Three Cheers To 2016… Here’s To 2017

Three Cheers To 2016… 

… For giving us the first Kia Super League. This time last year, we didn’t even know who the hosts were going to be. This time last year, with each of the teams starting out from scratch, it could easily have been a flop. It wasn’t.

… For giving us Tammy Beaumont Mark Two. Whatever Mark Robinson said to her, it worked. Back in January her England career looked dead in the water; now she’s being named in ESPNCricinfo’s Women’s Team of the Year and the future looks bright. Incredible, really.

… For giving us a new captain of England who already looks a natural in the role. When her appointment was announced in June, we wondered: was she ready? How would she handle the difficult few months ahead, with the media ready to pounce should England fail to shine against Pakistan, West Indies and Sri Lanka? Three series wins later, and, well, you do the maths.

… For giving us Alex Hartley in an England shirt. ‘Nuff said.

Here’s To 2017… 

… The year of KSL 02 – hopefully even bigger and better than before, especially now we know that Finals Day will be broadcast live on Sky.

… The year of the biggest world tournament women’s cricket has ever seen. Bring on the final at Lord’s on 23 July!

… The year when we find out just how far Mark Robinson’s team are capable of going towards winning a world title at home. Fingers (and toes!) crossed…

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2016

It is Sunday 26th June. England have already battered Pakistan in the first two ODIs, and will do so again tomorrow in the 3rd; but in between, county cricket makes a brief reappearance and we are off to Wokingham for the Berkshire v Kent v Lancashire “triple header”.

Even though the club is less than half a mile from my front door, I grab my car keys – that half a mile is along a path that seems to be muddy even at the height of summer; and besides, there is the picnic to bring, the camping chairs, and “the kit” – laptop, binoculars, iPad, phone, and (if all else fails) an old fashioned notebook and pencil.

As always, I arrive early – Berkshire and Kent are warming up, but Lancashire, who don’t play until later, are still on the road. I wander onto the outfield and glance at the wicket. It looks like a solid “club” wicket – a few scuffs… no cracks – but it is also a “new” wicket in cricket terms. The club was built on former farmland just 5 years ago, and the word is that the wicket might take “a while” to settle down – “a while” being anything from 10 to 50 years, depending on who you talk to – so the players know to expect a bit of up and down, and 120 would be a very, very good total today.

I skirt around the Berkshire warm-up to say hello to John “Dicko” Dickinson, the team manager, who took on the role when his daughter Charlie was still playing, and hasn’t been allowed to give it up, though Charlie is long retired. He tells me some exciting news – New Zealander Rachel Priest is here and she’ll play for Berkshire today.

Nevertheless, no sane betting man would be putting their money on Berkshire against Kent this morning, especially as skipper Heather Knight is resting between England duties, whilst the Kent lineup includes Charlotte Edwards, Lydia Greenway, Tash Farrant and someone called “Suzie Bates”!

It is soon apparent that even the gods appear to be on Kent’s side, as two chances to dismiss Charlotte Edwards go begging, while at the other end, her opening partner Suzie Bates sets off at a run-a-ball. The breakthrough comes from Linsey Smith, still a few weeks shy of her rocket to KSL stardom, and at this stage still not even expected to play in the Super League.

In theory, Smith is an orthodox spinner, but in practice she is one of those players you still get in the women’s game, who offers something different because she grew up away from those intensive professional coaching programs which push you into one mould or another. In Smith’s case, she might perhaps best be described as an “over-spinner” – the balls fizzes neither left nor right, but straight on, keeping low; so woe betide you if you try to play her off the back foot, lest the ball creep under your bat and onto the stumps – pretty much exactly what happens to Charlotte Edwards here.

A few balls later, Suzie Bates joins her, back in the slightly functional red-brick pavilion, having edged Smith to Priest at slip. So much for Kiwi solidarity, I joke to the editor… before asking if it’s too early to start raiding the picnic box for a vegetarian “pork” pie!

