NEWS: Warwickshire Upgraded To First

Warwickshire CCC have announced that all their home fixtures next season will be played at the new Edgbaston Foundation Community Ground in Smethwick, just west of Birmingham.

The ground, which was re-opened earlier this year after extensive refurbishment, is also the home of Warwickshire’s Men’s 2nd XI, and so is prepared to full First Class standards.

This represents a big upgrade from the club grounds which generally host the Women’s County Championship, which despite the best efforts of their ground staff (often, it has to be said, working voluntarily) are sometimes overused and underprepared for top-level cricket.

Warwickshire’s full 2016 fixture list can be found here.

INTERVIEW: Clare Connor On Paul Shaw, Mark Robinson & The New Head Coach’s Role

Although Mark Robinson has been appointed this week to replace Paul Shaw at the England helm, this is very much not a like-for-like switch. Paul Shaw’s formal title was “Head of Performance”, reflecting a wider remit of responsibilities than just the England XI; whilst Robinson has the more traditional title of “Head Coach”.

So how will the roles differ in practice? CRICKETher caught up with Clare Connor at Lords earlier this week to get some answers!

Asked about Paul Shaw’s appointment, in the wake of the (relative) disappointment of the 2013 World Cup, Connor explains:

“When we appointed Paul, we knew that professionalism wasn’t far off, so we needed someone who had the skills to build a foundation for that program; so Paul’s role was more of a Performance Director role – it was to manage the team and set up a high performance culture and environment.”

But Connor reveals that they always saw Shaw’s role as a transitional one:

“Paul and I spoke very openly before the Women’s Ashes and we knew that he wouldn’t go all the way through to the 2017 World Cup and that a high calibre Head Coach would be the right thing for a group of professional cricketers.”

Unlike Paul Shaw, Mark Robinson will have no direct responsibility for the Academy; but Connor emphasises that he still has a role to play:

“Mark’s responsibility is for the England Women’s Performance Squad [i.e. “The” England squad] but the Academy program is critical to the long term future of that squad; so Mark will be working with those coaches in terms of how best those players can fill the shoes of Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway and Jenny Gunn when they retire.”

Will Mark Robinson be responsible for selection, as Paul Shaw was, or might we go back to a more traditional “Selection Panel”? It seems the latter might be on the cards:

“That selection protocol and structure is still to be decided. Mark will definitely have a say, and will probably be a named selector; but he doesn’t have the breadth of knowledge about the players yet that Paul had.”

Robinson doesn’t officially start work until January, and won’t meet some of the players – those who are flying directly from WBBL in Australia to the international series in South Africa – until February; but Connor concludes by talking about the upside of being able to conduct a proper handover:

“We are in a really good position there – we’ve got Paul leading the program still until the end of the year; but with Sussex’s permission we’ve got flexibility to use Mark and introduce him to the players and the staff. Very rarely do you have that ability to transition.”

Perhaps the most telling thing of all, however, isn’t so much what Clare Connor has to say as how she says it. She is clearly thrilled with Mark Robinson’s appointment and very much looking forward to working with him – getting on with the job of writing the next chapter in England’s story!

WNCL Debrief – Perry In The Runs As Breakers Go Top

New South Wales Breakers (273-5) bt. Tasmania Roar (240)

Ellyse Perry led the way for the Breakers, hitting 86 off 84 balls before being caught & bowled by Heather Knight, making her first WNCL appearance of the season for the Roar. Perry was strongly backed by Nicola Carey (65 off 52) and a late cameo from Laura Marsh (22* off 19).

In reply, Knight top-scored with 48, as no fewer than four Roar batsmen failed to get through the 40s; and the Roar were already falling well short when Lauren Smith cleaned up the tail, taking 3-10 in 3.1 overs as they were bowled out in the 50th.

The result puts the Breakers on top of the table with 14 points, though just one point separates first from fourth in the race to finish in the top two and make the final later this month.

INTERVIEW: Mark Robinson – The Quiet Man In It To Win It

If there is one thing that stands out about Mark Robinson, it is his determination not to stand out. Listening back to our interview in a crowded Starbucks, I have to turn the volume all the way up to 11 before he comes through loud and clear:

“It should never be about the coach,” he says. “Always about the players!”

Perhaps that is the reason why, whilst other candidates announced themselves to the media, Robinson slipped his application in quietly under the radar. We might have missed it, but Clare Connor didn’t, and her enthusiasm for her new coach was palpable:

“We are absolutely delighted to appoint Mark,” she says. “He has a superb coaching record… and is highly regarded.”

After spending an hour with the man of the moment, CRICKETher starts to understand why.

We begin at the beginning: Why apply for this job?

“It’s international sport!” he says, with an air of almost school-boyish wonder in his voice. “The opportunity to participate in World Cups and compete at the highest level – it was hard to resist. But that’s where the women’s game has got to now – it just feels like a great time to be involved and the more I looked at it, the more excited I got.”

Robinson is quick to acknowledge the strengths of the current England setup and the debt he owes to his predecessors, Mark Lane and Paul Shaw:

“Anything can be improved, but it doesn’t need a revolution; it doesn’t need ripping apart. There’s really good stuff that has happened under the two previous coaches. I have to build on all that good work.”

But he also seems to have an intuitive understanding that there are problems which need addressing. Reflecting on the recent Women’s Ashes loss, he sums it up succinctly:

“It just looked at times like they didn’t quite believe in themselves enough.”

So how will he address this?

“I’m less of the technical coach,” he admits. “My job is understanding the person. I will always endeavour to try to understand somebody and how they behave; how they react. Then I’ll commit everything I can to the player to allow them to be the best they can.”

