KSL: Vipers v Lightning – Jones Lack Of Jitters Wins The Day For Lightning

In a precursor to Sunday’s semi-final, it was Loughborough Lightning who finished on top in the last ever KSL match to be played at the “Snake Pit” (aka the Ageas Bowl), by 36 runs.

Lightning’s win came largely thanks to the platform laid down by Amy Jones and Chamari Atapattu, the pair reaching 74 without loss in the first 9 overs before Atapattu was clean bowled by Suzie Bates for 35.

Up to that point Jones had been content to let her more fiery partner do most of the big-hitting, but having settled into her stride she was able to push on, slogging away through the leg side and hitting a couple of maximums down the ground.

“It is definitely crucial to build that platform. At times I feel like “I’m going too slow”, but luckily Attu hits the ball so hard and gets off pretty quickly. That definitely helps. Sticking in and knowing you can catch up later is key,” Jones said.

“I feel like I’m starting a bit slower, but it’s not really been a problem as long as I keep my head and don’t throw it away. That’s been one of the key learnings from the Ashes is you have time – it’s amazing what a bit of pressure can do to you, all of a sudden you feel like third ball you have to play a big shot. I feel a lot more in control and confident to build an innings throughout.”

Despite the loss of Georgia Elwiss and Mignon du Preez in successive balls in the 17th over, the fact that Lightning still had a “set” batsman at the crease made all the difference – Jones adding 37 runs across the final 3 overs of the innings. 

In so doing she helped her side rack up the highest ever KSL total at the Ageas Bowl, while she herself reached her highest score in the competition, finishing unbeaten on 74* (53 balls).

The contrast with the way Southern Vipers approached their chase was marked – the loss of their “big three” inside the powerplay overs (Bates, Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont) – with Wyatt in particular doing herself in by plopping the first ball she faced straight into the hands of point – effectively ended any chances they had of reaching their target. Fi Morris batted bravely towards the denouement, her nifty 36 showcasing just how much her batting has improved in the past 12 months, but she was left with far too much to do.

Ahead of Finals Day on Sunday, Jones said that the win was crucial:

“I think it’s big. Everyone talks about momentum in competitions, especially going into finals. It will definitely give us a lift. Everyone in the changing room is up, and pretty excited, so it will definitely help.”

What is perhaps more significant is the fact that Lightning were able to achieve the victory without two of their key players, with both Hayley Matthews (West Indies) and Kathryn Bryce (Scotland) now recalled to their national sides.

“That’s another reason why this game was so important to us,” Jones added. “It shows the depth that we’ve got. That definitely adds to the win today.”

Vipers and Lightning have been on very different trajectories this tournament – Lightning lost 3 out of their 4 opening games but have now won 6 on the trot; while Vipers won their first two matches but have ended up on the wrong side in 3 of their 4 final encounters – so it is going to be fascinating to see who steals the last glory in the semi-final come Sunday.

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MATCH REPORT: Diamonds v Vipers – Rodrigues’ Class Propels Diamonds To Last-Gasp Victory

Richard Clark at York Cricket Club

Yorkshire folk, given any opportunity, will tell you their county is special.  That may or may not be true.  If it’s not, though, there was certainly ‘something’ in the Yorkshire air on Sunday afternoon.

Whatever that ‘something’ was it carried Ben Stokes on its wings, and 30 miles or so away in York it carried Yorkshire Diamonds’ Jemima Rodrigues as well.

The prospects were as promising for the Indian youngster as they appeared to be for Stokes.  Propelled out of the blocks by Danni Wyatt (42 off 20 balls), kept going by Suzie Bates (47 off 39) and Tammy Beaumont (33 off 29), and finished off by Maia Bouchier (23* off 13) and Amanda Jade Wellington (24* off 12), Southern Vipers had just amassed 184-4 off their 20 overs.

This after being inserted by Lauren Winfield, who knew that it was her side’s only hope of claiming the bonus point win essential to any lingering hopes of reaching Finals Day.

Convention has it that you need a good start in a hefty chase.  What you definitely don’t need is to lose one of your openers to the second ball, Winfield skying Tash Farrant high to the inrushing Bates at cover.

