2 MINUTES WITH… Linsey Smith

Throughout the Kia Super League, we’ll be featuring short interviews with players, coaches & other interesting people we find around and about at the grounds. With just Finals Day still to go, who has been the most economical bowler in KSL so far? None other than Berkshire’s (and now Vipers) own Linsey Smith. She answers our quickfire questions below…

If not Southern Vipers, who would you like to win?

I’d have to say Loughborough. Obviously I’m up there at university, so they’re probably my next closest team.

Who would you like to see playing in KSL that isn’t?

Sarah Taylor is a massive player and it would be good to have her back playing. Also Claire Taylor – I grew up playing alongside her [at Berkshire] and she was a big influence on my game.

Favourite KSL player?

That’s a tricky one! Probably Nat Sciver. Bowls and bats, and hits a long ball as well.

Justin Bieber or One Direction?

Justin Bieber.

Which sportswoman/women do you admire outside cricket?

Jess Ennis is a great athlete. She does a lot of events which shows her strength and stamina.

Favourite cricket ground?

It’s got to be the Ageas Bowl – it’s the only big ground I’ve played at!

Favourite thing on the menu in Nandos?

Lemon and herb chicken thighs.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully still playing! Getting to the highest level of cricket that I can get to. I do a bit of coaching as well so a coach/player role would be nice.

Where do you see women’s cricket in 10 years?

This competition has shown how fast it’s growing. The crowds that we’re getting in are amazing for just the first year. So hopefully in 10 years time we’ll fill stadiums like this [the Ageas Bowl].

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MATCH REPORT: Cheshire Women’s League Finals Day

Martin Saxon reports from the Cheshire Women’s League Finals Day.

T20 Divisional Competition Final:

Appleton Tigers 94-6 (20; Emma Barlow 25ret, Lorna Starkey 2-13)

Chester Boughton Hall Deemons 96-5 (19.3; Starkey 25ret, Sammi Short 25ret, Kathryn Jackson 2-23)

The Cheshire Women’s League has been holding double-header Finals Days ever since 2008, but today went one better and staged three finals on the same pitch on the same day. The best was certainly saved for last as Western Division T20 champions Chester Boughton Hall sneaked past the target set by Eastern Division winners Appleton with just three balls to spare.

It was 13 year old Hannah Snape who finished the job by lofting experienced Appleton captain Nathalie Long to the midwicket boundary with both the second and third balls of the final over.

Appleton certainly posted a more than decent total batting first, with Emma Barlow getting them off to a good start, and Laura Jackson and Kathryn Jackson adding vital impetus later on.

Lorna Starkey got Chester off to a good start, and when she reached the retirement score of 25, she had scored almost all of the 30 runs that came in the first seven overs. But when two dangerous batsmen in Kate Coppack and Lauren O’Reilly fell cheaply, Appleton looked to be favourites.

Sammi Short, who had played second fiddle to the big hitters earlier on, then took charge and herself reached 25 before being forced to retire – by that stage she had reduced the runs required to single figures. Given that Short had earlier bowled three overs for just three runs, this was another young talent who played a significant part in the Deemons’ victory.

However, two wickets fell to run outs as the pressure mounted, Laura Jackson came back to bowl more miserly overs, and with the lower order at the crease and seven required from five balls, would Chester get over the line? Thanks to Snape’s final flourish the answer was a decisive Yes.

Scorecard

Chester and Appleton have of course met in finals on a number of previous occasions, and given the recent results in those matches, it was no surprise this went right to the wire. Only the first two resulted in decisive wins, and all the others have been genuine nailbiters:

2007 – Knockout Final – Chester won by 97 runs

2008 – Knockout Final – Chester won by 9 wickets

2010 – Knockout Final – Appleton won by 1 run

2010 – T20 Divisional Final – Appleton won by 5 wickets with 1 ball to spare

2012 – T20 Divisional Final – Chester won on faster run rate, after being 1 run ahead of where they needed to be when rain halted play

Senior Knockout Cup Final:

Oakmere Kats 34 (15.2; Lauren Smith 2-8, Hannah Jones 2-10)

Didsbury Swordettes 35-1 (8.5; Smith 17*)

Didsbury have made some formidable totals in T20 cricket this season while batting first, but here the job was all but done in the first eight overs of their bowling innings, as Oakmere imploded.

