INTERVIEW: Danni Wyatt – On Her Ashes Hundred And A Huge Year Of T20 Ahead For England

It was the 1st March 2010 – the 5th ODI of England’s tour to India. Having already lost the series, thanks mainly to 3 consecutive half-centuries from Mithali Raj, England chose to rest Charlotte Edwards that day and perhaps with one-eye on the up-coming T20 series, hand a first cap to an exciting 18-year-old all-rounder from Stoke-On-Trent – Danielle Wyatt.

The debutante did not disappoint. Coming in at 7 after the visitors had laboured to 133-5 chasing 207, Wyatt hit 28* off 26 balls to carry England over the line, striking the winning run with one ball to spare. After such a promising start, expectations were high as Wyatt was selected for all 3 of the T20s that followed, but she struggled with both bat and ball, making 0 and 1 with the bat and bowling just a single wicketless over for 7 runs.

It was a pattern that was to repeat itself throughout the next 8 years – each step forwards followed by another one back – as she continued to show enough promise to stay in the picture, whilst never quite producing that defining display which guarantees a run in the team. She’d been dropped more times than the beat at an Eminem show; and when she was included in England’s lineup for the 1st T20 of the 2017 Women’s Ashes, it is fair to say that this was despite, not because of, her record: 70 T20 internationals, averaging just 12 with not a single T20 (or ODI) half-century to her name.

Wyatt’s key mitigating factor was a Strike Rate of over 100 – she might not have made many runs, but she made them quickly at 105; and this was very-much her role in the team – the pinch hitter  – the karaoke queen who would bash out a few bars of Don’t Stop Belivin’ to get the scoreboard swinging before her voice cracked. And it was enough. Just.

But…

Women’s T20 has been changing recently – as average winning scores in women’s T20 internationals have climbed, a run-a-ball 120 is no longer “par”, and a quick 11 off 10 balls is starting to look like chump change compared to what your Beth Mooneys, your Amy Satterthwaites and your Hayley Matthews have been posting, not just against Pakistan or Ireland any more, but in the big games against the top sides.

But where was England’s Mooney? Their Satterthwaite? Their Matthews? It turned out she’d been hiding in plain-sight all along – it turned out her name was Danielle Wyatt.

In the first T20 of the Women’s Ashes, she entered the fray with England on the ropes at 16-4, and hit her first international half-century – 50 off 36 balls – to drag England to a respectable 132. They still lost the match, and with it their hopes of regaining the Ashes thanks to a brilliant 86 off 56 balls from Beth Mooney, but it felt like the tide was turning nonetheless.

“It was a relief really,” she tells me, when we meet at Sussex’s Aldridge Academy training ground 4 months later. “I knew I always had the talent, but I got that 50 at a much needed time.”

So what changed?

“I’ve worked hard with [Assistant Coach] Ali Maiden and [Head Coach] Mark Robinson – they’ve got belief in me, which helps a lot – knowing that your coach backs you – but in my career I’d come in and been a pinch hitter and got myself out, so it was just about being a little bit smarter.”

But for Wyatt, she still hadn’t quite got the role she really wanted, which was to open.

“I had a coffee with Mark Robinson before the Ashes in Brisbane, and he said ‘Where do you want to bat? and I said ‘I’d love to open the batting in T20’ – that is where every batsman wants to bat – you’ve got two fielders out – what more could you want?” 

After her display in the opening match, for the second T20 Wyatt was promoted to open the batting, making 19 off 16 balls as England pulled off a big win at the Manuka Oval in Canberra.

But it was in the third and final T20 that things really came together at last for Wyatt. After Beth Mooney had hit 117 for Australia to post 178, Wyatt responded with a hundred of her own – 100 off 57 balls, at an incredible Strike Rate of 175 – to win the match, and the T20 series, for England.

“It still hasn’t sunk in that I’m the first [English] woman to hit a T20 international hundred – it is pretty special to do it in the Ashes against Australia – that record chase was just unreal, and hopefully it is just the start of something special.”

