NEWS: England v South Africa v New Zealand Tri-Series Standings

Team Played Won Lost NRR
England 3 2 1 2.76
New Zealand 2 1 1 0.3
South Africa 3 1 2 -2.95

With 2 matches to go on Thursday at Bristol, England are currently in the driving seat to make next weekend’s final, despite losing to South Africa today, mainly because of their huge Net Run Rate advantage.

The remaining games are South Africa v New Zealand and England v New Zealand, and depending on the results, anything could happen in theory.

For example, if South Africa beat New Zealand and New Zealand then beat England, everyone will have played 4 and won 2, bringing it all down to Net Run Rate.

Obviously being on the wrong end of two huge totals on Day 1 makes NRR a bit of a long-shot for South Africa – but it is certainly mathematically possible!

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POST-MATCH: Sune Plays Fast And Luus For South Africa

Sune Luus had not had a great tour of England up until today. Once a leg-spinner who could bat a bit, she hardly bowls any more and is now in the side primarily for her batting, but with the bat on this tour before today, she had 3 ducks and had a highest score of 3 not-out – when she came to the crease, the England bowlers must have been thinking “walking wicket”, and not without reason!

“It hasn’t been a great tour,” Luus admits. “But it is really important to always stay in a positive mindset – I think on a tour like this you can’t lose your head!”

With England perhaps 10-20 short of a “good” score – Anya Shrubsole reckoned 170-180 was par the other day, though it isn’t quite such a road today – the South Africans had definitely given themselves a shot by restricting England to 160.

The early loss of Wolvaardt for a duck in the first over brought Luus to the crease early; but actually even earlier than she had been anticipating coming into the match – Stacy Lackay was due to come in at 3, but when she was taken poorly Luus found herself unexpectedly promoted and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Luus and for South Africa.

“I was due to come in at 7 or 8 but Stacey was ill – I’ve always been on my best when I don’t know I’m batting 3, so I think we need to do that more often – just don’t tell me!!”

So what did she do differently?

“Nothing special,” she says, “just focusing more!”

Luus and Lizelle Lee took South Africa past the hundred mark, never letting the required rate get away from them. They rotated the strike almost perfectly, Luus facing just one ball less than Lee going into the 13th over, but it was Lee who was doing the bulk of the scoring – 68 off 36 balls, to Luus’ 40 off 35.

Did that mean the pressure was on when Lee was dismissed on Anya Shrubsole’s return to the attack?

“No,” she says. “It is really important to back the players who are coming in next or you are going to put all the pressure on yourself and get bogged down and won’t get runs.”

And mentally freeing herself from that pressure seems to have worked a wonder – her strike rate went from 114 before Lee was out to 135 after, and even though Sophie Ecclestone produced a bit of a wonder-over, taking 3-2 in the 18th, Luus brought it home to finish the job by hitting Katherine Brunt for 4-4-6 in the 20th.

“I just stayed positive throughout this tour,” Luus concludes. “And I’m lucky it came off today.”

And perhaps she did get a little lucky – she was dropped on 25 by Jenny Gunn, and there was a big LBW shout to Hazell which TV showed was going to hit the stumps.

But T20 cricket can be very much about riding your luck – you still have to make that luck count, and Sune Luus did that here at Taunton to keep South Africa in with a shout in this Tri-Series.

INTERVIEW: Laura Wolvaardt On The Ultimate Dilemma – Medicine Or Cricket?

The South Africans have just been punished for over 450 runs in a day, as first New Zealand and then England broke the record T20 totals, but Laura Wolvaardt has bigger things on her mind as we meet her on a sunny day in Taunton.

“By the end of the year I have to decide whether I’m going to start with a medicine degree or continue with cricket,” she says.

The South African opener made her debut in February 2016 against England, having been catapulted into the national side aged just 16. “It did happen a bit quickly,” she tells us. “I went to 1 or 2 national camps and then I went on my first tour.” Asked whether she missed out on a “normal” teenage life she says: “I was never the major party type in high school. I like my life how it is now. My friends are my teammates.”

Since that debut Wolvaardt has already made waves on the international scene. Against Ireland in July 2016 she became the youngest ever centurion for South Africa, male or female – we were there to see her maiden international century – and she hit a half-century for her side in last summer’s World Cup semi-final, a match South Africa ultimately lost to England.

