NEWS: South Africa To Tour Ireland

Ireland have announced that they will be hosting South Africa this July/ August, playing 4 ODIs and 3 T20s against the Women Proteas who currently sit 4th in the ICC Women’s International Championship table.

The ODI’s are scheduled for July 24, 26, 29 and August 1, followed by the T20s on August 4, 5 and 7, with venues yet to be confirmed.

Prior to that, the sides will also encounter each other in the group stages of the Women’s World T20 in India in March.

Having recently won the WWT20 Qualification tournament, beating Bangladesh in the final, Ireland have firmly established themselves recently as the No. 1 “Associate” nation in the women’s game.

As such, and they will provide a genuine test for a South African team who are on the up, but were themselves in a similar position only a few short years ago.

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EXCLUSIVE: Ireland’s Holdsworth Looks To Independent Future

Cricket Ireland Performance Director Richard Holdsworth has told CRICKETher that Ireland are focussing on their independent future, following news of their withdrawal from the Women’s County Championship.

Holdsworth said that although Ireland had in fact been offered the opportunity to participate in a restructured Women’s County Championship following the introduction of the Super League in 2017, they had made the decision to focus their resources instead on building their own expanded calendar.

“The cost has been a factor,” admitted Holdsworth. “Cricket Ireland has been investing significant funds into participating in these two ECB competitions, and the feeling of our Cricket Committee and management is to invest now in more international fixtures both home and abroad.”

But there were other overriding issues too, not least the challenge of participating in an overseas competition, when almost all of the squad are 100% amateurs with full-time day jobs:

“The nature of the fixture list meant we often flew in very late in the evening before matches, or very early in the morning, neither of which were great preparation for elite cricket.”

Now Ireland are looking to build on their own local programs, with Holdsworth promising that the money saved would be ploughed back into the domestic game, including an enhanced “Super 3s”, following the launch of the competition just last year.

Holdsworth thanked the ECB for their on-going co-operation and expressed the hope that it would continue at more of an international level:

“The ECB has been, and continue to be very supportive… [and] we are also hoping the ECB will be able to play more representative matches against Ireland, particularly with their Academy program.”

With Ireland having recently qualified once again for the T20 World Cup, firmly establishing themselves in the “Top 10” as arguably the leading “Associate” nation, clearly the only way is forward now for these ambitious girls in green!

EXCLUSIVE: Ireland Cut Costly County Cricket

In a last-minute move which has forced the ECB to frantically rejig this summer’s fixture list, Ireland have stunningly withdrawn from the Women’s County Championship and Women’s T20 Cup.

Ireland have been part of the English “county” scene since 2012 – a project which was intended to give their international players a boost by playing more regularly against higher quality opposition than was possible within their own domestic setup.

But it was an expensive undertaking. Unlike the English counties which are subsidised by the ECB, Ireland have had to bear the full costs of participation themselves, including playing all their fixtures “away”, adding to the financial burden of flights and hotel rooms; and CRICKETher understands that this was the major factor behind their decision to quit.

But equally, given that Ireland have qualified for the past two World T20s, not to mention giving Australia some good games last summer, perhaps it could also be argued that the initiative had successfully run its course.

Plus as previously reported on CRICKETher, the ECB had already announced that their participation would end in 2018 anyway, following the introduction of the Super League in England.

As a result of Ireland’s withdrawal, their Divisions (Division 2 of the County Championship and Division 1 of the T20 Cup) will now consist of just 8 teams, with only one side being relegated – though given the changes coming in 2017, the matter of relegation is perhaps somewhat academic.

Additionally, the Division 1 T20 fixture list has been extensively rejigged. The “triple-header” format, where 3 teams all play each other on a single day, is retained overall; but with each county now having one single-header against a “local” rival.

NEWS: Coach Tiffen Backs New Zealand WBBL Franchise Plan

New Zealand coach Haidee Tiffen has said she concurs with plans to include a New Zealand based franchise in the WBBL.

The suggestion of adding a New Zealand-based team to the Men’s BBL was mooted by former Black Caps captain Daniel Vettori back in December [here] with BBL Chief Exec Mike McKenna promising “we’ll look at it”.

The logical corollary of that would be an aligned WBBL franchise, and in an interview with the New Zealand Herald [here] Tiffen has said she is supportive of this idea.

There are obviously a lot of questions raised by this – not least, a franchise which was basically just the White Ferns in a different uniform would almost certainly be too strong and upset the delicate balance of the competition.

But teams are already restricted to five “stars”, of whom three can be overseas, so a change in the regulations which added the top White Ferns to the “stars” roster but allowed the New Zealand franchise to register other local players as non-overseas would be one possible solution; opening the way for what would clearly be a massive shot in the arm for the women’s game in New Zealand.

