OPINION: How To Attract A New Audience To Regional Cricket

By Daniel Bingham

Sunrisers vs Thunder, at Northamptonshire on Saturday, was an excellent example of how to get more people watching live cricket.

First of all, tickets were just £2 – a price point which is accessible to everyone. (Of course, cheap tickets shouldn’t come at the expense of further professionalising the women’s game – but if you get people coming along now, you can hopefully persuade them to pay more next season.)

Secondly, tickets doubled up as tickets to “Bite Street” – a food festival being held at the Northamptonshire County Ground. This is a great way of bringing in people who previously thought that going to the cricket would be boring. There will have been some people there on Saturday who only went to the ground to grab some street food for lunch, but who stuck around on a gorgeous sunny day.

This isn’t to say that the day was perfectly organised: the food stalls were table service only – so it was unclear if you could take your food to the stands while the game happened. There also could have been more signage pointing people to where to go if they wanted to watch the cricket, and indicating that it was free to watch having already bought a ticket for Bite Street.

Ultimately, I think that grounds which rarely see international cricket should seriously consider organising something similar during the T20 Blast / Charlotte Edwards Cup. It is an excellent way to attract new people to the sport, as well as offering a bonus to the people who are going for the cricket already.

The Hundred was a good vehicle for children’s interest, with its DJs and in-ground activities, but other tournaments need to do more to attract that younger audience. If you can get more adults choosing to attend other matches outside of The Hundred, they’ll (hopefully) be excited to take their kids and grandkids in the future.

CE CUP: Diamonds Reach Finals Day With Emphatic Win Against Thunder

Martin Saxon reports from Cheshire

An emphatic victory for the Northern ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Yorkshire’ Diamonds over ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Lancashire’ Thunder not only restored some local bragging rights – after Thunder won the T20 clash earlier in the year and Manchester Originals won the Northern derby in the Hundred – but also took Diamonds to Finals Day as winners of the group, after other results went their way.

This was effectively the Roses clash in all but name and, while almost all of the Thunder eleven are drawn from the Red Rose county, this match, like all but one of the Thunder home matches in 2021, was played in Cheshire. Much has been made of how the women’s regional teams are making higher scores when they play on first-class county grounds, but the Chester Boughton Hall club ground – staging its fourth women’s regional match of the season today – is a batting paradise by any measure, and Diamonds certainly made hay as they strolled to their target of 91 with eight wickets and 46 balls in hand.

There was certainly nothing in the pitch to excuse a first innings score of 90-9, but the Diamonds bowlers never allowed Thunder to really build any momentum. There were brief promising signs, such as Georgie Boyce leading the way when 20 were scored in the first three overs, Laura Marshall hitting some good shots as 26 after five became 42 from seven, and Kate Cross taking ten from the 13th over.

However, once Cross had departed, Thunder managed just two boundaries and 23 runs from the remaining seven overs. The standout bowlers during this period were Linsey Smith, who conceded one from the 16th over and two from the last; Alex Macdonald, who ensured the score only advanced by three during the 18th over; and Jenny Gunn, who struck three times in four deliveries in the 19th.

Amongst a series of unT20-like statistics, eight Thunder batters had a strike rate of 64 or less, with Cross’s 127 the only one to better a run per ball. Danielle Collins was the top scorer with just 16. The bowling economy rates also looked very unusual for this format, with the relatively expensive Rachel Slater and Katie Levick still conceding less than six per over, while Macdonald’s 0-14, Smith’s 2-12 and Gunn’s 4-15 return literally speak for themselves.

Diamonds completed their massive win without a major contribution from their taliswoman Lauren Winfield-Hill – only 34 were needed when she faced her first delivery, and she ultimately scored just five. Instead, Bess Heath cut, drove and pulled her way to an unbeaten 58 from 40 deliveries, with her ten fours matching the entire boundary count from the Thunder innings.

On this wretched day for the North West team, Hannah Jones was at least able to cement her growing reputation, conceding just 12 runs from four overs and bagging the prize wicket of Winfield-Hill, all just two days after she saved Thunder from defeat to Sunrisers by only conceding four from the final over.

Sterner tests await the Diamonds in Sunday’s Finals Day, but this performance may have given them the confidence and momentum needed to challenge for the trophy.

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Martin Saxon is the Vice Chair and Press Officer of the Cheshire Women’s Cricket League

CE CUP: Sparks v Lightning – Jones’s Polish Trumps Odedra’s Class… Just!

