OPINION: England’s Ashes Lineup Takes Shape

The ongoing England A v England B 4-day warm-up match in Loughborough provides significant clues as to how England plan to line up in this summer’s Women’s Ashes.

Openers It looks like England’s preferred opening partnership might be Heather Knight and Lauren Winfield, with Charlotte Edwards dropping down to 4. Personally, I’m not convinced about this – Edwards’ “play every ball on its merits” approach is perfectly suited to the opening role; while Winfield’s attacking shot-making can really only be justified opening in T20, and even there it is debatable, because while Edwards doesn’t tend to do the spectacular, she does the unspectacular so well that even when she is accumulating, she accumulates more quickly than most.

Middle Order With Taylor coming in at 3 and Edwards at 4, this leaves just one space in the middle order, which you’d expect to be occupied by Kent’s Lydia Greenway. If she fails in the ODIs, then perhaps Amy Jones (who is reported to have batted beautifully making a century at Loughborough) is an option for the Test, but only “if”.

All Rounders Despite making another duck in the warm-up match, to go with the two GOLDEN quackers she has bagged in this year’s Women’s County Championship, Nat Sciver’s place is bolted-down for the foreseeable future. Joining her, I’d expect to see Laura Marsh, who offers good, solid batting cover in the late-middle-order, and the ever-dependable Jenny Gunn; although Georgia Elwiss, who is one of just two players to come out of the last winter with her reputation genuinely enhanced (the other being Alex Hartley) is another option here.

Fast Bowlers It’s pretty clear that England still see Kate Cross as the back-up to Shrubsole and Brunt. I think Cross’ batting has something to do with this, because although she has made 50s in the Women’s County Championship, at international level she is seen very much as a “Genuine No. 11”; so barring injuries, it seems unlikely that Cross will play in the ODIs. But the real question is whether England can risk injury-prone Katherine Brunt in a four-day Test match, however well she is bowling? If not, that is where opportunity is likely to come knocking for Cross.

Spinners With Heather Knight offering a classy enough turning ball to open the bowling recently in T20s, and Laura Marsh filling an all-rounder slot, you have to ask if England even NEED a full-time spinner, and whether playing Cross in the remaining slot might not be a better option? Nevertheless, I’d be surprised if England take the field without one of Dani Hazell or Becky Grundy. Grundy was the one in the driving seat more recently, but Hazell has been working hard on a more attacking, wicket-taking approach so I wonder if it is her we’ll be seeing more of this summer?

The XI? The Women’s Ashes is still two months away, so a lot of water is going to flow under a lot of bridges between now and then. Nevertheless here’s the XI I think England are looking to go with:

Knight, Winfield, Taylor, Edwards, Greenway, Sciver, Marsh, Gunn, Hazell, Brunt, Shrubsole.

CLUB OF THE MONTH: North Maidenhead Women’s CC

Here at CRICKETher, we’re passionate about women’s cricket at all levels, including club cricket. It’s our mission to offer coverage of women’s (and girls’) club cricket wherever we can! So – we’re starting a new feature. ‘Club of the Month’ will focus on one women’s or girls’ club every month, giving you the lowdown on their highs, lows, and everything in between.

If you’d like to see your club featured here, get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!

North Maidenhead Women’s CC (Berkshire)

The women’s section of North Maidenhead CC was formed in November 2013. The club chairman, Tony Drake, had been approached earlier that year about the possibility of starting a ladies side by current player Tameena Hussain, after she decided she’d rather be playing cricket than netball! Tony then partnered with Jon Stewart from Thames Valley Cricket Academy, and Jon led a 6-week indoor taster session, attended by 26 women each week. The decision to form the club was made from there.

They play at the beautiful North Maidenhead CC ground at Summerleaze Park, Maidenhead, Berkshire. Chairwoman of the section Laura Higgins describes North Maidenhead as being “very committed to providing excellent facilities”.

North Maids

In fact, support from the men at North Maidenhead has been crucial to the club’s development. Jon Stewart is still their main coach, and they have also enjoyed coaching from the NMCC men’s coaches. Club chairman Tony remains one of their biggest supporters.

