KSL: Stars v Thunder – Harmanpreet Keeps Her Cool

In a dramatic match which went down to the penultimate ball, Lancashire Thunder came out on top thanks to the cool head of Harmanpreet Kaur, making her debut 3 games into the KSL campaign after bureaucratic issues delayed her arrival.

Off strike with 10 required from 5 balls, Harmanpreet clearly decided that the wicket of Ellie Threlkeld was a sacrifice she was willing to make – running a single which looked suicidal even before Threlkeld slipped. The Lancashire keeper’s face looked like… well… thunder as she walked back to the dugout, but it was ultimately justified as the Indian T20 captain hit a huge 6 to win the match with a ball to spare.

“I had that belief if I got two boundaries we would be able to win the game,” Harmanpreet said afterwards. “The person I like to take responsibility is me, and I’m really happy today that whatever expectations our team had on me, I did that.”

“There were some visa issues going on – there was a strike, so I wasn’t able to get my passport as soon as possible; but I’m really happy to join the team now and happy my team is doing well.”

From a Surrey perspective it was a disappointing afternoon, after a massive innings of 95* from Nat Sciver had put them in a match-winning position at the break. But the home crowd of over 2,000 – many likely tempted by the opportunity to come to just the first match of this double-header for as little as £1 for kids – still got to see an exciting game of cricket in a brilliant atmosphere; and full credit to Surrey for making that happen on a mid-week afternoon, which probably isn’t the ideal time to get bums on seats.

The result puts the Thunder firmly in the top half of the table, defying many expectations – including ours! With the much-fancied Vipers going down to another defeat, this time at the hands of the Storm, the table is perhaps starting to take shape, and on this form you’d now be mad to bet against the Thunder rolling on to Finals Day.

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KSL: Storm v Lightning – Storm Take Advantage Of Storm

The rain that fell in Taunton overnight and this morning may have negatively affected Sky’s coverage – those of us watching at home suffered no commentary for the first 3 overs and very poor image quality throughout – but it did set up an ideal game situation for Western Storm. Of all the teams in the competition, they have the batting firepower to flourish in a 6-over situation, and so it proved. Lightning fans can probably rightly feel slightly aggrieved that they haven’t had the chance to prove themselves properly against the defending champions.

For Storm, Smriti Mandhana is proving to have been a genius overseas “buy”, with 137 runs off 60 balls in the first 3 matches at a breathtaking strike rate of 228. A couple of stats from Hypocaust support the point:

By contrast the conservative batting of Rachael Haynes (who finished with 18 off 15 balls) ultimately cost Lightning the game. Going at a run a ball was never going to be enough in this situation. One almost felt that Lightning had lost the match before they even started their innings – Haynes isn’t known for her power-hitting and to see her walking out and even facing the first ball ahead of partner Sophie Devine smacked of uber-conservative decision-making. Devine did her damnedest, but even she couldn’t make the runs alone.

For Storm, credit should go to fast bowler Freya Davies, who captain Heather Knight entrusted with bowling 2 of their 6 overs. That trust was repaid handsomely – Davies kept it tight, and by conceding only 9 runs from her first over, turned the game hugely in Storm’s favour: one over like that and Lightning’s chances of chasing down the runs were already greatly reduced.

Finally, if you haven’t already, do have a watch of our review of week 1 of the KSL, recorded just before this match took place.

INTERVIEW: Ireland’s Ciara Metcalfe Reflects On Her International Career And Ireland’s Future

Ireland’s Ciara Metcalfe – leg-spinner, coach and co-star of YouTube duo Hairy and Brains – speaks to Jake Perry.

The ICC World T20 in November is sure to bring mixed emotions for Ireland. Joy at participating in their third WWT20 will be tempered by the understanding that it will be the last hurrah for two of their greatest-ever servants, but as Clare Shillington and Ciara Metcalfe leave the international stage they will do so in the knowledge that Irish cricket has never been better placed.

The Global Qualifier in the Netherlands, which saw Bangladesh and Ireland secure the two remaining places in the West Indies, also brought a notable personal landmark for Ciara as she notched up her hundredth wicket for Ireland. Ranked twentieth in the ICC T20 bowling rankings and with a century of international wickets in sight, too, the thirty-eight-year-old leg-spinner is determined to end her nineteen-year playing career on a high.