Reflecting on that game Wolvaardt describes the memory as “bittersweet. We got so close and you think about all the what could have beens. We could have played that final and played at Lords and who knows what could have happened then? But I try to move forwards and not dwell on that too much.”

180615_131-Laura Wolvaardt-SA

(Photo copyright Don Miles)

More recently she enjoyed a stint playing for Brisbane Heat in the WBBL, which she describes as an “amazing experience. We were treated just like the men’s sides and there were crowds at the games.”

“It was the first time I left home by myself for longer than a few weeks. It was weird playing in a new environment at first but I made friends there quite quickly. The people were super-friendly and my team mates were great so I fitted right in. It wasn’t as difficult as I expected.”

It was all part of her ambition to develop her T20 game. Wolvaardt is a natural in the longer formats – oh that South Africa might yet play another women’s Test – but her style is less suited to the mile-a-minute pace of Twenty20. What exactly has she been working on? “It’s all about more options -getting more shots into my game, and getting that strike rate up.”

And yet it might all be in vain as the biggest decision of her life awaits.

The 19 year old finished school last year but agreed with Stellenbosch University that she could interrupt her studies for 12 months before commencing her medical degree. However, Wolvaardt says that it will probably not be possible to continue holding the place beyond one year.

So what are her options?

“I could decline the medicine and play cricket for a few years, but if I want to study medicine I’d have to reapply, and it’s always a bit of a risk because it’s very difficult to get in back home, so once it’s there you don’t really want to give your spot away.”

“I could study a BSc in Medical Sciences or something while I’m playing cricket, to keep me busy.”

“Or I start medicine next year and I try to juggle the cricket. I don’t think we have that many tours next year so maybe it could work out, and then I could try and postpone again. But I don’t know if they’d let me.”

“I don’t think there’s a way that I can do the full 6 years of medicine right now and play full-on cricket as well. Second year medicine is pretty hectic.”

“Medicine has always been the dream. And I have to think about after cricket, because if I study something else than that’s what I’m going to do when I’m 30.”

“I don’t know,” she concludes. “I don’t know.”

The dilemma is enhanced by the fact that, compared with countries like England and Australia, earnings through cricket are still lagging behind. The new MOU currently being negotiated by Cricket South Africa is intended to go some way to closing this gap but as yet the outcome remains unclear.

For the CSA administrators they need look no further than Laura Wolvaardt to understand what is really at stake in those negotiations. Because what seems clear is that, even in this era of increased professionalisation, our sport is at risk of losing some of its brightest stars. There is no better or more powerful argument for equitable pay.

NEWS: Sky Sports And Women’s Sport Trust Aim For Sell-Out #ShowUp Fixture At Taunton

The second day of the England v New Zealand v South Africa T20 tri-series takes place at Taunton on Saturday, and Sky Sports and the Women’s Sport Trust are joining forces with the ECB to encourage people to #ShowUp and sell out the fixture.

CRICKETher understands that the Taunton matches on Saturday are already nearly sold out, but advance tickets are still currently available from the Somerset CC website, priced at just £10 per adult ticket for the whole day and £1 for children under 19.

The Sky Sports Cricket channel is also dedicating the whole day to women’s cricket programming, beginning at 6am and going through until 9.20pm. Live coverage of the first T20 between England and and South Africa begins at 12.30pm.

The day forms part of the #ShowUp campaign, launched earlier this summer by Sky Sports and the Women’s Sport Trust to encourage more people to watch, attend and play women’s sport. Jo Bostock and Tammy Parlour, Co-Founders of the WST, have described the aim of the campaign has helping to “prove the value and appeal of women’s sport. It is the ultimate expression of people power.”

If you’ll be at the ground or watching on TV then do use the hashtag #ShowUp. We’d love to see you there!

POST-MATCH: England v South Africa T20 – New Who?

Twenty20 cricket… like life… comes at you fast!

Just 4 hours ago, we were reflecting on a world-record-breaking performance by New Zealand versus South Africa – a magnificent century by Suzie Bates setting up a total of 216 for the White Ferns at Taunton.

