MATCH REPORT: Surrey Read The Wyatt Act

A century from Danni Wyatt made a dead rubber into a thrilling last game of the season, as Sussex fought back from 25-3 to beat Surrey by 3 wickets.

Chasing 218, Sussex had the worst possible start, as Beth Kerins, the pick of the Surrey bowlers today with figures of 3-33, removed both openers cheaply – Georgia Elwiss clean bowled for 6 in her first over of the day, and Georgia Adams (2) caught by Cecily Scutt at mid-off in her third. She followed this up by trapping Izzy Collis lbw for 7.

With Sussex in real trouble, Wyatt’s maturity shone through as she shared a 57-run partnership with Paige Scholfield (28) and then, crucially, remained at the crease for the remainder of Sussex’s innings, as wickets fell steadily at the other end. Even so, Wyatt retained faith in her partners, rotating the strike as Sussex picked off the required runs in ones and twos, thanks to good cameos from Hannah Phelps (19) and Ciara Green (17), always keeping the necessary run rate under 4.5 an over.

When Green fell in the 42nd over with the score on 185-7, Sussex still needed 33 runs, but with words of encouragement from Wyatt she and Tara Norris held their nerve to chase down the target with 2 overs to spare. Wyatt herself finished on 120*, the highest score in Division 1 this season.

Ultimately it was a disciplined and patient innings, compiled with only a smattering of boundaries on a slow pitch, which made it clear to all present that she is more than just a T20 specialist. Made in front of England coach Mark Robinson, it can only have enhanced her international prospects – no bad thing, with the winter squads for the tours to the Caribbean and Sri Lanka to be announced this week.

It came on the back of a solid performance from Wyatt with the ball, finishing as the most economical of the Sussex bowlers with 0-32 from her 10 overs, including a maiden. Bowling in conjunction with captain Georgia Elwiss, the pair put the brakes on Surrey openers Kirstie White and Sophie Pout (27) who had raced away at 4.5 an over in the powerplay but were subsequently restricted to just 2 an over. Wyatt herself also pulled off two run-outs throwing in from midwicket, as Surrey struggled to get much past 200 despite several dropped catches.

It was a big day, too, for Kirstie White, returning from the injury which forced her out of the KSL, yet amassing enough runs across the season (337) to finish as Division 1’s leading run-scorer. Sadly she fell just short of a century, finishing on 98* after 6 Surrey wickets fell in the last 5 overs of their innings to give Sussex maximum bonus points.

After the game Danni Wyatt told CRICKETher that batting conditions had been difficult:

“The pitch got a lot slower and lower in the second innings – you had to really watch the ball. But it was a good opportunity for me to go out there and play every ball on its merit. I’ve been having a few one to ones with Ali Maiden at Loughborough and he said the other day ‘just bat long’. Hopefully it will put me in good stead for selection for West Indies.”

She also praised the performance of the younger Sussex batsmen:

“The young girls that came in towards the end all batted really well, I’m really proud of them. I was quite calm out there and hopefully I made them calm as well. A few of the younger ones were quite nervous but I said ‘just bat, hit the bad balls, run well, it’s a very big outfield, and the runs will come’ – and they did.”

OPINION: Secrets & Lies Amongst Team Mates

In any team sport (and even in some nominally individual sports, like athletics) the concept of the team as a bonded unit is very important. You play for the team; you work for the team; you win for the team. Ask any player and they will tell you: it is the team – and being part of the team – that really matters!

And yet in the modern era of multiple teams, this presents a dilemma – on Super League Finals Day, Charlotte Edwards was team-mates with Carla Rudd… two weeks later they were facing off against each other in the County Championship, respectively for Kent and Berkshire. In the next few months, she will likely find herself playing against other Vipers team-mates in Australia’s WNCL and WBBL… but then next summer they will be Vipers together once more!

So what do you do with those little pieces of knowledge – the flaw in technique you know the player has been working on in the nets… the slower delivery you’ve overheard the coach discussing? Do you exploit that knowledge against someone who might be your team-mate again in six months time… or do you keep the secret?

It is a dilemma which India’s Smriti Mandhana alluded to in a recent interview with Cricbuzz, discussing the possibility of playing against national team-mate Harmanpreet Kaur in the WBBL, making it pretty clear where she stands:

“I don’t think we’re giving each other’s secrets away!”

