SOUTH AFRICA v ENGLAND: Test Day 4 – One Tumi Toomany For England

Prior to this match, Tumi Sekhukhune had faced 81 balls in international cricket, scoring 24 runs in 11 innings, coming in at 9, 10 or 11. She has a “DNB” (Did Not Bat) next to her name on 37 of her 48 international scorecards.

In this match, she has faced 173 balls and scored 42 runs; but it is the former of those numbers that has really counted. In the 1st innings she may have only scored 9 runs, but she was party to a further 48 runs scored at the other end, taking South Africa past 250 and on to 284. Then in the second innings, after coming in as a nightwatcher, she saw off an massive 134 balls while her partners and (as she increasingly grew in confidence) her, took the game to safety – only the 3 centurions faced anything like that many balls in this match.

Oh… and she did it all whilst not being dismissed.

By the end of the afternoon session, England had thrown everything at her – Issy Wong… Sophie Ecclestone… the kitchen sink. Lauren Bell went over the wicket, round the wicket; angling it in, angling it away – nothing worked. England were clean out of plans – Sekhukhune was like a brick wall: England couldn’t have got past her with a bulldozer.

To be fair, there were a couple of chances right at the end – an edge that flew high past vacant 4th slip, and another that Sophie Ecclestone should have held on to at 2nd slip; but they were emblematic of England’s day. To get the win, they were going to have to play flawless cricket, and they didn’t quite do that. Amy Jones dropped one behind the stumps; while Tammy Beaumont under the lid, and Ecclestone again at 2nd slip, couldn’t hold on to two half-chances that were offered later in the morning session. (Beaumont’s would have been a very, very good catch if she’d taken it, but you don’t win matches like this without taking very, very good catches; while Ecclestone’s was technically not a “drop” because it did bounce, but if she’d gone forwards rather than back, I think the chance was there – you may or may not agree!)

The weather was obviously “a” factor in the result, but South Africa were making reasonable progress towards saving the game regardless. With a lead of 48 and 5 wickets in-hand, we were actually potentially looking at a scenario where it was England left with a tricky final session, having been set 150 off 15 overs at the end.

So the South Africans, with all their injury problems, can be proud of their performance. Can England? They will certainly be more disappointed than the South Africans not to get the result – they were definitely the favourites coming into the match; but Bell bowled really well (and Heather Knight clearly agrees, because she consistently opened up with Bell); Wong got crucial wickets; Alice Davidson-Richards got to write her name on the honours board of Test cricket; and Emma Lamb finally got a solid England knock under her belt.

And of course, Nat Sciver did just what we’ve come to expect Nat Sciver to do, taking home the Player of the Match award – she really is the lynchpin of this England team, so crucial to their success in every format.

Heather Knight said in the press conference that she felt England had played the game they wanted to play, and I think they did play positive cricket. The wait for a result goes on, but as with the Test at Manuka in January, this wasn’t by any means a “bore draw”. Hopefully South Africa in particular will look at this match and feel that this is a viable format for the future. How awesome would 4 days at Newlands be for a return fixture in 2024?

SOUTH AFRICA v ENGLAND: Test Day 3 – The Weather Gods hate us… but will that be enough to save South Africa?

What do the ICC and the Weather Gods have in common? They all hate women’s Tests! It’s been 9 years since a women’s Test in England saw a full 4 days play – the Women’s Ashes Test at Wormsley in 2013. Since then we’ve had rain at Wormsley (India 2014) Canterbury (Australia 2015), Taunton (Australia 2019), Bristol (India 2021) and now Taunton again!

Having lost more than 50 overs today, and with more rain around tomorrow, England’s hopes of forcing a result in this game looked to be circling the drain until the intervention of Issy Wong in the short final evening session. Wong took 2 wickets to leave the South Africans 55-3 going into the final day – a deficit of 78 runs with 7 wickets in hand.