They’ve also been inspired by local England star and Berkshire captain Heather Knight, who has been down to the club to coach them. Berkshire are playing several of their fixtures this season at the North Maidenhead ground, and a strong North Maidenhead club contingent was present earlier this season for the Berkshire-Surrey match, to witness Heather making 65 and cheer on their county!

This season they are facing a new challenge, as the club will be participating in the inaugural Thames Valley Women’s League. Their first League fixture of the season is this Sunday (31st May) against Oxford. (Full fixture list here.)

“We’re really looking forward to it,” says Laura. “We’re not sure how we’ll get on but we know everyone will give it their best shot.”

While some of the club’s players have been invited to try out for Berkshire this season, the focus of North Maidenhead is clearly on participation, and making sure everyone feels they can get involved. Many of the current players were total beginners to cricket when the club formed in 2013. Laura describes the highlight of the last 18 months as: “Winning our first match and seeing how happy everyone was! The team bonding has been awesome.”

Laura says the club are always keen to welcome new members: “we are happy for anyone to be part of the team – we are a very welcoming and social club!”

Anyone interesting in joining North Maidenhead Ladies should contact Social Secretary Ali Wetherall (alexandrawetherall@gmail.com) or Laura herself (NMCCladies@gmail.com).

We hope to keep you updated with how North Maidenhead Ladies perform over the coming season. Good luck girls!

MATCH REPORT – Gibson Stars In Big Win For Gloucestershire

Steve Dent at Moreton-in-Marsh CC

Gloucestershire started their 2015 County Championship Division 4 campaign with a comprehensive 97-run win against Buckinghamshire at a picturesque Moreton-in-Marsh CC.

Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire Victorious

Buckinghamshire won the toss and asked Gloucestershire to bat in overcast conditions. The rain arrived after 4 overs, and play was delayed for 55 minutes before Abby Evans and April Wells resumed. They took the score to 32 before Evans was caught behind for 9. Three quick wickets were then lost for 4 runs as Gloucestershire fell to 36-4 in the 17th over.

It was then that 14 year old Danielle Gibson changed the game completely with a high class and entertaining innings. Positive from the start, she despatched the bad balls with regularity and put Buckinghamshire on the back foot. Hitting powerfully, particularly off the back foot on both sides of the wicket, she dominated the bowlers and rapidly reached her first 50 in senior county cricket. She and April Wells put on 90 in 16 overs before Wells fell for a patient 21 with the score on 126.

Danielle’s innings came to end with the score on 134, but not before she had thrilled everyone with a superb 73 from only 52 balls, including 12 boundaries. Hannah Thompson (21*), Eve Alder (15) and Chloe Davis (16*) then all played very positively to add a further 72 from the last 16 overs, taking the score to a very competitive 205-9 from the allotted 50 overs.

Gloucestershire’s bowlers Sidra Khan and Eve Alder started well, bowling a full length and a tight off stump line, and were rewarded when Alder bowled Jerczenko with the score on 10. Buckinghamshire dug in and the 2nd wicket partnership between Turner and Benson took the score to 55 before Laura Marshall completed a very smart stumping off Chloe Davis to dismiss Turner for 25.

From this point Gloucestershire took control and wickets fell regularly, backed by some very tidy and energetic fielding, notably a superb diving catch by Sidra Khan at deep backward square. Chloe Davis (3-26) and Abby Evans (2-15) bowled their spin with good control, and Eve Alder (2-14) also bowled tightly to keep pressure on the Buckinghamshire batters.

Once Alder dismissed Sue Benson for a solid 46 from 93 balls, it was left to Danielle Gibson to come back on to finish off the lower order and she duly completed this task, bowling with good pace. It topped off an excellent day for her personally as she finished with figures of 3-17. The innings ended in the 37th over with Buckinghamshire bowled out for 108.

Gloucestershire are back in action on 14th June, with two T20s against Northants and Hampshire.

Full scorecard available here.

