Surrey regained the London Cup from Middlesex in comprehensive fashion at the Kia Oval on Thursday, beating their North London rivals by 9 wickets after surrendering the trophy last year at Radlett.
Alice Capsey was the star of the show, recording remarkable figures of 3 for 6 before smashing 7* from 4 balls, including a beautiful drive for four lofted over extra cover, to wrap up the win for Surrey within 9 overs.
“It’s great to get the win and get the trophy back to us,” Capsey said. “We won it a couple of years ago here and then we lost it last year at Radlett, so it was a big thing to come back to the Oval and try and win it again.”
Middlesex had chosen to bat first on a glorious evening at the Kia Oval, and Bryony Smith made the somewhat unconventional decision to open the bowling with an over from Capsey – a decision that Capsey said was only communicated to her a minute or two before she walked out onto the pitch, in front of the smattering of spectators.
But she repaid her captain’s confidence, opening her account with a maiden, thus setting the tone for a Middlesex innings which did almost last for 20 overs, but saw just 68 runs put on the board.
After Charlotte Lambert and Danielle Gregory struck to leave Middlesex 28 for 2 at the end of the powerplay, Capsey – who had put down a catch at mid-off early doors – held onto another one in the same position to hand Gregory a second wicket.
From there, Middlesex were completely bogged down in the middle overs, largely lacking the power to reach what was a lengthy boundary. With wickets falling regularly, their young tail were caught between attack and defence, and Capsey struck three times – once in the 14th and twice in the 19th.
“This year I haven’t been bowling my best so it was really nice to take the new ball and get back to where I want with my bowling,” Capsey admitted.
In reply, Smith and Kira Chathli went after the runs at a canter, thumping fours around the ground and bringing up their fifty partnership within six overs.
Chathli was caught at short fine leg in the 8th over, but it took Capsey just six more balls to wrap up the win.
The contrast between the experienced Surrey side and the young Middlesex team was marked. Surrey fielded not just Capsey and Smith but Stars regulars Kira Chathli, Eva Gray and Danielle Gregory. Middlesex, on the other hand, were shorn of the Sunrisers best players, including all three of their eligible professionals. Neither fitness nor availability appear to have been the issue – both Naomi Dattani and Amara Carr were present at The Oval – so the conclusion that must be drawn is that Sunrisers management put their foot down ahead of the next round of the RHF Trophy on Saturday.
Sunrisers are, of course, perfectly within their rights; but if this is their way of achieving their illusive first win of the season, it seems an odd one. After the match, Capsey spoke of the way in which putting in an assured performance in the London Cup is helping her to regain the superb form she displayed last season:
“There was a conversation [with Stars], but I said I really wanted to play,” she said. “Even though it hasn’t gone my way this year, it’s starting to come, and the more games I play, the more confident I’m feeling.”
Denying Dattani, Carr and Cordelia Griffith that chance feels very much like an own goal.
It also feels like an own goal for women’s cricket as a whole. The London Cup was originally conceived by Ebony Rainford-Brent in 2015 as a way of giving the public a chance to celebrate one of cricket’s signature rivalries – the idea was for it to become a landmark fixture in the women’s calendar. Back in the early days, England-contracted players Fran Wilson (Middlesex) and Nat Sciver (Surrey) regularly featured – it was a true battle between the best players these counties could muster.
The fact that even with a staging ground like the Kia Oval, in the most beautiful cricket-playing weather imaginable, Sunrisers denied their players the chance to feature in this year’s London Cup is symptomatic of the broader decline in esteem which women’s county cricket has undergone across the past 7 years – a fact which left me with a rather sour taste in my mouth at the end of yesterday evening.