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.

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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.

NEWS: Farrant & George In England Squad For T20 Tri-Series

England have announced their squad for the T20 Tri-Series with New Zealand and South Africa, which begins in Taunton on Wednesday, with further matches in Taunton on Saturday and Bristol next Thursday, culminating in a final at Chelmsford on Sunday-week.

The full squad includes Kent’s Tash Farrant, who last played for England in the T20 Tri-Series with Australia and India earlier this year, and who took 3-30 for the Academy against New Zealand last week.

Hampshire’s Katie George and Yorkshire’s Lauren Winfield are also included for the games in Bristol on Thursday.

But this is largely a squad built on experience, designed to win psychologically important matches leading into the World T20, so there is no room for in-form batsmen Bryony Smith and Sophia Dunkley, or Sussex seamer Freya Davies.

Coach Mark Robinson said:

“We saw some excellent individual performances in [the Academy] games – Sophia Dunkley hit 91 against New Zealand, Emma Lamb and Freya Davies have bowled well and Bryony Smith made an outstanding 92 yesterday against South Africa.”

“There’s a growing number of players beginning to make cases for selection which is a reflection of the depth that’s starting to emerge and that’s exciting.”

Full Squad:

  • Heather Knight (Berkshire)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
  • Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
  • Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
  • Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
  • Tash Farrant (Kent)
  • Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)
  • Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire)
  • Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
  • Laura Marsh (Kent)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
  • Nat Sciver (Surrey)
  • Sarah Taylor (Sussex)
  • Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

Plus:

  • Katie George (Hampshire)
  • Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)

DEBRIEF: T20 Cup – Middlesex Go Clear At The Top

Div 1 Played Won Lost NRR Points
Middlesex 4 4 0 1.13 16
Warwickshire 4 3 1 1.6 12
Lancashire 4 3 1 0.49 12
Sussex 4 2 2 0.75 8
Kent 4 2 2 0.56 8
Nottinghamshire 4 2 2 -0.55 8
Worcestershire 4 1 3 -0.56 4
Surrey 4 1 3 -1.75 4
Yorkshire 4 0 4 -1.65 0

In the weekend’s T20 Cup action, Middlesex went clear at the top of Div 1 with wins over Lancashire and Worcestershire at Kidderminster.

Against Worcestershire, Gayatri Gole took 3-20 as Worcestershire were bowled out off the final ball with 111 on the board. Amara Carr and Maia Bouchier then both hit 34 as Middlesex knocked-off the runs with almost 5 overs to spare. Then against Lancashire, Naomi Dattani (40) and Carr (27) put on 77 for the first wicket to set up a total of 132-8, which Lancashire fell 9 short of in the chase.

In the other match at Kidderminster, Eve Jones was the only Lancashire batsman to make it to double-figures versus Worcestershire, but her 62* got them to 105-7, and although Worcestershire went the distance they finished lite on 99-9, with left-arm quick Millie Hodge taking 3-14 to add to the 4-12 she took against Middlesex to complete a memorable day for her on her senior debut.

Meanwhile at Harrogate, Teresa Graves top-scored twice, with 44 and 45, as Notts picked up wins against Warwickshire and Yorkshire; whilst Warwickshire beat Yorkshire in a rain-affected game to consign the winless White Roses to the bottom of the table.

Finally in Div 1, there was a win apiece for Surrey, Sussex and Kent on a very chilly day at Billingshurst.

In Div 2, Hampshire and Wales moved clear of the pack in the two promotion spots, with 4 wins from 4 – Rachel Priest hitting a century for Wales against Gloucestershire.

MATCH REPORT: Honours Even In Cold War At Billingshurst

Under overcast skies at Billingshurst CC an uneventful day turned into a thriller in the third, rain-reduced match of the day as Sussex successfully chased down their DLS target of 92 in 11 overs.

It left honours even amongst the 3 teams – Kent, Surrey and Sussex – with a win apiece across the day.