Women’s County Championship Debrief (Rounds 3 & 4): Middlesex Top The Table

It was an excellent weekend for Middlesex, who achieved a nail-biting win against Surrey on Sunday by a mere 4 runs as Danni Warren ended with figures of 5-34. They followed this up with an 8-wicket victory against Lancashire yesterday to finish the weekend top of Division 1 with an average of 17 points.

Middlesex captain Izzy Westbury, speaking exclusively to CRICKETher, said:

“Sitting pretty at the top of the league is a novelty for us! It’s a great start, but nothing to be complacent about. We’re always striving to improve and with some tough games still ahead there’s lots to be done. We know how tough it’s going to be to keep that spot but we’re confident that we have the ability to beat any team in the league. Onwards and upwards!”

Middlesex’s main challengers for the top spot at the moment look to be Kent, who also had a successful weekend, achieving two convincing victories against both Lancashire (by 8 wickets) and Nottinghamshire (by 127 runs). Laura Marsh took a career-best 5-15 against Notts and looks set to be marking out her spot in England’s starting XI for the Ashes come July.

Meanwhile in Division 2, Staffordshire and Somerset are now joint front-runners, with both on an average of 18 points (though Somerset have played one less game). For Staffordshire, the highlight came yesterday in their 6-wicket victory over Ireland, as glove-butler Francesca James smashed 52 off 26 balls, including five sixes!

Somerset also enjoyed a huge win yesterday in their game against Devon, with Devon falling short by 118 runs as their overseas star Lizelle Lee took 3-18 in her 10 overs. Lee also starred with the bat as both she and Sophie Luff (111 and 109* respectively) hit centuries.

A full summary of the weekend’s matches is below:

DIVISION 1 – ROUND 1

Berkshire / Nottinghamshire – Alex Blackwell (38) and Heather Knight (34) starred with the bat as Berkshire hit 182-8 in their 50 overs, then bowled Notts out for just 145, with Jenny Gunn’s 52* being the only resistance. Full report here.

Kent / Lancashire Thunder – Lancashire got their total up to 180-8 thanks to Kate Cross’s 68, but Charlotte Edwards hit a half-century to take Kent to 142-2. Play had to be halted after 33 overs due to rain; and Kent won due to their superior run rate.

Surrey / Middlesex – Surrey looked to be on top after Rachel Candy’s 4-21 saw them bowl Middlesex out in only 41.4 overs for 170. But Surrey then suffered a middle-order batting collapse and ended 166 all out, with Middlesex winning by 4 runs.

Sussex / Warwickshire – Sussex beat Warwickshire convincingly by 7 wickets, as Holly Colvin’s 2-17 off 10 overs saw the Bears struggle to 148-9 in their 50 overs. A 93-run partnership between Sarah Taylor (74) and Izzy Collis (32*) then saw Sussex home. More details here.

DIVISION 1 – ROUND 2

Berkshire / Yorkshire – Yorkshire bowled Berkshire out for 104 as Danielle Hazell’s 6-28 made batting look impossible, then strolled to a 9-wicket victory thanks to big-hitting from Lauren Winfield (42*) and Katherine Brunt (41*). Full report here.

Kent / Nottinghamshire – Kent won by a mammoth 127 runs. Laura Marsh starred, hitting 58 and sharing a big partnership with Lydia Greenway (57) to take her side to 214-7, before knocking over Notts for just 87 with a career-best 5-15.

Middlesex / Lancashire Thunder – Middlesex bowled Lancashire out for 101 (captain Izzy Westbury finished with 3-15) and knocked off the required runs in just 27.3 overs, winning by 8 wickets.

Surrey / Warwickshire – in a tight game, Georgia Hennessey top-scored for Warwickshire with 66, taking her team to 176-9, which looked to be a good total after Surrey lost wickets early, including England’s Nat Sciver for her second golden duck of the season. A battling 34* from Sarah Clarke then took Surrey to within touching distance of victory – but they eventually fell short by 6 runs.

DIVISION 2 – ROUND 1

Devon / Wales – Jodie Dibble made a glorious century as Devon set Wales a target of 218, though this was reduced to 140 after rain shortened the Wales innings. Lauren Parfitt hit 46 but Wales still fell short, finishing on 136 in the allotted 32 overs.