By the time Hannah Jones and Lauren Smith had taken their caps, having bowled unchanged for four overs each as the opening pair, Oakmere were 19-8. The two young Lancashire spinners had undoubtedly bowled well, with figures of 2-10 and 2-8 respectively, but Oakmere certainly contributed to their own downfall with four run outs.

Australia A all-rounder Smith then hit some fine shots to ensure the Swordettes’ brief run chase was successful.

Scorecard

Development Knockout Cup Final:

Leigh Lionesses 96-5 (20; Georgia Taylor 25ret, Emily Mason 3-9)

Bredbury Saints 73-6 (20; Alex Wilson 26ret, Sarah Perry 3-14)

Division three leaders Leigh retained the Development Cup – the knockout competition exclusively for teams from that division.

The only two experienced players in a very young Leigh side – Nicky Deane and Sarah Perry – fell cheaply, but from 24-3, Georgia Taylor and Rachel Downs batted superbly, rotating the strike well and running well between the wickets, to ensure Bredbury would need almost 100 to win. Emily Mason contributed excellent figures of 3-9 and Alex Wilson conceded just 11 in her four overs.

Abi Barlow and Wilson took the Saints to 28-0 after five overs, but once the first wicket had fallen, things turned Leigh’s way. Perry’s bowling spell then snuffed out any remaining threat from the Stockport side.

Scorecard

The League extends its thanks to Finals Day hosts Timperley CC and umpires Keith Wells, Steve Jackson and Graham Pugh, the last two of which were on the ground from 9.30am, an hour before the first match, until the close of the last match after 7pm.

Very few women’s club leagues offer this type of cup final experience. However the heart-stopping finale to Chester’s T20 Divisional triumph illustrated just how entertaining a Finals Day can be.

MATCH REPORT: Southern Vipers Snake Through To KSL Final

James Piechowski reports from the Ageas Bowl.

Result: Southern Vipers (156-4) beat Loughborough Lightning (97) by 59 runs

Both sides may have already qualified for finals day going into this match, but it was far from a dead rubber. The sizeable crowd that turned up on a hot Sunday afternoon in Southampton saw a superb display with bat and ball, and in the field, from the Southern Vipers.

It was still possible for either side to top the table with a win here (or, indeed, Western Storm to spoil the party with a big win of their own at Headingley against the Diamonds, in the event of a close game here). But in the end, the Vipers were not in the mood to let anything slip, and had too much for a Lightning side that may have been a bit unlucky with the bat, but gave probably their weakest display yet otherwise.

The Ageas Bowl pitch, slow as is often the case these days, had a tinge of green on it this time, and seemed to contain more runs for the Vipers, as they got off to a solid start. Charlotte Edwards, who missed the first 2 batting innings for the Vipers due to injury, has since got going with her run-scoring but is still not looking at her fluent best.

It was Suzie Bates, the irrepressible captain of New Zealand, that got Vipers off to a flyer, taking them to 64/1 in the 8th over before falling to Sonia Odedra. Scoring 38 off 24 balls, she drove serenely over the top and along the deck, striking 6 fours and a massive 6 over long-off. Georgia Adams provided capable support, with a cameo of 17 before Sara McGlashan (34*) and Lydia Greenway (29) took over, both testing out the ground-fielding skills of the Lightning by working the ball around adeptly into gaps, running hard for ones and twos. They added 62 together in 8.3 overs, and by the time Becky Grundy bowled Greenway going for another reverse, Vipers had already scored 142. Lightning had hardly been ragged in the field, but after Bates’ blitz, they were simply pulled from pillar to post by two of the women’s game’s great accumulators.

