OPINION: Sponsorship Crisis is a Symptom of the TV Crisis

The decision by Investec to call an early end to their sponsorship of England men’s Tests, six years into a ten-year deal, has little direct relevance to the women’s game – our Tests (few and far between though they are) are sponsored by Kia. But with Waitrose having already pulled out of their England shirt-sponsorship agreement last year in similar circumstances, what started as a drama begins increasingly to look like a crisis.

Investec, like Waitrose before them, cited a diplomatic desire to “explore other options”, but you don’t have to scratch very far beneath the surface to get to the truth – cricket in England is increasingly marginalised – largely relegated from the back-pages to the back-streets of a pay-TV ghetto, where no top-dollar sponsor wants to be.

This is not to deny that the ECB’s ten-year waltz with Sky TV hasn’t benefited cricket, and the women’s game in particular, thanks to the huge influx of cash it has shovelled into the coffers at Lords. Without it we might not have central contracts or a Kia Super League. But this will all be for nothing if what was once the nation’s “second sport” continues its slide into irrelevance.

The simple fact is that, aside from a highly vocal “choir” of serious fans like us – those prepared to pay Sky’s shilling – no one watches cricket; and even the big crowds at a typical men’s Test seem to be there as much to catch-up with “the chaps” over a few beers, as for the cricket itself.

The ECB can (and do) quote participation figures; and point to advertising campaigns, such as the Girls Rule The World poster on the London Underground for the Women’s World Cup; but until some cricket is back on “proper” television, they are shouting into a growing void of public unconsciousness.

If they weren’t, the sponsors would be clamouring to extend their deals, not terminating them early.

WBBL CATCH-UP – Runs For Danni Wyatt & A Duckworth-Lewis Lesson For Meg Lanning

The story of the new year has really been the Melbourne Renegades, dragging themselves back into contention with a hat-trick of wins. Though the Renegades will be kicking themselves for losing a precious half point for a slow over rate, and remain in last position, they are now in touch with a top four finish, which is all you need to make the semi-finals and be in with a shot!

At the other end of the table, the Sydney Sixers have gone top, after also having won all 3 of their games this week.

Team Played Won Lost N/R Points NRR
Sydney Sixers 9 6 3 0 12 0.42
Perth Scorchers 9 5 4 0 10 0.26
Brisbane Heat 9 5 4 0 10 -0.12
Sydney Thunder 10 4 5 1 9 -0.02
Hobart Hurricanes 9 4 4 1 9 -0.12
Melbourne Stars 9 4 5 0 8 0.24
Adelaide Strikers 9 3 4 2 8 -0.13
Melbourne Renegades 10 4 6 0 7.5 -0.54

The Renegades started the new year with a Duckworth-Lewis win over the Stars, which left Melbourne skipper Meg Lanning red-faced after it emerged she didn’t understand the rules – she assumed that the “set” target would be adjusted after the Renegades lost a wicket chasing 7 off 21 balls. (The target can change in other circumstances, but not in this situation, where it had been “set” prior to the resumption of play.) The Renegades followed this up with a win against the Scorchers and another victory over the Stars, with Danni Wyatt finally getting in on some WBBL action –  top-scoring on both occasions with 43 v the Scorchers, and 40 v the Stars.

The much-fancied Adelaide  Strikers have been struggling this year, short on batting with Charlotte Edwards out with a back injury and Sophie Devine also missing due to domestic commitments back home in New Zealand. Both are expected back for the next round of games; and they need them, having posted sub-100 totals against the Scorchers and the Sixers, and also falling well short chasing 161 in their other game v the Sixers, despite a 50 from Tammy Beaumont.

The Brisbane Heat notched-up wins against the Thunder and the Hurricanes, thanks mainly to Beth Mooney, who made  75 v the Thunder and 78 v the Hurricanes, without being dismissed on either occasion – the keeper-batsman is now second in the run charts, behind only Meg Lanning, and it looks increasingly like there ought to be a ticket to England with her name on it for the World Cup this summer.

Though they lost out to the Heat, the Hobart Hurricanes did at least rack-up a big NRR-boosting win against the Thunder earlier in the week – Heather Knight smashing 47 off 29 balls, as they posted 171 – the highest total of WBBL02.