OPINION: Hollow Headlines In The Mainstream Media

It’s been a rather eventful World Cup thus far (Wednesday’s washout at Derby not withstanding). We’ve even seen two “upsets” – India beating England in the first match on Saturday, and yesterday, India beating West Indies by 7 wickets.

Both times the media have swooped down upon the result and devoured it like hungry ravens. England’s loss to India, in particular, created some stark headlines in the mainstream press (headlines are not, it’s worth remembering, written by the journalists actually reporting on the game):

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Similarly West Indies have now lost 2 games by very wide margins, and it looks increasingly unlikely that they will make the semi-finals.

But is any of this really so surprising?

England are a young side. They have many weaknesses: one of which is that they are NOT good at chasing. India, meanwhile, have enjoyed an incredibly successful few months – including 10 wins out of 11 ODIs that they had played in 2017 prior to the start of this tournament.

It was always likely, therefore, that England’s game against India would be a potential banana skin for them in this tournament – just read Syd’s piece here.

Unfortunately, given England’s thumping of Pakistan last summer, expectations tended to ignore the reality of the situation.

What of West Indies? Here is another case study of where media hype around a team comes into its own. Because if you take performances by West Indies in isolation – their victory against Australia in last year’s WWT20 final, their status as finalists in the 2013 World Cup – then of course they look like a good bet to do well in this tournament.

If, however, you dig a little deeper, it becomes apparent that West Indies are the most inconsistent side in global women’s cricket. They were about a gnat’s whisker away from being knocked out before the semi-finals of last year’s WWT20. And their ODI performances have been all over the place in the last 4 years, as I pointed out in my preview piece here.

Actually you don’t even have to dig that far. Just listen to what captain Stafanie Taylor said on the eve of this tournament:

“If I don’t play in a game, the team seems to struggle. I have to remind them that you guys do have the belief and you’re talented, and you can do it. A lot of us lack that belief, so it’s [my job] to remind them of that.”

When you take England’s loss to India and West Indies’ poor start to this tournament in context, then, neither are really “upsets” at all (hence my use of inverted commas).

In fact, to label them as such is actually rather lazy journalism. The trouble is that a lot of those covering cricket only bother to watch the finals of women’s tournaments, and / or the few games a year that happen to be televised. Very little attention is paid to what happens in between.

We want more media coverage of the women’s game, of course we do – and this World Cup is doing a brilliant job of that. But what we also need is well-informed journalism, based on a more than surface-level knowledge and understanding of the global women’s game. Unfortunately, as we’ve already seen in this World Cup, we haven’t quite got to that stage yet.

Let’s keep pushing for it all the same.

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#WWC17 NEWS: Sana Mir Sanctioned For Slow Over Rate

Pakistan captain Sana Mir has been sanctioned for a slow over rate during Pakistan’s loss to England yesterday at Leicester.

Pakistan were ruled to be just one over short of the required target, after time allowances were taken into consideration.

Mir has not been fined (fines are only applicable to men’s matches) but if she receives a second sanction during the World Cup, she will be suspended for one match.

Taking The Positives (And The Negatives): England v India #WWC17

Having caught up with the highlights of yesterday’s England game, here are Raf Nicholson and Syd Egan’s thoughts:

Negatives:

  • Are England capable of chasing down a total of 280+, of which we are going to see plenty more of in the next few years? Knight said in the press conference: “we backed ourselves to chase that total” – really?! All recent history suggests that England are weak at chasing, and even weaker at chasing big. Although the conditions might have pointed to a “bowl first” day, England need to be wary of allowing teams to post a total that they just can’t chase.
  • England are a bowling team, but yesterday it was the bowlers who failed to control the game, and that doesn’t bode well going forward. India’s decision to take the powerplay early clearly got inside Anya Shrubsole’s head – England need to be able to deal with whatever the game throws at them, not simply have a pre-prepared plan and go to pieces when something happens that isn’t in that plan.
  • England haven’t really solved their opening dilemma in the absence of Lauren Winfield, who they really missed yesterday. Chasing 6 an over, Winfield would have got them closer to the kind of start they needed, and that in turn would have massively reduced the pressure on the other batsmen coming in – as it was, the run rate seemed to keep on creeping up, and that made things very tricky for the middle order. Also, given events of the last year, is it really fair to put Sarah Taylor in to open? We know it’s not her favoured position. Winfield won’t be back for Tuesday’s game vs Pakistan at the very least, so perhaps England should think about putting their captain in at the top – if Knight is going to be the backbone of an innings, she’d be better off doing it from the outset, rather than coming in when the required rate has already risen and the pressure is starting to tell.

