ANALYSIS: England Women Domestic Form Guide

The women’s Ashes starts in just a few days time – but how have the England squad been shaping up this season for their counties? Here at CRICKETher we’ve created a handy Form Guide, based on performances in the county championship this season, to tell you everything you need to know.

Charlotte Edwards (Kent): Runs: 220; Average: 55.00; Wickets: 1 at 50.00

Has been (unsurprisingly) prolific with the bat, and with a highest score of 88* against Yorkshire is currently the leading run-scorer in division 1 of the championship. Her running between the wickets has also looked particularly solid, which is a positive for England as it suggests that her knees will hold up well during the forthcoming series.

Heather Knight (Berkshire): Runs: 311; Average: 44.43; Wickets: 3 at 57.00

Has played county cricket more recently than any other England player due to Berkshire’s rearranged fixture against Middlesex last weekend, in which she made 28. Hasn’t performed spectacularly with the bat, aside from one score of 65 against Surrey back in May, but has opened the bowling several times and still seems to have the ability to beguile county players with her new-found talent for spin – suggesting we might well see Edwards utilising her against the Aussies.

Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire): Wickets: 6 at 9.83; BBI: 3-23

The amount that Brunt is allowed to bowl is still being carefully controlled – she hasn’t got through her full allocation of 10 overs in any game yet this season – which suggests that England might not want to risk her in the Test. However, her economy rate (2.64) has been exceptionally good, and her 3-23 in Yorkshire’s recent win against Middlesex (who had previously been unbeaten this season and were looking like challengers for the title) showed she is getting back to her best.

Kate Cross (Lancashire): Wickets: 3 at 30.00; BBI: 2-15

Having been promoted at the end of last season, Lancashire have struggled hugely to compete in division 1 – they haven’t won a single game this season – and Cross’s poor showing reflects that. She’s had to bear the brunt of the batting for her side, and has often had very low totals to bowl at to boot. Whether this will affect her England chances remains to be seen.

Georgia Elwiss (Sussex): Runs: 57; Average: 19.00; Wickets: 3 at 26.33; BBI: 2-43

Were the England selectors basing their choices on county performances alone – something which we at CRICKETher find rather doubtful! – it’s unlikely that Elwiss would have made it into the squad. Opening the batting for Sussex this season, her highest score has been 27, and even that looked scratchy. Her bowling has also been expensive and yielded little in the way of wickets. However, her recent showings for the Academy might still save her when it comes to selection for the ODIs.

Lydia Greenway (Kent): Runs: 106; Average: 35.33

With scores of 13*, 8, 23*, 57 and 5, it’s been a mixed season for Greenway. Nonetheless, her 57 against Nottinghamshire – made when her team most needed it, coming in at 3 after both Edwards and Tammy Beaumont had been dismissed cheaply – showed her quality. Her fielding is also still far and away the best in the championship.

Becky Grundy (Warwickshire): Wickets: 6 at 21.33; BBI: 2-24

2-24 against Surrey is Grundy’s best performance to date, which helped take her team to victory. However, she’ll be disappointed both with her lack of wickets and the fact that her bowling (usually so tight) has been relatively expensive.

Jenny Gunn (Nottinghamshire): Runs: 125; Average: 31.25; Wickets: 8 at 15.12; BBI: 2-18

Has bowled a lot of overs for Notts and done so in her usual economical fashion (her economy rate to date is 2.95). Has also looked every inch the all-rounder, top-scoring for Notts twice in 5 matches, including 52* against Berkshire as the rest of her team collapsed around her.

Amy Jones (Warwickshire): Runs: 35; Average: 11.66

As the stats suggest, it’s been a bit of a poor season for Jones, whose highest score is only 19. It makes her chances of playing in the ODIs look remote, barring an injury to Sarah Taylor.

Laura Marsh (Kent): Runs: 63; Average: 31.50; Wickets: 9 at 8.22; BBI: 5-15

Marsh’s 58 and 5-15 against Notts at Canterbury back in May well illustrate the reasons for her inclusion in the England squad: a bowler who can also be trusted with the bat. 5-15 also happens to be the second-best bowling performance in the top division of the championship this season (the best, though, was the non-selected Dani Hazell’s 6-28 against Berkshire…ahem).

