Women’s County Championship: Relegation Situation

This is the somewhat complicated situation as we think it stands for the bottom 4 – Middlesex, Surrey, Staffs and Somerset – 3 of whom go down.

(NB Berkshire have already accrued enough bonus points that they are definitely safe, even if they take no points at all from their final match with Kent.)

Middlesex have to play Staffs, and will stay up if they win, or even if they lose providing they get 5 bonus points.

Surrey are already down because they can no longer overtake Middlesex under any circumstances – even if they win their remaining match (v Sussex) with maximum bonus points, they will finish on just 8.0 points, but the least Middlesex can finish on is 8.3 points.

Staffs have their destiny (mostly – see below) in their own hands – if they beat Middlesex with full bonus points and keep Middlesex to a maximum of 4 bonus points, they will have 9 points, and therefore overtake Middlesex, who would have c. 8.3-8.9 points, depending on exactly how many bonus points they actually got.

Somerset meanwhile first need Staffs to beat Middlesex, but without Staffs getting the maximum bonus points and with Middlesex getting 4 or fewer bonus points, leaving both Middlesex and Staffs on 8-point-something points. If Somerset then beat Warwickshire with full bonus points, they will have the 9 points they need to overtake both Middlesex and Staffs to survive.

There is also one other potentially interesting scenario – if both Staffs and Somerset end up with 9 points, we go to the match between them… which was abandoned… so it then goes to Net Run Rate, which is currently in Staff’s favour, by 0.77 r/o!

Got that? (Good… ‘cos we’re not sure we have!!)

 

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NEWS: Kent Win Women’s County Championship

Although the table on Play Cricket is definitely wrong at the time of writing (the bonus points aren’t right) it looks like results yesterday mean that Kent have won the Women’s County Championship for the 7th time.

(Update: The correct table is here on Cricket Archive, which confirms that our numbers below are right.)

Kent had the day off yesterday, but both their closest challengers lost – Sussex to Berkshire and Warwickshire to Middlesex – meaning Kent’s lead is now unassailable.

This means a One Day and T20 “double” for Kent, and a unique “triple” for Charlotte Edwards, Suzie Bates, Lydia Greenway and Tash Farrant, who also won the Kia Super League with the Southern Vipers.

So it will be “trebles all round” and another trip to Buckingham Palace for Edwards and co… though it will be interesting to see if it is with the Vipers or with Kent, now that the County Champs is probably no longer considered the “premier” women’s domestic competition.

Mathsy stuff follows…

(We have double checked it, and we think it is correct!!)

Kent currently have 116 points from 7 completed games, with one to play, meaning the worst average they can finish with is 14.5 [1].

Warwickshire have 62* points from 5 games with one to play, so the best they can finish with is 13.3 [2].

Sussex have 63* points from 5 games with two to play, meaning the best they can end up with is 14.1 [3].

—————-

* Including the bonus points which we think are missing on Play Cricket! (Update: Cricket Archive agrees with us.)

[1] 116 + 0 = 116 / 8 = 14.5

[2] 62 + 18 = 80 / 6 = 13.3

[3] 63 + 18 + 18 = 99 / 7 = 14.1

MATCH REPORT: Rudd Awakening For Sussex As Carla Cracks Career Best

Berkshire’s Carla Rudd starred with the bat as the Beavers beat Sussex by 34 runs at North Maidenhead to ensure their survival in Division 1.

Having elected to bowl first – a decision which looked sensible to the visiting eye, but apparently left the locals raising their eyebrows – Sussex were set a total of 277 to chase, and made a strong start, as Georgias Adams (75) and Elwiss (37) and Izzy Collis (34) played positive cricket at the top of the innings, using the powerplay as a launchpad to set the visitors on course at 133-1 off the first 20 overs.

Berkshire needed some luck, and they arguably got it when Collis was inexplicably given out stumped off Linsey Smith, despite being apparently clearly back in her ground.

