NEWS: Sophie Ecclestone Wins Cricket Society Award

18 year old Sophie Ecclestone has received this year’s Cricket Society award for Most Promising Young Female Cricketer.

The award, made on the recommendation of Clare Connor, is awarded annually for the young female cricketer who showed the most promise in the preceding 12 months. It has run since 2002, with previous winners including Nat Sciver (2013), Heather Knight (2010) and Katherine Brunt (2004).

While Ecclestone missed last year’s World Cup due to exam commitments, she finished 2017 on a high, helping England draw the women’s Ashes series out in Australia.

She was also leading wicket-taker in Division 1 of the Women’s County Championship, and instrumental in Lancashire “doing the double” last season, winning both the County Championship and the T20 Cup. On the last day of the County Championship she tore through the Warwickshire batting line-up taking 6-12 – the performance that ultimately took them to Championship victory.

The award was presented at yesterday’s Society Lunch and while Sophie unfortunately could not be present to accept it – she is currently in India on England duty – her parents Elaine and Paul were delighted to do so on her behalf.


INTERVIEW: Sussex Development Officer Charlotte Burton – On Sussex’s Shiny New Future & How Much Has Changed ‘Since She Were A Lass!’

When Charlotte Burton was a lass… well… it wasn’t quite “all fields ’round here” but it wasn’t far off!

The Sussex Development Officer started her cricketing journey as a girl in the Sussex pathway back in the 90s, and it was a very different world:

“We trained in the Gilligan Stand at the County Ground, which is now a flooring company next to the pub – it had two lanes and it had wooden flooring, so it was very difficult batting and bowling in there.”

And things didn’t get much better on match-day either:

“We played on a tiny pitch at Roedean School, where if you hit it over the boundary it was ‘6-and-out’ because of the road there!”

Twenty years later, Burton sits in an office at Sussex’s shiny, new HQ of Women’s Cricket – the Aldridge Cricket Academy – and reflects upon how much has changed:

“What the girls have now, compared to when I was playing, is unbelievable and amazing – we are looked after so well – we’ve got use of all the facilities here at the Academy: the gym, the social space, and in the summer the ground outside for training and matches. All our players, from our Under 11s right through to our senior women, train here, and it is an aspiration for our youngsters to see that the senior women train and play here too.”

Thanks to the generosity of Sir Rod Aldridge – the millionaire founder of outsourcing group Capita – girls cricket is going from strength to strength in Sussex.

“We’ve got Under 11s, 12s, 13s, 15s and 17s squads, then the Academy and the women’s [1st XI] team,” Burton explains. “The 11s to the 13s play friendly matches against other counties whilst the 15s and 17s play their Championship and a few T20s.”

But it’s not just about the elite pathway:

“The Aldridge Foundation have given us a large pot of money to go out and work in the community with girls’ cricket. We’ve got 5 hubs for girls 12 and upwards, where they get free coaching from Sussex coaches. It’s softball – they don’t need any experience or equipment – they can just come along and practice their cricket – do some skills and drills and play some fun games; and then if they are not with a club we try to link them up with one.”

A couple of girls have already come through the hubs onto the elite program, where they will hope to one day follow in the footsteps of some of the age-group players who are stepping up to the senior squad this year.

The one whose name precedes her is of course Ellie Robinson – daughter of England Head Coach Mark – but Burton tells us there is plenty of other talent to look out for:

“Ella McCaughan is an outstanding batter and leg-spin bowler, who plays like Sarah Taylor – very natural – and times the ball well.”

“We’ve got Ella Wadey from the Under 17s – she is an all-rounder – more of a batter, but she bowls a bit of seam.”

“Then we’ve got Cassie McCarthy, who is a very quick pace bowler. She was found through the Chance To Shine program when she was 11 years old, and she came into county as a wicket keeper – this is only her 3rd season as a pace bowler but she is probably one of the quickest bowlers we’ve got on the county scene.”

After Sussex’s shock relegation from Div 1 at the end of last season, they will be slumming-it in Div 2 this year, but Burton is sure they will bounce right back:

“No doubt! There is a lot of talent there, from the experienced players to the youngsters coming through. They are so determined to get back into Div 1 next year, and I’ve got every faith in them doing it – they are going to have a great season, I know they will!”

NEWS: Tammy Beaumont, Sarah Taylor & Alex Hartley On The Move For KSL03

Tammy Beaumont, Sarah Taylor and Alex Hartley are all on the move for KSL03 this summer.

Beaumont leaves the Surrey Stars for the Southern Vipers; Taylor moves from the Lancashire Thunder to the Stars, whilst Hartley moves the other way, back to her Lancashire roots, having also re-signed for the county team last season.

Additionally, Jenny Gunn moves from the Yorkshire Diamonds to the Loughborough Lightning, with Beth Langston heading in the opposite direction from the Lightning to the Diamonds.

These moves have been very much directed from “On High”, with the ECB keen to ensure that the Kia Super League remains a balanced competition, perhaps in contrast to the WBBL, where the Hobart Hurricanes struggled last season after losing several key stars under the more “free market” system being pursued in Australia.

KSL General Manager Jo Kirk said: “The latest player movements are to ensure the best balance between the six sides and to maintain a fair and competitive competition with the over-arching principle of trying to ensure a best versus best competition.”

Meanwhile Tammy Beaumont told CRICKETher: “It’s not personal choice – the ECB allocate the England players. I’m sad to be leaving the Stars but it is exciting to join a new team. Even though I’m a 27-year-old England player, it is still very nerve-wracking walking in to a new team with a lot of faces I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to it, especially getting to rejoin Suzie Bates who I played with at Adelaide Strikers and Kent.”

