MATCH REPORT: Notts Make It Two In Two Despite Power of Priest

In a hard-fought game at North Maidenhead it was Nottinghamshire who ran out the eventual winners against Berkshire, as they successfully chased down the 106 runs required with 5 wickets remaining.

Top-scorer of the day was Berkshire’s Rachel Priest (51) but even she could not save the Beavers from defeat, as Notts finished the weekend with 2 wins under their belt. It was a disappointing end to stalwart John Dickinson’s long reign as manager.

Notts had started the chase slowly, reaching 41-1 in the first 17 overs, but when the second wicket fell in the 18th – Megan Burton succumbing to the pace of Ashley Muttitt – it brought Jodie Dibble to the crease. Alongside fellow former England international Sonia Odedra the two began to bat with real intent – Odedra later admitting that the gloomy skies and imminent possibility of rain had pushed them to force the run rate upwards.

They put on a quickfire 34-run partnership in 5 overs before Odedra holed out to substitute fielder Izzy Clayton at mid on, 8 runs short of her half-century. Dibble (22) went two overs later, plumb LBW to Lissy Macleod, but Notts already had 85 runs on the board at that point and the long experience of Jane Smit (19*) saw them home without much cause for concern.

The game had earlier been reduced to 48 overs a side thanks to a short shower, and Nottinghamshire made the most of the favourable bowling conditions – damp and overcast throughout the morning – after winning the toss and putting Berkshire in to bat. Sophie Munro, fresh from her five-fer on debut yesterday, left the Beavers reeling at 0-2, having sent back both Annabel Flack and Carla Rudd without scoring.

It was left to Priest and Macleod to rebuild and, after Berkshire eventually got off the mark in the fourth over of the day, the pair put on 69 for the third wicket – including a huge one-bounce four from Priest over midwicket – before Macleod was unluckily adjudged LBW to Dibble for 18.

Priest pushed on and just about made it to her half-century (dropped on 49* by Yvonne Graves at square leg), but was out bowled trying to sweep Dibble shortly afterwards, leaving Berkshire 4 down with 78 runs on the board.

From there it was an uphill struggle for the remaining Berkshire batsmen, who crawled along for a while, between them managing to push Berkshire’s total up to above 100 before Munro (4-28) and Lucy Higham (3-9) eventually cleaned up for Notts in the space of 39 overs. Ultimately 105 was a respectable but not quite competitive total.

Notts captain Sonia Odedra told CRICKETher after close of play that she was extremely happy with her side’s performance this weekend:

“2 out of 2 is perfect for us. It was important for us to win these 2 games to give us a chance to stay in this division. I’m really proud of the team and what they’ve achieved so far.”

“It got a little bit close in the end when we lost a few wickets, but I had confidence, we’ve got a long batting order and the important thing is we got over the line.”

MATCH REPORT: Brutal Bears Batter Beavers

Warwickshire kept their County Championship dream on track with a stonking win over Berkshire at North Maidenhead CC, as Amy Jones led them romping to victory after the Beavers had been bowled out for 73.

Jones hit 34 off 14 balls, finishing things off with two sixes in the final over, somewhat eclipsing New Zealand superstar Sophie Devine at the other end, who finished on 20* at a Strike Rate of “only” 200!

The toss was won by Berkshire, who opted to bat; but it was downhill from there for the home side, as Annabel Flack was bowled for a golden duck by Laura Crofts in the second over, with Crofts’ opening spell of 3-12 also accounting for Carla Rudd and Anna Harris, whilst at the other end Sophie Devine sent Rachel Priest and Sherissa Gumbs packing – all for single-figures – leaving Berkshire in horrible trouble at 26-5.

Berkshire recovered a smidgen of respectability via Lauren Bell (14) and Lissy Macleod (24) who took them past the 50 mark; but after Bell sliced a slower ball from Jenny Gunn to Kathryn Bryce in the gully, Berkshire collapsed again to 73 all out in 28.1 overs.

