OPINION: Disappointed England Still Have Everything To Play For

England will be bitterly disappointed to have lost the ODI series out in India, having gone 2-0 down with one match to play. Having spoken to a couple of the players shortly before they left for India, including Heather Knight, whilst they didn’t underestimate India, they genuinely believed this was a series they could win.

England were even handed a bonus “Get Out Of Jail Free” card via the absence of Harmanpreet Kaur through injury, but they haven’t been able to capitalise as their batting has failed on both occasions.

This is an experienced batting line-up – England’s top 6 in the 2nd ODI debuted (on average) in 2010, with the most recent debuts in 2013. There are a lot of caps on those heads, but only Nat Sciver has come out and batted like it. Sure, there have been glimpses of the class we know these players have – Tammy Beaumont played a couple of glorious strokes in the 2nd ODI, but the only one anyone will remember is the horrendous slog-sweep she got out to!

Heather Knight played a fighting innings in the 1st ODI, but was out carelessly in the 2nd, underestimating the weight of a delivery from Jhulan Goswami and bunting a catch to extra cover. Sarah Taylor also misjudged the same bowler – there’s nothing necessarily wrong with driving at a ball half a mile outside off stump without moving your feet… but you better make sure you middle it if you do – Taylor didn’t, and it came off a thick edge to take out her stumps!

Overall, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that England batted poorly, more than India bowled especially well – there should be no excuses for this, and you can be sure that in the dressing-room there won’t be – both Mark Robinson and Heather Knight will see to that.

So with one ODI to play the series is lost, but there are still two ICC Championship points to play for, so England need to pick themselves up and go again on Thursday. Although they are currently 7th in the points table, the schedule is to their advantage, with Sri Lanka, Pakistan and West Indies at home still to play, so there is no need to hit the panic button, especially remembering that 4 teams plus New Zealand qualify automatically for the World Cup. But nonetheless, a couple of points on Thursday would give them some extra breathing room during the run-in.

All England need to do in these conditions is take a lesson from their opponents – there are no demons in these pitches, but there aren’t that many runs either – just keep calm and try to get a 4-an-over total of around 200 on the board by playing sensible cricket – basically, exactly what they did (and India didn’t) in the World Twenty20 semi-final just a few short months ago!

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NEWS: Heather Knight Says New Women’s Domestic Structure Is “Bittersweet”

Heather Knight has said that the ECB’s plans to restructure women’s domestic cricket from 2020 are “bittersweet”, given that this will likely mean the end of her team Berkshire’s chances of continuing to put out a senior county side.

Knight has represented Berkshire since 2010, moving there from Devon to advance her cricket in the top division of the Women’s County Championship, and took over the captaincy shortly afterwards. She has subsequently remained loyal to Berkshire even in the 2018 season, when they were relegated to Division 2 of the Championship.

Under the ECB’s new plans for an 8 or 10-team top flight women’s domestic set-up, Berkshire will be one of the counties which will serve as a “feeder” but will no longer field a senior women’s county side.

“I guess it’s a bit bittersweet,” said Knight. “It’s got to happen, the Hundred is going to be great for the women’s game, and if they get the set-up right it will create that safety net, because at the moment you’re into the abyss if you lose your contract.”

“I’m sure Berkshire will be involved as some sort of feeder for one of those hubs, whatever it might look like, and be involved in the youth development. It’s what’s needed to move the game forwards in this country.”

Plans for the new set-up are still being finalised but the aim is to bring in a semi-professional structure by 2020, in order to ensure there is some fallback for players like Tash Farrant and Beth Langston when they lose their England contract.

Mark Robinson: Dropping Farrant & Langston “Cruel To Be Kind”

England coach Mark Robinson has spoken about the decision to drop Tash Farrant and Beth Langston from the England squad, admitting it was tough on the players, who unlike the men have no professional county game to fall back on.

Acknowledging it wasn’t an easy decision, Robinson described Farrant as a “model pro [who] does everything right and gives herself every opportunity”, and he admitted that the decision was partly an economic as well as a cricketing one:

“You’ve got to create financial room for other players and room for opportunity on the pitch for Freya Davies and others.”

Going forwards, along with the support they get from the Professional Cricketers’ Association, Farrant and Langston will get 3 months of full support from England, including their salary package and medical insurance, but after that things get tough.

