OPINION: Bradford’s Telegraph & Argus Write WCSL Piece… Manage To Make It All About A Man!

Bradford’s Telegraph and Argus has written an article on the Women’s Cricket Super League; and it’s one of those pieces that you sometimes just have to call out:

Yes – it might be a Women’s Cricket Super League (the clue is in the word “women’s” chaps!!) but the Telegraph and Argus have managed to make it all about a man – the headline, the (only) photograph and the byline – all focusing on coach Richard Pyrah.

And quite right too: if you start giving women headlines and photographs, they’ll want the vote next… and then where will we be?

(To be fair, the piece does name 3 women… buried in the final paragraph… so really, we don’t know what we are snarking about!!)

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WCSL Q&A – Players & TV

Now that the ECB have announced the WCSL team names, people are starting to get excited, and they’ve got a few questions too. Here’s what we know in answer to some of the things we’ve been asked.

Who will be playing for “my” team?

Officially… we don’t know yet! The ECB have already allocated the 35 Performance (i.e. contracted) and Academy players to the teams – they know who they will be playing for, and so do the team managers and coaches – but the rest of us are waiting for an official announcement over the next couple of weeks.

Will the England players stay with their local county teams?

In most cases, yes… but rumour has it, maybe not all!

What about the “overseas” stars?

Around 60 overseas stars applied for the 18 roster-spots on-offer in WCSL. The hosts (franchises) are now negotiating with the ECB over who will go where. Whilst the England players were allocated by the ECB, this part of the process is host-driven – they say who they want, presumably after weighing up which England players they have (there’s perhaps little point in having Sarah Taylor and Alyssa Healy, for example) and this is then subject to ECB approval.

Where are the other players coming from?

The hosts will be selecting the remaining 5-6 domestic players themselves – probably drawing them mainly from their local county teams, subject to formal ECB approval.

Will it be on TV?

This was always going to be a tricky one. Sky own the rights to all cricket played under the auspices of the ICC in England and Wales; and they jealously guard their exclusivity, so realistically it was Sky or bust – there was never any chance that one of the “free-to-air” broadcasters would be able to show it. And although we understand Sky were reasonably happy with the viewing figures for last summer’s Women’s Ashes, this is seen as a much less commercially enticing proposition, so it seems unlikely that the league stages will be broadcast.

But… wasn’t the WBBL a big TV success?

Yes… but… that was based on “built-in” support for the existing (men’s) franchises and it was paid for by Cricket Australia, who fronted-up the bulk of the broadcasting costs. The WCSL just doesn’t have the budget to do this.

Might the finals be televised?

The finals will be played on a “showcase” day at Chelmsford, and it is rumoured that the ECB are still hoping that Sky might be enticed to get their cameras out for this, but it isn’t a given yet.

The men’s counties stream some games online – could they do this for WCSL?

The streaming of men’s county games is explicitly built into the contract between the ECB and Sky, and is only permitted when there isn’t any other cricket being broadcast at that time. Streaming WCSL would require additional special dispensation from Sky; however, there is a precedent – Sky allowed the ECB to live-stream the England/ India ODI series in 2014 – so it isn’t out of the question.

All answers provided in good faith, to the best of our knowledge.

If we’ve got anything wrong, we will more than happily correct it – you know where we live 😉

BREAKING: Super League Team Names

Here they are…

  • Lancashire Thunder
  • Loughborough Lightning
  • Southern Vipers [Hampshire etc.]
  • Surrey Stars
  • Western Storm [Somerset, Gloucestershire, etc.]
  • Yorkshire Diamonds

A couple of interesting notes:

  • Lancashire have been allowed to keep their semi-official “County Championship” name, although it isn’t supposed to be the same team, and there is no guarantee in theory that they will have the same players.
  • Surrey will brand themselves as “Surrey” rather than “London”; which will no doubt draw-in supporters of Surrey’s men’s team… but may also exclude cricket fans north of the river!
  • Loughborough have been permitted to extend their existing “Lightning” brand, which is already used by their Superleague [sic. – one word!] netball team.

CLUB OF THE MONTH: Catford Wanderers

Here at CRICKETher, we’re passionate about women’s cricket at all levels, including club cricket. It’s our mission to offer coverage of women’s (and girls’) club cricket wherever we can! Our ‘Club of the Month’ feature will focus on one women’s or girls’ club every month, giving you the lowdown on their highs, lows, and everything in between.

