The CRICKETher Weekly – Episode 89

This week:

  • Shambles at the ICC Qualifiers
  • Did WBBL’s new format work?
  • Tash Farrant regains her England contract
  • The ECB’s new diversity plan
  • Is English cricket institutionally sexist?

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NEWS: Kirstie Gordon Included In England Pre-Ashes Training Camp

Left-arm spinner Kirstie Gordon has been included in an 18-strong pre-Ashes training squad which has escaped the Loughborough winter and is headed to Oman for a two-week warm-weather camp.

Gordon, who last played for England in the Ashes Test at Taunton in 2019, was stepped back down to a regional contract last season, but finished 2021 as the top-ranked bowler in the 50-over RHF Trophy, and could now be in line for an England comeback this winter.

Gordon joins Maia Bouchier and Charlie Dean, both of whom made their debuts last summer, at the Oman camp, which also includes all the contracted players except Sophie Ecclestone, who is resting, and Katie George, who continues to make her way back from injury.

Linsey Smith, recently returned from her stint with Melbourne Stars at WBBL, would also have been included, but is unfortunately injured as well, having suffered a dislocated finger over in Australia, which scans later showed to be broken.

Although the COVID situation continues to evolve, England remain hopeful that both the Ashes tour and the concurrent “A” tour will still go ahead as planned, with both squads likely to be announced in December.


OPINION: ICC’s Rankings Farce Shows Women’s Cricket Needs Its Own Governance

The ICC has come under fire after the cancellation of the World Cup qualifiers meant Thailand missed out on a place in the next cycle of the ICC Championship – the “Future Tours Programme” for women’s cricket, which ensures that everyone plays everyone else over the cycle leading up to the World Cup, with the top sides getting direct qualification to the next tournament in 2025.

While is it is possible that Thailand might not have gone on to qualify for the for the ICC Championship, they were top of their group with 6 points from 3 wins when the tournament was abandoned, so they were in a very strong position; but with the cancellation the ICC fell back on ODI rankings, ignoring the most obvious problem with this – Thailand don’t have an ODI ranking, essentially because their men’s side aren’t good enough to merit full membership of the ICC. So it was crushing disappointment for Thailand, while Ireland celebrated joining the ICC Championship as the 9th-ranked ODI team.

In terms of making this particular decision, the ICC were in a tough spot, albeit one of their own making – they had to do something, and short of drawing lots they didn’t have a lot of options; but the decision to use the ODI rankings was particularly bonkers, given that they have T20 rankings, which do include Thailand.

Whilst the decision to use ODI rankings was manifestly unfair, it is worth pointing out firstly that this isn’t Ireland’s fault – the ICC made this decision, and Ireland have a right to be delighted. More pertinently, had the ICC made the more rational decision to use the T20 rankings, Ireland (ranked 10th) would still have qualified ahead of Thailand (11th).

Thailand aren’t the only ones to have suffered –  Sri Lanka also have a right to be unhappy, because regardless of who is (and is not) in it, the ODI ranking system is broken anyway. Sri Lanka are currently ranked 10th, based on the last 5 matches they’ve played, which were against England and Australia. Bangladesh meanwhile are ranked 5th, above New Zealand (6th) on the basis of the last 5 games they’ve played, versus Zimbabwe and Pakistan. So Bangladesh are off to the World Cup, whilst Sri Lanka are not.

This is obviously crazy, but it is what happens when you take a ranking system designed for men’s cricket and impose it on the women’s game; and that’s the real moral of this story. When men’s cricket took over the women’s game 20 years ago, the women were often given nice new kit. But the problem was that it was just small-sized men’s kit, which didn’t really fit. Eventually, everyone accepted that the women needed kit designed for women, and we now have shirts and trousers that fit properly.

The same is true of governance. Interestingly, one of the ICC’s current stated aims is to promote women’s cricket globally, with the USA being singled out as a particular target for growth; but what happens if women’s cricket does explode in the States but finds itself excluded from tournaments and governance structures because the men’s team hasn’t enjoyed the same trajectory? It is clearly an untenable situation.

We are where we are, and there is no going back to the days of the IWCC; but the ICC need to start accepting that men’s governance doesn’t fit women’s cricket any more than men’s shirts do.

NEWS: Women’s County Cricket To Continue In 2022

The news yesterday that Tash Farrant has regained her England contract after nearly three years in the wilderness was accompanied by a statement from Kent CCC which confirms that senior women’s county cricket is set to continue.

Kent Women’s coach Dave Hathrill was quoted as saying: “[Farrant] is a leading figure for Kent Women and we’re looking forward to seeing her progress further whilst also wearing the White Horse.”

