WOMEN’S ASHES: Come Back With Your Shield – Or On It!

By Andy Frombolton

As Sun Tzu notes in ‘The Art of War’: “A military force has no constant formation, water has no constant shape. The ability to gain victory by changing and adapting according to the opponent is called genius.”

Hence for England to have any chance in the forthcoming Women’s Ashes, team selection needs to take account of the very different skills required across the 3 formats.

Playing against a formidable opposition can bring out the best in some players; whilst for others it exposes their limits. Compare these 2 tables. (Green colouring indicates improved stats compared to performances against all other teams; red means the opposite.)

With the exception of Healy in T20s and McGrath in ODIs, the best Australian players maintain or improve their performances when playing their biggest rivals, England. (Perry’s ‘underperformance’ in ODIs means her performances against England have merely been ‘very good’, not ‘exceptional’.)

    T20 ODI
    Bat Bowl Bat Bowl
    Av SR Av SR Av SR Av ER
Healy vs England 16 103     37 96    
vs Others 28 134     37 75    
Mooney vs England 47 137     56 88    
vs Others 40 122     52 75    
Perry vs England 35 106 24 21 43 80 27 4.5
vs Others 29 115 17 19 53 57 24 4.3
McGrath vs England 186 11 10 20 63 23 4.5
vs Others 52 137 21 16 39 71 43 5.7
Schutt vs England     16 15     20 3.9
vs Others     16 16     25 4.3
    T20 ODI
    Bat Bowl Bat Bowl
    Av SR Av SR Av SR Av ER
Knight vs Australia 15 107     29 67    
vs Others 25 118     39 74    
Jones vs Australia 10 74     9 55    
vs Others 25 128     31 82    
Wyatt vs Australia 21 122     11 65    
vs Others 22 126     27 91    
Beaumont vs Australia 18 96     35 73    
vs Others 25 111     42 73    
Winfield-Hill vs Australia 15 98     12 52    
vs Others 22 110     25 61    
Sciver-Brunt vs Australia 24 106 24 19 52 87 41 5.7
vs Others 27 118 21 21 43 128 28 4.1
Cross vs Australia     53 39     57 5.2
vs Others     21 21     20 4.2
Ecclestone vs Australia     21 18     49 4.6
vs Others     14 15     18 3.4
Glenn vs Australia     17 13    
vs Others     17 17     23 4.1

Already however the England contracted players are being incrementally withdrawn from the CEC in order to prepare for the Women’s Ashes – notwithstanding that many have looked considerably undercooked in their outings and could benefit from more competitive match practice – indicating that England plans to select their various squads from this cohort over the coming contest.

Quite simply however, England cannot afford to field teams containing players whose limitations have been brutally exposed by this all-vanquishing opposition. To do so, and expect better results than last time, would be madness.

This isn’t to advocate a wholesale replacement of the centrally-contracted cohort, but – particularly in the T20 format – many lack the 360-degree batting skills, fielding agility or bowling variations which the modern game requires.

Instead, what could be achieved by a team comprising the best of the central cohort and an influx of players unburdened by past failures and inspired by an unexpected call up? (And if this team loses? There’s no more points of offer for the magnitude of a win or loss!)

This would necessitate some difficult conversations and some potentially-embarrassing outcomes if centrally-contracted players aren’t picked, but Jon Lewis has already demonstrated that he isn’t going to be bound by the decisions or selection choices of his predecessors. Nor should he feel uncomfortable if he has to go outside of the England contracted players to assemble what he deems to be his best team. This is about trying to win the Women’s Ashes, not individual egos.

Based on performances so far this year, Bess Heath, Bryony Smith, Katie Levick, Danni Gibson and Holly Armitage need to be told that if they continue to perform over the next few weeks then an England call-up awaits.

OPINION: What should a sportsperson be paid?

By Andy Frombolton

How much should Claire Fahey (the reigning and six-times Real Tennis Champion) be paid? Or a netball player in the UK Super League? Or a badminton player ranked #40 in the world?

Few readers would be surprised to learn that neither Fahey nor the netballers earn very much whilst a badminton player with a good global ranking (#33-#50) might typically make just £37k; probably rationalising that these are relatively ‘minor’ sports (in terms of popularity) and that the financial rewards available to players would obviously therefore be commensurately modest.

Which provides the starting point for this article; no one has the right to be paid for playing sport.

In life there are essential public roles like doctors, teachers, soldiers, etc. and Society determines how many of each role are needed and how ‘valuable’ each is (salary) whilst legislation enshrines equality in terms of reward for equivalent jobs.

However, for private sector roles (which includes professional sports) Society doesn’t determine how many people are engaged in any particular activity or their salaries (except a minimum salary for employees) and it’s self-evident that:

  1. a business can only employ people if it generates revenue, and
  2. the number of employees and their level of pay will be determined by the amount of revenue generated.

No one would seek to argue that the examples cited at the start of the article are ‘unfair’ – a sports body cannot distribute money it doesn’t have and players choose to participate in full knowledge of the likely rewards. Yet for more popular sports such as football, cricket and rugby much current debate about how much female sports players are (or ‘should be’) paid chooses to ignore these basic business principles and instead seeks to theorise ‘what constitutes a fair salary?’ as if this figure is independent of the revenue their sport generates.

Ignoring government grants, any sport has four possible revenue streams:

  1. fans who are willing to pay to watch the sport in person;
  2. media companies which are willing to pay for the broadcast and digital rights (the costs being recouped via subscriptions and/or advertising);
  3. sponsorship; and
  4. merchandise.

Hence the number of fans, their willingness to pay to watch the sport, and how attractive they are to advertisers and/or sponsors determines the amount of money coming into a sport and thereby establishes a cap on how much can be spent on sustaining and growing the sport (including wages for staff and players).

Premier League football is a pure manifestation of this model, albeit one which benefits massively from being an established product with a large fanbase which is attractive to certain advertisers / sponsors and whose willingness to pay is well-understood. The cricket WPL utilises the same model, although it differs in that the sums involved can only be justified on the expectation of a significant increase in the fan base and that this fan base can be monetised. The WPL investors and sponsors are thus taking significant risks regarding both the potential market and the willingness of fans to pay for a product which has hitherto been free (or very cheap). But in both cases the same fundamental business principle applies – (over time, in the case of the WPL) revenue must exceed outgoings.