Every cloud, however…

The early loss brought Rodrigues to the crease.  Her first KSL campaign had begun quietly, but 178 runs in her previous four innings – for just twice out – suggested a player in form, and she set about illustrating that.

With Alyssa Healy dominating both the strike and the scoreboard, Rodrigues settled quietly.  A dot, followed by a single, and then a boundary from her first three balls, and she was off and running almost without being noticed.

By the end of the fourth over she had still only faced those three balls, but now Healy was out, and Hollie Armitage was there for company.  Time to step up.

A boundary in the fifth over, two more in the sixth, another in the seventh.  But this was calculation and precision, rather than muscle.  The partnership with Armitage would garner 90 runs from 54 balls, only eleven of them dots and three of those from Armitage’s first four balls as she played herself in.  Orchestrated by Rodrigues, the pair found the gaps and pushed the ones and twos, always keeping the scoreboard moving.  An object lesson in T20 batting.

Armitage fell with the score on 118.  By that stage, Rodrigues had reached her half-century from 26 balls.  Nine fours had been hit, every one of them off the middle of the bat.

So far, so good, but could she deal with a crisis?  Bess Heath departed second ball, and the Alice Davidson-Richards in the next over.  Diamonds batting order has not been noted for its durability this season but in Leigh Kasperek, Rodrigues now found an able accomplice.

Five boundaries, including her only six, came off the next two overs.  Lofted effortlessly over mid-off it cleared the rope by a distance.  Four overs to go, and from nowhere only 36 required.

Now it began to get a bit tricky.  With Rodrigues visibly tiring in the 30-degree heat, Vipers returned to their pace bowlers in an attempt to give her the “hurry up”.  It worked to a point – after a boundary off Bell’s first ball, only seven runs came from the next eight balls.

Then, the shot of the day, and probably the only one Rodrigues played that could be considered in any way unconventional – an inadvertent head-high full toss from Farrant upper-cut over the keeper for four more.  Given that singles by this point were being run as if wading through treacle in boots of lead, the clarity of mind to deal with the delivery so adeptly was remarkable.  It took her to 96.

More singles, and perhaps a stroke of luck?  Another full toss – this time from Bell – perhaps did take her by surprise a little and was slapped/slogged high to Paige Scholfield at mid-off.  Already, though, the umpire’s arm was out for the no ball and instead of walking off Rodrigues ran through to move to 99.

Bell went on to complete a hat-trick of sorts, having Kasperek “stumped” off the subsequent free hit, and then legitimately caught next ball.  Rodrigues was still one short of her century and Diamonds needed 15 off ten balls as Linsey Smith strode to the middle.

Having crossed with Kasperek, Rodrigues reached her century with the simplest of pushes into the off side, calling Smith through for the single to spark a prolonged standing ovation from all corners.

The job was still there to be done, though.  Four more runs were taken from the remainder of the over and Diamonds needed ten off six, with Rodrigues on strike and Bates set to bring all her experience to bear with ball in hand.

It needed at least one boundary, not least because one doubted Rodrigues’ ability now to run up and down ten times, and she found it from the second ball of the over, turning the ball behind square and beating the fielder on the rope.  Not for the first time, awareness and perfect placement coming to the fore.

Still, a dot followed, and it was down to four from three.  Rodrigues manoeuvred the ball to long on and looked to be settling for the single until Smith, realising the need for her partner to get back on strike, virtually implored her to come back for the second.  Logic said the England spinner should have been going for the danger end, but Vipers were alert to Rodrigues’ exhaustion and threw to the keeper.  I don’t know how Rodrigues got there, it’s likely she doesn’t know either, but as she sprawled head-long for the crease the one man whose opinion mattered said she did.

It would have been appropriate – romantic, even – to finish with a boundary, but a single was all she could find, so it fell to Smith to push the final ball of the match up to mid-on where a fumble allowed the run that settled the game and brought more applause, and this time cheers too.

The numbers say that Rodrigues hit 112 not out off 58 balls, with 17 fours and a six.   She led her team to a four-wicket win, the highest successful chase in KSL records and the second highest chase in ANY Women’s T20 fixture.