Lightning captain Georgia Elwiss tried everything she could to mix up the bowling and keep the attack unpredictable, and indeed it was the 8th over before Lightning used a bowler for a second over. They are a truly flexible bowling unit – a characteristic obtained by possessing so many quality all-rounders.

But here it was only Odedra (1-20) and Grundy (2-24) who really managed to contain the Vipers. The others delivered a few too many wayward balls. Maybe they have too many bowling options, meaning that on game days, it’s difficult to choose who to turn to. In any event, Vipers finished on 156/4, a daunting total and their highest yet in the KSL.

Lightning got off to a decent start, and it took until the fifth over and the introduction of Linsey Smith (3-16), the slow left-armer, for the wickets to start falling. Smith dismissed Van Niekerk and Devine, both internationals, clean bowled, and went on the take the vital wicket of Eve Jones. Unerringly accurate, Smith attacks the stumps effectively and has enough subtle deception to best top-line batsmen. There is some debate about whether she would be able to continue this at international level, or if she would be rapidly found out. But in either case, she is clearly enjoying herself, and we won’t know what she could do until she is given an opportunity to play with an England development squad. England coach Mark Robinson, who was at this game, would have at least taken note of this upcoming prospect.

It was Eve Jones (33 from 31) who most impressed me for the Lightning, with the bat. Mainly an off-side player, Jones the left-hander has a free-flowing, languid style which is not dissimilar from current England men’s favourite Moeen Ali. Hence, she is very aesthetically pleasing to watch. With her nonchalant, almost casual approach, I have no doubt she will give some chances away, but if she gets in, could score many runs. She was sent back to the dugout by Smith, adjudged lbw, and in came her namesake Amy with the score on 36-3. Eve had scored 33 of those runs.

Ellyse Perry came to the crease in the 5th over, and did not leave until the 18th. She played a customary calm, composed innings. I sense she was somewhat subdued, content to score solidly at a run a ball and anchor the innings. She had hoped for more cameos to support her, and it was only when she started to run out of partners that she decided to go big. Perry managed to hit a couple more boundaries, but it wasn’t enough and in the end she holed out to Brindle (3-24), only finding the safe hands of Suzie Bates in the deep on the leg side.

Arran Brindle, the former England all-rounder, can seemingly do no wrong. She looks dynamic at the crease, missing out on nothing, and is dependable with the ball, proving difficult to get away. Amy Jones, having struggled to get going, was dismissed when she was bowled trying to cut her away. After the fifth wicket was down, Lightning were in the position of needing 83 from 6 overs, an unlikely task, and so it proved. Paige Scholfield and Thea Brookes, having made a very close chase against the Thunder, got no luck this time and in the end Lightning finished tamely, bowled out for 97.

Vipers had produced a brilliant bowling and fielding display, dropping a couple of tough chances, but it was of little concern, as most of the shots that Lightning played in aerial fashion seemed to home in towards a grateful Viper’s hands. The Vipers bowlers’ figures also included 2-11 for Bates, and 1-15 for a continually impressive Katie George.

Vipers go into the KSL final next Sunday at Chelmsford, full of confidence. They are a tough side to beat and can make a solid innings total, from bad starts and good starts alike. In the field they are tight and organised, and give away little with the ball. As for Lightning, they will want to take their learnings and quickly forget this disappointing performance. They can then focus on challenging a strong Western Storm side in their semi-final, so that they take some momentum into a potential return fixture of this match and can – they will hope – take revenge.

NEWS: White Ferns Double Their Money

New Zealand Cricket have announced that they have reached agreement with the New Zealand Cricket Players Association on new central contracts for the White Ferns women’s team, which will offer more players a lot more money. Combined with the opportunity to play in overseas leagues such as WBBL, this will bring many of the squad much closer to full time professional status.

