Raf & Syd look back on 2017, and forward to 2018!
(Look out for a special, guest appearance by Syd’s cat in the background – meow!!)
Raf & Syd look back on 2017, and forward to 2018!
(Look out for a special, guest appearance by Syd’s cat in the background – meow!!)
JANUARY: Rachael Heyhoe Flint Died on 18th January – at which ground did she make her highest Test score of 179?
FEBRUARY: Who won the World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Colombo?
MARCH: Who was the highest run-scorer in the Rose Bowl ODI Series between Australia and New Zealand?
APRIL: Rene Farrell announced her ODI retirement in March, after how many ODIs?
MAY: Which New Zealander scored 122 off 78 balls against Middlesex in the County Championship?
JUNE: Who were the first team to win a match at the World Cup?
JULY: Who ran out Sarah Taylor for 54 in England’s narrow World Cup semi-final win v South Africa?
AUGUST: Lancashire won the Women’s County Championship, but who came second by just 1 point?
SEPTEMBER: The Western Storm won the Kia Super League – who was their leading wicket taker?
OCTOBER: With the Women’s Ashes in progress, what was the series points score on the last day of October?
NOVEMBER: Who recorded their first ever ODI victory over New Zealand on November 5th?
DECEMBER: Who replaced injured Heather Knight as captain of Hobart Hurricanes in WBBL?
Twelve months; twelve questions; no Googling!!
Jake Perry chats to Abbi Aitken
That 2017 will go down as a year of mixed emotions for Scotland’s Women is perhaps the most telling indication of the distance they have travelled. Their appearance at the Women’s World Cup Qualifier in February featured a victory against Papua New Guinea and a much-praised performance against South Africa while a table-topping performance on home soil in August secured a place in the final stages of an ICC Qualifying event for the third time in succession. There is, though, a tangible feeling around the Scotland camp that the true potential of this squad is yet to be revealed.
Of all their recent assignments it was the Global Qualifier in Sri Lanka which provided the sternest examination of Steve Knox’s side. It offered the most useful learning opportunities, too, as the team measured themselves against three of the top ten countries in the world game.
“It was an incredibly valuable experience,” said Scotland captain Abbi Aitken. “The opportunity to compete at another global tournament and put ourselves up against some of the best in the world was always going to be of benefit.
“To play on different wickets and in different conditions, too, is an experience that the younger girls in the squad will have taken a lot from as well.”
In Scotland’s opening match a half-century from Kari Carswell backed by a tight performance in the field made much-fancied South Africa work hard for their six-wicket win. Subsequent defeats to Bangladesh and Pakistan were to put an end to any Scottish hopes of progression, however, although a seven-run victory over PNG at least provided some consolation.
“Playing South Africa will live long in the memory and to give them a bit of a scare was pretty cool,” said Abbi. “But overall I look back on that tournament with slightly mixed emotions as I think we let ourselves down against some of the lower-ranked teams. Although we beat PNG we let them get far too close to us, especially after we’d put in the performance we did against South Africa three days before.
“It’s all about belief. I asked the girls to tell me many of them genuinely believed that we could win before the South Africa game. It’s easy for any group of sportspeople to say that they have belief but I think we learned as a group that if we genuinely believe then who knows what could happen?
“PNG was the other side of the coin,” she continued. “We had confidence but faced a different issue in that we’re not used to being the favourite and there’s no doubt that that affected our performance.
“It is a mindset we need to change. We need to be comfortable being the favourite because if we continue to train and work as we are then there will be more games in the future where we are in that position.”
Scotland’s domestic summer saw progress matched by consolidation as the team secured a mid-table finish in Division Two of the NatWest Twenty20.
“Over the past two or three seasons of domestic cricket we’ve moved up, then down, then up again, so during pre-season we agreed that our goal for this year was to cement our place in Division Two,” said Abbi. “With Sri Lanka in mind we had focused on the fifty-over format the season before so we were happy to achieve that target in T20.
“We’ll be looking to make a bit more of an impact next year though. Last time out we only showed flashes of what we are capable of so we’re looking to learn from the experience and go into the new campaign with the goal of winning the division. That would obviously be a great thing for us to achieve.”
Scotland’s year ended with the ICC Europe/Americas Qualifier for the 2018 Women’s World T20 against the Netherlands and USA. In a rain-affected week in Stirling the Scots secured one of the two available places at the upcoming Global Qualifier as winners of the competition.
“We had a great win against the Netherlands first up,” said Abbi. “They will no doubt have been disappointed by how they played but we put in an excellent performance. The pre-match words of the Dutch captain certainly helped us prepare, too.
