, Amanda-Jade Wellington; and not forgetting that Devine herself was the second-leading wicket-taker in KSL this year! Having slightly disappointed last year, when they came 4th in the ladder, expect more this time around.

Prediction: Up There

Brisbane Heat

They’ve got Beth Mooney. And… er… hmmm… look… we love Laura Wolvaardt, we really, really do, but she just isn’t a Twenty20 player; and Sune Luus, their other big South African signing, still looks like a lost empire in search of a role – since her bowling went south, South Africa have tried to turn her into a batsman, which hasn’t been a total disaster, but hasn’t exactly been a roaring success either. Jess Jonassen is short of match fitness having spent #WT20 carrying drinks; while one-time Great White Hope Holly Ferling spent #WT20 back home watching on TV. They only just missed out on the playoffs last time – if they get even close this time, it will be a miracle.

Prediction: Wooden Spoon Challengers

Hobart Hurricanes

The WBBL’s perennial whipping-girls still don’t have any Aussie stars. What they do have is a new coach poached from Loughborough – Salliann Briggs – and the two leading run-scorers from KSL, Heather Knight and Smriti Mandhana. With Hayley Matthews, who seems to perhaps be at last starting to fulfil the promise she showed on her spectacular entry to the international stage when she powered the West Indies to victory in the final of the last #WT20 in India in 2016, things could be looking up in Hobart. A hurricane? Perhaps not! But at least a strong wind!

Prediction: In The Mix

Melbourne Renegades

Another team without any big Aussie stars, but they’ve got a few smaller ones, including Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham who are now officially World Cup Winners™, plus Tayla Vlaeminck who played in the group stages of #WT20 but not the final. Danni Wyatt always seems to turn up in Australia, and having Amy Satterthwaite on the bridge is always a bonus with bat and ball, especially as she comes with a free Lea Tahuhu boxed-in. They probably won’t make the playoffs, but it wouldn’t be a massive shock if they did.

Prediction: In The Mix

Melbourne Stars

To lose one Lanning (Meg, to the Scorchers last year) may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both (Anna, to the Renegades this year) looks like carelessness, and it is carelessness that the Stars look likely to pay for. At 34, Kristen Beams is a veteran who has seen it all before, but is also coming to the end of her career; and none of their other marquee players are quite superstars – Georgia Elwiss is very reliable, but isn’t going to set the world on fire; Lizelle Lee can set everything on fire, but seems to be out of matches more often than she’s not; while Mignon du Preez is one of the hardest working women in cricket, but as an accumulator she can’t do it alone in T20. They came second-to-last in the table last season – expect similar this time.

Prediction: Wooden Spoon Challengers

Perth Scorchers

The Scorchers’ key player last year was Katherine Brunt, but them playing her through a niggle which then flared-up into a full-blown long-term injury ultimately cost everyone big, as she missed the #WT20 for England and has obviously not returned to Perth either. Filling Brunt’s shoes are Kate Cross and Amy Jones, but they are big shoes to fill, and what the Scorchers could really have done with is another big batsman – someone like… oh, I don’t know… Meg Lanning! Lanning isn’t the most elegant player in the world (*hi Sarah Taylor*) or the most destructive (*waves at Harmanpreet Kaur*) but she has already broken many of the records in the book, and will surely break the rest before she is done. With her on board the Scorchers will surely be up there again this season.

Prediction: Up There

Sydney Sixers

They won it last year; they won it the year before – yer, let’s just say this: they’re gonna win it again! They don’t have Kim Garth this time  – the loophole that allowed her to play as a “rookie” has now been closed – but they still have Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, and Ellyse Perry from the Aussie contingent; plus Marizanne Kapp, who might not be officially the world’s No. 1 bowler, but would be the second name on many “World XI” team-sheets nonetheless, and Dane van Niekerk just for the LOLs – and there will be a lot of LOLs for Sixers fans this season, that’s for sure.

Prediction: Winners

Sydney Thunder

The Thunder have the most stable team in WBBL – no big names, in or out. It will be interesting to see how Alex Blackwell performs, having largely retired from playing, and indeed being a coach in KSL. Their overseas – Harmanpreet Kaur, Rachel Priest and Stafanie Taylor – are all capable of hitting huge runs… but equally all capable of not. They will need Ms Ultra-Reliable – Rachael Haynes – to be… well… ultra-reliable; and hope that they have enough bowling to keep things in check in the field. They came a solid second in the ladder last year – they probably won’t do quite so well this.

