MATCH REPORT: Worcestershire v Cornwall WCC Division 3 Play-Off

By Richard Clark with quotes from Worcestershire Vice-Captain & Wicketkeeper Chloe Hill

We didn’t get very much of the Bank Holiday sunshine that had been hinted at, but we did get a victory to celebrate, and with it promotion, and for Worcestershire’s Women’s Rapids that would do very nicely, thank you.

In the end it was comfortable – 97 runs the margin – although there were times during the afternoon when the odd doubt may have crept in, as Worcestershire did their best to undermine an excellent start with the bat.

There are many ways to reach a total of 227 for 9 off 50 overs, and this was probably among the more unlikely ones. Opting to bat after winning the toss, the Rapids could hardly have been better-placed at 147 without loss, and rattling along at five-an-over, only for a flurry of wickets to derail their progress and leave them a little way short of where they might have expected to be.

The innings was founded on half-centuries from Chloe Hill (78 from 86 balls) and Beth Ellis (69 from 118).  As the numbers suggest, Hill played the aggressor with eight boundaries, whilst Ellis was happy in a largely supporting role, turning over the strike and collecting singles at every opportunity.  The Rapids could hardly have wished for better.

And yet… attempting to turn the second ball of the match from Emily Geach to leg, Hill’s leading edge had looped up to midwicket where the fielder appeared to misjudge it, coming in a couple of steps before having to back-track in a vain attempt to take the catch. Fine margins…

*   *   *

“My heart was in my mouth. The biggest match of the year, all that build-up, so much at stake, and I’d stuffed it up right at the start!  I can’t describe the relief when I saw she wasn’t going to get to it.  But I guess it woke me up a lot!!”

*   *   *

The partnership wasn’t chanceless.  Hill was perhaps fortunate to survive a huge stumping appeal, and rode her luck again when a fierce pull went straight through the hands of Kellie Williams, striking the Cornish skipper a blow on the eye that forced her off the field for a while and left her with a handsome black eye to remember Hill by.

More than once, a fumble at the stumps allowed the batters to escape a run-out and the edge of the bat was beaten a good few times.  But Hill and Ellis ploughed on for the best part of 30 overs until Ellie Mitchell deceived and bowled Hill as she gave the leg-spinner the charge.

*   *   *

“Oh, there was a massive amount of frustration!  Everyone who was there would have seen my face when I walked off!  Who wouldn’t love a century on their home ground?!  But from the team perspective we couldn’t have dreamed of a better position to be in.  Runs on the board and plenty of batting to come.  I thought, ‘I’ve done my job and the rest of the team can chip in nicely to reach a big score.’”

*   *   *

Mitchell waited politely for Ellis to collect the two runs she needed to complete her own half-century at the other end, and then took up the attack again to great effect.  Within five balls she ripped out the “engine room” of the Worcestershire order, doing to the experienced Clare Boycott and Lauren Rowles exactly what she had done to Hill, but this time without either of them troubling the scorers.  147 for none had become 149 for 3.  Not so comfortable now…

Ellis and Rachael Howells steadied things for a while, adding 27 for the fourth wicket before Howells was caught behind chasing a wide one, and thereafter arrivals and departures came and went at a rate that would have alarmed the Stationmaster at nearby Foregate Street.  It wasn’t long before the Rapids found themselves 199 for 8, with Ellis among those to go, bowled by Charlotte Phillips.

*   *   *

“This 100% wasn’t in the plan!  You always expect to have a sticky spell during an innings but we couldn’t get ourselves going – although the strip was the same one used two days earlier for the Men’s T20 Blast quarter-final, a low-scoring match itself.  But with the positive start we thought we had a big total coming at the end of 50 overs.”

“I think we got caught between the need to push on and the need for new batters to just take an over or two.”

“But credit to Cornwall too.  They kept at us, there was a lot of ‘pace off the ball’ and not much that was there to hit.  They took the initiative away from us as much as we surrendered it.  We definitely needed a few runs from the lower order as I know we can bat right through.”

*   *   *

Those few runs came – 28 of them in the last seven overs – with the relatively experienced Jess Humby marshalling youngsters Ellie Fleck (the only player other than Hill or Ellis to reach double-figures) and Philippa Bray though.  It was “one of those” totals – a match that perhaps should have been out of reach… wasn’t.