Sussex v Kent

In a low-scoring match first up it was Kent who triumphed, Sussex falling 9 runs of their 70-run target despite an unbeaten 20 from Chiara Green.

Captain Georgia Adams was the first Sussex batsman to depart in the third over, caught at extra cover off the bowling of Arlene Kelly directly after hitting a fluent four straight down the ground.

It was to be Sussex’s only boundary of the innings as, despite Green’s best efforts at the other end,  her partners came in and departed with regularity, none making it into double figures.

Green herself survived several chances as she attempted to push the score on, skying it several times and being put down by Kelly at mid-on, but she did at least manage to do what her teammates failed to and rotate the strike.

She ultimately ran out of partners as Sussex were all out for 61 in the 19th over.

Earlier Green had also chimed in with the ball, taking 2 wickets in 2 balls to put Kent at 29-5 and leaving poor Kirsty Dymond in the unenviable position of walking in to face a hat-trick ball in her first senior T20 match for Kent.

She successfully defended it, however, and hung around long enough to make 9 runs, providing good support to Izzy Cloke (21).

Cloke top-scored for the visitors, but was eventually out caught by Georgia Adams at long on as young 16-year-old Cassidy McCarthy chimed in with 3 wickets for 10 runs to finish off the Kent tail.

Surrey v Kent

Kent extended their winning streak to the toss in the second game, opting to bowl against Surrey.

Kirstie White was dropped first ball as a thick edge went through the hands of Jenny Jackson at backward point and down to the boundary for 4. Two singles and another 4 driven through mid on followed as Surrey took 10 from the opening over.

White and Alex Travers – who was also dropped by Jackson, albeit a much tougher chance – then took the score on to 28-0 after 5 overs, with some smart running between the wickets, something which had been conspicuously absent in the first match of the day.

The opening partnership was broken when White was out caught behind off a thin edge off Grace Gibbs for 23 in the 7th over, and Gibbs then comprehensively bowled Travers in her next over for 14.

Aylish Cranstone made 10 before she was bowled by Jackson with the score on 61 in the 12th over, as Kent began to take charge, with 3 run-outs contributing to Surrey finishing on a disappointing 91-9.

Chelsey Rowson and Phoebe Franklin got Kent off to a good start, taking 17 off the first 4 overs before Franklin was given out LBW trying to sweep Hannah Jones. Rowson followed soon after – brilliantly caught behind by Kirstie White diving low to her right, standing back to the pace of Molly Sellars.

Izzy Cloke made 10 but was bowled by young leg-spinner Danielle Gregory just as she looked like getting started; and Gregory then added the wicket of Lauren Griffiths, who returned to the pavilion shaking her head having been adjudged LBW to a ball which appeared to barely brush her pads. There was no doubt however about Gregory’s third – Grace Gibbs bowled for 11, leaving Kent 47-5 in the 12th over.

Jenny Jackson became Gregory’s 4th victim, another LBW; whilst at the other end Megan Belt was bowled middle stump by Mary Ali, attempting a premeditated ramp – a shot that looks great when it comes off, but leaves you looking like a bit of a chump when it doesn’t!

Debutant Kirsty Dymond was left fuming, having been run out after a mix up with fellow newbie Grace Scrivens, leaving Kent needing 16 off the last two overs with 2 wickets in hand.

7 off the penultimate over meant 9 off the last bowled by Eva Gray… or 8 if Kent could get them without losing a wicket. Scrivens and Arlene Kelly ran hard every ball; but they fell just one short in the end, finishing 90-8 as Surrey celebrated.

Sussex v Surrey

In the third and final game of the day, played in conditions so cold that Sussex captain Georgia Adams opted to field wearing a hoodie, Surrey won the toss but once again batted first.

Kirstie White again looked in fine touch across the powerplay overs, stroking Tara Norris’s first ball through backward point for a boundary, but was subsequently adjudged LBW to Chiara Green in the 7th over.