Other counties have also made it public that they are continuing with their women’s winter training programmes – including Middlesex.

Play Cricket now contains a page showing County T20 groupings for the 2022 season, with groups once again formed on a regional basis. CRICKETher also understands that the ECB have issued a fixture calendar to the counties, showing four dates for a Women’s County T20 competition at the start of the season in April / May (though this has not yet been released publicly).

Interestingly, yesterday’s Kent press release suggests that they expect England players (including Farrant) to be made available to play for their counties in the 2022 season and beyond – thus answering a question we raised in a recent episode of The CRICKETher Weekly.

So it seems that – while the ECB are apparently reluctant to shout about their U-turn – women’s county cricket lives to see another day!

NEWS: Kent’s Tash Farrant Regains England Contract

Almost three years after she was discarded by England, Tash Farrant has regained her central contract.

Farrant was recalled to the England squad by coach Lisa Keightley for the tour of New Zealand earlier this year, and was selected in all of the England squads this summer, so this is no surprise. Her left-arm seam will be seen as a key point of difference ahead of the forthcoming Women’s Ashes, as well as England’s World Cup title defence in New Zealand in 2022.

It’s unclear what this might mean for the future of fellow left-arm seamer Katie George, who has not played an international since July 2018.

On the other hand, Farrant’s re-elevation to the England team will offer hope that there is a “way back” for formerly contracted players such as Alex Hartley and Beth Langston, thanks to the new regional deals on offer.

Interestingly, it was coach Mark Robinson who originally identified the need for such a system when he dropped Farrant from his squad – telling CRICKETher:

“For Beth [Langston] and Tash their decision now is: do I play KSL and county cricket, then the year after, when hopefully semi-professionalism comes in, they do that; or do they go on to a different career? [But] Tash might re-invent herself – she could be a major player.”

It is a statement that has proved prescient – Farrant did indeed begin a new career, spending a year as head of girls’ cricket at Trent College in Nottingham – but she found a way back via a South East Stars pro contract awarded in October 2020.

Meanwhile, South East Stars will be identifying a sixth player to progress to a professional contract, taking the total number of female “professionals” in England to 68. (The status of Fran Wilson, who announced her retirement from international cricket last month, remains unclear.)

WBBL: Bowling Rankings – Jess’tice League

Heat skipper Jess Jonassen was one of three players to join Molly Strano in the 100-wicket club in WBBL this year, marking her out as one of the most consistent performers across the seasons. Bowling mostly towards the end of the powerplay and in the early middle overs, Jonassen took 21 wickets at the respectable economy rate of 6.5 to top the season’s bowling rankings. Despite a long career and a cabinet full of medals, including two WBBL titles, Jonassen has always slipped slightly below the headlines – she was Player of the Match in a Test better remembered for Anya Shrubsole’s 47-ball duck; and she took 3 wickets in the T20 World Cup final at the MCG, but the only spinner on the back pages the next morning was Molly Strano, dancing with Katy Perry. But maybe this is the year “Jess’tice” will finally be served?

Should Jonassen not add a third WBBL winners medal to her shelf, Alana King will have been a big part of the reason why. Having moved to the Scorchers this year after 6 slightly glass-half-empty seasons at Melbourne Stars, the 26-year-old has blossomed. Bowling mainly in the middle overs, she was one of a cluster of players taking 15/16 wickets in the group stages, but beat them all out with a superior economy rate to rank second on the list. It’s a textbook example of what having the courage to move clubs can do for your career, especially if you’ve been a long time in one place – working with different coaches in a new environment can be the spark that relights the fire!

King was one of 3 Scorchers bowlers to make the top 10, alongside Young Gun candidate Lilly Mills and Heather Graham, who will play her hundredth WBBL match in the final next weekend, and also quietly passed the hundred wicket mark this year – as did another Scorchers player, Marizanne Kapp, who was slightly down the wickets column this season, but did post the best Economy Rate for the 5th time in 7 WBBL seasons.

The top-ranked overseas player… albeit only ‘technically’ overseas these days, was Irish woman Kim Garth. (Having lived in Australia for several years, Garth will qualify as a domestic player from next season.) Watching Garth this season has been a rollercoaster ride – she bowled three consecutive maidens (with 3 wickets) against Sydney Sixers; but also got tonked for 21 in a single over by Rachel Priest and Naomi Stalenberg against the Hurricanes; while unplayable wicket balls were sandwiched between rank half-trackers and long-hops that looked like they belonged on a breakfast buffet. But you know what? That’s ok – it’s in the script for a “strike” bowler, and if she can continue to excel in that quite specific role, and stay injury-free (which is looking like it is going to be the current Aussie incumbent Tayla Vlaeminck’s problem), there may yet be further international honours waiting for Garth in green… just this time with a little gold mixed in.