Positives:

  • Fran Wilson’s batting. In very difficult circumstances, her 81 shows that Mark Robinson was absolutely right to bring her back into the squad last year from what was essentially the wilderness – an astute call by an astute coach. Plus, if it really was the case that she wasn’t going to play until the Winfield injury, presumably she’s made a point now that she deserves to be an automatic selection for the rest of the tournament.
  • Katherine Brunt’s batting. Not content with just being one of the world’s best bowlers, Brunt has also now become a big asset with the bat. It wasn’t quite enough yesterday, but it does show that – were England slightly closer to the total by the time she came in, or even in a situation where they required end-of-innings acceleration in order to pose a more commanding total – she can play the number 7 role that they need.
  • Sarah Taylor is back playing international cricket. Still one of England’s biggest assets, it was a solid reboot to what England will hope will be a second flourishing to her international career – because by goodness do they need her.

And finally…

  • We’ve come a long way from the first game of the 1973 tournament, which was played on a tiny village ground at Kew Green. But given that this was the biggest women’s cricket tournament this country has ever seen, given that it was England, it was India, it was a Saturday and the weather was good – the crowd at Derby (c.2500) was a bit disappointing, particularly as we’d been promised a “sell-out”.

#WWC17 – Winfield Injury Makes Things Interesting For England

If you could pick one side England would NOT want to face in their opening World Cup game, who would it be? I think it might just be India – a game England probably HAVE to win if they are to avoid the unseemly Net Run Rate scrap in 3 weeks time for the 3rd and 4th semi-final spots.

India are the strongest of the middle-tier sides, having taken the honours recently against both South Africa in the World Cup Qualifiers and the West Indies in India; and while it is true that West Indies qualified directly for the World Cup ahead of India, that was only because politics forced India to forfeit their series against Pakistan.

So a game against India would be a definite proverbial “banana skin”… which is unfortunate because India are exactly who England face at Derby tomorrow!

England would have been planning to go into the World Cup with a well-balanced and mainly settled side, the bulk of which were automatic picks; but the injury to Lauren Winfield does make things a bit interesting.

