NEWS: England Squad For Pakistan ODIs

England have announced a 15-player squad for the first two ODIs against Pakistan next week.

  • Heather Knight
  • Anya Shrubsole
  • Tammy Beaumont
  • Katherine Brunt
  • Kate Cross
  • Georgia Elwiss
  • Jenny Gunn
  • Alex Hartley
  • Danielle Hazell
  • Amy Jones (wkt)
  • Laura Marsh
  • Natalie Sciver
  • Fran Wilson
  • Lauren Winfield
  • Danielle Wyatt

For the first time in quite a while, the squad contains an uncapped player – Middlesex’s orthodox left-armer, Alex Hartley – who modestly told CRICKETher less than a month ago that she had “no chance” of being picked. (We always thought otherwise… sorry to prove you wrong Alex!!)

Fran Wilson is also included, as very much expected – she has played for England before, but not in the “professional” era – her last cap was in 2011.

Fast bowler Beth Langston is explicitly listed as injured, whereas Becky Grundy and Tash Farrant (the only other Performance Squad players not included) are just not mentioned at all – perhaps a bit of a surprise, particularly in the latter case, as Farrant has had a very good county season thus far as the highest wicket-taker in the County Championship.

Meanwhile behind the stumps,. Lauren Winfield is officially appointed “Under-Glove-Butler” to Amy Jones, which probably makes sense – there are definitely better wicket keepers in county cricket, not least Berkshire’s Carla Rudd, but Winfield is a much better batsman than Rudd, and Winfield doesn’t let much through, even if she isn’t as “clean” a keeper as some.

NEWS: New Zealanders McGlashan & Priest Head To County

New Zealand stars Sara McGlashan and Rachel Priest will warm up for the Kia Super League with some county action in the Nat West T20 Cup.

McGlashan – a middle-order batsman and veteran of over 200 internationals, including 2 Tests – will line up for Sussex, before heading to the Southern Vipers; whilst Priest – a wicket-keeping opening batsman, with an ODI highest score of 157 – will play for Berkshire, before quite literally “going west”, to the Western Storm!

With key players away on international duty (Heather Knight, for Berkshire, and Danni Wyatt and Georgia Elwiss for Sussex) both counties will be mightily relieved to bulk-up their batting; whilst for the players themselves it represents an opportunity to acclimatise to the freezing cold English conditions prior to KSL.

OPINION: Five Selection Dilemmas For England

Syd Egan & Raf Nicholson look at some of the selection dilemmas facing England coach Mark Robinson as he considers his side for the ODIs against Pakistan next week.

Dilemma 1: Lauren Winfield v Tammy Beaumont

In the post-dystopian wasteland that is English cricket without Charlotte Edwards, the first question Mark Robinson has to answer is: who will open with Heather Knight? Robinson obviously thinks highly of Beaumont – saying recently he was “excited” to see if she could build on her World T20 performances – and she is the highest run scorer in this season’s County Championship; but Winfield opened in the ODIs in South Africa, albeit not terribly successfully, scoring just 22 runs in the 3-match series. SE

Dilemma 2: Amy Jones v Fran Wilson

With Sarah Taylor currently out of the equation, another difficult call for Robinson is going to be: who should bat at number 3? While Jones will no doubt be an automatic selection as Taylor’s former under-glove butler, it remains to be seen whether she can step up and anchor an innings in the way that the no. 3 position requires. Wilson, on the other hand, is not only back to full fitness but appears to have made a good case for herself batting at 3 for the Academy, fresh from making 88 against Ireland A at Loughborough last week. RN

Dilemma 3: Georgia Elwiss v Jenny Gunn

It’s the Battle Of The All-Rounders. In the Blue Corner, we have Jenny Gunn: for so long England’s Heavyweight Champion. In the Red Corner, we have Georgia Elwiss: the young(ish!) upstart who alone of England’s batsmen came out of the Canterbury Test last summer with her head held high. Gunn may have played 232 internationals for England to date, but if the last month is anything to go by, Robinson seems quite prepared – indeed almost eager – to discard experience in favour of potential. Is Gunn’s time as England’s front-line all-rounder at a close? RN