By Richard Clark

Sparks made it over the line in the end – just about – but this was nothing less than an enthralling cricket match, in which both sides might have felt they held the upper hand at various stages, albeit never for very long and never with any degree of conviction.

Maybe the shorter forms of the game do offer less room for ebbs and flows, twists and turns, but these two teams gave the lie to that notion in a tussle that went right down to the bone.

Ultimately Eve Jones played the pivotal role – her 71 off 55 balls contained three 6s and seven 4s, and as much fluent strokeplay as one can reasonably expect inside twenty overs. Coming on the back of her fine Hundred form and then another half-century in last week’s victory against Vipers, there can’t be any batter in the country in better form right now.

Jones’s innings was almost enough to see Sparks home, but when Sonia Odedra prised her out trying to flip the ball over short fine leg for a boundary that would have put the home side within two runs of victory with seven balls left to get them, only to find the grateful hands of Yvonne Graves, the complexion of the game changed once more.

A spearing yorker from Odedra cleaned up Emily Arlott next ball, leaving Issy Wong and new batter Chloe Hill to find a run a ball off Grace Ballinger’s final over. The pair traded singles from the first four balls, the sprawling Hill somehow escaping a vociferous run out appeal along the way, before Wong lifted the tension by fair clobbering the penultimate ball through mid-on for four.

Had things turned out differently, Odedra may well have been taking the plaudits. Her four overs brought figures of two for 14 and were a model of precision, conceding only one boundary and consistently giving the batters nothing to which they could free their arms. Lucy Higham’s off spin, too, was impressive, yielding just 19 runs.

The one-time England seamer had returned to the attack with Sparks needing 31 from 30 balls with seven wickets in hand, and conceded just two from the 16th over as Thea Brookes struggled to get her away. Kirstie Gordon’s next five balls brought just another two runs, and a game that Sparks had well within their grasp was suddenly sliding out of it.

One ball can so often change things, though, and Jones lofted Gordon’s sixth over long off. Shackles broken, nerves calmed. Despite the loss of Brookes, Jones and Wong collected 11 from the next over, leaving just enough breathing space to collect 10 off the final two overs.

Earlier on, Odedra (22) and Beth Harmer (26) had built what seemed an imposing platform as 53 runs came from the power play. Essex’s Harmer took a particular liking to Wong, driving her through the off side for back-to-back fours, before seizing on a short ball next up and pulling it some way beyond the rope at deep midwicket.

But both went quickly and although Abbey Freeborn (33), Higham (22), and Theresa Graves (14) all made useful contributions, none could maintain that initial scoring rate as wickets began to fall. A total of 136 for 8 wasn’t quite one thing or the other, but certainly wasn’t what Lightning would have been hoping for from 72 for 2 at the mid-way point.

Sparks’ reply began in harem scarem style, Sophie Munro’s opening over containing a boundary each for Jones and Marie Kelly, four leg byes down to fine leg, a couple of wides (one legside, one off), a scampered two, and finally the wicket of Kelly who, unable to repeat her Hove heroics, hoicked one up in the air to Harmer rushing in from cover.

When Milly Home went three balls later, Sparks were 17 for 2 it was Lightning’s turn to have a spring in their steps. But Jones found solid company in Gwen Davies (15) and Brookes (17), and Sparks were always ahead of the DLS par until those see-saw final exchanges got them home.

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Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68

CE CUP: Vipers v Stars – Crazy Little Thing Called Capsey

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Alice Capsey really is quite good at this crazy little thing called cricket.

Going into this game, despite their midweek loss to Sparks, Vipers were still top of the combined table in the Charlotte Edwards Cup – on course to qualify directly for the final back at the Ageas Bowl next weekend. By the end of it, Stars had turned that around – now, if they win their last game versus Sparks, it’s them that will go straight through to the final… and it’s all thanks to Alice Capsey.

Capsey hit a cool 61 off 46 balls, took 2-9 from just two overs, and snatched a stonking catch, diving forward at midwicket, to dismiss Emily Windsor just at the point when it looked like Vipers might be able to pull off an improbable comeback win.

The only worry for Stars is that she walked off clutching her quad towards the end of the match, having initially injured it trying to turn sharply whilst bailing out of a second run off the penultimate ball of the innings. (Georgia Elwiss ran her out while she was down out of her ground, and clearly in pain, although it would have made no difference not to, as she wasn’t going to face the final ball – but I guess when someone has just done “that” to you, the spirit of cricket be damned!)

