REPORT: Appleton Crowned Cheshire Women’s League Champions

Martin Saxon reports

With one week of its most closely fought season to go, the Cheshire Women’s League has crowned Appleton as its 2015 champions. The Warrington-based club had previously won the league on three successive occasions between 2010 and 2012, and had finished runners-up in the last two seasons.

Appleton now have an unassailable lead after a day when all matches started but were eventually abandoned due to rain. They did however have time to produce another miserly bowling display to demonstrate what worthy champions they are. 2014 champions Oakmere will finish as runners-up.

Appleton’s fourth title success was a genuine team effort, but it has been a superb season for opening bowler Annie Rashid, with more than 20 wickets at just two runs per over. Sami Fowler has made major contributions with bat and ball, Kathryn Jackson has made huge strides as a bowler this year and the ever-dependable captain Emma Barlow has again averaged over 30 in her opening bat position.

The other sides have not made life easy for Appleton this year. Any match between the top eight can genuinely go either way on the day, illustrated by one of Appleton’s defeats against second division champions Didsbury. The League has an innovative format where in the top two divisions, each team plays the others in their division at home and away, plus one fixture against each of the teams in the other division, making 13 matches in total. One up one down promotion and relegation will apply between the two divisions.

With all of the League’s showpiece occasions so far this year having been affected by rain, the League is genuinely hoping for better luck this coming Sunday when the Cup and Plate Finals of the T20 Divisional Competition are scheduled to be played at Alderley Edge CC, widely regarded as one of Cheshire’s very best grounds.

Oakmere Kats will play Trafford MV in the Plate Final at 11.30, a repeat of the 2010 Plate Final when Oakmere won. A victory would be Oakmere’s third Plate success, while Trafford are seeking to win the trophy for the second time.

Laura Newton and her Wistaston Swans team mates defend their crown in the Cup Final at 15.00, and once again face Chester Boughton Hall Deemons, after Wistaston’s resounding victory in last year’s final. Chester have won this competition on four previous occasions though.

Sadly, the League’s recent annual fixture versus MCC was also cancelled due to rain. Newton was due to captain the Cheshire Women’s League XI, with Claire Taylor in the MCC team.

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MATCH REPORT: Wanderers Win Sets Bath Up For Title

A convincing 8-wicket win by Bath Wanderers yesterday in their match against Wokingham Ridgeway at Wokingham CC took them one step closer to their goal of winning the Women’s Cricket Southern Premier League title.

CRICKETher were there to see the match, which was reduced to 35 overs a side after two hours of play were lost to rain.

A 10-player Ridgeway, batting first, lasted for all bar one ball of their 35 overs, but managed to accumulate just 70 runs in that time, with only Corinne Hall (11) and Lissy MacLeod (15) offering many scoring strokes. Both were eventually out caught on the leg side trying to slog the ball, as Kate Randall finished with figures of 4-14.

Bath showed their intent from the outset, with Fran Wilson (who top-scored with 30) hitting three boundaries off the first over of their innings, as they raced to their target in just 12 and a half overs. Only Sarah Clarke (2-16) was able to stem the flow, removing both openers before Sophie Luff hit the winning run off Clark’s sixth over of the day.

Bath chased down the runs just in time, with more rain arriving shortly after the players trudged off the pitch.

It puts them at the top of the Southern Premier League table with just one round of Championship matches left to be played, on 6 September. Bath’s game against second-placed Hursley Park CC, who are behind (but only just) with an average of 16.42 to Bath’s 16.69*, will be a decisive one in determining whether they can retain their place at the top of the Premier League at the end of the season.

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* As in the women’s county championship, the number of points a team accumulates is averaged out, based on the number of completed games, and the winner of the Premier League is the team with the highest average at the end of the season.

Hazell and Wyatt Return For Ashes T20s

The ECB have today announced the squad which will contest the three Ashes T20s against Australia, beginning on August 26 at Chelmsford.

There are two changes from the Test squad, with Danielle Wyatt and Danielle Hazell replacing Kate Cross and Fran Wilson.

Hazell was the surprise omission from the initial ODI squad and, as current number 1-ranked bowler in the world in T20s, must surely be in contention to start for England at Chelmsford.

Wyatt is presumably back into the squad at least partly on the back of her unrivalled season with the bat at county level, having hit 287 runs at an average of 57, including a century against Somerset back in June.