Dilemma 4: Kate Cross v Tash Farrant

There is a good chance England will go into the series with just the two seamers (Shrubsole and Brunt) but if either of them gets injured, or they decided to try to take advantage of English conditions while they can, then it comes down to a shoot-out between Kent’s Farrant and Lancashire’s Cross. Farrant has impressed this year in domestic cricket – she is the leading wicket-taker in Division 1 of the County Championship – but Cross is the more likely candidate to eventually take over opening the bowling from Brunt when she retires, so if Robinson is building for the future, he might well be looking to give her a chance against Pakistan. SE

Dilemma 5: Becky Grundy v Alex Hartley

The battle of the left-armers is probably the most interesting of Robinson’s dilemmas, because the way it falls will be quite telling of the direction Robinson intends to take. Hartley is without a shadow of a doubt the better bowler, but she is also what they call a Genuine No. 11™ while Grundy had a good game with both bat and ball for the Academy last week against Ireland. Then again, Robinson could pass them both by and pick Lancashire’s Sophie Ecclestone, who at just 17 really is “the future”. SE

NEWS: Morna Nielsen and Amy Satterthwaite Join Kia Super League

New Zealanders Morna Nielsen and Amy Satterthwaite have become the latest international stars to sign for the inaugural Kia Super League.

The pair replace Australians Megan Schutt – who is injured – and Sarah Coyte – who has decided not to travel to England for personal reasons.

Nielsen, a left-arm spinner who is currently the ICC’s number two-ranked T20 bowler, will be playing for the Southern Vipers, alongside teammates Suzie Bates and Sara McGlashan.

Meanwhile Amy Satterthwaite – who topped the batting averages in the recent Women’s World Twenty20 – will help to strengthen the batting line-up of Lancashire Thunder in the likely absence of Sarah Taylor.

The Kia Super League kicks off on Saturday 30th July when Yorkshire Diamonds play Loughborough Lightning at Headingley.

NEWS: Kent Girls Coach Honoured With MBE

Kent’s long-serving Under-11 Girls coach – David Sear – has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to girls’ cricket.

A retired PE teacher, Sear has been part of the Kent girls’ coaching setup for over 20 years, and amongst those who have been coached by him, many have gone on to play for England, including Lynsey Askew, Lydia Greenway, Tash Farrant and Tammy Beaumont.

John Daniels, Director of Girls’ Cricket in Bexley, congratulated Mr Sear in his regular newsletter:

“David has been a tireless worker for Kent Girls and Women’s cricket for many years… running the Kent under 11 county squad, the under 11s festival days and many other tournaments.”

Wilson & Gardner Back For Berkshire v Middlesex Clash

The big game in the County Championship this weekend is Berkshire v Middlesex at North Maidenhead.

With Berkshire in 5th place in Division 1, and Middlesex in 6th, just above the dreaded relegation zone, it is a match which both teams will be targeting as a “must win”, and both sides are boosted by the return of key players.

For Middlesex, opening batsman Fran Wilson is back. Having scored 88 for England Academy against Ireland “A” in a 50-over match at Loughborough this week, it looks like the good form with which she started the County Championship, prior to the freak injury which sidelined her for a month, is set to continue; and it will be a massive surprise if she isn’t now also named in the England squad for the Pakistan series later this month.

For Berkshire, fast bowler Daisy Gardner also looks set to get back into the action after injury derailed her season on the opening weekend, since which The Beavers have really missed her penetration with the ball. Seeing her open the bowling in tandem with Lauren “The Shard” Bell should be something of a treat… unless you are a Middlesex batsman!

As usual, it is an 11:00 start on Sunday at North Maids, with free entry for children, OAPS… and anyone in between! [Editor’s Note: He means everyone!]

The Future of Women’s Club Cricket – Does it have one?

Simon Pearson writes…

This seems like an odd question given the constant mantra from the ECB and England players extolling the continued growth in the sport (1.3 million girls through Chance to Shine for example) but, in my experience at least, the competitive club side of the sport is dying, and that is before any impact from the KSL which, I fear, is likely to hit hard once the 50 over competition starts, presumably next year.