Contrast this with the attitude of New Zealand’s Sophie Devine, who spoke to us in the run-up to KSL:

“I don’t care that Georgia [Elwiss] 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.”

Maybe Devine’s perspective is simply reflective of the reality that, in an age of video analysis, there can’t really be secrets any more… at least not ones that last for more than 5 minutes out in the middle?

But it is also interesting to consider that this more open mindset comes from a New Zealander – the country that, more than any other, seems to be encouraging its stars to embrace the world of the modern, globetrotting, supranational cricketer.

And then you ask yourself: which team are on the up right now, increasingly at the top of many people’s lists of favourites for the World Cup in England next year?

New Zealand, of course!

Coincidence? Perhaps!

Or perhaps not!

OPINION: Counties Between Hope & Despair Thanks To KSL-50 Uncertainty

As another domestic season draws to a close in England, the counties prepare for their long winter hibernation… but what kind of a world will they wake up to next spring? The truth is that nobody – not even those “in the know” – actually knows.

What we do know is that the ECB are clearly determined to press ahead with the 50-Over Kia Super League; but where this leaves the counties – especially the Div 1 counties, who share a lot of players with KSL – nobody is quite sure: the ECB are currently conducting a review of this year’s KSL, from which will emerge a strategy for next year, but this means that at the moment there is quite simply no information.

Information, however, abhors a vacuum, and in its place, rumours fly uncontrollably. In the past few weeks we’ve heard speculation covering every base from: (a) the County Championship will be effectively abolished in its current “national” form, and replaced by a regional competition; to (z) the KSL-50 will be played on Wednesdays to allow all the players to continue to play the County Championship on Sundays.

Meanwhile the counties themselves are trying to draw up winter training programs, but the information vacuum has left them writing them up on a blackboard… in black chalk… in the dark!

Berkshire, for example, want to build over the winter, but they simply don’t know which players they will have – they have already lost 3 of the squad to “retirements” – Amanda Potgieter, off to start a new life in New Zealand; Alex Rogers, off to do the same in Australia; and Rachel Hardy, off to college in America on a football (soccer) scholarship. Now they face the possibility of maybe losing Heather Knight, Linsey Smith, Carla Rudd, Lissy Macleod, Fi Morris and Daisy Gardner too – all to KSL-50.

That’s pretty-much their entire 1st XI, which is sad, but ironically not actually the real point – it is that word “maybe” which is killing them. How can they even select their winter training squads, let alone book gyms and nets, when they don’t know which players they’ve got, or which competitions they will be competing in?

Sussex meanwhile are potentially in even more of a pickle – they have massively restructured and professionalised their women’s program, taking the “business” side of it fully into Sussex CCC, and building a new “Women’s Academy” – a huge investment, presumably based on the premise that county remains the seat of elite women’s cricket in this country. Are they now potentially about to have the rug pulled away from beneath their feet and discover that that is no longer the case, if the county championship is indeed effectively consigned to a regional development structure?

Again, we emphasise, these are all “ifs” – nobody knows – but to quote John Cleese’s character in the movie Clockwise – “I can take the despair – it’s the hope I can’t stand” – and that’s how the counties feel right now.

Answers are needed… and they are needed soon.

INTERVIEW: NZ Captain Suzie Bates Talks Wisden, WWT20 Disappointment, The “Treble”, & England 2017

We caught up with White Ferns skipper Suzie Bates just hours before she flew back to New Zealand at the end of a golden English summer.

If you were going to pick a Player of the Season in domestic cricket in England this summer, it would be difficult to look beyond Suzie Bates. Stafanie Taylor might just have pipped her to the Player of the Tournament award in the Kia Super League, but across the whole of the domestic scene Bates has been an unstoppable force – scoring 678 runs, at an average of 42, and taking 30 wickets, at an average of 11. No one else’s all-round domestic numbers come close, and it is no coincidence that Bates flies back to New Zealand with a unique “treble” of trophies in her bag – the County Championship and the T20 Cup with Kent, and the Super League with the Southern Vipers.

This success was, of course, no surprise to the committee at Wisden, who earlier in the year had bestowed their accolade of Leading Woman Cricketer in the World upon the New Zealand captain:

“That was a bit of a shock,” she reflects modestly. “I remember being in Perth at the time – I was there with Charlotte Edwards and the Scorchers – and I said ‘Oh – Wisden are calling me!’ I went into my room and I remember it made me look back on the season – I knew I’d scored a few runs and taken a few wickets but to be recognised like that was pretty special. You don’t go through the season striving for those awards but when they come around you take your time to sit back and reflect.”

