The CRICKETher Weekly – Episode 84

This week:

  • WBBL round-up: Tas-rain-ia, Sophie Devine’s century, plus how are the English players faring?
  • Rob Taylor leaves Lightning: are we too quick to blame the coach when things go wrong?
  • Why are West Indies going to Pakistan when England stayed at home?

To get The CRICKETher Weekly as a podcast, click here:

NEWS: Lightning Seek Replacement Coach As Rob Taylor Departs

Lightning are seeking a replacement for Head Coach Rob Taylor, after the former Scotland and Leicestershire batter agreed to part ways with the region at the end of the 2021 season.

A job advert, placed on 13 October, confirms that Lightning are currently recruiting for the position, with interviews to take place on 22 November and the successful candidate to start in January.

Taylor was appointed Coach of Lightning in August 2020, having previously held the position of Head Coach of Loughborough Lightning in the Kia Super League. Under his leadership, Lightning twice reached Finals Day in the KSL.

However, since the new regional structure was put in place last year, he has struggled to replicate that success. Lightning finished in joint 4th place in the 2021 Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, winning just 3 of their 7 matches, while in the Charlotte Edwards Cup they were bottom of the pile, losing all 6 of their games.

It seems the region are now looking in a new direction in the hope of improving on that performance next season.

ANALYSIS: Death Batting in T20 – How Many Runs Can You Chase?

How many runs can you successfully chase batting at the death (the last 4 overs) in T20 cricket? In theory, even without no balls and wides, 6x6x4 = 144; but in reality no one has ever achieved anything like that. So what have they achieved?

We looked at over 250 matches from WBBL between 2015 and 2020 – all the games for which ball-by-ball data is available from Cricsheet – of which 119 went down to the death.

The highest successful death chase in the data we analysed was 41, but even this was a slight outlier. In reality as the batting side, you need to be chasing 38 or less from the last 4 overs to have a realistic chance of winning the match – any more than that, and the bowling side almost always wins.

On the other side of the equation, if the batting team are chasing 30 or fewer they will almost always win. This creates a Corridor of Uncertainty between 30 and 38 where the match is “in-play”, and the result could go either way.

That Corridor of Uncertainty isn’t constant however – it narrows sharply going into the final over, giving rise to the theory mentioned by Lisa Sthalekar on commentary during recent the Australia v India series that it is actually the penultimate 19th over which is the most important for the batting side.

In practice what this means is that you can go into the second-to-last over needing as many as 19, and the result will still be in-play. If you can then get this down to 8 required off the final over, you will likely win the game; but if not, 9 is almost always a losing ask. In short: if you are the batting side, don’t leave yourself with too much to do in the final over – you might be able to score 11 off the penultimate over, but you probably won’t score 11 (or even 9) off the last!

Interestingly, wickets don’t appear to have a whole lot to do with it. In matches where teams need 9-11 off the final over, they overwhelming fail; while at asks of 6-8 they almost always succeed; yet in both cases the average wickets down is the same – 5.2 – so we are seeing similar late-middle-order batters at the crease. Is it then psychological? Every batter will tell you they “back themselves” to score 9 off the final over; but do they really believe it? Studies of penalty shoot-outs in football certainly suggest a mental element to a similar situation; but the real reasons remain a matter for speculation.

ANALYSIS: Powerplay, “Boring” Middle Overs & Death Run Rates In T20 Internationals

On February 21st 2020, Australia and India faced-off in the opening match of the T20 World Cup in Sydney. Batting first, India got off to a flying start, as Shafali smacked Molly Strano and Megan Schutt for 29 off 15 balls; and although India’s run rate slowed down after Shafali was dismissed right at the end of the powerplay, that explosive start had put India in the position where they would go on to win the game by 17 runs.

A strong powerplay, followed by a weaker middle overs phase, has been a typical pattern for India in recent years, even before Shafali entered the fray. In T20 matches between the “Top 5” (Australia, England, India, New Zealand and South Africa) since 2016, their average powerplay run rate has been 7.2 runs/ over, slowing down to 6.7 in the so-called “Boring” Middle Overs.

This sounds like it should be the norm – after all, it’s in the name “power” play. However, India are actually the only team in the Top 5 where this is the case – everyone else strikes at a lower run rate in the powerplay than they go on to achieve in the middle overs – even Australia, with the likes of Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney up top.

South Africa’s opening match of that same World Cup, against England in Perth, was the complete opposite. Chasing 123, South Africa started at the pace of a funeral march, scoring at a rate of just 4.3 runs/ over in the powerplay; but came back to win the game at the death, scoring at 8.5 runs per over in the last 4 overs. (And actually it was even more “deathy” than that – they only took one run from the 17th over, hitting the required 33 off just the last 3 overs.)

