NEWS: Scotland’s Olivia Rae Launches Rae Cricket Coaching

Olivia Rae, current Middlesex player and former Scotland international, has become one of the first women ever to launch her own cricket coaching business – Rae Cricket Coaching.

The launch took place on Friday at North London Cricket Club, where Rae will be leading the girls programme, as well as working as part of the coaching team that coaches junior boys and senior men.

Rae Cricket Coaching offers coaching sessions for individuals, small groups and schools throughout London. Rae herself is Level 3 qualified and a former coach of the Scotland Under-17s, as well as the current Berkshire U17 county girls head coach and Middlesex county U11 girls coach.

“Rae Cricket Coaching is bringing all my coaching experience together,” Rae told CRICKETher at the launch. “I’m using the tagline Refine, Adapt, Excel, which is something that I’ve developed over the 12 years I’ve been coaching.”

“We look at refining what people already have, because everybody’s got something. It’s about being able to adapt to different situations, whether that’s tactically, technically or mentally. And we believe that will make you excel at what you do.”

“I believe mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation, so that’s a really big part of what we’re doing – integrating basic mental skills into sessions. We use player diaries for instance for players to reflect, and that’s something they will get used to doing throughout the sessions.”

In a still male-dominated profession, it is great to see a female coach like Rae seeking to make use of her long experience playing and coaching in both women’s and men’s cricket.

“Our ethos at Rae Cricket Coaching is about creating an all-round cricketer,” Rae says. “We can benefit boys, girls, men and women in that respect.”

“Sometimes as a female coach, you can feel like you’re coaching for all women. Because if you mess up they’ll say ‘women can’t coach’. But I’d like to take it away from gender – hopefully the boys can look at me as someone who’s played a high level of cricket, someone who sometimes turns out and plays men’s cricket as well, and who knows what I’m talking about.

“I hope everyone I coach will look at me for my experience – it’s not that I’m a female coach, it’s that I’m a good coach.”

Rae is also part of Middlesex’s squad for the forthcoming season and will continue to play, alongside her work with Rae Cricket Coaching. We look forward to seeing her on the county circuit, and wish her every success with this latest venture.

STATS: England In India & Sri Lanka Bowling Rankings – Brunt Still Burning

Defying all the cliches for a subcontinental tour, England’s leading bowlers in India and Sri Lanka were all quicks.

Of course this was partly because their leading spinner – Sophie Ecclestone – played only 2 matches before injury ended her tour. She was effectively replaced in the lineup by seamer Kate Cross, which was an interesting like-for-(not)-like choice – perhaps something to do with maintaining that vital balance in the team between northern and southern accents? Whatever the reason it worked out pretty well, with Cross taking 11 wickets at a respectable Economy Rate and bagging a Player of the Match award for that final over in the 3rd T20 against India, closing out the match with 2 wickets for 1 run when India had needed just 3 runs to win.

England continued dependence on Katherine Brunt was underlined once again, as she topped the rankings despite sitting out of most of the Sri Lanka leg, where the “easier” wickets were. To be fair (unlike with the batting) England have a succession plan for Brunt, with Katie George looking to be back from injury this summer and Freya Davies making her debut on this tour, and no player is genuinely irreplaceable… but Brunt really is as close as it gets.

Anya Shrubsole ranked second with 14 wickets, and was the only one of England’s bowlers apart from Ecclestone to finish the tour with an Economy Rate under 4. She didn’t do anything spectacular, but she took at least one wicket in every match she played, and she is a Big Game Player™ – come the Big Games against the Aussies this summer, she’ll be fired up alongside Brunt to win back those Ashes for England, and together they will be key to England’s hopes.

Finally, it would be remiss not to mention Georgia Elwiss, who in the 3 matches she played before going home injured, contributed with both bat and ball – bowling economically in the middle overs, and crucially scoring 33* in the final ODI v India, to get England over the line as they were starting to wobble. With the old Jenny Gunn nearing the twilight of her career, England will be searching for a new Jenny Gunn; and short of someone else changing their name by deed poll to “Jenny Gunn”, Elwiss is looking like the leading candidate for that role now.