With bonus points a potential factor in deciding the Championship, Warwickshire went out determined to chase the required runs down quickly. They had 18.5 overs to do it in… but they needed just 7 to walk away with 18 points, ensuring that they sit in first place at the season’s half-way mark, regardless of Yorkshire’s result against Sussex.

Afterwards, Warwickshire captain Marie Kelly told CRICKETher:

“We wanted to bat first and show everyone the score that we could get – get the top six in and all score runs; but sometimes that doesn’t happen. We lost the toss; but we knew that we could get 10 wickets – it was just about how quickly we got them – making sure we were ruthless and didn’t give anyone a chance to settle and get in – and we showed that by bowling them out for 73.”

“Crofty [Laura Crofts] bowled so well – I was at mid off so I got to see the lines and areas she was bowling and some of those balls were just unplayable.”

“Then it was so good to see Amy Jones and Sophie Devine doing their thing – it is a pleasure being able to watch them both.”

Warwickshire travel to Middlesex tomorrow, where they will be targeting another win; whilst Berkshire must pick themselves up, coming back to North Maidenhead to face Notts.

NEWS: Sarah Taylor Speaks Out Ahead Of World Cup Return

In her first interview since taking a break from cricket a year ago, Sarah Taylor has given the strongest indication yet that she will be back in England colours come the opening World Cup game on 24 June.

“To be back in time for the World Cup has been a hard journey but very worth it,” she said, in a video recorded by the ECB.

“It’s been a tough 12 months and lots has been learned in that time. In terms of where I am with my cricket, I’m incredibly comfortable to be back playing and the girls have been absolutely brilliant. It’s just nice to be back around them and the fact that the World Cup is at home as well makes it extra special.”

Speaking about her recent return to playing with her teammates in the UAE, she said: “In the UAE it felt like I was wearing that shirt for the first time. I’m almost looking back at my career and seeing this as a bit of a blank canvas.”

The real test for Taylor will come when she walks out in front of several thousand fans at Derby; she is confident, though, that she is ready for that:

“I feel like I’m probably mentally strong enough to deal with those pressures. I’m back and I’m ready to face the World Cup and the scrutiny that professional sport brings.”

She admits that she still suffers from social anxiety on a day to day basis, but says that she is “most comfortable out in the middle: batting, wicket-keeping and being around the girls.”

“Batting’s more fun now than it was back then! Once you eliminate all the things that are going on inside your head you’re able to just purely enjoy the game.”

Overall, she is cautiously optimistic about both her own comeback and England’s World Cup chances. “I’m proud that I’ve even put myself out there to do it,” she says. “I want to win as much as the next person – and I’m hoping that there’ll be success with my own mental health and we can see a trophy at the same time.”

INTERVIEW: Alex Hartley – “I Owe Middlesex My Career”

There aren’t many cricketers who have had a better year than England’s Alex Hartley. 12 months ago few people knew her name. Then she was called up to the England squad against Pakistan, went on to take 8 wickets in the inaugural KSL, and ended the year by breaking the record for the most number of wickets by any England player in a bilateral series (13 against the West Indies).

To what does she attribute her recent international success? She is pretty unequivocal about it: “I owe Middlesex my career.”

Until 2013, Hartley was based at her home county, Lancashire; but her resurgence, she feels, revolved around the difficult decision she made back then to commute from her home in Clitheroe down to London to represent Middlesex. Hartley had been selected for the England Academy aged 15, then dropped soon afterwards, but still harboured dreams of playing for England. At that point, back in 2013, Middlesex were in Division 1 and Lancashire were not. A move south seemed to be her best hope of reviving her international chances.

It turned out, though, that it was not just about the quality of cricket on offer at Middlesex. “It gave me a fresh start,” Hartley says. “I was always that person at Lancs that couldn’t bat, couldn’t field, but could bowl. Went down to Middlesex, didn’t tell them anything about me. They’d never seen me play before, and it just really kickstarted my career from there on in.”

“They gave me so much. They put me on the Academy, I was having one-to-ones with [former England coach] Mark Lane. It was just what I needed really.”