Kent close on 95 – a bigger total than it sounds, thanks not to any of the international stars, but to all-rounder Alice Davidson-Richards, who will almost certainly never play for England, but who is nonetheless good enough to have been selected for the Super League, and showed why here, as she top-scored with 26.

A quick turn-around and I’m clapping Rachel Priest and Sherisa Gumbs out into the middle to open the batting for the Beavers. Priest of course needs no introduction, but Gumbs does – a local lass, whose father, brother and sister are all familiar faces around the Berkshire scene. Gumbs is what you might call a “big unit” – one of those players who will flay club bowling to all ends of the park; but who is still learning that she needs to pick and choose her shots a bit more at this level.

Gumbs has her days, as an 80-odd against Lancashire last season will testify, but this isn’t destined to be one of them – characteristically, she finds the boundary with her only shot, before falling LBW to Charlotte Pape for 4. Priest however is going great guns at the other end, and is joined in a fifty stand by Alex Rogers.

Hope pops a floppy-eared head out of his rabbit hole in the adjacent corn field, surveys the situation; and because he’s Berkshire born and bred, thinks… maybe!

Then the clatter of wickets: Alex Rogers is caught by Suzie Bates for 20; Carla Rudd hangs around for a rather-too-long 7-ball single, before she is bowled by Charlotte Edwards; and then Priest holes-out too. Berkshire still need 29, with their numbers 5 and 6 at the crease, both on nought.

Hope, perhaps equally wary of the red kites circling overhead as he is of Megan Belt’s off-breaks, scurries back to the comfort of his burrow.

Lissy Macleod and Amanda “Steamer” Potgeiter begin the fight-back. They hustle – talking 1s and 2s – finding the boundary just once in the 40 balls they face between them.

But most importantly, they stay in.

It is the final over – I stand up from my camping chair, and lean in over the boundary rope, willing myself closer to the action in the middle, as it comes down to the final ball, with 2 required.

Just. Get. A. Bat. On. It.

A bat… a run… a throw – Steamer thinks it’s all over and runs on way past the crease – she’ll take the tie!

But the throw is powerful… recklessly so… and it isn’t taken by the bowler. “Run! Run! Run!” I scream, no longer able to maintain even the pretence of journalistic balance. Steamer turns and sees Macleod already half way down the pitch. She realises it’s on, and sets off on what might just be the dash of her life.

She beats the fielder chasing the overthrow.

Berkshire have won.

The crowd goes wild.

The crowd is me.

Everyone is probably looking.

I don’t care.

*

Six months later, I am sitting at my desk, wondering how to sum up 2016? Tammy Beaumont’s 100s? Nat Sciver’s 6s? Alex Hartley’s wickets in the West Indies?

Or that Sunday at Wokingham Cricket Club, when I was just a fan cheering for my team?

WBBL CATCH-UP – Devine Stars… So Do Stars!

Approaching the half-way stage in the competition, the WBBL remains pretty close – apart from the Renegades, stuck at the bottom with just 1 win from 7 matches, only two points separate the Melbourne Stars in 1st place, from the Brisbane Heat in 7th!

Team Played Won Lost Tie/ N/R Points
Melbourne Stars 6 4 2 0 8
Adelaide Strikers 6 3 1 2 8
Sydney Thunder 7 3 3 1 7
Hobart Hurricanes 7 3 3 1 7
Sydney Sixers 6 3 3 0 6
Perth Scorchers 5 3 2 0 6
Brisbane Heat 6 3 3 0 6
Melbourne Renegades 7 1 6 0 2

The star of the Christmas period was definitely the Adelaide Strikers’ Sophie Devine, whose 48-ball century (103*) knocked the wind out of the Hurricanes, who had put themselves in a strong position with a total of 143, including 69 from Heather Knight. Devine is a fascinating player to watch – she does’t move much of anything, but she generates incredible bat-speed with a late whip of the wrists, sending the ball over the ropes for 6 on no less than 8 occasions in this innings.