Natalie Sciver (Surrey): Runs: 111; Average: 22.20; Wickets: 17 at 19.28; BBI: 5-27

Has had a mixed season with the bat – with two golden ducks (against Warwickshire and Berkshire), but a top score of 67 against Sussex back at the start of May. Her bowling has been better – though it’s questionable whether her performance with the ball actually matters to the selectors, given that England seem to now see her as a batsman who bowls, rather than a true all-rounder.

Anya Shrubsole (Somerset): Wickets: 9 at 6.33; BBI: 4-18

As the only player in the squad currently playing in division 2, we perhaps need to look upon Shrubsole’s bowling figures with caution. Nonetheless, you can only bowl at the batsmen in front of you, and you can’t ask for much more than figures of 2-9, 3-30 and 4-18, at an economy rate of 2.28.

Sarah Taylor (Sussex): Runs: 216; Average: 54.00

With 216 runs at a strike rate of 99.53, this season has gone exactly as we would have expected for the supremely talented Sarah Taylor. Watching her bat at Billingshurst against Notts (she made 39, and Sussex won by 5 wickets) was an absolute delight.

Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire): Runs: 205; Average: 205.00

Yorkshire’s brilliant (and somewhat unexpected) recent performances in division 1 of the county championship – with mammoth victories against Middlesex (by 9 wickets), Berkshire (also by 9 wickets) and Warwickshire (by 86 runs) – have been largely a result of their explosive captain. Her average is simply ridiculous, particularly for an opening batsman. She may be disappointed to have finished on 99* against Middlesex in her most recent championship innings – but she’s unlikely to be so when the team sheet is announced for the first ODI next week.

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OPINION: Was 6 points for the Ashes Test “unfair”?

It seems that the war of words in the Ashes has begun this week. A piece on cricket.com.au has new Southern Stars’ coach, Matthew Mott, speaking out against the points system which took England to victory in 2014 – whereby the single Test match was worth 6 points, compared with 2 points for each ODI and T20.

This series, the Test has been downgraded to 4 points, and Mott is reported as saying“I think it’s a fairer system looking at it, the weighting of it is just about right. Whether you win or lose that Test match, it doesn’t really disadvantage or advantage you in the whole scheme of things.”

It’s a view that seems to be held by many people – in particular since England retained the Ashes in 2014 despite losing both the ODI and the T20 components of the series 2-1 to Australia. Presumably this is the main reason for the downgrading of the Test match this time around.

But was 6 points for the one Test really “unfair”, as Mott believes? When the multi-format points Ashes was first announced back in 2013, the Test was awarded 6 points in order to place it on an equal footing with the other two formats, which were (and still are) both worth 6 points each in total (2 points per game).

It’s worth remembering that the Ashes had previously always been contested only across the Test format, just as they are in the men’s game. It therefore made sense to consider the Test equally valuable to the ODIs and T20s.

Why the change? The main argument in favour of making the Test worth 4 points, as compared to 6, seems to be that it means that neither side can gain a huge advantage if they win the Test. It’s perceived that winning one game shouldn’t put you further ahead on points than winning two ODIs/T20s does.

Of course, you have to wonder if Cricket Australia (for I strongly suspect it was CA who pushed for the downgrading of the Test to 4 points), not to mention Mott himself, would still think that 6 points for a victory in the Test was “unfair” if Australia had won at Perth (which they could so easily have done), and taken a 6-0 lead in the series last time around.

Leaving that aside…while I can see that downgrading the Test does have the potential to keep the series alive longer, especially now that it’s being played between the ODIs and T20s, I’m still not sure I agree that the Test should only be worth 4 points.

Test cricket was so-called for a reason – because it was felt to be the ultimate test of cricketing superiority, and for good reason. It’s much harder to sustain cricketing excellence across 4 (or 5 in TOG*) days than it is across 40 or even 100 overs. Anything can happen in a T20. That’s not the case in a Test.

And despite the fact that the commercial focus in women’s cricket from the ICC and the boards now seems to be on the T20 and ODI formats, Test cricket is still considered the pinnacle by pretty much every female cricketer in the world. It’s surely a problem if winning in the pinnacle format, as Mott himself says, “doesn’t really disadvantage or advantage you in the whole scheme of things”.