Cornwall began with a flourish, Boycott’s opening over going for 14 with the help of five wides, but thereafter she and Issy Wong applied the brakes, albeit without being able to make inroads.  Mitchell (if anybody should know about opening at New Road, it’s a Mitchell…) and Caitlin Burnett looked largely unhurried.

At 34 without loss after eight overs, neither team had put themselves in the ascendency until Emily Arlott rattled Burnett’s stumps in her first over, and almost immediately Wong did likewise to Mitchell from the other end next over.

Rapids on top, and more so when the same bowlers repeated the dose to Amber Cummins (LBW to Arlott) and Sophie Richards (bowled by Wong).  Cornwall 44 for 4 and badly holed below the waterline…

*   *   *

“We didn’t start as well as we would have liked, but we knew a couple of wickets would change things.  Em and Issy are both pretty quick and I would back their bowling to take wickets.  For a 16-year old Issy gets some real pace, hits the gloves very hard which is pleasing to see at her age. Once Issy found her length and her rhythm she was on fire!”

“Em’s got so much experience now.  She knows exactly what she’s doing. She trains extremely hard to hit her areas.  Having seen Cornwall use their slower bowlers well we weren’t sure how pace would go.  Everyone knows it can fly off the bat and runs can come quickly.  But Em and Issy just didn’t give anything away in that spell.  With hindsight, that was the period that won us the match.”

*   *   *

For a while, Rebecca Odgers and Joleigh Roberts defied the home side.  Odgers in particular played beautifully, hitting 11 fours in her 56 from 57 balls, most of them textbook drives through the off side, and keeping Cornwall up with the rate.

They were undone by the curse of the drinks break, though, Roberts just failing to beat Boycott’s throw from backward point after an untimely mid-wicket “debate” about the possibility of pinching a single, and Charlotte Williams was snaffled by Rowles at midwicket soon afterwards, leaving the visitors 81 for 6.

Geach held firm in a stand of 40 as Odgers continued to carve away at the other end but the final nail came when Ellis had Odgers stumped by Hill.  Odgers couldn’t have moved her foot very far, or for very long, but Hill’s hands were fast, and she knew…

*   *   *

“When someone’s batting like that there’s always something in the back of your mind that thinks she could do it all on her own.  You know deep down it’s unlikely but it’s that little voice of doubt that nags away.  You get anxious, you try a bit too hard for a wicket and it doesn’t come, so you get a bit more anxious, and so on. But as soon as I saw her foot lift and drag out slightly I knew I’d got her, and let’s just say it was definitely a massive relief when that finger went up!”

*   *   *

The final two wickets fell quickly – fittingly one each for Wong and Arlott, who finished with 4 for 22, and 3 for 21 respectively.  Ellis deserves a mention too, her ten overs quietly yielding 1 for 29.  Job done.

Cornwall will be disappointed but looking down their team sheet I recognised at least five names who have played age-group cricket against my 15-year old daughter.  They include Odgers and Geach, who took 2 for 29 off her ten overs and – Odgers excepted – faced more balls than anybody else.  There should be encouragement for them in the performances of those youngsters.  They can only continue to improve.

For Worcestershire, Division 2 awaits after a single season away.  It will be a challenge but one the Rapids will hope to meet head on.

*   *   *

“What a day!  It’s always fun to play at New Road but to do so with something real at stake, and to win in front of your own supporters – not much beats that!  And to be back in Division 2 where we knew we should have been last season is great!”

“There were celebrations and it was great that we could do that with our teammates, friends and families.  And personally, I just want to say a massive ‘Thank You’ to all our supporters this season, and to our home ground Kidderminster CC and New Road.  Hopefully all these positives can go into next season.  As we all say,  #UPTHERAPIDS!🍐🌊”


Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68

STATS: KSL 2018 Non-International Rankings

As we observed when looking at the overall Batting and Bowling Rankings, the tendency of sides to prioritise the recruitment of big-hitting batsmen when selecting their overseas players has meant that young English talent has had more opportunities with the ball than with the bat – non-internationals (who are by definition English-qualified – the rules essentially require this) bowled 35% of the overs in KSL2018 but batted just 15%.

Especially regarding the batting therefore, these stats are then very much a reflection of the opportunities a player had, rather than necessarily how “good” she is.