Looking to examples in our everyday lives, no one would argue, for example, that a successful restaurant should cross-subsidise a less popular one and we readily accept that customers decide which establishments prosper and which fail. Similarly, we don’t expect all bands or comedians to be equally popular – fans will determine who does well. At the same time however, we might also recognise that some groups of people are over-represented in some sectors or that there are barriers to entry which means some groups are under-represented, and any just Society would want to ensure that under-represented or disadvantaged groups have the same chances to succeed. This isn’t only fair-minded, the consumer benefits too. Who wouldn’t want wider choice, more variety, new offerings? But critically the objective of any such targeted intervention cannot be ‘equality of outcome’ but ‘equality of opportunity’. Provided everyone has the same chance to be e.g., an actor or an entrepreneur then the market must ultimately be free to assign a value to people’s efforts; some restaurants will be more popular than others (not necessarily based on the quality of the food) and being a good actor doesn’t guarantee that your play will sell out if the audience prefer (based on criteria which they alone decide) to spend their money elsewhere.

Cricket is rightly concerned about ‘equality of opportunity’. If women (or e.g., some ethnic groups or people living in certain areas) haven’t previously felt that cricket was a game for them then all cricket fans should want to address this whether their motivation is acknowledging historical societal injustices, inclusion or simply wanting to maximise the number of people who enjoy the sport (playing or supporting). Regarding this final point, when there are so many activities competing for people’s time and money and the viability of many small clubs is in doubt, cricket’s survival (as both a spectator and player sport) depends in its ability to both maintain and expand its fan base.

Fans of women’s cricket, myself included, were genuinely excited by the recent WPL auctions and the potential for the best players in the world to earn serious amounts of money, but it also prompted me to question some of the arguments deployed regarding pay in the women’s game. Surely, it’s disingenuous to approve when the free market delivers an outcome I like (such as the WPL), but to argue that fundamental business principles (i.e., pay should be linked to revenue generated) aren’t relevant when they produce outcomes which I don’t?

I anticipate that some readers are ready to accuse me of positing that women players don’t deserve to be paid the same as the men or that the women’s game isn’t the ‘equal’ of the men’s game, but they should note that this article hasn’t made any reference to salaries in the men’s game or hypothesised what a fair salary might be. So far, this article has simply put forward 2 criteria for reward in any sport: firstly, that no one can expect to be paid for playing a sport unless there’s a fan base to fund them (whether directly or indirectly); and, secondly, provided that everyone has the same ‘equality of opportunity’, that the free market should subsequently determine their level of reward.

Whether you feel positive or negative at this point may well depend on the opportunities you see for the women’s game. If you view the potential fanbase for women’s cricket and the scope for revenue generation to be limited, regardless of how high the standard is or how well it’s marketed and sold, then you may not like the outcome of applying these two criteria. But, if you don’t accept that reward should be linked to popularity and revenue generation, then how do you rationalise (and accept) the differing rewards accruing to today’s top women cricketers compared to the Real Tennis world champion or a UK netballer or a top badminton player?

Alternatively, you might, like me (and, more importantly, people like the WPL franchise holders, media companies and sponsors), envisage a future where women’s cricket can develop a large fan base which is willing to pay to watch the support and which is attractive to advertisers and sponsors.

What would that take? Fundamentally it would require the women’s game to have complete financial and marketing independence – with all the associated risks and opportunities. Are the current administrators willing to accept autonomy with its corollary of accountability? At one stroke, this would serve to end all debate about how the women’s game is currently promoted and its share of co-mingled revenue. It would be for this women’s administrative body to decide the structure of the game, which formats were played, the scheduling of matches and how the game was promoted. It should also have the right to strike separate deals with broadcasters and sponsors. (The ICC is already committed to selling the rights to women’s tournaments separately, initially just in India.) The competence of this board and the quality of its decisions would solely determine the game’s ability to generate and maximise its revenue. (One point of clarification, I’m only talking about pay and reward in the professional game. Given the wider and indivisible benefits to cricket of having more people playing cricket identified earlier in this article, ‘the men’s game’ should continue funding all women’s age group and county cricket.)

Secondly, any cross reference to men’s pay would be rendered irrelevant. The women’s sport would be a stand-alone business and, within its budget, the various woman’s administrative bodies would have complete freedom to decide the structure of the game including the number of professionals and their salaries.

Instead of aping the format of the men’s competitions, they could experiment to find out what works for women’s cricket. Is there demand for weekends / festivals of women’s cricket e.g., with all 8 UK regional teams playing at one venue over the course of a weekend or a few days? What would be the market for playing two T20 internationals in a single day? Could an Anzac team or an International Development team be invited to play in the CEC or RHF (with reciprocation for player development)?

Similarly, it would a decision solely for the women’s board if, for instance, they wanted to play more Tests. Marketed differently these games might be extremely popular but, conversely, if these games needed to be subsidised (just as the men’s game subsidises their 50 over competition and even county cricket) this decision would have a direct and transparent impact on the funds available for other activities.

Perhaps a media outlet which doesn’t currently show cricket (e.g., Facebook or Amazon) might seek the rights? Or new sponsors and advertisers might emerge who value the potentially-different demographics of the fan base? One of the manufacturers of cricket equipment might see an opportunity to take a large share of the growing women’s market. Perhaps the women’s administrators or players might decide to take an ethical stand regarding e.g., betting sponsors? Could a co-operative structure work whereby players owned tournaments and kept all the profits?

Notwithstanding the day-to-day separation of the women’s and men’s games, there’d remain both a need and a benefit for men’s and women’s administrative bodies to work closely together on issues of synergistic or mutual concern. Arrangements like double-headers should still continue; the hosts benefitting from spectators spending more time at the ground and the women’s game enjoying the greater exposure (although there’d need to be data-driven discussions regarding sharing of ticket receipts – something which, to date, the ECB has shown no desire to empirically quantify).

Obviously, there’d need to be a transition period for the women’s game to prepare for the new arrangements (and for extant media deals to expire), but the fundamental question is ‘does the women’s game want to assume responsibility for its destiny?’

