NEWS: WNCL – Western Australia Bolt-On Ahead

Team Played Won Lost Points
1. Western Australia 2 2 0 8
2. ACT Meteors 2 2 0 8
3. Queensland Fire 2 1 1 5
4. Victoria 2 1 1 4
5. NSW Breakers 2 1 1 4
6. SA Scorpions 2 0 2 0
7. Tasmania 2 0 2 0

With the Southern Stars on international duty, the first two rounds of Australia’s 50-over WNCL presented the opportunity for others to make their cases – none more so than Western Australia’s Nicole Bolton. After struggling to find her form over the England’s summer during the Women’s Ashes, Bolton struck gold with two consecutive Player of the Match performances to put her side top of the table.

Against Queensland, Bolton hit 77 in a 150-run stand with captain Chloe Piparo (76) as Western Australia successfully chased 189; and she then top-scored again with 63 versus Tasmania, before following-up with the best bowling figures of 2-26 as the Tassies were bowled out 16 runs short of Western Australia’s 194.

ACT Meteors also made it two-from-two, with wins versus South Australia and Victoria. Against South Australia,  20-year-old Amy Yates took a career-best 6-33 as SA were bowled out for 203, with Katie Mack then hitting 83 as ACT won by 3 wickets. Mack was then in the runs again against Victoria, making 63 as ACT posted 168-6 in a rain-reduced game, with Victoria falling 18 short in the chase.

In the other matches, Makinley Blows hit a century for Victoria as they beat the Breakers by 7 wickets; Georgie Prestwidge took 4-41 to help Queensland beat Tasmania; and Tahlia Wilson made 95* for the Breakers in their 6 wicket win v the Scorpions.

The WNCL now goes into hibernation until January, as attention turns to WBBL which stars on Friday 18 October with the Sixers v Thunder Sydney derby.

OPINION: Sarah Taylor – The Best We’ll Ever See

In the summer of 2019, I saw two pieces of fielding which I will never forget. The first was Fran Wilson’s “Catch of the Century” at Chelmsford. The second was at first glance more prosaic.

At Guildford, Surrey Stars were in the field as the ball was run down through backward point and the batsmen jogged through for an easy single. The boundary fielder, having run around from third man, picked up the ball and began the action of throwing it back to the wicket keeper, who was standing casually over the stumps, with one hand on her hip as if queuing for the bus.

As the ball was leaving the fielder’s hand, the keeper nonchalantly stuck out a glove just to her right, and then waited… and waited… for what seemed like an eternity as the ball arched through the air… until finally it popped right into her mit.

I’d actually be surprised if any of the several-hundred people there at Guildford that afternoon even noticed what I’d seen, but it was nonetheless quite remarkable. From the moment the ball had left the boundary fielder’s hand, Sarah Taylor – because… of course that’s who the wicket keeper was – had judged its trajectory consummately and stuck out a hand to exactly where it was going to end up… and it had!

It was Sarah Taylor in a nutshell – the swagger; the poise; and the pitch-perfect execution.

I first met “Squirt” when she was a teenager, and women’s cricket was still a niche attraction being played in front of one man and his dog – I was the man that day… and I didn’t even have a dog! Taylor had already made her England debut, and there was a star quality about her, but also an unpretentious simplicity as she cadged-about for a lift to the train station afterwards, having not yet passed her driving test!

I next encountered her at an England match. Walking around the boundary while England were batting, two young girls of around 10 or 12 grabbed her and asked them to autograph their t-shirts, which of course she did, meanwhile charming them with a few minutes of conversation, which I’m willing to bet those two girls, whoever they were, still remember.

That was Sarah Taylor in a nutshell too – the warmth; the charisma; and the time she had for the fans.

And throughout her career, none of that changed – at the very first match she played after her comeback from her well-documented mental health layoff, she was the first player out to sign autographs and take selfies with the young fans who’d come along to see her play.

With bat in hand, she reminded me of no one more than David Gower – as he was the most naturally gifted batsman of his era, male or female, so was she of hers. At her best she was imperious, with a classical cover drive to die for, though like Gower she could frustrate, as another insouciant waft ended up going to hand.

As a wicket keeper however, she frustrated only the opposition batsmen, with more magic moments than a box of Quality Street – topped by that catch at Hove to dismiss Jodie Fields in the 2015 Women’s Ashes.

The best of her generation? Without a doubt!

The best we’ll ever see? I think so too!