Prediction: In The Mix

NEWS: Sky To Televise Full Summer International Schedule

Following the announcement of the 2019 international schedule, CRICKETher can confirm that Sky will be televising every match.

This will be probably the busiest summer of international cricket ever in England, with not only the Men’s and Women’s Ashes, but the Men’s World Cup taking place in England, and inevitably some of the men’s matches clash with women’s fixtures.

However, Sky have pulled out all the stops to ensure that all the women’s games will be broadcast, even when they clash with the men’s matches.

Great news for women’s cricket fans, and a signpost towards a future where the women’s game stands tall alongside the men’s!

#WT20 – Five Reasons To Be Proud Of England (And Scotland)

So #WT20 2018 is done and dusted and we’re getting ready to fly back home, away from mosquitos and back to winter coats. But, while England couldn’t quite snatch the trophy away from Australia, we’re still proud to support them. Here’s why:

1. They Reached The Final Against All Odds

England did most of their preparation for this tournament in a tent at Loughborough, had their warm-up fixture against Australia rained off, and then spent days cooped up in hotel rooms in St Lucia while the rain came down. The rain even cost them points when their fixture against Sri Lanka was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Despite that they reached their second global final in 15 months.

“We’ve shown some brilliant heart and brilliant fight in this tournament,” Heather Knight said. She was spot on.

2. They Successfully Blooded New Players

In a surprise move, Mark Robinson chose to throw all 3 of his debutants (Linsey Smith, Kirstie Gordon and Sophia Dunkley) in at the deep end in the same match. It was sink or swim: and they all swum.

Dunkley had to wait until her third match to get her first opportunity with the bat, but it was worth the wait as she top-scored against West Indies to take England to a competitive total in a match that they only just lost. Smith bowled well in the powerplay and picked up her first international wicket in only her third over of the tournament.

Meanwhile Kirstie Gordon topped off her meteoric rise into international cricket by finishing as England’s leading wicket-taker. Gordon remains a proud Scot (Scottish readers, please note the title of this piece!) but is equally proud to wear the England colours. It’s been great to see young cricketers making their mark on the side so quickly.

3. They Overcame The Loss Of Sarah Taylor And Katherine Brunt

Taylor’s and Brunt’s were big shoes to fill, two senior players with over 400 caps between them. Cue Amy Jones and Nat Sciver stepping into the breach.

Not having a settled role in the side has made life difficult for Jones in the past but in this tournament she showed a new confidence and maturity with the bat, her innings in the semi-final in tricky conditions a case in point.

Her partner in that run chase, Nat Sciver, has been seen largely as a batsman in recent years, but having remodelled her action just prior to this tournament she showed off just what she can do with the ball, opening the bowling in all but one of England’s matches and taking 3-4 against South Africa.

4. They Showed They Are A Better, Fitter Side Than They Were In 2016

In 2016, in the wake of England’s loss to Australia in the World Twenty20 semi-final, Mark Robinson identified one key issue: fitness. During this tournament England showed that they have taken that critique to heart, working hard over the past 2 years to reach peak physical condition. Their running between the wickets has been lightning quick, creating singles that just wouldn’t have been there in 2016. On pitches where boundaries were hard to find, that was crucial.

5. They Have The Best Fans In The World

Of all the teams bar West Indies, who had the obvious advantage of a home crowd, England were far and away the best supported side in the tournament. Fans came from far and wide, some to their first ever international tournament, having watched the World Cup last year and become smitten with a brilliant team. We know how they feel: we’ve loved every minute of watching this team too.

NEWS: 2019 Women’s County Championship Fixtures Announced

Alongside the international fixtures, the ECB have announced the windows for the 2019 Women’s County Championship, County T20 Cup and Kia Super League.

The County Championship will run in a block from the Mayday Bank Holiday weekend (May 5th/ 6th), through the “other” May Bank Holiday (26th/ 27th) and finishing on June 2nd. This means that the England players should be available for most, if not all, of the County Champs, with the international window not beginning until June 6th.

The County T20 Cup will run through June – starting on the 9th and finishing on the 30th – i.e. during the international window, giving opportunities to the younger players coming through the county ranks.

(Full county fixtures are here – use Quick Search to select “2019 Season”!)

The international window finishes on July 31st, so the KSL will then run through August, with Finals Day at Hove on Sunday September 1st.

NEWS: Summer 2019 Fixtures Announced – Taunton To Host Women’s Ashes Test

The ECB have confirmed fixtures against the West Indies and Australia for summer 2019, including the Women’s Ashes Test at Taunton.

The West Indies ODIs will count towards the ICC Championship, helping to determine qualification for the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand.