The opportunity exists to create a business model which provides excellent salaries for professional players and which can sustain the necessary pyramid of talent. Women’s sport shouldn’t be sold or marketed as an hors d’oeuvre for the ‘main’ (male) event or ‘double the airtime’ for a few dollars more. This devalues the sport and the players whilst entrenching the conditions for irritation and lingering resentment. (If budgets are squeezed in the future, the situation might arise where ‘the men’s game’ starts to question the equity of the current arrangements?) Surely, now is the time to devolve as much responsibility as possible to the male and female formats.

It is pure speculation what the end result would be. Done well, there is undoubtedly a scenario where regional professionals could be paid more and the top players considerably more. Conversely, it might transpire that the game cannot support the current structure and a different arrangement is required. But wouldn’t it better if the outcome was in the hands of a dedicated body whose only focus and ambition was for the success of women’s cricket?

OPINION: WPL Predictions – Expect A Lot Of Surprises!

By Andy Frombolton

When the men’s IPL launched, it was bringing a new product (T20) to a large existing (fanatical) market, whereas the WIPL is the complete opposite i.e. it’s bringing a recognised product to a small established fanbase (with the expectation that interest and demand can be grown). 

So, whilst launching the IPL wasn’t without risks (only KKR made money in the first few years), the IPL investors could look to other countries (the English and Australian T20 competitions) for reassurance that existing fans could be won over to the new format. As to finances, franchise owners were guaranteed their share of the central revenue (broadcast and tournament sponsorship) which could be supplemented by prize money and local revenue (share of ticket sales, merchandise and team sponsorship). Hence, there was a shared common objective to ensure the tournament’s success (thereby growing the shared revenue pool), and a franchise-level objective to assemble a successful team to both maximise your chances of securing prize money and also engender supporter loyalty for the new teams.

The WPL therefore faces slightly different challenges with its far-lower starting point in terms of fanbase, and considerably more uncertainty regarding the size of the future market. Data from the US, the UK and Europe shows steadily-building viewing figures as more women’s sport is broadcast, but extrapolating recent growth to make forecasts about future audiences is perilous. Will consumers of women’s sport be as dedicated / obsessive as many followers of men’s sport are? Will male viewers prove as willing to watch women’s sport as women are men’s (particularly if there’s an alternative men’s game to watch)? And most important of all, will the Asian market behave in the same way? 

In the UK, some reporting has adopted an almost romanticised view of the franchise owners’ motives – as though they’re driven by a deep love of women’s cricket. The reality, of course, is that they are business people, not philanthropists, who seek to monetise an under-exploited market. (If they thought they could make more money developing women’s football then that’s where they’d be investing all their money.)

So whilst it’s fun for we writers in the UK to draw up fantasy team lists comprising our favourite players and blithely assume that the same names will be on each owner’s ‘wish list’, their decisions won’t be driven by reputation or affection but solely by facts, data and risk/return analysis. 

We also need to recognise how unimportant we (English fans) are to the project’s success. Looking at viewing figures for the 2020 IPL, the domestic Indian TV audience for the opening game was 200 million, whilst the UK audience averaged 168,000 and peaked at 234,000. At approximately 1% of viewing figures, UK interest in the IPL is both a statistical and financial irrelevance (with Australian, South African and New Zealand viewing figures even less so), and there’s no rationale to believe that the WIPL will be any different. The only market which really matters is the Indian market. And next will be target markets which are perceived to offer far greater growth potential such as Bangladesh and Thailand, and beyond them South America, USA and eventually China.

Consequently, for these 2 reasons, we may be over-estimating how many international players are going to be involved. 

There are only 3 reasons to have overseas players in your domestic team: 

  1. Performance. An overseas player is considerably better than any domestic equivalent. These are your premium players. 

    However, having internationals plugging the gaps simply perpetuates current weaknesses and the BCCI will be keen that the WIPL develops talent for the national team. Any recruitment will come with an expectation that teams rapidly develop domestic replacements for future seasons.
  2. Star quality / totemic. A player whose star appeal / marketing impact goes beyond the objective value of their on-field performances.

    Although there are many players who current fans might deem ‘greats of the game’, they are largely unknown to the new target audience. However, starting from a low recognition point also brings benefits, as teams can shape who gets to become a new hero. Consequently, relatable players (“I want to be her” (cricket skills) or “I want to be like her” (image, life style)) might find themselves selected above players with better stats, simply because of their potential marketing appeal to the domestic (Indian) market.
  3. Strategic signings. Would the level of interest in any country increase in proportion to the number of players selected? On the one hand, it’s unlikely that UK interest would increase dramatically if there were e.g. 10 English players involved instead of 5, yet having e.g. 2 Thai players involved could mean the difference between ‘no interest’ and ‘significant interest’ in that market. Canny teams with an eye on the future may therefore pick more than one associate player.

Quite simply, the WIPL launch doesn’t need overseas players in the same way that the IPL did. Most of the new target audience doesn’t know much about women’s cricket and even less about most of the individual players. Also, the tournament is short and hence teams don’t need much contingency for injury or rotation.

Therefore, just because each franchise is allowed a maximum of 6 overseas players from the ‘established’ nations, my prediction is that the sensible ones won’t recruit that many. Why pay for 6 when you could instead pay a premium to guarantee getting your 4 priority international players, whilst also paying your domestic and associate players more (thereby engendering their loyalty)? Assuming they remain fit, these 4 will play every game – so why pay 2 internationals to carry drinks? And if a team really felt that it needed another international player they could still stick to this basic strategy and recruit a ‘cheap’ proven player (such as a Tess Flintoff or Tara Norris), who could ‘do a job’ if required but would recognise the career benefits of simply being ‘in and around’ the tournament. Moreover, having now seen the reserve prices for the shortlisted players, it’s reasonable to predict that many have simply priced themselves out of contention – especially if there’s a bidding war for some of the top players which leaves a smaller-than-planned budget to complete the squad.

Also, making money on the WIPL requires teams to build brand loyalty which is greatly facilitated by having the same international players return each year. Unfortunately, this might work against older players (however talented). 

So, what types of players are best placed to win contracts?

