The CRICKETher Awards 2015

With your hosts… Raf Nicholson and Syd Egan!

Best Batting Performance:  Sophie Luff

For her 152* for Bath in the National Club Final

Luff might have faced an understrength Meakins side with an average age of just 16, but you can only play what they put in front of you, and her towering performance showed a player truly in command of the crease and her game, both physically and mentally. Were we witnessing the coming-of-age of the next-but-one England captain? You read it here first!

Best Bowling Performance: Daisy Gardner

For her hat-trick for Berkshire v Sussex in the Women’s County Championship

Paige Scholfield is dismissed LBW for Daisy Gardner's hat-trick!

Paige Scholfield is dismissed LBW for Daisy Gardner’s hat-trick!

Heather Knight might have put Sussex on the back foot with her 162* but it was Daisy Gardner who broke them, dismissing England Academy batsman Georgia Adams and Paige Scholfield, bisected by the wicket of a certain Sarah Taylor – bowled for a golden duck – as the Berkshire Bullet took her first ever hat-trick in 10 years at the top level of the women’s county game.

Best Supporting Role: Didsbury WCC and Lanky the Giraffe

For their mammoth trip around the country during the Women’s Ashes

Canterbury is approximately 265 miles from Manchester, but that didn’t stop the girls from Didsbury WCC making the trip down the M6 for all four days of the Ashes Test, plus the Chelmsford and Hove Twenty20s. Complete with England flag, a special song devoted to Lancashire’s Kate Cross, and an inflatable giraffe with its own arm bands, they were impossible to miss – and why would you want to? CRICKETher for one are looking forward to seeing the #DidsburyBarmyArmy again in 2016!

Best Screenplay: Sky

For televising the Canterbury Test

While England fans might have hoped for a different result, there’s no doubt that the broadcasting of the entire Ashes series added to the excitement of the summer. The pinnacle was the live ball-by-ball coverage of Canterbury, as Sky made history by becoming the first ever broadcaster to show a women’s Test match from beginning to end in its entirety. Hats off to them for bringing women’s Test cricket to a bigger audience.

Horror of the Year: Surrey

For their 25 all out v Middlesex in the County T20 Competition

County T20 triple-headers can be long days, but Surrey seemed just a little too keen to get home on this occasion, as in their last match of the day at Merchant Taylors’ back in August they collapsed to 25 all out in the space of 13 overs. CRICKETher were there to watch as Aussie quick Julie Hunter ripped through the Surrey top-order, who barely troubled the scorers. It later transpired to be the lowest total a side has ever made in the competition. Toe-curling stuff.

Best Writing: Mel Farrell

For her report (here) on the Women’s Cricket Super League

A perfectly pitched piece which blends positivity and scepticism as it compares the WCSL to an impressionist masterpiece that “dazzles upon first glance” but is “transformed into a myriad of indistinct dots and dashes when examined up close.”

Best Song: Graham Barber

For ‘Jerusalem’ 

Lords might traditionally have its bell to signal the start of play, but everyone knows that at an England Women’s Test – from Wormsley, to the WACA, to everywhere in-between – the day doesn’t really begin until “Big G” – our one-man Barmy Army – has sung Jerusalem; reminding the players that they aren’t just playing Test cricket… they’re playing Test cricket for England.

Life-Time Achievement Award: Holly Colvin

Despite a successful comeback for Sussex – she was the leading wicket-taker in county cricket in 2015, with 31 victims and a best of 5-33 – 2015 was the year Holly decided to move on; taking a management role at the ICC in Dubai and saying farewell to a playing career in which she had basically achieved everything before the age of 20 – Ashes winner (in 2005), World Cup winner (2009) and World T20 winner (also 2009).

Holly will go down in history as the youngest person (male or female) ever to play Test cricket for England – a record which will probably never be broken now the women’s game has entered the professional era – and more importantly she’ll go down in our hearts as one of the most loved players of our era. So long “Trolley”… and thanks for all the wickets!

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WBBL: Charlotte Edwards & Katherine Brunt Show Meg Lanning Who The REAL Megastars Are

The Aussie media had predicted Captain Carnage as the Lanning-Led Melbourne Stars took on the Scorchers at the WACA in Perth; but in the end it was England captain Charlotte Edwards who served it up… whilst The Megastar™ just got served.

Having called the toss correctly and chosen to bat; Lanning herself faced the first over from Katherine Brunt. It began “dot, dot, dot” and it ended “dot, dot, dot”… and we wouldn’t be surprised if the two were punctuated by a “dash, dash, dash” from the strikers end, as Brunt nailed Lanning to her crease for an opening maiden.