The last KSL Finals Day is also confirmed for Hove on September 1st.

WEST INDIES

Thursday June 6

  • First ODI @ Leicester

Sunday June 9

  • Second ODI @ Worcester

Thursday June 13

  • Third ODI v @ Chelmsford

Tuesday June 18

  • First IT20 @ Northampton

Friday June 21

  • Second IT20 @ Northampton

Tuesday June 25

  • Third IT20 @ Derby

WOMEN’S ASHES v AUSTRALIA

Tuesday July 2

  • First ODI @ Leicester

Thursday July 4

  • Second ODI @ Leicester

Sunday July 7

  • Third ODI @ Canterbury

Thursday July 18 – Sunday July 21

  • Test @ Taunton

Friday July 26

  • First IT20 @ Chelmsford

Sunday July 28

  • Second IT20 @ Hove

Wednesday July 31

  • Third IT20 @ Bristol

KIA SUPER LEAGUE

Sunday September 1

  • Finals Day @ Hove

#WT20 – Australia Clinical v West Indies

In the end, it was all a bit like that scene in Indiana Jones – the West Indies sword had glistened in this tournament, as they spun it from hand to hand in a display of swaggering bravado… so Australia got out their gun and just shot them!

Make no mistake – the West Indies were up for this! On taking the early wicket of Beth Mooney, they were dancing just like they had in St Lucia as they bettered their key rivals in Group A – first South Africa and then England.

But Australia didn’t come to dance, they came to win!

It was quickly clear that the this was a pitch on which the big shots were going to play hard-to-get, so Healy and Lanning didn’t go for them – largely picking off the easier runs into the gaps and spaces to build the foundations of the innings.

When the time came to take some risks and accelerate, Healy selflessly took on a few more shots and payed the price, falling short of her 50, but Gardner and Haynes showed the value of having kept wickets in hand, pushing the rate on in the last few overs.

Was it a glamorous total? No!

Was it enough? Yes – obviously!

But it is also fair to say that it might not have been against a different team – a team that were prepared to play the same “percentage cricket” that the Aussies were.

But the Windies were not that team – go big or go home seems to be their motto; and the scorecard tells the story as the Aussies worked their way through the middle order – caught, caught, caught, caught, caught, caught.

Going big just wasn’t an option… so now they are going home.

NEWS: England Announce Academy Squad And Restructure

The ECB have today confirmed the list of Academy players for 2018/19, as well as announcing another revamp of the pathway system, with the Junior and Senior Academy squads now once again merged into one.

The big news is that Lancashire Thunder wicketkeeper Ellie Threlkeld has been dropped from the squad, leaving England with no Academy keeper – Mark Robinson apparently confident that Sarah Taylor and Amy Jones will do the job for a number of years to come.

Several other players who were in the Academy last year have also been “promoted”, with Freya Davies, Alice Davidson-Richards and Linsey Smith all now on “Rookie” contracts.

A question mark remains over Bryony Smith, who is no longer in the Academy squad but who played for the full side earlier in the year in the India tri-series. We understand that she has been training with the full squad for several months, and the likelihood is that she is also now a contracted “Rookie”, though the ECB will not be announcing the full list of contracted players until after the World Twenty20.

An additional 13 players have also been named in a new “Winter Training Squad”, which looks like it will de facto replace the old Junior Academy, with the aim to offer support for players who are currently seen as having the potential to be part of the EWA in the future.

The full squads are below:

England Women’s Academy

  • Lauren Bell (Berkshire)
  • Hollie Armitage (Yorkshire)
  • Georgia Boyce (Nottinghamshire)
  • Emma Lamb (Lancashire)
  • Charlie Dean (Hampshire)
  • Sophia Dunkley (Middlesex)
  • Danielle Gibson (Gloucestershire)
  • Mady Villiers (Essex)
  • Kirstie Gordon (Nottinghamshire)
  • Ellie Mitchell (Cornwall)
  • Amy Gordon (Surrey)
  • Ella McCaughan (Sussex)

Training Squad

  • Eva Gray (Surrey)
  • Maia Bouchier (Middlesex)
  • Bess Heath (Derbyshire)
  • Sarah Glenn (Derbyshire)
  • Rhianna Southby (Surrey)
  • Issy Wong (Warwickshire)
  • Nat Wraith (Gloucestershire)
  • Leah Dobson (Yorkshire)
  • Ria Fackrell (Warwickshire)
  • Georgia Draper (Yorkshire)
  • Lucia Kendall (Hampshire)
  • Alice Capsey (Surrey)
  • Helen Fenby (Durham)