It seems to me that the real solution is to play two Tests, worth 3 points each. That way, the Test format would still have equal weighting across the series as a whole, but we could avoid the accusation that, by gaining 6 points from just one game, a team didn’t really deserve to win the Ashes.

Whether the boards – in particular CA, who have resisted a two-Test Ashes series for almost a decade now – are amenable to considering this next time around is, of course, another story.

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*TOG – The Other Game (aka men’s cricket)

MATCH REPORT: MacLeod Stars in Berkshire Victory

An excellent all-round performance from Berkshire’s Lissy MacLeod, who top-scored with 61 and took 4-26, saw her team to a 37-run victory in their rearranged match against Middlesex on Saturday.

Chasing 202, Middlesex suffered from early set-backs as Berkshire achieved two run-outs – the first a brilliant direct hit from Sherissa Gumbs at mid-on to dismiss Sophia Dunkley – leaving them 42-2 after 11 overs.

The introduction of Linsey Smith (3-24) to the attack in the 9th over saw Middlesex further pegged back as they struggled to achieve the required rate of just above 4 an over, in the face of Smith’s tight and accurate left-arm spin, including 3 maidens. Fran Wilson, looking dangerous with 16 off 12 balls, was Smith’s first victim, hitting it straight back into the bowler’s hands. She then had Anna Nicholls caught by Corinne Hall at silly mid-off in her very next over.

MacLeod, introduced to the attack in the 16th over, took a wicket with her first ball of the day, having Cath Dalton – back into the side after a month-long absence from injury – caught by Georgina Dean at point.

At 51-5, it was always going to be difficult for Middlesex. A 41-run partnership between Izzy Westbury (16) and Beth Morgan (56) was a valiant but fruitless attempt to get near a total that looked increasingly out of reach.

Westbury was out lbw in the 28th over attempting to sweep MacLeod; MacLeod then helped finish off the Middlesex lower-order, bowling Naomi Dattani for 1 and trapping India Whitty lbw for 0 with a good yorker.

Morgan was the last wicket to fall, run out in the 46th over, as Middlesex were bowled out for 165 – 38 runs short of their target.

Earlier, Berkshire had won the toss and elected to bat in sunny conditions on a good pitch. Alex Rogers was dismissed early, bowled by Dattani for a duck. But MacLeod then shared two 50-partnerships with Heather Knight (28) and Hall (35) to set the scene for a solid Berkshire total.

Macleod again

MacLeod was finally dismissed in the 29th over by Danni Warren (2-33), caught by Wilson at mid-on. But hard-hitting cameos from Emily Gerke (26) and Smith (23) allowed Berkshire to set a total in excess of 200.

Berkshire’s victory came in spite of the absence of both their opening bowlers, Daisy Gardner and Imogen Brown, and speaking to CRICKETher after the game MacLeod said that her team took heart from their team effort.

“It was a good performance. We didn’t lose wickets in clusters and we built partnerships when we were batting, which we were really happy with. Everyone pulled through.”

Speaking about her season-best 61, she added: “I was a bit scratchy at the start but it was good! I’m loving batting at the moment.”

Photographs copyright Ruth Conch and Sam Gibbs

OPINION: WBBL Marketing Sets Standard

There might not have really been much actual substance in today’s WBBL announcement – just one player per team was unveiled, plus the dates and a (somewhat disappointing) TV schedule. But as a the marketing around the event gets serious, the Women’s Big Bash is already looking set to be the Women’s Big SPLASH!

Cricket Australia have form here – the Men’s Big Bash is a tightly coordinated exercise, run under close central control, under the American model of sports franchising, which emphasises the collective health of the competition as a whole, over and above that of individual teams.

And that is one advantage the WBBL has in being a ‘spin off’ of the (M)BBL – the team uniforms look amazing, and are a million miles away from the “50 Shades of Black” we’ve currently got going on in our Women’s County Championship.

Plus CA clearly realises how important it is to show a human side to the corporate identity of the teams. So the Twitter feeds (because… OF COURSE they all have Twitter feeds… and OF COURSE they all look AWESOME) carefully balance the WBBL logo, the team badge and the faces of the key players announced thus far.

All in all, Cricket Australia have done a fantastic job. They realise that WBBL is first and foremost a BUSINESS which needs to be successful in engaging their potential CUSTOMERS – i.e. the fans – and they’ve set the standard which the ECB’s new Women’s Cricket Super League is going to have a hell of a job to follow.