Smith then went on to take the wickets of Adams (caught by Fi Morris) and Danni Wyatt (caught by Heather Knight for 12) in a crucial spell which tipped the game back in Berkshire’s favour. An unbeaten 43 from Abi Freeborn proved in vain as Berkshire’s attack shared-around the 9 wickets they needed for maximum bonus points, leaving Sussex 34 short at the close, on 243-9.

But it was earlier in the day that the game had really been won, as Berkshire posted 277-6 from their 50 overs. Rachel Priest (52), Sherissa Gumbs (43) and Heather Knight (50) all contributed, but it was a marvellous 79 off 71 balls from Carla Rudd, coming in at 4 to make her highest score in senior cricket, which was the difference between the teams.

Rudd, who had shown promise as a junior but never quite “made it” as a batsman in senior cricket until today, grew in confidence as her innings progressed, finding the boundary with everything from powerful pulls through midwicket, to dinky scoops over the head of the keeper, before eventually falling to the arm of Danni Wyatt, who ran her out with a direct hit from the edge of the circle at cover.

Afterwards we spoke to Rudd, who told us how important the victory was for Berkshire:

“It was a needed win, to make sure we stay up in the 50-Over County Championship, and it was nice to get it today, so we don’t have to rely on the Kent game next week.”

Rudd partly credits her new-found form to working with former England Test batsman Jason Gallian, who is a fellow coach at Felstead School:

“I’ve spent a lot of time with Jason this winter, doing one-to-one stuff, and I feel like I’ve got a different batting mindset and a few more shots that I can use out on the wicket, so it was nice for me to finally spend a bit of time out there and get some runs on the board.”

“There was a lot of turn out there, especially later on, but once you got in the ball was coming on to the bat quite nicely, and if it was short it was sitting up and ‘holding’ so it was nice, especially playing square of the wicket.”

Women’s County Championship: Relegation Zone Tightens

Going into the final two rounds of the County Championship, 5 sides are in danger of relegation from Division 1: Berkshire, Middlesex and Somerset with 2 wins apiece; Surrey with 1; and Staffs, who have yet to win a game. (Remember – 3 sides are relegated this season!)

Berkshire are in the driving seat, as they have racked-up more bonus points than the other threatened teams; but they also have the toughest run-in – they play Sussex today and Kent on the final day. A win on either day would see them safe; but if not it will come down other results, in which case Staffs could do them a favour by beating Surrey today.

Middlesex play Warwickshire today and Staffs on the final day. Like Berkshire, they need to win one of these games, but they will feel confident about beating Staffs on the final day, so they should be safe.

Somerset have Yorkshire and Warwickshire. Broken record alert… they too need to win at least one of these games – but they are already dependent on other results – if Middlesex beat Warwickshire today, they likely need to win both their remaining matches.

Surrey have Staffs, plus a re-arranged game against Sussex. They need to win both matches, or they will almost certainly go down.

Staffs have Surrey and Middlesex. Although they are currently winless with just 9 points (to Berkshire’s 53), the average points system means they can theoretically survive if they win both their remaining games and if everyone else in the relegation zone loses all theirs – unlikely, but stranger things have happened!

OPINION: KSL Players On The Move?

The dust may have barely settled over “Battlefield Chelmsford”, but over at Lords thoughts are quickly turning to KSL 2.0, which has already been penciled-into the calendar, with the same six teams contesting a One Day competition in the weeks leading up to the World Cup, and the Twenty20s in a block afterwards.

Whilst the broad picture is clear, there are a lot of details still to be confirmed, as the ECB embark upon a “comprehensive review” of this year’s competition, taking feedback from everyone involved – including the fans, who can have their say by filling out the survey here!

Rumours abound that one thing we may see next year is a “reshuffle” of the teams, and CRICKETher can confirm that not only is this under consideration, but the ECB are also not currently ruling out the possibility of key players competing in different colours in the One Day and T20 competitions.

The desire to keep the competition balanced is a laudable one, certainly from the perspective of the ECB’s goal of “bridging the gap”; but one area where the KSL has been successful well beyond expectations is in building fanbases – plural!

