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)

 

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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 😉

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* 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.

WBBL Preview & Predictions

The Women’s Big Bash is back – bigger and bashier than ever! Last year, the Sydney Thunder lifted the trophy; but who will triumph this season? Will the Heat burn? The Stars shine? Or the Hurricanes blow? Read on to find out…

Brisbane Heat

Last Year: 6th

The Heat’s two English overseas have both departed – Kate Cross has not had the best year, so that wasn’t unexpected; but to lose Lauren Winfield, who has been in great form for England, looks careless to say the least. Winfield’s replacement, Smriti Mandhana, is a classy-looking player, but perhaps not best-suited to T20 – she averages 18 in T20 internationals at a Strike Rate of under 100 – Winfield averages 24 at a Strike Rate well over 100. The Heat’s hopes must rest largely on Jess Jonassen, who is probably the leading bowler in the world game right now, and Deandra Dottin, who needs no introduction; but much beyond that, they lack the strength in depth required to go long in such an intense competition.

Prediction: Group Stages

Hobart Hurricanes

Last Year: Semi-Finals

The Hurricanes have stuck with pretty-much exactly the same squad that defied expectations to power through to the semi-finals last season. In Heather Knight, they have a captain who will lead from the front; and if Hayley Matthews needed an introduction to Aussie fans last time out, she won’t now, after having run the Southern Stars through with a broadsword in the T2o World Cup Final back in April. But with other teams having strengthened, the likelihood has to be for a group-placed finish for the ‘Cane Train this time around.

Prediction: Group Stages

Melbourne Renegades

Last Year: 8th

After taking home the wooden spoon last year, the Renegades have marched then-captain Sarah Elliot behind the woodshed, replacing her with New Zealander Rachel Priest; and added an extra scoop to the batting sundae, in the shape of Southern Star Grace “Bomber” Harris – the only woman to score a century in WBBL|01. Danni Wyatt is back – though she continues to struggle for England, she has propsered in Australia in the past at Vic Spirit, so the potential match-winners are there, but beyond the big names, they look very fragile indeed.

Prediction: Group Stages

Perth Scorchers

Last Year: Semi-Finals

The Western Fury had a torrid time in the WNCL, finishing bottom of the table on nul points, after failing to win a game; but having lined-up a very strong overseas contingent of Suzie Bates, Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, alongside a strong native top order headed-up by Nicole Bolton and Elyse Villani, they must have been hoping for better things from the Scorchers. Unfortunately, however, Anya Shrubsole is still injured unavailable (see comments), and although she is theoretically coming back for the latter stages of the competition, you wouldn’t bet your last sixpence on it, and her replacement – Becky Grundy – just isn’t in the same class.

Prediction: Group Stages

Melbourne Stars

Last Year: 5th

In WBBL 1, the Stars were a bit of a one-woman show, and their early elimination essentially proved the old adage that cricket is a game played by eleven players not one, even if that one player is Meg Lanning! They are bolstered this year by Jess Cameron’s return to the leather and willow, and although they have lost Kristen Beams to injury, Dani Hazell is a pretty good replacement. They’ve also got Nat Sciver returning, who perhaps disappointed slightly in terms of runs last year, but more than made up for it with the ball, taking 18 wickets – if she can replicate her recent England form with the bat, the Stars are in with a big shout this time around.

Prediction: Semi-Finals

Sydney Thunder

Last Year: Winners

The Thunder topped the group stages last year, with 9 wins from their 14 league games, and went on to win the competition, beating the Sixers with 3 balls to spare in a low-scoring, and slightly anticlimactic, final. Unsurprisingly, they’ve kept pretty-much the same team this season, with Stafanie Taylor returning, having won the T20 World Cup and KSL Player of the Tournament in the meantime. Their one big signing is the new Indian T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur. Harmanpreet had a brilliant recent T20 series with the bat versus the West Indies, making 68*, 43 and 60*, although India did lose the series 3-0; so it will be interesting to see if she brings that form with her, or her slightly more recent Asia Cup form, where India won the tournament, but she averaged just 12.