Brunt finished with figures of 4 overs, 1 maiden, 1 for 11. Lanning never really got going, making 27 from 31; whilst South African skipper Mignon du Preez, playing her first game for the Stars after flying-in from her tropical-island honeymoon, probably wished she was back there, struggling to 10 off 21.

With the Stars closing on 102-6, the Scorchers needed 103. What they didn’t need was their much-touted debutante – Deandra Dottin – making a four-ball duck, quickly followed back to the pavilion by Nicole Bolton (2) and Heather Graham (3).

But despite being slightly behind the curve at 58-4 after 13 overs, the Scorcher’s trump cards were their English imports – Charlotte Edwards, still at the crease having opened the batting, and joined then by Katherine Brunt.

Brunt played a very-much supporting role as Edwards accelerated towards the target, reaching it with 4 balls to spare, finishing on 61* off 56 balls and a Man of the Match award to show the Aussie media there’s more than one megastar in this game!

NEWS: Women’s World T20 TV Coverage – More Games Than Last Time… But Not All!

Star Sports, the “host” broadcaster for the up-coming World T20 in India, has confirmed that it will be televising 10 of the 23 matches which make up the women’s tournament, which runs concurrently with the men’s event in March/ April next year.

Star will show the semi-finals, final and 7 selected “group” matches – four of which you’d imagine will be those involving India.

Because of the nature of the broadcast deal between Star and the ICC, CRICKETher understands that it is highly unlikely that Sky would be able to show any matches in the UK other than those being televised by Star, so our chances of seeing all of England’s games would appear to be minimal. (And ditto for fans in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc.)

Nevertheless, this is still a substantial improvement over the 2014 WWT20 in Bangladesh, when only the semis and final were shown live.

WBBL: Sarah Taylor & Danni Wyatt Hit Headlines But Heather Knight’s Hurricanes Stay Top

At the end of another busy weekend in the WBBL, Sarah Taylor and Danni Wyatt made the headlines, as the Renegades and the Strikers recorded their first wins… but it’s Heather Knight’s Hobart Hurricanes who still head things up at the half-way stage.

Danni Wyatt put in a true all-rounder’s performance – taking 4-13 as the Renegades bowled-out the Heat for just 110; and then following up with 28* off 21 balls as her Melbourne side crossed the line in the 17th over.

Meanwhile, Sarah Taylor’s Adelaide Strikers found themselves staring down the barrel of a 5th straight defeat, after a Sydney Thunder team effort saw them post 148-6 – Nicola Stalenberg top-scoring with 39. But coming in at the top of the order, Taylor smashed 71* off 47 balls to lead the Strikers home with 6 balls to spare.

Hitting the road to Sydney, after 4 home matches last weekend, the Hurricanes “Cane Train” shared the spoils in their home-and-away double-header with the Perth Scorchers. (Yes… the concept of Home and Away is a bit all-over-the-place in WBBL!)

In the first game, Heather Knight hit 74 off 59 balls, as the Hurricanes sneaked yet another close victory by just 1 run. But the Scorchers got their revenge in the afternoon, as Crinny Hall’s 53 wasn’t quite enough to rescue the Hurricanes after an early collapse, and they went down by 4 wickets.

But then the Hurricanes showed the world how to beat the Melbourne Stars – put runs (144 of them) on the board… and then get Meg Lanning out early – The Megastar “failed” for once, scoring just 20, and the Stars subsequently collapsed to 114 all out; meaning the Hurricanes once again finish the weekend at Number 1!

So, here’s where we stand at the half way point in the league. Bearing in mind that the top 4 qualify for the semi-finals, it could still be anyone’s championship; but the Hurricanes look pretty well-placed as do the Heat; while the Sixers in particular have a big ask to turn things around after Christmas.

Played Points
1. Hobart Hurricanes 7 12
2. Brisbane Heat 10 12
3. Melbourne Stars 5 8
4. Sydney Thunder 5 6
5. Perth Scorchers 6 6
6. Adelaide Strikers 5 2
7. Melbourne Renegades 5 2
8. Sydney Sixers 7 2

Jimmy Hill – Friend of Women’s Cricket

The sad death of Jimmy Hill, described by the BBC as “one of English football’s most influential figures”, was announced today.

Hill will no doubt be remembered for his football punditry, especially on Match of the Day, as well as his reign as chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association.