Player Matches Wickets Economy
1. Katherine Brunt 7 15 4.07
2. Anya Shrubsole 10 14 3.87
3. Kate Cross 7 11 4.19
4. Laura Marsh 8 7 4.45
5. Linsey Smith 6 9 6.47
6. Nat Sciver 12 5 4.14
7. Alex Hartley 6 5 4.23
8. Georgia Elwiss 3 4 3.90
9. Freya Davies 3 3 4.58
10. Sophie Ecclestone 2 2 3.41

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

NEWS: Sophia Dunkley Wins Cricket Society’s Most Promising Young Female Cricketer of the Year Award

20 year old Sophia Dunkley is this year’s recipient of the Cricket Society award for Most Promising Young Female Cricketer.

The award, made on the recommendation of Clare Connor, is awarded annually for the young female cricketer who showed the most promise in the preceding 12 months. It has run since 2002, with previous winners including Nat Sciver (2013), Heather Knight (2010) and Katherine Brunt (2004).

Dunkley, who made her England debut in November at the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean, experienced a breakthrough year in 2019. Coming in at number 7 for Surrey Stars her opportunities were sometimes limited, but her innings of 66 off just 43 balls on the opening day of the Super League marked her card in the eyes of England coach Mark Robinson. Against Western Storm she claimed 3 for 18, including the scalps of England captain Heather Knight and tournament leading run scorer India’s Smriti Mandhana.

Out in the Caribbean she also experienced success, going in at 48-5 in England’s group match against West Indies and rescuing the innings with 35 off 30 balls.

She has recently been with the team in India and Sri Lanka, claiming her first international wicket in the 2nd T20 against the Sri Lankans.

The award will be presented at the Cricket Society’s annual lunch today, where Sophia’s mum and Head of Middlesex Women’s Cricket Danni Warren will accept the award on her behalf.

STATS: England In India & Sri Lanka Batting Rankings – Jones The Steam In England’s Engine

England fly home from their tour of India and Sri Lanka with a certain spring in their step. Despite losing the first two ODIs of the tour, they bounced back to win every one of the following 10 matches, and now sit a fairly comfortable 2nd in the ICC Women’s Championship, on course for direct qualification for the World Cup in New Zealand in 2021.

Those first two games aside, the batsmen have stood up and been counted, especially in Sri Lanka, where perhaps the only negative has been that the players further down the order like Fran Wilson and Sophia Dunkley haven’t had a look-in, due to the form of Amy Jones, Danni Wyatt, Tammy Beaumont and Nat Sciver. Wilson played 3 matches in Sri Lanka, and faced 3 balls; Dunkley played 3 and didn’t bat at all, though she did get a bowl at least.

Amy Jones comes out on top of our batting rankings, just, after having been promoted to open in the T20s as well as the ODIs, with Tammy Beaumont dropping down the order in the T20s to make way. Jones is clearly relishing the responsibility of opening and keeping, and Sarah Taylor, who scored just 13 runs in 3 innings in the India ODIs, might just need to start looking over her shoulder this summer!

Danni Wyatt, at No. 2 in the rankings, had another good sub-continental tour, hitting nearly 350 runs at a Strike Rate of over 100, which won’t have done her case for a potentially lucrative spot in the Women’s IPL any harm. Tammy Beaumont, ranked third, played more of an accumulating role – striking at only 86, but notching-up over 400 runs in total on the trip.

Rounding out the top 5, Nat Sciver and Heather Knight both made vital contributions. Sciver’s tour was a bit up and down – a big 85 in the 2nd India ODI was followed by a disappointing T20 series (4, 1 and 0), but she made amends with 93 off 73 balls in the 1st Sri Lanka ODI and 49* in the last T20 in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, Knight’s haul of 225 runs looks thin on paper, but was again slightly reflective of lack of opportunity – she was another one who didn’t bat at all in the Sri Lanka T20s.

It certainly doesn’t look like there are too many questions about who England’s top order will be for the Women’s Ashes this summer, though where Sarah Taylor fits in is certainly one that Mark Robinson might be scratching his floppy hat over!

The only real worry is more long-term – with all of England’s top batsmen having made their debuts in 2013 or earlier, where is the next generation coming from? It is a problem… but perhaps also an opportunity for some young batsman to stand up in this year’s County Championship and say “Over Here”!