Player Played Wickets Economy
1. Jess Jonassen (Heat) 13 21 6.5
2. Alana King (Scorchers) 13 16 5.8
3. Heather Graham (Scorchers) 13 16 6.3
4. Hannah Darlington (Thunder) 13 16 6.4
5. Kim Garth (Stars) 12 15 6.2
6. Lilly Mills (Scorchers) 13 16 6.8
7. Darcie Brown (Strikers) 12 15 6.4
8. Amanda-Jade Wellington (Strikers) 14 16 7.1
9. Annabel Sutherland (Stars) 12 14 6.4
10. Sarah Coyte (Strikers) 14 15 7.0
11. Tayla Vlaeminck (Hurricanes) 14 13 6.1
12. Ruth Johnston (Hurricanes) 13 13 6.1
13. Marizanne Kapp (Scorchers) 13 11 5.2
14. Sam Bates (Thunder) 13 12 5.8
15. Molly Strano (Hurricanes) 14 15 7.3
16. Harmanpreet Kaur (Renegades) 12 15 7.5
17. Nicola Carey (Hurricanes) 14 13 6.9
18. Megan Schutt (Strikers) 10 10 5.3
19. Nicola Hancock (Heat) 11 13 6.9
20. Lauren Cheatle (Sixers) 8 10 5.4
21. Courtney Sippel (Heat) 8 12 6.5
22. Deepti Sharma (Thunder) 13 13 7.2
23. Sophie Molineux (Renegades) 12 10 5.6
24. Poonam Yadav (Heat) 12 9 6.7
25. Tahlia McGrath (Strikers) 14 10 7.5

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

WBBL: Batting Rankings – Full Mooney Fever

The leading run-scorer of all time in WBBL – Beth Mooney – continued the form that saw her named Wisden’s Leading Woman Cricketer in the World last year, topping our batting rankings with 528 runs at a Strike Rate of 132, including her second WBBL century – 101* versus the Renegades. The real challenge is still to come, in Perth next weekend: Mooney was brought in to the Scorchers last season to do the one thing Meg Lanning had been unable to do in her two seasons out west – win them a title – but the difference is that Mooney has won WBBL finals before, and she’s certainly in the form to do it again.

Harmanpreet Kaur has often flattered to deceive in franchise cricket, and arguably for India too. She is obviously capable of brilliance – there may be Australian friends reading this, so I’d probably best not mention the greatest individual performance of all time – but the highs are too often followed by lengthy slumps of nothing scores. This WBBL has been different though, as she ranked second, with no hundreds but a boot-full of decent scores averaging 67. (She still doesn’t like running though – over a quarter of her 399 runs came in 6s!)

Elyse Villani at No. 3 had another pretty decent season – she’s actually 4th on the all-time run-scoring list, and also scored her maiden T20 hundred – on 96, with the Stars needing one to win, she hit a maximum off what proved to be the final ball of the group stages, to bring up the landmark. Villani’s international career is probably over – she’s in good form, but she’s 32, and… who are you going to drop from a top six of Healy, Mooney, Lanning, Gardner, Perry and McGrath? (Bearing in mind that McGrath had a decent series against India; Gardner is a critical part of the bowling strategy; and Perry is… Ellyse Perry!) But hopefully she’s still got a couple more seasons of domestic cricket left in her, and you could actually see her doing a Rachel Priest – using the freedom that not playing international cricket gives you to build a late career as a T20 franchise specialist – if that’s what she wanted.

Passing over Sophie Devine, because we all know what she can do, Georgia Redmayne continues to blossom at No. 5 – up 4 places from No. 9 on last year’s list. Redmayne’s chances of international honours this summer look better than Villani’s – she was in the squad for the India series after all – but unless there are injuries in that top 6, it’s difficult to see where she fits in; and as a keeper-batter she’s got the same problem as Amy Jones had for years shadowing Sarah Taylor, but doubled with both Mooney and Healy ahead of her.

Eve Jones was the highest ranked English player at No. 21. (And yes – I extended the list from the usual 20, just for her!) When Jones has hit her stride, she’s been very good value – see her 62 off 46 balls versus Heat – but the issue remains that she takes her time at the start of her innings, in this tournament not hitting at a Strike Rate of over 100 until she has faced an average of 18 balls. This mean that if she’s dismissed in single figures, which she has been 5 times thus far this season, she has usually chewed up a lot of balls in the process, and I think that’s going to be the key concern when Lisa Keightley and Heather Knight sit down to consider whether she makes their Ashes squad.