Slowly she clawed her way back into England contention – selected for the 2015 Academy tour to the UAE and then finally, under new coach Mark Robinson, given the chance to prove herself at international level. The support of Middlesex was key throughout.

Did that make it difficult, then, to come to the decision ahead of this season to head back to her home county, Lancashire, leaving North London behind?

“It was actually really heartbreaking. I didn’t want to leave. But the travelling, it’s just too far. Living back in Manchester it just made so much sense to move back to Lancashire.”

It doesn’t stop her feeling a certain sense of divided loyalty – even turning up to watch the London Cup match last week dressed in Middlesex colours. “I was like ‘come on girls!’ I felt like I was still part of that team. They’re just like family.”

Hartley is now firmly ensconced in the England set-up, awarded a central contract last December and having recently returned from Abu Dhabi on a training camp with the rest of the squad. She says that she has been working hard on her batting and fielding – as well as her bowling, of course. “It has been an intense six months. But hopefully I’ll peak at the right time and it will be worth it.”

It seems likely she will feature heavily in Robinson’s plans for the World Cup. Certainly when we sit down with her at Lords she has selection in the starting XI against India come June 24 firmly in her sights – and it is her success at county level on English pitches which has made it possible. “I’ve bowled well for a few years now, so knowing that I can bowl well on English wickets and knowing that I can take wickets on English wickets is a real confidence booster ahead of the World Cup,” she says.

So as someone who owes so much to county cricket, how does Hartley feel about the fact that she and her England teammates will be missing out on the vast majority of the county season this year?

“It’s hard, but we know it’s probably for the best. We want to be playing cricket, that’s what we do, it’s our job to play cricket. But the coaches assess our workload carefully and it’s important for us to get rest, which sometimes means missing matches.”

“It can get too much and you do need your time away. It is set up right, but it’s a shame our county season’s not any longer.”

The last point is a good one. This year’s county season is a mere 7 games long and the majority of those will have been played by the end of May. Indeed, with the introduction of the Super League, one does sometimes get the feeling that county cricket is considered somewhat of an irrelevance by those at the top.

But if the example of Alex Hartley is anything to go by, it seems pretty apparent that county cricket still has a vital role to play in nurturing the international stars of the future.

BREAKING: Sarah Taylor In England World Cup Squad

Sarah Taylor has been named in England’s 15-strong World Cup squad announced today. Taylor has only played one competitive match in over a year, scoring 61 for Sussex v Kent last weekend, but has continued to train with England throughout most of that period. If England ultimately decide she unable to play, they will be able to name an injury replacement.

Missing out are Tash Farrant, Kate Cross and Amy Jones – but all will presumably be on standby in case of injuries.

Full Squad:

  • Heather Knight (Berkshire)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
  • Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
  • Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
  • Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)
  • Alex Hartley (Lancashire)
  • Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire)
  • Beth Langston (Yorkshire)
  • Laura Marsh (Kent)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
  • Nat Sciver (Surrey)
  • Sarah Taylor (Sussex)
  • Fran Wilson (Middlesex)
  • Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
  • Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

OPINION: Free-To-Air Super League Final Good News… But There’s A But

UPDATE (18/05/2017) – We’ve now seen some fuller details: 8 KSL matches will be part of the FTA package, plus 1 women’s T20 international – so basically… it is all good news – no but!!!

Today’s exclusive by Elizabeth Ammon in The Times – that the KSL Final will be broadcast free-to-air from 2020 – is welcome news for the women’s game.

The KSL Final will be one element in a package of matches, including two men’s T20 internationals, which the ECB will require whoever wins the next broadcasting contract to make available free-to-air.

It is worth noting that this doesn’t necessarily mean these games will be shown on traditional “TV” – for example, BT Sport will this year fulfil similar contractual requirements for men’s football by partnering with YouTube.

Nevertheless, it’s good news… right?

It is… but there’s a but!

