OPINION: Alyssa Healy’s Sporting Gesture Shows The Way For Australian Cricket

Ravi Nair reflects upon a moment from today’s tri-series final between England and Australia, which took place earlier today in Mumbai

About mid-way through England’s innings, as they were attempting to chase down Australia’s mammoth total of 209, Amy Jones hit the ball deep and was called back by Nat Sciver for a second run. She never looked like making it; the ball hit wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy’s gloves and almost simultaneously the stumps were knocked askew. But Healy turned away glumly and shook her head at her colleague, Ellyse Perry.

The umpires were baffled, as they were prepared to give the run-out without even going upstairs, but Healy refused to appeal, saying she had knocked off the bails with her gloves just before the ball hit them and she then knocked the stumps sideways. She didn’t have time to go for the keeper’s back-up, of gathering a stump in her hands and uprooting it.

Jones was halfway to the Pavilion when the umpires called for a television review (perhaps some of the other Australians had instinctively appealed, as most of us spectators did) and, after three long minutes, confirmed what Healy had said. Jones’ innings continued, even though it did not eventually make a difference to the outcome of the match.

Australians apparently like their sporting heroes to play “hard but fair”. After and this action of Healy’s, I’d suggest they would have been better off following the fortunes of their national team in India, as opposed to the one in South Africa.

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MATCH REPORT: Australian Practice Makes Perfect in Tri-Series Final

By Ravi Nair in Mumbai

Australia (209-4) comprehensively beat England (152-9) by 57 runs

A phrase apocryphally attributed to Gary Player goes: “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.” An earlier version of the phrase attributes luck to knowledge, instead. Today Australia’s practice and experience came together to show that they deserved all the luck they got, as they comprehensively beat England, despite batting first.

England’s chase eventually fizzled out as they chased Australia’s record T20 score of 209, a total powered by an unbeaten 88 from Meg Lanning, who does not have an average in this tournament, having not been dismissed throughout.

But practice, and perfection, showed up most in the difference between the fielding of the two sides since, once the batters got their hitting hats on, the bowling often seemed irrelevant. Alas for England, their newest players, Bryony Smith and Alice Davidson-Richards, were responsible for most of England’s fielding lapses, giving away boundaries and, on one occasion, letting a catch through the hands that might have made a more substantial difference to the result. Smith, in particular, had a tournament to forget, with both these fielding slips, and her lack of runs, proving a weak point for this young and developing England side.

As per usual, Australia’s Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney opened positively and took advantage of England’s slightly slipshod fielding. Then Tash Farrant had a huge slice of luck as Mooney was judged out to a delivery that, upon reflection, was clearly missing the leg stump. Later in the over though, the umpire didn’t make the same mistake, recognising the movement she got and rejecting an LBW shout for a delivery of prodigious movement, bowled from outside leg, pitching on middle, and turning so sharply it was missing leg.

Ash Gardner took full advantage of her let-off to join Healy in a stand that helped set up Australia’s monstrous total. Farrant lost her line entirely when put in on only her second over against the two “set” bats (it’s OK to call a batter “set” once she’s faced six deliveries in a T20, right?)

Luckily Gunn, taking pace off the ball, but not guile, induced a top edge that did for Gardner, and then had Healy going far outside leg and cutting onto her own stumps. But that was the last consolation England had, with Lanning and Elyse Villani joining each other at the crease.

Villani clearly has talent, and has worked on it over the last few years, making the most of what she has and turning herself into a bat that Australia can rely on. This is not to say that Lanning doesn’t work hard: it is just that when Lanning plays she seems to define the notion of timing, of using the crease, of easily making the bowlers look impotent. And she does it all with a cold-eyed look that could, you imagine, outstare the sun itself.

She put the English fielders under even more pressure than before, scoring fours apparently at will, down the ground and square of the wicket. Her timing and placement are so good she doesn’t seem to need the “360 degree” tricks of players like Tammy Beaumont. She never needed to sweep, or ramp a delivery; why would you when you can cut, loft and pull the ball for four?

When Villani finally got the opportunity to join her and get her eye in, we saw a slightly more conventional T20 innings, with two reverse swept fours followed by a conventional one to take advantage of the hole made when the fielder moved from fine leg to deep third man. In short, for fans of runs, runs, runs, this was paradise.

Dani Hazell was standing in as England captain for Heather Knight, who has a hamstring twinge. Knight’s form has not been such this series to believe that England missed her runs, but they may have missed her presence in the field: after all, the only match in their tour that Australia have lost is when Lanning didn’t play and Haynes was in charge. No matter what bowling changes Hazell made, Lanning gave us a masterclass in clean, frustratingly good, scoring. Hazell used up, perforce, her “gun” bowlers, Sciver and Gunn, through the middle overs, not because they went for fewer runs, but because they at least had the experience to know when they were up against an irresistible force and treat bowling triumph and disaster just the same.

The match did not involve India, so the free-to-enter crowd in the North Stand was down to a few hundred, if that. But the BCCI had helpfully brought in a number of school age spectators on an outing who took up a substantial amount of the West Stand near the Pavilion, and ensured the game was not played out to lone voices shouting in the wilderness.

Lanning and Villani, between them, showed how to bat first and set a target, to the extent that, even though Villani was out right at the last, and Lanning wanted to push the score along so much she actually forgot herself and hit a six, they still reached a record 209, now the highest score ever in a women’s T20 international.

So England were up against it right from the start. Here is where practice, or experience at least, again showed the difference between the two sides. Danni Wyatt started off, as always, brightly, like an Energizer Bunny on a 9 volt battery. She reminds one of the indomitable Gauls who populate the Asterix comics: nothing can hold her down. Until, of course, the inevitable happened and a lofted drive that should have gone straight through mid-on and to the boundary, was actually clasped by a leaping Lanning. Yes, that woman again, who ensured Wyatt’s adventure was cut off after 34 runs from 17 deliveries.