To win games, you need to put big scores on the board, but only 10 batters strike consistently at >120 at international level, of whom only 2 are Indian (Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma). There are then 11 batters who strike at 110-120, of whom only 1 (Jemimah Rodrigues) is Indian. So, any team would want 2 of the top 8 non-Indian strikers and might consider a third player from the second group if they also bring something with the ball, keep wicket or are a dynamic fielder.

Similarly, teams need bowlers with the proven capability to remove the best batters, since if you take out a team’s top 3-4 batters it becomes almost irrelevant who the next batters are (since none of them score at much more than SR100). 

In women’s cricket, slow bowlers are generally more economical than faster ones, but with respect to strike bowlers no single ‘type’ of bowling dominates – it’s all about the individual. And a quick deep dive quickly differentiates which bowlers routinely take out the best batters and whose figures are flattered by ‘cheap’ lower-order wickets. 

My ‘Top 20’ internationals (who gets picked after this depends which teams secure the services of these players): 

Premium Prestige

(I’m assuming Harmanpreet Kaur, Mandhana and Deepti Sharma will captain 3 of the franchises)

  • E. Perry (captain)
  • S. Devine (captain)


  • B. Mooney (wk)
  • A. Healy (wk)
  • D. Wyatt
  • G. Harris
  • A. Jones (wk)
  • S. Dunkley
  • A. Capsey


  • G. Wareham
  • M. Schutt
  • S. Ecclestone
  • S. Glenn
  • D. Brown


  • D. Dottin
  • A. Kerr
  • T. McGrath
  • A. Gardner
  • C. Tryon
  • H. Matthews

And if I was selecting a team …?

  • Wyatt (SR 125, no weakness against any type of bowling, great outfielder)
  • Mooney (SR 125, superb fielder but should keep wicket)
  • Dottin (batting SR 123, also ‘top 10’ strike bowler)
  • Ecclestone (superb bowling SR, equally effective at any stage of an innings, massively-undervalued batter)
  • (Associate) Chantham (Thailand) 

Auction day is going to be a fascinating day!

FROM THE FUTURE: 2023 T20 World Cup Final – Report

By our time-travelling contributor Andy Frombolton

The competition for the right to play Australia in the 2023 T20 World Cup Final went pretty much as predicted.

Most of the teams enjoyed some pre-tournament practice; although the quality varied significantly and didn’t test the stronger teams. England came into the series having defeated Hayley Matthews before Christmas, whilst NZ similarly dispatched Bangladesh; Australia saw off Pakistan and most recently South Africa played West Indies and India. The results of these various series seemed to merely confirm the obvious power hierarchy with the losing opposition probably gaining far more from these games than the largely-untested victors. Again, nothing in the friendlies or the warm-up games alluded to a shifting in the rankings and provided little scope for experimentation. As with all the various pre-tournament series, it was disappointing how often the weaker teams (whether by their choice or insertion) batted first in these games; meaning many batters started the tournament seriously short of match practice.

Beyond the actual results, observers may perhaps look back at this tournament for 3 reasons.

Firstly, it constituted the moment when (hopefully) the administrators of Australian, English and Indian women’s cricket finally realised that it’s not much fun (nor is it helpful for the development of the international game) playing countries who simply aren’t very good and, more to the point, which have little prospect of becoming much better in the near future unless ‘The Big 3’ seize the initiative to help them improve by funding player exchanges, loaning them coaches and giving them lots of quality match practice . including low key series against development squads. There were far too many mismatches – to the point where some opined that, having so long sought a wider audience for the women’s game, this tournament may have done as much harm as good with many fans left disappointed at the standard of cricket and the cynics feeling validated.

Secondly, it was also the last tournament played before the advent of the WIPL when the whole world was to change for a small number of players. With the potential for life-changing amounts to be earned, it was perhaps inevitable that this impacted some performances; often imperceptibly, always unconsciously. But who could blame a player in possible contention for a WIPL contract for not throwing themselves quite so vigorously around on the boundary to save a couple of runs (with the resultant risk of injury) if the result was not going to be impacted or if a batter chasing a low target was possibly more focussed on scoring runs for themselves than taking risks to win the game early? Some even suggested (without any proof) that this was why, contra to previous tournaments, so many of the major teams elected to bat first because inserting the opposition and dismissing them for a low score wouldn’t leave much opportunity for batters to impress the WIPL selectors.

Thirdly, there was a significant shift in the level of analysis and scrutiny which performances were subject to. Suddenly, there was a lot more data available and opposition teams were using it – with the consequence that life suddenly became much harder for many players. The truly good players serenely carried on being very good, but many others were found out. Who knew Player X simply couldn’t score once you cut off her 2 best shots? Now, every batter knows that bowler Y changes their run-up when they bowl their googly (and that it’s usually short). And “there’s always 2 to Player Z” because they have a weak throw. More was expected of players generically, in respect of general athleticism and skills, and the commentators were more willing to call out any instances which fell beneath the new higher benchmarks. Many players relished the chance to showcase their skills, but not all coped well under the new regime.

The group stages went very much as expected – a series of mismatched games between the Big 5 and the rest. (Or, to better recognise the relative status of the teams, … “between ‘The Big 1’, ‘The Next 2’, and ‘Numbers 4 and 5‘ and the rest”.) The other teams played with conviction, spirit and enjoyed moments which hinted at their potential, but unfortunately many games didn’t make for riveting viewing.

In Group A there was the question of whether South Africa or New Zealand would take second place; a question answered in their head-to-head when the Kiwis, several of their veterans seemingly inspired by the prospect of what might possibly be their last outing on the world stage, dispatched a spirited South African team desperately missing DvN’s captaincy nous, lacking the necessary spinning options and missing the batting power to chase down NZ’s impressive total built on the back of Devine’s brutal 80 at a SR of 150. In the wooden spoon game Bangladesh thrashed Sri Lanka to underpin how far standards have fallen there (and also how much Bangladesh had improved).

In Group B, whilst there was never any real doubt which teams would take the top 2 slots, both India and England still managed those moments of fallibility which so exasperates fans and commentators alike. Playing their first 2 games at Boland Park, several England batters took advantage of the ball travelling further in the thin air to clear the ropes, albeit against inexperienced and variable bowling attacks. Neither game did much to prepare the team for the challenges of facing a more skilful Indian attack.