Meanwhile Jenny Gunn, after sitting the Test out due to the flaring up of an old neck injury on the first morning, is evidently back to full match fitness – fresh from hitting 51* and taking 5-3 against Kent last weekend to deny them the county T20 title.

The only real surprise is the non-selection of Kent’s Tash Farrant, who has not featured in any of England’s squads this summer. Given that the ECB’s central contracts are up for renewal in October, this perhaps does not bode well for her prospects of retaining her place in the elite 18.

The series is of vital importance for England, who need to win all three games in order to draw the series on points and thus retain the Ashes. Meanwhile, even a no-result due to bad weather (worth 1 point apiece) would see Australia win an Ashes series in England for the first time since 2001.

The full T20 squad is as follows:

  • Charlotte Edwards (Kent)
  • Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
  • Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
  • Lydia Greenway (Kent)
  • Becky Grundy (Warwickshire)
  • Jenny Gunn (Nottinghamshire)
  • Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire)
  • Heather Knight (Berkshire)
  • Laura Marsh (Kent)
  • Nat Sciver (Surrey)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
  • Sarah Taylor (Sussex)
  • Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
  • Danielle Wyatt (Nottinghamshire)

NEWS: Australia Steamroll Ireland; Irish Take Hope For World T20s But Have Dilemmas Going Forward

Australia’s Southern Stars have plundered the Emerald Isle, winning their 3-match T20 series 3-0 in the kind of style that should make England very worried indeed as the Women’s Ashes recommence in Chelmsford on Wednesday.

Meg Lanning (43 off 38 balls in the 1st T20), Ellyse Perry (55* off 46 balls in the 3rd T20) and Elyse Villani (80 off 53 balls in the 3rd T20) all found some form with the bat.

The biggest revelation though was Grace Harris. The 21-year-old Queenslander made her debut in this series and bagged a 2-ball duck in the 1st T20. In the 2nd, coming in with 2.3 overs to go, she soon found herself on the wrong end of an on-field talking-to from vice-captain Alex Blackwell for not pushing a second run.

A response was needed… and boy did Harris respond: by hitting the first 4 balls of the final over for 4 consecutive 4s. Then in the last T20, pushed up the order to 3, she smashed 39 off just 21 balls, as Australia posted a near-record 186. Harris’ final innings left her with a series-leading Strike Rate of 193; and doubtless had England’s coaching staff scrambling around looking for plans on how to bowl to her – they are going to need them!

As for Ireland, they were well-beaten, but not totally embarrassed. Australia are the World Champions for a reason, and while the Irish maintain their official ODI status, they are really more at home in English county cricket, where they finished mid-table in this season’s Division 1 T20 Cup. Their big goal is next year’s World T20 in India, for which they seek to qualify later this year, and it will be something of a surprise if they fail to do so.

The big worry for Ireland however has to be what happens when they lose their county championship games, following the introduction of the Super League, in 2017. They have their own recently instituted Super 3s of course; but without the genuinely competitive environment which the county championship offers, they are likely to suffer going forwards.

One hope must be that some of the younger players, like promising 17-year-old leg-spinner Elena Tice, make it to Super League; but that offers its own dilemmas for Ireland – Tice was born in Basingstoke and any success she finds in Super League might just end-up with her crossing the Irish Channel on a more permanent basis.

T20 STATS – Wyatt and Gunn Top 2015 Numbers; Adams and Colvin Close Behind

An exciting county T20 season culminated in a 3-way tie at the top of Division 1, with Sussex claiming the title on Net Run Rate ahead of Yorkshire and Kent.

We take a look at some of the numbers behind the season.

Centuries

Tammy Beaumont – 104*: The season’s highest score in was posted by Tammy Beaumont – carrying her bat for 104 not out, as Kent posted a massive 146/0 against sorry Surrey, who were already relegated having clocked-up the lowest ever total in County T20 history in the previous round – bowled out by Middlesex for 25.

Danni Wyatt – 102: June 14th 2015 is a date Danni Wyatt will want to remember. Having hit 89 from 54 balls in Nottinghamshire’s first match against Middlesex; she then went on to smash her way to 102 against a Somerset attack which included England’s Anya Shrubsole. It wasn’t a faultless innings (she was dropped a couple of times) but it showed just what she is capable of; although amazingly, Notts actually lost both games.