Prior to the competition, we were asked what “success” might look like in terms of match attendances – we mused that an average “gate” of 500 would be pretty good, given that the number of spectators at a typical county match can often be counted on the fingers of one hand.

That the KSL has far exceeded that, is as much as anything down to the hard yards the players put in – visiting clubs, holding coaching sessions, and working the local media. Loyalties were created; but they are still fragile, and they could be torn apart in a moment – and the easiest way of doing that would be to “rob” a young fan of her favourite player; or (worse still) to give her a new favourite player in the One Day competition… and then snatch her away again in the T20s.

Not to mention that the players generally don’t want to move either – they’ve nailed their colours to their masts, as Charlotte Edwards made pretty clear to us in our interview:

“Don’t try and move any of us… everyone is firmly in allegiance with their team!”

Over the longer term, of course, it might have to happen, but moving key players should be a last resort – not least because right now it isn’t even clear that the KSL is “unbalanced” – no team lost all their games, and no team won them all either. Even Lancashire Thunder, who perhaps looked most in need of “bolstering”, having lost their key England player – Sarah Taylor – could so easily have been a very different story, if Danni Wyatt (average 8) and Hayley Matthews (4) had lived up to expectations with the bat.

Building a brand new competition from scratch is a massive challenge – you aren’t going to get everything right, but in the case of KSL the ECB have gotten pretty damn close. Now, like a fine wine, it just needs time to mature… and that won’t happen if you spend too much time opening up the barrell and mixing stuff around!

KSL Team of the Tournament

For our Team of the Tournament we’ve stuck to the same rules as the KSL itself: 3 overseas and 3 England, with the remainder selected from amongst the county and Academy players.

We’ve tried to pick players in their natural batting position – meaning (unluckily) no spot for Lancashire Thunder opener Emma Lamb – and to include a balanced bowling attack of seamers and spinners.

  1. Stafanie Taylor (WS / O)
  2. Suzie Bates * (SV / O)
  3. Heather Knight (WS / E)
  4. Nat Sciver (SS /E)
  5. Arran Brindle (SV)
  6. Ellyse Perry (LL / O)
  7. Katherine Brunt (YD /E)
  8. Carla Rudd + (SV)
  9. Freya Davies (WS)
  10. Alex Hartley (SS)
  11. Linsey Smith (SV)

O = Overseas; E = England

The top of the batting order pretty-much picks itself – Stafanie Taylor and our captain, Suzie Bates, were the outstanding players of the tournament; whilst Heather Knight and Nat Sciver were the best performing England players in our batting rankings.

For the all-rounders, we’ve gone for Arran Brindle who had a great tournament with the ball and contributed some quick runs coming in late with the bat; Ellyse Perry, who started poorly, but whose class came-good over the competition as a whole; and Katherine Brunt, who showed she really is an all-rounder at this level, contributing vital runs as well as her usual wickets for the Diamonds.

Carla Rudd is our glove-butler, having had a very tidy tournament behind the stumps for the Southern Vipers, also contributing 4 dismissals – all stumpings.

Finally for our bowlers, we’ve selected a seamer – Freya Davies, who took 5 wickets at a very respectable economy rate of 7.4 for an opening bowler; and two spinners – Alex Hartley and Linsey Smith, whose 4-10 for the Vipers versus the Diamonds were the best figures for a spinner in the tournament.

Charlotte Edwards: I’ll Be Back

Charlotte Edwards With The KSL Trophy

Charlotte Edwards With The KSL Trophy

The inaugural Kia Super League has reached its conclusion, with Southern Vipers lifting the trophy. The key question now is: what next?

There have as yet been no pronouncements about what the competition will look like next summer, aside from the fact that it will be extended to a 50-over tournament which will take place prior to the World Cup.

This seems to raise more questions than it answers – not least whether the teams will remain the same for the 50-over competition as they are for the 20-over competition, given that very few overseas players are expected to be able to participate.

One person who is sure of where she will be next summer, though, is victorious Vipers captain Charlotte Edwards:

“I’m not moving anywhere!” she said after the final on Sunday. “I’m playing next year. Why wouldn’t you?!”