Prediction: Semi-Finals

Adelaide Strikers

Last Year: 7th

After disappointing last season, the Strikers have strengthened their batting line-up with Charlotte Edwards, who turns 37 later this month, but remains one of the best in the world, averaging 52 in WNCL, including a century against Queensland Fire; and Tammy Beaumont, who on good batting tracks with fairly short boundaries will be able to turn on the kind of attacking game she played against Pakistan last summer, and could be the signing of WBBL. Plus, with Megan Schutt, Sarah Coyte and Amanda-Jade Wellington, they’ve got enough quality bowling options to take them all the way to the final.

Prediction: Final

Sydney Sixers

Last Year: Final

Marizanne Kapp, Dane van Niekerk, Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy, Sara McGlashan, Lisa Sthalekar… you’d mug your own grandmother to have any one of them on your team, and the Sixers have got all of them – the other 5 players in the XI might hardly matter! Of course, Lisa Sthalekar has been semi-retired for a fair while now; and it looks like Sara McGlashan’s international career is over too, having been left out of recent New Zealand squads building towards the 2017 World Cup – but don’t count either of them out of making a big impact – experience matters, as we saw in the Kia Super League. But the key is Ellyse Perry – she is quite literally on top of the world right now, batting ridiculous numbers, and continuing to make a contribution with the ball, albeit at a more measured pace than she once did – her confidence is sky-high, and if there is one player who can win it on her own, she is it.

Prediction: Winners

NEWS: Farrell & Healy Star As New South Wales Breakers Win WNCL

The New South Wales Breakers, led by Australian vice-captain Alex Blackwell, beat the Queensland Fire, captained by Delissa Kimmince, in a one-sided WNCL final overnight.

Having won the toss and chosen to bat, the Fire got off to the worst possible start as their big-hitting wicket-keeper batsman Beth Mooney was caught at slip off the very first ball from Rene Farrell. Farrell went on to take two further wickets in a man-of-the-match-winning opening spell which, along with the run out of Kirby Short, reduced the Fire to 40-4 inside 9 overs. Jess Jonassen (21) Kimmince (24) and Jemma Barsby (30) fought back a bit, but the pressure to get runs on the board against a massive Breakers batting line-up was too much, and the Fire slumped to 119 all-out.

The Fire needed a miracle; but what they got was Alyssa Healy (56*) and Alex Blackwell (36*). In no mood to show mercy, the Breakers knocked off the runs in less than 25 overs, with Healy hitting the last 2 balls for 6 and 4 – slogging Delissa Kimmince back over her head on both occasions, with the confidence that comes from knowing you are sealing your 18th WNCL title in the 21 years the competition has been running in its current format.

PS – Massive thanks and kudos to Cricket Australia for live-streaming this match at near-broadcast quality, and to Lisa Sthalekar and Mel Jones for keeping us company throughout – it really does make such a difference when the commentators actually know their women’s cricket and have an in-depth insight into the players and the teams involved.

PPS – There also appeared to be a bigger crowd than in previous years – perhaps the “WBBL Effect” rubbing-off on other areas of the domestic game?

INTERVIEW: Salliann Briggs on KSL, the Academy Restructure and Female Coaches in Cricket

Ffion Wynne speaks to Loughborough MCCU and Loughborough Lightning KSL Head Coach Salliann Briggs.

2016 has been a very impressive year for Salliann Briggs. Alongside her continued success in the role of Loughborough Women’s MCCU Head Coach, she was granted the same role for Loughborough Lightning in the first season of the Kia Super League (KSL). There were many doubts over Loughborough’s inclusion in the KSL – whether the sole university-based side would be able to compete against the top counties, or whether their lack of county stadium would affect their campaign regarding spectators and local support. However, under Briggs and Assistant Coach Lisa Keightley, England’s Georgia Elwiss captained the side to a place in the Finals Day, losing to Western Storm to narrowly miss out on a top two finish. More recently, following the revamp of the England Pathway, Briggs was appointed to yet another key role in the development of the women’s game in coaching the Academy squad.