England fans will certainly be hoping so, with a huge year of T20 cricket coming up.

“We’ve got a busy schedule – we saw it on the board the other day – there’s not much time for rest in the next 12 months! In March we fly out to India [to play India and Australia] and then we’ve got South Africa and New Zealand coming over in the summer. Hopefully we can win those series and I’ll personally do well, and then we want to be in good form leading into the World T20 in November in the Caribbean – if we can win that as well as the World Cup, that would be the icing on the cake.”

England certainly aren’t taking anything for granted though.

“The World T20 will be a very close tournament,” Wyatt reckons. “Every team is improving – India are playing some really good cricket… the West Indies are still a really good T20 team… South Africa have come in… the Aussies with Meg Lanning back… and then obviously us!”

With such a busy schedule ahead, it was important for Wyatt to take some time out, passing on WBBL and heading instead to Vietnam for a family holiday over the Christmas period, which gave her the chance to reflect.

“I had a lot of time to think – about the last 12 months and how incredible it all was,” she says.

And now…?

“I’m just dying to get out there and play for England again!”

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OPINION: Mixed Cricket – It’s Really Not Worth A Try

The Sydney Morning Herald has published an editorial today which suggests that the next step for women’s sport in Australia is to go fully mixed. Non-contact sports like cricket, the piece argues, should lead the way here. It might not work, but if it did, it could “break down the entrenched attitudes”, not just in sport but in other fields too. “It’s worth a try,” the author concludes.

Actually, no, it isn’t. Mixed cricket would be a disaster for the women’s game.

Of course there are a few women who could be successful playing in a mixed international side (Sarah Taylor is the obvious candidate who springs to mind). But, overall, there’d inevitably be less women playing international cricket. Think about it logically. Even if rules dictated that there had to be a mixed gender split in the Australian cricket team – say 6 men and 5 women, or vice versa – that would still mean that only about 50% of the women currently representing their country would get to keep doing so. How is that a good thing?

Secondly it would negatively affect the grassroots of the game, and narrow the available talent pool – at a time when many women’s sides are already struggling for survival. Why is it that so many clubs – including those in Australia which offer the Milo programme for 7-12 year olds – are beginning to run girls-only training sessions? Because they’ve realised that not all girls want to play mixed cricket. Girls develop at different rates, are often less confident, and have sometimes (sadly) had less grounding in the game from an early age. They feel happier playing surrounded by other girls. If we impose mixed cricket on them, then many of these girls will be lost to the game for good.

And lastly, and most importantly, to suggest that for women’s cricket to be taken seriously it needs to merge with the men’s game is actually frankly rather insulting. Our sport is worthy of respect in its own right. It isn’t inferior, it is different, and we don’t want it to be subsumed into male-dominated structures. We want players like Sarah Taylor to be granted media attention and prestige for their world-class performances within the women’s game, not for there to be endless speculation about how well they might perform in the men’s game. One of the great things about the World Cup last summer was that this really did seem to be happening: women’s cricket really did seem to be becoming respected on its own terms. To suggest that the next logical move is to make cricket gender-mixed totally undermines that.

Mixed cricket isn’t something to “try out”, something to be taken lightly and that we can abandon without a second thought if it doesn’t work out. Of course it would shake things up. But would it really be a progressive move? I don’t think so.

OPINION: Alex Blackwell – The Bridesmaid Who Wanted To Be A Bride

Alex Blackwell, who has announced her retirement from international cricket after a 15-year career representing Australia, will go down in history not just as a cricketer who scored over 5,000 international runs, but as a courageous political campaigner who used her status as one of the premier batsmen of her era to help change the world.

Blackwell and her twin sister Kate, who also went on to play for Australia, were born in rural New South Wales in 1983 and were educated at Barker College – a posh independent school near Sydney with impeccable cricketing credentials, whose other alumni include Lisa Sthalekar and Alyssa Healy.

After debuting for Australia in 2003, Blackwell was part of the team that won the 2005 World Cup in South Africa, making 4 Not Out in the final against India; but she failed to really establish herself at international level and found herself in and out of the team.