“I’ve loved having a slightly different role. I’m more of a mentor in this team and I’m enjoying the mentoring side off the pitch as much as anything…I’ve actually enjoyed the captaincy more than I have in the last few years.”

For Edwards, too, the idea that players might move between teams is a difficult one to swallow:

“Don’t try and move any of us! This is better than Super Fours where you got moved every week… Everyone is firmly in allegiance with their team.”

Indeed, the ECB might well look to Super Fours – the previous development competition, begun in 2002, which pitted the best 48 players in England against each other – as a learning experience; the teams were so unsettled that no side could really ever develop a proper fanbase, and the competition became purely a selection exercise towards the end of its life.

Edwards recognises, though, that trying to keep the teams stable creates a “headache” for the ECB:

“We [the Vipers] have lost two England contracted players so we’re going to actually gain two England players in our group. It’ll be interesting to see how they go about that, because there’s going to be certain players who don’t want to move.”

Certainly the need for a balanced competition will need to be balanced carefully by the ECB with sustaining the fan loyalty which has built up over the last few weeks.

It is going to be an interesting 12 months!

INTERVIEW: Southern Vipers Coach Nick Denning On Bridging The Gap

Southern Vipers Head Coach Nick Denning is a familiar and popular face around the women’s cricket scene. A former Berkshire player – a bowler who also played a handful of List A games for Essex in the early 00s – Denning had been the Berkshire Women’s coach for a number of years before taking the reins at the Vipers for the inaugural Kia Super League this season.

In some ways it was a brave appointment – although the Vipers are theoretically a partnership between Hampshire, Sussex, Berkshire and Oxfordshire, Hampshire are very much the “senior service”, and with no experience at the top level of women’s cricket, the safer option might have been to select “one of the chaps” from the men’s game. That they didn’t was to their credit… and ultimately to their advantage, as Denning led the team to the top of the group table and subsequently on to lift the trophy on Finals Day.

Speaking to Denning after that triumph, we began by asking what the key differences were from coaching a county side:

“Professionalism!” he replies emphatically. “At Berkshire we got a £2,000 grant from the ECB and then we had to find the rest of the money – a bit from Berkshire and the rest from sponsorship – to run a £13,000 program. So when you go to a program that is as good as fully funded, it just makes a huge difference.”

Denning ticks off the items one by one:

“We get our Strength and Conditioning coach; we get our physio; we get all these specialist coaches; and we get great facilities at the Ageas Bowl.”

The Super League is of course not fully professional, but for Denning the important thing is to treat it as such:

“While this competition is semi-professional, the setup has to be professional – you have got to be all-in and do it properly.”

The same applies to the players:

“We said: Look, we are here to develop you – we are not here to be a 3-week thing – we are here to help you kick your cricket onto another level.”

In selecting the overseas players to augment his side, Denning looked for those who shared these values:

“With Suzie Bates and Sara McGlashan we knew we needed batters, but we also needed good people – we needed people who were going to buy into what we were doing – be good around the changing room and help the youngsters. Morna Nielsen [who came in as a late replacement for Megan Schutt] was also somebody we’d been talking about when we were selecting the squad – she was our next-in – and they’ve all been really, really good professionals. They have been fantastic around the changing room, but they’ve also come in and developed their games – they’ve learnt – they’ve asked questions to get better.”

The established internationals have been crucial obviously, but unlike some of the other franchises, the Vipers haven’t been afraid to throw in some of their youngest players, and actually let them play (rather than “just” field) such as 17-year-old Katie George:

“Katie has played four games and she has had two very good games and two games where she has possibly shown her inexperience, but she is seventeen so I’m not going to hold that against her – she will be a very, very good cricketer.”

Vipers’ glove-butler Carla Rudd is another younger player who has impressed in Super League. After being dropped from the England Academy program last year, Rudd was appointed girls’ coach at Felsted School, which has given her the opportunity to work with their boys’ coach – former England Test batsman Jason Gallian – in particular on her batting.

“Carla has always been a good ‘keeper, but she knows that if she is going to start pushing for an England place, it is her batting that needs to improve and she has been working really hard all winter with Jason.”

Someone else who Denning singles out for working really hard is Berkshire quick bowler Daisy Gardner, who ended up missing the entire competition through injury, despite the best efforts of the medical staff at the Ageas:

“It is just bad luck, and that happens with injuries in cricket; but she is still part of our squad and she has been as professional as anyone – if some of the other players had Daisy’s drive and her attitude they could be absolute world-beaters!”

Of course the Super League has been entertaining and has brought unprecedented attention to the domestic women’s game; but the ECB’s key aims also include “bridging the gap” between county and international cricket, and Denning is perhaps better-placed than anyone to assess whether this has been achieved. However, when asked he is cautious to emphasise that “bridging the gap” is a longer-term objective:

“I don’t think you can really tell until the county competition next year,” he says. “If the girls that were pulled in – not the Academy players or the internationals, but the girls that have been talent-ID’d from county cricket – go back to play county cricket and put some of the stuff they’ve learnt into that – then yes, we are bridging the gap.”

KSL Finals Day: The Story Of Four Captains

Yesterday’s KSL Finals Day was really the story of four captains.

Captain One: Georgia Elwiss, the Loughborough Lightning leader. For some KSL teams – Southern Vipers, Western Storm – their choice of captain was obvious; but for Lightning, it was coach Salliann Briggs who decided on Elwiss, after sitting down with a number of her players to talk it through. And who can argue it was the wrong choice? Briggs knows her players inside out; and Elwiss has the intelligence required of an excellent captain.

But she is also one of the least experienced captains in the competition – and inexperience, in a pressure situation, can find you out. There was one odd decision in particular that stood out: with Storm chasing 125, Elwiss chose to open the bowling with seamer Beth Langston, who conceded just 1 run off her first 2 overs – and then never came back on, even when Storm appeared to be cruising to their target.

“My gut instinct was to keep changing the bowlers around,” Elwiss said by way of explanation after the semi-final. It’s probably not the best maxim to live by. By contrast, Vipers bowled Arran Brindle for four overs straight in the final simply because she was clearly making life difficult for the batsmen.

Captain Two: England’s own Heather Knight. It was, of course, her fifty which guided Storm’s chase in the semi-final; and credit to her for that. But equally, after Storm had lost Stafanie Taylor halfway through their innings in the final, it was probably her responsibility to hang around and see them to a good total. She failed to do that, pulling the ball straight to Katie George at deep backward square leg in the 15th over, and you could tell from the way she slammed her bat as she walked off that she was furious with herself.

Then, after Vipers lost Edwards and Bates, Knight had the opportunity to turn the screw on her opponents as they slowly edged towards their target. With 3 overs to go, they still needed 20 runs, and they also needed their captain to keep her cool. But on the second ball of Anya Shrubsole’s over Knight picked up the ball and, without hope of achieving very much, shied at the stumps, earning Sara McGlashan and Lydia Greenway an overthrow. It was the mark of a captain who seemed to be out of options, and wasn’t quite sure what to do.

Shrubsole’s over went for 14 runs and Vipers surged to victory.

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Vipers lift the trophy. Photo credit: Ruth Conchie

Captain Three: Charlotte Edwards – a legend if ever there was one; a player who captained England over 200 times, more than anyone else is ever likely to; a player who is used to captaining on the big stage. Edwards downplayed her own role in the post-match press conference – “This team runs itself; I just pull a few strings”, she said – but she also, tellingly, stressed that “I’ve really sensed the team behind me [during the tournament]”. Only the best captains inspire that kind of loyalty.

Edwards’ knowledge and experience mattered twice-over in yesterday’s final. Firstly, she made the decision to bring Arran Brindle into the attack in the 9th over, and bowl her for four overs straight – a spell in which she conceded just 15 runs, and removed both Stafanie Taylor and Knight from the reckoning. It turned things in the Vipers favour. Another captain might have hesitated to bowl Brindle; might have turned elsewhere. Edwards – good friends with her for so many years now – knew exactly what she was capable of.