In the Stars v Heat double-header, Meg Lanning made a match-winning 97* as the Stars set up a 54-run victory in the first match, whilst Beth Mooney was the star with 55 off 50 balls as the Heat got the revenge in the the following day’s sequel.

The Sydney Sixers leaped up to 3rd this week, with wins over the Thunder and the Hurricanes. Ash Gardner made some nice runs across the two matches; but it was really the bowling performances in the Hurricanes game in particular which made the difference. While Sarah Aley took the Player-of-the-Match plaudits for her 3-13, you can’t ignore the roles of openers Marizanne Kapp and Ellyse Perry – after the 1st over went for 8 runs, the next 4 went for just one run each, creating early pressure which left the Hurricanes chasing the game in vain from thereon in.

Meanwhile, the Perth Scorchers made short work of the Renegades in their only match of the week, as Elyse Villani posted her second 50 of the tournament, to keep them in the hunt.

The CRICKETher 2016 Christmas Quiz

12 months; 12 questions – how well do you remember 2016?

Let us know how you did in Have Your Say below!

(Syd just tested it, and he got one wrong… even though he wrote the quiz less than a week ago – ooops… as the kids say “hashtag embarrassing”!!)

NEWS: World Cup Qualifiers – Ireland Drawn With India; Scotland Face South Africa

Ireland have been drawn with India, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Thailand for next February’s World Cup Qualifiers in Sri Lanka; whilst Scotland will face South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea in the group stages.

The top 3 teams from the group stages go through to a “Super Sixes” where they play the qualifying teams from the other group, whilst the points from their group stage matches against the qualifying teams from their own group are carried-through – the top 4 sides after the Super Sixes will qualify for England 2017.

Ireland ought to be ambitious about their qualification prospects – wins against Sri Lanka in the group stages, and then Pakistan in the Super Sixes, ought to be a realistic aspiration which would put them “on the plane” to England.

It will be tougher for Scotland, but qualification certainly isn’t out of the question – if they can make it out of the group stages, anything is possible – an upset victory in the Super Sixes, and other results going their way… stranger things have happened 😉

Group A Group B
India South Africa
Sri Lanka Pakistan
Ireland Bangladesh
Zimbabwe Scotland
Thailand Papua New Guinea

WBBL CATCH-UP – Stars Hit Sixers For Six & Super-Over Hurricanes Go Super-Second

All 8 WBBL teams went into this weekend’s round of games level on 2 points, with only Net Run Rate separating them; but things are starting to open up a bit now, with the Stars and the Hurricanes leading the way.

Team Played Won Lost Tie/ N/R Points
Melbourne Stars 4 3 1 0 6
Hobart Hurricanes 4 3 1 0 6
Adelaide Strikers 4 2 1 1 5
Brisbane Heat 4 2 2 0 4
Perth Scorchers 4 2 2 0 4
Sydney Thunder 4 1 2 1 3
Melbourne Renegades 4 1 3 0 2
Sydney Sixers 4 1 3 0 2

In Melbourne, the Stars took on the Sixers, with the Sixers big names failing to fire – Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry and Dane van Niekerk made less than 20 runs between them over the two matches, with van Niekerk recording two ducks, as the Stars won both games with plenty to spare – Meg Lanning making runs in the first, whilst Jess Cameron and Katie Mack got the job done chasing in the second.

On the other side of Melbourne, things were somewhat closer as the Renegades took on the Hurricanes, but it was the Hurricanes who took the points on both occasions. In the first match, Amy Satterthwaite made 45 off 43 balls as the Hurricanes posted 133 – the Renegades falling just 4 short in their chase; whilst in the second, Satterthwaite was again in the runs, with 52 off 41 balls, and this time the Renegades took it to the first ever WBBL Super Over. For the Renegades, Rachel Priest and Grace Harris hit 12 off their Super Over, bowled by Satterthwaite, and the New Zealander… ever in on the action… was then out first ball of the Hurricanes reply, leaving it to Hayley Matthews and Erin Burns to carry it home, with Burns hitting a match-winning 4 off the final ball.