“That is the sad bit,” admitted Robinson. “It is the same as a [male] county cricketer being released – if he doesn’t get another job or doesn’t get another county that’s it. That is the unfortunate place we are in.”

However, Robinson’s take is that sometimes you have to be “cruel to be kind” to players on the fringes.

“With young players, you don’t want to string people on – it’s difficult – you have to be fair to them as well – you don’t want to release them at 26 and you’ve messed up their whole life.”

“I think at some point you’ve got to say ‘we can’t actually see you coming through’.”

But Robinson stresses that there is potentially a way back.

“Tash might re-invent herself – she could be a major player.”

“So for Beth and Tash their decision now is: do I play KSL and county cricket, then the year after, when hopefully semi-professionalism comes in, they do that; or do they go on to a different career?”

That, indeed, is the question…!!

NEWS: Davies In Line To Make International Debut as England Announce Squads For India and Sri Lanka Tours

The ECB have named 3 separate squads for England’s forthcoming winter / spring tours – one for the ODIs in India, one for the T20s in India, and one for their tour of Sri Lanka. Newly-contracted pace bowler Freya Davies has been included in the India T20 and Sri Lanka squads, and is therefore in line to make her international debut next month.

Of the 21 contracted players who were available for selection, only Jenny Gunn, Bryony Smith and Alice Davidson-Richards have missed out entirely. Kirstie Gordon and Katie George have also been omitted but in their case it is due to injury – both are still recovering from stress fractures of the lower back.

Sarah Taylor will be joining the team for the 3 ODIs in India but then flying home, while Katherine Brunt will return from injury for both parts of the India tour, but will not be going to Sri Lanka (presumably to avoid overloading her ahead of this summer’s women’s Ashes series).

Sophia Dunkley and Linsey Smith, who debuted during the World Twenty20 in November, have both retained their places – Dunkley is included in all 3 squads, while Smith features in the India T20 and Sri Lanka squads.

The full squads are below:

ODI Squad v India:

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Sophia Dunkley (Middlesex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Alex Hartley (Lancashire)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
Heather Knight (Berkshire, captain)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Sarah Taylor (Sussex, wicketkeeper)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

T20 Squad v India:

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Freya Davies (Sussex)
Sophia Dunkley (Middlesex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wicketkeeper)
Heather Knight (Berkshire, captain)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Linsey Smith (Sussex)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

Sri Lanka Squad:

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Freya Davies (Sussex)
Sophia Dunkley (Middlesex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wicketkeeper)
Heather Knight (Berkshire, captain)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Linsey Smith (Sussex)
Fran Wilson (Kent)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

ECB Central Contracts for 2019 Announced – Davies Rewarded But Farrant Dropped

The ECB have today confirmed the list of current centrally contracted women players for 2019, with 21 players on the list – 17 with full contracts and 4 “Rookies”.

The big news is that fast bowler Freya Davies, previously a “Rookie”, has been awarded a full contract, while Tash Farrant and Beth Langston have both been dropped from the list.

Davies graduated from Exeter University in 2017 and has been training with the full England squad ever since, evidently impressing coach Mark Robinson along the way.

Langston last represented England in 2016; the omission of Farrant is perhaps more surprising, given her inclusion in the WT20 squad at the expense of Davies.

Meanwhile Linsey Smith, as announced by CRICKETher last November, is now on a Rookie contract, alongside existing Rookies Bryony Smith, Alice Davidson-Richards and Katie George.

Kirstie Gordon and Sophia Dunkley, who both made their England debut in November at the World Twenty20, are still in full-time education and are therefore understood to be ineligible for a contract.

The full list of contracted players is below:

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Freya Davies (Sussex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)
Alex Hartley (Lancashire)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
Heather Knight (Berkshire)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Sarah Taylor (Sussex)
Fran Wilson (Kent)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)
Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent) (Rookie)
Katie George (Hampshire) (Rookie)
Bryony Smith (Surrey) (Rookie)
Linsey Smith (Sussex) (Rookie)

 

MATCH REPORT: Pakistan v West Indies 3rd T20I – The girls in green strike back!

S.M. Hussain in Karachi

On a beautiful sunny day, the ‘DJ’ was playing songs to entertain the crowd and in spite of the weekly holiday, school girls clad in their uniforms were cheerful as usual. Amid this festive Sunday atmosphere Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat.

