REPORT: Notts Colvinated as Sussex Streak Continues

Sussex’s unbeaten streak continued this weekend as a Holly Colvin four-fer helped them see off Notts by 5 wickets at Billingshurst.

Having won the toss, Sussex captain Sarah Taylor opted to field on a windy morning with some swing in the air for opening bowlers Freya Davies and Izi Noakes, who led off with a pair of maidens.

Notts soon found themselves two down, as Georgie Boyce was run out without scoring and Sonia Odedra also departed cheaply, well caught by Georgia Elwiss at gully off Davies.

Danni Wyatt (36) and Jenny Gunn (39) got things back on track for Notts, but it was Colvin who then did the damage, taking 4/20 in a 10-over spell which saw off Wyatt and Gunn as well as Amy Gauvrit and Zoe Richards.

Aussie Erin Osborne also took 3/28, before Davies came back to finish Notts off in just the 36th over, with 132 on the board.

It didn’t look like a big total, and so it proved, as Sussex knocked off the runs in less than 30 overs: Sarah Taylor leading the way with 39, assisted by Elwiss (27) and Paige Scolfield (25).

On a positive note for Notts and England, Wyatt bowled well again – taking 2/36 in 10 overs, including the big wicket of Elwiss, who struggled to get the spinner off the square and was eventually bowled trying to hoik her through mid on. Jenny Gunn (2/18) also got into the wickets, before Osborne and Colvin wrapped things up for Sussex.

Speaking to CRICKETher after being awarded her Man of the Match champagne, Holly Colvin said:

“I’d like to take that wicket with me every week – it was very helpful and turned quite a lot.”

Referencing her comeback after a year out, she added:

“It’s more enjoyment for me this year, which is really making a difference – enjoyment brings confidence and it’s good to be in a winning team and taking wickets.”

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OPINION: Super League Sees ECB Embrace Risk At Last

As a sport, cricket is all about risk – the bowler who pitches it on a tempting length, inviting the drive; the batsman who looks to go over the top, even while knowing that in this game there are no second chances.

So it is perhaps surprising that cricket’s governing body in this country, the ECB, has been so conservative over the years. In particular they have never got to grips with their most fundamental problem – that in a country where cricket is very-much a second-level sport, there are simply too many teams; tied to an organisational structure that, being based around the ancient counties, is quite literally Medieval.

The women’s game has arguably suffered more from this than the men’s. Forced to adopt the county structure wholesale after the merger with men’s cricket in the late 90s, there were never really enough elite players to support such a broad base, and even now several of the Division 1 counties frequently “carry” players who neither bat nor bowl.

And yet, when change has been suggested in the past, the answer has always been: “We can’t upset the apple cart”; and “Better the devil you know” so “Cling to nurse, for fear of something worse”!

That’s why the new Women’s Cricket Super League is so important – for women’s cricket and maybe yet for the men’s game too. At a stroke, it cuts the Gordian Knot that has bound the game for so long and takes a big leap into the unknown.

For let us be clear, this is a risk. It could fall flat on it’s face before it even gets started. There are certainly parties interested in hosting teams (not all of them current First Class counties) but at least 5 of them are based within a 60 mile radius of London, which might make commercial sense, but would make a mockery of attempts to rebuild a reinvigorated organisational pyramid around the franchises as local centres of excellence.

And even once the system is established, its success is far-from guaranteed. The ECB are putting a lot of money in themselves, and will require their franchisees to support a robust business plan. But four years is a long time in business. People and sponsors come and go; and with the hosts themselves being expected to put in some money to match the ECB’s contribution, it would be remarkable if all six franchises made it through financially unscathed. If you want to know what the results could look like… just ask anyone who follows women’s soccer in America!

But almost because this is a risk, CRICKETher has never felt so excited about the future of our sport. The contracts were great; the Kia’s were great… but both were for the tiny elite. This is for the wider game and for the future. It isn’t just for those who are playing now, but also for those who will contest the Women’s Super League in 2025, the Women’s Ashes in 2027, and the World Cup in 2029.

And if at that time we are looking back on our careers as journalists, covering a robust, healthy game, then we’ll know that THIS was where that journey really started.

Women’s Cricket Super League Q & A

What is the Women’s Cricket Super League?

It’s a new elite-level competition for women’s cricket in England.

How many teams / players will take part?

There will be six teams in the competition.

Are these franchises?

In a word… YES! (The ECB are calling them “hosts” but they are franchises in all-but-name.)

Where will the teams be based?

We don’t know yet – the ECB are currently soliciting host tenders, and are prepared to entertain bids from anyone – Arsenal Football club was mentioned, albeit we imagine mainly in jest! However, requirements for teams to support a certain level of facilities for players, spectators and the media, will mean that in practice all bids seem likely to come from existing men’s First Class counties, or amalgamations thereof. Additionally, the ECB have promised to try to maintain a broad geographical base for WCSL, so teams will be spread throughout the country.