Her score was the second-highest individual score in the KSL’s four seasons (behind Bates’s 119 for Vipers v Lightning in 2017), and at 51 balls it was the quickest of the six centuries scored in the competition (four balls faster than the previous record held by Lizelle Lee).

It was also the second highest individual score by any player in a Women’s T20 chase, behind Wyatt’s 124 for England in India 18 months ago, the only higher successful chase.

She played just ten dot balls, and not once did she play two consecutively.  She scored off 30 of the last 34 balls she faced.

But numbers alone never tell a story.

She didn’t hit the ball, she persuaded, cajoled and caressed it so that it did as she wished at every turn.   The way she seemed to move from 50 to 90 in particular, almost without hitting a shot in anger, yet still accumulating fours and scoring at close to two runs per ball, was akin to a conjuring trick.

Apart from the two no balls that produced the upper-cut and the ‘slap’ that saw her caught she didn’t play one shot that didn’t come straight from the coaching manual.  Her driving through the off-side was magisterial, her ability to pierce the in-field and bisect the boundary-riders on either side forensic, her knack of picking up a run almost every ball uncanny, her maturity and focus when patently running on fumes admirable.

Oh, and by the way, Jemima Rodrigues is 18 years old.

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Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68

Thanks to @_hypocaust for the stats!

MATCH REPORT: Carlton Romp To Victory In Beyond Boundaries Women’s Scottish Cup Final

Jake Perry reports

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Carlton 126 for 3 (R Willis 60, F Gardee 2 for 6) beat McRea West of Scotland 85-7 (R Hawkins 34, G Henderson 2 for 14) by 41 runs

Carlton claimed the Beyond Boundaries Women’s Scottish Cup after an imposing all-round display in the Final against McRea West of Scotland. A magnificent partnership of 106 between Ruth Willis and Abbi Aitken-Drummond, backed by two wickets each for Samantha Haggo and Georgia Henderson, was enough to take their team to a comfortable 41-run victory in Stirling.

Carlton had begun the day by posting 180 for 3 in their 136-run Semi-Final win over George Watson’s College, but on the expansive lower pitch at New Williamfield runs initially proved harder to come by. West of Scotland opening bowlers Rachel Hawkins and Faatima Gardee conceded only 10 between them from the first three overs, and when Heather Tait (7) was bowled by Gardee off the second ball of the fourth, Carlton, at 10 for 1, were in need of a foothold on the game.

It came via the experienced Scotland pair of Aitken-Drummond and Willis. Although the deep-set boundary and slow outfield made the rope difficult to find in the early stages of the innings – a terrific lofted drive over the top from Aitken-Drummond providing a notable exception – the two set about building the total with a fine display of running between the wickets.

Willis, fresh from her unbeaten 80 in the Semi-Final, was in excellent touch again as she raced past 30 in a combination of twos and threes, while Aitken-Drummond began to find the boundary with more regularity, bringing up the fifty partnership with a towering six over deep backward square off the last ball of the tenth. With Carlton 63 for 1, it was now West of Scotland who were feeling the pressure.

Still the runs came, and in the 15th over Willis brought up her second half-century of the day with a crunching drive to the rope past mid-off. Both perished before the end – Willis (60) lbw to Maryam Faisal (1 for 7) and Aitken-Drummond (41) was bowled – but Carlton’s closing total of 126 for 3 looked above par nevertheless.

Not that West of Scotland had been left without hope. A half-century from Rachel Hawkins had proved the difference in their Semi-Final win over Stirling County, and the Scotland all-rounder was fast out of the blocks again as she took 12 from the first over. Three quick wickets in the third and fourth put the batting side on their heels, however, and when Hawkins herself fell, caught by Heather Tait off the bowling of Georgia Henderson for 34, it struck a blow from which they would never recover.

The West’s remaining batters fought hard, Maryam Faisal leading the way with a battling 14, but victory was confirmed to give the Edinburgh side victory in the showpiece knock-out event for the third time in their history.

“I’m just delighted for everyone in the team to be honest,” said winning captain Ruth Willis. “It’s been a really hard season, much of which has been played without our Scotland players, and it’s so pleasing to see the team come through and do well.”

“It’s a real testament to the hard work that our coach Caleb Whitefoord and interim captain Ellie Hird have put in throughout the year, and a huge part of our victory today is down to them. It’s fantastic for the girls and you can see how delighted they are.”

In the Third Place Play-Off, Becky Glen’s 41 and an unbeaten 37 from Lois Wilkinson helped Stirling County chase down 124 against George Watson’s College with more than four overs to spare to add the finishing touches to a day which was a tremendous advertisement for women’s cricket in Scotland.

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Jake Perry is a cricket writer based in Scotland.

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

KSL: Stars v Storm – Rach-ing Bull Priest Floors Surrey

A blitz of boundaries from Rachel Priest knocked Surrey out for the count in their last ever home Super League fixture against Western Storm at Guildford.

Western Storm may have already qualified directly for the final, at the Sussex County Ground in Hove next weekend, but despite the blistering 32-degree heat there was no holding back from Priest, who reached 89 runs in 55 balls, hitting all-but 13 of those runs in boundaries, dominating a 97-run partnership with England captain Heather Knight.

Knight herself also went on to a half-century, as the Storm posted 171-4 at a ground where 140/ 150 has been a winning score over the course of this tournament.

“I had a bit of a lean start to the tournament so it is nice to be contributing at the top at the time that matters,” Priest told us after the game.

Indeed, having begun with scores of 12, 12 and 4, Priest is now the 3rd highest run-scorer of this KSL season with 331, behind Jemimah Rodrigues (341) and Danni Wyatt (362); and is currently also 2nd in the “All Time” KSL list with 908, behind only Heather Knight (980).

Priest could, and probably should, have gone on to record her 2nd KSL hundred today, but was philosophical about the missed opportunity.

“In the moment I was a little bit frustrated not to reach 100, just because it was a silly way to get out – it was a tired shot – but as long as we get across the line it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day.”

The Storm were helped by a poor fielding performance from the Stars, who dropped 4 catches and let far too many runs past them in the outfield. This was in contrast to the Storm’s own performance in the field, which Priest believes has been crucial in their thus-far unbeaten season.

“Our powerplay bowling really helps – obviously if we get a good start with the batting that helps too, but it is the fielding that has been really, really good for us this year – our fielding has been phenomenal!”

With the Storm continuing to batter them, Surrey Stars crawled to 94 all out off 17.5 overs, including a 4fer for veteran all-rounder Sonia Odedra. It was possibly the poorest performance I’ve seen from a team playing in Surrey shirts… and I’ve seen the county side get bowled out for 25 in a T20 versus Middlesex!

There may be one round still to play, but with all 3 finalists now decided, after Southern Vipers held Yorkshire back enough to prevent them getting the bonus point they needed to keep their hopes alive, Rachel Priest and the Storm can now start to look forward to Finals Day, where they will meet either the Vipers or Loughborough Lightning in the final.

“We are the only team that’s made Finals Day every year, so that’s quite special,” said Priest. “It is always a fantastic day and a really great atmosphere, so hopefully things go well for us.”

OPINION: The Next England Coach – Everyone Has Their Price

The departure of Head Coach Mark Robinson leaves the ECB with some huge shoes to fill in the England camp.

The role the ECB will (presumably) be advertising is not an easy one. The Head Coach isn’t just a coach – they are responsible for running a squad which eats, works, and plays together for most of the year up at Loughborough. As well as being the head coach, you’re head of a family of twenty girls!

Oh… and you have to win cricket matches too!

On paper, the latter looks most important – England need someone with cricketing credentials, who has experience at the highest levels of the game – not necessarily as a player, but definitely as a coach.

But coaching women is not the same as coaching men – it has to be someone who understands that women are not just men with pony tails. In this regard, England massively lucked-out with Robinson, who despite having zero experience coaching women coming into the job, really did “get” this.

It is not just about the Playing XI though – it is about running a squad, which has to be constantly cultivated like a garden. The coach needs to know not just the England “team”… not just the England “squad”… but the levels below that in addition – identifying which players to bring in, and which players to sadly let go too.

That head of the family thing is pretty vital as well  – you are the boss, but you are also a counsellor, a confidante and a friend.

And finally, you have to do it all within the constraints of a fairly limited budget, at least compared to Australia, whose success you will always be measured against, as Robinson ultimately was.

Given all this, it’s amazing that anyone would want the role! (It is well paid, of course, compared to the jobs most of us do – but it isn’t in the realms of what you can earn at the highest echelons of the men’s game.)

But England need someone, and they need them fast, with the T20 World Cup coming up in Australia in less than 6 months, which will probably be closer to 3 months by the time they are appointed.

Looking around, there aren’t many candidates not currently under an expensive contract somewhere else.

But there is one.

A 3 times World Cup winner, who played 10 Tests and over 80 ODIs during a 10 year international career, who has since gone on to successfully coach at the highest levels of women’s domestic cricket, leading sides who consistently over-performed despite a limited budget.

She (and it is a she) is rated by everyone who has worked with her as a brilliant coach; and because she has worked almost exclusively in the women’s game, she knows the players, and they know and respect her.

She has a long-standing relationship with Heather Knight, who was her captain in WNCL and WBBL, and who credits her partly for becoming the player she is.

We are talking, of course, about Julia Price – Australia’s wicket-keeper during the glory-years around the turn of the century; who went on to coach Tasmania and Hobart Hurricanes; and is currently coach of the USA national side.

Mark Robinson will be a tough act to follow, but “JP” ticks all the boxes.

Frankly, the ECB should be beating down her door; because they say everyone has their Price… and England should too!

KSL: Vipers v Lightning – Vipers Turn To New Paige In Tight Win

After a profitable powerplay in which Danni Wyatt successfully hogged much of the strike, plundering three sixes and six fours, Southern Vipers looked to have set a good platform for themselves against Yorkshire Diamonds – reaching 62 without the loss of a wicket.

However, the next few overs swung things hugely back in the Diamonds’ favour – the dismissal of Suzie Bates the cue for a top-order collapse, courtesy of another brilliant spell by leg-spinner Katie Levick, who finished with 2-17 from her 4 overs – only marginally more expensive than her 2-13 at Guildford on Tuesday.

By the time Paige Scholfield reached the crease, in the 14th over, Vipers were 90-5 and badly feeling the absence of their usual big-hitting middle-order batsman, Stafanie Taylor (sitting out with an injury niggle). “It was a lot of pressure”, the 23-year-old admitted after the game. “We do train for those situations, but it’s never nice to go into that.”

Scholfield did not tee off straight away, but focused instead on running hard between the wickets with partner Thea Brookes – the pair added 17 runs across the next 3-and-a-bit overs, all in singles.

“As soon as I came in I said to Thea we’ve got to put pressure back on Yorkshire because I thought they were on top of us at this point,” Scholfield said. “And I said if we run hard between the wickets and set ourselves a nice little platform for the last remaining overs, then it takes a lot of pressure off us and we can play a lot more freely.”

It meant that Scholfield was still there in the penultimate over, when Diamonds reintroduced Beth Langston – at which point she pounced, stroking two boundaries through the leg side before pelting up and down the pitch for successive twos. The pressure got to Diamonds so much that even the impeccable Alyssa Healy fumbled a straightforward run out opportunity behind the stumps.

“I said anything off my legs I’m going to go at, because I like to play off my legs. Put it in the pockets and hit the gaps. It paid off today,” Schofield said.

“And then with Langers I do prefer pace on the ball, so I said anything that misses my pads is going.”

It still looked to be an under-par total – “I felt like I should have been there to the end, and I was hoping in that last over to put another 6 or 8 runs on the board”, Scholfield admitted, having been brilliantly caught by Jemimah Rodrigues at cover off the second ball of the 20th over – but at the very least you felt like it was one that Vipers COULD defend, if they bowled well.

They started well – Diamonds hitting just 29 from the powerplay overs and losing Healy along the way, run out by Wyatt having made only a very half-hearted effort to make her ground at the non-striker’s end.

Holly Armitage should have gone early – TV reviews showing she was plumb LBW to Lauren Bell when still in single figures – but ended up sticking around until the 14th over, making a 38-ball 34. By that time Diamonds were 83-3 and needing simply to bat sensibly at a run a ball to make the target.