India meanwhile ruthlessly dispatched Pakistan and West Indies, their batters similarly taking advantage of the small boundaries and poor fielding.

Come the India v England match at Gqeberha (formerly Port Elisabeth), England fielded a batting-heavy team, won the toss, chose to bat first and swiftly found themselves reduced to 25-4; three of the batters failing to clear the ropes at sea level as they’d done at Boland Park. It took some slow but skilful rebuilding by the middle order and some late bludgeoning by K Sciver-Brunt and Ecclestone to get England to what still looked like a severely below-par score. However, as everyone knows, it’s bowling attacks which win T20s, not batters, and fortunately all England’s bowlers utilised the conditions well with Amy Jones standing up to the stumps to everyone, inducing first frustration and then mistakes from Mandhana and Kaur. England scraped home by 8 runs.

England being England, they then nearly made a complete mess of chasing 110 in their final group match against Pakistan but still ended atop of Group B.

The 2 semi-finals – as is so often the case in global tournaments – constituted the best 2 games of the whole tournament.

England versus NZ was a probably the best game of all. The 2 teams had already met recently in 3 friendlies and 1 warm up, so each knew everything about the other’s strengths and weaknesses. With Knight forced to sit the game out following some inflammation to her hip, England found themselves unexpectedly captained, not by official vice captain Sciver-Brunt, but by Ecclestone – coach Jon Lewis demonstrating his willingness to move on from the previous regime. Denied their preference to bat first, England deployed surprise tactics and opened with spin at both ends and at the end of the powerplay NZ were just 30-2 with Bates and Kerr both back in the dugout. Excited pundits urged England to press home their advantage given NZ’s lack of batting depth, using Dunkley’s occasional part-time spin if necessary, but rather than continue with what had worked, Ecclestone seemed to lose her confidence in the tactic and brought on N. Sciver-Brunt and Bell in the middle overs. Pace on the ball was what Green and Devine had wanted with the small outfield and the following 10 overs was carnage as NZ reached 120-3 off 16. A couple of missed half-chances and some targeting of England’s 5th / 6th bowlers didn’t help and 150 or even 160 looked a distinct possibility. However, the (with hindsight) inspired decision to deploy the rarely-used Danni Wyatt to bowl the 17th over saw 2 wickets fall and Ecclestone and Cross closed out the innings with tight bowling which was too good for the NZ middle order.

141 was still a tough target though and things looked bleak when England lost 2 wickets in the first 3 overs (Wyatt again caught on the boundary and Capsey not making it home for a sharp second run). Thereafter Dunkley and N. Sciver-Brunt settled the nerves and kept up with the run rate until the 14th over whereafter 4 wickets fell for just 7 runs and it took Dean, seizing her chance in Knight’s absence, to smash 18 off 5 balls and see England home with 1 ball to spare.

In the other semi-final, India provided Australia with a huge scare. 3 wickets in the powerplay saw Australia’s middle order – so rarely tested in the past 2 years – required to deliver. Watched on by Grace Harris, cursed to have been born in the only country where she and her sister wouldn’t be permanent fixtures in the national squad, Mooney, Perry and Gardener delivered a masterclass in manoeuvring the bowling and sharp running. Australia’s 172-5 looked formidable, but fans who’d watched Australia’s pre-Christmas tour where India had twice scored more than 180 batting second knew that this Indian team wouldn’t think this total was beyond them especially if the Madhana-Kaur show came to town.

After 6 overs, India’s score stood at 72-0. Australia had already used 5 bowlers and looked bereft of ideas. They’d used 9 bowlers in the 3rd T20 against Pakistan and similarly-desperate tactics looked on the cards. However, as if written in the stars, Healey then took an incredible diving catch down the left to dimiss Mandhana, a riposte to those arguing that Mooney should have the gloves to make space for Harris, and thereafter Australia wrestled back control; India falling just 4 short when, after 2 warnings, Brown ran out Sharma for backing up too far off the final ball. (The English media loved this moment, accompanying the photo with the sub-editor’s witty caption ‘Karma for Sharma’.)

The Final saw Knight fit again and another sign that she and Jon Lewis were willing to make tough decisions with the dropping of Amy Jones whose keeping hadn’t been to her very-high standards for much of the tournament (which had seemingly impacted her confidence and thus her contributions with the bat ). Awarding the gloves to Winfield-Hill was the right decision for the moment and Jon Lewis tactfully declined to comment on anything to do with central contracts awarded before his appointment.

England won the toss and, having noted how the pitches got easier to play on in the SA20 as the day wore on, elected to field even though this would require them to chase, something they’d tended to avoid whenever possible in the previous few years.

Returning captain Knight chose not to replicate Ecclestone’s successful run-stifling-spin tactics and the openers started as Australia meant to go. 5 boundaries came from the first 2 overs – and no dot balls. Mooney (the ‘best player in the world’ if stats took proper account of fielding contributions) and Healey quickly induced several pieces of ragged fielding by alternating ‘walloping the ball’ with ‘tip and run’ and it took a great piece of fielding by Bouchier to run out Mooney. Luckily, England had picked 3 spinners for the final and this trio of England spinners, complemented by the routinely-(self)-under-deployed Knight, wrestled back a degree of control.

Still at the half way stage 167-6 looked a very good score on a wicket demonstrating variable bounce, and so it transpired to be.

168 equates to a SR of 140 and unfortunately England have only 1 batter with a proven ability to strike above 120 – Wyatt. To Wyatt, Brown came round the wicket, bowling full on her pads with the 6-3 offside field denied her any value for her shots again and again. For the other batters, Lanning revealed her ‘mind games’ masterstroke, bringing every fielder except 1 inside the inner circle to create a sneering ring of encroaching fielders. Denied the opportunity to take sharp singles and not able to go over the ring, runs dried up. After 10 overs, England were just 49-4; two skied shots, a terrible mix-up and a stumping (some maintained it should have been deemed ‘a run-out’ so far was the desperate batter down the wicket) accounting for the wickets. With the run rate over 12, the outcome was already decided but Lanning went for the kill bowling King and Gardner for 8 straight overs in tandem. The end, when it came, saw England all out for 112 with in the 18th over.