Not many will remember him for his relationship with women’s cricket. But I will.

Hill was born in 1928 in Balham. In one interview in 1985, he recalled his days growing up in the 1930s in south London:

“We were a cricketing family. My father often took me to see Fulham. My stepbrother, Wally, played football and cricket… My step-sister, Irene, played cricket for England. They were quite a bit older than me and they dragged me around to watch them.

The first time I went on a train was when Wally took me to see the Redoubtables play cricket at Beddington. It was only three stops down the line but to me going on a train was as exciting as today’s kids would feel about travelling on Concorde.”

Irene Panton never actually played a Test for England, but she certainly played at the highest level in the early organised years of the sport – the Women’s Cricket Association was set up in 1926, five years after Irene’s club, Redoubtables, formed. Sadly she was killed in a motorcycle accident in the late 1930s.

When I heard the news of Hill’s death, it took me back to the time several years ago when, going through the archives of the Surrey-based women’s club Redoubtables WCC as part of my PhD – the club still exists, and now play at Purley CC – I stumbled upon the most amazing series of correspondence between Molly Gilbert, then club secretary, and Hill himself:

October, 1985:

“Dear Mr Hill,

I was so delighted and surprised to read your ‘potted’ autobiography in the ‘Roots’ article in the Sunday Express Magazine. It was great to think that you remembered our Club name and were kind enough to mention it. We are still a club of keen players…When you came with Irene I was Match Secretary. I remember her so well, she was a lovely girl and a great player. Her early death was such a tragedy…

I also remember her friend Joyce Wawman… ‘Panton’ and ‘Wawman’ used to bring a small boy to our matches who may have been the brother of either of them, ie you.

I have a small snapshot of some of our members at that time accompanied by a small boy (Irene Panton is in the picture). We would be most interested to find out if we have a famous portrait or not. I think Irene and Joyce joined us in 1932 and we have five ‘old girls’ still interested in the Club, one as President (Miss S Swinburne OBE for Services to Women’s Cricket), two as vice-presidents, myself as Secretary (since 1935!!) and one other and we all remember Irene well.”

December, 1985:

“Dear Molly,

Thank you for your letter following ‘Roots’. Forgive my late reply… I’m certain I was the young boy in the photograph. Joyce Wawman was a kind of cousin who lived with us and who continued to take me around even after Irene’s death.

I remember your name well and Sylvia Swinburne too… Thank you for writing and do have a very happy new year.

Your sincerely, Jimmy (Hill).”

January, 1986:

“Dear Mr Hill,

Thank you so much for your letter… the Women’s Cricket Association is 60 years old this year and they are arranging a celebration match between two teams made up of first class players from all over the country. The match to take place at Bramley Cricket Club on Sunday 8th June, afternoon… We are hoping to have several famous people at the match (to draw the crowds) and I do hope you still have enough love of the game to come along and meet present day players. If you can possibly spare the time, we should all be delighted to meet you.”

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February, 1986:

“Molly,

I’m afraid I shall be in Mexico in the World Cup on June 8th, otherwise I would have been delighted to have come along. Perhaps there will be an opportunity on another occasion. Do please keep me informed if there is another match that I might attend after August.”

Sadly the correspondence ended there. I like to think that perhaps Hill did, though, attend another Redoubtables match or two after his trip down memory lane.

So there you have it. Jimmy Hill, 1928-2015: football pundit, player, chairman, manager and analyser…and friend of women’s cricket.

OPINION: Should WBBL & WNCL Be Merged?

Whether or not you are the biggest fan of football, it’s hard to argue with its commercial success; and an important facet of this is the loyalty of fans to “their” team – a bond which quite literally spans generations: my son supports Arsenal because I do… and I do because my father does… and he does because his father did – the very idea of supporting anyone else is anathema!

This partly explains the massive (by domestic women’s cricket standards) crowds at the WBBL – several games have recorded over 1,000 spectators, which is probably more than the entire 2015 Women’s County Championship combined! Great marketing has helped, but the biggest factor is almost certainly people going to watch a team to which they already have loyalties via the (M)BBL.

(Anecdotally I’m told a similar thing happens in women’s football in this country – a large proportion of those who watch Arsenal Ladies are also season-ticket holders at Highbury Ashburton Grove The Emirates.)

So the answer to further growing women’s cricket in Australia – especially the 50 Over game – seems clear: get the same teams playing in the WNCL – giving the fans set of teams to follow and the media one set of teams to cover, with allegiances already embedded in the public consciousness via The Other Game.

