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.