Australia thus retained the T20 world cup for the third time in a row whilst the 2nd, 3rd and 4th places broadly confirmed what everyone knew before the competition started. Australia are deserved and indisputable world champions (and their A side would have a good chance of being #2), India has leapt above England to warrant the #2 position, England are a potent side but lacking batting firepower, whilst South Africa and NZ have both peaked (for now).

So, ‘Well played Australia’, well done England and ‘Look out, world!’ for India’s star is in the ascendancy.

OPINION: An ‘Alternative Universe’ England T20 Team

By Andy Frombolton

Following the announcement of the England T20 squad, my mind turns to a possible counterfactual universe.

Several members of the current England squad enjoyed a considerable run in the team before eventually repaying the selectors’ faith; whilst conversely, more recently, a significant number of players have been picked and subsequently jettisoned without being given a decent run to prove (or disprove) the wisdom of their selection.

As we approach the T20 World Cup, I thought therefore it might be fun to choose a team of uncapped players who – had they been picked several years ago and given similar opportunities – might now be mainstays of the England T20 squad. I mused with a ‘less than 10 caps’ cut-off point as I’d like to have been able to pick both the Smiths (Bryony and Linsey), but the final selection criterion is binary, i.e. a player cannot have played a single match for England to be considered.

In picking the team, I also sought to address some of the weaknesses evident in many national squads, such as the lack of top-order left hand batters and too many weak fielders. 

I’ve also chosen not to be bound by conventional team structures; meaning, for instance, that my team only has 1 opening quick bowler since there wasn’t an obvious second option with good enough stats to justify their inclusion. 

But the team does have an incredible 10 genuine bowling options including 2 leggies (Levick and Armitage), 2 offies (Morris and Adams), plus Kelly’s ambidextrous offerings; ideal considering that the vast majority of batters, even at international level, score far more slowly off slow bowling. The team bats down to 9 with the option to use Gibson and/or Norris as sacrificial opening pinch-hitters, meaning Adams may need to drop herself down the batting order if the innings gets off to a good start.

The XI:

  • Eve Jones
  • Bess Heath (wk)
  • Georgia Adams (capt)
  • Aylish Cranstone
  • Marie Kelly
  • Holly Armitage
  • Dani Gibson
  • Naomi Dattani
  • Fi Morris
  • Tara Norris
  • Katie Levick

“In counterfactual history, nothing is certain” (Robert Dallek).

Did I overlook any obvious candidates (and who then gets left out)? Conversely who should I have left out (and who gets their place instead)? Share your thoughts!

WBBL08: Lessons Learnt and Trends – Everything Else

Part 3 of 3 in a series reflecting on WBBL08 by guest writer Andy Frombolton

Who gives a (bat) flip?

Received wisdom is that batting second in T20s constitutes a considerable advantage. However this presumes that teams are good at chasing. And also that team strengths are broadly equivalent .

What’s the WBBL data when teams win the toss?

Thus on average teams win half the time whether they bat first or second but behind the headline figures are some big differences by team in terms of strategy and success. For example, in 2022, Renegades won the toss 7x, fielded 7x and lost 5x, whilst Stars won the toss 9x and fielded first every time (3 wins, 3 losses, 3 NR).

If any team displays a strong preference, it’s fairly obvious what the oppositon is going to do when they win the toss. Also, if a team’s whole strategy is built e.g. around chasing, how will they ever develop their ability to post a score?

Most interesting is Sixers’ transformation from the least-successful flippers to the best. In contrast, Scorchers went from winning every game when they won they toss last year to losing two-thirds in 2022!

The bat flip doesn’t really make much of a difference – the best teams tend to win whether they bat or bowl first and vice versa.


Professionalism will invariably decrease the viability of someone being an all-rounder since to be a world-class batter or bowler will require specialism for all but the most gifted.

Hence genuine all-rounders will be increasingly rare and conversely desirable in team selections.

How many players make it into the top 25 lists (most runs and most wickets), and who are they? Some of the answers may surprise …

Long term presence Devine had a poor season – a SR of less than 100 (compared to a usual 128+) and just 8 wickets. McGrath just missed out on batting honours (26th) but injury precluded her bowling as much as previous years.

Knight (2020), like Edwards and Root before her as England captains, has tended to underbowl herself. It’ll be interesting to see whether she bowls even less after her hip-surgery which would be a great shame since she’s an (undervalued) all-rounder.

Career resurrections – Perry and Healy

Going into this tournament the T20 careers of both these great players looked like they were in terminal decline when you looked at their WBBL performances. Perry didn’t make the CWG squad but found some form in The Hundred, whereas Healy’s miserable WBBL07 form continued right through until this tournament.

(2022 stats include all T20s for Australia and The Hundred)

Beyond the treat for all cricket fans of seeing these two on the world stage for a bit longer than they might have feared, the broader message is that older players can adapt their games for the modern game.

As discussed in Part 1 Perry, Jonassen and Kapp are great examples of how many older players could be much better deployed in the middle/late overs using their great game experience to pace and judge the innings and with the freedom to play which this new role could bring.

Wicket-keeping standards

In the women’s T20 game, keeping is as much about keeping batters in their crease as taking stumpings but far too few keepers appeared confident in going up to the stumps for the medium pacers. Healy (and previously Sarah Taylor) repeatedly showed how it limits many batters’ options.

Overall though too few of the keepers are athletes – tending to remain fairly static and waiting for a return over the top of the stumps. Keepers need to ‘own’ the area behind them 20 degrees either side of the stumps and whilst comparisons with the men’s game aren’t always relevant in this instance there’s no reason why the best women keeper can’t emulate the standards of the best male keepers who regularly beat fielders not wearing pads to snicks and tickles heading for the boundary.

Heaven help the opposition when Australia finally select the Harris siblings

Their stats say it all.

Is there any other country where Laura Harris wouldn’t be in the national team by now?

Pedestrian powerplays

The average figures were:

  • 23.9 for 1 wicket 1st innings
  • 23.6 for 1.1 wickets 2nd innings

In the first innings, 6 of the teams hovered around the average. Sixers were the only team with a materially better average PP (27) and Thunder the only team with a materially worse average PP (20).