Crucially, those wickets included the biggest prize in the South African lineup – Laura Wolvaardt – who had looked so solid in defence until confronted by Wong’s variations, which seemed to leave her in a mental muddle, resulting in a half-hearted drive taking a thick edge to Nat Sciver at gully. It was disappointing from South Africa’s premier batter, with the close of play in sight, and leaves South Africa realistically hoping that the weather has a big say in things tomorrow – if we get anything like 2 sessions in, England will expect to bowl them out, possibly even winning by an innings, which really didn’t look likely 48 hours ago after South Africa had posted 284 on the first day.

There will be plenty written about Issy Wong this evening – and rightly so – but one other star, also on Test debut, has been umpire Anna Harris, who has not put a finger wrong in this match. Reviewing her decisions is proving a futile game – when she says it’s out, it stays out! She detected a faint edge which saved Goodall from an LBW in the 4th over; and I’d be willing to bet she also knew that Goodall had got an edge again a few overs later off the bowling of Lauren Bell, but neither Bell nor Amy Jones appealed for the catch behind, and the chance went begging. Harris is still only 23, but already we’re wondering if she is the best umpire in the world; and she is certainly a lesson for those who think you have to have played top level cricket in order to umpire it.

And talking of top-level cricket… we shouldn’t forget Nat Sciver’s renewed contribution this morning.

After a quiet start to see off Kapp, Sciver and Sophie Ecclestone significantly upped the run rate on the way to England’s declaration, going at very-nearly 6-an-over – a good one-day run rate – in the final 10 overs of the innings before Heather Knight called them in. Those extra 20 runs could prove absolutely crucial tomorrow as England chase the game, but the Weather Gods will also be in hot pursuit! Will they be able to save South Africa? I think they’ll have to work hard to thwart England now.

SOUTH AFRICA v ENGLAND: Test Day 2 – 2 x 100 = 328

We were 11 overs into the afternoon session, and England were in deep trouble. With England having lost Heather Knight, run out off the first ball after lunch, Sophia Dunkley had looked like she was digging in for the long haul, but when she was dismissed playing an over-expansive drive to Anneke Bosch, quickly followed by Amy Jones for a 6-ball duck, England found themselves at 121-5 – a deficit of 163, with South Africa just one wicket away from getting into England’s long tail.

All the pressure was on Alice Davidson-Richards, walking out on Test debut carrying the full weight of England’s hopes of pulling off a historic Test victory: remember… no team has ever lost a women’s Test having put as many runs on the board in the first innings as South Africa did yesterday.

This was quite literally the moment ADR had been selected for though – to shore-up the batting, in case things went wrong – and gone wrong they most certainly had!

ADR’s first task was simply to stick in there, playing the role that South Africa’s tail had yesterday, supporting the senior batter. The first 25 balls she faced produced just one scoring “shot” – a thick outside edge which went for 4 – but slowly she began to realise that she was equal to this pitch and this situation, and the runs began to come, especially once she passed 50, moving from 50 to 75 in just 22 balls.

As the afternoon wore on for South Africa, they really started to look like they were missing the key players that didn’t make it out onto the field here in Taunton – Dane van Niekerk and Shabnim Ismail could have been the difference they needed to finish England off when they were down in that afternoon session. Having done it all by herself yesterday with the bat, Marizanne Kapp couldn’t repeat those heroics today with the ball, bowling 8 maidens but finishing wicketless for her 16 overs, as England did to her pretty-much what the South Africans had done to Ecclestone on Day 1 – defend and defend until they’d seen her off.

Nat Sciver was the first to pass 100, picking up where she left off in the World Cup Final, dismissing the South African bowling with some imperious swatted pulls through midwicket.  ADR followed shortly afterwards, focussing her fire on the other side of the ‘V’ as she drove through the covers. The fairy-tale ending wasn’t quite to be, with ADR tipping an easy catch to Lizelle Lee off the penultimate ball of the day, but it left England with the match back in their hands as they take a small but significant lead into Day 3 with 328 runs on the board.

