INTERVIEW: Morgan More Than Ready For Super League

When the final Kia Super League squads were announced back in April, one intriguing development stood out: the news that six former England internationals had been tempted out of retirement to take part in the tournament.

One of the six is 2009 double-World Cup winner Beth Morgan – who retired from international duty due to a shoulder injury in January 2013, having played in 7 Tests, 72 ODIs and 28 Twenty20s. She is widely recognised as one of England’s best batsmen of recent times, and is remembered, of course, for her vital, match-winning partnership with Claire Taylor of 122 in the 2009 World T20 semi-final against Australia at the Oval.

It’s fitting, then, that Morgan will be back in action at that same ground in the inaugural KSL for Surrey Stars – and when we spoke to her on Sunday she was absolutely relishing the prospect. “I’m very proud to have been selected,” she said. “Surrey is a prestigious club and to be training at the Oval is amazing. I’m just enjoying it and looking forward to the experience, and hopefully we can do well.”

Since her retirement in 2013, Morgan has continued to play for Middlesex, stepping down as captain only at the end of the 2014 season after 8 years at the helm. She remains the backbone of their middle-order, though, as she proved during Sunday’s “Finals Day” match against Warwickshire, sharing a 98-run partnership with Fran Wilson to take her side to an 8-wicket victory.

Morgan, then, will be starting the KSL having once again found her form, and while she is cautious about setting out her stall ahead of the competition – “we’ll see if I get out there…hopefully I can contribute” – it seems pretty obvious that the Stars would be crazy to overlook her talent and experience.

As Morgan herself acknowledges, that is part of the excitement of seeing so many ex-England players back out there on the pitch: “The standard of the young players coming through is amazing to see, but having that experience, you can’t substitute that – that’s really valuable to have Laura Newton, Rosalie Birch, Arran Brindle, those guys. It hopefully will add a lot of value to what should be a really good competition anyway.”

KSL does, of course, present several challenges for the more experienced players like Morgan. She highlighted the need to work harder in training prior to such an intense competition: “I’m trying to do as much as I can really. Maintaining the body, making sure that’s fit and ready to go. It’s really really important that all the county players, but certainly the older players, can compete and keep up and make sure they’re contributing just as much as everybody else. You can’t have a weak link in these things. I have to work a bit harder but I’m happy to do that, I’m really enjoying it.”

While KSL players will be paid match fees, we are a long way off being able to consider most KSL players even semi-professionals; and another complication for players like Morgan is therefore the need to juggle Super League around pre-existing work commitments. For Morgan, she has had to take a mixture of paid and unpaid leave in order to make herself available for KSL – but, she says, “it’s worth it. It’s a great opportunity and I’m going to do everything that I can to make the best of it and be the best that I can be, to help Surrey Stars.”

If Super League can extend the careers of players like Morgan, that can surely only be a good thing. We at CRICKETher are very much looking forward to seeing her – as well as her contemporaries Arran Brindle, Laura Newton, Rosalie Fairbairn, Laura Spragg and Lauren Griffiths – back out there on first-class grounds, playing against the world’s best.

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Play All Out Cricket’s KSL Fantasy Game Like a Pro

Want to play All Out Cricket’s KSL Fantasy Game like a pro? Follow James Piechowski’s top tips to pick your ultimate side…

All-Out Cricket have kindly developed a Fantasy Cricket game for the upcoming KSL1 competition. It should be great fun and there’s no reason not to take part! It’s free to join and register a team (all you need is to provide an email address and password) and you can even set up mini-leagues to compete against anyone else you choose.

The rules are fairly simple, but there are a few quirky aspects to the requirements and points scoring system which I aim to help guide you through here. I will outline each role, detail how it scores points, give advice on selection and offer a few possibilities (“Strong Contenders” from different KSL sides) in case anyone is stuck.

Let’s start with the fixed format for your fantasy team. Each 11 must consist of:

Team Format

  1. Batsman
  2. Batsman
  3. Master Blaster
  4. Master Blaster
  5. Finisher
  6. Finisher
  7. All Rounder
  8. All Rounder
  9. Holding Bowler
  10. Holding Bowler
  11. Strike Bowler

General Notes

  • Selections are made from the player listing on the AOC site.
  • Any player can go in any slot, but beware, batsmen get very few points for taking wickets, and bowlers very few points for scoring runs! The full rules can be found here.
  • You can only select a maximum of 2 players from any one KSL side. This seems to be a very restrictive rule, but it does mean that with only 6 teams, your side is bound to feature at least one player from every KSL team.
  • You can make unlimited transfers throughout the season. This just swaps one player for another (team restrictions still apply), but is useful to go with form, or replace injured players

The designers have, predictably, dodged the sizeable task of rating or assigning values to players, and giving you a set fund to pick them from. Instead international slots are not resistricted. This makes selection less complex, but means many fantasy teams will be comprised of 11 internationals. Lots of County players have yet to be selected in anyone’s teams (this is visible as the Popularity stat in the Player List). It will be interesting come the end of the KSL, to see what the top County player side would be in terms of points and how it compares to the top side composed of internationals.