At his press conference earlier this week, England Head Coach Mark Robinson spoke of his frustration with the lack of opportunities for up-coming players in KSL, referencing Bryony Smith’s drop down from her preferred opening role at the Stars with the arrival there of Lizelle Lee in KSL02.

Sarah Taylor’s move away from the Thunder solves one such problem for England – creating an opportunity for Academy keeper Ellie Threlkeld to step behind the stumps there full time; but creates exactly the same dilemma at the Stars, where England’s other young prospect, Rhianna Southby, will now be the one warming a bench instead of getting valuable experience out in the middle.


NEWS: England Rest Stars, Call Up Alice Davidson-Richards, Bryony Smith & Katie George For India

England will fly out to India next week for 3 ODIs and a T20 tri-series also involving Australia without two of their biggest stars, with coach Mark Robinson taking the rare opportunity of a non-Championship ODI series and some fairly inconsequential T20s to take a look at some of the talent waiting in the wings.

Sarah Taylor and Katherine Brunt are rested, the latter having picked up a back injury in WBBL, with three potential new caps called up to the squad for the first time: Kent all-rounder Alice Davidson-Richards, Surrey opening batsman Bryony Smith, and Hampshire seamer Katie George.

Smith stands to be the first batsman to debut for England for nearly five years, since Lauren Winfield won her first cap in 2013; and given the schedule of potentially 8 matches (if England reach the tri-series final) all look likely to play a role at some stage on this tour.

20-year-old Smith made her mark as one to watch with the Surrey Stars in KSL01, scoring 94 runs at a Strike Rate of 102; whilst Kent vice-captain Davidson-Richards first came to national attention with a Player of the Match performance in the Roses match in KSL02 – scoring 22* and taking 3-20 as the Yorkshire Diamonds beat the Lancashire Thunder by 28 runs in front of the TV cameras at Headingley.

18-year-old George is perhaps the most surprising selection – a line-and-length seamer, she has had two seasons with the Southern Vipers, but has bowled only 18 overs across the two editions of the Super League, taking 4 wickets at an Economy Rate of 6.6; and she got carted all over Brighton and Hove by Sophie Luff and Stafanie Taylor in last year’s KSL final, but Mark Robinson liked the spirit she showed nonetheless, telling the media: “She went round the park, but she kept running in fearlessly and bowling quick.”

Full Squad

  • Heather Knight (Captain, Berkshire)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
  • Kate Cross (Lancashire)
  • Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent)
  • Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
  • Tash Farrant (Kent)
  • Katie George (Hampshire)
  • Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)
  • Alex Hartley (Lancashire)
  • Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire)
  • Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
  • Nat Sciver (Surrey)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
  • Bryony Smith (Surrey)
  • Fran Wilson (Middlesex)
  • Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

ANALYSIS: Should Keepers Stand In Front Of The Stumps For Run Outs?

There is a fascinating video on the ECB’s web site which asks (and attempts to answer) the question: Should keepers stand in front or behind the stumps for run outs? (HT Joe Ashdown)

The coaches at the ECB’s performance centre up in Loughborough set up their cameras and stopwatches, and with the help of Hawk-Eye and a reconfigured bowling machine acting as the fielder, attempted to get a definitive answer.

You can watch the whole thing at the link above, but the TLDW* is that standing in front of the stumps is… well… it depends!!

The key to it… and the video actually slightly talks-around this fairly simple point… is that you have to know exactly where your stumps are – not vaguely; not roughly; but exactly!

There are two reasons for this:

  1. You need to know if the ball is already going on to directly hit the stumps, in which case you need to basically leave it alone – nothing beats the speed of the ball through the air, and if you interrupt it then you lose all the benefit of those few milliseconds you bought from standing in front.
  2. If the ball is missing the stumps, you need to be perfectly positioned to guide it on in a single movement – if you can’t do this in one smooth, gliding arc, then it actually becomes two movements and again the advantage is lost as the batsman makes their ground.

What the video shows fairly conclusively is knowing exactly where your stumps are, and perfecting the art of guiding the missing ball back on in a single arc, is really hard – even for a seasoned pro, it takes years of practice. The video’s final conclusion is that, even in the professional game, “normal” fielders at the bowler’s end (typically the bowler himself) should always stand behind the stumps; but that the very best ‘keepers could indeed buy some advantage by standing in front.

This has some interesting implications for young ‘keepers in the women’s domestic game, as it touches on the slightly awkward question of what the Women’s County Championship and Kia Super League are for? Are they competitions in their own right, where winning is all? Or does that come secondary to their other role as nurseries for future England players?

England’s Academy and pathway coaches are clearly coaching players to stand in front – and rightly so, because one day England will need one of them to step into the gloves [Ed: err…?] of Sarah Taylor.

But for a young ‘keeper playing the County Championship or KSL, if the goal is to win “this” match right now, they should probably be standing behind, because this is the optimal choice unless you’ve had the years of professional practice to perfect the techniques required to stand in front… which the young (at best, semi-pro) ‘keepers in domestic cricket have not!

It isn’t only wicket keepers who face these dilemmas. Should a young fast bowler, hoping one day to be bowling out the Aussies in the Women’s Ashes, focus on pace, even if it means conceding a few wides or no balls? Her England pathway coach would no doubt say yes; but her county coach might well prefer her to take a foot off the gas and keep the runs down in “this” match going on right now!

To be fair, these same issues arise as well in The Other Game but that is what they have 2nd XI cricket for. We have no real equivalent, and so the County Champs and Super League play both roles – competition and nursery – and that means there is no easy answer.


* TLDW – Too Long; Didn’t Watch