REPORT: Scotland Castled as Essex Continue “Operation No Relegation”

A five-fer from Kelly Castle saw Essex continue their late-season bid to remain in Division 2 of the county championship, as they bowled Scotland out for 116 to win by 34 runs.

It was a day for the bowlers, as Hannah Jeffery also had cause to celebrate, becoming the first ever woman to take 100 1st XI wickets for Essex.

Scotland struggled in conditions which became ever more overcast as the afternoon progressed, losing 3 quick wickets early on, all to the accuracy of Castle (5-18), who bowled Rachel Scholes and then trapped both Kathryn Bryce and Kari Anderson lbw.

Jeffery, who had been keeping her team on tenterhooks, then at last had the chance to celebrate her 100th wicket as she bowled Kirstie Gordon for a duck, leaving Scotland 36-5 after 18 overs.

Scotland rallied with a 42-run partnership between skipper Abbi Aitken (22) and Sarah Bryce (11), but when the two were dismissed in successive overs just after drinks – Aitken caught at silly point attempting to punish the bowling of Essex captain Hannah Courtnell – Scotland slid further towards the point of no return.

Sam “Haggis” Haggo lived up to her nickname, playing with heart for a late-order 25*. But she was left stranded as Castle wrapped up a successful day for herself and her side with two more quick wickets to finish Scotland off in the 37th over.

Earlier, having won the toss, Scotland had elected to field first on a green wicket, but Essex got off to a flier, reaching 31-0 after 5 overs.

The introduction of left-arm spinner Gordon (3-16) to the attack helped peg Essex back, but a quick-fire 23 from Mady Villiers, batting in conjunction with her captain, clawed it back for the home side and allowed them to reach a fair total of 150.

While Scotland were sharp in the field – with three good run-outs, including a throw-in from Scholes to end Villiers’ innings – their bowlers did struggle at times to find the right line, with “Wides” (29) finishing the day as top-scorer for Essex.

Essex have labelled their late-season fixtures “Operation No Relegation”, after a poor start to the season left them languishing second from bottom of Division 2. Captain Hannah Courtnell, speaking to CRICKETher after the game, praised her team for their recent two wins, but emphasised how important it is that they finish the season well:

“We’ve gone down last year from Division 1 and that hit us hard, and we’re in a phase now where we’re trying to rebuild. We’re finding our game now, we’re finding what’s right for us.”

“We know we’re bottom of the table, and we know how tight it is, and we don’t want to go down.”

This year there are no county championship play-offs, meaning that the two teams who finish bottom of Division 2 – currently Essex and Scotland – will face automatic relegation. Essex’s final two fixtures of the season – against Staffordshire today, and Durham on 13 September – will thus be crucial in determining whether Courtnell’s team can do as they are hoping to and succeed in Operation No Relegation.