Picking a high-scoring fantasy side

The most important part of team selection to understand is that the role or slot that you place a player in within your team roster, determines what points they can score. If a player scores 20 runs and takes a catch and 1-20, they will score different amounts of points depending on what slot you have placed them in.

Batsman (slots 1 and 2)A solid position for which their will be many possibilities, and many players who will do well. There are more clear options here than for other batting positions. Bowling is not a consideration for your selections, as the tiny 5 point bonus for a wicket is less than they get from scoring 1 run.

Player scores points based on: Number of runs scored. Bonuses for scoring 25 runs (then 50, 75 etc), every boundary, and for strike-rates above 100. Standard bonus for a catch, stumping or run out.

Advice: Select players to score most runs. Boundary hitters will score heavily, but any high strike-rate is rewarded.

Strong Contenders: Edwards (SOT), Beaumont (SUR), Blackwell (YOR)

Master Blaster (slots 3 and 4) – This can be a tough selection as 2 of these slots are required in the team. Consider power hitters who will be given some time at the crease. You probably don’t want a player who will just score the most runs, as they would be best suited in another slot. Bowling is not a consideration as the tiny 5 point bonus for a wicket is the same as they get from scoring 1 run.

Player scores points based on: Very large bonus for every six scored (but NO bonus for fours), Number of runs scored, but strangely much less than the Batsman, Finisher or Allrounder slots. Bonuses for scoring 25 runs (then 50, 75 etc), and for strike-rates above 100. Standard bonus for a catch, stumping or run out.

Advice: There’s little option but to go for Six hitters here. Consider that if an All Rounder is placed here they will get next to nothing from their bowling, however as it will become clear later, this may have to be a sacrifice you make.

Strong Contenders: Dottin (LAN), Lee (WES), Winfield (YOR)

Finisher (slots 5 and 6) – A quirky role, given 2 must be selected. Being “not out” is by far their most important ability, and gives a huge 250 point bonus. They share many of the point scoring options with the Batsman slots but strangely, in another massive quirk of the system, cannot get bonuses from a high strike-rate. Bowling is not a consideration as the tiny 5 point bonus for a wicket is less than they get from scoring 1 run.

Player scores points based on: Being Not Out and Number of runs scored. Bonuses for scoring 25 runs (then 50, 75 etc), and every boundary. NO bonus for strike rate. Standard bonus for a catch, stumping or run out.

Advice: Go for steady run accumulators known for carrying their bat. They need not score too quickly. Pick solid, probably middle order players. You could pick 2 extra batsmen who just fail to make your number 1 and 2 slots here.

Strong Contenders: Greenway (SOT), Wilson (WES), Satterthwaite (LAN)

Allrounder (slots 7 and 8) – The most “fun” role in my view. Allrounder is sure to be a popular position, it’s just a shame there aren’t more than 2 slots for them! These are the only player slots able to pick up a lot of points for batting AND bowling, and their points bonus per catch, stumping or run-out is sizeable, and more than 3 times that for players in any other slot in your team. Note that batting strike rate is not a factor for points scoring, nor is bowling completed overs.

Player scores points based on: Number of runs scored, wickets taken, economy rates of under 8, and large bonus from dismissals (catches etc). Bonuses for scoring 25 runs (then 50, 75 etc), and every boundary. Allrounders score a large bonus for a catch, stumping or run out (a dismissal). Bonus for taking 3 or more dismissals. Bonus for taking 3 or more wickets.

Advice: Allrounders have the greatest number of potential sources for scoring points of any slot. The choices from available International all rounders are vast. You would be best off picking a player likely to always play, who will get some time to bat, and also either bowl, or keep wicket. Maybe a bowler or batter you wanted to include but couldn’t squeeze into one of the other designated slots. A wicketkeeper (or otherwise any good fielder) is also a good option to maximise the catches and stumpings. If you are having trouble fitting all your favoured batting all-rounders into these 2 slots, as I did, consider playing them in a Master Blaster or Finisher slot instead.

