With Thunder 123-7 against Sparks in today’s RHF Trophy encounter, the result of the match looked like being a foregone conclusion. Doing commentary on the live stream at the time, I suggested – based on long experience of county cricket – that it would be very unlikely that Thunder would from there go on to reach 150.
My calculation did not account for the swashbuckling heroics of 20-year-old Alice Dyson, who – batting at 9, and having not even been selected for the opening encounters of the competition last weekend – smashed 21 off 24 balls, at a strike rate of 87.5 – the highest of the match*.
It was exactly the impetus that the Thunder innings needed, and it saved the game from being even more one-sided than it ultimately was – Sparks winning by 8 wickets.
“I did have a little bit of a point to prove,” Dyson said afterwards. “But I wanted to go out there and do what was best for the team in that situation – it’s not a selfish sport.”
“I tried to go at at least a run a ball and if there was a bad ball there, get it away. I tried to keep it simple and play to my strengths, straight down the ground.”
“I just wanted to rotate the strike at the end and see if we could push [the total] up.”
140 miles away, down in Chelmsford, Alex Griffiths (batting at number 6) was creating similar fireworks for Western Storm – hitting 43 off 34 balls at a strike rate of 126 against the Sunrisers, and leading the Storm’s recovery from 109-4 to 189-5, to post a final total of 265-6.
How impressive are these kind of performances? To put this in context, let’s have a look at the leading strike rates so far across the first 3 rounds of the Trophy (excluding players who have faced less than 15 balls):
|1. Alex Griffiths||115.00|
|2. Linsey Smith||104.54|
|3. Lauren Winfield||97.33|
|4. Ami Campbell||93.47|
|5. Nat Sciver||92.30|
|6. Sophie Ecclestone||90.24|
|7. Danni Wyatt||89.47|
|8. Tara Norris||89.47|
|9. Fran Wilson||88.88|
|10. Heather Knight||88.26|
|11. Alice Dyson||87.50|
|12. Tash Farrant||85.22|
|13. Beth Langston||83.33|
|14. Sophia Dunkley||82.92|
|15. Rhianna Southby||82.35|
You’ll notice a strong theme here – the England players tend, almost exclusively, to populate this kind of list. Years spent on professional contracts, with proper year-round coaching and S&C training, have put them head and shoulders above domestic players when it comes to hitting beyond the infield.
But there, topping the table, sits Alex Griffiths as one of only 2 players in the competition to currently have a strike rate of over 100.
And there at number 11 sits Alice Dyson, who (lest we forget) is in the Thunder squad as a specialist bowler.
One of the biggest differences between men’s and women’s domestic cricket is that when women’s county teams have lost 4 wickets, they have a tendency to collapse horribly, because their batting orders are very top-heavy. Dan Norcross has remarked that this was his key takeaway from commentating on the Surrey v Lancashire game at Guildford on Women’s County Cricket Day last season (when Surrey collapsed from 136-0 to lose by 1 run chasing Lancashire’s 242).
The strike rates of Dyson and Griffiths, batting at 9 and 6 respectively, are therefore particularly remarkable.
Last weekend we noted that the RHF Trophy looked to be producing the same kind of attritional cricket which we are used to seeing in the county game. And so it is, in many cases. But we should also celebrate the exceptions to that rule; and acknowledge that women’s domestic cricket needs more Alice Dysons.
And maybe this same table of leading strike rates might look a little bit different in 5 years time – when (we hope) domestic players will have the same opportunities as their England counterparts to access high-quality, year-round coaching, and bosh it around with the best of them.
*Discounting Alex Hartley’s strike rate of 166.66 (she only faced 3 balls).