BREAKING: First WBBL Signings Announced

Cricket Australia has announced the first round of signings for the up-coming Women’s Big Bash, which will begin on December 5th 2015, leading to a final two months later on January 24th 2016.

CA promised to create a balanced competition by allocating the best Southern Stars players across the different teams, so we have the likes of Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry and Jess Cameron all going their separate ways.

WBBL Initial Signings:

  • Adelaide Strikers – Megan Schutt
  • Brisbane Heat – Holly Ferling
  • Hobart Hurricanes – Julie Hunter
  • Melbourne Renegades – Sarah Elliott
  • Melbourne Stars – Meg Lanning
  • Perth Scorchers – Jess Cameron
  • Sydney Sixers – Ellyse Perry
  • Sydney Thunder – Rene Farrell

OPINION: Women’s County Champs v WNCL – The Strange Case of Kara Sutherland

How does the standard of England’s Women’s County Championship compare to Australia’s Women’s National Cricket League? Perhaps one player’s stats tell a story?

New South Wales’ Kara Sutherland had a pretty indifferent season in the WNCL in 2014-15. In 7 matches, the all-rounder took only 3 wickets at 52 and (admittedly batting down the order) scored just 1 run in 4 innings, averaging 0.5 thanks to a couple of not-outs. Looking back at previous years, the story is a similar one: Sutherland is a very good club player, who probably isn’t quite classy enough to play at the highest level of domestic cricket in Australia.

Consequently, it was something of a surprise when Kent – England’s reigning county champions, and home to (among others) England captain Charlotte Edwards and four other contracted England players – signed Sutherland as their “overseas” for the 2015 Women’s County Championship.

But watching Sutherland play for Kent against Berkshire and Ireland in the T20s, however, was something of a revelation – she looked pretty good, bowling at a similar pace to Daisy Gardner, who I rate as probably the best “county” bowler (excluding England and Academy players) around at the moment; and Sutherland’s stats reflect this. So far this season, she has taken 9 wickets at 21. Meanwhile with the bat, she averages 16 – not spectacular… but a lot better than 0.5!

As commentators, we’ve often wondered about the relative standard of the Women’s County Championship compared to the WNCL; and it is usually taken as a “given” that WNCL is the stronger.

But it can be difficult to find hard facts to back-up this hunch; and that is why The Strange Case of Kara Sutherland is so interesting. A player who struggles in WNCL but looks pretty good in the Women’s County Champs? I’d say this was rather strong evidence that domestic cricket in Australia is of a much higher standard than it is here… and that is a big part of why we need the ECB’s new Womens Cricket Super League to succeed in its mission to strengthen our domestic game.

OPINION: What Has Wyatt Got To Do?

When England’s Women’s Ashes ODI squad was announced earlier this week, the omission of Danielle Wyatt was no great surprise to followers of the women’s game. But it does beg the question: just what has TAFKAW* got to do to get selected for England outside of the T20 arena?

Even in T20s, Wyatt has had little opportunity to shine at international level recently. Since the contracts were put in place last year, she has played 6 T20s – three against South Africa last summer, and three versus New Zealand over the winter. But in those games, she has bowled only once, taking 0/5; and batted just twice, scoring 0 and 7. So whilst it is true that she could have made more of her opportunities… when those opportunities are so few and far between, is it really fair to expect her to instantly be able to just ‘turn it on’ at the highest level?

Meanwhile, Wyatt’s form at county level has been superlative – hitting runs all over the place, and averaging over 40, with a highest score of 102 in domestic cricket this season. Even her bowling seems to be getting back on track – we have seen her bowl twice this season and while she wasn’t turning it like Holly Colvin at Billingshurst, not many would be; and she has nevertheless done a job, taking 6 wickets at 29, and bowling very few bad balls.

In contrast, Georgia Elwiss, who was selected, has NOT had a great start to the county season – she averages just 19 with the bat, with a highest score of 34; and has taken only 3 wickets with the ball.

But Elwiss did have one opportunity which Wyatt did not – she was selected for the Academy tour of the UAE, where she made a hatful of runs against Australia’s youngsters – the Shooting Stars.