With rain likely to make an appearance at some point on Days 3 and 4, England may well find themselves having to weigh up the pros and cons of a positive declaration. (They did of course declare here a couple of years ago, but they did so 150-odd runs behind Australia, who went on to bat out the draw.) Might it be interesting to send Issy Wong out to join Nat Sciver in the morning, and see if she can smash a few boundaries? In cricketing terms (if not political ones) Heather Knight has generally been a very-small-c-conservative England captain, but there have been signs more recently that she’s prepared to be bold, as England were in trying to chase the win in the Ashes Test this winter; and she’ll be desperate to finally win a Test as England captain at the 5th attempt.

SOUTH AFRICA v ENGLAND: Test Day 1 – Kapp Killer

A killer contribution from Marizanne Kapp made it South Africa’s day in the Test at Taunton, despite England ultimately bowling the visitors out having taken the brave decision to insert them after winning the toss.

Having reduced South Africa to 45-4 within the first 20 overs, with both Laura Wolvaardt and Lizelle Lee back in the pavilion, England would have been eyeing up dismissing South Africa cheaply and batting themselves by mid afternoon.

But South Africa, who haven’t played a test for almost a million years, nonetheless clearly understood that in the format they were playing they had time aplenty, as they focussed on rebuilding, and did not panic as the 10-over run-rate fell to just a single run per over in the 10 overs leading up to lunch.

This period gave Kapp time to get the measure of a pitch which clearly remained very battable through the day, and her and Luus came out after lunch looking to play positively, maintaining a run-rate of just over 3-per over for the rest of the day.

They picked their bowlers though – in particular, neutralising the threat of Ecclestone by making little effort to score off her, with a clear strategy through the team of getting a long way forward to her, getting to the pitch of the ball, and playing it with soft hands. Ecclestone went for very few runs but finished with only 1 wicket to show for her 18 overs – it was smart, Test cricket, which meant that England were the ones having to really work for their wickets.

The wickets did come, of course, giving England something to cheer about, but not before 284 runs had been scored – the majority of them by Kapp. 284 might not sound like that many, and the long, mostly-amateur history of women’s Tests is no doubt a poor guide to the professional present – but no one has ever lost a women’s Test having scored this many runs in the 1st innings.

While it was Kapp’s day, a lot of credit has to go to the other South African batters who gave her the support the needed to move past 100 and press on to 150. Sune Luus played nicely and Anneke Bosch added a useful 30; but it was Nadine de Klerk, Sinalo Jafta and Tumi Sekhukhune who were really key in just staying there, whilst Kapp scored the runs at the other end. de Klerk, Jafta and Sekhukhune collectively scored 22 runs but they stayed put for 87 balls, during which time Kapp moved from 59 to 150 and… so history suggests… put the game beyond England.

England won’t feel that way, naturally – they will reckon they can pile on the runs on an innocuous pitch tomorrow, and reseize the initiative. And you certainly wouldn’t put it past them – they have the batting to go at 4-an-over, and perhaps finish the day with a lead of 80; but they will then still need to bowl very well in the second innings to have a chance of winning the game.

Luckily from that perspective, they picked an attacking bowling unit, giving debuts to Lauren Bell and Issy Wong, both of whom picked up their maiden international wickets on the first morning. Bell in particular looked very threatening early on, getting the Dukes ball to swing wickedly with a bit of assistance from the nasty, chilly breeze that was blowing across the ground during the first session. Bell was unlucky not to pick up a wicket in that opening spell, and generally looked the more controlled of the debutantes; though typically it will be Wong that makes the show-reels with a lovely delivery to snatch the key wicket of Laura Wolvaardt, and then a nice grab at cover to get rid of Jafta.

But it was Bell that really impressed. 2,611 days ago, I saw Heather Knight hand the 14-year-old her first county cap; and I said that day that she would go on to play for England. Looking back now though, I can see that it wasn’t inevitable – it took a hell of a lot of hard work in the nets and the gym – listening to her coaches, learning and building her game. The raw pace that she had as a tearaway teenage quick, has become intelligent and controlled. An England career is a journey, and the evidence of today suggests that Bell’s will be a long one.

NEWS: Lisa Keightley Calls For England To “Lead The Way” In Playing More Women’s Tests

England coach Lisa Keightley has called for England to “lead the way” in playing more women’s Tests, ahead of her team’s one-off encounter against South Africa next week at Taunton.