MATCH REPORT: Hursley Park Triumphant On Inaugural Kia Summer Smash Finals Day

On a sunny September afternoon at the Oval, the four winners of the regional Kia Summer Smash Festivals – Hursley Park (South), Sessay (North), Plympton (West) and Berkswell (Midlands) – gathered for the competition’s inaugural Finals Day.

In the first semi-final of the day, Plympton reached 83-2 in their 10 overs having won the toss and chosen to bat. Hursley Park looked to be easily on course, reaching 69 without loss, but eventually made it through with just 3 balls to spare – captain Emily Windsor finishing unbeaten on 43.

In the second semi-final, Sessay faced down Berkswell in the highest scoring encounter of the day, with Sessay accumulating 99 runs in their 10 overs thanks to an unbeaten half-century from Yorkshire’s Jess Watson. In reply, Berkswell could only reach 68, Bethan Ellis finishing not out on 39.

With the two losing semi-finalists now able to sit back and enjoy the copious Pimms on offer in the pavilion, it was time for the final – Hursley Park v Sessay.

Having won the toss, Hursley Park chose to field, and disaster struck early for Sessay as their star batsman Jess Watson was caught at point off the third ball of the innings, handing Hampshire’s Charlotte Taylor her first wicket of the match.

By the time Taylor struck again to have Jess Woolston bowled off the last ball of the 10 overs, Sessay were 6 down, with Hursley Park confident of being able to chase down the target of 83.

That confidence was dented somewhat after they lost 2 wickets in the very first over courtesy of Abi Glen. While Windsor and Taylor then came together for a 50 partnership, when Taylor was dismissed by Daisy Stokoe in the 7th over Hursley Park still required 29 from 18 balls. Stokoe struck again in her next over, meaning the equation was 11 runs off the final over with 6 wickets in hand.

However, a streaky edge through backward point from Rebecca Blake, some scrambled runs between Blake and Windsor and finally a fifth-ball wide eventually sealed the deal for Hursley Park with just 1 ball to spare – Windsor finishing on 42 not out.

Heather Knight was on hand to present the trophy to captain Emily Windsor, as “the carrots” celebrated their victory.

“It was a fantastic team performance all the way through the competition. We were Southern Premier League champions last week, and now to finish the season with the Kia Summer Smash title, it’s exactly what we came here for,” Windsor said afterwards.

She labelled the opportunity to play at the Oval as “incredible”: “I’d play here every week if I could! It’s not often you get to play on a track like this and an outfield like this. I wanted to spend as long as I could out there, and luckily I did that in both games.”

At a time when women’s club cricket is often said to be struggling, it was great to see Kia and The Cricketer lending their support to it – long may the competition continue!

STATS: KSL 2019 Bowling Rankings

As we’ve seen in previous years, because two-thirds of overseas picks are batsmen, the field is a little more open for English players to shine as bowlers in the Kia Super League.

Top of the tree this season was Freya Davies, who broke the record for a KSL season with 19 wickets. Although Davies narrowly missed out on the Player of the Tournament award after getting slightly tonked by Danni Wyatt and Suzie Bates in the final, she has made a strong case for inclusion in England’s plans for the winter leading up to the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia next February.

Another player who will be hoping to make an appearance in Australia is leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington, who lost her Southern Stars central contract earlier this year after falling behind Georgia Wareham in the pecking order. Wellington wasn’t even an original pick for the Vipers – coming in as a late replacement for Sophie Molineux – but she made a real impact to rank second with 15 wickets at 6.85.

Like Wellington, No. 3 ranked Tash Farrant also lost her central contract this year; but since then has won the County Championship with Kent and has had her best KSL season yet for the Vipers, taking 14 wickets at 6.62. There probably isn’t a way back into England colours for Farrant in the short term, but her signature must now surely be one of the most hotly contested amongst the non-international players for The Hundred next season.

Sophie Ecclestone, ranked No. 4, of course needs no introduction; but the name at No. 5 might: Sarah Glenn is a young leg-spinner who doesn’t turn it a mile, but bowls intelligently – adjusting her length and flight to keep the batsmen on their toes. Glenn finished the season with 11 wickets at 6.05 – the joint-second best Economy Rate in KSL 2019, behind only Marizanne Kapp (at 5.34) for bowlers who delivered more than 5 overs – and it will be interesting to see if she can push on next season, with England looking to add some variety to their bowling attack, which is currently heavy on right-arm seamers and left-arm orthodox spinners.

