In our 50th episode:
- England’s ODI series victory over New Zealand
- Is Tammy Beaumont England’s best batter?
- Who should open for England in ODI cricket?
- Seam bowler selections
- Predictions for the T20 series
In our 50th episode:
England may not have played a single ODI in the 437 days prior to this series, but New Zealand had suffered an even longer drought: their last win in ODI cricket came over two years ago, on 1 February 2019.
That drought finally ended earlier today, after New Zealand inflicted a seven-wicket defeat on England. Dead rubber it may have been, but this was an important statement by New Zealand: they have not forgotten how to win games of 50-over cricket.
Importantly, too, Amy Satterthwaite has not forgotten how to score big runs. This may have been her seventh ODI hundred, but it is her first since February 2017. It is also her first since an 18-month absence from cricket brought about by pregnancy, childbirth and maternity leave. While Sattherthwaite is following in a long line of female cricketers to return to cricket after pushing babies out of their bodies (Enid Bakewell did it three times in five years), she is the first to do so in the professional era, and we shouldn’t underestimate how important that is.
Amelia Kerr’s unbeaten 72 was important for a different reason. Since her 232* against Ireland in 2017 catapulted her into the headlines, she has barely troubled the scorers in 50-over cricket. Prior to this series, her average in ODIs against all opposition except Ireland was under 10, and her highest score was 28. There comes a time when you have to stop living off past glories and prove you are capable of batting at 5 against the reigning world champions. Offered the chance to do that today, Kerr took it and ran with it.
The successful run chase came after New Zealand had dismissed England for 220 – at least 40 runs short of a par score, as Heather Knight admitted after the match. This was a full-strength England batting line-up, plus bonus Lauren Winfield-Hill (brought in after Katherine Brunt was “rested”), so to bowl them out was an impressive effort from the hosts. In fact it could have been far worse for England. The cricketing gods, particularly the one that controls the DRS ball-tracker, really did seem to smile on them for the duration – giving Knight a life on 26* and Beaumont one on 33*.
Amelia Kerr finished with 4 wickets, but it was her sister Jess Kerr who really bogged England down in the middle overs, forcing repeated errors from both Knight and Beaumont. Kerr senior, who opened the bowling for the first time today, is becoming a formidable threat with ball in hand, showing her ability to swing the ball in a fashion worthy of Anya Shrubsole herself. She could be key in home conditions in next year’s World Cup.
In fact, for the first time in a while it’s possible to look beyond the inevitable retirements of Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu in the next couple of years, and see a chink of light. Devine never came to the party this series (scoring 16, 6 and 15) and Bates wasn’t even INVITED to the party (Ed: How far are you going to extend this terrible metaphor?) but Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen and the Kerr sisters went a long way to making up for it.
There’s something of an unfavourable contrast to be made with England’s selection policy. Even in a dead rubber situation, they failed to give younger batters like Sophia Dunkley an opportunity, presumably on the basis of Lisa Keightley’s belief that “I don’t want to give away caps, I think people need to earn it”. And they still lost the match.
It may be a cliche, but winning IS a habit – and with a year to go until the next World Cup, this dead rubber mattered more than most.
For a few years after the dawn of the professional era, the average age of England’s “Top 6” hovered around 26/27. Then around 2016, something happened.
England under the leadership of Mark Robinson and Heather Knight found a batting formula that worked and won the World Cup with it. Tammy Beaumont was leading run scorer and player of the tournament; Heather Knight and Nat Sciver hit their first ODI hundreds – England were flying.
There’s a saying in computer programming: If it ain’t broke… don’t fix it! And England applied that mantra to their new-found magic batting formula, with one important side effect: their batting line-up began to age. As every year passed, the Top 6 became a year older, hitting 30 in 2020.
Longer term, there has to be a concern about this – England aren’t debuting new batters, and the worry is that in the next two or three years the entire lineup retires without any transition taking place to the next generation, who will be thrown unceremoniously thrown to the wolves just in time for the 2025 World Cup.
But in the short term, England’s “Old Guns” are absolutely owning the game, particularly in the longer 50-over format.
Last night’s 2nd ODI against the White Ferns was a classic case of older, wiser heads prevailing. Both teams lost early wickets – at 5 overs, New Zealand were 20-2; England were 21-2. It was in the next 5 overs that England won the game.
While New Zealand slumped, scoring just 8 runs in overs 5-10, and losing another 2 wickets in the process, Tammy Beaumont and Nat Sciver showed all their experience – shrugging off the match situation, they just played calm, sensible cricket. The result: 23 runs for the loss of no wickets.
And that was the game – Sciver and Beaumont both cruised passed 50, and although Sciver eventually holed-out with a slightly dozy shot, England’s win was never in doubt. Having initially required 3.8 runs per over, they scored steadily at well over 4 runs per over, to win the match inside 40 overs.