Durham / Staffordshire – Staffordshire amassed 244 in their 50 overs thanks to brilliant innings from Evelyn Jones (115*) and Molly Strano (80*), then bowled Durham out for 150 to finish with a 94-run victory.

Essex / Ireland – In a low-scoring game, Ireland’s 139 proved to be just enough, as Essex were once again disappointing with the bat. Ireland’s Kim Garth starred with bat and ball, hitting 49* and taking 3-20 to bowl Essex out for 123, as Ireland won by 16 runs.

Worcestershire / Scotland – Abbit Aitken’s 5-34 was the highlight for Scotland, though Worcestershire still managed to clock up 211-9 in their 50 overs. Extras then top-scored for Scotland with 46, as they failed to chase down the required runs, leaving Worcestershire with a 32-run victory to their name.

DIVISION 2 – ROUND 2

Durham / Scotland – Scotland concluded a disappointing weekend by being bowled out for just 50 (including 30* from Elizabeth Priddle), to give Durham the win.

Somerset / Devon – Somerset achieved maximum points after clocking up a massive 312-2 including centuries from Lizelle Lee and Sophie Luff. Chasing a total of over 300 was always going to be a difficult ask for Devon and so it proved, as they were bowled out for 195 (Dibble 54).

Staffordshire / Ireland – ireland were bowled out for 133 and Staffordshire raced to a 6-wicket victory, thanks largely to a stonking 52 in 26 balls from keeper Francesca James, including five sixes.

Worcestershire / Wales – This proved to be the tightest encounter of the weekend, with Worcestershire emerging the victors by a mere 2 runs. Worcestershire’s Clare Boycott hit 53 and was well-supported by keeper Lauren Rowles (44) as they set Wales a target of 177. Wales were left requiring 3 off the last ball for victory, thanks to a late-order cameo by number 9 batsman Rose Evans (21). But overseas pace bowler Sian Ruck (3-28) had Evans caught off the last ball of the innings, and Worcestershire celebrated victory.

MATCH REPORT – Lincolnshire v Northumberland: Disappointment for the Imps

Lincolnshire’s Beth Smith at Stocksfield CC

Coming off the back of a first match victory, the Imps were hoping for a repeat performance as they travelled to Northumberland on Sunday. With overcast conditions and a green tinge in the pitch, captain for the day Rachael Dyer elected to field first and put the hosts into bat.

Amy Halloran took the new ball utilising her pace and looking to make the most of the conditions. Beth Smith came in from the other end aiming to use her experience to reduce runs and potentially pick up a wicket or two. The pair bowled well, gaining a lot of movement, but unfortunately the opening batting pair of Hawes and Gillott were unyielding.

A change of bowling to try create a breakthrough was put in place but by drinks the hosts were 150-3. Sloppy fielding and loose bowling had let the Imps down; even with some excellent moments in the field (Smith gaining a run-out and Becki Brooker taking a sharp catch), it was not to the necessary county standard required. At drinks, coach Alan Ward gave Lincs the target to not let Northumberland get more than 230 as a total, meaning the Imps had to sharpen up both in the field and with their bowling!

Lincs looked to be a different team in the second 25 overs. Wickets came from Halloran, Dyer and Smith, with further excellent pieces of fielding: another run-out for Smith, and two more sharp catches for Brooker. Halloran came back on to finish her overs from the opposite end, bowling tightly, and ending with figures of 2-32 in her 10 overs. Smith also returned to finish her overs, finally gaining a wicket (caught and bowled) after having some close chances in her first spell. She ended with 1-30.

This improved fielding performance managed to restrict the hosts to 247-7 from their 50 overs. It was a tall order, but with the pitch holding firm and with what looked a long batting line-up, Lincs felt they could chase down the runs.