I say this because the number of teams is falling. A few seasons ago our County used to have nine teams in the leagues; they now have four. One of the local leagues has lost a substantial proportion of its members. Our team has only played one game so far this season due to other teams being unable to field a side, and we have just heard that another club has withdrawn from the league due to lack of availability of players. Ironically this is one of the clubs which has been featured on CRICKETher.

Lack of cricket at an appropriate level is a constant theme, and it’s interesting that the England coach has raised the same point because it is, of course, one of the aims behind the KSL. Generally women’s teams seem to play less than half the fixtures of the equivalent men’s teams, even before the concessions start. Recent surveys have confirmed the desire for more cricket but the changes brought in have resulted in even less.

It seems to me that the club scene has no role in the ECB/County pathway and so is largely ignored. Although there are very few clubs playing competitive league cricket in our County, our club has never been visited to see what players we have. It is also of note that the ECB have given up their role in the Premier Divisions and, I was told, will no longer protect club days.

The main emphasis seems to be on Chance to Shine. This was clearly demonstrated during a meeting called by my County several seasons ago to discuss Women’s and Girls’ Cricket. A question was asked about what the plan was for the girls as they got older, and there was no answer. We later heard that a club had lost all their older girls to another sport – not, as is often said, due to other interests but simply because there was nowhere for them to play. Most of our County girls who are at clubs at all are where there is no women’s team. When I was involved (some years back), very few played any cricket other than County and were not encouraged to do so.

One issue seems to be that Chance to Shine feeds few, if any, girls into the clubs – we have never seen one and, in fact, currently have no juniors at all.

The pathway seems to be Chance to Shine -> County Age Groups -> County -> KSL -> England.

My fear is that the game is on the edge and the KSL will push it over. Am I being overly pessimistic?

Some seasons ago I recall there was a rule that to field a County side you had to have a minimum number of league teams – maybe this should be brought back. Maybe to qualify to play at County at U15 and above you should be required to be playing in an approved competitive league.

Or maybe we should simply give up on women’s club cricket and feed the ladies into men’s teams at an appropriate level; at least they would get to play more. Unfortunately many do not want to do this, and many club facilities are not suitable.

Another issue is the verbal abuse they suffer. Contrary to what the ECB etc seem to think, a number of women I have spoken to have left clubs due to what they have been subjected to, often by their own teams.

The question of how we move forward is rather difficult to answer since there seems to be little reliable information as to where we are – the figures put forward by the ECB are regarded with considerable scepticism by those on the ground. But it is clear that the women’s game is very different from the men’s and we need to think outside the box.

While in a men’s club you can bring in new players who will find a place in whatever XI is appropriate for their standard, very few women’s clubs now have even a 2nd XI – further evidence of the decline. This means that it is very hard for players to join a club whose team is playing in an upper division. Maybe clubs should be more open to loaning players so they get the cricket they need, and it might help to keep struggling teams going. I raised this at a County area meeting a few years ago but it met with a hostile reception. Another possibility is a group of clubs getting together and co-operating.

Maybe I am exaggerating things, but I am more pessimistic than ever about the future. In my view the next couple of seasons are crucial if we are not to lose this level of cricket altogether.

PROFILE: Who Is Heather Knight?

Who is Heather Knight? It is a question a lot of people will be asking over the next few months… and one not many people will really know the answer to. I’ve been following her closely at Berkshire for several years now, and I’m not actually sure I know the answer either.

I know the numbers of course – 3,000 runs for Berkshire since she arrived in 2010, at an average of 54, including 8 centuries and 19 fifties – she has been comfortably the most consistent batsman in county cricket over that period.

But Heather Knight “the person” has remained something of an enigma.

Certainly she is a very different character to her predecessor.

Where Charlotte Edwards’ team talks in the huddle were animated, pumped-up and occasionally “post-watershed”; Heather’s are calm, directed and focused.