Strong Contenders: Knight (WES), Devine (LBO), Bates (SOT), Sciver (SUR), any first-choice wicketkeeper etc.

Holding bowler (AKA Containing bowler) (slots 9 and 10) – A clear contrast to the Strike Bowler role, the 2 Holding Bowler slots, in yet another quirk, score less than other bowlers for taking wickets. However they score points for bowling completed overs, and biggest of all get a large economy bonus. They are likely to be high points scorers in your fantasy team and there are many options to choose from.

The economy rate bonus can be huge, and is possibly a “broken” feature of the points system. It’s certainly an exploit, as in women’s cricket economy rates of around 4 are quite often seen. Note this also applies for Allrounders. Unless the KSL provides regular team scores of over 160, the economy bonus of the best bowlers is likely to outweigh the bonus even most strike bowlers get for taking wickets.

Although the “3 points per 0.01 runs per over of economy rate under 8.00” may not sound like much, there are 400 times 0.01 between 8.00 and 4.00, giving an instant 1200 points if achieved, so it could easily mean that allrounders and holding bowlers are the main points scorers on your side based on their bowling economy alone. Depending on boundaries and strike rate, a batsman may need to score a century to get that many points in an innings, and as you all will know these are very rare in T20 cricket, especially women’s.

Player scores points based on: Economy rates under 8, Wickets taken, and bowling completed overs. Runs scored are hardly a consideration as only score 1 point per run. Standard bonus for a catch, stumping or run out.

Advice – Choose a reliable economical bowler, likely to play. The role is suited to accurate bowling and forcing batsmen’s mistakes rather than blasting batsmen out.

Strong Contenders – Kapp (SUR), Nielsen (SOT), Hazell (YOR)

Strike bowler (Slot 11) – This single slot gets the most points for taking wickets of any of your players. There are a lot of possible choices, and they are likely to score well if they consistently take at least 1 or 2 wickets per match. The more wickets the better! Don’t worry about runs given away, as no bonuses can be gained in this slot from economical bowling. Unfortunately this probably means that the points gained from this slot will be lower than for holding bowlers or allrounders, as wicket taking bowlers also tend to be miserly.

Player scores points based on: Wickets taken and bowling completed overs. Runs scored are hardly a consideration as only score 1 point per run. Standard bonus for a catch, stumping or run out. NO economy-based bonuses.

Advice – Choose a reliable wicket taker. Wickets are the main focus, as is bowling out 4 overs, so a first choice opening bowler, or a strong death bowler is a good bet. Economy rates are not a consideration here.

Strong Contenders – Brunt (YOR), Farrant (SOT), Shrubsole (WES)

If you like the look of the KSL Fantasy game, remember to pick a team and see how many points it scores!

Point scoring examples

To demonstrate the points scoring system, here are some examples of how a given performance provides vastly different points rewards depending on the slot/role the player is picked in.

Player scores 50 off 35 balls with 6 fours and 1 six. SR = 142

Points scored: Batsman – 725

Master Blaster – 575

Finisher – 650 if out; 900 if not out.

Allrounder – 650

All Bowler slots – 50

Player returns figures of 3/25 off 4 overs. ER = 6.25

Points scored: All 6 Batsman slots – 15 pts

Allrounder – 925

Strike Bowlers – 1250

Holding Bowlers -1050

Player returns figures of 1/15 off 4 overs. ER = 3.75

Points scored: All 6 Batsman slots – 5 pts

Allrounder – 1375

Strike Bowlers – 450

Holding Bowlers – 1550

T20 CUP MATCH REPORT: Kent Triumph In Last-Over Thriller

On a sunny day at Beckenham, Kent held their nerve to win the T20 Cup in a contest that went right down to the final over of the third game.

As the day began, only Warwickshire had their destiny in their own hands: a win in either of their games would have handed them the Cup after strong performances earlier in the competition. Both Kent and Middlesex, meanwhile, were reliant both on winning their games and on other results going their way.

The first game of the day was thus crucial to both team’s hopes; and it was Kent who kept their title dream alive – while quashing Middlesex’s – with a comfortable 7-wicket victory. Middlesex, having been put in, started slowly and were soon undone by a bit of Suzie Bates magic, as she seized a wicket off her first ball – Tash Miles, caught by Tash Farrant at backward point – and followed it up with the wicket of Fran Wilson four balls later, lbw attempting a sweep shot. It put Middlesex on the back foot and they found it hard to recover, posting just 111, a total which Kent chased down with 9 balls to spare.