However, we must then raise the question: is scoring hundreds at county level really so much less valuable than making runs against a very inexperienced Shooting Stars team, in a series of “jumpers for goalposts”** matches on a road in the UAE?

Apparently, the England selectors think so… but I’m not so sure!

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* The Artist Formerly Known As WAG!
** These games were NOT played under standard international playing conditions, with teams effectively making substitutions and batting on when technically All Out.

MATCH REPORT: Youngsters Shine for Lincolnshire in T20 Triple-Header

Beth Smith reports from Ellesmere College

On Sunday in the latest round of county T20s, the Imps travelled across to Shropshire with their youngest side of the season so far – 5 U15 players making their Ladies’ debut. The first game for Lincolnshire was against Northumberland who they had previously lost to in the 50-over format. Captain Hayley Butts won the toss and put Northumberland in to bat.

With Sarah McDowell playing behind the stumps for the day and the regular opening bowlers not playing, Beth Smith was handed the ball for the first over. Lincs were alert in the field from the start, gaining a run-out with the first ball of the day! The second over went to one of the debutants, Sammy-Jo Boothright (1-21), who combined with another debutant, Charlotte Moore, to pick up her first senior wicket, leaving Northumberland 5-2.

The scoreboard ticked over slowly and there were some chances put down in the field by Lincs, but this altered with a catch at gully by the captain, giving Smith her first wicket of the day. A small partnership formed before quick hands by McDowell removed Sergeant off Smith’s bowling. Two more quick wickets by Smith (4-22) left the batting side 46-6 inside 10 overs.

Rachael Dyer came on and bowled very economically for no wickets (0-6), followed by U15 debutant Olivia Clark (0-5). At the other end opening U15 bowler Megan Quinlan (1-11), also making her debut, took the only other wicket to fall in Northumberland’s innings, combining with U17 Alexia Page-Graves. Northumberland ended at 93-7 so Lincs required 94 for victory.

There was a sense of de-ja-vu as Smith was caught out to only the second ball of the Imps reply. This brought Page-Graves to the middle to join U17 captain Becki Brooker. The duo had built a platform for a partnership before a ball popped, clipping the shoulder of Page-Graves’ (14) bat, giving a simple catch for the fielder at slip. McDowell (4) came to the middle and managed a boundary before being caught in front of the bat bringing Butts to the middle.

Brooker (15) looked to be in good form until she went to play across a ball that kept very low off the pitch, bringing Dyer to join Butts at the crease. The two batted well together getting ever closer to the target, but Butts was then bowled, leaving Dyer to take on the senior role, as four of the U15’s joined her one after the other in the middle. In the end it was Dyer (20*) and Boothright (7*) who saw the Imps over the line, in a game that the Imps felt was much closer than it should have been.

The parallel first game saw the hosts post 99-8 off their 20 overs. Cumbria were 46-8 after 14 overs before the heavens opened, and the rain-affected game meant Shropshire won on run rate. Lunch was taken as the rain continued to fall; this resulted in a 3hr delay before the second games could get started, and saw each match reduced to 10 overs.

In Lincolnshire’s second game, against Shropshire, Butts won the toss and elected to bat. Lincs struggled to set a target of 47-5 from their 10 overs on a pitch that could do anything at any moment, as Brooker found out when bowled first ball. Page-Graves came to join Smith at the crease with the aim to score quickly, with the game only being 10 overs. However, she swung and skied her second ball straight to a fielder leaving Lincs 3-2.

Butts (4), Smith (11) and McDowell (5) were the last three wickets to fall, leaving Dyer and debutant Hermione Baxter-Chinery to push the score as high as they could – Baxter-Chinery showing her pace to get 3 off the last ball.

Shropshire were strong in reply. The Imps managed to take 1 wicket when two of the young guns combined with Baxter-Chinery taking a high catch off Quinlan’s bowling, but Shropshire reached the target within 5 overs.

The game between Northumberland and Cumbria ended with Cumbria reaching their target of 52 in 9.1 overs for the loss of 3 wickets.

Although there was only one result going the Imps way, it is a very good sign of the talent coming through the Lincs set-up, and it will not be the last time these girls get a call-up for the Ladies. It was a very proud moment for this reporter to play alongside 5 of the girls from the junior team she manages, and she could not have been happier with the performances they each put in.