In contrast to her previous outing v Lightning, Capsey didn’t get off to the quickest of starts – after 8 overs, Bryony Smith was 42 off 24 balls, whilst Capsey was on just 5 off 13. Capsey didn’t score a single boundary in the powerplay, focussing instead on turning the strike over to Smith by running between the wickets. It wasn’t until Smith was out that Capsey really started to motor, scoring her next 56 runs off only 33 balls, at a Strike Rate of 170.

It is true that Vipers’ bowling was depleted, with Lauren Bell ruled out after coming into close contact with a COVID case, and Charlie Dean off with England… though ironically also having to isolate along with Maia Bouchier, after also coming into contact with presumably the same case. This meant a professional debut for 27-year-old Sussex veteran Chiara Green*, who did a tidy enough job in the circumstances, but was always unlikely to tear through the Stars batting. Vipers were poor in the field too, gifting several boundaries that will have had coach Charlotte Edwards rolling her eyes, in the way that she does!

Nonetheless, the runs still needed to be scored, and Stars scored them convincingly – every single one of their batters (apart from Kira Chathli, who technically batted but didn’t face a ball) reached double figures at a Strike Rate of over 100 – Capsey led the way, but it was a team performance.

With big runs required, Vipers needed to go for it, hence sending in Tara Norris to pinch-hit at the top of the order, alongside Georgia Adams. Capsey, opening the bowling as she did several times in The Hundred, did for them both in her second over – thanks to catches from Kirstie White and Alice Davidson-Richards – and that set the tone for the rest of the match. Despite overtures of a recovery led by Elwiss, no one could quite stick with her, and the Vipers went down to their second consecutive defeat following the resumption of regionals after The Hundred.

Vipers aren’t out of it, of course, and they could yet end up doing to the Stars what the Invincibles did to the Brave in The Hundred – coming through the eliminator and winning the final. But right now the momentum is very much with the Stars and with Alice Capsey in particular.

Six weeks ago, the sports editor of The Guardian asked the editor of this site to write a preview for The Hundred, based around an interview with a player of Raf’s choice. We debated long and hard – Capsey was an exciting prospect, but would she get a game, Raf asked me? I sat at my desk with the Invincibles squad in front of me, and wrote out a team-sheet. “I think so,” I replied, and though it felt like a bit of a gamble, Raf wrote the piece.

But note the caveat in the headline:

Meet Alice Capsey, the 16-year-old schoolgirl *hoping to* star in the Hundred

The past few weeks have changed Alice Capsey’s life for ever – she is no longer a prospect; she is no longer a “hoping to” – she’s a “did”. She’s one of the 11 best players in England – I know it; you know it; and it won’t be news to her either.

There is an argument that her education still has to come first for the next two years, over and above playing for England, but the equation isn’t the same as it was when Sophie Ecclestone was forced to miss the 2017 World Cup to focus on her A-Levels. Ecclestone at that point was still competing for her England spot with Alex Hartley; and furthermore, the future of the women’s game wasn’t quite so secure career-wise as it is now, five years down the line.

There is absolutely no doubt that Alice Capsey is one of the 11 best players in England.

And the 11 best players in England should be playing for England.

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* Serious men’s county cricket geeks may remember Chiara’s brother Matt, who was on the books at Sussex and Surrey as a youngster, around 10 years ago.

CE CUP: Stars v Lightning – Freeborn Stars But Stars Shine Through

A half-century and four stumpings for keeper-batter Abbey Freeborn proved in-vain as Lightning lost by 28 runs to South East Stars in the Charlotte Edwards T20 Cup at Guildford.

Kirstie Gordon – continuing the long and venerable tradition of Scottish skippers at Loch Loughborough by standing in for Kathryn Bryce – invited Stars to bat after winning the toss, and might soon have been regretting it as Bryony Smith raced to 16 off 12 balls with some thumping strokeplay. Although one thump too many did for Smith, caught at mid on by Grace Ballinger, Alice Capsey continued where Smith had left off with some big hits of her own, as Stars finished the powerplay on 49-1.

Post-powerplay, Capsey settled into more of a running rhythm which took her to to a 28-ball 38 before she was bowled coming down the track to Lucy Higham in the 12th over.

From 80-4, things could easily have drifted for the Stars, but Alice Davidson Richards (41 off 25) and Tash Farrant (35 off 18) had other ideas – taking them to a 175-6 at the close, including two 6s off the first and last balls of the final over by ADR.

