MATCH REPORT: Capsey Shines In London Cup After Sunrisers Withdraw Pros

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.

ENGLAND v SOUTH AFRICA: 1st ODI – Lamb Roasts South Africa

Until tonight, Emma Lamb hadn’t scored a single run in international white ball cricket – three caps; two balls faced; no runs – though she had, of course, made a solid 38 off 69 balls in the Test at the end of last month.

But given how consistently she has made runs in domestic cricket over the past few years, it felt like it was only a matter of time before she made a proper score for England, and tonight was the night.

I didn’t dare to jinx it by tweeting it in public, but at 6:29pm this evening I texted a friend, saying: “If Lamb plays 100 games she will never have a better chance to score a 100 for England.”

Lamb set off as she meant to go on – at the 5-over mark she was going at a Strike Rate of over 100, and she pretty-much maintained that throughout her innings.

Lamb’s selection tonight was the only change to the names on the team-sheet from the World Cup final – it was Lamb in for Shrubsole – but the lineup was definitely a new look for ODIs, with Lamb opening alongside Beaumont and Dunkley coming in at 3, with Nat Sciver staying at 4 and Knight shuffling down the order to 5; and then Wyatt in at 6 and Amy Jones at 7.

It’s a long batting line-up, but it means only 4 bowlers and leaves England either trying to get a full quota out of Nat Sciver, or fill in with Lamb (who did the job for a couple of overs tonight) or Knight. I’d be more comfortable with 5 bowlers, but with Amy Jones struggling in international cricket – she’s made just one 50 in her last 12 innings – England are obviously nervous about the batting. Is it time to look at another wicket-keeper? The problem is that she is far-and-away the best keeper, so she keeps her spot for the moment for that alone, but the very best international teams don’t carry their keepers for long…

Given their margin of victory here, England should feel comfortable bringing in Bell for the next match at Bristol on Friday, at the expense of Wyatt. Not that Wyatt has done anything wrong, but it makes for a better-balanced team and gives England another attacking option with the ball, which (oddly, given they bowled South Africa out) did look to be lacking at times, especially when the Tryon-de Klerk partnership was starting to look like a thorn in England’s side.

As for South Africa, they would have known this tour wasn’t going to be an easy one; but without Ismail… without van Niekerk… and now without Lee… they really look very short of the mark. They saved the Test by blocking and successfully praying for rain, but there was no hiding behind the weather at Northampton – in the pounding heat, they wilted, and the rest of the tour could be about to get very, very sticky for them.

RHF TROPHY: Vipers v Stars – Death Becomes Her

Coming into this match after a convincing win over Sunrisers last weekend, Stars thought they had a real chance to upset Vipers at Hove – the ground where Vipers had wobbled a year before in the RHF as an Em Arlott hattrick had seen them go down to Sparks by 120 runs. Vipers were without Wyatt, Dean, Bell and Shrubsole; while Stars had both Freya Davies and Alice Davidson Richards back in the lineup; plus Alice Capsey back in some form with a half-century in that game against Sunrisers.

And there were a couple of occasions during the match when it looked like Stars were in the ascendancy. Batting first, Vipers made just 35 runs off the powerplay, for the loss of 2 wickets. 3 balls later, Ella McCaughan joined Maia Bouchier and Georgia Adams back in the dugout, and Vipers were 35-3, with another upset definitely on the cards as Paige Scholfield joined Georgia Elwiss at the crease.

But Georgia Elwiss is making cricket look like an easy game at the moment, and on a decent enough track, she began to lead a patient rebuild. Scholfield’s dismissal in the 20th over brought Emily Windsor to the middle, fresh from her 7-day rolling jaunt up at Loughborough, and the “steady as she goes” approach continued, with Elwiss going at a Strike Rate of about 75, and Windsor progressing from an initial Strike Rate of 30 to the dizzy heights of 60.