And then, of course, there was her 24 off 18 balls to lay the foundations for Vipers’ successful run chase. While Edwards hasn’t shone with the bat during Super League, it showed what she so often displayed for England – that on the days when it really matters, she will come through. “I kept backing myself,” she said, after raising the trophy aloft. “I really enjoyed today. This is what I miss playing in and I love these sort of occasions.”

It’s not that Edwards was seeking revenge – she has said repeatedly that she is not bitter about Mark Robinson’s decision – but if she was, winning the inaugural KSL wouldn’t be a bad way to show Robinson and everyone else that she has damn well still got it. Just in case we ever doubted it.

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The Victorious Captain. Photo Credit: Ruth Conchie

But I said four captains – and no, I didn’t lose count! Because Vipers didn’t just have one captain out there on the field yesterday, they had two.

Suzie Bates was instrumental in Vipers’ path to the final, both with the bat – with scores of 25, 15, 45*, 57 and 38 – and in the way she so calmly stepped into Edwards’ shoes halfway through the first game, even when Vipers had just seen their captain limping off the pitch with a likely concussion. Even since she returned to resume the captain’s mantle in the third game, we’ve seen the unfamiliar sight of Edwards – not the most collaborative of captains towards the end of her England reign – being instructed where to field not by a bowler, but by the current New Zealand skipper.

“When you’ve got experience around you,” Edwards said, paying tribute to Bates after the final concluded, “that’s what really helps.” Bates might have been just pipped by Stafanie Taylor for Player of the Tournament, but it was a close run thing. Vipers will surely be hoping that she’ll be back in orange for next year’s Super League.

Final Thoughts: KSL Finals Day

Both this morning’s semi-final and this afternoon’s final followed a similar pattern – the targets set (124 in the semi-final and 140 in the final) looked slightly light, as the chasing side got off to a strong start; but wickets offered a glimmer of hope for the defending team… only to see that hope fall away at the end.

The semi-final was maybe a little scrappy as nervous players batted with perhaps slightly less positivity than we might have expected – for the Lightning, only Ellyse Perry, and Thea Brookes coming in right at the end, posted strike-rates in excess of 100.

In reply, the Storm appeared to be cruising, but perhaps it was all looking a little too easy, as losses of concentration saw a mini-collapse with 3 wickets falling in 9 balls. With 4 balls left, Georgia Hennessy and Sophie Luff were both on 0 from 0 balls with the scores level. Hope. But thankfully for the Storm, Hennessy had the one shot in her, and kept her head to drive them into the final with a 4 through midwicket.

The final began quietly for the Storm – just 2 runs apiece from the first 2 overs, as Stafanie Taylor (later to be named Player of the Tournament) played it cool before looking to accelerate later on. Such a tactic, however, only works if you are still there to accelerate later on, and once the Storm lost Taylor the run rate began to slow and the momentum never really came, at least partly down to Arran Brindle bowling her 4 overs straight for just 15 runs.

Nevertheless, the Storm’s total of 140 was a deal more than had won the earlier game, so there was hope there, even as Charlotte Edwards and Suzie Bates reached 78 without loss. The Storm needed wickets badly and they got them, with Edwards and Bates falling in quick succession. Again, hope. But with Sara McGlashan and Lydia Greenway coming to the crease together, with over 400 international caps between them, the experience was there in spades to guide the Vipers home.

Afterwards Charlotte Edwards reflected on a summer that began in the most difficult circumstances with the loss of the England captaincy, but has ended with her lifting the Super League trophy:

“I’ve had to deal with quite a lot this summer but the girls have backed me 110%. You hope you get to Finals Day and then put in a performance like that. I think it’s been brilliant to be part of this group for the last 3 or 4 months and watch them grow and develop as players and people has been really special. I’m sure we’ll enjoy tonight celebrating what was a brilliant win.”