MATCH REPORT: Hampshire Stutter At Final Hurdle

Hampshire began the day at Aldershot Cricket Club knowing that their destiny was in their own hands: if they won both games, they would be the winners of the last ever County T20 Cup.

In fact, it was 50-over County Champions Kent who stole their thunder, winning both of their matches to leapfrog Hampshire and take third place in the final standings.

The two sides faced off in the first match of the day, with Kent winning the toss and electing to bat first. Maxine Blythin took advantage of some early fortune – including being dropped behind the stumps when still in single figures – to top-score with 43: hers was eventually the first wicket to fall in the 16th over, though her opening partner Kirsty Dymond had retired hurt several minutes earlier having been hit on the upper body.

 

Hampshire reined Kent back somewhat in the last 5 overs, with Providence Cowdrill taking 3 quick wickets, but the visitors still amassed 124-5.

Last weekend against Surrey, Hampshire had successfully chased down 155, and they initially looked on course to do again, with Maia Bouchier making up for the mix-up which caused the run out of local hero Ella Chandler by slamming Chelsea Rowson for six over square leg and playing some beautiful on drives.

However, the home side were pegged back in their chase by some tight bowling from Megan Belt and Grace Gibbs, who seems back to her best after the horrific knee injury which saw her miss the back end of last season.

With Bouchier still at the crease, Hampshire still had a chance; but in an attempt to force up the run rate the opener ending up miscuing Rowson to point in the 15th over, with Hampshire still needing 41.

The target ultimately proved out of reach, wickets tumbling in the last 3 overs as Hampshire concluded on 117-8.

In Kent’s second match, against Wales, Blythin was again the star of a low-scoring encounter, dismissed 2 runs short of her half-century but hitting a grand total of 53% of Kent’s total of 91 all out in 19 overs. Only a good low caught-and-bowled from Gabby Basketter was enough to account for Blythin, though it also saw the spinner taken off the hospital and unable to bat due to a possible fracture.

Sadly Wales were unable to back up their bowling performance with the bat – the combination of Tash Farrant and Alice Davidson-Richards leaving them reeling at 12-4 in the first 5 overs, including Rachel Priest, clean bowled by ADR.

Claire Nicholas showed some resistance but could not keep up with the rate, taking 40 balls to amass 24 before Megan Belt trapped her LBW in the 16th over, with Rowson ultimately finishing things off in the 17th as Kent won by 19 runs.

Hampshire went into the last match of the day knowing that it was all or nothing, needing to win if they were to have any chance of topping the table.

 

 

The pressure appeared to tell, with Wales’ decision to put them in quickly paying off as first Maia Bouchier and then Sam Betts fell in consecutive deliveries in Nicholas’ first over – a double-wicket maiden.

Captain Katie George was next to go, driving a ball of Danielle Gibson into the hands of Lauren Parfitt at extra cover; while Alexandra Griffiths then decimated the middle order, both Fi Morris and Lucia Kendall falling victim to identical dismissals as Bethan Gammon held 2 stonking catches at mid-on.

Charlie Dean then ran out Ella Chandler after the opener had scored 21, and only some last-minute boundaries from Providence Cowdrill in the final over allowed Hampshire to take their score past 70.

Could they defend it? Stranger things have happened in women’s county cricket, but it wasn’t to be for Hampshire this time around – Priest finally coming to the party with a 25-ball 23. While two quick wickets from Providence Cowdrill did give them a glimmer of hope, Wales were already well on their way by then, and Nicholas ultimately finished things in style with two beautiful drives for four as Wales triumphed with 3 and a half overs to spare.

So that’s that – as far as we know – for the T20 Cup. The triple-headers are long days – for the players and us! – but it’s been a blast. Thanks for having us.

NEWS: Warwickshire Win T20 Cup

Team Played Won Lost N/R Points
Warwickshire 8 5 3 0 20
Lancashire 8 4 1 3 19
Kent 8 4 2 2 18
Surrey 8 4 3 1 17
Hampshire 8 4 3 1 17
Sussex 8 3 4 1 13
Wales 8 2 4 2 10
Middlesex 8 2 4 2 10
Nottinghamshire 8 1 5 2 6

Warwickshire (AKA Birmingham Bears) have won the T20 Cup with a dramatic victory over Lancashire in the final match of the season.

Despite losing their opening fixture of the day to Sussex, Warwickshire stayed in the hunt due to Hampshire’s defeat to Kent, but they still needed to beat Lancashire and hope that Wales could do them a favour in Hampshire’s final game.

Wales did their part, with Alexandra Griffiths taking 3-12 as Hampshire were bowled out for 73, which Wales chased-down with 4 overs to spare.

Simultaneously at Edgbaston Warwickshire had racked up a massive 150 against Lancashire, largely thanks to 76 off 57 balls from captain Marie Kelly, who had earlier been awarded a special county cap by Warwickshire legend Ian Bell for her hundredth appearance in a Bears shirt.

With nothing to lose, Lancashire gave chase hard, reaching 70-2 after 9 overs, but a collapse to 75-5 was the beginning of the end and Warwickshire completed the job by bowling out Lancashire for 130 – Georgia Davis and Jess Couser taking 3 wickets apiece.

Elsewhere, Bryony Smith was in the runs again, scoring 77 for Surrey as they posted 142 against Middlesex, with Hannah Jones taking a hat-trick to kill off Middlesex’s reply at 87 all out.

Meanwhile Somerset finished top of the tree in Div 2, beating Derbyshire and Worcestershire, with Sophie Luff top-scoring in both matches, as they finished 4 points ahead of Durham, who lost to Scotland and Yorkshire.

Women’s Ashes Preview – England Hope!

The last time England took to the field against Australia, at the Twenty20 World Cup final in Antigua, there was hope.

True, England’s path to the final hadn’t been entirely  smooth – they had lost to the West Indies in the groups stages, in front of a fiercely partisan local crowd in St Lucia; but then nor had Australia’s – they had been thrashed by India, limping to 119 all out, after Smriti and Harmanpreet had smashed their bowlers for 167.

England certainly didn’t underestimate the Australians in that final, but having beaten India by 8 wickets in the semis, there was hope that they could go all the way.

But it wasn’t to be.

Having won the toss, England chose to bat, but only Danni Wyatt and Heather Knight reached double-figures as they were bowled out for 105 in the final over. In reply, the Aussies took England’s star bowlers to pieces – Kirstie Gordon and Anya Shrubsole went for 10 an over – as the Southern Stars romped home by 8 wickets with 5 overs to spare.

So much for hope.

And yet this week in Leicester, as England and Australia rejoin their rivalry in the 1st ODI of the multi-format Women’s Ashes series, the hope is there again.

England have put together an undefeated run of 14 matches since February, and in that time have whitewashed a T20 series against India, and both ODI and T20 series against Sri Lanka and the West Indies. It is a winning stretch that has become so talismanic for England that they turned down the chance to give some of their newer players – the likes of Sophia Dunkley and Freya Davies – opportunities in the T20 series versus the Windies, leaving them sitting on the sidelines in favour of the tried and trusted old hands who will be on the teamsheet once again in Leicester.

So is the hope justified this time?

Perhaps, yes.

England are a better team than they looked in that final last November, where they collapsed with exhaustion after an intense 3 weeks of sweltering tournament cricket, on pitches that didn’t really help a side who like to play their shots.

And while the Australians may have already built the strong domestic structures that England can currently only aspire to, at the top level the current cohort of contracted players are just as fit and just as well-drilled as the Aussies.

The returns of Katherine Brunt and Sarah Taylor, who both missed the World T20, will also make a difference. Taylor might not be the run machine she once was, but even as she has slightly struggled to adapt her batting game to the “Bish Bash Bosh ” era we all now live in, she has taken her wicket keeping to another level, and you can’t underestimate the extent to which her presence standing up to the stumps closes down the batsmans options and niggles at their confidence.

Katherine Brunt is arguably even more important, bowling with economy in all formats, even when she doesn’t take wickets; and while her batting can’t 100% be relied on – she still fails more often than not – she can be a match-winner with the bat too, coming in at 6 or 7, to halt a collapse or to give them that extra push over the cliff that turns a “10” innings up to “11”.

England’s settled batting line-up – Jones, Beaumont, Taylor, Sciver and Knight – all assured of their places for the entire series, will be full of confidence, playing on familiar pitches that will give them “value for their shots”, as Mark Robinson likes to say.

It is important to acknowledge that this is hope, not expectation – Australia are the better side, albeit probably not “win every game” better, as Alyssa Healy didn’t quite actually say.

But still, it really is hope.

NEWS: England Announce Women’s Ashes Squad

England have announced a 14-player squad for the 1st Women’s Ashes ODI against Australia.

The squad contains no surprises, and is identical to the squad selected for the first two matches of the West Indies ODI series, save for the omission of Alex Hartley, who was “let go” during that series.

Heather Knight, who was due to miss the washed-out T20 at Derby last Tuesday as a precautionary measure, having twanged her hamstring in the game at Northampton, is included and is expected to lead the team out as usual.

With the England Academy playing games against Australia A during the week, England have the option to bring in other players later in the series, which might provide an opening for Bryony Smith, who impressed in her ODI debut versus the Windies and also hit a half century in the warm-ups against Australia last week.

The multi-format series begins next week with a pair of day-night ODIs at Leicester on Tuesday 2nd and Thursday 4th July, followed by the final ODI at Canterbury on Sunday 7th July. The teams then have 10 days preparation before the only Test, which begins in Taunton on Thursday 18th July.

Full Squad

Heather Knight (Berkshire)
Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Jenny Gunn (Nottinghamshire)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Berkshire)
Sarah Taylor (Sussex)
Fran Wilson (Kent)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

NEWS: Professional Cricketers Association Agrees To Represent 100 Hundred Players

The Professional Cricketers Association has agreed with the ECB to represent an additional 100 female players participating in The Hundred from next season.

The Professional Cricketers Association [PCA] acts as a Trade Union for players, looking after their legal interests and their ongoing welfare both during their playing careers and post-retirement. Each player pays a small subscription, but the PCA is largely funded by the ECB.

In a Press Release, the PCA promised that “every male and female professional player” [emphasis ours] would benefit from the new agreement reached with the ECB and the 18 First Class counties.

One of the problems with the current setup is that although the Kia Super League players are “semi-professional” they have no formal representation within the system, because only the full time contracted England players are members of the PCA.

Bringing The Hundred players, whose interests do not necessarily align with those of the England contracted elite, into the PCA is therefore a huge step forwards.

The agreement also mandates a new minimum wage of £27,500 for full time professionals. It is unclear how (or even whether) this applies to The Hundred players, who will not be “full time”; however, this may mean a pay boost for those on the lowest tier of England contract.

There also remains potentially a gap for those players who play in the new “pro county” competition but not in The Hundred – though the suggestion that 100 additional players will be represented does actually imply that they might also be covered, because only about 80 “domestic” players are expected to be contracted for The Hundred, with the rest of the squads being made up by England and overseas players.

FEATURE: Brixworth Ladies Cricket Club – A Women’s Softball Cricket Success Story

Sometimes, journeys into women’s cricket start with the smallest of steps.

Last August, I participated in one of the ECB’s Softball Cricket Festivals, held at Loughborough University ahead of Lightning’s KSL match against Southern Vipers. Alongside me were Jules and Kate – both in their 50s. They have followed the England team for a number of years, but had rarely had the opportunity to play the sport themselves.

On the day of that festival, I interviewed Jules about why she had gone along that day. “To have a really good time,” she said, “and to get back into cricket, because I’ve not played for about 25 years.”

“I’d love to get back into it – if anybody wants me! It’s been really good fun.”

When I left Loughborough that day, I wondered: would she get her wish?

Unbeknown to me at the time, a year earlier – in August 2017 – a hockey player named Claire had sat at her club, Brixworth CC in Northampton, watching her son play cricket; and pondering how the girls playing alongside him at the club would fare as they grew up and encountered a lack of adult female role models.

“I felt they needed female coaches,” Claire tells me. “And the chap that I was saying this to, little did I know he was actually a committee member. So then he said, ‘well are you prepared to put your money where your mouth is and start coaching?’ So I had to. I became the club’s first lady coach.”

Three weeks later, the club chairman approached Claire at a Friday night training session and asked about the possibility of starting a ladies’ section at the club. By 10 o’clock that night, Claire had recruited 20 women – work colleagues, neighbours, teammates from her hockey club – who were interested in playing. Their first step was to enter a local Women’s Softball Festival.

“That was the last festival of the summer,” Claire says. “We entered that, one of our teams came second, and then we played a couple of indoor softball games through the winter. Then we played every softball festival going last summer – and we went from strength to strength. It gave us confidence to do the basics without getting hurt.”