At the 30-over mark, Vipers were 119-4, heading for a total of around 200. But having rebuilt so meticulously, they were now at the stage were they could afford to start taking a few risks.

Overs 30-40 saw a significant step-up in the run rate. Having gone at 4-an-over for 20 overs, they doubled that to 8 an over, and then to 10 an over at the death, to post more than 300. They did pay a price, losing wickets to finish 9 down, but in a sense that’s the perfect 50-over innings – using all the resources at their disposal.

Emily Windsor was key to this, with 90 off 79 balls.

Although the last 20 overs was when the Vipers began to really step on the gas, Windsor had been building the whole time – her Strike Rate starting off in the 20s and finishing at over 100 – the progress being pretty close to a straight line.

In contrast, Elwiss was much steadier for her whole innings, chugging along nicely at 75.80 until the last 10, when she started to throw the bat a bit more.

Perhaps the most significant innings in the greater scheme of things though was 17-year-old Freya Kemp, who entered the fray in the 43rd over. Let’s not forget that this was only Kemp’s second List A game; and she was selected in theory as a bowler; but at Hove she smashed 40 off 23 balls, including a 6 over cow corner, into the 3rd row of the Sharks Stand. There are only a handful of players in the world that can do that, and yesterday Kemp joined them.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but with Capsey, Scrivens and now Kemp – all still teenagers – doing what they are doing, it is starting to feel like we’ve potentially got a golden generation on our hands; and Richard Bedbrook, in his new role heading up England’s pathway, needs to use every ounce of his considerable soft-power to ensure that they get the opportunities they need in the next couple of months to really push on. All 3 have the potential to be spending some of next winter in South Africa… and I’m talking about a World Cup, but not the Under 19 one! It would be a tragedy if any of them spent the Hundred batting at 8 or 9 and bowling the odd over here or there.

But I digress…

With Vipers having posted over 300, Stars were going to need to bat well; but this is a team that really can bat well, and Bryony Smith and “Test Centurion Alice Davidson Richards” (to give her full title – TCADR for short) got them off to the perfect start, taking them to 60-0 off the powerplay, well ahead of the worm.

Stars remained ahead of the worm for pretty-much their entire innings, but wickets were key and they began to lose them, as someone once said, first slowly then all at once, collapsing from 154-5 to 173 all out. Paige Scholfield was the key beneficiary, wrapping up the tail to finish with 3-29 off 5.4 overs; but all of the 7 bowlers used by the Vipers finished with at least one wicket as the Stars fell away, losing in the end by 133 runs.

Stars were despondent. Covering the match for the ECB Reporters Network, we were required to get quotes from a Stars player at the end, and we found ourselves casting around wondering if there were any Stars players who didn’t look like they were going to punch us if we asked them for an interview!! Bryony did it in the end… and she didn’t punch us, but she did seem very down. It was a tough day at the office to be sure, but I still think on balance Stars will probably be at Lords in September. There’s no “on balance” as to who they’ll be facing though, and I wouldn’t bet on a different outcome either – Vipers are just too good.

NEWS: Carlton Win The Women’s Premier League

Jake Perry reports from Royal High School

Carlton are Women’s Premier League champions after a dramatic final day of the competition played out in Edinburgh. After being bowled out for 106 against Royal High Corstorphine, 5 for 5 from Saskia Aldridge and 3 for 12 from Zaara Dancu turned the tables in style as Annette Aitken-Drummond’s team closed out a 67-run win to take its second title in two years.