At domestic level, however, Blackwell blossomed as New South Wales continued to dominate the WNCL. As New South Wales won 10 straight titles from 2005/06, Blackwell averaged over 50 for five consecutive seasons from 2008/09, and she was appointed state captain in 2010 – a role she will finally relinquish next Saturday as she plays her last WNCL Final against the Western Fury.

After re-establishing herself in the national side, Blackwell acted as stand-in captain for the injured Jodi Fields on a number of occasions in 2010-11, most significantly during the 2010 WWT20, lifting the trophy as Australia beat New Zealand in a low-scoring final at the Kensington Oval in Barbados.

But despite this success, the “bridesmaid” was passed over in favour of Meg Lanning when Fields stood-down in 2014, and though Blackwell was given the consolation prize of the official vice-captaincy, she was again overlooked when Lanning was injured during the 2017 World Cup and subsequent Women’s Ashes.

Why? We will probably never know the truth, and there is little doubt that all involved would deny it now, but it is difficult to wonder if it was not perhaps related to Blackwell’s outspoken refusal to pretend she was something she wasn’t, at a time when gay players were still being advised to keep their sexuality private.

Blackwell was the first “top” female player to come out in 2013, and married her long-time partner, Lynsey Askew – herself a former international, who won a handful of caps for England in the late 00s – in England in 2015. At the time of the wedding, Blackwell made a number of media appearances criticising the fact that the marriage would not be legally recognised in Australia, and she subsequently became a figurehead for the campaign to legalise gay marriage in Australia which was finally won at the end of 2017.

And as she heads towards her retirement, this is perhaps the most important of the many trophies she will take with her – countless WNCL titles, the inaugural WBBL and World Cups and Women’s Ashes galore attest to a glittering career as a cricketer; but as an activist for gay rights, she ultimately deserves to be remembered for something more – a glittering career as a human being.

NEWS: Post-KSL 8 Team T20 Competition Takes Shape

The ECB’s announcement yesterday of the venues for the men’s “City T20” league effectively confirms the hosts for this competition, and by implication the shape of the aligned women’s tournament which is expected to replace the Kia Super League from 2020.

The 8 venues are:

  • Hampshire
  • Warwickshire/ Birmingham
  • Yorkshire
  • Surrey
  • Middlesex
  • Lancashire
  • Glamorgan
  • Nottinghamshire

Although no official announcement has been made by the ECB regarding the future of the KSL, a recent job advertisement posted on the ECB’s web site indicated that the board were “exploring launching a women’s competition running in parallel with the same format and the same team brands [as the men]” and the fact that Kia’s sponsorship of the Super League was recently renewed only until 2019 strongly suggests that the word “exploring” might be better understood in this case as “we are going to do this, whether you like it or not”!

Assuming that an aligned women’s competition is in the works, the implications will vary very much on a team-by-team basis.

The Southern Vipers and Surrey Stars will both morph almost seamlessly into the new City T20 structure – validating the investments that Hampshire and Surrey have been putting in, presumably partly on the assumption that this was exactly what would eventually happen.

Things are a little different at the two “Roses” teams, because Yorkshire and Lancashire Cricket Clubs have both been a bit more hands-off, leaving responsibility for KSL effectively sitting with the folks who run the local Boards. Traditionally, women’s county cricket has been run in the first-class counties by the amateur “Boards” responsible for recreational cricket, not the professional (men’s) “Clubs”. But nevertheless for the non-marquee players things should pretty much carry on as normal.

Where things will most definitely not “carry on as normal” is at the Western Storm. Although the Storm have built up a substantial fan-base of “Storm Troopers” who coloured Finals Day green last September, they have no obvious successor team and their players will all have to wonder where, or even if, they will be playing from 2020 – Wales might not be far from Somerset “as the x-wing flies” but it is a heck of a drive in a landspeeder!!