Topping the Non-International Batting Rankings is Thea Brookes, who was a consistent performer for the Diamonds in the middle order with 4 scores over 20, including an impressive 45 off 36 balls v the Vipers.

At No. 2 in the Batting Rankings Eve Jones scored more runs than Brookes, but the unfortunate truth is that Jones seems to have been left-behind by professionalism – a Strike Rate of just 85 just doesn’t cut it these days, in this age of power hitting.

Of the England prospects, batting-wise Sophia Dunkley is probably the closest – popping up in both the Batting and Bowling Rankings, though she was probably one big score short of booking a ticket to the West Indies for the World T20.

At the top of the Non-International Bowling Rankings is of course Kirstie Gordon, who topped the overall Bowling Rankings with 17 wickets. Gordon’s route to England representation is currently blocked by Sophie Ecclestone and Alex Hartley – a classic case of why we really need professionalism at the next level down, so she can stay in the game full time and develop, rather than slipping behind as the likes of Eve Jones have done.


Player Played Runs SR
1. Thea Brookes (Diamonds) [21] 9 139 121
2. Eve Jones (Thunder) [24] 9 168 85
3. Ellie Threlkeld (Thunder) [26] 10 138 99
4. Sophia Dunkley (Stars) [32] 11 98 120
5. Georgie Boyce (Thunder) [34] 9 98 88
6. Georgia Adams (Lightning) [36] 11 69 93
7. Paige Scholfield (Vipers) [40] 8 36 129
8. Natalie Brown (Thunder) [42] 5 34 117
9. Maia Bouchier (Vipers) [43] 4 40 93
10. Sophie Luff (Storm) [44] 11 36 97

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate; [X] = Overall Rank


Player Played Wickets Economy
1. Kirstie Gordon (Lightning) [1] 11 17 6.05
2. Linsey Smith (Lightning) [8] 11 11 6.40
3. Katie Levick (Diamonds) [9] 9 11 7.00
4. Emma Lamb (Thunder) [11] 10 11 8.06
5. Freya Davies (Storm) [19] 11 8 7.72
6. Claire Nicholas (Storm) [20] 10 7 7.03
7. Fi Morris (Vipers) [23] 7 7 8.01
8. Sophia Dunkley (Stars) [27] 11 6 8.00
9. Maddy Villiers (Stars) [29] 11 5 6.92
10. Danielle Gibson (Storm) [30] 11 5 7.41

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

STATS: KSL 2018 Bowling Rankings

With the KSL teams prioritising big-hitting batsmen in their overseas picks, there’s a bit more room for non-internationals in the Bowling Rankings, compared to the Batting Rankings where no non-internationals made the Top 20.

Top of the tree is Kirstie Gordon, Saviour of the Loughboroughverse, with 17 wickets at an Economy Rate that only just tipped over 6 after Lizelle Lee’s onslaught in the final.

Linsey Smith at No. 8 is another non-international who had good year, after transferring from the Vipers to the Lightning – albeit not quite as spectacular as KSL01 when she topped the rankings; while Emma Lamb spun her way to No. 11, and Freya Davies also sneaked into the Top 20. Davies in particular is probably an outside bet for World T20 selection, depending on the injuries to Tash Farrant and Katie George – though both are officially hopeful of returning to fitness by November.

Amongst the established players, England will obviously be happy with the performance of Sophie Ecclestone at No. 2; but also interested to see Jenny Gunn in at No. 4. Gunn isn’t an automatic pick for England any more, and at 32 she is getting on in years, but she remains a useful squad player, and she’s probably done enough this summer to get on the plane to the West Indies.