Where Charlotte Edwards would greet a century with arms aloft, like a footballer celebrating a goal; Heather will likely do little more than raise her bat to the pavillion, usually with a modest “aw-shucks” expression on her face.

Where Charlotte Edwards was gregarious, greeting you by name if she saw you at a match, Heather is more introverted, keeping herself largely to herself, reflecting the fact that, as Mark Robinson mentioned in his press conference last week, she is “comfortable in her own company”.

More generally, in terms of England, Heather has always stood apart slightly from her teammates.

She didn’t go to Loughborough (she studied at Cardiff); she doesn’t live in Loughborough (she has settled in London). Unlike many (some might argue too many?) players, she maintains a close circle of friends outside the game; and her idea of a good time is more ‘quiet pint in a country pub’ than ‘big night out on the town’.

She remains very close to her parents, who like Heather herself, don’t want a lot of fuss – you’ll often see them at games sitting anonymously amongst the crowd. (I recall sitting next to them once at an England match, whilst the people in the row in front earnestly and loudly debated for several minutes which one of the fielders was Heather – they said nothing!)

What I can say with certainty, is that those who do know Heather – from Berkshire to Hobart, where she plays in Australia’s WBBL – absolutely love her. Why? I think it is because they know that not only is she the best player, but she brings out the best in them too.

If players were forces of nature, Sarah Taylor would be a volcano – veering between dormant and explosive; Charlotte Edwards might be a great river – pushing on relentlessly; but Heather Knight is more like gravity – she may be less visible, but she still has a powerful effect on everything around her… and that’s about to include England too!

INTERVIEW: Robinson Looking Beyond 2017

At yesterday’s freewheelin’ press conference to announce his new captain, Mark Robinson was his usual loquacious self, discussing any number of subjects with thoughtful honesty.

Reflecting on what he said, it is clear that Heather Knight’s appointment is part of a long term strategy which looks way beyond 2017 – a tournament which he readily admitted England might not win.

“This is a new era of cricket – we need to be embracing it… [but] the World Cup might be too soon for this team. We have the ambition to win it but… we had to make some changes… [and] whether that is in time for the next World Cup, to go and win it, I don’t know.”

Although Heather Knight had long been the heir apparent, Robinson was very clear that she was nevertheless very-much his choice – a new, young captain for a new, young era:

“We’ve got an outstanding individual in Heather Knight. She’s stubborn! She’s a bit annoying at times because she’s got her own opinion, which is absolutely as it should be! She’s comfortable in her own skin, she’s comfortable in her own company, and they’re great qualities for a captain… The ability to command a room… They were the qualities that hit me straight away when I met her.”

But he emphasised too that Knight is a player first and foremost, and also still a partly unfulfilled one:

“She’s a great player now but she has the potential to be an outstanding player… We’ve got to help her – make sure she is allowed to work on her own game – that’s the job of the coaches – to allow her space to get her game in order… [because] fundamentally… she is not England captain first, she is a player.”

The emphasis on youth and the long term has, of course, meant some difficult decisions, not least the sacking of Charlotte Edwards, but Robinson was forthright in his defence:

“It’s actually about putting things in place that will allow this team to have the best chance of being successful in the long-term, not the short-term. You’ve got to stop making short-term decisions. This is a long-term decision. You’ve now got a person at the age of 25 who can lead their country for a long time.”

In terms of the teams for this summer, Robinson wanted to emphasise that he is definitely looking beyond the current “contracted” squad:

“Myself and [Assistant Coach] Ali Maiden, we’re trying to integrate the Academy into us… trying to involve them with the main team as much as we can. Likewise with the Under-19s – we’re trying to get it more integrated.”

“Every single girl who’s in the Performance Squad and the Academy are up for selection for the next match.”

And an almost throw-away remark on selection actually spoke volumes in this regard:

“We’ve got 2 left-armers who deserve to play.”

But there is only one left-armer in the contracted squad, so Robinson can only have been referring to an Academy player (presumably Alex Hartley) as the other!