Middlesex could thus hope for nothing more than the consolation prize of victory against Warwickshire, but this nonetheless seemed to be enough to spur them on. Warwickshire had posted a mammoth 137-8 in their 20 overs, thanks to the aggressive intent of openers Amy Jones (29 off 20 balls) and Georgia Hennessy (36 off 37).

It looked an enormous ask, but Middlesex proved themselves equal to the task as England Present came together with England Past in the form of Fran Wilson and Beth Morgan. Coming together on 40-2, the two shared a 98-run partnership and fortune favoured the brave as they rode their luck in the form of dropped catches and missed run-outs by a nervous-looking Warwickshire side. An improvised ramp shot for four over Wilson’s head in the final over helped seal the deal for her team, as they won by 8 wickets.

Fran Wilson Brings Out the Reverse Ramp

Fran Wilson Brings Out the Reverse Ramp © Sam Gibbs

Thus it all came down to the third and final game of the day between Kent and Warwickshire. Put in by Kent, Warwickshire were under enormous pressure after their poor showing against Middlesex, but openers Jones (40) and Hennessy (37) laid a solid foundation, taking their side to 55-0 at the halfway point. Once they were dismissed, in the 13th and 14th overs respectively, it was left to Marie Kelly and Jenny Gunn to frantically push for singles in the last 5 overs as the pair dragged Warwickshire to a competitive 126-4.

It might have proved enough, but the old adage that catches win matches came home to roost and, while Warwickshire’s fielding was much improved from their first game of the day, dropping Bates twice in the course of the first four overs was a costly error. Bates went on to amass 43 before finally being caught by Becky Grundy at backward point in the 12th over.

A glimmer of hope shone upon Warwickshire as Charlotte Edwards and Tammy Beaumont both followed Bates back to the dug-out, with Kent still requiring 39 off the last 5 overs, a figure that became 30 off the last 3 and 7 off the very last over of the day – still more than a run a ball. But a Greenway straight drive for four ensured that Kent brought home the silverware, winning by 7 wickets with two balls to spare.

Alice Davidson-Richards Played A Couple of Crucial Knocks

Alice Davidson-Richards Played A Couple of Crucial Knocks © Sam Gibbs

While Kent’s England players are often shouted about, today the calm composure of Alice Davidson-Richards (30* and 19*) deserves special mention: coming to the crease in difficult circumstances both times, she was ultimately crucial to the two wins that her team needed to secure the Cup. The Bears, meanwhile, were left cruelly ruing what might have been.

Kent Celebrate the T20 Cup

Kent Celebrate the T20 Cup © Sam Gibbs

Afterwards Suzie Bates, who ended the T20 season as Div 1’s highest run scorer, reflected to CRICKETher:

“We didn’t have a great start [to the T20 season] at Wokingham – we lost two close matches and we knew we had to win everything from there, [so] we said at the start of today that everything else was out of our control, and we just had to play good cricket.”

“Warwickshire played 18 overs of pretty outstanding cricket and probably deserved a win, but it just shows in Twenty20 cricket two overs can change the game pretty quickly, and it just shows the experience of Lydia Greenway coming through in that final part of the game.”

INTERVIEW: Surrey Stars – Marizanne Kapp & Nat Sciver

It hasn’t been the easiest week for the Surrey Stars. First, they lost their best player – the Mega-Star herself, Meg Lanning – who was forced to withdraw from the Kia Super League with a shoulder injury. Then they were defeated in both rubbers of their warm-up double-header at Loughborough, with the Lightning smashing them for over 200 in the second match.

But South African all-rounder Marizanne Kapp is still able to find the bright side:

“Those matches didn’t go as planned but we are still positive. One of the girls made a comment that at least we were bonding, so that’s quite unique – we had a really bad day but we still smiled.”

Stars captain Nat Sciver agrees:

“We had a good day despite the result! It was good fun for a first day out as a team and we can definitely only get better from there!”

Given the traditional rivalry between Middlesex and Surrey, the decision to tie London’s only KSL franchise so tightly to the Surrey brand, has been a controversial one; but Sciver insists this isn’t a problem for the players:

” I think the Middlesex-Surrey rivalry is more with the men – we’ve got some Kent players as well, and based on yesterday, we’ve bonded really well.”

Almost to prove the point, it is two Middlesex players that Sciver points to when asked who we should be looking out for among the more junior members of their squad:

“The young girls that we have are particularly exciting, especially Sophia Dunkley, and also Alex Hartley making her England debut this summer – they’re really exciting prospects.”

The big game for the Stars is their home match versus the Yorkshire Diamonds at The Oval, and Sciver is obviously looking forward to leading the side out at one of the most historic grounds in cricket:

“The two T20 games there against Middlesex have been really good – we’ve had loads of people watching which is really brilliant. We’ve already sold 500 tickets, and hopefully we can sell more.”