Javeria Khan didn’t stay for too long in the middle and got out to a spectacular one-handed effort by Afy Fletcher. The captain, Bismah Maroof, continued with her good form and made 19 off 16 balls; but it was Omaima Sohail’s innings (28) which gave momentum to Pakistan’s innings.

Omaima looked lacklustre in the first two matches, but the management persevered with her, which paid dividends today. In the beginning she was a bit jittery but then she played some lusty strokes to gain her confidence – so much so that she came down the wicket and heaved a huge six to the mid-on boundary.

But it was a 67-run partnership between Nida Dar (53) and Aliya Riaz (24*) which enabled the Pakistan team to post a winning total – 150 on the board. Dar was flamboyant – in the 19th over she bisected the gap between cover and mid-off not once but twice to hit two 4s in that over. Her innings came to an end when she attempted an impossible second run and was run out.

In reply West Indies had to face an early blow – Kycia Knight (0) was stumped by the agile Pakistan wicket-keeper, Sidra Nawaz, off the bowling of left-arm spinner Anum Amin. Deandra Dottin mostly deals in boundaries and today wasn’t an exception – she hit four 6s and three 4s in her quickfire knock – one of her sixes going straight into the hands of Pakistan men’s team captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who was sitting in the VIP enclosure. (One wonders, how often this can happen – perhaps one in a million? And people in the stadium watched the spectacle in utter astonishment!)

Dottin (46) tried to hit out one too many times and mistimed a pull shot to be caught at deep square-leg by Nida Dar. Nida took one more catch to dismiss Natasha McLean (26) at long-on and celebrated with her signatory ‘Afridi’ celebration.

In the penultimate over Sana Mir took the vital wicket of Chinelle Henry. Henry came down the wicket but missed the ball completely and wicket-keeper Sidra Nawaz dislodged the bails to complete an outstanding performance behind the stumps, stumping three West Indies batters.

At the end of the 20th over the visitors fell short of the target by 12 runs. Although the hosts – Pakistan – lost the series 2-1, for them victory in the last match on a festive Sunday afternoon was a fitting end to the series.

More importantly, the message has been sent again to the world that it’s safe to play cricket in Pakistan. Thank you, West Indies, for providing the opportunity to Pakistan’s young generation to watch a live international cricket match in the stadium.

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S.M. Hussain is a freelance cricket writer and journalist based in Pakistan. He tweets from @CaughtAtPoint.

WNCL: New South Wales Breakers & Queensland Fire Through To Final On Bonus Points

Team Played Won Points
1. New South Wales Breakers 6 4 22
2. Queensland Fire 6 4 19
3. Tasmania 6 4 18
4. ACT Meteors 6 3 12
5. Victoria 6 2 9
6. Western Fury 6 2 8
7. South Australian Scorpions 6 2 7

New South Wales Breakers and Queensland Fire will contest next weekend’s 50-over WNCL final, after both won in the final round of matches to seal the top two spots in the group ladder.

New South Wales beat ACT Meteors by 5 wickets to top the table and secure home advantage for the final. Lauren Cheatle took 4-42 as the Meteors were bowled out for 195, which the Breakers then chased-down in 30 overs, thanks to fifties from Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry.

Queensland Fire went into the final weekend needing a bonus-point win to have any hope of qualification, but that is exactly what they got against Western Fury. The Fury were bowled out for 100, with Jemma Barsby taking 4-11, which the Fire overhauled in exactly 16 overs, Beth Mooney finishing on 44*.

It would all have been in vain though if Tasmania had won their final match against Victoria. However, a century from Meg Lanning was the difference as Victoria posted 260-7, and despite some late heroics from Ronnie Pike (53 off 45 balls, coming in at 7) Tasmania ended up 14 short, bowled out for 246.

That meant Tasmania unluckily missed out on the final despite finishing level on wins with the top two, with the run rate-based bonus points system* making the difference – Tasmania scoring just 2 bonus points in the season, compared to the Fire’s 3 and the Breakers’ 6.

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* 1 bonus point for a run rate 1.25x the opposition; 2 for a run rate 2x – unlike in the Women’s County Championship, there are no bonus points in WNCL for taking wickets, and it isn’t possible to secure any bonus points if you don’t win!