WBBL: Semi-Finals Still Wide Open

With the bottom three sides all registering at least one win over the weekend, the chase for the semi-finals is still on – all 8 teams have a chance of qualification and none are yet certain.

Top-of-the-league Sydney Thunder had the opportunity to seal qualification against the Melbourne Renegades, but for once their batting let them down, and they were bowled out for 103 chasing 139, with Molly Strano and Sophie Molineux taking 3-apiece for the Renegades.

At the other end of the table – last going into the weekend – the Sydney Sixers won four on the bounce. They kept their hopes more-than alive by beating the Adelaide Strikers (twice) and the Renegades (twice) as Ellyse Perry finally fired with the bat, making 57, 65, 46 and 67*.

This left the Strikers needing a win against the Melbourne Stars to save their season, and they got it as Sarah Coyte hit 71 off 54 balls before New Zealand’s Sophie Devine came in at the end and delivered 47* off just 15 balls – a Strike Rate of over 300 – to set the Stars a massive target of 170.

The Strikers then followed the tried-and-trusted formula for beating the Stars – get Meg Lanning out – bowled by Amanda Wellington for 16 – the Strikers winning in the end by 50 runs.

So with Sky announcing they will show the final in the UK, who will we get to see? Well below is how it’s looking going into the final furlong, with the top 4 qualifying for the semi-finals.

Even the bottom-of-the-table Renegades could still yet qualify if they win all their games and the four sides above them lose all theirs; but only the current top-4 have their destiny in their own hands.

It’s exciting stuff, and a dream come true for Cricket Australia, with crowds and TV audiences exceeding all expectations… and it ain’t over yet!

Played Points
1. Sydney Thunder 11 16
2. Hobart Hurricanes 11 14
3. Brisbane Heat 13 14
4. Melbourne Stars 11 12
5. Perth Scorchers 12 10
6. Sydney Sixers 11 10
7. Adelaide Strikers 11 8
8. Melbourne Renegades 10 6

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Mark Robinson On South Africa Tour Selections

Following the announcement of the England squad to travel to South Africa next month, CRICKETher editor Raf Nicholson caught up with new Head Coach Mark Robinson.

TB or not TB? That was the question facing Mark Robinson when he came to select his squad for the tour to South Africa – Tammy Beaumont… or not Tammy Beaumont.

Robinson confides it wasn’t an easy choice, partly because he hasn’t had the opportunity to work with the stars currently playing WBBL in Australia; but after seeing Beaumont on the recent Sri Lanka training camp and talking it through with his captain, his mind was made up:

“Tammy impressed me with how she can hit the ball and how potentially destructive she can be – it’s the style of cricket we want to play.”

“What made it quite hard was there were quite a lot of players I hadn’t seen yet… but having spoken to Charlotte Edwards who plays with her at Kent, I know she’s very talented… somebody that you would want in your team.”

The inclusion of Beaumont means Middlesex’s Fran Wilson misses the cut, just weeks after being first awarded a central contract; and Robinson admits that even though England play 3 crucial 50-over games in South Africa, this decision was partly driven with an eye on the World T20 in March:

“We’ve got a Twenty20 competition coming up, and Fran’s possibly better suited at 50-over cricket than she is at Twenty20. With back-to-back tours there’s less time to swap players in and out than what we might like.”

“I just spoke to Fran this morning, and obviously she’s disappointed… but we’ve got 4 tours this year and the new Super League, so there’s lots of opportunity for her to play cricket and make a claim for her place.”

Another to be omitted was Kent’s Laura Marsh, who Robinson acknowledges was unlucky:

“Somebody was going to have to miss out. Dani Hazell is the number 1 Twenty20 spinner in the world… and you’ve got Heather Knight now bowling quite effective off-spin as well, which gives you an option. So Laura was unlucky… but it was a very, very close call.”

The only other contracted player not travelling to South Africa is Tash Farrant, who hasn’t played for England since the contracts were first announced, but who is clearly desperate to turn that around:

“She was aggrieved that she wasn’t in. And that’s what you want – you want people to be disappointed to be left out, because they’ll put in performances, and that’s how we’ll get better, by having competition for spots… But I was very impressed with her in Sri Lanka – she knocked over a lot of batsmen!”

Finally, asked what his ambitions were for the tour, Robinson was introspective:

“We want to make sure we come together as a group and a unit, and unite, and bond, and play the type of cricket that we like to play. That’ll give us the best chance of winning those ODIs, then moving onto the Twenty20s, as part of our preparation for the World Cup.”