Things are maybe a little less dark at the Loughborough Lightning however, because of their proximity to Nottinghamshire. With the facilities available at Loughborough, it is possible that the Lightning will effectively just become the “Not-Nottinghamshire* Outlaws” and could even continue playing at Loughborough; whilst some of the fringe players at the Lightning might be excited to take advantage of the opportunities which will also open up at the Midlands’ other franchise – Warwickshire.

* The ECB have indicated that the City T20 teams will not have geographical names.

NEWS: Priest In Exile & Bermingham ‘Taking A Break’ As New Zealand Announce West Indies Squads

The White Ferns squads have been announced for their up-coming ODI and T20 series versus the West Indies, with coach Haidee Tiffen keeping a firm eye on the future as New Zealand look towards a home World Cup in 2021.

The ODI squad includes two potential debutantes: left-arm seamer Kate Heffernan and batsman Lauren Down, with Tiffen saying:

“We see an immense amount of potential in Kate, particularly as we look ahead a bit further to a World Cup in New Zealand in 2021… and we also think [Lauren’s] one for the future – she’s explosive with the bat and is a terrific fielder across the park.”

After a successful Women’s Big Bash with the Melbourne Renegades where she placed 12th in our bowling rankings with 15 wickets at a shade over 6, Hayley Jensen earns a recall to the T20 squad; but despite Tiffen saying that the squads were “picked on form” there is still no room for keeper-batsman Rachel Priest, despite her scoring over 250 runs at a Strike Rate of 119 in WBBL.

Meanwhile spinner Erin Bermingham has decided to take an indefinite break from international cricket and was not available for either squad.

ODI Squad

  • Suzie Bates (c) (Otago Sparks)
  • Sophie Devine (Wellington Blaze)
  • Lauren Down (Auckland Hearts)
  • Kate Ebrahim (Canterbury Magicians)
  • Maddy Green (Auckland Hearts)
  • Holly Huddleston (Auckland Hearts)
  • Leigh Kasperek (Otago Sparks)
  • Amelia Kerr (Wellington Blaze)
  • Katey Martin (Otago Sparks)
  • Anna Peterson (Auckland Hearts)
  • Hannah Rowe (Central Hinds)
  • Amy Satterthwaite (VC) (Canterbury Magicians)
  • Lea Tahuhu (Canterbury Magicians)

T20 Squad

  • Suzie Bates (c) (Otago Sparks)
  • Sophie Devine (Wellington Blaze)
  • Natalie Dodd (Northern Spirit)
  • Maddy Green (Auckland Hearts)
  • Kate Heffernan (Otago Sparks)
  • Hayley Jensen (Melbourne Renegades)
  • Leigh Kasperek (Otago Sparks)
  • Amelia Kerr (Wellington Blaze)
  • Katey Martin (Otago Sparks)
  • Anna Peterson (Auckland Hearts)
  • Hannah Rowe (Central Hinds)
  • Amy Satterthwaite (VC) (Canterbury Magicians)
  • Lea Tahuhu (Canterbury Magicians)

STATS: WBBL Bowling Rankings

Whilst younger England women decided to take a pass on this season’s WBBL, after a gruelling six months which included the World Cup, Kia Super League and the Women’s Ashes; Katherine Brunt soldiered back to Perth for a third successive year, and promptly set about showing the world that fast bowling still has a place in the women’s game, taking 23 wickets at an Economy Rate (4.83) bettered only by Marizanne Kapp (4.72). Brunt and Kapp were in fact the only two bowlers to deliver an Economy Rate of under 5 – a feat no one at all achieved last season – and that despite a huge 8% increase in runs bashed by the batsmen in WBBL03.

Last year’s leading wicket-take Sarah Aley also took 23 wickets, but ranks No. 2 due to a lower Economy Rate; whilst Dane van Niekerk made it to No. 3 with 20 wickets at 5.57, despite playing just 12 games before heading back to South Africa for their international series with India.

The leading non-international bowler was Sam Bates. Another in the long tradition of spinners who started out as fast bowlers, only turning to spin after catastrophic injury threatened to end her career, Bates finished the season with 16 wickets at 5.87, opening the bowling for the Sydney Thunder.