In the second innings the stats were slightly more spread out, Hurricanes and Thunder both had materially better average PP (28). Heat had a materially worse average PP (19). But the surprising outlier in all the data was Sixers with an average PP of just 16!

Overall, these figures are far too low. The PP should be the launchpad for the innings but as discussed the batters either don’t have the skills (or feel they can take the risk) to take on the bowlers and take advantage of the fielding restrictions. The answer is simple – either the current batters need to change their mindset or teams need to deploy different openers.

And finally … the ultimate TFC

In the shorter format there will inevitably be squad members who don’t get the opportunity to do much with the bat or ball, but one player’s figures stood out above all others this year. Angelina Genford of the Sixers: 15 matches, 3 innings, 7 balls, 4 runs and 3 separate bowling spells totalling 4-0-36-1.


WBBL08: Lessons Learnt and Trends – Bowling

Part 2 of 3 in a series reflecting on WBBL08 by guest writer Andy Frombolton

Teams posting 140 or less lose 3/4 of their games. Hence any bowling attack which can regularly restrict the opposition to this figure will win the vast majority of games. Chasing down 140 requires a collective SR of just over 110 (well within the capability of even the most pedestrian batting line up) whereas restricting teams to such a low total is much harder.

Hence this article posits that when assembling a team the priority should be securing the best bowling unit.

This is the total opposite of what happens today, with teams competing for the best domestic and international batting talent and generally being far less interested in ‘pure’ bowlers (especially overseas bowlers). The other noticeable theme is how many uncapped players feature in each year’s Top 25 wicket takers list (or conversely how often ‘marquee’ names disappoint).


* as of the relevant season

So, who were this year’s highest wicket takers?

What then constitutes a good bowling unit?

The first point is that, as noted above and unlike batting, international bowlers often don’t deliver the sort of performances expected. The stats are damning – in the past 5 seasons only 4 international bowlers (as opposed to all-rounders) have made it into the table of ‘Top 25 wicket takers’ (Tahuhu 2018, Glenn and Ismail 2020, Ecclestone 2022) (And Ecclestone should be an all-rounder!). So unless a team can secure the services of one of the top 3-4 overseas bowlers in the world the evidence suggests they’d be better off saving their money.

Equally interesting are the Economy Rates (ERs). Shouldn’t the ‘best’ bowlers have better ERs than the other bowlers? In fact, the ERs of the top 20 wicket takers, the next 20, and of all other bowlers are virtually the same and converging. In the past 3 years, the best bowlers are going for slightly more runs, the ‘change’ bowlers are holding steady and the bits’n’pieces bowlers are bowling less but becoming more economical.

Running counter to the men’s T20 game (where slow bowlers dominate the best ER tables and faster bowlers the best SR tables) the 2 best* (*rationale follows) bowling attacks in this year’s tournament (Adelaide Strikers and Brisbane Heat) employed very different approaches.

Adelaide Strikers: Schutt (fast), Wellington (slow), Barsby (slow), D Brown (fast) and Dottin (fast medium).

Of these, the hitherto-unspectacular Barsby was a revelation and is additionally interesting for being one of the new breed of ambidextrous slow bowlers (her occasional left arm accounting for Alice Capsey in one game).

Brisbane Heat: Jonassen (slow), Hancock (medium), A Kerr (slow) and Sippel (medium).

More important seemingly than the composition of the attack is that bowlers know their role and learn to bowl as a unit, which is what makes Adelaide Strikers truly unique – their 5 main bowlers bowled 92.6% of their overs i.e., the same 5 players bowled their full complement of overs in virtually every game. The closest analogy I can think of is the all-conquering Gloucestershire men’s side of the early 1990s. Similarly Heat had 4 bowlers who delivered 72.1% of their overs. Contrast this to Sixers whose core 3 bowlers always bowled their full allotment (59.4% of overs) but the bulk of the balance was shared between 4 bowlers. Sixers might counter that their approach demonstrated flexibility and greater depth in their bowling attack.

This is another area where performances in the women and men’s game diverge and hence so should tactics. In the men’s game, the best way to slow down the run rate is to get the top batters out (such is the difference in the SR of the top 4 batters compared to the next 4) which means teams need strike bowlers to perform this role (their ER being of less concern), but in women’s cricket (as discussed in the previous article) overall batting SRs are lower and hence dismissing a top batter has less impact (quantum) on a team’s eventual score.

Thus if bowling SR was the key determinant of an opposition’s score then Sixers might have a claim to have the most penetrative bowling unit. Sixers have 5 of the 23 bowlers (≥5 wickets) with a SR<20 with all the other teams having 3 (except Renegades which had 0, which perhaps explains why they conceded the 1st, 2nd and 4th highest scores in this year’s tournament).

But if instead keeping the run rate down is the priority, then a team needs a bowling attack able to do this consistently in all scenarios. Strikers’ top 4 bowlers had a combined ER of 6.4; far better than any other team and only once did a team batting first get on top of them (Stars’ 186, 3rd highest score of this season), otherwise they conceded 4 scores in the range 151-154 and 4 in the range (101-114). And when defending Strikers never got hit for more than 139.

Based on consistency and dependability, Strikers were the best bowling team and thus deserved champions.

The silver bowling award goes to Heat who bowled well in the first innings (only once conceding more than 140) but conceded more than 156 four times bowling second. It was their potential to wilt under pressure (not helped by some poor fielding at key moments) which cost them games.

Sixers also got hit for above par scores five times (three times bowling first and twice bowling second, although they went on to win 4 of these games so could contend this was ultimately irrelevant. The counter argument is that no team, however good their batting line-up, can afford to concede these sort of scores.) Equally telling was the three times they got taken apart in the death overs and only clinched victory each time courtesy of some equally-brutal hitting in their final overs. (Game 1, Heat hit the last 2 overs for 18. Sixers hit 19 off 11 balls; Game 42, Scorchers hit 22 off the last 2 overs, Sixers hit 23 off 12 balls; and Game 49, Heat hit 37 off the last 2 overs (and 47 off the last 3) and Sixers hit 28 (and 41). Hence their honourable bronze position in these bowling awards.

In concluding, what therefore would be the perfect bowling attack look like?