“[Heather Siegers’] talk of exacting revenge for [Scotland’s victory] last year and coming over here to kick backside was definitely played in our changing room before the match and got the girls fired up a wee bit more!”
The seven-wicket win over the Dutch was followed by a nine-wicket victory over the USA, and although the Netherlands triumphed by eighteen runs in the final match of the competition Scotland had done enough to retain their trophy by virtue of a superior run-rate.
“We want to bring up a generation of players who continuously put in winning performances against teams like the Netherlands,” said Abbi. “Six or seven years ago I was brought into a Scotland team where we certainly weren’t the favourites to win these games. Although they came out on top in that last match it’s great that we have turned the tables over the past few years. It’s always a good competition with the Dutch and hopefully the overall picture continues to be one that’s in our favour.”
Scotland has had to deal with some notable losses over the course of the year. The post-Sri Lankan retirements of Kari Carswell and Fiona Urquhart together with the unavailability of Kirstie Gordon have been significant, but as the matches in Stirling demonstrated others have moved to fill the vacuum. With 118 runs at 59 Lorna Jack proved to be a revelation at the top of the order, and with Sarah Bryce showing moments of brilliance in her new role behind the stumps, too, the remodelled side gives plenty of reason for optimism.
“Massive credit needs to go to Lorna,” said Abbi. “She has been a great wicketkeeper for us over the years but it was fantastic for her to finally cement her place in the batting line-up this year.
“After losing a few people we have needed players to step up and being a senior member of the squad it was great that Jacko did that. Fingers crossed that it’ll be a successful season for her next time as well.
“The Qualifier gave us an opportunity to bring a few younger girls into the set-up as well,” she continued. “Laura Grant came up from the U17s and for her to be around the team in Stirling and understand how a tournament like that works will stand her in great stead going forward.
“It’s opportunities like that which are so important for the development of our players and as the seasons go by more and more are created. It’s exciting for the future.”
But for Abbi the year has been significant for more personal reasons, too, as in late October the news emerged that she had decided to step away from the national captaincy after seven years at the helm. It was a necessary decision, she says, for both her own future and that of the team.
“It’s been a difficult year from a personal point of view,” she explained. “Over the past year and a half I’ve struggled with a foot injury and my personal performance has suffered badly as a result.
“Putting the captaincy aside I am picked in the team as a bowler and not being able to bowl a ball in the [Europe/Americas] Qualifier was tough for me. Without a doubt I had thoughts in my head that captain or not I was taking up a shirt.
“To me the captain should be a main contributor to the team as well as the leader and I wasn’t doing that. I had probably lost a bit of my love for the game, too, and I felt that it wasn’t fair for me to continue as captain if my heart and my head weren’t fully in it.
“It’s a real compliment that Steve [Knox] kept me in the team whether I was bowling or not. Leading the side is a role in itself but I’ve always wanted to be a captain that can both lead and contribute. If I wasn’t able to do both then I didn’t want to continue in the role.
“I sat down with Steve and was completely honest. I told him that I needed to find my passion again. I’m certainly not ready to give up completely but something needed to change if I was going to start to enjoy the game in the same way again.
“To be honest it was probably time for a bit of a freshen-up as well. After hearing my voice for seven years the girls will probably be feeling a little bit relieved!” she laughed.
Abbi had been appointed captain as a nineteen year-old as Kari Carswell moved from the captaincy into the role of Head Coach.
“I had made my Scotland debut at fourteen so I was practically a veteran by the time I became captain!” said Abbi. “My initial reaction was probably ‘woah there’ but I was massively honoured to be asked at such a young age. There were a lot of players who were older than me and had played for much longer in the team so I naturally had doubts about whether I was ready to do it.
“But having Kari there was brilliant for me,” she continued. “She was still on the pitch as a player and to be fair to her she probably still did everything for the first couple of seasons. I did have to learn quickly but Kari always said to me that while tactical awareness would develop over time the fact that I had such a good relationship with the players was just as important.
“I took that as a huge compliment. From a young age I’ve been able to understand how people work, I suppose, and that always helped me as captain.
“It was a role that taught me to be confident, even during those times when that confidence had to be faked, and if I was to pass on one piece of advice to my successor it would be to trust gut instinct. It always served me well.”
The announcement of Abbi’s departure was met with heartfelt tributes from across the cricketing community. What pleases the twenty-six year old most, however, is that the legacy being passed to her successor is an environment in which Scottish women’s cricket is stronger than ever before.
“It’s been a whirlwind journey but the transformation of Scotland Women from seven years ago to where we are now has been huge,” she said. “We’re more knowledgeable, fitter and so much better supported from within Cricket Scotland.