CRICKETher can’t help but think of Lauren Winfield as he goes on:

“There has got to be accountability but there has also got to be forgiveness and empathy. Nobody dies when somebody plays a dreadful shot. We want the players to be going out and expressing themselves, but we can’t be then shooting them when they get caught on the ring. You can’t have it both ways. Mistakes are okay.”

Coming from a background in The Other Game, Robinson is humble about some of the challenges he faces:

“One of my potential weaknesses is I’ve not got enough knowledge [of the women’s game]; but I also come in with brand new eyes. I wouldn’t know some of the players if they were in this room, which is a potential danger, but it is a strength as well. I’ve got a lot of homework to do!”

But he is nevertheless determined to rise to the challenge in 2016, looking forward to a T20 World Cup in India in March, plus crucial Women’s International Championship series which will determine automatic qualification for the 2017 (ODI) World Cup:

“When you are one of the biggest teams in the world, you set out to win,” he says. “You can’t do anything else!”

NEWS: Mark Robinson Appointed England Coach

The ECB has announced that Sussex boss Mark Robinson has been appointed as the new head coach of England Women.

Robinson took 800 wickets in a solid, if undistinguished, First Class/ List A career, but is mainly remembered as a player for being one of the most genuine Genuine No. 11s ever to have graced The Other Game.

His move into coaching therefore proved to be something of a revelation. Appointed to the top job at Sussex in 2005, over the decade that followed he won two Men’s County Championships and four limited-overs titles. Although Sussex were relegated this season, he remained a popular figure at the county and was expected to be given a chance to turn things around.

He will now face an even bigger challenge – turning around an England Women’s side which has underperformed recently and where morale is pretty low after this summer’s Women’s Ashes defeat.

Meanwhile Chris Adams – the only other serious candidate to apply for the job – has been left disappointed, tweeting:

NEWS: England’s Enid Bakewell Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Former England international Enid Bakewell was last night honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards.

The award “recognises a lifetime of sporting success”, and Bakewell, who averaged nearly 60 with the bat and took 75 wickets over her 14 years as an England all-rounder, is a worthy recipient.

Born Enid Turton in Newstead, Nottinghamshire in 1940, she first played cricket aged 9 in a field in the village with some of the local boys. Several years later, while attending the local grammar school – where they were not permitted to play cricket – a teacher recommended that she join a nearby club in Nottingham, advice she duly accepted.

She went on to study at Dartford College of Physical Education (now part of the University of Greenwich), which was a hotbed of women’s cricket, producing many future stars of the game including Rachael Heyhoe-Flint. This enabled Bakewell to continue with her sport of choice, and she toured Holland with a Young England side in 1959 while still at Dartford.

Her full England debut came in December 1968 at Adelaide on England’s tour of Australia and New Zealand. She hit 113 in that match, and went on to score over 1000 runs and take more than 100 wickets on the tour – the first woman to ever achieve the feat. It earned her a full page feature in the 1970 edition of Wisden – the first time ever that a woman had been awarded such exposure.

It was a remarkable achievement partly because by this time Bakewell was married and the mother of a two-year-old daughter. In order to tour, she had to leave her daughter behind in the care of her husband and parents, at a time when it was exceptionally difficult to combine motherhood and playing international-level sport.

She went on to represent England in the first ever Cricket World Cup in 1973, and played a large part in their victory against Australia in the final at Edgbaston, hitting a century and taking 2-28 as England triumphed by 92 runs.

Six years later, in her last Test against West Indies, she became the first England player, male or female, to score a century and take ten wickets in the same match. By this time she was a mother of three young children, but she continued to play international cricket until the 1982 World Cup in New Zealand.

After retiring from international cricket, she remained involved with the Nottinghamshire and England set-ups, eventually going on to coach a Junior England team which included future stars Arran Brindle (then Thompson) and Charlotte Edwards.

Now aged 74, she can still be found shouting encouragement from the boundary at most England matches, both at home and abroad. Even more remarkably – as CRICKETher reported earlier this year – she is still playing regularly, both for her club Redoubtables and for MCC.

She was named one of Wisden‘s 5 greatest ever female cricketers in 2014, and this latest honour is undoubtedly thoroughly deserved. Congratulations Enid!

NEWS: Priest Reads Last Rites As New Zealand Bury Sri Lanka

New Zealand have hauled themselves up to 3rd in the Women’s International Championship table with three crushing wins over Sri Lanka, pushing England back to 5th, meaning they need to win all three of their WIC ODIs(1) in South Africa next February to put themselves back into a secure qualifying spot for the 2017 World Cup(2).

The star of the show was glove-butler-batsman Rachel Priest, who hit 108, 51* and 157, the latter off just 167 balls, opening the batting with skipper Susie Bates.

All in all it has been quite a week for the White Ferns. After being humiliated in a warm-up match by their own ‘A’ side last weekend, collapsing to 69-8 and then watching the ‘A’s pile on the runs; it seems as though that was the wake-up call they needed.

The 1st ODI was as close as Sri Lanka came – a 96 run victory for New Zealand, after they had posted 283, with Priest backed-up by a 69 from Amy Satterthwaite. Former Scotland international Leigh Kasperek then took 4-27 as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 187.

In the 2nd ODI, Sri Lanka were put in and crawled to a meagre total of 126 – bowled out in the 46th over, with Bates taking 3-27. In reply, it took Priest and Bates just 15 overs to make the runs without loss.

In the final Championship ODI(3) it was Susie Bates (80) who again played the back-up role, as Priest hit 23 4s on the way to her 157 – the highest score of her 115-match international career.

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(1) Assuming all 3 matches are completed.

(2) If England win the series 2-1 they will be tied in 4th with South Africa.

(3) There are two more, non-WIC OIDs to follow.