  1. Tammy Beaumont – Having had a chequered England career under the previous regime, “TB” was the success story of last summer, filling her boots against Pakistan and adding two more half-centuries, against West Indies and Sri Lanka, over the winter. Although in some ways the jury is still out on her ability to compete at the highest level against the Australias and the New Zealands, this is her chance to put those remaining doubts to rest.
  2. Heather Knight – Knight vacated the opening spot when she inherited the captaincy last year; but with Winfield out, it looks like she might have to step back up – Knight has never scored an ODI century, so now would be an ideal opportunity to change that by leading from the front! Knight was also England’s leading wicket-taker in the Women’s International Championship; but she has been bowling a lot less recently, and the likelihood is that she will just fill-in two-or-three overs here and there during this World Cup, especially if she is opening the batting.
  3. Sarah Taylor – Taylor’s return is potentially the difference between an England who will be “there or thereabouts” and an England who will challenge for the trophy. Certainly the only England player in this team who is already a nailed-on “All Time Great” – though that isn’t to say others might not later add themselves to that list!
  4. Nat Sciver – Sciver has quite quietly become a pivotal player for England recently. Having made her debut as a back-up bowler just 4 years ago, her batting has since taken centre-stage, but her role as a bowler is still rather important. She isn’t quite good enough to open the bowling (she did the job when Anya Shrubsole was injured over the winter, and her limitations were exposed) but as a “We Need A Wicket” change option, she is England’s go-to, and she will probably bowl close to her allocation in most matches.
  5. Fran Wilson – Having made her “re-debut” last summer, after a false start to her international career back in 2010, Wilson was probably competing for a spot with Georgia Elwiss – the former is a better bat; but the latter offers a few overs with the ball. However, with Heather Knight set to move up the order to open in Winfield’s absence, it now looks likely both will play.
  6. Georgia Elwiss – See above!!
  7. Dani Hazell – Hazell’s position in the squad is an odd one – she is the unofficial “reserve captain”, having done the job in Sri Lanka over the winter and in one of England’s warm-up games, even though the official “vice captain” (Anya Shrubsole) was playing; and yet she isn’t guaranteed a place in the side, with Robinson seemingly preferring Laura Marsh as the right-arm compliment to Alex Hartley’s left-arm spin. But with Danni Wyatt misfiring more often than not with the bat at the moment, there is a good chance that Hazell – a solid batsman, who can definitely chip-in if and when things get tough – will get the nod, especially as it would take the pressure off Heather Knight to bowl as well as opening the batting.
  8. Katherine Brunt – The Hardest Working Woman In Cricket-Business, as Anya Shrubsole recently put it: “With Katherine, every ball’s an Effort Ball!” Injury worries mean she probably won’t play every game – especially if England have already qualified by the time their final group matches come around – but there is literally no one else in the women’s game you’d pick to open the bowling; plus she can also hit the kind of quick runs down the order which can turn a good total into a big one.
  9. Laura Marsh – Just over a year ago, it looked like Laura Marsh’s England career was over – playing through pain, plagued by a chronic shoulder injury, and dropped for the World T20 in India. But after flying out to India as a late injury replacement for Dani Hazell, she grabbed her opportunity and now seems to be Mark Robinson’s first choice right-armer; though it is likely that the plan was to rotate her with Hazell, which is something we may see ultimately presenting a dilemma if England reach the final!
  10. Anya Shrubsole – Shrubsole of course needs no introduction as the other half of England’s opening attack; but she is a very different bowler to Brunt – looking to get movement in the air where Brunt gets it off the deck – the variety just one of the reasons why they are so intimidating as a partnership. The vice-captain will, also like Brunt, have to be “managed” so perhaps won’t play every match, but she will play all the important ones.
  11. Alex Hartley – Variety is clearly something which Mark Robinson sees as the spice of life, and he tried two left-armers last summer in the search for adding something different to a mainly right-handed mix. Despite a tough introduction to international cricket last summer, Hartley was selected ahead of the much younger Sophie Ecclestone for elevation to the contracted squad, and repaid that faith over the winter, particularly in the West Indies, where she took 13 wickets – a record for England in a bilateral series – ensuring that she goes into this World Cup as England’s first-choice spinner.

NEWS: Winfield To Miss England Openers

Lauren Winfield has been ruled-out of England’s opening World Cup match against India tomorrow; and will probably also miss the second game against Pakistan on Tuesday.

The opening batsman injured her wrist in the warm-up against New Zealand. Having also kept wicket, she opened the batting in that match, but retired hurt on 27 after facing 10 overs.

This leaves coach Mark Robinson with a big headache – Winfield has opened the batting in all the ODIs England have played since last summer, and her partnership with Tammy Beaumont has been a foundation of England’s recent 9-2 winning record in one-day cricket.

The logical choice would be for Heather Knight to return to the opening role she vacated when she inherited the captaincy – it isn’t a role she wants; but sometimes needs-must!

CLUB OF THE MONTH: Chester Boughton Hall

Chester Boughton Hall Ladies Cricket Team plays its cricket in the Cheshire Women’s Cricket League, playing Division 1 40-over league cricket, and plays T20 cricket under the name of Chester Deemons (after the river Dee that runs through Chester!)

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Chester Boughton Hall Academy

 

CBH are one of the most successful clubs in Chester. 2016 saw them going unbeaten in the Cheshire League, winning the league and also winning the T20 competition. Losing 1 game all season saw them knocked out of the Knockout Cup which stopped their pursuit of the treble, which they successfully won in 2014.

CBH are only the 2nd club in the Cheshire league to introduce a 2nd XI into Division 3 of the Cheshire League.  This is due to the excellent work done through their Academy set up by Jo Herbertson, who works tirelessly with the All-Stars cricket and grassroots cricket side of the club.  The future is definitely bright thanks to Jo’s work!