Green then chimed in with 2 more wickets including another LBW to remove Eva Gray, but by that point the rain was coming down and the umpires called a halt to proceedings with Surrey’s score 74-3 after 11 overs.

The covers were put on but the rain eventually eased enough to allow play to resume, the necessary DLS calculations indicating that Sussex needed to hit 92 off 11 overs to win the game.

It looked a ridiculous target – the DLS formula once again proving questionable as far as women’s county cricket goes – but Sussex somehow found the panache they had lacked earlier in the day and chased down the required runs to win by 7 wickets.

INTERVIEW: Mark Robinson Reflects On South Africa Series Win

England coach Mark Robinson was full of praise for his team after yesterday’s series win against South Africa at Canterbury, and particularly centurion Tammy Beaumont.

He told CRICKETher: “I’m immensely proud of her. She wears her heart on her sleeve and she works really hard. She’s got better technically.”

“Today was as good as I’ve seen her bat because it was ugly for the first 25 runs, she really had to fight for it. Previously she might have given it away but today she stuck at it.”

Reflecting on Saturday’s defeat in the series opener at Worcester, he admitted that England had “messed up at the toss. It was definitely a bowl first wicket so we gave away a big advantage.”

He said that the batsmen had been “passive” and “nervous and jittery” in the first game and let South Africa bowl at them, but added: “that wasn’t really us and we know that. We’ve shown better signs of us in the last 2 games.”

On the batting order he implied that the opening question had not yet been fully resolved, with Lauren Winfield “desperately unlucky” to miss out. “It’s not set in stone,” he said. “You want one of your players to really come back and claim it.”

The implication, though, was that Danni Wyatt would remain in the middle order in ODIs: “She gives us that balance at 6 – we need that energy [lower down the order].”

Regarding the bowling, he said that the addition of Kate Cross to the squad for the final game had been made very much with the intention of playing her had the conditions been favourable: “She gives us an extra bowling option – a little bit of something else. On Thursday the wicket was a bit moist and damp. If it had been anything like that, she would have played, but the wicket dried out and it looked good for batting.”

He was clear, though, that Katherine Brunt will play a big role in the forthcoming T20 tri-series: “Brunt is fully fit and she’s an integral part of this team. She’ll definitely be involved in the T20 series. We haven’t got enough games to rest her.”

He said that the T20 series would be crucial preparation ahead of the World T20 in November:  “We’ve got to try and find out formulas, where people bowl, where they don’t bowl, and as an England team we’ve not played much T20. Heather needs to get used to how to manage her bowlers and batters.”

The squad for the tri-series is likely to be announced on Monday morning.

Tammy Beaumont – “This is my proudest hundred for England”

Speaking to CRICKETher after today’s match at Canterbury, having hit back-to-back centuries for England in a Player-of-the-Series winning performance, Tammy Beaumont was unequivocal about which she considers the better innings of the two:

“This is my proudest hundred for England,” she said.

“I don’t normally get runs in chases. Hove was the flashier, better-looking hundred but today it was very tough early on and I’m proud of getting through that new ball spell and making sure that I cashed in.”

“Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail upfront bowled 2 exceptional spells and it was just a case of getting though it,” she said.

“I like facing them. They have a bit of pace on the ball which suits me just fine from a history of men’s cricket.”

Opposing captain Dane van Niekerk also praised Beaumont’s performance: “Tammy stuck at it and England made us pay,” she said.

She contrasted England’s bowling today unfavourably with the performance of her own team:

“We had to adapt all the time – I never felt quite in. I have to commend the English bowlers, the way they went about that.”

“We need to fight more for wickets and not just expect wickets to come. It’s almost as if our bowlers get bored.”

Van Niekerk also called for more use of DRS in the women’s game, after Lizelle Lee was given out early on in South Africa’s innings to a ball that was almost certainly missing leg stump:

“From the top it looked out for me, but she knew she wasn’t out and she was right,” she said. “If there’s televised games I can’t see why we can’t use [DRS].”