Player Played Runs Strike Rate
1. Beth Mooney (Scorchers) 13 528 132
2. Harmanpreet Kaur (Renegades) 12 399 135
3. Elyse Villani (Stars) 12 439 122
4. Sophie Devine (Scorchers) 13 407 131
5. Georgia Redmayne (Heat) 13 436 120
6. Grace Harris (Heat) 13 403 128
7. Katie Mack (Strikers) 14 426 118
8. Smriti Mandhana (Thunder) 13 377 130
9. Mignon du Preez (Hurricanes) 14 414 115
10. Laura Wolvaardt (Strikers) 14 331 125
11. Jemima Rodrigues (Renegades) 12 317 116
12. Dane van Niekerk (Strikers) 14 295 119
13. Ellyse Perry (Sixers) 13 358 91
14. Georgia Voll (Heat) 13 262 116
15. Tahlia McGrath (Strikers) 14 264 110
16. Phoebe Litchfield (Thunder) 13 263 109
17. Rachel Priest (Hurricanes) 14 262 104
18. Alyssa Healy (Sixers) 13 231 116
19. Meg Lanning (Stars) 12 252 105
20. Nicole Bolton (Sixers) 13 247 96
21. Eve Jones (Renegades) 11 222 103
22. Deepti Sharma (Thunder) 13 211 107
23. Chamari Athapaththu (Scorchers) 10 182 117
24. Chloe Piparo (Scorchers) 13 202 106
25. Ashleigh Gardner (Sixers) 12 197 106

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

WBBL: How Many Points Do You Need To Qualify?

There’s been a bit of talk over on Facebook (or should I say “Meta”?) about how many points you need to qualify for the knockout stages in WBBL.

15 seems to be the consensus, and it is a pretty good rule of thumb – historically no one with 15 points has yet failed to qualify; and 14 isn’t usually enough, though two teams (or rather, one team twice – Scorchers in 2015/16 and 2020/21) have qualified with 14 points.

That said, at the time of writing, it is still mathematically possible for the Hurricanes (currently 7th, on 7 points) to qualify outright on 13 points, without rained-off games or Net Run Rate, if they win their 3 remaining games and other results go their way.

The following sequence of results – WWWwwWWWWwWWwW – where “W” is a home win, and “w” is an away win (fixtures in date order) gives this final table:

Team Points
1. Heat 21
2. Scorchers 20
3. Renegades 18
4. Hurricanes 13
5. Strikers 11
6. Sixers 11
7. Stars 10
8. Thunder 8

Furthermore, 15 points isn’t a “hard” qualify either – it is mathematically possible to get as many as 20 points and still not qualify! How? Well… I’m glad you asked!

Here’s an example end-of-season table, with 5 teams level on 20 points – so one will fail to qualify on Net Run Rate.

Team Played Won Points
1. Heat 14 10 20
2. Hurricanes 14 10 20
3. Renegades 14 10 20
4. Scorchers 14 10 20
5. Sixers 14 10 20
6. Stars 14 4 8
7. Strikers 14 1 2
8. Thunder 14 1 2

(This is just an example – no shade on anyone – the teams are in alphabetical order!)

What’s happened?

The bottom two teams – Strikers and Thunder – have won the home matches between them, and lost every other game, so have one win each.

Stars have beaten Strikers and Thunder twice each, but lost every other game, so have four wins.

Everyone else has beaten Strikers, Thunder and Stars twice (so a “base” of six wins) and then has won all their home games versus each other, giving them an additional four wins, to take them all to 20 points.

Of course, this is unlikely – the odds on the exact scenario described above are 523,347,633,027,360,537,213,511,521 (523 septillion) to 1 against, though there are other scenarios which effectively produce the same outcome – e.g. everyone in the top 5 winning their away matches against each other – that alone halves the odds to… er… 261 septillion to 1 against!

But what you need to remember is that every situation is unlikely. The situation we end this season on will also have been 523 septillion to 1 against.

So to return to the Hurricanes for a moment, the chances of them qualifying on 13 points are currently in the range of about 250 thousand to 1 against… but whatever way the table ends, the chances of that were massively against that too… and yet it still happened.

It may be mind-blowing but that’s mathematics, and as Tom Lehrer once said… try as you may, you just can’t get away from mathematics!