In Sydney, the Thunder hosted the Strikers, with the weather taking the points in the first match. In the second, a sub-par total of 102 from the Thunder was easily chased-down by the Strikers. The Strikers were without Charlotte Edwards, who pulled out after the warm-up with back spasms, but Sophie Devine’s 43 off 33 balls created a match-winning position from which Tahlia McGrath and Shelley Nitschke were able to get over the line with cool heads and no real alarms.

Finally, over at the WACA in Perth, honours were shared between the Scorchers and the Heat. The Scorchers cruised to an easy victory in the first game, Nicole Bolton leading the way with 46* off 43; but the tables were turned the following day as the Scorchers were held to just 94, keeper-opener Beth Mooney then chasing them down almost single-handedly with 67* to win the game for the Heat inside 13 overs.

NEWS: Sarah Taylor Aiming for World Cup Return

England glove-butler Sarah Taylor, who has not played any cricket since the World T20 last March, has her sights set on a return to the national team in time for next summer’s World Cup in England.

Taylor admitted last May that she had been suffering for years from anxiety, affecting not just her cricket but all areas of her life; and she announced that she would be taking an extended break from the game in order to prioritise her recovery.

The ECB promised their support at the time, and they have shown continued faith in Taylor now by renewing her contract for a further two years, with coach Mark Robinson expressing his hopes today for her return:

“Sarah is doing really well with her return to cricket plan after taking some time away from the game for health reasons. Her aim has always been to be back playing and available for selection for the World Cup next summer, and we’ll continue to offer her the support she needs to achieve that goal.”

Although Taylor’s road to recovery has not been quick or easy, CRICKETher understands that corners have recently been turned, and just last week she tweeted a smiling selfie announcing that she had “kicked anxietys ass” in a visit to a shopping centre – hopefully more asses will be kicked again soon… ideally those of England’s opponents at the World Cup!

NEWS: ECB Introduces New Two-Year Contracts

In another revolutionary move for women’s cricket, the ECB have today announced that the next wave of England Women’s contracts, which come into effect on 1st February 2017, will last for two years.

There will also be a new level of “rookie” contract for “players who sit just above the England Women’s Senior Academy squad, but who have not quite hit the level required to win a full central contract.”

Alex Hartley, having made her international debut against Pakistan this summer and followed it up with an incredible performance in the West Indies, has been awarded a full central contract, while Beth Langston has been awarded a “rookie” contract.

Unsurprisingly, Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway (who both retired from international cricket earlier this year), alongside Becky Grundy, who was not selected for England’s series’ against Pakistan, West Indies or Sri Lanka, have all been removed from the list of centrally contracted players.

The contracts have also increased in value, although the ECB have given no indication of the scale of the pay rise (the top contracts were previously thought to be worth c.£50,000).

The two-year contracts will help to answer recent criticism that the short-term nature of women’s contracts makes it difficult for contracted players to feel any kind of job security.

The full list of contracted players is below:

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)

Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)

Kate Cross (Lancashire)

Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)

Tash Farrant (Kent)

Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)

Alex Hartley (Middlesex)

Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire)

Amy Jones (Warwickshire)

Heather Knight (Berkshire)

Beth Langston (rookie contract) (Yorkshire)

Laura Marsh (Kent)

Natalie Sciver (Surrey)

Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)

Sarah Taylor (Sussex)

Fran Wilson (Middlesex)

Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)

Danielle Wyatt (Sussex)

 

WBBL CATCH-UP: Honours Even After Frantic Opening Weekend

After a frantic opening weekend, the sextuple-header at North Sydney Oval finished with 6 teams sharing 2 points at the top of the WBBL table.