With the introduction of the 2nd team/Academy set up, CBHLCC can cater for all ages and abilities. Current ages range from their 5-8 year old All-Stars, through to the older Academy girls (8-15), then onto the senior players who are aged from 15 to mid 60s. They cater for anyone at Chester!

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Chester Boughton Hall 1st XI

 

England players Lauren Griffiths and Sophie Ecclestone both started playing their cricket at Chester and both still have close links to the club, with Sophie still putting in the odd appearance with the first XI.

Chester currently have 6 (7 if you count Sophie Ecclestone!) senior county players on their books, 5 playing for Cheshire and 1 playing for Shropshire, 2 U17 Cheshire county players and 2 U15 Cheshire county players.

All-Stars training is on a Tuesday evening, 5-15-6.15pm, Academy training then follows on, with the 1st team training 6.15-8ish, again on a Tuesday evening.

This season has seen local solicitor firm Cullimore Dutton enter into a 2 year sponsorship deal for Women and Girls Cricket, which the club is immensely thankful for.

If anyone is interested in playing cricket at Chester Boughton Hall, please contact Ali Cutler on alicut73@gmail.com or Jo Herbertson on Jo_herbertson@hotmail.co.uk

POLL: Who Will Win #WWC17?

T20 CUP – Berkshire v Kent v Lancashire

On a melting hot day at North Maidenhead CC in Berkshire, Lancashire came away with two wins, whilst last year’s champions Kent left empty-handed.

Berkshire v Kent

In the first encounter of the day, a 64-run partnership between Anna Harris and Carla Rudd carried Berkshire to victory over Kent in a low-scoring thriller which went down to the final over.

The day couldn’t have began any worse for Kent as Emily Thompson swished at a wide first ball loosener from Lauren Bell, only to edge it to Carla Rudd behind the stumps.

Thereafter Kent never quite got going, with only Alice Davidson-Richards (16) and Tash Farrant (20) making it to double-figures as wickets fell throughout – 3 apiece to Emma Walker and Lissy Macleod, and 2 to Lauren Bell; with Kent eventually bowled out for 84 in the final over.

It wasn’t the total Kent might have wanted to defend on a perfect day for batting; but they made early inroads as both openers departed for ducks. Coming in at 5-2, Carla Rudd on nought nudged some straightforward catching practice to Alice Davidson Richards at slip; but ADR fumbled it, giving Rudd a life, and throwing Berkshire a lifeline.

Rudd didn’t look back after that, as she and Harris dug in to take the home side to within sight of the target. Harris was eventually run out for 29; but Lauren Bell gave Rudd the backup she needed to drag Berkshire over the line, smashing a final 4 through midwicket to bring up the Beavers’ first win of the season with 2 balls to spare.

Kent v Lancashire

The second match of the day was rather more one-sided than the first, with Lancashire showing just how far they have come over the past couple of years – dominating Kent with both bat and ball in a 72-run victory.

Having won the toss and elected to bat, Lancashire accumulated a formidable total across their 20 overs – 143-4 – building on a strong foundation, with 81 up on the scoreboard before the first wicket went down. Openers Emma Lamb (33) and Eve Jones (40) both batted beautifully – Jones sending a delivery of Megan Belt’s flying high over the square leg boundary for the only six of the game.

It was Belt who eventually got the breakthrough, having Jones caught at mid-wicket in the 13th over – but number 3 Kate Cross simply carried on the good work, finishing with 30 runs to her name. Ellie Threlkeld also chipped in with consecutive boundaries off the last two balls of the innings, ending with a somewhat ridiculous strike rate of 400!

Kent’s reply was distinctly unconvincing – from the time their first wicket fell in the 4th over they barely managed to stem the flow of batsmen making their way back to the cool of the North Maidenhead pavilion. Ultimately it was Extras (28) who top-scored by a long way, as only one of the Kent batsmen, Grace Gibbs (11), made it into double figures. Up-and-coming stars Sophie Ecclestone and Lamb both took advantage, finishing with figures of 3-6 and 4-15 respectively, as the game wended its way to a slow and inevitable conclusion.

— Raf Nicholson

Berkshire v Lancashire

In the day’s final game, Berkshire made things a little harder for Lancashire, but ultimately not hard enough, as the Red Roses cruised to a second victory by 28 runs.