Asked about comparisons with the WBBL, Kapp, who reached the final of that competition with the Sydney Sixers, says the same principles apply:

“KSL is shorter [than WBBL] but even for the WBBL you had to be on point from the first game – the same will happen here, we just have to be ready when the first team comes.”

For the Surrey Stars, that team is the Charlotte Edwards’ Southern Vipers, at the Ageas Bowl next Sunday – it should be a cracker!

INTERVIEW: Loughborough Lightning – Georgia Elwiss & Sophie Devine

Loughborough Lightning are very much the wildcard in the Kia Super League pack. Of the five other teams, there are three – Lancashire Thunder, Yorkshire Diamonds and Surrey Stars – that are based around existing counties; and two – Western Storm and Southern Vipers – that are conglomerates of universities and multiple counties.

Lightning, though, chose to go it alone as a university – something that was realistic because, as the home of both the contracted England Women’s Performance squad and the England Women’s Academy, what they did have was an in-place women’s cricket programme that was second-to-none, and an unrivaled set of facilities which New Zealand’s Sophie Devine believes is what gives Loughborough the edge.

“I’ve been here just over a week now,” she says, “[and] what I’ve seen so far has been absolutely incredible – the facilities available literally right on the doorstep – it makes a massive difference.”

Devine admits though that it is a challenge, jetting in from the other side of the world.

“It’s a bit of a shock for me, coming from the middle of winter where it’s not getting above 5 degrees – we had an open wicket training the other day and my feet were really sore from wearing the spikes; but we’re just trying to take it all on board and learn as quick as we can, because the competition’s coming round really quick.”

Of course, facilities are nothing if you haven’t got the players, and Georgia Elwiss tells us they picked their overseas stars very carefully.

“In terms of our international players we’ve got all all-rounders, so they’re all world-class at batting and bowling, which is obviously a massive help – they are all likely to bat in the top 5 and bowl 4 overs each, so for me [as captain] that’s a dream.”

In terms of preparation, Loughborough have had a warm-up double-header versus the Surrey Stars, winning both games, and scoring over 200 in the second match; but Elwiss is characteristically not getting carried away.

“It’s always good to get a run out and see some of the younger girls really perform and stand up. We had small boundaries [but] power hitting has been a thing that we’ve really focused on over the last 18 months, and it’s nice that it’s coming out in the game now.”

As well as work on the field and in the gym, the girls have taken some time-out at Laser Tag, with New South African skipper Dane van Niekerk leading the winning team: “She had all the game plans and she bossed it!” says Elwiss. (“Don’t talk any more about it!” retorts Devine, who we suspect might have been on the losing side!)

Although she is only here for a month, Devine is keen to emphasise that while she is here, she is a Lightning player and not a New Zealand one.

“I don’t care that Georgia plays for England and I play for New Zealand – for me that goes out the window and it’s just about playing cricket. And if we can help each other get better and if we can help the county players get better, then surely that’s going to be better for the women’s game in general.”

Reflecting on the overall state of the women’s game here, Devine thinks we are in good shape going into KSL:

“Women’s cricket over here in England, from what we see from abroad, is massively popular – the crowds you guys get [and] the following of the English girls is huge. So if KSL gets at least a little bit of the following that the England girls get here I think it will be a really successful tournament.”

“It’s only going to be for the better of the women’s game”, she concludes. “It’s a really awesome experience.”

 

Laura Wright Heroes Single Released At KSL Launch Party

Heroes – the anthem for England women’s cricket, written and performed by Laura Wright – has been released as a single and is available now for download now on Amazon.co.uk and all other major music stores.

LAURA WRIGHT – HEROES @ AMAZON.CO.UK

Laura performed Heroes last night at the Kia Super League Launch Party in Manchester, in front of everyone who is anyone in cricket… and us!!

The evening also brought us face-to-face with the beautiful KSL trophy for the first time.

NEWS: Lanning Out Of Super League

Australian captain Meg Lanning will play no part in this summer’s Kia Super League, after being ruled out with a shoulder injury.

Lanning was crucial to the hopes of the Surrey Stars, who yesterday suffered two huge defeats in a warm-up double-header against Loughborough Lightning, with the Lightning posting over 200 in the second match, thanks to 91 from Georgia Elwiss, and the Stars well behind the D/L rate when the rain came down to bring proceedings to a close.

The Stars will be permitted to replace Lanning, and an announcement on that is expected shortly.