Runs

Danni Wyatt – 287: Despite playing only 6 of 8 games due to England commitments, Wyatt managed to outscore all-comers with 2 fifties (against Middlesex and Surrey) in addition to her century against Somerset. Scoring 287 runs in the season, she also topped the averages list with 57.

Georgia Adams – 243: Sussex’s stylish opener hit 3 fifties (against Somerset, Surrey and Notts) on her way to a total of 243 – over a quarter of Sussex’s season runs – at an average of 35.

5-Fors

Jenny Gunn 5/3: Nottinghamshire’s Jenny Gunn, who wouldn’t have even been playing had she not been ruled out of the Women’s Ashes Test earlier that week by a trapped nerve in her neck, single-handedly denied Kent the title as she hit 51* and then took 5/3 as Notts handed Kent their second defeat of the season in their penultimate match.

Wickets

Jenny Gunn – 15: Thanks to her 5-for v Kent, Gunn topped the wickets table with 15 at an average of just 7.

Holly Colvin – 13: The retired England spinner is making a point of enjoying her cricket these days, which has been good news for Sussex and good news for the fans… but not quite such good news for the opposition batsmen! With best figures of 4/10 v Somerset, Colvin twirled her way to 13 wickets at an average of 11 – not bad for a player whose extensive work and charitable commitments mean she is barely able to train.

RANKINGS: India No. 1 in Women’s Tests

In the absence of official ICC Test rankings for women’s cricket, Australia seem to have unilaterally decided to declare themselves World No.1, on the basis of having beaten England in the Women’s Ashes Test.

And on cricket.com.au:

Super Stars rule in all three formats

What Australia seem to have forgotten however, is that there are actually 4 countries currently* playing women’s Test cricket – not just England and Australia, but also South Africa and India. Taking all 4 teams into account tells a significantly different story.

Team Won Drawn Lost N.R. Points
1. India 2 0 0 1 5
2. Australia 1 0 0 2 4
3. South Africa 0 0 1 2 2
4. England 0 0 2 1 1

These rankings are based on the most recent qualifying* match between each team, allocating 2 points for a win and 1 for a draw. Where no match has been played, a “No Result” is declared, which is also worth 1 point.

So… congratulations to India and commiserations to Australia. And remember, as they say on the Lotto: Playing makes it possible! So why not play a few more Tests Australia? You never know where in the rankings it may take you!

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* Past 2 years.

OPINION: Short Pitches For Women’s Cricket?

During and subsequent to the recent Women’s Ashes Test at Canterbury several people, including the respected BBC commentator Lizzy Ammon, suggested that perhaps women’s cricket should be played on shorter pitches:

Sky Sports News then followed this up with a (ahem…) scientific poll, which suggested quite a lot of people (44%) thought this was a good idea:

It should be noted that the key effect of such a change would be to make the bowling appear faster.

A ball from Katherine Brunt would reach the batsman in [back-of-an-envelope calculations] 0.7 seconds rather than the 0.8 seconds it currently does. And given that it takes the human eye 0.2 seconds to see the ball, that’s actually in reality an almost 20% increase in apparent speed.

A spinner’s ball would obviously be less effected in apparent pace, but the shorter pitch would nevertheless allow them to bowl a more accurate delivery more often.

TLDR: It massively rebalances the game in favour of the bowlers, particularly the quicker ones.

So the key question you have to ask is: Were those who voted to shorten the pitch actually watching the same match as us at Canterbury? Because the game we saw didn’t appear to need rebalancing in favour of the bowlers – if anything it was the other way around! Just one batsman posted a score of more than fifty in the match, and the average run-rates for both teams hovered around 2 for much of the 4 days.

On a more practical level, the idea is a non-starter anyway.

Firstly, it would wreck the game for the current generation of elite batsmen and bowlers, who would never truly adjust after years of playing on the longer pitch.

Secondly, it would destroy the art of swing bowling – a key weapon in the armoury of the women’s game – because those two yards are the critical ones where swing really comes into play.

Lastly, it would require the game to change at all levels of the pyramid – you can’t have girls playing for years on a 22 yard pitch, and then suddenly having to adjust to 20 yards at the elite level. And this is a non-starter – clubs won’t (and to be fair, probably can’t) maintain dedicated women’s pitches, remembering that the pitches couldn’t be shared because the women’s foot and crease marks would be located at a point in the men’s pitch that would be downright dangerous.

So, no – there are a lot of things that you might consider changing about the women’s game… but the size of the pitch ain’t one of them!