How many overseas stars will we see?

Up to 12 “overseas” superstars will play in WCSL; and it is hoped that the very biggest names in women’s cricket will be involved, such as Australia’s Meg Lanning and West Indies’ Deandra Dottin.

How much are the players getting paid?

That’s up to the individual teams, and in practice the answer (at least initially) is likely to be “not much” but the players have been promised (small) match fees and expenses, which is actually a major step forward. (Most county players today have to pay their own way.)

Is this a T20 league like WBBL?

Initially, yes – 2016 will see WCSL run as a T20 competition, alongside the existing Women’s County Championship and Women’s T20 Cup. But in 2017, the league will extend to embrace the 50-over One Day format.

Will it be on TV?

The ECB are certainly very hopeful in this regard – even raising the possibility that it could be on Free-To-Air TV. However, CRICKETher understands that this would require SKY’s agreement, as they currently own the rights to all cricket played under the auspices of the ICC in England and Wales; so at this stage the answer would have to be that it is “up in the air SKY”!

What happens to the Women’s County Championship?

Officially, nothing – it continues as before, and the ECB are committed to maintaining its funding; but they admit that once the “One Day” WCSL begins in 2017, we are unlikely to see the very top players playing county cricket again.

What happens to Scotland and Ireland?

In the words of Clare Connor… “Good question!” After 2018, they will not be permitted to take part in the Women’s County Championship; and their players will be considered “overseas” from the perspective of WCSL. (Though whether this is compatible with EU law is an open question, and may yet be one for the lawyers.)

ECB Announce Women’s Cricket Super League

As first broken by CRICKETher back in March, the ECB have now officially announced the 6-team Women’s Super League will commence next summer, 2016.

For the first year, the Super League will run as a purely Twenty20 format competition, ALONGSIDE the existing 50-Over County Championship and T20 County Cup. Thereafter the WCSL will evolve to embrace both formats from 2017.

The WCSL is supported by a 4-year, £3 million pound investment from the ECB; who are hoping to attract international stars to the competition alongside home-grown players.

Read Our Women’s Cricket Super League Q & A

Middlesex Come Out On Top in T20 Triple-Header

Georgia Isaac reports from Edmonton CC

Edmonton CC in London provided the setting for three exciting games of T20 cricket, and considering play began in misty rain it was good that the teams lost only eight overs in the day. For Middlesex, it was an excellent all-round performance as they beat reigning champions Nottinghamshire by 9 wickets, then followed this up with a 10-wicket win over Somerset.

Middlesex captain Izzy Westbury was clearly thrilled with the team’s winning performances. “Our squad of 15 is all pushing for places in the first eleven, and that’s the beauty of Middlesex. There are no superstars, but we’ve got a very good team.”

The first match was between Middlesex and Nottinghamshire. As Notts won the T20 competition last year and have three England internationals in their side, they were always going to be tough opponents. Danni Wyatt was in an explosive mood and hit 89 off only 54 deliveries including eight 4s and two 6s. She gave chances, but the ball was damp, fielders struggled to hold it, and there is always extra pressure when attempting to take the wicket of an international.

Wyatt dominated an opening stand of 86 with captain Sonia Odedra, who was bowled by Izzy Westbury for 25 off 22, including four 4s. Soon afterwards, the persistent drizzle became rain and the players were taken off. Although there was only a short delay, with three fixtures needing to be completed in a day, overs are quickly lost. Each innings was reduced to 16 overs, which meant Notts had just five overs to build on the Wyatt platform.

A second wicket soon fell as Sophia Dunkley had Georgie Boyce stumped for eight, with the score on 132. Ria Raval then took the wickets of England pair Wyatt (89) and Jenny Gunn (0), and with one run added by Abbey Hawkins, Nottinghamshire ended their 16 overs on 136-4.

It was going to be a challenging chase for Middlesex as 136 is a good score after 20 overs and even more impressive after just 16, particularly when the overs were lost not from the start, but midway through the innings. The hosts also lacked one of their top-order batsmen – Cath Dalton – who had injured her ankle at training on Friday night.

Dunkley and Tash Miles opened the batting against Odedra’s pace and Wyatt’s spin. Middlesex attacked from the start, with crisp square drives a feature of Dunkley’s unbeaten 66 off only 46 balls. Miles also batted well, but fell short of a half-century when caught by Zoe Richards off the bowling of Rebecca Widdowson for 42, including five 4s and a 6. Miles fell at 94; Fran Wilson joined Dunkley and they saw Middlesex to an impressive nine-wicket win in 14 overs.

After the game, Sophia Dunkley said that Middlesex had approached the run chase positively throughout. “Tash [Miles] and I normally go out and play quite freely anyway, so it was a good chance to play our natural game, and we pulled it off.”

The second match saw Nottinghamshire face Somerset. Notts again batted first and Wyatt continued her superb form, scoring a boundary-filled 103. Her ability to score all round the wicket again highlighted her quality, and showed she is pushing for a spot in the Ashes squad. Although dropped eight times across the two games, she refused to change her aggressive style of batting. Nottinghamshire completed their innings on 142.

South African-batsman Lizelle Lee and Gwenan Davies opened for Somerset. Lee made a century in her previous county game and is in good form for Bath CC, so hers was the key wicket. She played an entertaining innings, striking the ball powerfully and forming a solid partnership with Anya Shrubsole worth 61 before the England fast bowler was caught by Jenny Gunn off Amy Gauvrit for 27.

This left Somerset on 89-3 after 15 overs, almost completely reliant on Lee if they were to stand a chance of victory. But she was dismissed by Rebecca Widowson for 77, having scored nearly two-thirds of her runs in boundaries, as she took a big swing and was caught by Gauvrit. Somerset fell short by 17 runs, finishing on 125-5.

The final match of the day was between Middlesex and Somerset. Westbury won the toss for the second time and decided to stick with the team’s winning formula by fielding first. Unlike the first match, bowling proved decisive. As number three Fran Wilson is on loan from Somerset, she was not able to play this match, and Danni Warren was brought into the side.

Having watched some of the second match, the team was aware that Lee remained in good form, and that she and captain Anya Shrubsole would probably hold the key to Somerset’s ability to post a challenging total. Middlesex got the wicket they desired as Dattani had Lee caught behind by India Whitty, after a strangled shot down the leg-side, for 2.

Generally Middlesex’s bowling and fielding was of a much higher standard in this match, and wickets fell fairly steadily, with Warren (3-6) picking up three including England Academy’s Sophie Luff, fresh from her 109* in the last round of county matches. Somerset fought until the 16th over when Westbury took the final wicket, and they were all out for just 48.

Once again Sophia Dunkley and Tash Miles proved a successful opening partnership for the hosts. Although Somerset’s opening bowlers Shrubsole and Lee attacked until the end, they simply did not have a high enough total to defend, and found themselves congratulating Middlesex on their 10-wicket win after only 7.5 overs.

Georgia blogs about cricket regularly at https://georgiacricket.wordpress.com.

Alex Blackwell (R) With Heather Knight

Alex Blackwell speaks to CRICKETher: on playing for Berkshire, the women’s Ashes – and seeing the ball like a watermelon!

With less than 5 weeks to go until the start of the women’s Ashes, Australian vice-captain Alex Blackwell is quietly confident about her team’s chances. “We know we performed well in the last series in Australia in the shorter formats. We’re feeling very positive about it.”

Her confidence is understandable. Though England are the current holders of the women’s Ashes – having won back-to-back series’ in England in 2013 and Australia in 2014 – it was Australia who came out on top in both the ODI and T20 legs in the last series, winning 4 out of 6 of the limited-overs games. Only England’s early victory in the Test – worth 6 points (compared with 2 for each ODI and T20) – saw them home.

Since then, Australia have whitewashed both West Indies and Pakistan in ODI series’ – and more to the point they resoundingly beat England in the World Twenty20 final last April, by 6 wickets.

This time around, too, the multi-format points system has been rejigged. The Test match will be worth only 4 points, and will also be played mid-series, between the ODIs and T20s – a move Blackwell thoroughly approves of.

“The 4 points for the Test is really positive, because last Ashes to lose the Test and then win more of the limited overs games than England was really tough for us. To have the Test in the middle probably helps that scenario. If someone does take the Test match, the series is still very much alive.”

Blackwell herself is likely to be one of Australia’s key threats in the forthcoming series. Now aged 31, she has been a mainstay of Australia’s middle-order batting since her debut against England back in 2003, and since 2011 has averaged over 50 against England in ODIs.

And by the time the series begins on July 21 at Taunton, she will already have been in the UK for over 2 months, playing for Berkshire in the Women’s County Championship.

It’s meant time in the middle adjusting to English conditions, and the chance to face England bowlers Dani Hazell, Danni Wyatt, Jenny Gunn, Laura Marsh, and Tash Farrant (in matches against Yorkshire, Notts and Kent).

“It’s been a big advantage to see how the England girls are progressing,” Blackwell says. “Everyone goes about adding to their game and improving, so to see where they’re at now is really good.”

For Blackwell, too, who previously spent a season with Berkshire back in 2008, it’s been a chance to reconnect with her roots. She says Berkshire was always a natural choice for her when deciding to spend time in the UK this summer:

“I have family from Berkshire. My aunt and uncle are here, and my Dad is from Berkshire as well. He was born here. So for me to be able to represent my home county (if I was going to have one over here) is really special.”

Additionally, both Blackwell and fellow Aussie Erin Osborne – who has also been playing in England this season, representing Sussex – have enjoyed the unique opportunity to train with the Elite International Cricket Academy, based at the Ageas Bowl, alongside male cricketers from Australia and New Zealand.

“We’re getting to play in some really high-level practice matches. We actually played the New Zealand ODI squad the other day. I faced Grant Elliott and Mitchell Santner, and Santner tied me down pretty well! I found him more difficult than the fast bowlers.”

“These opportunities are incredible. It’s all an experience. That’s something new for us, and it’s made us very excited about cricket. Obviously the ball comes quicker to us in the field, so hopefully when it comes to the Ashes we can see that ball like a watermelon cos it’s coming a bit slower!”

Blackwell and Osborne’s early arrival in England might be thought to be simply a clever tactic on behalf of Cricket Australia to ensure that two of their top players have experience of English conditions before the biggest event in women’s world cricket kicks off in July, but Blackwell says that both she and Osborne wanted the experience for themselves as much as anything else.

“Both of us were searching for the best way to prepare for us, and we felt that playing matches and being over here in a new environment was something very worthwhile. Both of us have been in the team for a long time – I’ve been around since making my debut at 19 and I’m now 31. So you’re always looking for new ways to prepare better and stay enthusiastic about the game.”

Nonetheless, Blackwell stresses that her time in England has been crucial Ashes preparation: “I know that every match I get to play is part of my preparation. I’m not going to be warming up in the Ashes. I would have had all those ups and downs, working out how to best play in these conditions, and I think there’s probably no better way to prepare.”

Having recently hit a solid 42* for Berkshire against Ireland – an innings in which Blackwell did indeed appear to be seeing the ball like a watermelon (!) – there’s no doubt that England’s bowlers had better watch out this summer.

Abby Evans

MATCH REPORTS: A Mixed Day for Gloucestershire in ECB Twenty20 County Cup

Steve Dent reports from Great Rissington CC

Gloucestershire 103 – 8 (20 overs) beat Northamptonshire 94 – 6 (20 overs) by 9 runs.

Abby Evans

Abby Evans

A fine half century from Abby Evans set up a win against Northamptonshire in Gloucestershire’s first county women’s T20 of 2015 at Great Rissington CC. Evans scored 53 from 64 balls as Gloucestershire posted 103 – 8 from their 20 overs. She was well supported by Naomi Forecast (12) and Bethan Moorcraft (9).

Gloucestershire then produced a disciplined bowling and fielding display to restrict Northamptonshire to 94 – 6 from their 20 overs to seal the win by 9 runs.

Evans and Moorcraft put on 28 before the latter was caught skying a slower ball. Evans continued to punish the bad balls as the Gloucestershire batters played positively to maintain the run rate. Wickets fell regularly though in pursuit of runs and Evans herself finally fell in the 19th over, as Gloucestershire posted 103 – 8 from their 20 overs.

Gloucestershire then produced a disciplined bowling and fielding display to restrict Northamptonshire to 94 – 6 from their 20 overs to finish the winners by 9 runs. Eve Alder led the attack with a superb bowling display with 1 – 8 from her 4 overs and there were wickets for Chloe Davis (1 – 15) and Alice Hill (1 – 24). Northamptonshire’s batters took several risks with their running and after several near misses, the fielding clicked, resulting in sharp run outs for Abby Evans, Alice Hill and Danielle Gibson. 

Gloucestershire 82 – 5 (20 overs) lost to Hampshire 83 – 5 (19.3 overs) by 5 wickets.

In the 2nd game versus Hampshire, it was Abby Evans who again provided the backbone of the innings with 33 from 43 balls. This time she was well supported by Amelia Andrew (20 from 18 balls), as Gloucestershire posted 82 – 5 against a very tight and disciplined Hampshire bowling and fielding display. The pair put on 39 in 34 balls with some strong hitting, as Gloucestershire broke free from the stranglehold placed on them by Hampshire’s attack.  Both, however, were run out in successive balls as Gloucestershire reached 82 – 5 from their 20 overs.

In reply Hampshire found the Gloucestershire bowling equally tight, as Eve Alder again bowled impressively conceding only 8 from her 4 overs. She was backed up by some tight fielding in the ring as Hampshire found scoring difficult. Two wickets for Chloe Davis (2 – 19) and one from Danika Dyer (1 – 15), along with run outs from Naomi Forecast and Sidra Khan, kept the game in the balance until the final over. Hampshire needed 6 from it and it was they who just prevailed, reaching their target of 83 for the loss of 5 wickets with 3 balls to spare.

Coach Steve Dent said: “Both games saw the girls demonstrate great skills and a strong collective spirit and this augurs well for the games ahead.”