Previously 10 New Zealand players were on retainers of up to NZD $10,000, which when combined with match fees could bring their income up to around NZD $25,000.

The new contracts cover 15 players, with a retainer of between NZD $20,000 and up to NZD $34,000, and match fees of NZD $400 for ODIs and $300 for T20s, which will see the top players earning well over NZD $40,000, even before WBBL etc..

As a point of comparison New Zealand’s minimum wage for adults is around NZD $32,000, so CRICKETher’s apocryphal Ferrari dealer again isn’t going to get too excited; but especially for the players who currently are outside of the retainer structure, this is going to be a literally life-changing opportunity to put cricket first, which can only be for the good of the wider game both in New Zealand and more generally.

Short Thoughts: KSL Vipers v Lightning

It might have been the top of the table decider, but this was one of the more one-sided games we’ve seen this season.

With the Vipers choosing to bat, the Lighning made a good start as Sonia Odedra only conceded two runs of the first over, but the second over bowled by  Beth Langston went for 17, whilst the forth bowled by Dane van Niekerk was almost as expensive, going for 16. By the end of the powerplay the Vipers were well on their way at 57-1.

Suzie Bates, looking much more fluent that she did earlier in the week against the Storm, once again top-scored with 36 off 24 balls; and went on later to take 2-11 with the ball too – if you didn’t have her as an all-rounder in your fantasy team, you need to take a long hard look at your yourself in the mirror tonight!!

One person that no one had in their fantasy team is Linsey Smith. The Berkshire orthodox left-armer was a late injury replacement, and hasn’t so much snatched her chance as smashed it. Today, the Lightning reply had actually been on-track, as Eve Jones bashed her way to a quick-fire 23 – at 4 overs they were 26-0; and with van Niekerk in the form she’s been, you’d have put your money on the Lighning at that stage.

Then Charlotte Edwards threw the ball to Smith. In her first over, she bowled van Niekerk and Sophie Devine; and in her second she added Eve Jones LBW to the list. She didn’t take another wicket, but the opposition were so wary of her by then, she didn’t really need to, ending with figures from 4 overs of 3-16. From that point, the result was never in doubt – Smith’s intervention had basically won the game.

Afterwards, Vipers skipper Charlotte Edwards acknowledged what Smith had brought to her team.

“She stood out for me this summer playing for Berkshire so as soon as we had the injury she was an obvious replacement – she has bowled brilliantly, here at the Ageas especially, and she has taken to it like a duck to water. “

“The double wicket over today really changed the game for us.”

“Linsey just bowls it straight – she doesn’t give it much air – she’s just really accurate and that just shows you in Twenty20 cricket the value of a left arm spinner.”

Lightning captain Georgia Elwiss meanwhile was philosophical looking towards their semi final against the Storm:

“We need to dust ourselves off after today and just say the Vipers outplayed us; but over the five games we’ve played some good cricket, so that’s what we need to concentrate on.”

“We’ve got to go into [the semi-final] positively – it does give us a chance to look at the pitch [and] look at the conditions.”

Carla Rudd: Vipers Want To Top Table

Southern Vipers’ glove-butler Carla Rudd has told CRICKETher that, after their defeat to Western Storm, they are determined to bounce back and top the group table, giving them a semi-final “bye” straight to the final at Chelmsford next weekend.

With only 3 teams qualifying for Finals Day, the second and third-placed teams will play a semi-final in the morning to determine who will face the top-placed side in that afternoon’s final.

There has been some debate about the advantages and disadvantages of finishing top. There is obviously one less hurdle to leap towards the title on the day, but the team that comes out of the semi-final will have had an opportunity to get the pace of the pitch, and will also have the confidence boost of being “on a roll” after their semi-final win.

But for Rudd and the Vipers the bye to the final is key – something they will effectively* play-off for against the Lightning on Sunday at the Ageas Bowl.