Player Matches Runs SR
1. Amy Jones 11 368 119.09
2. Danni Wyatt 11 343 109.58
3. Tammy Beaumont 12 407 86.05
4. Nat Sciver 12 304 92.97
5. Heather Knight 12 225 80.65
6. Lauren Winfield 11 138 83.64
7. Georgia Elwiss 3 39 60.94
8. Fran Wilson 3 8 266.67
9. Katherine Brunt 7 31 63.27
10. Sophia Dunkley 5 14 77.78

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

NEWS: Lydia Greenway’s Cricket For Girls Launches New Educational Resource

Lydia Greenway’s coaching organisation, Cricket For Girls, has this week launched a new online cricket coaching programme, which aims to give PE teachers and coaches the confidence and knowledge to deliver quality cricket coaching to girls.

The Cricket for Girls online resource provides a full scheme of work with supporting lesson plans, videos and resources to enable teachers and coaches to deliver a full term or season of cricket.

It will cross the age and ability spectrum, from softball to hardball for Year 5 upwards. The first level of the resource, “An Introduction to soft ball cricket”, will be available to pre-order on Tuesday 26 March and will be officially released on Monday 15 April.

The resource has been developed in consultation with schools across the past 18 months, based on discussions about what they need in order to introduce cricket programmes for girls. The key emphasis has been on providing a resource which is designed specifically for girls, a lot of whom are experiencing cricket for the first time at school and who therefore need a different approach to boys of the same age, tailored specifically for them.

Speaking at the launch of the resource on Thursday, Lydia Greenway said:

“The journey into the game for a female cricketer does not have to follow tradition. Nor should it. Girls’ cricket in schools has a blank canvas – we don’t just have to repeat what’s been done before.”

“This resource provides a fun, engaging and inspiring way of delivering cricket in schools.”

“Our aim is to break down all perceptions, challenges and barriers when it comes to cricket, and in doing so revitalise the sport.”

NEWS: Counties – “We Will Continue Playing County Cricket From 2020 Despite ECB Plans”

In response to ECB plans to restructure women’s county cricket from 2020, several of the counties who will be relegated to “feeder county” status are planning on launching their own league in order to keep women’s county cricket alive below the top division.

The ECB’s restructure would see only the top 10 counties fielding senior county women’s sides in the new 1-division Women’s County Championship, with all other counties serving as “feeders”, developing age-group players who will then join their closest full county side.

Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire are the counties currently involved in the plan, which would see a new East of England Competition set up, contested by the 6 counties.

“We are still going to play county cricket,” one Hertfordshire official told CRICKETher. “Removing county cricket doesn’t make any sense when we are trying to grow the women’s game.”

CRICKETher understands that the ECB are aware of the plan and are attempting to limit it to an Under-21 age-group competition, in keeping with the new restructure.

However, the counties feel this would defeat the purpose of the competition, which is to ensure that older players continue to have opportunities to develop their abilities. One senior county executive said that they would play overage players even if an age limit was imposed by the ECB.

“We don’t want to interfere with the ECB’s new structure, and we will schedule our county matches so that they don’t clash with the ECB’s fixtures,” he said. “We aren’t waging war on them – we just want our girls to continue to have the opportunity to represent their county.”

It will be difficult for the ECB to force the issue, given that the new competition will formally be played outside of their direct jurisdiction, and will be independently funded by the counties from sponsorship and fundraising.

Several existing county players have already expressed disquiet about the restructure, which will see them restricted to playing club cricket – seen by many as a backward step. In the East of England, where the club structure is almost non-existent, those involved in county cricket are particularly worried that many players will be forced out of the game altogether come 2020.

“This is being driven by the players themselves,” one official told CRICKETher. “They want to carry on playing county cricket. If there isn’t that step up, they are much more likely to drop out when they turn 18.”

Should the Eastern Counties be successful they may well inspire similar independent county competitions around England in other areas where club cricket is struggling.

NEWS: County Players And Coaches Feel Proposed Restructure Is “Backward Step”

The ECB’s planned overhaul of women’s county cricket, whereby from 2020 only a top tier of 8 or 10 counties will participate in the County Championship, is sparking concerns among players and coaches that it will stymie the development of the sport.

The proposals would mean the end of the careers of approximately 250 senior county players, who the ECB hope will move into the club structure from 2020.

However, the weakness of the underlying club structure in some regions of the country effectively means that some of these players may be lost to cricket for good.