Player Matches Wickets Economy
1. Katherine Brunt (Scorchers) 14 23 4.83
2. Sarah Aley (Sixers) 16 23 6.13
3. Dane van Niekerk (Sixers) 12 20 5.57
4. Rene Farrell (Thunder) 15 17 6.03
5. Sophie Devine (Strikers) 15 17 6.2
6. Sam Bates (Thunder) 14 16 5.87
7. Amanda-Jade Wellington (Strikers) 15 17 6.53
8. Marizanne Kapp (Sixers) 12 12 4.72
9. Nicola Carey (Thunder) 15 17 6.7
10. Lea Tahuhu (Renegades) 13 16 6.34
11. Emma King (Scorchers) 16 15 6
12. Hayley Jensen (Renegades) 13 15 6.05
13. Stafanie Taylor (Thunder) 15 15 6.21
14. Erin Osborne (Stars) 14 15 6.33
15. Maitlan Brown (Renegades) 14 15 6.35
16. Molly Strano (Renegades) 14 14 6.04
17. Kim Garth (Sixers) 14 13 5.86
18. Jemma Barsby (Heat) 13 13 6.07
19. Tahlia McGrath (Strikers) 15 13 6.12
19. Piepa Cleary (Scorchers) 15 13 6.12
21. Megan Schutt (Strikers) 15 12 5.74
22. Heather Graham (Scorchers) 15 14 6.96
23. Sarah Coyte (Sixers) 4 10 5.06
24. Belinda Vakarewa (Thunder) 11 11 5.68
25. Delissa Kimmince (Heat) 14 11 6.04

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

STATS: WBBL Batting Rankings

If you were writing a brief history of WBBL03, you might not even mention Elyse Villani. She didn’t lift the trophy (Ellyse Perry), score the most runs (Prerry, again, with 552), hit the biggest hundred (Ashleigh Gardner’s 114 on the opening weekend v the Stars) or finish the season with the highest Strike Rate (Beth Mooney, at 144). And yet, there she is – at the top of the rankings, having hit almost as many runs as Perry, at a much better Strike Rate.

At Nos. 2 and 3, Beth Mooney and Alyssa Healy also leapfrog Perry at No. 4 thanks to their superior Strike Rates. Mooney in particular will probably look back on this season with some disappointment, after the Heat were narrowly pipped to the semi-finals by the Strikers. (They say the table never lies, but in the battle for 4th place this year it is certainly being somewhat economical with the truth – the Strikers might have finished two points ahead, but only because the Heat lost their final match chasing a little too hard to up their Net Run Rate.) Nonetheless Mooney has taken the opportunity to underline her outstanding performances in the Women’s Ashes T20s and nail-down her spot at the top of the Aussie’s T20 batting order ahead of WWT20 in the West Indies later this year.

The highest-ranking non-international player was “Young Gun” Sophie Molineux at No. 13 – you’d have thought her chances of making WWT20 are pretty-much zero with the Southern Stars so chock-full of batting talent, but it will be interesting to see if they give her a go at some point in any one of the 500 warm-ups they have scheduled over the next few months.

Player Matches Runs Strike Rate
1. Elyse Villani (Scorchers) 16 535 125.88
2. Beth Mooney (Heat) 14 465 143.51
3. Alyssa Healy (Sixers) 16 421 136.68
4. Ellyse Perry (Sixers) 16 552 98.57
5. Rachel Haynes (Thunder) 15 426 120.67
6. Nicole Bolton (Scorchers) 16 482 101.47
7. Ashleigh Gardner (Sixers) 14 347 138.8
8. Susie Bates (Strikers) 15 434 109.59
9. Sophie Devine (Strikers) 15 355 117.54
10. Nat Sciver (Scorchers) 16 339 118.53
11. Amy Satterthwaite (Renegades) 14 368 108.55
12. Lizelle Lee (Stars) 12 349 111.14
13. Sophie Molineux (Renegades) 14 318 116.48
14. Erin Burns (Sixers) 16 285 118.25
15. Alex Blackwell (Thunder) 15 338 95.48
16. Rachel Priest (Thunder) 15 264 118.91
17. Kirby Short (Heat) 14 308 99.67
18. Katie Mack (Stars) 14 291 105.43
19. Mignon du Preez (Stars) 12 269 112.08
20. Hayley Matthews (Hurricanes) 14 297 94.28
21. Tammy Beaumont (Strikers) 15 301 90.39
22. Delissa Kimmince (Heat) 14 229 117.43
23. Jess Cameron (Renegades) 10 238 112.26
24. Georgia Redmayne (Hurricanes) 14 297 86.58
25. Naomi Stalenberg (Thunder) 14 227 112.37