Having won another toss, Lancashire again chose to bat, with Eve Jones (17) and Emma Lamb (14) once again hitting the ground running, before both were out in quick succession. With Kate Cross dismissed cheaply after coming in at 3, it was left to the middle-order to make their mark, which they did thanks to Natalie Brown (26) and Jess Couser (21). The Berkshire bowlers continued to put up a good fight, aided by some fine work in the field, to leave Lancashire 9-down when they closed on 130.

Berkshire once again lost early wickets – Lauren Bell and Carla Rudd the ducks on this occasion, whilst Lissy Macleod bashed her way to 22 off 17 balls. Once she was dismissed though, followed by two further ducks, things started to slip away from Berkshire. and although Mia Rogers (18) and Ashleigh Muttitt (also 18) had some fun at the end, the game was realistically already out of reach by that stage, with Berkshire eventually all out for 102 – Emma Lamb again the pick of the bowlers with 2-11.

Afterwards, Lancashire captain Meg Fairclough told CRICKETher:

“It was a long journey down, setting off at 7 o’clock this morning, but definitely worth it – the girls did great in both games.”

“This team has been together for 4 or 5 years now – a lot of the girls are in the England Academy; and then we’ve got these great players coming in – Sophie Ecclestone from Cheshire and Eve Jones from Staffordshire –  and so we’ve come on really strong this year.”

With Warwickshire having won both their matches, versus Somerset and Surrey, by huge margins, Lancashire are unlikely to be in 1st place when the table is calculated after this round; but they have set down a marker for this season, and perhaps many seasons to come, that this is now a team to be reckoned with at the highest levels of the women’s domestic game.

INTERVIEW: Sophie Devine On New Zealand’s World Cup Chances

Sophie Devine

Photo copyright Ruth Conchie

It took Sophie Devine a mere 4 days to adjust to English conditions. She flew in from New Zealand last Wednesday; by Sunday she was out in the middle tonking the Berkshire bowlers all around the park in her trademark hard-hitting fashion. On Monday she did exactly the same to the Middlesex attack, smacking 122 in 78 balls.

When we spoke to her she was relishing being out in the middle again: “It’s nice to be outside – and in the English summer, which apparently I’ve brought with me!”

Explaining her decision to sign for the Bears, she said: “I’ve had a long injury lay off [she missed the Rose Bowl series against Australia back in February due to a dislocated thumb] so for me, coming over here, it was about getting game time. I seriously considered staying at home but the opportunity to come over here and play outside was a big factor for me.”

Strategically it may also prove to be a significant decision ahead of what looks set to be the biggest World Cup in the history of the women’s game. Devine is in fact the latest in a series of Kiwi recruits to the County Championship, joining her skipper Suzie Bates (at Hampshire), Holly Huddleston (Middlesex), Amy Satterthwaite (Lancashire), Lea Tahuhu (Surrey) and Rachel Priest (Berkshire). New Zealand, it seems, are putting faith in the fact that their top players are likely to benefit far more from time over here adjusting to English conditions than an indoor training camp back home.

Devine agrees. “Playing cricket’s always going to be of help. The girls back at home are training hard, but it’s always different when you’re training indoors on artificial surfaces, so it’s massive for us. A lot of the Kiwi girls have been here for a good period of time as well, so they’ll be well acclimatised.”

What does she make of New Zealand’s World Cup chances? She shrugs off the suggestion that they are favourites this time around. “I don’t think so! Australia have to go in as favourites, seeing as they’ve been so dominant since they won the last one 4 years ago. England at home too – it’s always a massive advantage to be playing at home.”

“But anyone on their day can win it. With the format how everyone has to play everyone it opens a lot up, and puts pressure on every single game. It’s going to be tough.”

For the moment, she is enjoying being welcomed into a winning side (Warwickshire remain the only Div 1 side unbeaten so far this season), and one which she says contains “a lot of talent”:

“I haven’t even had a proper chance to train with the team, but they’ve been lovely. They’ve welcomed me in – and I haven’t been given too much rib about my accent!”

Devine may not see New Zealand as favourites in the forthcoming World Cup, but there’s no doubt that a team with her in their top order is going to be tough to beat. Here at CRICKETher we’re pretty certain that we’ll be seeing her walking out to bat at Lords come July 23.