Keightley labelled the recent remarks by ICC Chair Greg Barclay – who told BBC TMS earlier this month that he felt women’s Tests would not be “part of the landscape moving forward to any real extent” – as “disappointing”, and said that England would be looking to “challenge” Barclay’s vision in next week’s match.

“The last few Test matches has proven that it’s a format that is quite exciting,” she said. “We actually feel like we want to lead the way. The way to do that is to play more Test matches.”

“Realistically, I don’t think every country can play this format, but I do think we should stretch and challenge and still have the desire to improve women’s cricket and to grow it. There’s a few countries that are putting their hands up to play Test cricket for that purpose. The players want to play it, and the organisations are getting in and around it and behind it.”

She also strongly hinted that the ECB would be looking to include a multi-day component in the regional domestic structure going forwards. “You’ve got to learn the craft of Test cricket,” she said. “The countries that are playing Test matches have a pathway that they could slide along the format in. We’re looking to do that going forward, it’s just a matter of how you could put it in a domestic structure and what that may look like.”

After selecting a squad with five potential Test debutants ahead of next week’s match, Keightley was also keen to emphasise that this summer marked a “new cycle” for the England side, after their disappointing showing against Australia in the recent Ashes and World Cup. Spearheading that new cycle is Emma Lamb, who Keightley as good as confirmed would be opening the batting alongside Tammy Beaumont next week, saying: “It’s her time and it’s her chance to show us what she’s got.”

England’s bowling line-up is less decided, though Keightley talked up Lauren Bell, Freya Davies and Emily Arlott as being “exciting” possibilities to open the bowling: “We’ll see how they go throughout the week, and see who’s looking the best to see who gets the opportunity to play their first Test match.” Issy Wong, included in the squad as a travelling reserve only, will not feature in the longer format due to recent injury niggles; but is being looked at for possible inclusion in the white-ball squads later in the summer.

Keightley also shed some more light onto Katherine Brunt’s decision to retire from Test cricket, suggesting that after her recent bout of Covid and subsequent absence from the majority of the Charlotte Edwards Cup (she bowled just 4 overs in the competition), she had simply not bowled enough overs since the World Cup for the Test to be a realistic possibility.

“We knew after the World Cup we needed everything to go right with her prep and it didn’t. In the end she didn’t have the loads behind her to play in this Test match. It would have been high risk,” Keightley said. “Sitting down with Katherine and talking it through, it was pretty obvious that the Commonwealth Games was the focus and she wasn’t going to get up for this Test match.”

“With those conversations she’s gone away and thought about it, and thought the Ashes was too far next year so if she didn’t play in this one she probably wasn’t going to play a Test. It’s been an emotional few weeks for Katherine, coming to that decision… I think she’s made the smart call.”

NEWS: Five Possible Debutants as England Name Squad for South Africa Test

Fast bowlers Lauren Bell and Emily Arlott have been named alongside Emma Lamb in the squad for the one-off Test against South Africa next week in Taunton.

With neither Danni Wyatt nor Lauren Winfield-Hill in the squad, Lamb looks almost certain to make her Test debut opening the batting; while other potential debutants include Freya Davies, Alice Davidson-Richards, Lauren Bell and Emily Arlott.

With Katherine Brunt having announced her retirement from Tests, and Anya Shrubsole hers from all forms of international cricket, debuts for two of Davies, Bell and Arlott look likely, with a possible lineup of:

1. Lamb
2. Beaumont
3. Knight (c)
4. Sciver (vc)
5. Dunkley
6. Jones (wk)
7. Dean
8. Cross
9. Ecclestone
10. Davies
11. Bell

Issy Wong will also accompany the squad, officially as a “travelling reserve”, possibly due to her value as a net bowler due to her similarity to key South African threat Shabnim Ismail.