Lightning’s reply got off to a tough start, with Beth Harmer caught by Alice Capsey off Tash Farrant for a duck in the first over. This brought Freeborn to the crease, who battered the Stars attack for 61 off 50 balls, but with no one else in the Lightning top-order able to stand up and give her some proper company, the ask quickly began to disappear over the horizon.

Shachi Pai, coming in at 6, had some fun hitting 24 off 18, as did Sophie Munro (17 off 8) but with the required rate already over 13 when Pai entered the fray, the game was already gone, with Lightning finishing 28 runs short on 147-7.

NEWS: Maia Bouchier And Charlie Dean Called Up To England Squad

Maia Bouchier and Charlie Dean have earned their maiden call-ups to the England squad which will face New Zealand in three T20s beginning on 1 September at Chelmsford.

Both were mainstays of their sides in The Hundred – Bouchier hit 33* from 19 balls in Southern Brave’s victory against Northern Superchargers; while off-spinning all-rounder Dean regularly bowled for London Spirit in the powerplay.

However, the call-ups are also a testament to the pair’s consistent performances for Southern Vipers over the past 18 months – both played a key role in the side which won the inaugural Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy in 2020, and Bouchier has recently been seen opening for Vipers in the 20-over Charlotte Edwards Cup.

Fran Wilson has been omitted from the squad after sitting out of the India series earlier in the summer.

The full squad is below:

  • Heather Knight (Western Storm)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Lightning)
  • Maia Bouchier (Southern Vipers)
  • Katherine Brunt (Northern Diamonds)
  • Freya Davies (South East Stars)
  • Charlie Dean (Southern Vipers)
  • Sophia Dunkley (South East Stars)
  • Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder)
  • Tash Farrant (South East Stars)
  • Sarah Glenn (Central Sparks)
  • Amy Jones (Central Sparks)
  • Nat Sciver (Northern Diamonds)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Western Storm)
  • Mady Villiers (Sunrisers)
  • Danni Wyatt (Southern Vipers)

REPORT: Cheshire Women’s League Finals Day 2021

Martin Saxon reports

Development Knockout:

Nantwich 2nd XI 85-3 (20; Ashlee Prince 25 retired)

Hayfield 43 (20; Imogen Collinson 10, Prince 2-1, K Conroy 2-10)

Nantwich 2nd XI were the first winners on Finals Day as they comfortably won the final of the knockout competition for division three and four clubs, in what was a clash of two teams in their first year of competitive cricket – both have much to be proud of this year. After an accurate opening spell from Hayfield’s Lily Dalkin-Strube, Nantwich accelerated well in the second half of the innings, with Ashlee Prince to the fore. Prince also took the final two wickets with the ball to apply the icing on the cake to this win, although all of the Nantwich attack bowled well to take a clutch of early Hayfield wickets – Charlotte Neal finishing with one for six with two maidens from her four overs.

Scorecard

Senior Knockout:

Didsbury Swordettes 87 (19.2; Mishel Jeena 24, Roshini Prince-Navaratnam 20, Abbey Gore 3-16, Georgia Heath 2-8, Olivia Horsfield 2-14)

Appleton Tigers 83-9 (20; Emma Barlow 30*, Hannah Marshall 3-7, Rosy Wilson 3-19)

The most tense finish of the day’s three matches came here, as Didsbury pulled off something of a Great Escape to win this competition for the first time since 2016. Appleton required just seven from 17 deliveries but, in an extraordinary finale, they mustered just two more in the face of some impeccable bowling from Hannah Marshall and Roshini Prince-Navaratnam. Even the return to the crease of Emma Barlow, at the fall of the ninth wicket, wasn’t enough to get the Tigers over the line, even though she had earlier scored at a run per ball in reaching the retirement score of 30. Although there may have been spells to rival it over the years, Marshall’s contribution of three wickets for seven runs in three overs, with a wicket maiden in the 20th over, must go down as one of the very best death bowling performances in the history of the league’s cup finals. 

Few observers could argue that Appleton lost this match through having both a poor beginning and a poor end to their reply – Rosy Wilson’s three early strikes reduced them to 16-3.

Didsbury themselves scored 49 from the first eight overs, with their reliable opening pair of Prince-Navaratnam and Mishel Jeena putting on 33 inside six overs. Abbey Gore, Georgia Heath and Olivia Horsfield all bowled well to peg back the Swordettes, but their final total of 87 proved to be a winning one.