On the wicket keeping situation however, it seems they won’t be looking for any additional coverage in the absence of Sarah Taylor:

“Amy Jones has been on that many tours and not played with the gloves, so she is desperate to have a go. Lauren Winfield keeps for Yorkshire… [so] we’ve got two very able backups.”

Also on the subject of selection, Robinson said that Knight will be a part of the process:

“Heather will have a huge selection voice – trying to shut her up might be the problem. Heather has a huge say in the team that she wants on the pitch.”

Ruminating on the contracts, and indeed the very nature of the current “professionalism”, Robinson hinted that situation too might need to evolve.

“I can’t get enough contact sometimes with the girls. They’ve got other commitments, because they have to. They have to do other things to supplement their income, some of them. They’re all on one-year contracts going forward. Is that right? I don’t know!”

“I don’t know!” seems to be an answer Mark Robinson is honest enough to give quite a lot; but one thing he clearly does know is that he and his new skipper Heather Knight are in this for the long term; and that’s good, because as fans, we are too, and we too are excited to share the ride.

OPINION: Have England Found Their Knight In Shining Armour?

The day Heather Knight secured her position as successor to Charlotte Edwards came just under three years ago, beneath sunny skies at Wormsley Cricket Ground.

It was that most challenging of tasks, an Ashes Test match, and England were failing spectacularly to rise to the occasion. Australia had declared on 331-6 and Knight, opening, stood at the other end and watched her teammates come in and depart with steady regularity, until England were 6 down with only 113 on the board, and looking in danger of being made to follow on.

It is easy to forget a number of things: that this was only Knight’s second Test; that despite having made her England debut in 2010, she had yet to really cement her place in the squad, not even being initially selected for the T20 side to face Australia that summer.

Her captain, Edwards, had gone for 3, lbw to Holly Ferling; Sarah Taylor had also fallen by the wayside, again to Ferling.

All the while Knight, with straight bat, defended and defended and defended.

It took her 263 balls and 328 minutes to reach her maiden international hundred. And by the time she was out, soon after lunch on the third day of the Test, she had faced 338 balls and made 157. It was the kind of gritty Test match innings which is not necessarily pretty, or fluent, or spectacular – but that does the job it is meant to do.

England were eventually bowled out for 314, drew the Test, and went on to win the series. Meanwhile Knight, 12 months later, was named as England’s new vice-captain.

Since that series, Knight has made other contributions with both bat and ball, having taken up the art of spin bowling in late 2013: she has 36 international wickets currently to her name. Yet nothing has quite matched up to that performance at Wormsley. It was a brave, obdurate innings, one that England – in a supremely precarious position – desperately needed.

It is exactly what England need of her now.

Once again, as they were on that morning at Wormsley three years ago, England look to be facing a difficult period, to say the least. Once again, the outside world are looking on, wondering where on earth they go from here. Knight is the first captain of the professional era – the first whose captaincy will be under scrutiny from the first day until the last.

Once again England need runs: Knight has to step up, now as England’s senior batsman, and ensure that her side firstly qualify for the 2017 World Cup – the so-called “easy” series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka may be crucial from that perspective – and then that they do all that they can to reach a home final at Lord’s.

Once again, she has to do all this without Edwards – and some of it, almost certainly, without Taylor.

Those at Berkshire speak highly of Knight, as leader and role model. She led a team which was widely considered the weakest in the Women’s Big Bash League – Hobart Hurricanes – to the tournament semi-finals. But there is no doubt that this will be an uphill struggle. And while she may have been Edwards’ only natural successor – it was no great surprise when the news broke that she was to be named leader of Robinson’s New Regime – nobody, least of all Knight herself, expected that her moment in the sun would come so soon.

Today, in the press conference, Mark Robinson used one word to sum up Heather Knight: stubborn. It is a quality that has served her well for England thus far: tell Trev that something can’t be done, and she will want to prove you wrong; give her the best bowling attack in the world, and she will patiently see it off. Stubbornness was the watchword that day at Wormsley. If England are to succeed under her leadership, it it this stubbornness – this ability to get the job done, even when it looks impossible to the outside world – that her captaincy will need to embody.