Interestingly, official “Aussie Legend” Lisa Sthalekar notes that the players might also perform better playing and training with the same team-mates over a longer-term period than just the brief WBBL season:

“What I have noticed so far is teams predominately made up from their WNCL state squad with the addition of internationals seem to be fairing better than the Melbourne and Sydney teams [which aren’t].”

Could a “merger” happen, allowing the WBBL teams to compete for the WNCL? Legally, the answer is almost-certainly yes – Cricket Australia has been pretty canny in making sure that it “owns” the whole caboodle; so there wouldn’t appear to be any major obstacles, apart from perhaps the argument that 8 teams is one team too many, especially once (if?) you take the international stars out of WNCL.

(Whilst in England you would doubtless hear the argument that this was a “slippery slope” towards the “franchisation” of the entire men’s game; the Australians don’t seem to worry quite so much about that sort of thing?)

So it’s good for the fans… it’s good for the players… and it helps the media to build “the story”. It’s The Future™… and as we’ve seen with WBBL, Cricket Australia do The Future™ rather well – so bring it on!

OPINION: Legitimate Questions Regarding “Full Time Professional” Status of England Contracts

Our colleague Martin Davies has taken some stick from the Guardian’s Cricket Correspondent Mike Selvey for asking how much the England women’s contracts are worth in financial terms:

With all due deference to Mr Selvey, we feel this is a legitimate question for one key reason – rumour has it that the Tier 3 contracts are not a full-time living wage. We should stress that this is only a rumour; but the fact that the ECB could if it wanted easily scotch such tittle-tattle but chooses not to, perhaps tells its own story? (After all, they seem happy enough for the men’s salaries to… um… “slip out“.)

Does this really matter? Yes and no! We certainly don’t have a problem with the concept of “part time” contracts, which require players to have “second jobs” as well to support themselves – this very web site is run and financed on just such a basis.

However we keep being told that England’s women cricketers are “full-time professionals”; and yet it is hard to be a “full-time professional” if your “full-time professional” job pays less than a full-time living wage.

So are the 19 really “full time professionals”? Until we know how much the T3 contracts are worth, the answer is that we genuinely don’t know… and that’s why it was a legitimate question to ask.

NEWS: Fran Wilson Awarded England Contract

Middlesex’s Fran Wilson has been awarded a central contract by the ECB, joining the otherwise unchanged list of 18 (now 19) players.

The 24-year-old Wilson last played for England in 2011, and recently moved from Division 2 Somerset to Division 1 Middlesex, with the aim of winning back her England place.

She was the only non-contracted player selected in a squad for last summer’s Women’s Ashes; but was restricted to a “12th Man” appearance in the field at Canterbury during the Test.

However, her rich form in domestic cricket – she was one of only 3 women to score a County Championship Division 1 century last season – has now been rewarded by England and it would seem highly likely that she will subsequently be a part of the squad to face South Africa in February.

WBBL: Heather’s Hurricanes Hit Hunexpected Heights

Although we are a quarter-way through the WBBL, the lopsided nature of the schedule means it is difficult to really know where we are, with Brisbane Heat having played six matches and Sydney Thunder just one. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: the bookies who had Heather Knight’s Hobart Hurricanes at 16/1 are now starting to look rather nervously at their wallets!

The Hurricanes played four games over the weekend and came away with 4 wins – two apiece against Danni Wyatt’s Melbourne Renegades and Sarah Taylor’s Adelaide Strikers – Knight leading the way with two Man of the Match awards.

Standout performance of the weekend however … and very possibly of the entire tournament… goes to Brisbane Heat’s Grace Harris, who smashed 103 off just 55 balls, with 14 4s and 4 6s, as the Heat dumped Laura Marsh’s Sydney Sixers firmly to the bottom of the table – played four, won none.

Team Played Points
1. Hobart Hurricanes 4 8
2. Brisbane Heat 6 6
3. Melbourne Stars 2 4
4. Perth Scorchers 3 4
5. Sydney Thunder 1 2
6. Adelaide Strikers 2 0
7. Melbourne Renegades 2 0
8. Sydney Sixers 4 0

NEWS: World T20 Groups Announced – England Face West Indies & India

The groups for next year’s World T20 in India have been announced by the ICC.

In Group A, Australia are drawn with New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Ireland.

Meanwhile in Group B, England will do-battle with India and the West Indies, as well as underdogs Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Just two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-final stage, so there’s little margin for error – in England’s case, a slip-up against India for example, could make things very interesting!

The full schedule can be found here.