If you’d like to see your club featured here, get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!

Catford Wanderers was originally formed as the women’s section of Blackheath Cricket Club in 2004, but moved across to join the Catford Wanderers club in 2012. The move came about because of Catford’s frustration at the lack of matches which they got to play on Blackheath’s main ground. Current club member Sarah Berman recalls that “in 2010 we played every home game on a different field which got quite frustrating”. In 2011 Blackheath struck a deal with Catford Wanderers for the women to play all their home games there and “after seeing the level of interest, support and commitment to us amongst the guys there, we decided to move to Catford permanently.”

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They now play at Catford Wanderers Sports Club, which has good facilities: a really good square, a clubhouse with a cheap bar, and decent nets. A couple of years ago the club invested in new covers, which Sarah says has made a massive difference. They play in the Women’s Cricket Southern League, and last season won the 40-over part of their division. This season they are moving to a new, tougher division and are hoping to hold their own.

Former Kent captain Evette “Swoop” Burton is one of their star players, and Catford is also the former home club of ECB Women’s Media Manager Beth Barrett-Wild (formerly of Essex), who opened the batting for them in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. They are working on increasing their junior representation, and the club’s junior chairman does a lot of work with local schools with the aim of bringing more boys and girls through into the sport.

One thing that becomes obvious, talking to Sarah, is that the club love their nicknames! Current captain, Kiwi Greer Hill, is known as Judderbar (the word that New Zealanders use for speed bump). Sarah herself is known as Gibraltar, or “Gib” for short, due – in her own words – to her “rock-like batting”!

They are also a tight-knit bunch, and often meet up to watch cricket together and for socials out of season. As Sarah puts it, “friendship and enjoyment (on and off the pitch) is the core thing about the team.”

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2015 awards night. Photo credit: Laura Daniels

Happy club memories include their Holland tour in 2009, in which “any time that wasn’t spent on the pitch was spent in a bar”, and the time in 2013 against Bishop’s Stortford when Jimmy Anderson turned up to open their new pavilion and ended up as a spectator! Cricketing-wise, the highlight to date was bowling out Stoke d’Abernon for 81 back in 2009, thus beating a team stacked with Surrey U17s including a certain Nat Sciver.

Shout-outs are due to scorer Chris – the mum of team stalwart Jemma – and the team mascot Cricket Sheep (who you can follow on twitter @cricketsheep!), as well as the team’s admin queen and umpire Yvann.

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Club mascot Cricket Sheep. Photo credit: Laura Daniels

Sarah says that new players of all standards are very very welcome. Contact Yvann by email here or on 07890 269959 to find out more. The club also have a facebook page which you can visit at:

facebook.com/CatfordWanderersWomensCricket.

OPINION: Reasons To Be Cheerful… 1, 2, 3!

As England fly home from their tour to South Africa, new coach Mark Robinson undoubtedly has some issues to reflect upon; but he also has some reasons to be cheerful:

1. They Took Home The Silverware

England might have lost a couple of matches they would have hoped to have won – particularly the ODI, when the loss also meant dropping points to a rival in the race for automatic World Cup qualification. But even Australia lose the odd match here and there (the Southern Stars have dropped points to both India and New Zealand so far this year) and at the end of the day, England recovered to bring home the silverware in both the ODI and T20 series.

2. They Have Taylor and Shrubsole

As if we needed reminding, England have in Taylor and Shrubsole two world-beaters who could carry them to WWT20 glory in India. Despite a couple of blips in ODIs 2 and 3, Taylor topped the batting numbers with 278 runs at an average of 56 and a Strike Rate of 125; whilst Shrubsole looks to be back in the sort of form that made her Player of the Tournament at the last WWT20 – taking 15 wickets at an average of 16.5*.

3. They Have a Coach Who Is Doing The Right Things

Mark Robinson’s reign might not have gotten off to the perfect start, but he has done a lot of things right on this tour. Despite what you might think, I firmly believe that one of them was not dropping Tammy Beaumont for the final T20, despite her failures in the first two matches; and in the final game she proved something – to him, to me… and possibly even to herself – by carrying England home when things were actually starting to look just a little shaky for a moment! Similarly the faith shown in Amy Jones and Danni Wyatt will also hopefully start to pay dividends, as Mark starts to make his… er… MARK!!

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* Stats include the warm-up matches.