England were still back at their hotel while the Kiwis were batting – Anya Shrubsole telling us afterwards that she was watching on her laptop at the time:

“Half way through the New Zealand innings I thought: Should I shut the laptop and not watch it, because I’ve got to bowl on this later?”

“But it is good to watch and see how the teams are doing and how the pitch is playing, and it was pretty evident from the start it was an absolute belter.”

Belter or not, 216 was a clear statement of intent from New Zealand – they know they disappointed at the World Cup here in England last summer; and they are determined to go all the way at the World T20 this year.

So they laid down a marker.

216.

And then England happened!

Heather Knight won the toss and had no hesitation:

“It was always going to be a bat first pitch,” says Shrubsole.

But pitches don’t break records, batsmen do:

“Tammy [Beaumont] and Danni [Wyatt] up front batted amazing; and then Nat [Sciver] and Katherine [Brunt] as well.”

Indeed it is easy to overlook Brunt’s and Sciver’s contributions – after all, by the time Beaumont was out England already had 185 – more than enough to win the match – they could have relaxed a bit… fired up a chilled-out playlist on Spoitfy… made cocktails…

But Sciver’s 33 off 15 balls, and even more so Brunt’s 42 off 16 balls at a Strike Rate of 263, were what turned a big total into a record-breaking one of 250.

So how do you go out and bowl on a pitch where 600 runs have already been scored that day? And not just bowl, but bowl 2 maidens in the powerplay, finishing 3 powerplay overs with figures of 3-2-2-0?

“I don’t know if I approached [bowling] differently to the others,” says Shrubsole. “I just tried to bowl a heavy length and bowl it straight and hope that it swung, and the swing helps – it gives you a bit more margin for error.”

It is typically modest, but truth be told, she was magnificent – England might be a batting team these days, but there will be days when they need to be a bowling team too – when the batting doesn’t quite click, or the pitches aren’t quite the “belter” this was – and she showed today she is absolutely integral to that.

But today was about the batters, as Shrubsole admits:

“Some of the bowlers might have had their pride hurt a little bit, but I challenge anyone who came here today to go away and say that wasn’t a thoroughly entertaining day of cricket. If you ask people who watch the games they want to see high-scoring games – they want to see 4s, they want to see 6s.”

And that’s what England gave them!

New Zealand?

New Who?

OPINION: New Zealand Laying Down A Marker In Women’s Twenty20

This game wasn’t billed as the big occasion. On Saturday they are expecting a full house at Taunton; today, we had about 1600 people in to watch the first game of the double-header. The press box was almost empty when the game started. But we were here – and it was worth it.

New Zealand have made waves against Ireland in the last few weeks, but this was different. “We’ve got to be better than we’ve been against the top teams,” Suzie Bates told me when I spoke to her at the weekend. South Africa fall into that category. In Kapp and Ismail they probably have the best pace attack in the world.

Today, New Zealand took them to pieces.

Shabnim Ismail went for 18 off her first over. Raisibe Ntozakhe’s first ball of the day was punished over midwicket for the 50th six of Sophie Devine’s career. Marizanne Kapp had been economical up top; such was Bates’ eye in by the end of the innings that even she was punished with a six in the final over.

“Bates and Devine are seeing the ball like a watermelon,” said Dane van Niekerk after the match. “The striking is unbelievable. They are smacking it so hard at the moment.”

A few years ago South Africa’s final total of 150 would have been plenty to see them over the line. Not any more. Women’s T20 is changing, and New Zealand are at the forefront of that charge.

After the game, Bates talked about a “brand” of cricket: “You can sometimes fall short and not reach it, but with the type of players that we have, you have to encourage playing like that [brand].”

Today wasn’t just about one game of cricket. The White Ferns are setting down a marker. In Bates and Devine they have the most mouthwatering opening partnership in world cricket. Amelia Kerr is fresh from hitting a double century; we didn’t even get to see her or Amy Satterthwaite bat today. One of the best T20 batsmen in the world, Rachel Priest, cannot even make it into this squad.

If T20 is a batsman’s game then it is New Zealand, surely, who must be favourites to take home that T20 trophy come November. And it was today that their campaign really started.

Today was a day of records. Suzie Bates’ first century in T20Is. Bates overtaking Charlotte Edwards record for most career runs in T20Is. And of course the record score in women’s T20Is.

We were lucky to be there to see it.