NEWS: Tammy Beaumont Hoping For “Fiery Games” Against Sussex In 2021

Fresh from a somewhat one-sided tour against New Zealand, Tammy Beaumont is looking forward to reviving a much more potent rivalry in the coming weeks – the ongoing feud between Kent and Sussex.

“I’ve been in the Kent-Sussex rivalry for 15 years, and I love it,” she said. “Some of the most competitive and best games I can remember have been Kent-Sussex games. I absolutely love that it’s back, and I hope there’s a few fiery games because I think they’re fun!”

The rivalry, which reached its peak in 2015 when Kent lodged an official appeal with the ECB after their match against Sussex was declared a tie, stems from the fact that between 2003 and 2014 the two sides won every single Women’s County Championship title between them.

Kent and Sussex are due to meet in the T20 County Cup (South East Group) on Sunday 16 May. Sussex’s decision to join the 50-over London Championship this season means that they will also face off on Tuesday 1 June, for the first time since Kent took home the last ever Women’s County Championship trophy back in 2019.

Beaumont’s Kent teammate Tash Farrant said that she was “stoked” that Sussex had joined the London Championship, and added a warning to anyone who might be listening from the Sussex side of the border: “We’re looking for a trophy this season!”

With the international schedule still TBC, and government regulations surrounding the T20 County Cup unclear, it has not yet been officially confirmed that the contracted England players will be able to participate in the competition, which will kickstart the domestic season across four weekends in April and May.

However Beaumont, who has represented Kent since 2007 but was unable to don her county shirt last season due to being kept in the England biosecure bubble, says she is very hopeful that she and her England teammates will get the chance to participate.

“I’m hopeful that it’s early enough in the season that we can play some county games,” she said. “I can’t remember the last time I played a county T20, so I’d love to be part of that – I’m desperate to play!”

OPINION: Women’s County Cricket – The Format That Refused To Say Die

Two and a half years ago, in the wake of the 2018 season, key figures at the ECB sat down and pondered the future of women’s domestic cricket. Clare Connor’s plan for a 50-over version of the Kia Super League had fallen by the wayside ahead of the 2017 World Cup. Australia’s domestic competitions, the WNCL and WBBL, were now both fully professional, and the ECB desperately needed to find a way to catch up. They looked on enviously at the state system, which gave Cricket Australia 7 obvious team units to focus on – a much easier (and cheaper) ask than attempting to professionalise the 38 counties of England. And they hatched a plan to abolish the county system as we knew it.

We first reported the ECB’s plans in January 2019, when they came to light publicly. Back then, we were led to believe that the plan was for a radical restructuring of county cricket whereby the Women’s County Championship would continue, but with a top tier of 8 professional counties, with no relegation or promotion. The other counties would sit beneath this, as “feeders” for the professional counties.

But the plan, as it turned out, was even more radical than we had envisaged. As the 2019 season progressed and more details of the plans came to light, it gradually became clear that the ECB’s plan was for an eight-team semi-professional competition structurewhich mirrored that of the The Hundred – with team identities separate to county identities. Surrey would not be permitted to continue to host the Surrey Stars, and Lancashire would have to become North West Thunder.

The ECB wanted women’s domestic cricket to move away from the county model altogether. Women’s county cricket would become defunct; it would disappear. And because the new structure would be semi-professional and would involve a huge amount more investment than the Women’s County Championship ever received, nobody would really mind.

By the end of the (truncated) 2020 season, the first without the Women’s County Championship, it was already clear that this was a colossal misjudgement on behalf of the ECB. But, slowly but surely, something else has also become apparent: the ECB’s plan to abolish women’s county cricket has failed.

It has failed literally. This season (Covid-permitting), the T20 County Cup will be played across four weekends in April and May, as a kickstarter to the 2021 women’s season. The ECB had granted the T20 Cup a two-season stay of execution back in 2019, but given that the 2020 version had to be canned due to the pandemic, it would have been easy enough to axe it in 2021. But it is very much still with us.

There is also the small matter of the two “rebel” 50-over County Championships which will be played in 2021, outside the auspices of the ECB: the London Championship, and the East of England County Championship. After a nervous start in 2020, these competitions look to be here to stay. Importantly, Clare Connor’s alma mater Sussex have recently announced their intention to join the London Championship. The addition of another former “powerhouse” of the County Championship can only give the competition more kudos. It could well signal the beginning of other counties also following suit and choosing to continue with 50-over cricket.