OPINION: England Need Radical Change After Years Of Net Loss

With South Africa winning the 2nd T20, that series now stands at 1-1; and with van Niekerk in the form she’s in, you’d be a fool to bet against the Women Proteas taking the silverware in the decider on Sunday.

There is little doubt that South Africa continue to improve, and I stand by my predictions that (1) they are a very good bet to reach the 2017 World Cup final, and (2) Dane van Niekerk will be the best player in the world in her generation… Meg Lanning or no Meg Lanning!

South Africa’s success has been generally attributed to the impact of increasing professionalism, with most of the team now on semi-pro contracts. But it is also the case that they seem to have been blessed with some very good young players – not just van Niekerk, but Suné Luus, for example – a leg-spinner whose action is so smooth you have to wonder if she actually has a shoulder… or does her arm just rotate in a large spoonful of treacle?

Meanwhile England have… Tammy Beaumont – over 50 internationals, with a highest score of 44 and an average just-about scraping into double-figures.

Let there be no doubt that we consider “TB” a very, very good county player. If she were a man, she would have had a solid career at a middling First Class county… a Notts or a Somerset… with a benefit year at the end of it, followed by a comfortable retirement, perhaps in a coaching position at a minor public school… doubtless earning a lot more that she does now as a centrally contracted England professional.

But one thing she probably wouldn’t have done is played for England.

So you have to ask what Mark Robinson saw that persuaded him to select her in his squad for the World T20?

Well.. in fact… you don’t have to ask, because we know – he saw her in the nets at Loughborough. And yet it is increasingly clear to everyone who has followed the game for a number of years (and to be fair to Robinson, he’s been very honest that he hasn’t…) that the nets at Loughborough just aren’t walking the walk.

Ask yourself this: which England players have got better over the past two years, since they holed-up at Loughborough as “full time pros”?

(With apologies to Private Eye…)

  1. Heather Knight.
  2. Er…
  3. That’s it!

And even in the case of (1) we suspect this has got a lot to do with the two winters she has spent out in Australia, under the tutelage of the excellent Julia Price at Tasmania Roar / Hobart Hurricanes.

It is hard not to think that England stand in sharp contrast to South Africa’s bright, young future – an aging squad, at least one of whom will almost certainly never play international cricket again; and a very shallow pipeline, which leaves us turning back to players who have already shown that they don’t have quite what it takes at this level.

If Mark Robinson didn’t know it then, we imagine he’s realising it now: there is a vast gulf between English domestic cricket and the international game, and players who are very good at county, and look classy in the nets against a bowling machine they know better than the back of their own hand, can be found-out awfully quickly in the heat of international battle.

When we first met Robinson back in November, he told the assembled press corps that England didn’t need radical change. Perhaps he was just being polite to the old regime? Perhaps not? But when Robinson said that, the editor and I glanced at each other, both thinking the same thing – if we are going to compete for world cups, radical change over the longer term is really now the only option we’ve got!

NEWS: England World T20 Squad – Farrant In; Winfield Out

Kent’s Tash Farrant – who hasn’t played for England since the original central contracts were announced two years ago – is the surprise selection in England’s squad for the T20 World Cup in India next month.

A left-arm seamer, whose main weapons are line and length rather than pace, Farrant can be difficult to get away, and England will look to her to keep the run rate down rather than take wickets.

She has played 7 T20s and 1 ODI, the last during the 2013/ 14 Women’s Ashes in Australia, taking 5 wickets as a rookie 17-year-old. Now 19 with two years professional coaching behind her, she has her opportunity to make her mark on the world stage.

Not making the trip will be Yorkshire’s Lauren Winfield, after a string of low scores in 2015/ 16. Since making 70-odd against South Africa at the end of the 2014 summer, she has failed to pass 50 in 13 subsequent international innings across the formats, and it seems as though this poor form has finally come home to roost.

Katherine Brunt has been named in the squad, despite being sent home from South Africa with a recurrence of her ongoing back problems. If she is unable to recover, it is likely that Kate Cross will be on standby to take her place.