Player Played Wickets Economy
1. Kirstie Gordon (Lightning) 11 17 6.05
2. Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder) 10 15 6.41
3. Sophie Devine (Lightning) 11 16 7.22
4. Jenny Gunn (Lightning) 11 14 6.84
5. Dane van Niekerk (Stars) 9 13 6.62
6. Marizanne Kapp (Stars) 11 11 5.66
7. Katherine Brunt (Diamonds) 7 10 5.42
8. Linsey Smith (Lightning) 11 11 6.40
9. Katie Levick (Diamonds) 9 11 7.00
10. Amelia Kerr (Vipers) 10 10 6.50
11. Emma Lamb (Thunder) 10 11 8.06
12. Alice Davidson-Richards (Diamonds) 9 10 7.45
13. Tash Farrant (Vipers) 6 10 7.77
14. Alex Hartley (Thunder) 10 10 7.83
15. Georgia Elwiss (Lightning) 10 9 7.36
16. Nat Sciver (Stars) 11 10 8.23
17. Suzie Bates (Vipers) 10 9 8.18
18. Laura Marsh (Stars) 11 8 7.36
19. Freya Davies (Storm) 11 8 7.72
20. Claire Nicholas (Storm) 10 7 7.03

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

STATS: KSL 2018 Batting Rankings

There are no real surprises in the 2018 Kia Super League Batting Rankings – no non-international players make the Top 20, though a couple were just outside it: Diamonds’ Thea Brookes at No. 21 and Thunder’s Eve Jones at No. 24.

England’s two spring batting debutantes – Alice Davidson-Richards and Bryony Smith – placed at Nos. 25 and 28 respectively, giving Mark Robinson little to think about in terms of World T20 selection; and whilst Sophia Dunkley had a good opening day, making her highest score of 66 against the Vipers, she was hard-pressed for opportunities with the bat thereafter, and those 66 runs ended up being well over half the runs she scored in the entire tournament, though she maintained a good Strike Rate of 120.

The positives for England are that Nat Sciver (No. 3) and Heather Knight (No. 4) both had very good tournaments – especially in the case of Knight actually, who was playing second-fiddle for much of the time to Man Women Person (sorry Michael… which is it??? Ah yes…) Player of the Tournament Smriti Mandhana at No. 1.

England will though be less happy with the performances of their two opening batsmen, Tammy Beaumont and Dani Wyatt. Did the Vipers under-perform because Beaumont and Wyatt under-performed, or vice-versa? A bit of both, maybe?

One player who will have impressed her national selectors is Rachel Haynes at No. 5 – Ashes-winning captain she might be, but she is not guaranteed a spot in the Australian XI – and her 324 runs at a Strike Rate of 128 will have done her case no harm at all.

Lizelle Lee at No. 2 of course is sure of a spot in South Africa’s XI – her runs go without saying, but she also fielded very well, and will probably be secretly relieved that Trisha Chetty has made her peace with the selectors and been brought back into the wicket-keeping role for South Africa, so that Lee can now focus on her batting in the West Indies, as she was able to do here with tip-top results.

Player Played Runs SR
1. Smriti Mandhana (Storm) 10 421 175
2. Lizelle Lee (Stars) 11 352 149
3. Nat Sciver (Stars) 11 362 144
4. Heather Knight (Storm) 11 368 134
5. Rachel Haynes (Lightning) 11 324 128
6. Sophie Devine (Lightning) 11 269 147
7. Beth Mooney (Diamonds) 9 267 138
8. Amy Satterthwaite (Thunder) 10 277 127
9. Nicole Bolton (Thunder) 10 274 120
10. Suzie Bates (Vipers) 10 245 115
11. Rachel Priest (Storm) 11 183 140
12. Tammy Beaumont (Vipers) 7 198 128
13. Harmanpreet Kaur (Thunder) 7 164 152
14. Lauren Winfield (Diamonds) 8 205 120
15. Amy Jones (Lightning) 11 202 120
16. Elyse Villani (Lightning) 11 175 128
17. Sarah Taylor (Stars) 10 177 123
18. Dani Wyatt (Vipers) 9 172 123
19. Sara McGlashan (Vipers) 10 164 123
20. Mignon du Preez (Vipers) 10 174 104

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

KSL: Flash Gordon – Saviour of the Loughboroughverse

It may not have been the dream ending for Loughborough Lightning yesterday at Hove – beaten in the final by a rampant Lizelle Lee – but having finished top of the group stages, with 7 wins from 10, in reflection they really ought to look back on this campaign as a success.

A part of this was the contributions of their international superstars – Rachel Haynes finished the tournament as the 5th highest run-scorer; with Sophie Devine 2nd in the list of wicket-takers. Devine also hit 269 runs in the campaign; and there were solid performances from England’s Amy Jones, with 202 runs, and Jenny Gunn, with 14 wickets.