“I’ll look back and say that my job over the past seven years has been to be a voice for the girls, to promote the fact that we’re here and on the up. The ultimate highlight for me was to be able to witness that journey.
“The real highlight for Scotland’s Women is yet to come, though. Watch this space!”
And, with another outing on the global stage to look forward to next year, could it come as early as next summer?
“We’re very much focused on the [ICC Women’s WT20 Global] Qualifier,” said Abbi. “It looks like it will be in July which will dovetail nicely with our T20 Division Two campaign.
“It will be an exciting couple of weeks. There has already been a shock with Uganda knocking Zimbabwe out of the tournament in the Africa Qualifier. Zimbabwe beat us in Thailand [in the 2015 WWT20Q] in the third place play-off so not having them there this time will make things interesting.
“With two places available at the main tournament Ireland and Bangladesh will be the ultimate favourites as the two highest-ranked sides but I would expect it to be us ranked next. It’s definitely an opportunity for us.
“We have never played Uganda before, it will be interesting to see what they have, and the Dutch are sure to bring a strong team, but fingers crossed we can put a bit of pressure on Bangladesh and Ireland and see what happens.
“The Caribbean would be quite nice to head to in November!” she smiled.
Jake Perry writes on Scottish cricket for Cricket Scotland and CricketEurope and is a regular contributor to HoldingWilley.
A job advertisement uncovered by Martin Davies of Women’s Cricket Blog appears to confirm that the Kia Women’s Super League is set to be thrown under the juggernaut of the new Men’s City T20 in 2020, with the last edition of the competition coming in 2019.
The recruitment ad for a “Head of New T20 Operations”, posted to the ECB Careers web site, states (emphasis ours):
“For the first time in this country, this will be a domestic competition that involves teams not based on the existing county structure. 8 newly formed teams will play 36 games over a 5 week period, with many of the top English and overseas cricketers competing. Each team will have a designated Home Venue, which will be one of this country’s leading cricket grounds. ECB is also exploring launching a women’s competition running in parallel with the same format and the same team brands. Some games in the women’s competition are likely to be played at different venues to the men’s games.“
Other runes also point in a similar direction: back in September we observed that Kia’s sponsorship of the Super League had been extended only until 2019, allowing the ECB room to manoeuvre the competition out of existence at that point; and it was also noted at the time the TV contracts were announced that although “a” women’s T20 competition was part of the deal, the exact details appeared to have been kept deliberately vague.
There is no doubt that the model the ECB is pursuing has been unbelievably successful in Australia, where the WBBL is now arguably the highest-profile women’s team-sport competition on the planet, with attendances and TV audiences far exceeding English football’s Women’s Super League for example.
However, this is not the first but the second shake-up the women’s game will have undergone in the space of 5 years, and there will be losers as well as winners, even if the City T20 overcomes the reservations of those serious cricket fans who (with good reason) remain highly sceptical of the entire concept, in a country where a smaller proportion of the population (and a far smaller proportion of the cricket-watching population) lives in the cities around which the competition will be based.
The most obvious loser would be the Loughborough Lightning, who would basically be Alderaan in this scenario to the City T20’s Death Star. (If you don’t understand this reference, please refer to your nearest 8-year-old child… or 40-year-old man… but basically, Alderaan didn’t come out of the encounter in too healthy a state!!)
The Surrey Stars would also be in the firing line, with a London franchise more likely to head to Lords than The Oval.
But in the case of the franchises which would likely survive in all-but-name (the Southern Vipers, Yorkshire Diamonds and Lancashire Thunder) the actual people involved – coaches… managers… marketing staff – many of whom have worked extremely hard (in some cases unpaid) to grow the Kia Super League, would find themselves thrown out into the cold – all their efforts for nothing.
And what of the fans, who have built loyalties to “their” teams? These allegiances grew notably even between KSL-01 and KSL-02, judging by the colours on show at Finals Day in 2017; and the increased TV coverage next season looked set to build upon that by reaching into even more living rooms.
But will the little girl who buys a Loughborough Lightning shirt in 2018 be able to exchange it for a Birmingham one in 2020?
Will she even want to?
That is the question the ECB have to ask themselves now.
The BBC Sports Personality Team of the Year award finally went to England’s women’s cricket team last night, following their 2017 World Cup win, atoning for nearly 30 years of hurt after they lost out in controversial circumstances in 1993 and again (though less contentiously) in 2009.
In 1993 England won the World Cup after beating New Zealand at Lords; but Team of the Year went to England’s men’s rugby union squad, who had won nothing (they came 4th in the 5-Nations) amid allegations of a stitch-up related to the award of broadcasting rights for subsequent 5-Nations tournaments.