Full Squad:

  • Charlotte Edwards
  • Tammy Beaumont
  • Katherine Brunt
  • Georgia Elwiss
  • Tash Farrant
  • Lydia Greenway
  • Becky Grundy
  • Jenny Gunn
  • Dani Hazell
  • Amy Jones
  • Heather Knight
  • Nat Sciver
  • Anya Shrubsole
  • Sarah Taylor
  • Danni Wyatt

Women’s International Championship: Qualification Should(!) Still Be A Breeze For “Joint 4th” England

At just-past the half-way point in the race for automatic qualification for the World Cup in England in 2017, Australia remain way out in front of the Women’s International Championship with 20 points, ahead of West Indies (16) and New Zealand (14) with England and South Africa tied on 13 points for joint-4th*.

Failure to secure automatic qualification would obviously be deeply embarrassing for England; but looking at the remaining fixtures finishing in the top 4 should really be a breeze.

England’s remaining matches are against the two lowest-ranked sides in the “Top 8” – Pakistan (at home this summer) and Sri Lanka (away) – and West Indies (away). Even if they lose all three matches against West Indies, as long as they win the Pakistan and Sri Lanka series 3-0, they will almost certainly guarantee themselves a top 4 finish.

England’s route is made easier partly because South Africa – their main rivals on paper – have a much more challenging year ahead, with series against all three sides above them in the table – New Zealand, West Indies and Australia.

Meanwhile New Zealand face Australia, South Africa and Pakistan, from which you’d expect them to take sufficient points to finish the job; whilst West Indies have South Africa, England and India – none of them doozies, but with 16 points already on the board, they have that little bit less to do.

Projecting, we think the likely automatic qualifiers will be Australia, England, West Indies and New Zealand; with India remaining a strong wildcard pick, even though they currently have only 7 points, because like England they also have yet to play both Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Finally, let’s not lose sight of the fact that even the sides finishing 5th/ 6th (i.e. two of England, West Indies, New Zealand, South Africa and India) will almost certainly jump hoops through secondary qualifying against the likes of Bangladesh and Ireland** to still be there in England in 2017.

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* Although South Africa have a marginally superior Net Run Rate, according to the rules that technically doesn’t apply unless the teams are tied at the END of the competition, so for the moment “joint 4th” is strictly correct!

** Not to say one or both won’t qualify too… but perhaps at the expense of a Pakistan or a Sri Lanka… not a South Africa or an India!

NEWS: Katherine Brunt To Miss Rest Of South Africa Tour

The ECB has confirmed that Katherine Brunt, who left the field during the second ODI against South Africa on Friday after suffering from a back spasm, will be returning to the UK and will play no further part in England’s tour of South Africa.

She will be replaced by Tash Farrant, who will fly out with Nat Sciver to join the rest of the squad prior to the three-match T20 series, which begins on 18th February.

Brunt will undergo further investigation and a rehabilitation programme while in the UK. This is not the first time her back has caused her problems – she underwent surgery in March 2014, having missed the back half of the women’s Ashes tour after sustaining a potentially career-ending injury out in Australia – but nonetheless she is expected to be back in action for the start of the World Twenty20 in India next month.

England will certainly be hoping she is back to peak fitness by then, but for now, that elusive 100th ODI wicket will have to wait a while longer.

OPINION: What Should England Do Now?

South Africa have just won a famous victory over England in the 2nd ODI, thanks to the inspired selection of 16-year-old rookie Laura Wolvaardt; and later the fearless batting of Marizanne Kapp and Lizelle Lee, in a chase that looked like it was going to be an uphill struggle after the returning Danni Hazel had dismissed Trisha Chetty and Mignon du Preez in the space of two balls in the 33rd over.

The only South African to “fail” with the bat was du Preez herself who made 9… which was still one more than Lauren Winfield, Amy Jones and Sarah Taylor put together!

And let there be no doubt that this was a match England could really have done with winning. Moving towards the business end of the Women’s International Championship, they are now in very real danger of falling into a nasty scrap for 4th place, which will not be a fun position to be in come the reckoning.

So what should England do now?

The England of “yesterday” would have hit the big red button: Winfield would have been dropped down the order… and Jones would probably have been dropped off at the airport!

The England of “today” must resist this temptation. Assuming Katherine Brunt’s injury isn’t serious, they need to go into the 3rd ODI with exactly the same team, batting in exactly the same order, to exactly the same plan!

Or in short, in the immortal words of LCpl Jones: “DON’T PANIC!”

It won’t always come off – even Australia lose occasionally – but these are the best players we’ve got. They just need to know that the world believes in them, before they can start to believe in themselves; and the best way to achieve that is to do… absolutely nothing!