Player Matches Wickets Economy
1. Freya Davies (Western Storm) 11 19 6.43
2. Amanda-Jade Wellington (Southern Vipers) 11 15 6.85
3. Tash Farrant (Southern Vipers) 10 14 6.62
4. Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire Thunder) 10 12 6.43
5. Sarah Glenn (Loughborough Lightning) 11 11 6.05
6. Kirstie Gordon (Loughborough Lightning) 10 11 6.05
7. Dane van Niekerk (Surrey Stars) 8 12 6.95
8. Claire Nicholas (Western Storm) 10 12 7.02
9. Anya Shrubsole (Western Storm) 10 13 7.93
10. Jenny Gunn (Loughborough Lightning) 11 10 6.71
11. Hayley Matthews (Loughborough Lightning) 9 9 6.14
12. Deepti Sharma (Western Storm) 11 9 6.62
13. Leigh Kasperek (Yorkshire Diamonds) 10 10 7.46
14. Katie Levick (Yorkshire Diamonds) 10 8 6.19
15. Kate Cross (Lancashire Thunder) 10 11 8.57
16. Stafanie Taylor (Southern Vipers) 6 8 6.26
17. Laura Marsh (Surrey Stars) 8 10 8.22
18. Katherine Bryce (Loughborough Lightning) 9 8 6.58
19. Emma Lamb (Lancashire Thunder) 10 10 8.32
20. Alice Davidson-Richards (Yorkshire Diamonds) 10 10 9.54

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

STATS: KSL 2019 Batting Rankings

Player of the Tournament Danni Wyatt heads this season’s KSL Batting Rankings, with not only the most runs, but also the highest Strike Rate among the leading batsmen. (Overall, only Surrey Stars’ Eva Gray had a higher Strike Rate – exactly 200, having hit 8 off 4 balls faced in the tournament.)

Wyatt’s effortless 100 versus the Stars at Arundel was a personal highlight of 2019, though I’m told I might have changed my mind had I seen Jemimah Rodrigues match-winning 112 for the Diamonds against the Vipers at York. Rodrigues started the campaign slowly, with scores of 4, 20 and 2; but found her feet to finish second in the rankings with over 400 runs, including two 50s in addition to that 100. Interestingly, she did so despite hitting only three 6s, compared to Wyatt’s 18 – the joint lowest (with Smriti Mandhana) of any of the top 10 batters.

Rachel Priest, at No. 3, continued to make her case for a New Zealand recall for the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia early next year. It would obviously be a short-term move – Priest is 97 years old. [Ed: I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, isn’t it?] But if they want to be in with a shout of actually winning the thing, they’d do it!

Just two non-internationals made the top 20 – Holly Armitage and Georgia Adams – though there were four more between 21 and 30: Sophie Luff (23), Emma Lamb (24), Maia Bouchier (29) and Ellie Threlkeld (30). Among the recent batting debutantes things were actually worse, with none of Sophia Dunkley, Bryony Smith or Alice Davidson-Richards even making the top 30. Batting depth remains a continued worry for England and it is hard to look on these numbers and argue that the KSL has really succeeded in its initial aim of “bridging the gap” in that department.

Player Matches Runs SR
1. Danni Wyatt (Southern Vipers) 11 466 166.42
2. Jemimah Rodrigues (Yorkshire Diamonds) 10 401 149.62
3. Rachel Priest (Western Storm) 11 365 145.41
4. Heather Knight (Western Storm) 11 392 111.36
5. Fran Wilson (Western Storm) 11 298 138.6
6. Mignon du Preez (Loughborough Lightning) 11 267 147.51
7. Smriti Mandhana (Western Storm) 11 268 137.43
8. Amy Jones (Loughborough Lightning) 11 309 114.86
9. Alyssa Healy (Yorkshire Diamonds) 10 248 135.51
10. Lizelle Lee (Surrey Stars) 9 213 148.95
11. Sarah Taylor (Surrey Stars) 8 260 120.93
12. Harmanpreet Kaur (Lancashire Thunder) 10 261 113.47
13. Nat Sciver (Surrey Stars) 9 233 120.72
14. Stafanie Taylor (Southern Vipers) 6 205 134.86
15. Tammy Beaumont (Southern Vipers) 11 239 110.64
16. Suzie Bates (Southern Vipers) 11 246 99.19
17. Thalia McGrath (Lancashire Thunder) 10 219 105.28
18. Holly Armitage (Yorkshire Diamonds) 10 233 96.28
19. Georiga Adams (Loughborough Lightning) 11 169 113.42
20. Georgia Elwiss (Loughborough Lightning) 10 171 108.91

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

NEWS: Venues And Player Selection Process Announced For Women’s Hundred

The ECB have this morning confirmed that the Women’s Hundred teams will be based at different venues to their male counterparts, in an effort to further grow the game outside of the 8 stadia where the men will be playing.