STATS: WBBL Hitters & Runners

One of the nice things about an extended tournament like WBBL is that you can really start to see some patterns emerge. We look here at hitters – those who get most of their runs from boundaries; and runners – those who let their legs do the talking; and whilst you might think you know who they’ll be, there are a couple of surprises too!

THE HITTERS

  1. Naomi Stalenburg (Sydney Thunder) – 71%
  2. Grace Harris (Brisbane Heat) – 71%
  3. Rachel Priest (Melbourne Renegades) – 66%
  4. Stafanie Taylor (Sydney Thunder) – 60%
  5. Elyse Villani (Perth Scorchers) – 60%

The big surprise here is Naomi Stalenburg, who at 21 years of age is already a bit of a cricketing nomad, having played domestic cricket in England (for the Netherlands, in the Women’s County Championship), New Zealand and Australia.

Stalenburg has not yet been selected at international level, but her WBBL performances thus far could have the Southern Stars looking at her more closely in the not too distant future.

THE RUNNERS

  1. Sarah Elliot (Melbourne Renegades) – 82%
  2. Emma Thompson (Hobart Hurricanes) – 72%
  3. Lauren Winfield (Brisbane Heat) – 69%
  4. Mignon du Preez (Melbourne Stars) – 69%
  5. Alex Blackwell (Sydney Thunder) – 68%

It’s probably no surprise to see Test Specialist™ Sarah Elliot at the top of this list; but that she has got there whilst still maintaining a healthy Strike Rate of 90, shows that there is still room for real runners even in the shortest format of the women’s game.

Perhaps the biggest surprise here though is English overseas Lauren Winfield – generally considered a bit of a “hitter” by English standards – but here playing a very different kind of game for the Heat.

NOTES

  1. Stats restricted to players scoring more than 100 runs in the tournament so far.
  2. Percentage show is of runs scored – i.e. Sarah Eliot has scored 82% of her runs by running; Naomi Stalenburg has scored 71% of her runs in boundaries.

This piece was corrected on 10/1/2016 regarding Stalenburg’s international qualification for Australia not New Zealand.

NEWS: England Announce South Africa Squad – No Room At The Inn For Wilson

England have announced the squad for their tour to South Africa in February.

Kent’s Tammy Beaumont is back, though listed as “T20s Only”; but there is no room for Middlesex’s Fran Wilson, despite the fact that she was added to the list of contracted players only last month.

Also “out” is Laura Marsh – currently playing WBBL in Australia for the under-performing Sydney Sixers.

The full squad is:

  • Charlotte Edwards
  • Tammy Beaumont (T20Is Only)
  • Katherine Brunt
  • Kate Cross (ODIs Only)
  • Georgia Elwiss
  • Lydia Greenway
  • Becky Grundy
  • Jenny Gunn
  • Dani Hazell
  • Amy Jones
  • Heather Knight
  • Nat Sciver
  • Anya Shrubsole
  • Sarah Taylor
  • Lauren Winfield
  • Danni Wyatt

WBBL: Thunder Streak Blows Hurricanes Off Course

A five-game winning streak over the holiday period has put the Sydney Thunder in pole position in the WBBL.

The Thunder – the only team without an English overseas – beat the much-fancied Scorchers (twice), the (then) table-topping Hurricanes (also twice) and the Brisbane Heat to go top, with 16 points from 10 games, virtually assuring themselves of semi-final qualification.

Heather Knight’s now second-placed Hurricanes also look set for a semi. Despite losing 3 on the bounce, they still have 14 points with 3 games left, two of which are against the Sydney Sixers – this year’s punchbags, with just one win from 7.

The mid-table remains hard to read, with the third-placed Heat having just one game left, while the Strikers in sixth have 7 matches remaining.

It does however look like curtains already for Charlotte Edward’s Scorchers. Though the England skipper has been in fine form, scoring 366 runs at a strike rate of 107, they have a losing record with just two games left and seem most unlikely to make the cut.

Going forwards the Strikers v Stars games on 8th/ 9th January look critical for both teams. Thus far, the Stars have been very dependent on Meg Lanning – when she scores big, they win; and when she doesn’t, they don’t – so if the Strikers can just keep her quiet, they could book themselves a spot in the semis at the Stars’ expense, but if they can’t, it could be all over for them by this time next week.

Played Points
1. Sydney Thunder 10 16
2. Hobart Hurricanes 11 14
3. Brisbane Heat 13 14
4. Melbourne Stars 9 10
5. Perth Scorchers 12 10
6. Adelaide Strikers 7 6
7. Melbourne Renegades 7 4
8. Sydney Sixers 7 2