Again this is a typical pattern for South Africa – they score slowly in the powerplay at 5.8 runs/ over, accelerate through the middle overs at 6.6, and then look to really make hay at the death at 7.4 runs/ over – the only team to hit at over 7 at the death.

Of course, to put things in perspective… (or as Indian and South African fans might be forgiven for thinking, “too much f****** perspective“)… cricket isn’t about winning phases; and although India and South Africa won their opening matches of that tournament, both were later beaten by Australia in the knockouts on their way to lifting the trophy at the MCG.

The middle overs might be stereotyped as “boring” but they last as long as the powerplay and death overs put together, and Australia and England, with the highest middle over run rates, ultimately make that count. It is no coincidence that the two teams who score at over 7/ over in the 10 middle overs are the ones with the highest win percentage in games between the Top 5, with a clear relationship between middle over run rate and winning games of cricket all the way down to South Africa, with a middle overs run rate of 6.6 and a win percentage of just 29%.

The middle overs might not have the glamour of the powerplay, or the cachet of the death; but they do, it seems, win you games of cricket.

Team Middle Overs RR Win %
Australia 7.6 69%
England 7.1 63%
New Zealand 6.9 41%
India 6.7 40%
South Africa 6.6 29%

All stats for fully completed (D/L excluded) T20 matches between the “Top 5”, 2016-21

NEWS: Chester Win Title For First Time In Five Years

Martin Saxon reports

Chester Boughton Hall are the champions of the Cheshire Women’s Cricket League for the first time since 2016. They wasted no time in making a statement by beating 2019 champions Didsbury on the opening day, and despite a minor setback in their second match, Boughton Hall maintained their momentum, wrapping up the Championship with a match to spare.

Ali Cutler was undoubtedly a key part of their success, leading them to some of their early wins with telling contributions with both bat and ball. However, as the season progressed, some of their younger players featured more prominently, and it was 15-year-old Gemma Rose who finished as the first division’s leading wicket taker.

The best known name in the Chester squad is the Sunrisers’ opening bowler Kate Coppack, who despite now playing for a South of England elite regional team, still made the journey north to play for the club where she began her career as often as she was able to.

Didsbury won the league last time a full season was played, in 2019, but had to make do with the runners-up spot this time, as well as the Senior Knockout Cup trophy. This was despite going unbeaten in all competitions for three months at one stage, a run bookended by two league defeats against Chester.

Oakmere finished third in the first division and also won the T20 Divisional Competition for the first time.
Despite having both the leading run scorer and the equal highest wicket taker in division one, Stockport Trinity finished no higher than fourth. Ellie Mason made 752 runs over the course of the league season, at an average of 107, smashing the previous individual record. Emma Royle took 20 wickets as the club’s opening bowler.

Second division champions in 2021 were Nantwich, who are now promoted to the top flight for the first time. Quite simply, none of their divisional rivals were able to cope with their talented and varied bowling attack. Nantwich capped an excellent season by reaching the Regional Final of the National Knockout, indeed the performances of all the Cheshire League clubs that entered the National clearly demonstrate how favourably the league’s playing standards compare to other leagues in the region.

Hawarden Park and Woodley were the champions of the two regional division three competitions, Stockport Georgians 2nd XI won division four and Alvanley and Langley 2nd XI won the two division five softball competitions.

TEAM HONOURS 2021

 WinnersRunners-up
Division 1 & League ChampionshipChester Boughton HallDidsbury
Division 2NantwichStockport Georgians
Division 3 WestHawarden ParkChester Boughton Hall 2nd XI
Division 3 EastWoodleyLindow
Division 4Stockport Georgians 2nd XIHeaton Mersey & Cheadle
Division 5 WestAlvanleyLeigh 2nd XI
Division 5 EastLangley 2nd XINorth East Cheshire
T20 Divisional CompetitionOakmere KatsDidsbury Swordettes
Senior Knockout CupDidsbury SwordettesAppleton Tigers
Development Knockout CupNantwich 2nd XIHayfield