The women’s teams will play one double-header per season alongside the men but otherwise will play at smaller grounds, as follows:

Sophia Gardens The Bristol County Ground
The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton
Edgbaston Blackfinch New Road, Worcester
Emerald Headingley York CC
South Northumberland CC
Lord’s The Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford
The County Ground, Northampton
Kia Oval The County Ground, Beckenham
Emirates Old Trafford TBC
Trent Bridge The Pattonair County Cricket Ground, Derby
The Fischer County Ground, Leicester
Ageas Bowl The 1st Central County Ground, Hove

This makes sense in the context of the ECB’s strategy of playing England matches at smaller grounds like Chelmsford and Hove which are more likely to fill up. It is also good news for counties like Somerset and Kent, who both lost out in the “bidding” process to run a Hundred franchise, but will this way be represented in the competition by virtue of hosting a women’s side.

However, some of the grounds on the list do not have the capacity to host broadcast facilities, thus confirming that at least some of the matches in the Women’s Hundred will not be televised.

In addition, the ECB have also confirmed that there will NOT be a draft for the women’s competition, but that players will be selected in a two-phase process.

Initially, between September 1 and September 30, each team will sign two centrally contracted England players. Then, between October 1 and May 30, teams will sign their remaining 13 players from across three different player pools – the remaining England Women’s centrally contracted players, overseas players and domestic players.

Each team can sign a maximum of 3 overseas players.

The player selection process is therefore already underway: CRICKETher understands that several England players have already been approached with offers. The first signings should be announced in the next few weeks.

KSL Final: Heather Knight – A Colossus Over Roads

In a Women’s County Championship game earlier this year, Heather Knight was batting for Berkshire on her way to a match-winning century against Wales.

With around 10 overs remaining, the Required Rate was an easily manageable 5-an-over; and out in the middle, Knight was calm and confident – if 5 an over was what was required, 5 an over was what she was getting, and 5-an-over was what she would get!

But there was a problem: rain was threatening, and with Berkshire having lost 7 wickets, Knight figured correctly that they were probably behind on Duckworth-Lewis.

A “drink” was called for and Berkshire’s 12th was duly dispatched to the scorers box to determine exactly how far behind – the answer being around 10.

The following over was bowled by Claire Nicholas – Knight’s teammate at Western Storm, and no mug with the ball either. It went for 13. An over from Gabby Basketter was then sent for 10, before the charge was halted as suddenly as it had begun. With Duckworth-Lewis back in Berkshire’s court, Knight coolly resumed her 5-an-over service to see out the rest of the game towards Berkshire’s inevitable victory in the 48th over.

There is of course a difference between Division 2 of the Women’s County Championship and the Kia Super League Final; but apparently not much of one when you are Heather Knight!

In the 4 year history of the Super League, only one side – Yorkshire Diamonds last week against Southern Vipers – has ever successfully chased more than 172. (Though oddly, exactly 172 has now been chased 3 times.) But what’s history when you are Heather Knight? What’s 9-an-over, as the ask was at one stage?

Finishing on 78* off 53 balls, Knight made the KSL Final look like a picnic in the park, wrapping things up with a 4 off the last ball of the 19th over. She had help from Deepti Sharma at the back-end of the innings – her 39 not out was useful – but you got the impression that if Deepti had been 29 not out… or even 9… Knight would have still got her side over the line just the same.

It feels appropriate that in this final final, Knight became the only batsman to clock-up 1,000 runs in the KSL. Over these 4 years, she hasn’t ever been Player of the Tournament, she hasn’t made a century, and she’s a long way down the “Most Sixes” chart.

But what she has been is consistent, not just on a road at Hove, but on every other road too – like a Colossus over Roads, match after match, season after season, Heather Knight has bestrode the Super League.

The KSL has been her tournament.

The trophy has been her trophy.

And now, deservedly, she gets to keep it for ever.