And then there was Kirstie Gordon.

Hang on… Kirstie Whodon…???

Unless you’ve been paying attention to county cricket, you’ve probably not heard of Kirstie Gordon, but the former Scotland international, who is now pursuing her career in England, finished the season not only as Loughborough Lightning’s leading wicket-taker, but the top stump-botherer in the whole KSL.

The signs were all there of course – she was the leading wicket-taker in county cricket in 2018, taking 35 wickets across both formats for Notts; but the KSL is a significant step-up from the County Championship, and to finish with even a handful of wickets would have been an achievement. To finish, as Gordon did, with 17 wickets at an Economy Rate of just a shade over 6, was outstanding.

As Lightning captain Georgia Elwiss told CRICKETher after the final:

“She is a real find – she has been absolutely brilliant. She stands up in the big pressure moments, and for someone that’s playing in her first season of KSL, that says a lot about her as a person.”

“She is a great character to have around the squad – she is always up and about, always lively, and brings loads of energy.”

“She works really hard [and] she deserves everything she is getting – there will definitely be more to come from her.”

Whether “more” includes one day pulling on an England shirt, only time will tell; but if it does, this season for Loughborough Lightning will be where it really started.

KSL Finals Day – All-Stars Stars Sneak Up The Inside To KSL Glory

Going into the final fortnight of the 2018 Kia Super League, the Surrey Stars had lost more matches than they had won – standing third in the table, with just three wins to four losses, with one game rained-off. In contrast, the Storm and Lightning were dominating the group stages, with 6 wins apiece.

And yet, come Finals Day it is the Stars who have triumphed – winning their last two group matches to qualify for Finals Day in third spot, and then defeating both the Storm and the Lightning to lift the trophy at Hove.

“We were waiting for the game where everything clicked,” said final centurion Lizelle Lee afterwards, “and today it all just came together!”

Lee of course was the difference in the final itself – as losing Lightning captain Georgia Elwiss acknowledged:

“Lizelle played out of her skin – it really was a special knock and someone like that is hard to stop on a good pitch,” Elwiss said.

But over the course of the tournament, different players have stood up for the Stars – particularly Nat Sciver in the semi-final today, who made 72*, without which they likely wouldn’t have made the final. With 252 runs at a Strike Rate of 144, she has moved her game onto a different level this season – scoring runs at a tremendous Strike Rate without seeming to take the kind of risks that others do to maintain that sort of momentum.

With the ball, Marizanne Kapp has taken 11 wickets, but perhaps more importantly in T20 cricket has done so at an Economy Rate of well under 6-an-over, which is pretty remarkable in a tournament where par scores have soared well past 7-an-over.

Sophia Dunkley has also come up with some crucial performances – her 50 against the Vipers on the opening day was in a losing cause, but her 3-18 helped beat the Storm at Cheltenham, and she held her nerve to hit the winning runs in the final group match too. Will it land her in the West Indies in November? Probably not – it would be a huge surprise if Mark Robinson included any uncapped players in the squad – but it will certainly have given him notice that she is knocking on the door for a contract when her uni studies end next year.

The likes of Lee, Sciver, Kapp and Dunkley wrote the headlines then, but we shouldn’t forget the performances of some of the younger players either – Eva Grey, Bryony Smith, Mady Villiers, Grace Gibbs et al all did their bit, and fully deserve their winners medals. They’ve given everything they could over the past months and years to be the best cricketers they can be – they didn’t do it for the fame, and they certainly didn’t do it for the money – but they did it! They are Stars too, and this is their win as much as it is that of the bigger names you’ll read about in the papers tomorrow.

PREVIEW: What’s Hove Got To Do With It?

By Richard Clark

Monday sees the climax to the Women’s domestic cricket season, with five momentous matches taking place across the country.

That’s right, five.  For whilst KIA Super League Finals Day down on the South Coast will attract all the interest and headlines, attention in Long Melford, Bicester and at Blackfinch New Road, Worcester will be on other matters, with six counties vying for promotion to Division 2 of the Royal London One-Day Cup (the County Championship to some of us) – or in Essex’s case hoping to retain their place there.

At Bicester, Oxfordshire welcome Durham, whilst Long Melford plays host to something of a local derby, as Suffolk welcome the afore-mentioned Essex.