INDIVIDUAL HONOURS

 Batting Award – Most RunsBowling Award – Most WicketsFielding Award – Most Fielding Catches & Run OutsWicketkeeping Award – Most Wicketkeeping Catches & Stumpings
Division 1 Ellie Mason (Stockport Trinity)Gemma Rose (Chester BH)*Sophie Connor (Oakmere)Katie Bennett (Chester BH)
Division 2Amy Griffiths (Porthill Park 2nd XI)Sophie Morris (Upton)Molly Price (Oxton)Charlotte Neal (Nantwich)
Division 3 WestNicola Deane (Hawarden Park)Florence Seymour (Nantwich 2nd XI)*Laura Nicholls (Hawarden Park)No award – no ‘keeper attained three or more dismissals
Division 3 EastMichelle Hesslegrave (Lindow)Alicia Peacock (Hayfield)*Alex Wilson (Woodley)Abby Barlow (Woodley)
Division 4Amy Shaw (Heaton Mersey & Cheadle)Eliza Chadwick (Heaton Mersey & Cheadle)Elspeth Headridge (Hawk Green)Charlotte Appleyard (Heaton Mersey & Cheadle)
T20 CompetitionsRoshini Prince-Navaratnam (Didsbury Swordettes)Kerry Hartnett (Oakmere Kats)Sophie Connor (Oakmere Kats)Ruth Lomas (Hayfield)

* Bowling average used as a tie breaker where two or more bowlers tied for total wickets

The above listed players all win an award in recognition of their performances this year.

League President Di Totty has chosen Sarah McCann as the winner of this year’s President’s Award, given in recognition of an outstanding contribution to women’s cricket in Cheshire. Di says that Sarah – now stepping down from the Chair role, having done it for the last 11 years, and for another period back in the 2000s – was “the only choice” for the award this year.

RHF TROPHY: 2021 Bowling Rankings – It’s Got To Be Gordon

After finishing The Hundred as the second-ranked English bowler, Kirstie Gordon put the cherry in the cocktail of her best season since 2018 (when she topped both the KSL and County Championship rankings prior to her England debut) as the leading wicket taker and top ranked bowler in the RHF Trophy. Gordon’s attacking style does mean that she can be less economical than some of her peers, but even in The Hundred we saw scoring rates dropping off when wickets fell, which obviously doesn’t necessarily show up in the wicket-taker’s own stats.

Last season’s leading wicket-taker, and Player of the Match in the final, Charlotte Taylor, ranked 2nd this year. After Taylor’s success last year, some thought she’d be “found out” this season, and to a certain extent that did happen. The availability, and perhaps more importantly accessibility, of analysis footage has improved in the RHF, and you can (as Marie Kelly did) go back and look at every dismissal Taylor made last season; but I think what Taylor’s continued success shows is that in regional cricket there’s still value in the middle overs in simply bowling tightly at the stumps and waiting patiently for the inevitable mistakes to do their work.

Team-wise, Northern Diamonds dominate the upper reaches of the chart, with 4 placings in the Top 10, which I’m pretty sure even the Beatles never managed! Katie Levick continues to be a wicket-taking threat, as she was for years in the County Championship. (Don’t forget to catch up with her hilarious appearance on Women’s Cricket Chat… and not just because she says nice things about us!!)

Beth Langston has also been in excellent form, and she’s probably right when she says that she’s a better cricketer now than when she played for England – her new ball spell in the RHF Final was a masterclass, dismissing both Vipers openers for quackers, and there must be a chance she makes the England A squad this winter in the “senior pro” role, though there is quite a lot of competition in the fast bowling department, with Issy Wong, Lauren Bell and Emily Arlott all likely to feature.

Other likely selections for that ‘A’ squad are Thunder’s Hannah Jones and Stars’ Bryony Smith, who could be a good shot for captaining the side; though not Tara Norris, who has pledged herself for the moment to the country of her birth – the USA.

Player Played Wickets Economy
1. Kirstie Gordon (Lightning) 7 16 3.5
2. Charlotte Taylor (Vipers) 8 13 3.3
3. Katie Levick (Diamonds) 8 12 3.2
4. Beth Langston (Diamonds) 9 13 3.6
5. Katherine Brunt (Diamonds) 3 9 2.8
6. Linsey Smith (Diamonds) 8 12 3.9
7. Issy Wong (Sparks) 8 14 4.7
8. Hannah Jones (Thunder) 7 14 4.8
9. Charlie Dean (Vipers) 4 10 3.5
10. Bryony Smith (Stars) 6 12 4.4
11. Georgia Adams (Vipers) 8 12 4.6
12. Kathryn Bryce (Lightning) 7 10 3.9
13. Jenny Gunn (Diamonds) 6 9 3.7
14. Georgia Davis (Sparks) 4 9 3.8
15. Alex Hartley (Thunder) 7 10 4.3
16. Emily Arlott (Sparks) 7 11 4.7
17. Tara Norris (Vipers) 8 11 4.8
18. Kelly Castle (Sunrisers) 7 10 4.4
19. Teresa Graves (Lightning) 6 9 4.0
20. Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder) 3 8 3.9

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy