OPINION: England’s Test Team Pencilled-In

ECB-ology, like its etymological forefather Kremlinology, is an inexact science. Nevertheless, it seems clear from reading between the lines of today’s Academy squad announcements for next week’s games against Australia, that England have all-but pencilled-in a team for the Women’s Ashes Test, which begins on Tuesday-week.

In (possible!) batting order:

  1. Knight
  2. Winfield
  3. Taylor
  4. Edwards
  5. Greenway
  6. Sciver
  7. Brunt
  8. Shrubsole
  9. Gunn
  10. Cross
  11. Grundy

Edwards, Knight, Taylor, Sciver and Shrubsole will all be picked unless they are clinically dead… and even then the selectors would probably have a long, hard think! Brunt is also a certainty as long as they think she’ll make it through without injury, and she is looking pretty fit right now, so she is nailed-on too.

Greenway isn’t quite on that list any more, but she had a 50 and a 40 in the ODIs, so she will play as well.

That leaves just 4 question-marks – Winfield, Cross, Gunn and Grundy.

Neither Winfield nor Grundy are in the Academy squads, so unless one of them has “looked funny” at Paul Shaw, they are both “in”, or they would have been given the opportunity to prove themselves against the Southern Stars in those games next week.

Cross was “dropped” for the 3rd ODI, but England were pretty clear that this was more of a positive swap than a negative one, and she is seen as a bit of a red-ball specialist. Indeed she is the only England bowler to have played a significant amount of red-ball cricket this season, having been playing The Other Game in the Lancashire League; so I’m pretty sure she will play.

Finally… Jenny Gunn? The Gunnster is obviously entering the twilight of her career; but she did a job with the ball when she came back into the ODI team that only Jenny Gunn can do; and I just can’t see Charlotte Edwards wanting to go into the Test without her longest-serving and most trusted lieutenant – someone who can bowl a lot of overs with good economy, and was England’s highest run-scorer in last summer’s Test against India.

So there it is! Am I right? We’ll find out next week apparently, but in the meantime have your say below!

EXCLUSIVE: England Stars Set For WBBL But Will Miss Final

The big news today is that England stars Lauren Winfield and Kate Cross are heading to WBBL’s Brisbane Heat.

CRICKETher understands that several contracted England players have been given leave to take part in the inaugural Women’s Big Bash, which takes place in December / January; and we can expect further announcements over the next couple of weeks, as the i-s are dotted and the t-s are crossed on individual contracts.

However, ECB sources have also confirmed to CRICKETher one slightly disappointing piece of news: England’s contracted players will be expected to return to Blighty by mid-January in preparation for their tour to South Africa, and so will miss the semi-finals and the final.

This is neither unexpected nor unprecedented – the first duty of England-contracted players is rightly to England; and this kind of thing is common in The Other Game with the IPL.

But it is still a pity for the fans (not to mention the girls themselves) that the calendars could not have been tweaked slightly by just a couple of weeks to allow the England players to participate in the “business end” of the competition.

Random Thoughts: Women’s Ashes 3rd ODI

* Wickets Matter In 50-Over Cricket

As in the previous two games, England’s key bowlers – Brunt and Shrubsole – received plaudits aplenty for keeping things tight. Shrubsole in particular was lauded for costing just 25 runs from her 10 overs.

But the problem is that neither of them took any wickets.

In the 1st ODI (which England won) early wickets put that little bit of pressure on Australia’s middle-order and kept the total slightly under-par. This time, Australia got off to a much smoother start, sailed through the middle overs, and were able to throw the bat at it at the end, delivering a total which was perhaps as much as 30 runs over par; and which England were simply unable to live with.

* Australia’s Coaches Deliver

Several people on Twitter commented that England were hitting the ball directly to fielders – they weren’t! The fields were simply so expertly placed (and clinically adjusted for each batsman) that it just looked like they were. Basically, the Australian coaching and captaincy team delivered a tactical master-class out there today.

Similarly the decision to move Healy up the order was perfect – bringing on the big-hitter just when the innings needed some impetus. In fact… I did wonder at the time if it might have been to England’s advantage if Sciver had “accidentally” dropped Bolton!

(And yes… although England later pulled a similar trick by moving Brunt up the order, at the point they did it, it was already far too late.)

* England Can Bowl… But Australia Can Bat

I still think England’s bowling attack is slightly stronger than Australia’s; but the problem is that Australia’s batting is orders of magnitude stronger than England’s. With England, once you get Charlotte Edwards out, you know you are already half way there. Whereas with Australia, once you get rid of Villani you get Lanning… then Perry… then (today) Healy… then Blackwell – only then do you get down to someone (today, Jonassen) who wouldn’t immediately walk into any other team in the world, England included.

* Australia Are Now Odds-On… But England Can Hope

Though Tuesday’s performance offered a glimpse of what we all know England can do, in our hearts it has always been clear that these Ashes were going to be an uphill struggle against the undisputed World Champions. Today just confirmed that. Nevertheless, there is still hope for England – if they can win the Test, they then need to win just one of the 3 T20s to retain the 14-billion-year-old* trophy. And that sounds doable… right…???

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* Well… if our friends at Cricket Australia can claim the trophy is 300 years old on the grounds that it was made from a 300 year old tree, I figure we might as well take this to its logical conclusion, based upon the age of the atoms which comprised the tree!

OPINION: England Need To Change Their Mindset, Not Their Team

In the wake of something like Australia’s clinically emphatic victory at Bristol last Thursday, the temptation is always to reach for the shotgun; and indeed many of our readers indicated that they would: 85% of you voted for England to ring the changes in our (not very scientific!) poll, with a majority favouring bringing in Lauren Winfield at the expense of Amy Jones.

But I think it is their mindset England need to change, not their team.

Dropping Jones (or Elwiss) after one duff knock isn’t the answer – the batting failures on Thursday were collective. Heather Knight alone fell to a moment of brilliance – Lanning’s direct hit from midwicket. Otherwise as Megan Schutt admitted afterwards, on a pitch with no daemons in it Australia found that all they needed to do was bowl it full and straight and wait for England to fail to defend their stumps, as all 9 wickets to fall in England’s post-drinks collapse went either bowled or LBW.

So England need to get back to basics with the bat – defending the stumps might sound like a glib piece of advice to offer to a professional cricketer; but if you don’t do it, you’ll find yourself back in the pavilion, and it can be difficult to score runs from there!

England’s bowlers also need to learn some lessons. All those short-pitched bouncers might scare the bejeezus out of the batsmen you find at club or county level, but at the pinnacle of the game (at the pace the women bowl) it doesn’t work, and the Australians were happy to either ignore it or give it the treatment it deserved.

Indeed the Aussies themselves had found this out on Tuesday – the short stuff was ineffective; the coaches had clearly identified this; and by Thursday it was history.

If England can do what Australia did – listen to the coaches and get the basics right – they can stay in this series. If they can’t, it’s going to be a short game on Sunday… and an even shorter Test in two weeks time.

Women’s International Championship Rain Regs

(AKA: We read the Playing Conditions so you don’t have to!)

Women’s International Championship matches allocate a Reserve Day in case of rain on the Match Day; but how exactly does that work?

  • If it starts raining, the initial priority is to get a result on the official Match Day.
  • The umpires will declare a reduced amount of overs, with the aim being to still complete the match at the originally scheduled finish time.
  • A result can be declared if the side batting second has faced a minimum of 20 overs.
  • Should the side batting second face fewer overs than the side batting first, the Duckworth-Lewis Method comes into play; and a new “target” is calculated, which takes into account wickets in-hand as well as run-rate.
  • Basically, so far, so much the same as any other ODI – men’s or women’s.
  • ONLY if 20 overs of the second innings can’t be completed on the Match Day do we THEN fall over to the Reserve Day.
  • The Reserve Day picks up the game where the Match Day left off. So if the team batting second start a Duckworth-Lewis-adjusted 20 over chase, that is where we pick up from. (Even if there is just one ball of it left!)
  • But they must have started the chase. If the umpires only announce the adjusted chase (but the players never actually get back on, because it starts raining again) the overs to be bowled on the Reserve Day will be those that stood at the moment they originally came off.

Gloucestershire Maintain 100% Record with Comprehensive Win

Steve Dent reports from Bedminster CC

Gloucestershire maintained their 100% record in the 50-over county championship with a comprehensive 178-run win against Wiltshire at Bedminster CC.

After winning the toss and batting, openers Abby Evans and Charlie Walker started positively with quick running and positive stroke play. With the total on 41, Walker was unluckily run out backing up for a bright 19 off 31 balls. Bethan Moorcraft joined Evans and the pair proceeded to put together a large partnership. Every time the Wiltshire bowlers erred in line or length, both players took advantage and the scoring rate accelerated.

Evans reached her fifty first with Moorcraft following not far behind as the pair put on 141. Moorcraft was run out for 50 from 76 balls with 4 boundaries, but Evans then proceeded to dominate the rest of the innings; she reached a superb hundred from 137 balls as she shared in partnerships of 42 with Naomi Forecast (14) and Amelia Andrew (24* from 14 balls). She was run out on the last ball of the innings for a high class 132, including 20 boundaries, as Gloucestershire finished on 284-4 from their 50 overs.

In reply, Wiltshire never really showed any intent to chase the target down and set out to frustrate the Gloucestershire bowlers. It took until the 10th over before the breakthrough was made by Eve Alder and the bowlers had to remain patient. The introduction of spinners Abby Evans and Chloe Davis saw more wicket-taking opportunities emerge and Evans trapped Wakeling and Morgan lbw in her spell of 2-20 off 10 overs. Davis took the wicket of Amore with another lbw decision before a series of run outs set Wiltshire further back. Naomi Forecast pounced at backward point to run out More and this was followed by direct hit runs outs from Amelia Andrew and Evans as Wiltshire fell to 79-7.

The reintroduction of Alder saw her trap Farrant lbw before a superb catch diving forward at short extra cover by Chloe Davis gave Charlie Walker her first wicket. A last wicket partnership of 20 frustrated Gloucestershire. but with the total on 106, Davis took a return catch off her own bowling to end the Wiltshire innings. Davis finished with 2-20 from 7.3 overs, Eve Alder ended with 2-23 and Walker 1-25.

Coach Steve Dent said afterwards: “Abby’s high class century was a real highlight today and continues her excellent form this season. She batted all the way through the 50 overs and gave us the platform for a significant score. We kept the pressure on the Wiltshire batters with some disciplined bowling and fielding and the win consolidates our position at the top of Division Four.”

Gloucestershire are next in action in the County T20 competition against Scotland and Devon on 2nd August at Frocester CC.

POLL: Should England Make Changes for the 3rd ODI?

After their swaggering victory on Tuesday, England were brought crashing back down to earth on Thursday by the Southern Stars.

So, should they be making changes for the 3rd ODI on Sunday?

England have 3 options waiting in the wings – batsman Lauren Winfield, who has been in (literally) smashing form for Yorkshire; veteran all-rounder Jenny Gunn, who would offer some bowling variety; and spinner Laura Marsh, who would bolster England’s fragile batting-order.

Or should England stick with the team that proved on Tuesday that it CAN win?

What do YOU think? Vote here, or add your comment below!

Random Thoughts: Women’s Ashes 2nd ODI

* England Wasted A Good Toss

Though this was a good pitch, on an overcast morning bowling was the obvious choice; so it was a bit of a no-brainier for Charlotte Edwards to put the Aussies in and throw the ball to Brunt and Shrubsole. And although the Stars didn’t quite get off to a flyer, England nevertheless failed to make the inroads they must have been hoping for, allowing the Australian openers to build a solid platform which their middle order later exploited with aplomb. So the toss win was somewhat wasted, but…

* Australia Wasted Their Final Overs

With just two wickets down going into the last 10 overs of their innings, at 187/2 the Stars must have been eyeing up a score nearer to 280; so 259/6 represented something of a mini-victory for England at that that stage of the match; and from an England perspective 260 certainly felt “gettable” albeit it would have been close to a record chase.

* Edwards On Top of the World

Although Lanning got the big score (and the big Man of the Match champagne) it was Edwards that looked like the one player truly in command of the crease today; playing it like she had all the time in the world to pick her shots. In the end it wasn’t the Aussies but the drinks break that did for her, as an uncharacteristic lapse in concentration saw her bowled by a nothing delivery from Megan Schutt.

* England Batting Like… England

Edwards aside, England batted largely like… well… England! Knight looked scratchy and survived a couple of edges which really should have been caught by Healy. Taylor got a start but didn’t push on; and once the ‘keeper was dismissed, England collapsed, Gangnam Style. As Megan Schutt admitted afterwards, all Australia had to do was bowl straight and the wickets fell faster than the stock market on Black Wednesday.

* Cricket Was The Winner

Okay, if you are an England fan this is scratching around for consolation; but for the second match in a row we’ve had a crowd of well over 3,000 at a women’s international, which is just brilliant; and full credit to the ECB, Sky, the BBC and the counties who have all pulled together to market this series like no other series in “our” game has ever been marketed before.

It will be interesting though to see what the mainstream press make of things now they don’t have a victory to trumpet. Yesterday’s headlines were of the “Girls show the boys how it’s done!” ilk. Are we now showing them how it’s NOT done? 😉

Random Thoughts: Women’s Ashes 1st ODI

* Australia Lost It Early

Speaking after the match, Ellyse Perry hit the nail on the head: “We didn’t get off to a great start with the bat.” And yes, that really was the difference.

Jess Jonassen (career ODI Strike Rate 87) made just 5 off 17 balls (SR 29); bringing to the crease Meg Lanning (career ODI SR 97) who then scored only 6 off 18 balls (SR 33).

In short, this was not the kind of start the Southern Stars are used to making; and they were playing mental catch-up with themselves ever after, leading to some risky running in the last 15 overs, and 4 of their last 5 wickets falling to Run Outs. 

* Villani Holding Back

Ellyse Villani’s Strike Rate was a more respectable 69; but she looked timid at the crease, as if she was consciously holding back her more natural attacking instincts; and her tame dismissal reflected that – caught at square leg, basically not even playing a shot.

* Blackwell Down The Pitch

Alex Blackwell had a couple of big LBW shouts against her, but they were never going to be given because she was coming a long, long way down the pitch to almost every ball. This was a definite tactic – she wasn’t doing it for Berkshire last month! England need to look at how they can counter this, maybe by bowling for the stumping?

* Sciver NOT Smashing It

Nat Sciver made a career-best 65 in her last match in New Zealand. Today she went one better – 66 off 75 balls, and a well-deserved Man of the Match medal to boot!

I think she looked more relaxed at the crease here than I’ve ever seen her before, and she was playing with a grace and elegance which she has sometimes lacked – not trying to smash it out of the ground, but pivoting and pirouetting into her shots.

Nat is a supremely fit individual – probably the most athletic of the current squad – but she seems to have realised that cricket is about more than being able to bench-press the ball into the stands; and it is a lesson that others, particularly some on the fringes of the team, could well learn!

* Elwiss To The Manor Born

Georgia Elwiss hasn’t had the best start to the season at county level, but pulling the England shirt on today (for the first time in over a year) she looked to the manor born from the first ball, and you get the sense that this could be her summer.

A (slight) surprise selection she may have been, but Elwiss has definitely NOT left the building! (If this form continues, expect to see her batting higher up the order too, by September!)

Pape and Franklin Snatch Victory for Kent

A late-order seventh wicket partnership between Charlotte Pape (59*) and Phoebe Franklin (26*) saw Kent snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in a low-scoring thriller against Surrey on Sunday.

Kent had been 49-6 and still 92 runs short of their target when Pape and Franklin came together, but the pair weathered the storm, initially with singles as they kept the run rate ticking over, then – after the 50 partnership was reached – utilising some more expansive strokes. The highlight was a glorious six from Pape as she pulled Cecily Scutt to the square leg boundary.

Pape reached her half-century in the 41st over with a boundary through midwicket, and hit the winning run to third man the following over.

Earlier, Kent had done well to bowl Surrey out for 140 on what looked to be a decent batting wicket. Surrey’s innings was anchored by opener Kirstie White (51), who reached her 50 in 77 balls and played some lovely shots around the wicket. But the introduction of Megan Belt to the attack brought an end to her innings as she was caught at mid-on by Molly Davis.

Two excellent run-outs by Alice Davidson-Richards followed, leaving Surrey 7 down in the space of 36 overs. Belt then helped finish off the tail as, in the same over, both Scutt and Sarah Clarke holed out to Davis at mid-on. Surrey were eventually all out in the 46th over, and Belt finished with figures of 4-24.

Kent’s reply began badly, as some tight bowling from Rachel Candy and Katherine Robson saw them score just 14 runs off the first 8 overs.

15-year-old Hannah Jones (2-34) then removed both openers, having both Davidson-Richards (7) and Lottie Bryan (9) caught by Robson at mid-off.

The wickets continued to tumble with 3 Kent players (Lynsey Askew, Kara Sutherland and Lauren Griffiths) falling for ducks – both Sutherland and Griffiths being trapped lbw by Scutt (2-34). At 49-6, it was left to Pape and Franklin to attempt to stick around.

Surrey had several chances to break the partnership – including a dropped catch at deep backward point when Franklin was on 17 – but failed to do so, and consequently had to watch the match gradually slip away.

After play, Kent captain Lauren Griffiths said it had been a “fantastic win” and praised the performances of her young team:

“We were missing 5 England players and a few others were injured as well, so we had quite a few U15 and U17s playing, and they did amazingly. It just shows that without those England girls the younger girls can step up.

“At 60-6 we were in a little bit of a mess, but we bat all the way down to number 11, and Phoebe and Charlotte looked really confident at the end.”

It was a match thoroughly enjoyed by a rather raucous crowd, at least 4 of whom were watching their first ever game of women’s cricket. A note to the Oval officials, though: is it really necessary to force spectators to move seats halfway through an innings, for so-called “security reasons” (the second set of seats were approximately 5 metres away from the first set)? Not only did it disrupt enjoyment of the game, it created a rather unwelcoming atmosphere – as did the total lack of food/drink facilities available on site. Sort it out please!