Following this exciting summer for women’s cricket in England, it seems the future is looking even brighter, especially with the Women’s World Cup being played at home in 2017 and the prospect of the second Super League claiming more success than its breakthrough season. With all this ahead, it seemed that Briggs, as one of the leading coaches in the women’s game today, would provide the perfect insight into the upcoming plans.

2016 was certainly a big year for the women’s game. As you were heavily involved in the action of the KSL, how would you assess its first year on the whole?

I think the KSL definitely exceeded everyone’s expectations. For me personally, I didn’t actually have much awareness of the impact it would have, with it being a new competition. The only indicator for me was the amount of work that was put in from Loughborough in particular; the meetings and the build up seemed to go on forever. But I think the crowd sizes we had here definitely showed its success, because here at Loughborough we were expecting capacities of around 200-500 and yet we ended up with more than 500 each game. It’s definitely important, though, that we build on this after year one.

It was an incredible experience for all the girls but funnily enough, as coach, I didn’t capture it as my mind was on the game and therefore didn’t manage to experience the atmosphere as much. But now we know that Sky Sports want to be involved I think it’s definitely going to go from strength to strength.

There were concerns over Loughborough’s status as the only side without county support. Were you pleased with the match day experience that was provided at the university?

Yes definitely. When I did interviews prior to the KSL a lot of people asked me about it, but if you speak to them now or even our opponents, many say that it was the best match day experience they had. The downside to big stadiums sometimes is that the atmosphere can get lost, and we felt that when we played at away venues where they were trying to fill half a ground, you didn’t get the all-around atmosphere we had. We got so much positive feedback, and a lot of the girls really enjoyed it. The feedback I got from the girls playing here was that it was the first time they felt they were really ‘number one’, because often when they are linked to counties they’ve always felt pushed aside for the men. But here, whether it was a training session, in the gym or at the ground, they were given number one priority so I’m pretty confident we gave the best experience overall.

Before the tournament began, what was your target for the Lightning?

It was always to make Finals Day. We were pretty pleased that we got into that position, but there were some disappointing games along the way as well. Particularly Lancashire Thunder, as they finished bottom but on the day some of their players were excellent. It would’ve been nice to have a closer game against the Vipers as it was our last game before Finals Day, just for the players’ confidence, but we made it and played some great cricket throughout the competition. I was really pleased with how our county players rose to the occasion, they worked particularly hard during the build up to get themselves ready to perform under pressure. I think we put up a good fight, but I think the main thing we learnt was that in the space of only two weeks, you can’t afford many big mistakes. Of course we were disappointed not to make the final in itself, but in the first year we were definitely very pleased.

There are 6 KSL teams, compared to the 36 that play in the Women’s County Championships. Do you believe that this structure is able to prepare players effectively for the international stage?

Well to start we’re obviously targeting Twenty20, so if the better players are filtering through to the KSL teams then we are definitely making progress in that format and building significant bridges. As a whole I think we’ve still got a lot to look at within the counties, and how they can be more involved in that pathway of preparing players. It’ll be interesting to see how the 50-over contest progresses, and where the counties sit in that, but I think it is still a work in progress in how to involve them more – I’m not too clear on the landscape of how that’s going to happen yet.

Some critics still question the sustainability of the introduction of professionalism in the England setup, and that the team’s results haven’t reflected the true benefits over the past few years. What are your thoughts on this criticism?

I can’t say I’ve taken too kindly to that belief, mainly because I’ve been in and around the England environment and the one thing they truly are is professional, they work hard and they’re all immensely passionate about learning and striving to be better. I think that’s definitely an unfair judgment. It’s certainly been a bit of a transition recently with some changes to the squad, but ultimately if you look at their past few series they’ve won every single one. Yes, they haven’t won as convincingly as they have done in the past, but this time is about building for the future and making sure that the perfect squad is in place for the World Cup next year.

Australia have recently begun live streaming of their state matches, which has been considered a great step forward. Do you think this would be successful if it was introduced to England’s County Championship games?