“It’s taken a long time for me to get to this point,” she said. “When I started out we were playing maybe one game a year, three at most, which is something I don’t think the younger players today necessarily realise. Now these kids are playing so much cricket they’ll be catching me up at the age of nineteen or twenty!

“But it was a lovely milestone for me to reach. It was in the game [against Uganda] we needed to win as well so it all came together at the right time for the team too.”

After a one-off T20I and three-match ODI series against New Zealand, Ireland had completed their preparations for the Global Qualifier with a closely-contested T20I series against Bangladesh. That four of Ireland’s five bowlers in the first ODI against New Zealand were aged seventeen or under, says Ciara, bodes well for Irish cricket in the years to come.

“Having New Zealand and then Bangladesh over was really good for us,” she said. “There was a lot of quality learning for what was a very young team and although the results didn’t go our way for the most part the games will stand the youngsters in very good stead for the future.

“Against Bangladesh we finally got over the line in the third game after they had got away from us in the first two. That was really good because in winning that we peaked as we were going into the [WWT20Q] instead of before it.”

After going unbeaten in the group stages in Holland, Ireland beat PNG in the Semi-Final before losing to Bangladesh by 25 runs to finish as tournament runners-up.

“We had a nicely balanced team in the Netherlands, a mixture of older players coming back in alongside the youngsters,” said Ciara. “I actually think we put out one of the strongest teams we’ve seen in an Irish jersey for a long time.

“We played well although every game still gave us bits and pieces to work on. I don’t think we fired in all departments in every game and then in the Final I felt that we let Bangladesh win to be honest.

“We were in a great position having kept them to 125 or thereabouts but then we had a lot of soft wickets. Whether it was just the occasion, trying too hard to get over the final hurdle, I don’t know, but what was most important was that the job was done and we achieved our main goal which was qualification.”

Although the final places at the WWT20 were secured by the only two Full Member nations competing in the Netherlands, Uganda’s defeat of Zimbabwe in the Africa Qualifier, coupled with Thailand’s recent victory over Sri Lanka, provide evidence of an increasingly competitive international landscape. When it comes to those at the top of the tree, however, Ciara feels that the distance between the ‘best’ and ‘the rest’ is becoming ever more pronounced.

“It’s a hard one,” she said. “There have been some eye-catching results recently, but I’d say the gap is getting bigger when it comes to the top four or five teams.

“The standard that their players are able to play at consistently with the KSL, BBL and so on makes a huge difference. Having the same players playing against each other with top-level coaching all of the time has pushed them on even further. That’s my view anyway.

“I have always believed that teams like Uganda and PNG are just a money load away from being really good teams,” she continued. “We turn up to things like the World Cup Qualifier having no idea about a lot of the teams we’ll be facing, and if they get someone to invest in them they can turn up to a tournament like that and cause a surprise. Teams like that, they can play cricket, they just don’t have the structure and everything else behind them yet.

“Speaking about ourselves, with a little more structural change and a bit more investment we can definitely compete with the likes of Sri Lanka and Pakistan,” she went on. “I’m hoping that with Full Membership there’ll be some more money available which can support us in different ways.

“In time we will have to go down the central contract route. It won’t be in my time but I’m definitely one of the people who will still be around on the coaching side. It would make such a difference. We’d be up there with Pakistan and Sri Lanka straight away.”

Although Ireland’s elevation to Full Member status was marked by a men’s Test against Pakistan, Ciara was a member of the first Irish side to play Test cricket. At Dublin’s College Park she took 4 for 42 in the first innings as Pakistan were defeated by an innings and 54 runs in July 2000.

“When we played we thought it would be the first of many, but then it was forgotten about,” said Ciara. “Because of the way women’s cricket has shaped up over the last couple of years Test cricket hasn’t been on many people’s minds, so looking back it was definitely a special occasion to be a part of.

“It shows how far they have come. Pakistan were so far behind at that time but now they’ve overtaken us.”

For now, though, Ciara is looking forward to writing the final chapter of what has been an outstanding international career.

“Clare and I both said that the game against Bangladesh was our last home game and I think I can speak for both of us in saying that yes, the World T20 will be our farewell. It’ll be an emotional time, but it won’t be the last of Hairy and Brains!”