India Freeman joined Smith to open the batting, with the first aim being to get to 10 overs without losing a wicket. The pair were ticking the board over steadily until Freeman received a quality delivery from Ali which cleaned her up, bringing Brooker to the middle after 4 overs. Brooker got a quick fire 12 before also receiving an unplayable delivery by Ali, and Halloran followed the next ball shuffling across her stumps to be given LBW – the irony being that Ali had to be taken off in her next over for bowling 3 no balls on height! This left Lincs 31-3 off 7.

The instructions for the incoming batsmen were now to survive for a few overs before looking to press for runs. Unfortunately, Smith was gaining new partners at a steady rate. Lucy Rollinson, Dyer and Abbie Johnson all came in then back out without troubling the scorers too much; some well-timed shots sadly went straight to fielders. Samantha White joined Smith at the crease and the two saw the Imps to drinks with the score at 80-6.

With victory now out of reach, the instructions at drinks were to use time in the middle as batting practice, and try to get as many extra batting points as possible. But even with this being said, two overs later Smith attempted to take a non-existent run to Ali and got herself run-out with a score of 34. The remaining batsmen only managed an additional 8 runs before Lincs were all out for 96 in the 34th over.

Ultimately it was a disappointing day for the Imps as a result of 15 very poor overs in the field, resulting in 46 extras (the top scorer of the day). This, coupled with two of the top order receiving top quality deliveries and only two batsmen making double figures, means there is a lot to improve upon before the first round of the T20 competition on the 14th June.

Full Scorecard is available here: http://lincscb.play-cricket.com/website/results/2303647

MATCH REPORT: Berkshire v Yorkshire – Aggressive Hazell Nuts Toothless Beavers

After yesterday’s big win against Nottinghamshire, Berkshire’s Beavers were brought crashing back down to earth as Yorkshire chased down 104 in less than 15 overs.

IMG_0148

Needing 105 to win, Yorkshire skipper Lauren Winfield hit 42* and her England colleague Katherine Brunt 41*, including 3 sixes, two of them consecutively off Fi Morris, as the Vikings romped home for the loss of only 1 wicket – Beth Mooney, caught behind by Berkshire glove-butler Carla Rudd off Heather Knight for 8.

But it was earlier in the day that the damage had really been done. Berkshire captain Heather Knight won the toss, but might soon have been regretting electing to bat, as she was first back to the pavilion – caught by Mooney off Katie Levick for 16. Wickets fell steadily thereafter, with only Alex Rogers (24) offering any real resistance as England’s Dani Hazell ripped through the Beavers’ middle order, taking 6/28.

Only Alex Blackwell was perhaps somewhat unlucky – caught behind, as Lauren Winfield (at slip short leg) turned to evade a powerful sweep shot and the ball ballooned back up off her leg for Mooney to take the dolliest of dollies. Winfield later took a terrific low one-handed catch at slip to dismiss Sherissa Gumbs.

Speaking exclusively to CRICKETher after the match, Lauren Winfield credited Hazell’s remarkable bowling performance to England’s recent “Spin Camp” in Sri Lanka:

“She has been fantastic for us the last couple of games – she’s been learning her art a little bit more in Sri Lanka, in terms of trying to be attacking and take wickets. We know that she can bowl with good economy, but I think we’re seeing a different side to her game now.”

With the Women’s Ashes now coming into view over the horizon, it was certainly a performance to gladden the hearts of England fans everywhere; and with Katherine Brunt also looking as sharp as a new bag of nails, it’s setting up nicely to be an exciting summer ahead.

MATCH REPORT: Berkshire v Nottinghamshire

On a difficult batting pitch, it was Berkshire’s bowling unit that shone as they bowled Nottinghamshire out for 145 to achieve their first win of the season, triumphing by 37 runs.

Photo (C) Ruth Conchie

Photo (C) Ruth Conchie

With Berkshire defending 182, opener Daisy Gardner, bowling with pace and movement, looked fired up from the outset, removing Notts opener Zoe Richards with only the fourth ball of their innings, LBW for a duck.

Then in Gardner’s next over, Danni Wyatt was run out. Looking to take a sharp single, backing up off an LBW appeal, she was sent back but slipped. Berkshire celebrated the wicket, but it soon became apparent that Wyatt was in some pain with her shoulder, and it was several minutes before she was able to walk off; with hospital scans later showing a dislocated shoulder and a minor muscle tear but no serious damage.