In 2009, England women again lifted the World Cup, winning the final versus New Zealand in Sydney, and also captured the World T20 crown, beating New Zealand (again) at Lords; but this time they missed-out to the men’s cricket team, who admittedly had at least won something – a 2-1 home Ashes victory.
The award, which went to England’s women’s rugby team (also after a World Cup win) in 2014, shows perhaps that we are making progress; but the results of the individual (and most prestigious) Sports Personality of the Year award were a depressing snap back to reality – voted for by the public, Anya Shrubsole received just 15,000 votes (around 3% of the total); with the 4 nominated women all coming in the bottom 4 of votes cast.
Jake Perry Reports
Two of the brightest stars in the Scottish game will be rubbing shoulders with the best in the world as participants in the 2017/18 Rebel Women’s Big Bash League Rookie Placement Programme. Sisters Kathryn and Sarah Bryce will head to Australia to take up two-week placements with WBBL franchises Adelaide Strikers and Hobart Hurricanes in the third edition of the innovative joint venture between Cricket Australia and the ICC.
Each of the eight nominees is given the opportunity to experience women’s cricket at its very highest level, and with the added possibility of being called into the tournament itself in the event of an injury to a contracted player, too, the initiative opens up a unique window onto the elite world.
Both Kathryn and Sarah are looking forward to the experience.
“It was so exciting to get everything confirmed,” said Sarah. “It was unexpected for me at least and the family are very proud to have us both involved.”
“I’m really looking forward to visiting Tasmania,” she continued. “Being around such high-quality players and getting to see how they go about their training and everything else is really exciting.”
Whilst Sarah has been selected for the first time it will be a second trip in two years for Scotland vice-captain Kathryn, and the twenty year-old all-rounder is relishing the opportunity to be part of the programme once again.
“Having as much exposure as possible to that professional set-up helps my game a lot,” she said. “It is experience that I take back into my training and tournament play with Scotland.”
“[Last year] gave me an insight into the preparation and hard work that goes into cricket at this level. It’s not just what happens in games and in training, it’s the whole thought process that goes into it as well.”
Kathryn was placed with Melbourne Stars during the last campaign.
“I was given a bit of time to settle in then I fitted into all the training and gym schedules,” she said. “Last year I went along to watch some of the other WBBL games in Melbourne, too. The Renegades were playing as well as the Stars so I went and watched them and got to know a few of the girls, went out to dinner with them and so on.”
“I was living in the same hotel as other international players so I got to spend a lot of time with them as well. Just being in that environment and the routine of training, gym and everything else taught me a lot.”
“I had a couple of training sessions out on the MCG, too, which was fantastic. That outfield and the indoor nets are something else.”
“In Adelaide there is the main Adelaide Oval but I’m not entirely sure what facilities we’ll be using,” continued Kathryn. “But wherever it is it’ll just be good to be playing some outdoor cricket at this time of year!”
“I don’t know a huge amount about what it’s going to be like but I know the facilities and the coaches are going to be of a great standard,” added Sarah. “It will be interesting to see what resources they have and how they use them.”
The news crowns a memorable year for both players. As well as winning her fiftieth Scotland cap Kathryn scored 241 runs at 30.13 for Warwickshire in her first season in the Women’s County Championship, adding a 49-ball 73* in the T20 Championship for good measure.
Seventeen year-old Sarah also made great strides after taking over from Lorna Jack behind the stumps as both players helped Scotland to the ICC Women’s World T20 Global Qualifier.
“It’s been a really good season,” said Sarah. “Going to Sri Lanka at the beginning of the year for the [ICC Women’s World Cup] Qualifier and playing against teams like South Africa was incredible. Putting yourself up against those sorts of players was a challenge we all relished.”
“I think that having both Kathryn and me at the WBBL shows that the women’s game in Scotland is really on the up. In the past a couple of players were relied upon a lot whereas that’s definitely changing now. These days the whole team is contributing which says a lot about how we have progressed.”
“Speaking personally taking over the gloves has been great for me,” Sarah continued. “I’m just trying to keep improving all aspects of my game. Having Kathryn doing so well [has been an inspiration] and it’s nice to be able to follow in her footsteps to the WBBL this year.”
The end of the placement will not be the last Sarah sees of Australia this winter, either.
“I’ll be spending three months at the Perth Cricket Academy after the Big Bash so that will get me into a good routine of how to go about training and fitness and so on too.”
“The whole winter is going to be a great experience and both of us will be looking to bring back as much knowledge to Scotland as we can.”