———————

Jake Perry is a cricket writer based in Scotland.

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

KSL: Vipers v Lightning – Have We Underestimated Loughborough Lightning?

Before today, in the 2 years since the Kia Super League was launched, Southern Vipers had never been bowled out. Now they have; and all the talk pre-competition about their strong batting line-up suddenly sounds rather hollow.

The demeanour of Tammy Beaumont in the post-match interview certainly suggested that this was a match her side expected to win. “It’s quite frustrating to lose this game tonight,” she admitted. “It’s a tough one to take.”

Beaumont was clear about what went wrong. Steering away from blaming dropped catches (both Elyse Villani and Amy Jones were dropped when on 20*) or tight run-out chances (a third-umpire review saving Jones after a Bates direct hit), Beaumont said, simply: “Getting bowled out for 105 cost us the game.”

Her description of it as “a naive batting performance” just about summed it up. From an England perspective Danni Wyatt’s continuing weakness against spin – once again she was dismissed caught on the ring – will be a concern ahead of the WWT20. A bigger, more immediate problem for Vipers is Suzie Bates’ slump in form, which has come at the worst possible time for them, and culminated today in her first ever duck in either KSL or WBBL. Whether Vipers can make Finals Day will likely depend on whether she can recover some semblance of her usual prowess with the bat over the next couple of weeks.

Amy Jones, meanwhile, praised the performance of Lightning’s younger players, who she said had “really stepped up in the first 2 games”. In particular credit should go to 18-year-old Sarah Glenn, whose economy rate of 3.50 was far and away the best of all the Lightning bowlers, an important feat in a game that could have been much closer than it was, had just 15 more runs been added by Vipers.

Lightning’s run chase was, as it transpired, relatively straightforward. Though Amelia Kerr was dazzlingly brilliant – her 4 overs (2 of which were bowled in the powerplay) going for just 6 runs and her variations tying both Amy Jones and Elyse Villani in knots – the required run rate never rose above 6 an over. “We didn’t have to force anything, which allowed us to just see her off and then take advantage of some of the other bowlers,” Jones said.

And so it’s Lightning, not Vipers, who go 2 from 2; and Lightning who have now bowled out both the sides they have faced in the competition. We predicted a mid-table finish for them, but maybe we’ve underestimated Loughborough Lightning?

Amy Jones definitely thinks so. “We’ve got a really good squad and our younger players have really stepped up in the first 2 games. We should be a contender [for the title].”

After tonight, it’s hard to disagree.

KSL: Stars v Vipers – Dunkley Brings Her “A” Game To Super League

Although it was the Vipers that came away with the opening-day victory in their contest with the Stars at Guildford, it was the Stars Sophia Dunkley that stole the show with 66 off 43 balls as the Stars recovered from an early collapse at 18-4 to post 141-9 and make the Vipers work for their win.

Dunkley’s admission afterwards that 18-4 was “not the way we wanted to start off” was something of an understatement but as she also acknowledged it was “a good opportunity to go out there and bat” and that is what she did, hitting some beautifully timed cricket shots along the way.

“I was a bit nervous to start off with – first game nerves and stuff – I just tried to be positive and ignore the situation – stick to my strengths and just bat.”

“The worst thing I could have done in that situation was go into my shell and bat defensively; but as soon as I got going I felt pretty comfortable. I batted well with Dane van Niekerk – she was really helpful and then I felt good out there.”

“It would have been better to be in a better position and get the win but I guess you’ve got to take the little wins – I hope it has got me a bit of recognition.”

Vipers and England’s Tammy Beaumont certainly thought so:

“She batted exceptionally well,” she said. “The way she put any width away – that it’s the best I’ve seen her bat.”

“She’s put in a number of good performances before but she seems to be taking it up a notch. She must be knocking on the door for an England contract.”

Of course, England are so strong with the bat at the moment that it is hard to see how anyone breaks into the squad right now; but Dunkley is only just 20 years old and has time on her side – even if she doesn’t get the call-up for November, on the evidence of today it will come – probably sooner rather than later!