Scorecard

T20 Divisional Competition:

Oakmere Kats 85-6 (20; Natalie Lyons 24*, Nicola Deane 24, Rosy Wilson 2-20)

Didsbury Swordettes 77-7 (20; Rosie Davis 23)

Didsbury, champions of the T20 Eastern Division this year, failed to make it a double as Western Division winners Oakmere won this trophy for the first time. Oakmere slumped to 16-3 early on and, for much of the innings, struggled to accelerate. However, things all changed suddenly when 22 were added in the final two overs, transforming what looked like being a below par total into a target that looked more than defendable, when considering the strength of the Oakmere attack.

Natalie Lyons was instrumental in Oakmere’s late charge with the bat, and she was in the act again with three economical overs at the start of the reply. Rachel Tidd then conceded just eight from four overs in the middle part of the second innings as the required rate climbed. Although 13 came from the penultimate over, with two boundaries for Lucy Smith, it proved too little, too late for Didsbury.

Scorecard

The league thanks hosts Upton CC for taking on the significant task of staging this triple-header Finals Day. Thanks also go to the umpires and scorers and to the spectators from Stockport Trinity CC who provided the music and the PA during the afternoon matches.

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Martin Saxon is the Vice Chair and Press Officer of the Cheshire Women’s Cricket League.

THE HUNDRED FINAL: Everyone Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth by Marizanne Kapp

“Everyone has a plan,” the boxer Mike Tyson once said… “until they get punched in the mouth by Marizanne Kapp.”

Well… okay… he might not have said the last little bit, but it doesn’t make it any less apt.

Kapp came out to bowl with rain in the air, and Oval Invincibles defending 121. It felt like a good total in the conditions, but not one that Southern Brave would have been massively worried about chasing. But within 6 balls of their reply, the match was basically over – Kapp hanging the ball outside off stump, and a bit of away movement doing the rest.

Danni Wyatt and Sophia Dunkley – who between them had scored almost half of Brave’s runs off the bat (45%, to be precise) – trudged back to the famous pavilion with ducks to their names. Gaby Lewis followed 4 balls later – also for a quacker – but it was already academic: Brave were on the floor, with Kapp having delivered the sucker punch.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. Brave were by far the best side over the group stages – winning 7 games and losing only once. Invincibles, in contrast, won just 4 matches, lost 3, and had 1 washed out. But that’s the deal with finals – what happened in the group stages doesn’t matter any more – you have to put it all behind you, and handle the pressure of the big day; and that’s what Invincibles did.

It feels strange to say, but Brave actually played better overall than the last time they were here at Lords, when they won a terrible game of cricket against London Spirit. They made a good start with the ball, restricting Invincibles to 27 off the first 30 balls. A late partnership between Kapp and Alice Capsey – 34 off 21 balls – swung the pendulum a little way back the other way, but the bell wasn’t tolling yet – not until Kapp stepped up with the opening spell that doomed them.

Allowing bowlers to send down two consecutive “overs” (as the 5-ball “sets” are still officially called, if you read the playing conditions) was hailed as one of the most exciting innovations of The Hundred, because it meant you could keep a bowler on if they were bowling well; but we haven’t seen it that often, especially with quick opening bowlers, whose bodies aren’t used to delivering 10 consecutive balls.

And it certainly didn’t seem like it was the plan today – Shabnim Ismail looked like she was expecting to deliver the second set of 5. But with Kapp having taken the wicket of Wyatt with her 4th ball, and then beaten Dunkley’s edge with the 5th, the dye was cast – Kapp continued, with a second slip ramping up the pressure on Dunkley, who cracked the very next ball.

Despite that, Brave held out until the 98th ball, although their chances of victory were so slim that the TV feed appeared to stop bothering with the “Win Predictor”. A partnership between Fi Morris and Tara Norris adding 33 off 28 balls – a run rate which would have made for an exciting finish under other circumstances – showed that although conditions weren’t great, batting wasn’t impossible… except when facing Kapp, who fittingly came back on right at the end to deliver the crowning moment, bowling Lauren Bell for 4 – the only runs she scored, in her only visit to the crease, in the whole competition.

As her team-mates celebrated, Kapp took a moment to herself – perhaps to say a brief prayer of thanks – before joining them. She’s won stuff before, of course, including the KSL with the Surrey Stars in 2018; but in front of 17,000 people at the Home of Cricket, this was perhaps the biggest win of all. Certainly none came with her name quite so emphatically stamped upon them as it was today.