Scorecards for the above matches can be found here.

MATCH REPORT: Kent Storm Ahead in T20 Triple-Header

Two consecutive victories for Kent in Sunday’s round of Twenty20s at Arundel saw them emerge as front-runners in this year’s competition, as the only division 1 team so far unbeaten.

Speaking to CRICKETher after the two wins, Kent opener Tammy Beaumont said that Kent had particularly relished their victory against Sussex, which came in the two sides’ first encounter after the controversial tie at Beckenham earlier this season.

“We’ve put what happened last time behind us, and it was played in a very good spirit, but it’s always nice to come out on top against Sussex.”

“It feels really good.”

Kent’s triumph over Sussex came by just 4 runs as Sussex failed to chase down their target of 114 despite Sarah Taylor’s 48*.

The match had begun in overcast, damp conditions after a half-hour rain delay, and Sussex duly put Kent in to bat after winning the toss. Izi Noakes struck immediately, removing both Tammy Beaumont and Lydia Greenway for 1 run apiece – Beaumont lbw and Greenway bowled.

But a 66-run partnership between Charlotte Edwards and Laura Marsh, aided by some sloppy fielding from Sussex, saw Kent recover to 73-2 after 13 overs.

A spell from Erin Osborne (who finished with 3-14) eventually helped to stem the flow of runs, as Kent ended on 113-7.

It looked an eminently chaseable total, but an excellent opening spell from Tash Farrant (2-13) put Sussex on the back foot, with both Georgia Adams (bowled for 3) and Georgia Elwiss (caught behind for 16) dismissed early.

Sussex struggled throughout the innings to keep up with the rate, hitting no boundaries at all between the 12th and 20th overs, as Kent’s excellent fielding ensured that they were consigned to running singles.

Sarah Taylor was left needing to hit a maximum off the final ball of the match, but managed just one run. Kent were notably careful to avoid premature celebration as Edwards – who had once again elected to bowl the final over – removed the bails at the non-strikers end!

Kent followed this up with a 21-run win over Middlesex, setting an impressive total of 135 thanks to a 62-run partnership from Edwards and Greenway, which Middlesex’s batsmen failed to chase down.

After Tammy Beaumont was stumped off the bowling of Danni Warren in the 3rd over, both Edwards (43) and Greenway (35) looked in good touch. When Edwards was caught by Millie Pope at cover in the 14th over, Greenway and Marsh (30) continued to attack the Middlesex bowlers.

Middlesex were fresh from chasing down 136 against Nottinghamshire in the last round of T20s, and when Farrant’s first over went for 10 (including 7 wides) it looked like they might be able to repeat the feat. But it was not to be. After Sophia Dunkley played onto her own stumps in Kara Sutherland’s opening over, a 3-over spell from Marsh, in which she conceded just 14 runs but removed both Fran Wilson and Anna Nicholls, put a huge dent in Middlesex’s ability to make the total. Despite a fighting 35-run partnership between Beth Morgan (15) and captain Izzy Westbury (30), they eventually fell a long way short of the runs required.

A disappointing day for Middlesex concluded with a second loss to Sussex, in a tight game which eventually saw Holly Colvin (27*) hit the winning runs with 2 overs to spare.

Having won the toss and elected to bat, Middlesex were left 17-3 as ferocious opening spells from Noakes (2-21) and Freya Davies (1-20) ripped through their top order. Wickets continued to fall, but a fluent innings from Wilson (64*) – the highest individual score of the day – saw Middlesex post a competitive total of 118-8.

Once again Sussex suffered from an early set-back in their run-chase, this time thanks to a triple wicket-maiden from Warren, who dismissed Adams (caught at mid-off), Elwiss (lbw) and Schofield (also lbw) to leave them 11-3 after 3 overs.

After Westbury had Taylor stumped for 21 in the 13th over, it was left to Alexia Walker (40) and Colvin to steady the ship, as the two shared a 30-run partnership. There was still time for some last-minute Sussex nerves when Walker was herself stumped in the 17th over, with 12 runs still needed – but Colvin finished with two boundaries to see her team over the line.

The next round of T20s will be played on 2nd August when all teams will be without their England players. For Middlesex, who are without a contracted player in their squad, it should provide an opportunity for a fightback.