Worcestershire, meanwhile, will entertain Cornwall – provided the visitors can first overcome the notorious Bank Holiday weekend M5 traffic – and whilst the Women’s Rapids home matches are usually played at Kidderminster, it was announced soon after the fixture was confirmed that this one would go ahead at “County HQ”.

It remains relatively rare, of course, for the major county grounds to host women’s county matches.  Kent and Northamptonshire have played one home fixture each at Canterbury and Northampton respectively this season, but they are the notable exceptions rather than the rule.  County CEOs see the matches as loss-making, and no doubt some groundsmen would have their own views on their workload being added to.

The switch to New Road, though, is not a one-off, and is indicative of an increasingly close relationship between the County and the Cricket Board, with at least one match being played at New Road every year since 2015.

That summer saw a 50-over Championship game against Devon, whilst a “triangular” T20 Cup day (sadly rain-affected) followed in 2016.  Those fixtures were competitive, but last season saw only a T20 “friendly” played as a post-script to a men’s T20 Blast fixture, and this summer’s two scheduled T20 “curtain-raisers” to men’s Blast fixtures were both – during our driest summer for many years – wiped out by rain.

Monday, therefore, marks a welcome return to competitive women’s county cricket at New Road, and Womens’ Rapids coach Sam Wyles feels that can only be positive.

“We really appreciate being given this opportunity to play at Blackfinch New Road,” says Wyles, “And our thanks go to everyone at Worcestershire CCC for their support.  It’s a relationship we see growing in 2019 and into the future.”

County CEO Matt Rawnsley agrees.

“The relationship between the County and the Women’s rapids is very important to us, and that goes beyond just staging matches now and then.  At the moment the County Cricket Club and the Cricket Board operate separately, and in many ways that makes no sense.  The link between the men’s and women’s games is something we are working hard on, because we believe it will be beneficial to both sides.”

“Throwing a bit of money at it and thinking that is enough would be an easy option, but there are so many more ways where we can work more closely.  Greater use of shared facilities and coaching resources is one area, commercial sponsorship involving both men’s and women’s teams in some way is another.”

“We have to be realistic in our aims, but a lot of things can be done that would be very effective but wouldn’t involve huge cost.  There are some exciting things in the pipeline.”

As an example of that “joined-up” approach, the Women’s team already wears the same playing kit as the men’s team, and shares the “Rapids” branding. And both kit and name have been extended this season down through the girls are group squads. It all helps to re-enforce the impression of a single entity.

As for Monday’s match, Wyles believes his team is ready to grasp the opportunity with both hands.

“Preparation hasn’t been ideal, with the two games we had hoped to use as practice both washed out, but the squad is working hard at training and are very focused on Monday.”

“Playing at New Road may be daunting in some ways but a lot of our players have played there before and know the ground, so it’s at least a familiar venue to us.  We can treat it as just another game of cricket.  Perhaps playing on a bigger stage adds a bit more pressure for Cornwall.”

For the players, meanwhile, the match can’t come soon enough.  Rapids’ bowler Jess Humby sums up the mood in the camp ahead of the game.

“As a one-off fixture it’s huge!  We talked a lot over the winter about getting into the play-off.  That was always our target, but then to be at the County Ground where we really only get the occasional chance to play really adds to the occasion.”

Fast bowler Emily Arlott puts it more succinctly, describing the match as “the biggest certainly of this summer if not for a few years.”

Worcestershire’s season has been a case of taking both the high road and the low road, mixing Division 3 cricket in the 50-over game with a first ever venture into Division 1 of the Vitality T20 Cup, and whilst relegation from the top flight was a blow, their campaign at that level may well stand them in good stead.

“Playing in Division 1 has definitely helped,” says Humby.  “We came up against some very good teams and it perhaps took us out of our comfort zone.  You learn so much more about yourselves – the importance of bowling good lines, backing our bowlers up in the field, batters hitting the gaps and running hard. You can get away with those little things at a lower level but in Division 1 they really count.”

The vagaries of the calendar mean that these games take place a full three months after the conclusion of the “regular” 50-over season back in late May.  As Humby points out, that in itself poses a challenge.

“We haven’t played much cricket together since the T20 campaign finished nearly two months ago.  Our luck has been out with the weather and the two T20 wash-outs.”

