MATCH REPORT: Warwickshire G-Wen Places As Davies Does The Double

Warwickshire got their T20 Cup campaign back on track at Beckenham today with two wins from their two matches, thanks to consecutive half-centuries from Gwenan Davies.

The opener carried her bat in both matches, finishing with 66* (50 balls) and 59* (49 balls) as the Bears secured both victories by big margins, beating Kent by 22 runs and Middlesex by 10 wickets with 6 overs to spare.

In the first match of the day, against Kent, Warwickshire accumulated an impressive 152 in their 20 overs, despite the early loss of captain Marie Kelly, who departed in Tash Farrant’s first over, sending up a top edge to long leg, leaving the Bears 2-1.

Davies, though, was uncowed and quickly took on the big-hitting role, punching one of Megan Belt’s first deliveries of the day for a mammoth six over long on – the ball hit the first floor of the flats which overlook the ground, and took several minutes to be retrieved by a friendly resident!

Kent did make breakthroughs at the other end – with Thea Brookes falling to a smart direct hit run-out from Alice Davidson-Richards at mid off – and Davies also rode her luck, dropped several times on the way to her half-century; but her positive approach ensured Warwickshire topped 150 by the end of their allotted overs.

It was a formidable total, though Fran Wilson (presumably released from England duty) gave Kent hope for a time with some beautiful crisp cuts through the off side. Nonetheless by the time Wilson was out, clean bowled by Bethan Ellis in the 10th over, they were already well behind the rate at 52-2; and despite a valiant rearguard effort from Davidson-Richards (42 from 34 balls) they fell well short of the required runs.

The day’s second match saw the “Battle of the Bullets”, as Warwickshire speedster Issy Wong went up against Middlesex’s T20 signing Lauren Bell.

Wong gained the early advantage, having Amara Carr caught at mid on in her second over of the day; and it only went downhill from there for Middlesex after Jess Couser took wickets with successive deliveries to leave them 37-3 after 7 overs.

Bethan Ellis then repeated the feat – her second wicket being the important one of Cordelia Griffith, who had looked in excellent touch but ended up chipping it to short third man for 17.

Middlesex subsequently slowed almost to a halt, amassing only 18 runs between overs 12 and 16, though some fumbled run-out attempts by Warwickshire allowed Beth Morgan to finish with a flourish, unbeaten on 23* as Middlesex just about managed 3 figures.

The Bears, though, made a mockery of their 101-run target, hurtling towards it at 1000 miles per hour thanks to Davies and fellow opener Marie Kelly (36*). Davies was hit on the leg early in the run chase and spent much of the ensuing overs limping; but solved the problem by hitting the ball hard enough and placing it well enough to enable her for the most part to simply stand and watch it sail over the boundary rope.

Middlesex’s miseries continued in the last match of the day, a thriller of a game in which Kent eventually did what they had failed to do against the Birmingham Bears and chased down an unlikely target of 150.

Middlesex’s total of 149 was set up by a 68-run opening partnership between Cordelia Griffith and Amara Carr, Carr eventually bringing up a half-century while Griffith continued her excellent season with some big striking down the ground.

In reply Kent looked dead and buried after losing two quick wickets in their second over – Grace Gibbs run out and Maxine Blythin caught behind.

Wilson, though, came together with Davidson-Richards in a 99-run partnership that saw a flurry of boundaries as both achieved half-centuries, with Middlesex burning through their first-change bowlers in a desperate attempt to stem the flow.

When Gaya Gole finally dismissed Wilson in the 13th over – stumped thanks to a smart piece of keeping from Carr – it looked like the scales had tipped in Middlesex’s favour, especially when Gole also bowled Tash Farrant two balls later with the perfect yorker.

But the match had one more sting in the tail: Lauren Griffiths joining the fray to finish things with a six and a four over midwicket – Kent eventually winning with an over to spare.

It means that reigning champions Middlesex are now bottom of Division 1; while Warwickshire have moved into second place behind Hampshire – with the winner of the last ever County T20 Cup to be decided by the final round of matches next weekend.

England v West Indies – 2nd T20 – Wyatt Makes Robinson’s Tough Call Tougher

Danni Wyatt’s cricket career has been a game of two halves. Between her debut in 2010 and 2016, hers was a tale of potential unfulfilled – probably the most gifted natural athlete of her era in the game, she was never able to translate that into runs (or wickets) in the international arena. Then… somehow… England coach Mark Robinson finally found her “on” switch, as he had done with Tammy Beaumont before, and would go on to do with Amy Jones after; and at last the runs came, including that career-defining, 57-ball T20 century out in Australia in the 2017 Ashes.

But looked at another way, since that “surgence” (sic – there’s no “re”!) her career has been a game of two games.

Danni Wyatt - International Career

The upward trend in her average has really only been in T20 cricket, and this summer against the West Indies has reflected that. In the ODI series, she made 8, 3 and 12 – just 23 runs – but back in a T20 shirt last night, she hit 81 off 55 balls, earning herself the Player of the Match award as England continued their long winning run.

It is true that she was lucky – she was dropped twice in the troublesome-teens – an absolute dolly at mid off that any park player would hope to pouch 9 times out of 10; and a tougher chance behind the stumps, but one which you’d expect an international wicket keeper to take. But there is a lot of luck in this game, and the best players learn to ride it as Wyatt did in that innings, leaving no room for doubt – she is one of the best T20 players in the world.

The dilemma for England now, almost regardless of what happens in the final T20 next week, is about Ashes selection.

If the Ashes began with the T20s, it would be obvious; but it doesn’t – it begins with the ODIs and then the Test; and on Wyatt’s ODI form, you’d probably have to pick Fran Wilson ahead of her for those one-dayers and more than likely for the Test too.

But can you really drop Wyatt after what she did last night?

It was always going to be a tough call for Mark Robinson… and with her innings at Northampton, Wyatt just made it tougher.

OPINION: Why Inclusion In The Commonwealth Games Is So Exciting For Women’s Cricket

News broke yesterday that women’s cricket has moved one step closer to being included in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, after being officially approved by the executive board of the Commonwealth Games Federation.

The final stage is for all 71 member associations of the Federation to vote on the issue – we should know for sure either way in the next 6 weeks. However, the likelihood is that the vote will endorse the recommendation of the Federation’s executive board.

If women’s cricket is formally accepted, the format will be an 8-team T20 competition which will be staged at Edgbaston.

In some ways that is a missed opportunity for nations like Scotland, who would have been keen to feature in the tournament but presumably will miss out to higher-ranked sides.

Nonetheless, this is still a hugely exciting moment for women’s cricket. The key point is that the official broadcaster of the Commonwealth Games is the BBC. For the first time ever, an entire women’s tournament will be shown live on free-to-air in the UK.

The Hundred has been hailed as English cricket’s great opportunity to rescue itself from irrelevance, having been hidden away behind a paywall since 2005. Doubters are encouraged to appreciate the benefits that having cricket – men’s and women’s – back on free-to-air will bring.

Of course that’s great, but – crucially – the only Women’s Hundred match which the BBC have confirmed that they will be screening is the final. That’s simply not the same as having an entire tournament on free-to-air from start to finish, with viewers able to watch every single match should they choose. Narratives will form, players will rise to stardom and women’s cricket will be big news in a way that it just isn’t right now, when only Sky viewers are able to see it.

Inclusion in the Commonwealth Games has the potential to bring a raft of new casual viewers to women’s cricket, who might not be cricket fans currently but will be able to switch on their TV and see our sport nestled in amongst a whole load of others.

It’s a game-changer in so many ways – and I’m incredibly excited about it!

INTERVIEW: Warwickshire Women’s Performance Manager Laura MacLeod

“It was a long time in the making,” says former England allrounder Laura MacLeod of her new role as Warwickshire’s Women’s Performance Manager.

“Back in January 2018, I was on a CPD [Continuous Professional Development] event for the ECB. The Warwickshire lads were in doing some fitness testing, and I happened to see Ashley Giles on the balcony and we started chatting. He said to me ‘Have you had a look at it?’ I said, ‘To be honest, no I haven’t!’”

“At the time I was thinking that I would want to go further in the recreational game and I didn’t really think about the performance side; but I looked at it again, and we had a further chat, and I decided that I’d go to interview.”

“So I had my interview, but Ashley and I agreed was that it would be best if I started in the winter, so it was 1st October 2018 when I started.”

Even though the new job currently means 5am starts to commute from Lancashire to Birmingham, MacLeod has no doubts she made the right move:

“It is the best decision I’ve made – to take that step across from the recreational game into the performance game – I’m thoroughly enjoying myself!”

The day-to-day role involves overseeing the 9 teams on Warwickshire’s performance program – from Under 11s right through to the county 1st XI, including doing some coaching for the age-group sides.

However this is likely to change substantially next year, with Warwickshire joining up with Worcestershire for The Hundred and the new “pro” regional setup:

“In effect the role that I currently do will not exist next year in the capacity that it is now – the role next year will only be the senior and the academy – they will obviously have some oversight of what goes on in the pathway but there will be no direct responsibility.”

But MacLeod is already thinking about how things will operate going forwards:

“We will be a new area for both the regional domestic structure and also the Hundred, and I want to make sure we hit the ground running.”

Being a “new” side, without an existing KSL franchise, is a particular challenge:

“Almost everyone else will be established and will have continuity and will have people in mind. We won’t have anything that is consistent but we might be able to attract a few people over to us.”

MacLeod sees the existing Warwickshire team as the foundation of the new squads.

“What we’ve been able to do in Warwickshire is attract the best players from the West Midlands so largely it will be those who are currently playing now, plus we will utilise the number of overseas that you can have, just to bring the quality up.”

In order to get the players ready for next year, MacLeod has been leveraging her contacts to get as many Warwickshire players as possible into the Super League this season:

“I’ve been doing a bit of almost ‘agent’ work with some of these girls to get them into the Kia Super League. So we’ve got 7 players now into the Super League and through my contacts and me speaking to the coaches, I can say ‘Have you thought about so-and-so?’ So that is really good – it will be great exposure for them…” She laughs… “So long as they come back!!”

The aspiration to put the Men’s and Women’s Hundreds on an equal footing is going to be an interesting challenge for those at the sharp end like MacLeod:

“I thought that when Kate Cross was asked the question recently she answered it really well – it is about looking back and asking ‘What improvements have we made from last year?’ And I’m already seeing improvements – there is a definite will and desire from [Warwickshire CEO] Neil Snowball and [Worcestershire CEO] Matt Rawnsley to endeavour to do whatever they can to ensure that the men and the women have equal access.”

And if not… they will have Laura MacLeod to answer to:

“I will be one of those people who will ensure that we get as much as we can and hopefully we will see some really good things next year.”

DEBRIEF: T20 Cup – Weather Wins Big In Divs 1 & 2

Team Played Won Lost N/R Points
Hampshire 4 3 0 1 13
Surrey 4 2 1 1 9
Birmingham 4 2 2 0 8
Lancashire 4 1 0 3 7
Nottinghamshire 4 1 1 2 6
Middlesex 4 1 1 2 6
Kent 4 1 1 2 6
Wales 4 0 2 2 2
Sussex 4 0 3 1 1

On a weekend when only 3 of 9 Div 1 fixtures were completed due to the weather, Hampshire moved into top spot with a 4 wicket win over Birmingham Bears at Aldershot – full report here.

Surrey went second with a big win over Sussex – Kirstie White hit 74 off 56 balls as Surrey posted 144-4 from 20 overs, before the stock story of Sussex’s season played out once again, as their batting collapsed to 87 all out – Surrey skipper Hannah Jones leading the bowling with 2-11.

With no rescheduling allowed in the T20 Cup, the lost matches are lost for ever with each team allocated just 1 point compared with 4 for a win, leaving Lancashire particularly aggrieved, having now had 3 of 4 games rained-off so far this season.

It was the same story in Div 2, with washouts up and down the country – including Scotland making the 8-hour road-trip to Essex, only to have to turn straight around again, with no prospect of play whatsoever due to an uncovered pitch.

With only the fixtures at Hartlepool surviving in Div 2, home side Durham took advantage to post victories over Cheshire and Somerset and leapfrog Scotland into first place.

MATCH REPORT: Hampshire Out-Run Birmingham Bears To Go Top In T20 Cup

Despite having their match against Notts washed-out by rain, Hampshire went clear at the top of Div 1 in the T20 Cup with a close-run victory over Birmingham Bears at Aldershot.

On a day when the weather held most of the cards, Hampshire and Notts could only sit in the pavilion watching the Men’s World Cup on TV, as the first match of the triple-header went first from 20 overs down to 12, before being cancelled completely as rain showers persisted through an early lunch and into the afternoon.

Notts v Birmingham, scheduled to start at 1:30pm, eventually got underway as an 8-overs-a-side thrash at 10 past 3.

Notts got off to a reasonable start, despite losing Sonia Odedra for a duck off the first legitimate delivery of the innings, with the Graves sisters, Teresa (24) and Yvonne (10), putting on 30 for the second wicket; but 4 wickets for 12 in 2 overs, including a hat-trick from leg-spinner Nish Patel, pegged Notts back to 61-8.

In reply however, the Bears didn’t quite get out of the blocks quickly enough, and despite Marie Kelly hitting 32 off 23 balls, they ended up 5 runs short.

With the sun finally making an appearance as afternoon turned to evening, a genuine Twenty20 match between Hampshire and Birmingham – joint leaders coming into the weekend – offered one or the other the chance to seize control of the title race.

In-form Marie Kelly opened the batting for the Bears, but lasted just one ball as Maia Bouchier appeared to spill the easiest of Caught & Bowled opportunities, but somehow managed to juggle it and take the catch on the third attempt.

Despite the early setback, the Bears made steady progress through the powerplay, including a sudden burst of acceleration in the 5th over as Gwenan Davies and Thea Brookes plundered 15 off Fi Morris’s first over. It was Morris who would go on to have the last word, however – coming back at the death to deliver a further 2.4 overs for just 6 runs, taking 3 wickets along the way, as Birmingham stuttered to a below-par 95 all out.

A 34-run partnership between Maia Bouchier (20) and Sam Betts (20) then appeared to have put Hampshire in the cruising seat to an easy win, before Jess Couser intervened to dismiss Betts and Bouchier in successive overs. Couser’s third over then added the scalps of Fi Morris and Emily Windsor, and for a moment the comeback looked on for Birmingham.

But Katie George (20*), despite taking a few risks along the way, managed to hold things together with the help of Ella Chandler (13) and Charlie Dean (9*), to see Hampshire home with 6 balls to spare, to go 4 points clear at the top of the T20 table.

NEWS: Linsey Smith Called Up To England T20 Squad

Sussex left-armer Linsey Smith has been called up to England’s squad for the T20 series against the West Indies which begins at the County Ground in Northampton on Tuesday evening.

A T20 specialist for England, Smith has never played an ODI, but has won 8 T20 caps since making her debut at the World Twenty20 last year, with best figures of 3-18 against Sri Lanka.

However, there is no room for the other 3 recent debutantes – Sophia Dunkley, Kirstie Gordon or Freya Davies – although the squad has not been officially announced all 3, plus Lauren Winfield, have been released to play county cricket this weekend. The omission of Dunkley is a particular surprise, as there isn’t a lot resting on this series and “Count Dunkular” has been in startling form for Middlesex, scoring two hundreds this season in the 50-over County Championship.

The Kent duo – Laura Marsh and Fran Wilson – appear have been retained. (As obviously has Kent captain Tammy Beaumont.)

One remaining question mark is over Bryony Smith, who bowled very economically in the final ODI at Chelmsford – we will know whether or not she is in or out at about half past one this afternoon, when Surrey take to the field against Kent at Brighton!