Tammy Beaumont’s innings – finishing 72 not out – really deserved to be a century, and had the White Ferns given her a few more runs to play with, she surely would have added to her tally of 8 international hundreds. With apologies to Knight, Sciver, and everyone else, Beaumont for me has been England’s best player through the past 5 years, and is now just 3 centuries away from overtaking Charlotte Edwards as England’s leading century-maker, despite having played just 73 ODIs to Edwards’ 191!
I’d still like to see England think a bit more about the future, and bring in some younger batting talent to ease the transition to the next generation a few years hence; but I have to admit, we’ll miss these Old Guns when they’re gone.
After Syd and I both said on Sunday’s vodcast that we thought this would be a close-fought series, New Zealand seem intent on proving us wrong. This was another disappointing display by them in the 50-over format – bowled out for 178 in 45.1 overs, before England chased down the target with 98 balls to spare.
There really wasn’t a lot wrong with this Hagley Oval pitch. Bar a little bit of swing up top, the England bowlers never got much movement. Wickets fell when they stuck to a middle-stump line, and adjusted their length to account for the fact that the Kiwis were doing all their scoring off the back-foot. Suzie Bates said on commentary that she felt New Zealand should have been aiming for a total of 250+ – after they fell nearly 100 runs short of that “par score”, the result was all but a foregone conclusion.
England firmly dispelled any notion of off-season “rustiness” with a thoroughly convincing showing in the field. But New Zealand’s “big names” largely did for themselves – Amy Satterthwaite and Amelia Kerr in particular falling to irresponsible, half-hearted shots. I wonder whether leaving Satterthwaite, Kerr and Sophie Devine out of the warm-ups (which were effectively contested against a NZ “B” team) was such a good idea?
The Kiwi commentators seemed surprised that the New Zealand batters didn’t push things along a bit more in the middle overs, but the problem with being 94 for 4 is that it leaves you with a lot of rebuilding to do. I’m also wondering whether New Zealand have got into their own heads a bit – they know they have a reputation as “the side that gets bowled out”, and that can’t be a very freeing thought. Of course, Sophie Ecclestone was also brilliant as ever, really piling on the pressure and making sure there were few easy runs to come by.
Despite all this, if I was a New Zealand selector, I might well be feeling pretty smug right now. 25 year old Brooke Halliday appears to be a real “find” (where has she been hiding?!) New Zealand’s big problem these last few years has been a lack of middle-order “backbone” – Halliday might just been the answer. The real question is what on earth she was doing coming in so low down the order, risking her being stranded? More of this GIF in the next few matches please:
I’ll admit that England’s team selection took me by surprise, but it was great seeing Tash Farrant grabbing her opportunity, when it finally came, with both hands. Heather Knight had been pretty clear in the pre-series press conference that she didn’t see a front-line role for Farrant, saying: “She’s there as cover. She’s got a chance in the nets to try and push for selection, and show her skills.” But now Farrant appears to have leapfrogged both Freya Davies and Kate Cross to play the role of Katherine Brunt’s new-ball partner. Clearly, she’s enjoyed some stonking net sessions since the team arrived in New Zealand!
There’s been much said about Farrant’s return being a vindication of the new regional contracts – I’ll add just one thing. To me it shows the value of players being available to play in every single round of the RHF. In doing so, Farrant got far more overs of competitive cricket under her belt than either Davies or Cross did in the England “bubble” at Derby / Loughborough. It’s going to be a real dilemma going forwards for the fringe contracted players, as coaches balance whether to release them to play for their regions or not, weighing up what is best for both the player concerned vs what is best for England as a team.
The ECB have announced the fixtures for The Hundred, with every single women’s match to be broadcast live on TV on either Sky or the BBC.
The Kia Oval will host the opening game of the women’s competition, with the Oval Invincibles taking on the Manchester Originals on 21 July – the day before the men’s competition begins.
The Oval will also host the women’s (and men’s) “eliminator” (AKA the 2nd v 3rd “semi-final”) at the other end of the tournament on 20 August, before the women’s (and men’s) final at Lords on 21 August.
The opening match and the final will both be shown on the BBC, with all other games on Sky. CRICKETher understands that the BBC have the rights to show 6 more matches, but the broadcaster is yet to make a final decision as to whether they will exercise this right and, if so, which matches they will choose.
The coverage represents a significant increase from what was promised for the 2020 women’s competition, where only the 9 double headers and the final were due to be televised. None of the standalone women’s group-stage fixtures would have been shown.
By contrast, in 2021 every match – apart from the opening day – will be a double-header, with the men’s and women’s teams playing the same opponents at the same venue on the same day.
Tickets for both games will be £10 for adults, £5 for under-16s and free for under-5s; with refunds promised if COVID means the games have to be played behind closed doors.