I think we need to work from the top first here in England, so obviously we’ll be broadcasting a lot more KSL games now but they won’t all be covered, and I really think these should be streamed live moving forward. The thing with streaming games is that you want a good representation of what you’re selling, so it’s definitely important that we get the domestic structure right in order to show what talent we’ve got coming through. When we do start streaming it’s important that the feedback we gain from viewers is positive, therefore the types of games we stream are important. Like you’ve already mentioned, being put in the spotlight puts you in line for quite a lot of criticism, so I think the KSL needs to be given time to develop and grow before we begin streaming other competitions.

The Academy pathway has recently been restructured, alongside your appointment as the Head Coach of the Academy. Can you explain the purpose of these changes?

The main thing is that we wanted to make sure that the wording and the way it looks shows a clear progression between the pathways. There aren’t too many changes to be honest as I’m still looking after the same programme as before, but we’re just trying to show from a development and performance element that our programmes work together. We mainly aligned the titles to emphasise how both Stanny’s [John Stanworth – Head Coach of the Senior Academy] programme and the one I lead will be working much closer than previous years, which I think is important to help players to transition through the pathway. The Senior Management team introduced the idea, and it works really well between us at the moment.

Do you see the development of female coaches as an integral part of improving the women’s game?

Yes! Definitely. It’s always a difficult one for me because we are still in a male dominated sport, and it’s something I’m quite passionate about. We still need to keep in mind, though, that if there are female coaches that want to progress, they still need to be at the right level and have the right skills, but on the other hand we also need create opportunities for female coaches to develop. It’s quite exciting as there is quite a lot of work going into it, like the female coaching conferences that the ECB started last year, which were a huge success. It’s one of those things that I am always willing to put myself forward to help in any way that I can.

What are your aims and aspirations in the next few years as a leading coach in the game?

Personally I just want to keep developing myself as a performance level coach. I’ve worked as a development coach both at Loughborough University and with England for some time now and like anyone, I want to coach at the highest level. I’ve been really lucky to be given the chance to go out to Perth, so I’ll be going for the back end of the Women’s Big Bash League, which will continue my development and expand my coaching experiences. Loughborough as an organisation have always supported me when a good opportunity has come along, and I’m grateful they’re allowing me to seize this one. The experience will be invaluable. I’m also still committed to working as the Lightning Head Coach ensuring that the players have the right structure and environment in place for them to grow. For me, it’s not just about aiming for the trophy at the end of it, but mostly making sure the players are able to fulfil their potential and go as far as they can within the game.

If you could change one thing in women’s cricket today, what would it be?

The easy answer would be for people to see women’s cricket for what it really is, and that we get more resources to actually go out there and show the world that we can be an incredibly exciting sport that engages a significant number of followers. We definitely do have a lot of work to do around that though. It also does frustrate me when we always get compared to the men, I don’t think that should ever happen, I want the women’s game to be considered in its own right – deservedly so. I guess it will take its time, and hopefully this will come in the next few years or so, but I’m definitely impressed with the example that New South Wales are setting by investing in their state players by becoming professional, so if the English cricket world could get on board with that then we’ll be making some impressive strides forward.

NEWS: Charlotte Edwards Leaves Kent

Kent CCC have announced that captain Charlotte Edwards is to leave the county after 16 seasons and over 6,000 runs, during a period in which Kent have dominated the women’s county game.

In a statement released by the club, Edwards said:

It’s been a really tough decision to leave Kent but ultimately I feel it’s the right decision for me and more importantly the current team. Having won the double in 2016 I feel this is a fitting end to my time as a Kent cricketer.”

“I would like to thank everyone at Kent County Cricket Club for all their support over the past 16 years. I’m immensely proud to have played for the county and what the team has achieved within that time.”

Edwards, who is currently in Australia playing WNCL/WBBL, was recently appointed as a management board director of Hampshire CCC and the Southern Vipers, and has committed herself to playing for the Vipers next year; but it is currently unknown if she will continue to play county cricket.