PREVIEW: Kia Super League 2018

The third edition of the Kia Super League – KSL03 – begins this weekend, with all 6 teams in action on Sunday afternoon: Stars v Vipers at Guildford; Thunder v Lightning at Southport & Birkdale; and Storm v Diamonds at Taunton.

We look at the squads… and make our predictions!

Southern Vipers

Last season’s runners-up, Southern Vipers have strengthened in all departments – out the door from the team that lost last year’s final go Georgia Adams, Hayley Mathews and Linsey Smith; replaced respectively by Tammy Beaumont, Sara McGlashan (ex-New Zealand, but playing as a “domestic” player on a British passport) and Amelia Kerr – significant upgrades in all cases. With Katie “Lieutenant” George’s rapid promotion up the England ranks since KSL02, they will have an all-international opening bowling partnership with her and Tash Farrant; and an all-international top 4 of Beaumont, Danni Wyatt, Suzie Bates and Mignon du Preez. Perhaps the only question is how much of a look-in England’s next generation (Charlie Dean, Maia Bouchier and Lauren Bell) get this season – carrying drinks may be a rite of passage… but it doesn’t bridge many gaps! [Syd Egan]

Suzie Bates, Tammy Beaumont, Danni Wyatt, Tash Farrant, Mignon Du Preez, Amelia Kerr, Katie George, Paige Scholfield, Maia Bouchier, Charlie Dean, Arran Brindle, Carla Rudd, Lauren Bell, Sara McGlashan, Fi Morris

Western Storm

Reigning champions Storm have a very similar squad to last year, which is a good omen given that their strength has always been a healthy team environment where overseas and non-overseas alike contribute fully. Assuming Anya Shrubsole is back to full fitness after missing the ODI series v New Zealand with a side strain, their bowling looks strong, with Sussex’s Freya Davies and Wales’s Claire Nicholas two of the best non-internationals in the competition. Meanwhile they’ve signed Smriti Mandhana to bolster their batting, as well as Naomi Dattani, whose innings v Surrey in the T20 London Cup this season was a sight to behold. They’ll make Finals Day for sure. [Raf Nicholson]

Heather Knight, Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Freya Davies, Rachel Priest, Stafanie Taylor, Smriti Mandhana, Sophie Luff, Claire Nicholas, Lauren Parfitt, Danielle Gibson, Naomi Dattani, Lissy Macleod, Amara Carr, Rebecca Silk

Surrey Stars

With their strong South African backbone of Lizelle Lee, Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk, the Stars are looking good for another visit to Finals Day, after their third-placed finish last season. Sarah Taylor’s arrival strengthens them further, although it isn’t great news for future England hopeful, wicket-keeper Rhianna Southby, who may find herself sitting on the sidelines as a result. Whether the Stars can go better than third this year may depend on how young-guns Sophia Dunkley and Bryony Smith step up – both have been in great form at county and for England Academy, and this is their chance to show the world what they can do on the bigger stage, so if they can grab it… who knows! [SE]

Nat Sciver, Dane Van Niekerk, Lizelle Lee, Marizanne Kapp, Aylish Cranstone, Grace Gibbs, Hannah Jones, Mady Villiers, Rhianna Southby, Sophia Dunkley, Eva Gray, Laura Marsh, Sarah Taylor, Bryony Smith, Gayatri Gole

Loughborough Lightning

It’s all change at Lightning this season with a shake-up both at squad level and with a brand new coach in Rob Taylor after Salliann Briggs left for pastures new in March. The loss of Ellyse Perry, who has elected to stay home in Australia, will be a big blow to their hopes, only slightly softened by the return of Sophie Devine from the Diamonds, fresh from her mammoth century in the 3rd ODI against England. Key to their performance could be the signing of Kirstie Gordon, who has deservedly picked up her first KSL contract on the back of a strong domestic season: she finished far and away top of our County Championship bowling rankings. A mid-table finish seems most likely, however. [RN]

Georgia Elwiss, Amy Jones, Jenny Gunn, Sophie Devine, Rachael Haynes, Elyse Villani, Izzy Cloke, Linsey Smith, Sarah Glenn, Georgia Adams, Tara Norris, Kirstie Gordon, Jo Gardner, Abi Freeborn, Lucy Higham