Full Squad

Heather Knight (Western Storm, cap)
Emily Arlott (Central Sparks)
Tammy Beaumont (Lightning)
Lauren Bell (Southern Vipers)
Kate Cross (Thunder)
Alice Davidson-Richards (South East Stars)
Freya Davies (South East Stars)
Charlie Dean (Southern Vipers)
Sophia Dunkley (South East Stars)
Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder)
Amy Jones (Central Sparks)
Emma Lamb (Thunder)
Nat Sciver (Northern Diamonds, vice captain)

Travelling Reserve

Issy Wong (Central Sparks)

The CRICKETher Weekly – Episode 117

This week:

  • Katherine Brunt’s bizarrely-timed retirement from Tests
  • What will England’s squad for the Test look like?
  • Ireland v South Africa
  • ICC unbundles the women’s media rights from the men’s – a step towards separate governance?

PREVIEW: RHC looking to build on an impressive first win in Scotland’s Women’s Premier League

By Jake Perry

Northern Lights are out on their own at the top of the Women’s Premier League after the fourth round of matches was completed last Sunday. Despite the abandonment of their game at Hamilton Crescent, Carlton’s victory over Stewart’s Melville leaves the league leaders as its only unbeaten side as they prepare for their meeting with the champions this coming weekend.

Elsewhere, though, there were celebrations at Barnton, where Royal High Corstorphine claimed their first win of the campaign with a 68-run triumph over Watsonians. It has been a difficult season for the Edinburgh side so far, but women’s rep Clara Sablitzky is encouraged by the positive signs it showed.

“I would obviously have liked to see us in a better position at this point in the season than we currently are, but there is so much potential within this squad,” she said. “We just need to find our rhythm, and I hope that this win over Watsonians will help us to do that.”

“I don’t think we expected to beat Northern Lights, but we didn’t expect to lose in the way we did against Dumfries & Galloway [by nine wickets] and then Stew-Mel [by seven]. We have worked on things since our defeat in Dumfries, but there is still a lot of room for us to improve.”

It is a time of transition for RHC. Ailsa Lister and Abbie Hogg were among those who turned out for the side last year, but with both now at Northern Lights and Ikra Farooq relocated down south, a lack of firepower with the bat left their innings average in double figures going into last Sunday’s game. A club record partnership of 233 between Bronwyn Sumption and Louise Nichols changed all that, however, with Pretoria-born Sumption hitting a 93-ball 142 and Nichols a run-a-ball 79: the form of the big-hitting South African is going to be particularly important in RHC’s bid to climb further up the table.

“It’s been great to have Bronwyn join us this year,” said Clara. “Since losing a couple of good batters we’ve had to reconfigure the top order and it’s been so good to have someone who has fitted into that so well.”

“In our first couple of games she struggled a little bit with the Scottish deck: I think she was expecting South African pace and she got Scottish green-tops, but as she’s got used to the conditions she has really come in to her own and is now playing how she feels she is supposed to be playing. I know she was disappointed after her first game down in Dumfries, but as we saw from last weekend at Barnton, she can really hit the ball.”

“Amongst our other players, one to keep an eye on is Emily Rose,” Clara continued. “She’ll be away down south for the rest of our season, but she played in our first few games. Emily had only ever played garden cricket with her family before she started to take the game more seriously during lockdown, and she’s come in and, wow, she can hit a ball. It’s been so impressive to see somebody who is basically self-taught make it on the indoor squad for the Uni, then the first eleven outdoor women’s team and then open the bowling for RHC with Phoebe [Beal].”

“She’s a seriously competitive player and has only just turned nineteen: she’s certainly one to watch and I hope we keep her through her time at Uni and hopefully beyond that as well.”

As far as the remainder of this season goes, though, RHC have their sights set on finding the consistency that has so far eluded them.

“I’m not going to put too much pressure on the girls, but as long as everyone plays to their potential we can be confident. Our strength is in our bowling, I would say, even though it hasn’t necessarily come across in some of our games so far because we’ve bowled against some pretty strong batters, but as long as we can find our stride again, recapture the confidence we showed last weekend, things are going to continue to move in the right direction.”

Women’s Premier League – 19 June 2022

Grange v RH Corstorphine (at Royal High School)
Dumfries CC/Galloway CC v Stewart’s Melville (at Nunholm)
Watsonians v McCrea FS West of Scotland (at Myreside)
Northern Lights v Carlton (at Mannofield)

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