Photo (C) Ruth Conchie

Photo (C) Ruth Conchie

It then went from bad to worse for Notts, as Sonia Odedra was adjudged to have edged Heather Knight behind for the Outlaws’ second duck, leaving them 5/3. Notts’ veteran ex-England glove-butler Jane Smit provided some fight-back in the early part of the innings, before being brilliantly caught by Heather Knight, running backwards at mid off from the bowling of Fi Morris. It was then Jenny Gunn who took up the resistance, with a cool and collected 52*, but the drip-drip-drip of wickets continued, and Gunn eventually ran out of partners as Berkshire celebrated victory in the 47th over.

Earlier, Berkshire had won the toss and elected to bat on what captain Knight described as looking like a “belter of a pitch”. However, appearances were deceptive and runs proved difficult to come by against a quality Notts attack. Opening the bowling, Sonia Odedra looked every bit an international-class bowler; while Danni Wyatt sent down 10 metronomic overs, returning an excelent 2/17.

Knight played well, taking most of the runs from an opening stand of 56 with Alex Rogers, before being comprehensively bowled, playing down the District Line to Jenny Gunn. All eyes were then looking out for Aussie superstar Alex Blackwell, but she opted to come in at her usual position of 3-down, pairing conservative stroke-play with some assertive running to keep the scoreboard ticking, if not tocking, at around 3 runs per over.

By the 40-over mark, Berkshire were 130/6. They were able to accelerate a bit in the last 10 overs, but finishing on 182, they still fell some way short of the 200 needed for maximum batting bonus points, perhaps showing the unfairness of that system in these kind of circumstances.

However, it proved to be enough for the win and by bowling Notts out, maximum bowling bonus points were achieved*.

After the game, Berkshire captain Heather Knight told CRICKETher:

“There were 500 runs scored on this pitch yesterday but it was pretty slow today! Our plan was to try and bowl really straight and our bowlers executed it brilliantly.

Berkshire will be hoping for a repeat performance in today’s match against Yorkshire, also at Finchampstead.

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* Technically… by taking 9 wickets, maximum bowling points are achieved.

WBBL Overseas Stars – Who Would YOU Pick?

Each of the 8 WBBL teams will be able to select a maximum of 3 overseas stars.

We’ve chosen 24 of the world’s top “overseas” players below… so which 3 would you pick for your WBBL team?

WBBL “Star-Cap” Levels Playing Field

Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League, which will take place next December-through-January, will cap teams to a maximum of 5 “star” players.

Domestic cricket in Australia has suffered slightly as a spectacle over the years, because so many top players have gravitated towards the New South Wales Breakers, who have won the WNCL 10 seasons in a row and 16 times overall.

Although WNCL is set to continue as a 50-over competition, the key focus will now be on the T20 WBBL, which will feature a much more level playing field.

Teams will be limited to a maximum of 5 “stars” – i.e. current or recent internationals – of which 3 may be overseas players.

This means up to 24 overseas internationals will get to join the party, with England glove-butler Sarah Taylor, West Indies’ big hitting batsman Deandra Dottin, and South African leg-spinning all-rounder Dane van Niekerk, likely to be at the top of many of those wish-lists.

West Indies Move 3rd In Women’s International Championship

A 2-1 series* victory over Sri Lanka has moved the West Indies up to 3rd in the Women’s International Championship, pushing England down to 5th, though England have 3 games in hand, to be played against Australia as part of this summer’s Women’s Ashes.

Australia remain top of the WIC, despite having played 3 matches fewer than 2nd-placed South Africa.

The top 4 sides qualify automatically for the World Cup in England in 2017.

Team Played Points
Australia 6 12
South Africa 9 11
West Indies 9 10
Pakistan 9 8
England 6 7
Sri Lanka 9 5
New Zealand 6 4
India 6 3

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* Although the full WI/SL “series” is 5 games, of which 4 are complete at time of writing, only games 2-4 count for the WIC.