Yorkshire Diamonds

Yorkshire have yet to make it to a KSL Finals Day and although they have significantly reshuffled their squad, it is difficult to see that changing this season. Beth Mooney’s return could be significant – when she is at her explosive best she can win matches single-handed – and Lauren Winfield will be desperate to impress after sitting on the sidelines for England for much of the summer, but whether that makes up for the loss of Sophie Devine back to the Lightning is debatable. One to watch, if she gets a game [Do we sense a theme here? Ed.] may be Helen Fenby – she has impressed for the Academy, but this will be a very different stage to playing for Durham in Div 3 of the County Championship. [SE]

Lauren Winfield, Katherine Brunt, Beth Langston, Alice Davidson–Richards, Beth Mooney, Chamari Athapaththu, Delissa Kimmince, Helen Fenby, Katie Levick , Sophie Munro, Bess Heath, Thea Brookes, Alice Monaghan, Gwen Davies, Katie Thompson

Lancashire Thunder

The surprise appointment of Alex Blackwell as coach could be crucial to marshalling a team who have finished bottom of the table in both previous editions of the KSL. Bravely, they’ve persisted with the route of selecting their squad largely from local players who also play county cricket for Lancashire. Emma Lamb – who’s had a good season for Lancashire at county, finishing second in our Div 1 batting rankings behind only Suzie Bates – will presumably open again, alongside overseas stalwart Amy Satterthwaite. Nicole Bolton is their new overseas signing, playing in KSL for the first time, while Alex Hartley joins them from “down South”; but will that be enough to propel them to the opposite end of the table? I’m not convinced. [RN]

Danielle Hazell, Nicole Bolton, Georgie Boyce, Natalie Brown, Kate Cross, Rachel Dickinson, Alice Dyson, Sophie Ecclestone, Alex Hartley, Eve Jones, Harmanpreet Kaur, Emma Lamb, Natasha Miles, Amy Satterthwaite, Ellie Threlkeld

PREDICTIONS

Raf:

  1. Vipers
  2. Storm
  3. Stars
  4. Thunder
  5. Lightning
  6. Diamonds

Syd:

  1. Vipers
  2. Storm
  3. Stars
  4. Lightning
  5. Thunder
  6. Diamonds

 

OPINION: If You Think The 100 Will “Safeguard” County Cricket… I’ve Got Some Men’s Tests To Sell You

Cast your mind back 20-something years to when Men’s Tests had “Crown Jewel” status – meaning they could ONLY be shown on Free-To-Air TV – and the ECB were lobbying for this to be removed.

The conversation went something like this:

ECB: Please can we remove “Crown Jewel” status from [Men’s] Tests?

Fans: But then you’ll just sell them to SKY and lock-out ordinary viewers!

ECB: We totally won’t do that – pinkie promise!

Government: Okay then. [Removes “Crown Jewel” status.]

ECB: Haha – we sold the Tests to Sky and locked-out ordinary viewers – LOL!

Fans: *sad face*

Now fast-forward to 2018…

The ECB are telling cricket fans that The 100 not only won’t impact county cricket – it will help preserve it.

Riiiiiiiiiight.

Whenever questions get asked of the ECB, the comparison that comes up is always Australia: Cricket Australia do this so much better… they do that so much better… etc.

And the answer that comes from people who work at the ECB is frequently the same:

The Australians can do that because they only have 6 states, not 18 counties!

If I had a penny for every different person I’d heard this from, I’d be as rich as… well… I’d have about 5p; but given the size of the ECB that’s actually quite a lot of people. And to be fair, they aren’t wrong – the structure in Australia is much more centralised and less conservative. From a “governance” perspective, it is just more manageable, and the folks at the ECB look on it with envy.

So if you think that one purpose of The 100 is anything other than an attempt to marginalise and eventually kill county cricket, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you… and some Men’s Tests!

POST-MATCH INTERVIEW: New Zealand Coach Haidee Tiffen On Batting Selections & Looking Short & Long Term

New Zealand finally pulled off a win against England this summer, at the 6th time of asking, as a gutsy run-a-ball hundred from Sophie Devine saw them chase a slightly under-par 219, after England were bowled out batting first at Leicester.

We’ve been saying all along in this series that with New Zealand if you get Bates and Devine, you’ve won the game; but we saw the other side of that coin today: if you don’t get Bates and Devine, you’ve probably lost it!