Even before that England showed that luck was not on their side, any more than experience and, maybe, big-match temperament. In the very first over Wyatt sent back the hapless Bryony Smith, who could only lose her footing disastrously and watch on all fours, as though nailed to the pitch, as she was run out by a delighted Jess Jonassen for a diamond duck. Tammy Beaumont, attempting to be positive, was out to the first ball she faced, nicking off while attempting an expansive drive against Ellyse Perry, who may not have the pace she once had, but can never be taken lightly.

Once Wyatt was out it was all down to Nat Sciver. Or could Amy Jones, perhaps, prove up to the task as well? Jones seems to have modelled herself on Sarah Taylor, standing up to the stumps at every opportunity when keeping and also using drives and flicks along the ground to get her innings going. Unfortunately for her, and England, while this technique, using a closed face of the bat for the most part, is very useful in ODIs, it doesn’t always answer the questions asked by a T20 chase. Eventually, after an innings that showed she has the ability to improvise, and talent to boot, she fell trying to push the rate along in an increasingly desperate chase, metaphorically opening the face of the bat and falling to a top edge to Villani at fine leg as she attempted a paddle sweep.

Even Sciver was not in a position, single-handedly, to somehow make a realistic chase of it for England. Forced to keep running quick singles and twos as the sharp Australian fielding relentlessly cut off the boundaries, she was red in the face and puffing by the time she reached her deserved half century. She was out, immediately after, trying to score in boundaries so she didn’t have to run.

After that it was a regular procession of wickets, with the admirable and excellent Megan Schutt easily having the best of the match figures (3-14), as England’s chase slowly deflated and they wound up 57 runs short, with just one wicket in hand. Schutt, for what it is worth, has not been called upon to bat even once in this Australian campaign, such has been the dominance of their top and middle order bats.

Of Australia’s newer additions Sophie Molineux and Delissa Kimmince have both had some success in wicket-taking, but for the most part they haven’t yet shown that they are up to the standards set by Perry, Schutt and Gardner, among others. For England, Davidson-Richards and Smith will probably want to forget this tournament altogether.

Eventually the ability to keep a cool head and perhaps the luck that comes with practice, ensured a comfortable win for Australia. England shouldn’t feel disgraced, but they know it is going to take a lot more practice before they can get as “lucky” as Australia. In the meantime, three slightly less pressured ODIs against India beckon. For Australia, Lanning can bask in the glory of the Player-of-the-Match award, well deserved, and Schutt in the equally well-deserved Player-of-the-Tournament award. They earned it.

FEATURE: Cricket Taking Off At South Hampstead High School

In the wake of England’s World Cup victory last summer, one of the questions that was asked a lot was: would it encourage more girls to take up cricket?

For one school in London, the answer is an undoubted yes.

South Hampstead High School has recently reintroduced girls’ cricket to its curriculum, after many years of rounders being the main summer sport, and Head of PE Lucy Kench says that the girls are loving it: “We’ve had requests from girls to do more cricket, which is great. The success of the World Cup was a big thing for us.”

Back in the 1930s, South Hampstead High School was a hub of girls’ cricket; England’s Netta Rheinberg learned her cricket there. But somewhere along the way cricket was replaced by rounders – until last year when, following the Department for Education’s decision to remove rounders from the national GCSE curriculum, the decision was made to revert back to cricket.

Why? Lucy explains: “With rounders there’s not a lot of progression. If you play first team rounders at school, where do you then go and play rounders? There’s not very many opportunities.”

South Hampstead is also part of the Girls Day School Trust, a group of 24 leading independent schools, and in GDST schools across the country the feeling is that it is important to provide girls with more sporting options, beyond traditional ‘girls sports’ like hockey and netball. The key aim is to keep as many girls as possible actively engaged in sport in their teenage years and beyond; a range of sporting options is seen as the best way to sustain girls’ interest in sport.

At South Hampstead an indoor cricket club has run across the spring term. This will continue outdoors in the summer term, when Middlesex CCC will provide the girls with coaching. There is also a London GDST Cricket Hub which organises sessions for the girls with ex-professional female cricketers.

Girls Cricket at SHHS

Girls Cricket at South Hampstead High School

Girls from SHHS will also be attending the “MCC Women’s Day” at Lords next month alongside around 4,000 other schoolchildren to watch Middlesex Women play their first ever match on the main ground at Lord’s.

Generally the switch to cricket away from rounders has gone down well, but one issue has been getting teachers on board with the change. “Some people were really against it to begin with,” Lucy explains. “For some teachers who have taught rounders for lots of years, they find it very difficult to adapt the game.”

But GDST teachers have recently benefited from CPD training from Lydia Greenway, who runs nationwide coaching organisation Cricket for Girls and is helping them to understand the best ways to teach cricket to their pupils. “One of the barriers or challenges is getting teachers up to speed with the game of cricket, but also breaking down the barriers that it’s a complicated game, that it’s a technical game,” Lydia says. “And actually empowering them, giving them the confidence, and the skills and drills for them to deliver lessons. They’ve responded really well.”

CRICKETher recently attended a session at South Hampstead and the enthusiasm for cricket displayed by the girls – most of whom had never played cricket before this term – was evident. When asked what they most enjoyed about cricket, answers included: “Being in a team and working together”, and “You work in a team but you keep your own space, it’s nice because it’s not full on tackling and it’s more fun than other sports.”

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.

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* TLDW – Too Long; Didn’t Watch