Wicket-keeper and Vice-Captain Chloe Hill points out that the players haven’t been idle, though.

“Most of us have been playing club cricket which is 40-50 overs, so we’re all still playing the longer form.  We should all still be disciplined, and we certainly won’t be coming in cold.”

As far as the opposition is concerned, it’s very much “the Devil you don’t know”!  Whereas the professional men’s teams will have video footage and endless analysis to pore over, the Women’s game – of necessity – relies more on teams just playing their own game

“We played them three years ago in the T20 competition, so we have come up against them before,” explains Arlott, “but most counties tend to change personnel a bit year-by-year, so it will be interesting to see how they compare.”

Hill agrees.  “When I played for Buckinghamshire we played against Cornwall regularly, but any team can change over time.  Our squad has evolved over the three years I’ve been with Worcestershire, so I expect it will be much the same with Cornwall.  We can look at the stats from their matches and that might tell us who their key players could be, but that’s as far as it goes.”

“Ultimately, if we all believe in our own game then we know we can do no more.”

For the players of Worcestershire, promotion on Monday may be all they are thinking about, but it would seem that is only one part of a bigger picture in the ongoing development of the bond between “the County” and the Women’s team, with Worcestershire hopefully leading the way for other counties to follow.

Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68

KSL: Stars v Storm – Sophia Dunkley Making Her Name In Super League

When I interviewed Sophia Dunkley 4 weeks ago, she said that she was keen to use this year’s Kia Super League to help stake her claim on an England place. In her words: “It’s about making a name for myself and getting a bit more noticed.”

Last night, in front of thousands of viewers live on Sky, she got noticed.

With 3 runs needed off the last 3 balls, and with Dunkley on strike to the world-class Anya Shrubsole, the pressure for most of those in the ground was almost unbearable. But Dunkley, cool as a cucumber, drove the ball through the covers for four to win the match for her side, and to take Surrey Stars through to Finals Day.

“Anya’s a world-class bowler, she can frustrate people,” Dunkley told CRICKETher after the match. “Kappie said that she was bowling into the pitch, taking some pace off, so I just tried to sit as deep as I could and hope that it was in my arc. Luckily it was.”

Coming to the crease with 19 runs still required, and with Stars’ Finals Day hopes hanging in the balance, yesterday’s 6-run cameo from Dunkley proved to be a crucial one. Even when her captain was dismissed at the other end with 9 runs still required she was able to regroup, running several hard singles between the wickets with Marizanne Kapp.

Then came that sweet shot for four and with it, relief.

Amazingly, despite those of us looking on from the sidelines being bags of nerves by that final over, Dunkley’s assessment was that: “Kapp and I were in control.”

And it’s those few words, really, that sum up the way in which Dunkley has approached this competition, and indeed approaches her cricket generally. She isn’t cowed easily. She doesn’t do “down and out”. Back on that very first day at Guildford, coming in at 18-4, it was Dunkley’s half-century which dug Stars out of a hole. Other players might have crumbled. Dunkley has the confidence to take on the world’s best bowlers, even in a sticky situation.

Captain Nat Sciver, reflecting on that innings at Guildford as well as yesterday’s performance, was full of praise for the 20-year-old: “It is hard in a T20 competition when you are batting down the order at 5 and 6 – you might not get that many balls in – but she has done brilliantly the times she has been in,” she said.

It wasn’t even Dunkley’s most crucial contribution of the day. That had come earlier in the match, when her 4 overs of leg-spin, bowled at an economy rate of 5.25, had proven critical in restricting Western Storm to a total that Stars could (just about) chase down.

Dunkley should, of course, have had the wicket of Heather Knight to her name – the England captain was dropped twice off her bowling – but even with nothing in the wickets column, the fact that Sciver trusted her to bowl a full complement of overs for the first time in the competition showed how vital her contribution was with the ball yesterday.

“She was brilliant,” said Sciver. “I wanted to keep the spin on at one end because the batters were finding it so difficult against them.”

The third edition of the Super League is not over yet, and Finals Day might well provide yet more opportunities for Sophia Dunkley, who lest we forget top-scored for Stars in last year’s semi-final.

But, whatever happens, she’s already stamped her mark firmly all over a competition that is, after all, designed as a stage for our best and brightest young talent.