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

WBBL Semi-Final Form Guide – Adelaide Strikers v Sydney Sixers

When: Friday @ 4.10am in the UK

Where: BT Sport

Adelaide Strikers

Batting

In Form

  • Suzie Bates – After bombing in the first two editions of WBBL, coming 7th and last, the Strikers needed a big signing for WBBL03, and the New Zealand captain has not disappointed – scoring 420 runs at a Strike Rate of 110.
  • Sophie Devine – Now in her 3rd season with the Strikers, Devine has had her best WBBL yet – posting 348 runs at 118.

Watch Out For

  • Bridget Patterson – Patterson is 23 now, and dreams of playing internationally have probably long-since sailed – though as 33 year old Sarah Aley would testify, you should never say never – but coming in at 5, she has been making a good habit of hitting a useful quick 20 or 30, to finish the group stages with 213 runs at 112.

Bowling

In Form

  • Amanda-Jade Wellington – With 16 wickets at an Economy Rate of 6.49, Wellington is the Strikers’ leading wicket-taker.
  • Sophie Devine – Emphasising her all-round value, Devine is only 1 wicket behind Wellington, with 15 wickets at 6.29.

Watch Out For

  • Megan Schutt – Schutt might not have taken as many wickets this year as she would have liked, but she has been by far the Strikers most economical bowler, with 11 wickets at 5.85, playing a crucial role in pegging-back the Strikers opponents in the PowerPlay overs.

Sydney Sixers

Batting

In Form

  • Alyssa Healy – With 378 runs (including a century) at a huge Strike Rate of 141, Healy’s numbers mask the fact that she has been a bit hit or miss this season, with a couple of ducks in amongst a number of single-figure scores. However, she has come good at the right time, with 106 and 63 in Sixers last two group games against… the Strikers!
  • Ellyse Perry – Perry has racked-up exactly 500 runs so far in WBBL03, in her usual manner – she starts slowly but makes up for it later. The trick is to get her out for 20 off 30 balls… or she’ll punish you with 50 off 40!

Watch Out For

  • Erin Burns – Burns’ move from the Hurricanes to the Sixers seems to have worked out well for everyone… except the Hurricanes, who have really missed her! With 260 runs at 116, she has been a crucial backstop when the bigger names have struck-out.

Bowling

In Form

  • Dane van Niekerk Marizanne Kapp Sarah Aley – With the Sixers two key bowlers (Dane van Niekerk, with 20 wickets; and Marizanne Kapp, with her unbelievable Economy Rate of 4.72) having both disappeared back to South Africa for international duty, there is a huge burden on Aley to perform in the post-season; but with 18 wickets at 6.37 she has shown that if anyone can step up, she can.
  • Sarah Coyte – Coaxed out of retirement to replace Kapp, Coyte has bowled like she’s never been away – taking 5 wickets in two games, at an Economy Rate of 4.00.

Watch Out For

  • Kim Garth – The Irish bowling all-rounder has mostly had to play second-fiddle to her more established team-mates in this WBBL, filling in her overs here and there, but has still managed to take 10 wickets – that’s (whisper it!) twice as many as a certain “Ellyse Perry” has chalked-up this season, and at a better Economy Rate (6.12 vs 7.08) too!