With Bates at the helm, and at the peak of her powers, New Zealand travelled to the Women’s World T20 in India in March, happy to carry the mantle of favourites:

“I thought that was our best chance at a World Cup since I’ve been leading the side – we had such good momentum leading into the tournament – we’d beaten Australia in a Twenty20 series, and there was just a really good feel in the group that we were the favourites and we were confident that we had the team to win.”

It wasn’t to be, however, as they fell short by 6 runs in an agonising semi-final defeat to the eventual champions, the West Indies:

“It was just a bit of a shame – a couple of things didn’t quite go our way, and we were on the opposite side of a pretty good West Indies team that hit their straps at the right time.”

“I can live with it, because I thought we went about our cricket how we wanted to, and Twenty20 can be a bit fickle; but if you want to win those tournaments you’ve got to turn up in the big games.”

Following the WWT20, the decision to come to England for the summer was an easy one:

“I just love playing cricket!” Bates says.

And the outcome has been phenomenal, despite a rocky opening weekend in the T20 Cup, when Kent lost both their matches against Lancashire and Berkshire:

“With Lottie [Edwards], Lydia [Greenway] and Tash [Farrant] we joked about getting all 3 trophies – the Twenty20 didn’t look all that bright from the start but we managed to come from the back; then the Vipers campaign – I loved every minute of that; and finally to win the 50 over comp as well makes coming over worthwhile!”

It wasn’t all about having fun though – with a World Cup coming up in England next year, it has been important preparation, getting used to the grounds and the pitches:

“For all the Kiwi girls – some have played in county and some in the Super League – playing and training at the grounds we might play at in 2017 is only going to be of benefit.”

And Bates thinks it might give them a key edge next year:

“A lot of the Australians didn’t come over and hopefully that puts us at a little bit of an advantage. At the World Cup, everyone is going to prepare the best way they think for their team, but I think we’ve had some good time out in the middle here leading up to it.”

That World Cup is obviously New Zealand’s key focus as they enter a domestic summer down south, and the recent announcement of extended contracts – more money for more players – is welcomed:

“We were perhaps a little bit behind England and Australia,” Bates admits. “But we are starting to build to where they are, and I think New Zealand Cricket realise the importance of investing now.”

Even so, tough decisions had to be taken, and clearly none more so than the dropping of Sara McGlashan, after 14 years and over 200 caps:

“It is a bit difficult – you want to look long term but we have a World Cup immediately around the corner and to lose experience like Sara McGlashan…”

Bates tails-off diplomatically, before continuing:

“I know they are looking forward to the future, but with Lottie and Lydia and Macca [McGlashan] in that Vipers team, it proves that in big tournaments you want that experience.”

Nevertheless, confidence remains high for 2017, that New Zealand can make up for the disappointment of the WW20 in 2016, by winning the World Cup in England:

“Can we win it? I think we can! England at home are always going to be tough, and to beat Australia at any World Cup you are going to have to play your best game; but our experienced players have played a lot of cricket and we’ve got a core group that have been in those big matches – if we play our cards right, fingers crossed, we can go all the way!”

MATCH REPORT: Kent Seal The Deal As Berkshire Bumble At Beckenham

With Kent already this year’s County Champions, there was only glory to play for in their final game of the season at Beckenham; but that seemed to be enough of an incentive, as they bowled Berkshire out for 139 to secure victory by 26 runs.

Berkshire were chasing a low total – 166 – on a pitch which had little in it for the bowlers; it was a match situation that required little more than steady accumulation, but Berkshire’s batsmen played in a way that was as baffling as the Beckenham electronic scoreboard, which appeared to have a mind of its own, adding or subtracting runs from Berkshire’s total seemingly at will in a way that bore little resemblance to action on the field of play.

For Berkshire, the dismissals of Rachel Priest (6) – who holed out to Suzie Bates at mid-off – and Heather Knight (0) – who sent a leading edge to Grace Gibbs at extra cover – set the tone; Lissy Macleod, too, looked well on her way to leading Berkshire’s rebuild, but skied a ball she could easily have left alone to Tammy Beaumont at short third man when on 24.

Had everyone played like Sherisa Gumbs (33), who punished anything short or wide from the Kent bowlers, Berkshire would probably have won the match; instead they were bowled out for 139 in the 43rd over of their innings.