England awaits.

KSL: Stars v Storm – Stars Ride The Rollercoaster To Finals Day

In a game which mirrored a season in which they have won just 5 of their 10 matches, and yet still managed to qualify for Finals Day, Surrey Stars dug out a last-gasp win against the Western Storm with just two balls to spare, sealing 3rd spot in the group stages and a Bank Holiday trip to the seaside next weekend, where they will meet the Storm again in the semi-final in Hove.

“Everyone’s heart rate was going through the roof,” admitted Stars skipper Nat Sciver afterwards. “Those kind of games you can easily be on the losing side – a couple of things don’t go your way and that’s it – you are out of the competition!”

With the Thunder beating the Vipers at The Ageas, a loss would indeed have meant exactly that – they would have been out.

That they live to fight another day is very-much down to the leg-spinners Dane van Niekerk and Sophia Dunkley, who bowled 4 overs each for 20 and 21 runs respectively – 5 runs an over, compared to the all-but 10 an over everyone else was going at.

“After the first few overs of spin it seemed it was a bit slow and a bit of turn,” said Sciver. “So I thought: we’ve got two leg-spinners, we might as well use them – and they were finding it fairly difficult against them.”

Counterfactually, if van Niekerk and Dunkley had conceded at the same rate as the rest of the Stars attack, they would have found themselves chasing not 158, but a massive 195!

Nonetheless, the Stars still faced, if not a mountain, then a very big hill at the half-way stage – 158 was a good total on that pitch, and chasing it was never going to be straightforward.

As with the bowling, it was two performances rather than one which set them up – Lizelle Lee and Bryony Smith’s opening stand of 90 put them in a strong position at 10 overs; but with Lee’s dismissal at the end of the 10th over the chase stalled dramatically. Between the 11th and 16th overs, the Stars scored just one boundary, and the Required Rate climbed towards 9-an-over.

12 runs off the 17th over bowled by Stafanie Taylor, who was having a bit of a nightmare with the ball after having earlier conceded 22 off an over to Lizelle Lee, put things somewhat back on track for the Stars, before this rollercoaster of a match changed course yet again as first van Niekerk and then Sciver were dismissed with a handful of runs still required.

It was up to Sophia Dunkley and Marizanne Kapp to keep their eyes wide open on the final descent – 9 runs from 10 balls is one of those asks that sounds easy, until you are actually faced with it; but Kapp and Dunkley held their nerve to take the Stars to Finals Day, where they will look to make it 3-from-3 versus the Storm in the semi-final and earn the right to play for the trophy against group winners Loughborough Lightning in the final.

KSL: Deadline Day™!

It’s Deadline Day™ in the Kia Super League! With all six teams playing their final matches this evening, here’s how they stand.

Team Played Won Lost N/R NRR Points
1. Lightning 9 7 2 0 1.568 33
2. Storm 9 6 2 1 1.094 30
3. Stars 9 4 4 1 -0.479 20
4. Thunder 9 4 5 0 -0.965 17
5. Diamonds 9 2 6 1 -0.348 11
6. Vipers 9 2 6 1 -0.491 10

Tonight’s fixtures are: Diamonds v Lightning; Stars v Storm; and Vipers v Thunder

Loughborough Lightning and Western Storm have already qualified for Finals Day at Hove, but they still have everything to play for, with the winner of the group stages going straight through to the final.

The Lightning are best placed to achieve this – they travel to the Diamonds, who have said they will give games to all their squad members who have yet to play in the competition, and possibly rest Katherine Brunt – arguably making the Lightning’s task very-much easier.

If the Lightning lose, the Storm can go directly into the final by beating the Stars at The Oval. This will be a considerably less straightforward endeavour however, because the Stars have their own battle to fight in the race for the 3rd and final spot at Hove. If the Stars can beat the Storm (and remember they are one of only two sides to have beaten them so far this season, with a 7 wicket win at Cheltenham) then they will seal third-place and a trip to Finals Day.

But if the Stars lose to the Storm, then the Thunder can sneak past them with a win versus the Vipers at The Ageas – they’ve already beaten the Vipers this season, but it was a close result – the Vipers falling just 4 runs short chasing 137 up in Lancashire; so the Thunder will need a strong performance, as well as a favour from the Storm, to go through.