Team Played Won Points NRR
1. Brisbane Heat 1 1 2 0.45
2. Melbourne Stars 1 1 2 0.30
3. Perth Scorchers 2 1 2 0.24
4. Adelaide Strikers 2 1 2 0.20
5. Melbourne Renegades 2 1 2 -0.20
6. Hobart Hurricanes 2 1 2 -0.24
7. Sydney Thunder 1 0 0 -0.30
8. Sydney Sixers 1 0 0 -0.45

Hayley Matthews starred with 48 off 38 balls as the Hurricanes beat the Scorchers in the opening game on Saturday; but the Scorchers got their own back the following day as a fifty from Elyse Villani set up a total of 142-4 – the Hurricanes falling well short in the chase, as Katherine Brunt, bowling with good pace, took 2-18.

Charlotte Edwards and Tammy Beaumont scored just 3 runs off 5 balls between them as the Strikers were reduced to 21-4 against the unfancied Renegades, but the Strikers were bailed-out by Sophie Devine (43 off 38) to finish on 116, which they defended thanks to 4 run-outs in the field as the Renegades were bowled out for 102.

Like the Scorchers. however, the Renegades got their revenge the next day, despite 31 off 28 from Edwards and another blitz of 41 off 27 from Devine, the Renegades chased-down 128, with Danni Wyatt finishing on 34* off 32 balls.

In Saturday’s other match, Meg Lanning was eclipsed by fellow opener Emma Inglis, who struck 46 off 28 balls to set the Stars up for victory against the Thunder, despite a near-miracle WBBL debut from Harmanpreet Kaur, smashing 47* off 28 as the Thunder fell just 6 runs short.

Sunday’s final match saw the Sixers take on the Heat, setting them 138, with Alyssa Healy (48 off 42) and Ellyse Perry (42 off 42) doing the work early-doors. In reply, it wasn’t looking good for the Heat – after 10 overs they were just 46-4, with the required rate well over 9-an-over – but enter Deandra Dottin with the performance of the tournament so far – 60* off 44 balls to win the game.

Overall then, a brilliant opening weekend, reflected in the viewing figures, with an average of 400,000 watching the two prime-time matches on free-to-air TV, peaking at over 600,000; whilst about 6,000 fans came through the turnstiles at North Sydney.

Back here in the UK all matches were shown live, either on BT Sport* or free online. Our only complaint would be the scheduling: Cricket Australia really need to do something about their time-zone, perhaps even consider moving it slightly – about 12 hours ought to do, or these all-nighters are going to kill us 😉

——

* For the information of our overseas readers, BT Sport is a pay-channel which is available on-line for £5 a month on a 12-month contract. BT Sport have exclusive rights to all the “TV” matches, which will include the semis and final – these matches are region-locked in the UK otherwise – so we coughed, and consider it well worth it!

NEWS: Charlotte Edwards Signs For Hampshire

Following on from the news of Charlotte Edwards’ retirement from Kent after 16 seasons, Hampshire Cricket have today announced that Edwards will, as of the 2017 season, be representing Hampshire Women.

Having captained Southern Vipers – who are based at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl – to victory in the inaugural KSL earlier this year, as well as being recently appointed a management board director of Hampshire CCC, a move to Hampshire makes logistical sense for Edwards. It will enable her to continue to play county cricket while also committing large portions of her time to KSL.

Bob Parks, Hampshire Women’s Head of Performance and the Southern Vipers Manager, said that he was “delighted  to welcome Charlotte to Hampshire ahead of the 2017 season. She has been exceptional during her time at the Ageas Bowl so far as part of the Southern Vipers and the immense value, experience and knowledge she adds will be key in driving the improvement of women’s and girls’ cricket in Hampshire and across the Southern Vipers region.”

While Vipers triumphed in the KSL, Hampshire currently linger in Division 2 of the County Championship, and will no doubt be hoping that Edwards can spur them on to promotion next season.