The full women’s schedule is below:
As discussed in the vodcast, here’s Syd’s piece on the World Cup documentary.
And here’s Jake Perry’s interview with Mark Coles.
Mark Coles speaks to Jake Perry about his appointment as the first full-time head coach of the national women’s team.
The new year has brought new beginnings for Scotland with the appointment of Mark Coles as the first full-time head coach of the national women’s team. The New Zealander, who succeeds Steve Knox, arrives with an impressive pedigree which includes two years at the helm in Pakistan.
“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “I’m very humbled and privileged to be given this opportunity.”
“I’ll obviously be doing a lot of listening and observing for the first little while to get an understanding of what’s required and the expectations of the players, and then [we’ll look to] build something around that.”
“I’m just looking forward to getting to Scotland and getting stuck in.”
After high-performance roles with Western Australia, Wellington and Northern Districts – coaching a Wellington Blaze team that included then-Scotland international Leigh Kasperek to the New Zealand Women’s T20 title in 2013 – Mark was given leave from Waikato Valley to join Pakistan in September 2017.
An initial engagement for a single series turned into an extended stay in which he oversaw a dramatic improvement in the culture and fortunes of a side that had been left in disarray after its winless campaign at the 2017 Women’s World Cup. Getting the inside line on the Scottish game will be his first priority, but Mark is also clear about the way in which he sees his new team developing.
“For me it’s about finding a style of cricket that suits Scotland,” he said. “When I first went to Pakistan it was exactly the same. It’s finding what works for Scotland – not trying to emulate Australia or England or New Zealand or whoever, but a style of cricket that suits our players.”
“I’d like to think that that’ll be a positive style of cricket, but I think that’s really important, finding the style that suits the players, that you can have some fun with and be brave with and then look to win games with.”
“Wherever you go in the world, every team is stronger in some aspects than others, so it’s about putting it all together in the melting pot, finding out what suits us and then working really hard with it.”
With the European Qualifier for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup fast approaching, this will be a crucial summer of cricket for a side that, along with many of its peers, has lost more than a year of its development thanks to the global pandemic. But while the immediate task will be to regroup and refocus, the ultimate goal is still plain.
“The success of Thailand is a great example of what can be achieved and of what Scotland should be aiming for,” said Mark. “They found their own style – they were very quick in the outfield, they were quick between the wickets and they bowled accurately. They weren’t the fastest bowlers in the world, they weren’t the biggest spinners of the ball in the world, but they found the style of play that suited them and they just got really good at it.”
“Scotland has produced some absolutely amazing cricketers over the years, and there’s no reason at all why we shouldn’t be playing in the T20 World Cup on a regular basis.”
Jake Perry is the author of The Secret Game
England bowler and South East Stars captain Tash Farrant has confirmed that she will be donning a Kent shirt again in 2021, despite what will be (Covid-permitting) a jam-packed summer.
“I absolutely love Kent,” Farrant said. “I’m still a Kent girl at heart and I’m looking forward to the Kent stuff this season.”
While the regional fixtures were announced yesterday, there remains uncertainty about the extent to which regional players will feature in the County T20 Cup. Farrant confirmed that some regions at least still see an important role for county cricket, even within the new set-up.
“Speaking for South East Stars, we have got a huge squad who are training, which is brilliant,” Farrant said. “Those county games will be where [Director of Cricket] Richard Bedbrook and [Head Coach] Johann Myburgh will be looking to see which girls perform, leading into the regional stuff and picking our XI from that.”
Assuming that government regulations allow, the T20 Cup will take place across four weekends in April and May, meaning that these fixtures will be the first chance for the Regional Directors and Regional Head Coaches to assess the match performances of key players, ahead of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and Women’s Regional T20 which will begin in May / June.
With July and September set aside for internationals, and August devoted to The Hundred, the season could be a very busy one for women cricketers. Nonetheless, Farrant also confirmed that she is keen to participate in the London Championship, the 50-over competition which was set up last summer after the ECB withdrew its support for the Women’s County Championship, and involves Kent, Surrey, Essex and Middlesex.
It was confirmed earlier this week that Sussex will be joining the competition this season, which will enable the revival of the old Kent-Sussex rivalry which was such a marked feature of the Women’s County Championship over many years. However, Farrant joked that there is a new contender for main “grudge match” this season:
“I’m very excited for the Kent v Surrey match, having trained with the Surrey girls who are obviously my teammates now. That will be a really good rivalry. There’s a bit of banter already going on in the team!”
Farrant, who is currently out in New Zealand with the England squad, paid tribute to the set-up at South East Stars in enabling her to break back into the England side, two years on from losing her central contract.
“There was only so much I could do by myself, so getting that regional contract was amazing and getting the support,” she said. “I think a lot of girls will stay in the game for a long time now. Aylish Cranstone at the Stars for example has worked so hard for the last however many years and players like her really deserve the support now.”