As this suggests, the ECB’s plan to abolish county cricket has also failed philosophically. It turns out that telling players who currently represent their counties that they should simply “go off and play club cricket” doesn’t actually work – county cricket is the zenith, and club cricket (especially in some areas of the country) is too weak to offer a decent substitute. When South East Stars captain Tash Farrant is telling us in an England press conference that she is counting down the days until she can don her Kent shirt again, you realise the significance of county cricket to the players who participate in it. Regional cricket cannot hope to replace deeply-held county loyalties for the foreseeable future, if it ever does.

And the ECB’s plan has also failed structurally. Yes, we have a brilliant new regional system in place, with 41 domestic contracts, and full-time Directors of Cricket, coaching teams, and support staff now being paid to support those players (huge credit to the ECB for all this). But many of the Directors of Cricket view the county game as a significant part of the new regional structure. South East Stars is one example. “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,” Tash Farrant said recently. We are aware of a number of other Directors who feel similarly.

As this season progresses, and the county game acts explicitly as a feeder into these new regional teams, it’s going to become harder and harder for the ECB to argue that county cricket doesn’t have a place in the regional era. Also, the ECB explicitly discussed the role of county cricket in their post-Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy review. The fact that the T20 Cup is still going ahead, and that the Regional Directors are apparently not being discouraged from shouting about the importance of the county game, suggests to me that the ECB are fully aware that their plan to decouple women’s domestic cricket from the county structure has not succeeded, and have quietly taken it on the chin and backed down.

There is really nothing to be ashamed of in this U-turn. The ECB got it wrong; they have realised this, and are no longer ploughing ahead regardless. But it is an important reminder that county cricket remains valuable, to the system and the players. Even as we praise the new regional structures, let’s remember they were built on the solid foundations of county cricket: the format that refuses to say die.

VIDEO: The CRICKETher Weekly Vodcast – Episode 52

It’s our 1 year anniversary! We celebrate by discussing:

  • India v South Africa
  • BCCI “going rogue” on Twitter to announce a Test v England
  • Clare Connor’s Q&A with the Cricket Society: ECB plans for club cricket & making the women’s game more diverse
  • Latest from the WNCL
  • Concerns about cuts to the ECB Reporters Network

NEWS: Clare Connor – Possible Women’s Test v India “Holds Real Excitement”

The ECB’s Managing Director of Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, has said that the possibility of a Test versus India this summer “holds real excitement” .

BCCI Honorary Secretary Jay Shah, tweeted on International Women’s Day, March 8th, that a one-off Test between England and India would take place later this year.

Speaking today at a Q&A hosted by The Cricket Society Clare Connor said that England’s summer schedule was still being finalised but that they were in conversation with multiple boards, including South Africa, New Zealand and India.

The situation is complicated by the fact that South Africa are currently on the UK government’s “Red List”, meaning the players could not enter the country without a prior 10-day quarantine period in a third country.

Connor went on to say that she was hopeful the ECB would be in a position to make an official announcement about the international schedule in the next couple of weeks.

NEWS: ICC Announce World Cup Expansion

The ICC have announced a significant expansion to the World Cup and T20 World Cup, with the 50 over tournament expanding from 8 teams and 31 matches in 2025, to 10 teams and 48 matches in 2029.

TheT20 World Cup will expand from the current 10 teams, to 12 teams and 33 matches from 2026.

Together with the new “Champions Cup”, which will involve the top 6 teams, a major international tournament is scheduled to be held every year going forwards.

ICC Chief Executive, Manu Sawhney, said:

“We have a clear focus and commitment to an ambitious long-term growth plan for the women’s game. We have been building momentum around the women’s game for the last four years investing in global broadcast coverage and marketing to drive fan engagement.”

“This decision to expand our women’s events builds on these foundations and allows us to give more member countries greater opportunities to compete on a global stage. This means that more teams will also get the opportunity to compete in the qualification pathways for the respective ICC events over the coming years.”

Year Tournament Teams Matches
2024 T20 World Cup 10 23
2025 World Cup 8 31
2026 T20 World Cup 12 33
2027 Champions Cup 6 16
2028 T20 World Cup 12 33
2029 World Cup 10 48
2030 T20 World Cup 12 33
2031 Champions Cup 6 16

England v New Zealand 3rd T20 – Sgt Wilson Keeps Calm & Carries On

England strolled to another comfortable victory in the 3rd T20 by 32 runs, to take the rubber 3-0. Tammy Beaumont pocketed the Player of the Series cheque for $1,000, and Katherine Brunt drank up the Player of the Match champagne, after taking 2 wickets in the first over of New Zealand’s reply to England’s 128; but for me, “Sergeant” Fran Wilson was the key that unlocked England’s win today.