Fellow club member Jane, aged 55, concurs: “It’s a good introduction into cricket, getting people involved, especially the mums. They’ve realised that actually it doesn’t hurt that much, I can do this, I can play cricket. It’s a good stepping stone into other cricket.”

The club now have 40 adult women playing regularly, as well as 30+ girls in a new, dedicated girls section. They are the biggest women’s club in Northamptonshire, and they have secured grants from the county that have helped fund women’s-specific kit – provided by SM Cricket.

This season, they have started playing Last (Wo)man Stands – a modified version of T20 cricket designed to be quick, exciting and less time-consuming than the real thing – in the first ever female version of the competition anywhere in the country.

“We were all terrified the first game,” laughs Jane, “but we’ve done alright! We’ve even won a match!”

So where do Jules and Kate come in?

I meet them again at Northampton to watch England play the West Indies. They are accompanied by Claire, Jane and Claire’s 10-year-old daughter, Poppy. And all are proudly sporting Brixworth women’s jumpers.

Brixworth Ladies Cricket Club

After I met Jules and Kate, they carried on playing in softball competitions; and at one of those competitions, they encountered Claire and Jane, who invited them along to play at Brixworth. Being local to Northampton, they decided to do just that. The rest, as they say, is history.

A few weeks ago the pair of them played in a men’s 4th XI fixture, and Jules took a wicket – removing the opposition captain after he had scored 86.

“I’m 54, and some people have said, ‘bit old to be playing cricket, isn’t she?’” Jules says. “Well, my ambitions of playing for England might have gone down the toilet a bit – although I’m still waiting for the call from Robbo – but if I’m fit and able, and if I can be the best that I can be, then why not?”

“We’re just generally a fun bunch of ladies who all get on,” Claire says. “None of us are too precious to laugh at ourselves. None of us are head and shoulders above the others. None of us are awful either. We just have a laugh basically and encourage each other.”

As Jane puts it: “We’ve all been involved in cricket – I scored for my son, did the teas and watched him for many years – but not many of us have played before. But I’ve always wanted to have a go. So that’s what we’re doing.”

And it all started with one Softball Cricket festival.

Brixworth Ladies Cricket Club

DEBRIEF: T20 Cup – Hampshire Hold On In Div 1

Team Played Won Lost N/R Points
Hampshire 6 4 1 1 17
Warwickshire 6 4 2 0 16
Lancashire 6 3 0 3 15
Kent 6 2 2 2 10
Surrey 6 2 3 1 9
Sussex 6 2 3 1 9
Nottinghamshire 6 1 3 2 6
Wales 6 1 3 2 6
Middlesex 6 1 3 2 6

Hampshire held on to top spot in Div 1 of the T20 Cup, but Warwickshire and Lancashire are hot on their heels with one round of matches to go next weekend.

Hampshire’s weekend began against Surrey at Widness CC, where Bryony Smith’s 85 off 64 balls set up a total of 155-7. In reply, a 68-run partnership between Maia Bouchier (56) and Fi Morris (25) put Hampshire on course, but it came down to some late heroics from Emily Windsor (31*) and Ella Chandler (11*) to get Hampshire over the line with 3 balls to spare.

Hampshire then took on Lancashire, with a chance to really put themselves in the driving seat going into the final weekend, but a half-century from Eve Jones (62) helped Lancashire post 135-6. Maia Bouchier (44) hit her second score of the day to keep Hampshire close to the rate… but not quite close enough, with Lancashire ahead by 6 runs on DLS when rain put an early end to proceedings.

It was enough to move Lancashire into third, and it is worth remembering that a more equitable allocation of points for cancelled games would mean Lancashire would actually be top on NRR; but the system is what it is – just 1 point for “No Result”, compared with 4 for a win – and Lancashire now need Hampshire to slip up next weekend if they are to have a shot at the title.

Elsewhere in Div 1, Warwickshire fought back into contention with wins over Middlesex and Kent, thanks to a cracking weekend with the bat from Gwen Davies, who hit two unbeaten half-centuries – full reports here!

Meanwhile Sussex finally got some proper points on the board – Hollie Young taking 2-8 as they beat Notts by 42 runs; and Georgia Elwis hitting 80*, then taking 4-16 with the ball, for a 12-run win against Wales.

In Div 2, Durham held on to top spot, strolling to easy wins over Derbyshire and Essex; with Somerset 4 points adrift in second place, after wins against Devon and Scotland.