Annette Aitken-Drummond being presented with the WPL shield by Sue Strachan and Rosy Ryan
Annette Aitken-Drummond being presented with the WPL shield by Sue Strachan and Rosy Ryan

“I can’t believe that we’ve won that match,” said the Carlton skipper. “Obviously we were put in to bat first, and I don’t know what it is about this ground but we seem to get very nervous, it’s a bit of a bogey ground, and RHC always put up a good game against us. So I was a little bit panicky that we didn’t have enough runs on the board, but our bowlers have gone out there and done an incredible job: Zaara’s bowled incredibly well, Saskia has come in and bowled amazingly, and I’m a very, very happy captain today.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Annette continued. “We were competing with a lot of good teams this season and we were missing quite a few players for various reasons, so it’s been a real full-squad effort. It’s just been fantastic to see, especially the youngsters stepping up and doing a job: a really, really great team performance [from] a great squad.”

Second-placed West of Scotland, the only team that could have overhauled Carlton at the top of the table, did all they could against Grange, openers Ellen Watson and Nayma Shaikh polishing off their target of 58 in just 4.5 overs, while Stewart’s Melville secured third with an eight-wicket win over fifth-placed Northern Lights. Dumfries & Galloway finished just behind Stew-Mel in fourth after centuries from Hannah Rainey and Roshini Prince-Navaratnam against Watsonians: D&G’s trip to Hamilton Crescent for the first round of the Beyond Boundaries Scottish Cup on 24 July is already looking a cracker.

And for Carlton, of course, there is now the chance of an unprecedented ‘double-double’. 

“We’ve got Watsonians first up, so that’ll be a great game,“ said Annette, “and you never know, we could do the double again. That would be incredible.”

Follow Jake Perry on Twitter

RHF TROPHY: Capsey Returns To Form As Stars Outshine Sunrisers

Alice Capsey hit her first half-century of the season, helping her side post 281-8 and beat Sunrisers by 80 runs in the opening round of the RHF Trophy at Beckenham.

The win came despite an outstanding individual effort from 18-year-old Grace Scrivens, who took 4-42 and hit a run-a-ball 74.

The fact that the star performers were two teenagers is an exciting indication that regional cricket is starting to successfully do its job of developing the next generation of England players.

Stars had got off to a flier after they won the toss and chose to bat, with Bryony Smith smashing fours around the ground on her way to a 41-ball half-century. Sharing a 50 partnership with Kira Chathli, who has today earned a call-up to the England A squad on the back of her performances this season, Smith helped her side bring up 67 runs inside the opening powerplay.

Mady Villiers helped slow things up and when Smith (66) tried to come down the wicket and take her on she ended up skying it; Cordelia Griffith ran forward from square leg to take a superb diving catch.

Bizarrely, despite the fact that the opening choice bowlers had leaked runs, Scrivens was not introduced into the attack until the 27th over. When Kelly Castle finally called on her, she struck with only her third ball of the day – Griffith taking another good catch at square leg to see off the dangerous Chathli (61 off 65).

Three more scalps would follow for Scrivens – including a sharp caught and bowled to get rid of in-form Aylish Cranstone – as she proved instrumental in a messy Stars collapse which saw them lose 6 wickets for 75 runs in 16 overs.

Admittedly Capsey – who finished on 64* – should have gone for 0, dropped at cover off Villiers, but the let-off allowed her to finally build the innings that has been lacking this season.

Taking Stars from 203-7 to 281-8 in the final 11 overs of their innings, Capsey gradually grew in confidence until she finally slog swept Castle for six, two balls after bringing up her fifty from 55 balls.

In reply, Scrivens initially found some support from Naomi Dattani as the pair shared a 43-run partnership for the second wicket, Dattani seizing on anything wide to score a quickfire 19 from 24 balls.

But Dattani was run out in the 11th over after Capsey’s direct hit ricocheted off the stumps and Scrivens attempted to run an overthrow.

Scrivens ploughed on, smashing Bryony Smith over her head for six to bring up a 48-ball fifty.

In fact she looked well on course for a hundred until she lost her head in the 28th over, slashing Smith straight to midwicket.

From there, her teammates struggled to keep up with the necessary rate and the game gradually fizzled out, with Smith (3-37) and Capsey (2-26) rattling though the tail to make sure Stars secured a bonus point win.