The home commentators described England as having “limped” to their total – but although they did lose 9 wickets, that really wasn’t the case at all, as the upwards trend line on England’s Manhattan shows.

Wilson, who came to the crease with 8 overs remaining, made 31 off 23 balls – the highest score, at by far the highest strike rate, of the match. Perhaps the only criticism you could lay on Wilson was that, like Tammy Beaumont in the 3rd ODI, she trusted England’s tail a little too much, and didn’t farm the strike as much as she might have done, facing under half of the 48 balls she spent in the middle.

That’s picking nits though. In order to understand Wilson’s contribution, just imagine what might have happened if she’d gotten out early – her 31 runs were almost exactly England’s margin of victory; and without them, England probably would have been bowled out too, which would have put the momentum squarely with New Zealand to win this match in very-much the fashion they did the 3rd ODI.

Indeed, at one stage it looked like they would win it in exactly the fashion they won the 3rd ODI – with Satterthwaite and Kerr set at the crease and going at pretty-much a run a ball, a repeat performance was on the cards, with the White Ferns ahead of the worm.

But neither Kerr nor Satterthwaite were able to stick around this time, and New Zealand fell away to 96 all out.

Fran Wilson wasn’t even supposed to play today – she only came in because Heather Knight sat out with a “minor” hamstring injury; and all the fuss in this series has been about getting an opportunity for Sophia Dunkley, who did indeed get her shot today, having not faced a ball in the first two T20s.

Dunkley didn’t disappoint either, making 26 off 29 balls, including the only six of the match; but it was Wilson’s contribution – just calmly getting on with it, running the singles hard, on a day when boundaries were the exception rather than the rule – which allowed England to build a winning total, which the White Ferns just didn’t have the batting to match.

England v New Zealand 2nd T20 – Davies Seizes The Day

No player ever celebrates when their teammate has to sit out a game with an injury, or in this case misses out because they are precautionary-isolating with a head cold, but the absence of Katherine Brunt from the second T20 was the best thing that could have happened to Freya Davies.

Davies did play in the first T20 (it was Tash Farrant who was the like-for-like replacement brought in for Brunt today), but with England’s conglomerate of bowling options, she only had the chance to bowl one over. Today, she was handed her full allocation of four – and she certainly made the most of them.

In her first over, she had Hayley Jensen caught in the deep trying to cut – a perfectly executed plan, directly following a chat to captain Heather Knight and a swift rearranging of the field, to tempt Jensen into her favoured shot.

Then, 10 overs later and with New Zealand eyeing up a total of 150, Davies took the key wicket of Amy Satterthwaite on 49*, coming round the wicket and shaping the ball back into the left-hander to have her bowled. Three balls later she also saw off Maddy Green – this time, moving the ball into the right-hander, who got an inside edge which was well snaffled by Amy Jones behind the stumps. It was the perfect demonstration of why Davies at her best is so dangerous: the ability to move the ball both ways, very late, leaving the opposition batters in a state of desperate uncertainty.

In her final over it was a fuller, straight ball which did for Kate Ebrahim, handing Davies her first ever four-fer in international cricket. New Zealand’s eventual total of 123-9 was never going to be enough.

Davies made her name in the Kia Super League for Western Storm, as a crucial part of the team which twice won the competition. In the final year of the KSL (2019), she finished as leading wicket-taker, ahead of a raft of the world’s best bowlers. The key to her success was that she knew her role, and could therefore do it with confidence: the senior seam bowler, who always opened, and usually also bowled an over or two at the death.

One of the difficulties for Davies has been finding her feet in a similar way for England. With Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole the automatic new-ball bowlers, and the England management seemingly reluctant to “experiment” between World Cups, chances to showcase her skills have been few and far between. You sense that even when chances have come her way it’s been hard for her to understand her role in the team – there’s never been certainty about when, or if, she will bowl her overs. 

Katherine Brunt is one of England’s great players, and no one wants to see her career end before it’s her time. But Tammy Beaumont only came into her own as an England batter when the heavyweight Charlotte Edwards retired from the fray. Is it a leap to suggest that the absence of Brunt from today’s game had a similar psychological effect on Davies?

This might be speculation, but it could be important. It seems unlikely that Brunt will be able to go through a jam-packed 2022 schedule without needing to be rested on some of the big occasions, and in any case, she herself acknowledges that she isn’t going to be around forever. England need someone to be ready to step up and take on Brunt’s role whenever the need arises. Davies made a very good case today why that someone could… should… be her. Had Brunt been playing, she might never have been given that chance.

Sometimes a head cold really can be a blessing in disguise.