“We are looking to bounce back and win on Sunday,” said Rudd. “There’s been a bit of debate [about the advantages and disadvantages of finishing top] but we want to be top and win, definitely.”

——–

* Theoretically, Western Storm could still top the table too, but without the intervention of the weather (fingers crossed) it would require them to record a HUGE victory against the Diamonds.

MATCH REPORT: KSL Thunder v Diamonds

Guest reporter Martin Saxon was at Old Trafford for last night’s KSL Roses clash.

‘Low key’ maybe best sums up this meeting of two teams who couldn’t make it to Finals Day. In the end, Yorkshire Diamonds recorded their first win and Lancashire Thunder ended with one win across the competition.

Once play started, it was a very one-sided affair indeed, as aside from maybe the first seven overs of the match, the Diamonds dominated.

After a first over from Thunder captain Amy Satterthwaite that went for 11, Hayley Matthews and Sophie Ecclestone did a superb job to leave Yorkshire 36-2 after seven overs, and it was very much going the home side’s way. Lauren Winfield had also departed to a smart stumping by Ellie Threlkeld off Sophie Ecclestone.

Then Alex Blackwell was the key player in turning the game, contributing 59 off 42 deliveries with five fours and two sixes. Her innings, full of improvised dabs and sweeps, was complemented superbly by the power of Katherine Brunt, who scored 36 in 24 deliveries.

As if the scoring rate had not been quick enough over the last two thirds of the innings, six penalty runs were added to the score for a slow over rate – judging by the lack of urgency shown as the cut off approached one wondered if Satterthwaite and her team were even aware of the regulation. As it was, the extra six runs made very little difference.

Perhaps daunted by the very stiff target, it seemed to be big shots or nothing in the early stages of the reply. Whilst Blackwell and Brunt had undoubtedly hit a lot of boundaries, their rotation of the strike had also been excellent, something that appeared to be missing from the Thunder reply.

After seven overs, Lancashire were 34-2, almost comparable to the first innings, but few in the crowd held out much hope of a home win. Katherine Brunt only conceded five in her first two overs, and was then replaced by one of the world’s leading T20 bowlers in Danielle Hazell.

Deandra Dottin did her best, and was involved in a curious incident when she hit a high full toss towards the boundary only to see Brunt pluck it out of the air above her head withe one hand. The umpire correctly called no ball for a delivery above waist height, but non-striker Threlkeld, thinking a legal catch had been taken, was clearly out of her ground when the stumps were subsequently put down. The umpires allowed Threlkeld to remain even though the no ball Law states all no balls are considered to have been no  balls from the instant of delivery. So under the Laws the ball was never dead and it appears, however much you sympathise with her, that Threlkeld was out under the Laws? One for any umpires reading this?

The end came very quickly with six wickets for 11 runs, and Brunt ending with a hat-trick for a return of 3-6. Hazell recorded an even more impressive 4-10 in four overs.

Whilst taking nothing away from Yorkshire, Lancashire’s batsmen were faced with batting in the twilight under lights, something I imagine few had done before. The Diamonds’ decision to bat on winning the toss was no surprise.

Lancashire Thunder also perhaps go down as the unluckiest side in the KSL. Two of their three original overseas players withdrew, then came the biggest blow with the absence of Sarah Taylor. It all left their batting line up looking rather brittle on paper, as it was surely too much to ask Dottin and Matthews to fly in a few days before the first match and adapt instantly to alien English conditions. Danielle Wyatt was another who could have contributed – given she has an excellent record of run scoring at county level but a poor one for England, many wondered how she would perform at a level in between. The answer was not very well, with just 39 tournament runs.

On a night of few positives for Lancashire Thunder, perhaps the most encouraging thing was the attendance of 875 at Old Trafford for what after all was a dead rubber. In the last two years, England Women have not played in the North (or even in the North Midlands), and tonight has hopefully sent a message to the ECB that there is an audience for women’s cricket in the North.