“Having the winter training, especially the five contracted players but even the wider squads, means that the performances are going to be a whole different level just with the support that we get throughout the winter now. I think that’s going to be a big change and I think the standard is going to go up so much.”
One thing that will be crucial to that development is the shape of this season, which still depends on the efforts of the UK government to reduce Covid-19 cases enough to ease the stringent lockdown regulations currently in place. However, should all go ahead as planned this is likely to be the busiest season ever for women’s domestic cricket.
“At the moment, lots of stuff is Covid-dependent,” Farrant said. “It’s going to be the first time that there’s a really long season, where you start in April and finish at the end of September. I think that’s really exciting and I think that will show regional teams’ depth in their squads.”
“Before, there hasn’t been enough cricket to be able to show your skills for a long period of time. Now we have a lot of cricket and there will be a lot of opportunities for a lot of different girls to show what they can do. I’m looking forward to a long season with a lot of cricket.”
We couldn’t agree more!
The ECB have released the schedule for this summer’s regional competitions, confirming that the 50 over tournament will retain the “Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy” moniker which was so successful in 2020.
The “RHF” will run through the whole summer, beginning on the 29th of May, with a grand final to be held on the 25th of September. Each team will play each other once during the group stages, with the top team proceeding directly to the final, and the second and third placed teams playing off to join them.
Alongside the RHF, a T20 competition will run from late June, with a finals day on the 5th of September. The 8 regional teams will be divided into two seeded groups playing home and away as follows:
However… here’s where it gets a tad confusing! The table will effectively be combined across both groups, with the highest placed side going straight to the final, while second and third contest a single semi-final on finals day.
All in all, there will be 56 matches played across both competitions, with each team guaranteed at least 13 games.
The full fixture list can be downloaded here:
The Record – a two-part documentary mini-series, now available on Amazon Prime – tells the story of the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup from inside the Australian camp.
In terms of the level of access the filmmakers got, The Record isn’t quite unprecedented – the team which made Beyond the Boundary about the 2019 Women’s Ashes tour got a similar inside track into the locker room, and in some ways made better use of it. The Record is relentlessly positive – it’s all team songs and patriotic pep-talks; and there’s no equivalent of the eye-opening footage from Beyond the Boundary of Meg Lanning metaphorically throwing her toys around the Loughborough dressing room after being bowled by Freya Davies in a warm-up!
Where The Record wins out though is in the use of a series of startlingly honest post-tournament interviews with some of the key figures involved, including Mathew Mott, Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy. Not only are these totally uncensored, with enough f-bombs to make an NWA album blush; but they border in several cases on ‘saying the quiet part out loud’ in a way which is not entirely flattering.
Healy for example admits to having “blatantly lied” to the press about the pressure the team were under; whilst Lanning and Mott both acknowledge their attempt to lean on the match referee as he was making his decision as to whether Australia’s crucial rain-affected semi-final would go ahead, with Australia set to be knocked out if the game had been abandoned.
Whilst The Record to a certain extent treats all this as larks, the filmmakers must also have been well aware of the other sides of these coins – journalists will watch this, as will ICC match referees, and they might not go so easy on the Aussies in future, knowing what they do now. Mott and Healy et al may find they have become the footballer who goes down too easily, and then sees the referee shrugging when she really is fouled right in front of the goal!
Perhaps the oddest part of the whole film is the way it ultimately falls flat having to admit that the tournament technically failed to break the eponymous ‘record’ for attendance at a women’s sporting event, coming in a few thousand short of the 90,000 who attended the 1999 women’s football World Cup final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, USA. While we’d actually agree with Nick Hockley, who closes the show arguing that it didn’t really matter in the greater scheme of things, the program has just spent the last 2 hours telling us it did, including footage of the very same Mr Hockley on the day of the final checking the numbers on his phone every 15 minutes.
The lack of budget also starts to become apparent in the closing sections – they obviously only licensed a certain amount of footage of actual play, leading to over-use of Ken Burns-affected still photos to illustrate key moments in the final; and Katy Perry’s performance is overdubbed with “generic bombastic pop”, even as the Aussies are reminiscing about singing Firework on stage with the superstar, presumably because they couldn’t afford a license for the actual song!
If this is “history” it is definitely history written by the winners – Australia’s distinguished victories are accompanied with stirring classical symphonics; their tragic losses with sad piano melodies. Australia’s annihilation of Bangladesh is shown entirely without the context of it being a match played between the number 1 side in the world and a team of million-to-one-shot outsiders – it is a glorious win, and that’s that!
So unsurprisingly the degree to which you actually “enjoy” The Record may be strongly correlated with the degree to which you hold an Australian passport! Nonetheless, if you’ve got Amazon Prime it’s still probably the best thing you can do with a couple of hours this weekend, while you wait for the real cricket to start up again soon.