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!

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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!

NEWS: England Get Sciver Valentine Boost

All-rounder Nat Sciver has been passed fit to return to England duty in time for the T20 series in South Africa later this month.

Sciver is missing the ongoing ODI series after picking up an ankle injury; but will now rejoin the squad ready for the T20s which begin next Thursday.

Sciver is set to fly out to South Africa on Valentine’s Day… and with the World T20s just around the corner, her return is perhaps the ultimate Valentine’s present for new coach Mark Robinson and the team.

NEWS: 2017 World Cup Venues Announced

The ECB has today announced the five venues where the 2017 World Cup will take place: Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Lords.

The tournament will begin on June 26 and, as in 1993 – the last time the tournament was staged in England – the final will take place at Lords.

Of the five venues selected, all have previously hosted women’s internationals, with Grace Road the site of the first India-England Test in the 2006 series; they are also scheduled to host Pakistan this summer. Both Somerset and Gloucestershire staged successful televised one-day games last summer as part of the women’s Ashes series, each attracting several thousand spectators.

It is all in marked contrast to the 1993 tournament, when none of the matches bar the final were staged at county grounds, with players at times forced to roll the wickets themselves.

NEWS: ECB Confirm Anti-Betting Regs & How They Will Apply To Super League

In a statement to CRICKETher, an ECB spokesperson has confirmed the situation regarding the board’s Anti-Corruption Code, which (among much else) prohibits top players from betting on cricket, akin to the regulations under which two Australian domestic players have been sanctioned this season for placing wagers on men’s matches.

Last week, CRICKETher examined the relevant clauses of the code and suggested that it appeared that:

  1. Most county players were not subject to the code because women’s county cricket is not classified as First Class or List A.
  2. Some individual players may be subject to the code if they have “day-jobs” working for First Class counties*.

The ECB has now confirmed the situation on both of these points, stating that the code “does not extend to all female county cricketers” but regarding those who work for First Class counties: “it would entirely depend on the role that the county is employing them to perform [and] each role would have to be considered against the rules contained within the ECB Anti-Corruption Code for participants.”

The ECB has also explicitly stated that the code will apply to all participants in this summer’s Super League, though this will apparently be by contract, rather than by extending the definition of “Domestic Matches”.

“The WCSL players will be registered with the ECB, will be bound by the code, and will receive the necessary anti-corruption education.”

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* The application of the code to non-playing employees of First Class counties makes a lot of sense. For example, coaches discussing tactics in the locker room, or ground staff preparing nets or pitches, may well have access to information which would allow them to make “insider” bets; so to avoid all suspicion of impropriety, the code should and does apply.

QUESTION: Do Anti-Betting Regulations Apply to Domestic Women’s Cricket in England?

Following on from yesterday’s news that a second Australian domestic player has been sanctioned for betting on The Other Game* the question was raised as to whether similar regulations actually applied to domestic players in the women’s game in England.

Before I get into it, I feel compelled to state that I am not a lawyer. (I’ve never even played one on TV!) So what follows does not in any way constitute legal advice.

The code itself is pretty clear about betting itself. The following are offences under the code:

2.2.1 Placing, accepting, laying or otherwise entering into any Bet with any other party (whether individual, company or otherwise) in relation to the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of any Match.

2.2.2 Directly or indirectly soliciting, inducing, enticing, instructing, persuading, encouraging, intentionally facilitating or authorising any other party to enter into a Bet in relation to the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of any Match.

The question is… who does this code apply to? Does it apply to women’s county players? This is where it gets a bit more tangled!

Although a “Match” is defined as any cricket match… from village to Test; there is another term which comes into play here: “Domestic Match” which means any First Class or List A match – i.e.  not women’s county matches.

This is important because the code applies firstly to “any ECB-registered cricketer… who… is selected… to participate in a Domestic Match”. This therefore would appear to explicitly exclude all women, other than those who have played international cricket who are definitely covered under other clauses.

So, if your only involvement is as a county player, it seems clear that you are not subject to the code of conduct.

However, there is an additional, secondary clause, which states that the code also applies to: “any other person who… is employed by, [or] represents… [a] team… [that] that participates in Domestic Matches.”

This suggests that if you are employed by or “represent” a First Class county then the code applies – something which may well cover several prominent county players via their day jobs or even voluntary activities.

Of course, there has to be some elasticity here – for example as written, the code would appear to apply to a lab tech on work experience in the physics department at Oxford University, because their cricket team have First Class status… but not the coach of the Berkshire men’s team, because they are not “First Class”.

So the answer is… it’s complicated.

The bottom line here is that the ECB probably need to clarify exactly what the situation here is for women’s domestic players, particularly with the introduction of the Super League, which as things currently stand would not appear to be covered; and provide appropriate advice and training to players. Because as answers go… we’ll be the first to acknowledge that “it’s complicated” really isn’t a very good one!

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* Yes… we are going to keep calling it that!!