By continuing the policy of folding the women’s broadcast deal in with the men’s, it seems that this one match will be the only women’s cricket which will be shown free-to-air – Pay TV (be it Sky or BT Sport) will therefore likely retain exclusivity for England women’s internationals and the rest of the Super League; dashing hopes that a stand-alone women’s free-to-air TV deal might have become the driver for a surge in interest in the sport, as we’ve seen with both women’s football in England and women’s cricket in Australia.

With all the good news we’ve had recently, from All Stars Cricket (which anecdotally really does seem to have hit a sweet spot) to live-streaming of the Women’s World Cup, there’s no doubt that we do seem to be moving in the right direction – but it will take more than one game on free-to-air to change the landscape.

MATCH REPORT: Middlesex Edge Thriller in Mill Hill-er

Middlesex ran out winners by a single run against Berkshire at Mill Hill School, but there was controversy aplenty which left Berkshire ruing not one but two unfortunate umpiring decisions – Fi Morris given out LBW to a ball that appeared to hit her very high on her pads; and then on what turned out to be the final ball of the day, a catch off a high full-toss from Middlesex quick Naomi Dattani, which arguably should have been called a No Ball.

At the start of the day, Dattani had won the toss and opted to bat first on a pitch which was expected to get harder to score on as the day progressed. In fact, it proved hard to score on from the first, as Middlesex made a plodding start, looking to see off openers Lauren Bell and Catherine Guppy. That they did, and it was the introduction of off-spinner Emma Walker in the 9th over which brought the breakthrough, trapping Dattani LBW.

Walker’s first spell also saw the fall of Tash Miles and Fran Wilson, both nicely taken C&Bs, before a middle-order recovery led by (who else?) Beth Morgan took Middlesex past the hundred mark to 116-4.

The return of Walker for a second spell brought the breakthrough once more, as the 18-year-old had Holly Huddleston caught by Millie Allerton, followed by Kathy Morley LBW, to bring up her maiden 5-fer in only her third ever match at this level. Meanwhile at the other end, Lauren Bell began a new over with 2 consecutive wides, but a quiet word from veteran Kiwi Rachel Priest obviously had the desired effect, as Bell sent down two rockets to trap Beth Morgan LBW for 37, and then Izzy Westbury, utterly flummoxed for pace, LBW for 1; with Middlesex finally closing at 152-8 from their 50 overs.

Berkshire’s reply got off to a lopsided start, as Priest hit out, whilst Annabel Flack played the blocking game at the other end – by the time Priest was out for a rollicking 47 off 37 balls, pulling Dattani to Cath Dalton at mid off, Flack was still only on 4! Flack made another 5, off 47 balls, before she became the second of Westbury’s 4 victims.

Victory appeared to be heading Middlesex’s way as they eyed up Berkshire’s long tail, but a stubborn stand between Bell (26) and Allerton (only 5, but lasting 31 balls in the process) looked to spoil the party, before Dattani took the decision to bring back Holly Huddleston early to try to finish things off. The “Hudd Missile” repaid the faith, bowling both Allerton and Bell – the latter perhaps slightly unfortunately off her pads – and then getting a bit of luck from the umpire to add Morris LBW.

But the end of Huddleston’s spell still left Middlesex with two wickets to find, and the target edged closer and closer as Ashleigh Muttitt dibbed and dabbed Berkshire to within one run of the Middlesex total, before the agonising finale ensued.

Afterwards, Middlesex captain Dattani admitted it was a close-run thing:

“We seem to put ourselves into positions like that: we were in control – we had them 7 wickets down – and we thought the 3 wickets should come relatively easy, but they did very well to dig in there at the end – they put up a good fight – it was a good competition.”

And on the final controversy?

“If it was a no ball, it’s the umpire’s call at the end of the day… It was a bad ball, but a wicket is a wicket.”

The result means that Middlesex can breathe a little easier in the Women’s County Championship, with a win under their belts at last; but leaves Berskhire bogged down in the “relegation zone” alongside Sussex, both with no wins from the first 3 rounds.