It was a disappointing follow-up to what had been a good performance by the Berkshire bowlers, after Lydia Greenway – captaining in place of Charlotte Edwards, who was sitting out today’s match injured – won the toss and elected to bat. Lauren Bell (3-40) caused Kent early problems with a rapid opening spell, continuing to cement her reputation for big-name scalps, this time trapping Tammy Beaumont lbw in the very first over of the day. Her next wicket was none other than Wisden’s 2016 Leading Female Cricketer in the World, Suzie Bates (22), who was caught by Knight at slip, chasing an away-swinger she really should have left alone.

It was left to Kent’s younger players to rebuild, which they did admirably, the highlight being a fluent 31 from Alice Davidson-Richards, who Edwards described as “one of Kent’s standout performers [of the season]”. Ultimately, too, the 33-run 9th-wicket partnership between 18-year-olds Emily Thompson (21*) and Phoebe Franklin (10) proved crucial.

After play, Charlotte Edwards reflected on Kent’s successful season, telling CRICKETher:

“It’s been a brilliant summer with a brilliant group of people, and the win today was a really pleasing way to finish the season.”

“It’s always a cliche, people say it’s been a team performance, but it really has been for Kent. We have got England players and we’ve got some of the best players in the world in our team, but everyone’s performed at different points throughout the season for our team.”

“I just love playing for Kent, I always have done. I’m looking forward to the winter and then coming back next season.”

NEWS: Indian Women’s Premier League Email

A few English clubs seem to have been contacted overnight by email regarding a “Women’s Premier League” in India:

“We are proud to announce that Knights Sports and Events Private Limited is organizing India’s 1st T20 Cricket League exclusively for Women by the name of Women’s Premier League.”

The email concludes:

“We would like to take this opportunity to extend an invitation to your club to participate in this tournament. As mentioned, this is a by invitation tournament and all expenses once your team arrives in India shall be taken care off ranging from Playing Kits, Hotel, Food, and Transport.”

Having spoken to contacts in India, we are fairly confident that this is at best totally unofficial and at worst a scam.

(We will updated this post if any other evidence emerges to the contrary!)

Women’s County Championship: All To Play For In Div 2

In Division 2 of the Women’s County Championship, with 2 teams to be promoted to Div 1, and 2 to be relegated to Div 3, there is everything to play for going into the final weekend of fixtures.

Only one team already know where they will play next year – everyone else is in the mix for promotion or relegation, and indeed one side could still be either promoted or relegated!

Team Points Worst[1] Best[2] To Play
Lancashire 14.8 11.8 15.4 Wales
Notts 14.2 11.8 14.8 Worcs
Wales 13.8 11.0 14.6 Lancs
Hampshire 13.0 11.1 13.7 Essex
Devon 10.8 9.3 11.9 Leics
Worcs 9.0 7.5 10.5 Notts
Leics 7.5 6.0 9.6 Devon
Essex 4.5 3.9 6.4 Hants

[1] Worst = The lowest points total possible for this team.
[2] Best = The highest points total possible.

At the bottom of the table, Essex are the one county who already know their fate – the best they can finish on is 6.4, and the worst Worcestershire can get is 7.5, so Essex are relegated whatever.

The key relegation scrap then is between Worcestershire and Leicestershire – they are closer than they look, because Leicestershire have had 2 abandonments to Worcestershire’s one, meaning on average each point is worth more to Leicestershire at this stage, so it might well come down to bonus points between them.

In the promotion battle, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and Wales all have their fate in their own hands. Lancashire and Wales play each other, but it isn’t quite as simple as “winner takes it all” – Wales need to get a bag of bonus points on the board, or they will still be relying on others to slip up.

Meanwhile, Hampshire need to get a win with near-maximum bonus points and hope others don’t; but Hampshire’s advantage is that they play Essex – the only side in the division without a win this season.

The most interesting case is Devon – they could be relegated if they lose badly to Leicestershire, and Worcestershire also get a big win… but they could also theoretically be promoted if lots of other results fall in their favour.

UPDATE: For Devon to be promoted requires them to get 18 at least 17 points, both Lancashire and Nottinghamshire to lose with zero bonus points and Hampshire to lose with 4 or fewer bonus points. (Lancs and Notts both getting zero bonus points is the unlikely bit – they only need to get 75 runs or take 3 wickets for a BP!)