Nevertheless, the questions remain – do New Zealand have enough batting going into the World Twenty20 in November?

Haidee Tiffen, speaking to CRICKETher post-match, is confident:

“I absolutely believe in our batting order,” she says “We’ve got Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine who have been outstanding; Amy Satterthwaite who has been the ICC One Day Player of the Year not so long ago; Maddy Green, who has been our domestic batter of the year this summer been; Katey Martin, who was Player of the Series in our previous series; Leigh Kasperek who has scored a lot of runs domestically; and then Amelia Kerr gets 230 [v Ireland].”

“So we’ve got the batters there – it is just a question of keeping to our cricket smarts and our game plan – building those partnerships!”

The challenge for New Zealand, as it is for any side to be fair, is to find the balance between looking short-term, at the World T20; and long-term at the World Cup, which is being played in New Zealand in 2021.

“We identified that the last couple of series have been ones we wanted to look long term and short term; whereas this was a bit more of a focus on the T20 – we’ve exposed players that have shown that they can be there in the T20 but also be there in 2021.”

“It is an art – sometimes you get it right, sometimes you don’t; but what we’ve found out about our younger players is really promising, and we’ve just got to keep working hard and developing those players and the balance of the experience as well as the youth has been really positive.”

“Our experienced players probably haven’t had the performances we would have liked in this series but Sophie today showed what they are capable of doing; and we are looking forward to that T20 World Cup.”

One player who has arguably been badly missed when New Zealand have struggled for runs this summer has been Rachel Priest, but Tiffen insists that she isn’t out of the picture in terms of WWT20:

“The door is not closed on Rachel – we’ve given clear feedback about the areas she needs to work on; but I don’t shut the door on anyone – it is just who is doing the work and who is improving their game.”

We’ve seen today that when Devine and / or Bates really turn it on, they are forces of nature who can win any game of cricket you put in front of them – even on a tricky pitch at the end of a long, draining tour, when all bets were against them. If they can do that at WWT20, or longer term in 2021, then the world trophy that Suzie Bates wants so desperately to cap her brilliant career with could still be within reach.

POST-MATCH: New Zealand v England – Oh Dear!

When my son was a toddler, the very first phrase he learned was “Oh dear!” and for several weeks everything was “Oh dear!” this and “Oh dear!” that!

I could have hired-him out to the BBC to commentate on New Zealand’s innings today.

It began with a “Double-Oh Dear!” as “Oh Dear! No. 1” – a rank wide full toss from Katie George – was slapped not to the boundary but straight into the hands of Amy Jones by Sophie Devine for “Oh Dear No. 2”. (George at least had the self-awareness to face-palm as Devine walked back to the pavilion!)

George’s next wicket was a demonstration of what she is capable of when she isn’t spraying it for wides – Amy Satterthwaite the victim of an unplayable delivery which took out her off stump.

But the “Oh Dears!” soon continued as Katey Martin – perhaps starting to look like she is a bit out of her era in the professional age – was trapped in front by Katherine Brunt; and it was downhill from there for New Zealand.

Laura Marsh got some big turn to dismiss Suzie Bates, but Bates will feel she should have played it better – she has been out a couple of times cutting this summer – and the “Oh Dear” was then written all over her face as she had to watch her team collapse in epic style, from 75-3 to 83-8, and thence to 118 all out – a sheen of respectability added to the scorecard as Kate Ebrahim and Holly Huddlestone put on 26 for the final wicket as the White Ferns at least staggered to 3-figures.

Earlier in the day Tammy Beaumont and Nat Sciver had shown that it was possible to bat on this pitch, if you did it slowly and patiently; and although it is true that the pitch appeared to deteriorate a bit, it didn’t do it to the tune of the 123 runs New Zealand lost by!

So… where now for New Zealand? Well… Leicester on Friday for starters, where they will try to dust themselves down for a consolation win after a disappointing “winter”.

And then as they fly home, they might do well to remember one thing:

Until a couple of years ago, England used to do these kind of collapses so regularly that we started referring to it as “Doing An England” – now they are World Champions!

However bad it looks now, come 2021 New Zealand could yet be World Champions too.