One player from a Division 3 county said:

“I understand the intent, but can’t help that feel a lot of women like myself will suffer.”

“Some of us are perhaps ahead of the varying standard of women’s club cricket, and were finding our feet in Division 3 and 2. To make these feeders and have a select few ‘elite’ sides, where the net will be cast wider and subsequently, numbers harder to compete with, I fear my hopes of competing at a standard suitable for myself will dwindle.”

“I feel this is a backwards step.”

Another, responding to the proposals on Twitter, labelled the move a “massive shame”: “Been playing county senior cricket for 10 years and to see it end will be pretty rubbish”.

CRICKETher understands that the proposals were presented to those working in the current women’s set-up at four consultation meetings held around the country in 2018.

However, while these meetings presented an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposals, some working in county cricket feel their views have not been taken into account.

One county coach told CRICKETher:

“I think the narrowing of a growing market could do a lot more harm than good. It would strangle the rapid organic growth and increase in quality that we were witnessing at the coal face.”

“There is some wonderful cricket going on in Division 2 and 3. That is a result of hard work and natural growth and evolution of the women’s game that is going to be squashed.”

OPINION: Reading The Runes On England’s Warm-Up Win In Sri Lanka

England began their tour of Sri Lanka with a comfortable win in a “jumpers for goalposts” warm-up match against a relatively inexperienced “Emerging” Sri Lanka team in Colombo.

England fielded 13 players, with most of the squad getting a run-out with either bat or ball. Lauren Winfield top-scored with 82 (retired) as England posted 319, before bowling the Sri Lankans out in exactly 40 overs, with Heather Knight taking 4-13.

Reading the runes on England’s selections, it looks like Amy Jones, who scored 56 (also retired) will continue to open the batting in the ODIs with Tammy Beaumont; with Lauren Winfield maybe coming in at 3 ahead of Heather Knight and Nat Sciver, as she did in the 3rd ODI in India.

Bowling-wise, although Katherine Brunt has travelled to Sri Lanka, she was originally planned to be rested for this tour, and she didn’t play in the warm-up. Instead, Freya Davies opened the bowling with Anya Shrubsole – Davies finishing with 1-16 from 6 overs.

Does this mean Davies is nailed-on for the ODIs? It would be a bold statement of faith from the coach… but that’s exactly the sort of thing Mark Robinson likes to do! (Remember Linsey Smith, Sophia Dunkley and Kirstie Gordon all making their debuts together at the World Twenty20?)

England’s bowling is obviously a bit injury-ravaged at the moment, with Georgia Elwiss and Sophie Ecclestone both having flown home and straight into rehab, so other options are obviously on the table, but it looks like Sophia Dunkley is not one of them – she didn’t bowl in the warm-up, and it seems like England see her as a pure batsman at the moment.

Danni Wyatt however, did send down some overs – they were rather expensive (going at 7.8, compared to Freya Davies’ 2.3) but England clearly do have her in mind as an option.

NEWS: Bidding Process To Decide Which Counties Field Sides In Women’s County Championship From 2020

More details are coming to light regarding the ECB’s proposed restructure of women’s county cricket from 2020.

CRICKETher understands that the top 10 counties will be decided by a bidding process, whereby counties will put forward expressions of interest and the ECB will then grant hosting rights to the strongest proposals.

The top counties will be supported by 10 Academy “hubs”, and will play in a one-division Championship, while the old Division 2 and 3 counties will simply serve as “feeders”, developing age-group players who will then join their closest county side.

Revenue from the ECB’s new TV deal will be used to enable the top 10 counties to offer professionally staffed set-ups. Players will also be remunerated, though this will likely fall short of fully professional pay, at least initially.

While the bidding process is ostensibly an open one, it seems logistically unlikely that the 8 “Hundred” counties will not feature in the new Championship – not least because this will limit the amount of travelling which the top women’s players will need to do.

CRICKETher understands that Sussex are confident they will be one of the selected counties, given their extensive facilities at the Aldridge Cricket Academy funded by millionaire Sir Rod Aldridge, which leaves just one spot in the top flight remaining.

The traditional prominence of the southern counties in the women’s game means that large areas of England are likely to be unrepresented in the new Women’s County Championship.

Current players who represent the counties which are not successful in the bidding process will be encouraged to play club cricket as an alternative.