“The last 4 overs we were all just very nervous,” Scholfield admitted. “But I think the girls held it really well together. We all said heads in the game, don’t let anything get to us. Tammy captained really well, making sure the girls were still in the game, and no one gave up, which is a big thing in T20 because it does always come down to the last ball.”

And so it did on this occasion – Katie George facing off against Suzie Bates, needing to hit six from the final ball, after Bates had earlier taken the crucial wicket of the in-batsman Rodrigues as the 18-year-old tried to finish things in style and was bowled.

It was tense – up on the Vipers balcony, Charlotte Edwards could barely bring herself to watch – but Bates hit a good length and George managed just the single, handing Vipers the win by 3 runs.

Move over Marizanne Kapp: there’s a new death bowler in town, and her name is Suzie Bates.

KSL: Thunder v Lightning

Martin Saxon reports

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Loughborough Lightning 157-7 (20), Lancashire Thunder 74-6 (13.4). Lightning win by 35 runs on D/L/S

Once again Lancashire Thunder went down to a heavy defeat when playing at Old Trafford. This was the fifth occasion on which they had played on Manchester’s Test ground, and the first four resulted in defeats by 95 runs, 33 runs, seven wickets and 55 runs. This one can certainly be added to that list, with Thunder a long way behind on Duckworth/Lewis/Stern when the umpires took the players off.

All but one of these five matches have been televised and three were double headers with men’s Blast games, so Lancashire’s elite women’s team really haven’t made the most of their ‘showcase’ matches. That said, here the crowd was well down on the 875 who attended the only other standalone Thunder match at Old Trafford, which was back in 2016. We’re so used to women’s cricket moving forward that sometimes we need to remind ourselves that things can sometimes go in the opposite direction. The previous results at ‘headquarters’ may have put off some Lancashire CCC members from attending tonight?

Thunder enjoyed an almost perfect powerplay at the start of the match but nothing went their way thereafter. Those who have played or managed any sports team that hits a bad patch will know the feeling, and even if you enjoy some periods of being on top, things always seem to go wrong in the end.

After the first five, Loughborough Lightning’s batting line up did not look fearsome, on paper anyway, so when a wicket for Kate Cross in the second over was followed by one for Sophie Ecclestone in the third it seemed this might be Thunder’s day. After two early wickets, Chamari Atapattu chose to dig in initially, then the moment she played an attacking shot she top edged a catch.

Lightning were 18-3 after six overs and few would have expected them to post a daunting total, but they managed to score at almost 10 per over thereafter. Things started to go wrong when Alex Hartley came into the attack – sadly this World Cup hero is not enjoying the best of times of late. KSL rookie Alice Dyson also bowled some nervy overs where she struggled to find her length, and this helped to give Lightning vital momentum.

Georgia Adams may not have hit the headlines with big scores, but those who follow the tournament closely may have noted that she had only been dismissed once. Her 50 from 33 balls with three sixes is possibly her career highlight to date. Georgia Elwiss was second top scorer with 38 and Kathryn Bryce made 32 from 18 balls, adding 82 in seven and a half overs with Adams.

Ecclestone’s 15 dot balls from 24 deliveries and overall figures of 3-17 was yet another demonstration of her world class talent, and while she may have taken some punishment in her final over, Cross’s 2-23 was also a fine effort. The other Thunder bowling analyses were less than perfect though.

Tahlia McGrath hit two sixes and a four in the fifth over, but then contrived to hit a rank full toss to mid off in the next, even though it took a fine one handed effort from Atapattu to dismiss her. Sophia Dunkley was then sent back to the pavilion two balls later as Loughborough started to get on top.

Sune Luus played some impressive strokes but her 30 runs were made at less than a run a ball, and Harmanpreet Kaur struggled for 15 balls before departing for just seven.

Kaur’s dismissal at 65-3 after 11 overs marked the point at which the required rate hit ten per over, and this was probably the point at which Thunder lost hope. 16 balls later the score was 74-6 and the innings was showing every sign of ending with a whimper when the weather brought about an early finish.

Kirstie Gordon finished with 3-18 and Hayley Matthews with two wickets for one run, and Thunder also struggled to score against Sarah Glenn and Elwiss.