Look again at the list of top wicket takers. The stats say it all. Slow bowlers dominate the wicket-taking tables – 8 of the top 10 (with a collective ER of 6.7 and a SR of 15).


So team selection should start with a fielding set up capable of supporting your bowlers – a superb keeper and a minimum of three fielders who are great in the deep (trading a degree of run scoring ability for fielding prowess if necessary).

You need a fast bowler? Schutt, D Brown, Sippel or Strano. No other fast bowler has appeared in the Top 25 for 2 years in a row so you’re just taking a gamble on any other selection having a good year.

Add 1 all-rounder (more on that subject in the third article)

And finally 3 slow bowlers (or even 4 so you don’t even need to play your fast bowler when conditions don’t suit).

And then pick some batters!

WBBL08: Lessons Learnt and Trends – Batting

Part 1 of 3 in a series reflecting on WBBL08 by guest writer Andy Frombolton

The average 1st innings score in this year’s WBBL (in complete games) was 145, up slightly on 2021 (137).

Teams posting 144 or more in the first innings won 22/29 times whilst teams scoring 160 or more won 14/16. But the distribution of above-par 1st innings scores was highly skewed – only 3 teams managed it more than twice: Heat (7 wins from 8); Sixers (6 wins from 7); and, Hurricane (3 wins from 5). In contrast champions Adelade Strikers never posted more than 147 but defended 4 scores in the range 140-147 (twice against the Sixers) and their highest score in 6 successful chases was only 156.

The most obvious conclusion is that it’s bowling units which win games, not batters. Nevertheless batters are the focus of this first article.

There were 24 first innings scores of 150 or more (compared to 17 last season) but more interesting is who’s scoring the bulk of these runs. Intuitively you might imagine it would be the players with international experience – and this certainly used to be the case.


Slowly, uncapped players are being given, and are seizing, their opportunities. Disappointingly however this cohort (extensively coached in power hitting and 360 degree shot making) isn’t having the impact on run rates which might have been expected.

Top 25 run scorers WBBL 2022

(Orange – Australian former and current Internationals. Blue – former and current Overseas Internationals)

With the exception of Laura Harris, the uncapped batters are scoring their runs at about the same rate as the international players they’re incrementally displacing.

2022 RUNS 6511 4274 3109
% RUNS 47% 31% 22%
SR 119 110 102
2021 RUNS 7301 3560 2231
% 56% 27% 17%
SR 116 103 95
2020 RUNS 6844 3383 2070
% 56% 28% 17%
SR 115 101 97
2019 RUNS 8457 4063 2497
% 56% 27% 17%
SR 121 108 101
2018 RUNS 7805 4452 2853
% 52% 29% 19%
SR 124 109 100

Most teams pack their top order with dependable batters who can be relied upon to get their team to the sort of total which will win most games (144 this year, as noted earlier).

But 144 only requires a collective SR of around 112 (assuming 10 extras per innings).

So, if you’re a former international or a fringe player seeking to secure a WBBL or Hundred contract why take risks trying to score more quickly – even against weaker bowling attacks – when a pedestrian 112 will be seen as a good innings? With this attitude team scores aren’t going to grow.

In their defence, the top order could cite some statistics which seemingly justify their cautious approach:

Bat Result % runs (off the bat) scored by batters 1-4
1st Win 75.00%
Lose 53.00%
2nd Win 77.00%
Lose 54.00%

This seems to suggest that the team won’t win unless the top order scores the bulk of the runs. But a lot of these victories batting second were in pursuit of low scores and hence inflate the average contribution of the top order. Watching teams slowly overhaul below-par scores was a scenario seen far too often this tournament.

More relevant then is to see how the top batters cope when presented with a more challenging target. If you take the average of a team’s 3 highest first innings scores as an indicator of what they’re capable of when they play well (‘batting potential’, ‘BP’) there were only 11 occasions (in full length games) when teams exceeded their BP batting second and only 4 times did this result in a victory.

The conclusion is that most teams simply don’t know how to chase anything above an average score – primarily because their top order is full of established players playing ‘old fashioned’ cricket. Powerplays are squandered and acceleration is too slow; leaving the middle/lower order batters too much to do if the top order fail.

Comparisons to men’s cricket aren’t usually helpful, but sometimes they can serve to shine a light on issues. Looking at 2021 Blast data, the average SR for the top 4 run scorers in each team was 141, 128 for the next 4 and 113 for the rest. This raises two questions: Firstly, why aren’t the best women batters able to achieve SRs more akin to the best men batters (Mandhana and Wyatt dispel any argument that physical size is the primary explanation) and, secondly, why are the tails so long? If batters 6 onwards can barely strike at 100, then it’s little wonder than the top order batters in most teams play so cautiously (knowing that if they fail, their teams have little chance of success).

Let’s look at this year’s (4 over) Powerplays. The average PP (both innings) was 24; equivalent to a SR100 (with only 2 fielders out). That’s not good enough.

Consider 6 hitting. There were 235 6s hit in this year’s competition but just 13 batters accounted for half of them. 46 batters didn’t hit a single 6 (including 4 of the top 25 run scorers) whilst a further 16 hit just 1 (including another 3 of the top 25 runs scorers). This means that 7 of the top 25 most prolific run scorers can’t clear the ropes. Perhaps they don’t take the aerial route? Well, 8 of the 25 (including 5 internationals) score less than 50% of their runs in boundaries – which is the average for the top 85 batters!

Why is this important? Because boundaries win games. In comparison the number of singles has barely any impact. (The same hold true in the men’s game.) The one exception was the Sixer’s (record) 66 singles to beat Hurricanes despite scoring 5 fewer boundaries. Next best (65) helped propel Stars to an truly-underwhelming 114 against the same opposition!

In this year’s WBBL, 42 of the 52 full length games were won by the team which equalled or hit more boundaries than the opposition. (Regarding the other 10 games, in 4 of these the winning team only hit 1 less boundary.)

The players who can hit boundaries are coming in too late, with too much to do.

Kudos then to the handful of players in the top 25 run scorers with a SR>120 and a boundary % greater than 55%.

L Harris 270 22.5 205 84.00%
A Gardner 339 28.25 151 63.00%
EA Burns 295 32.77 145 63.00%
DN Wyatt 263 20.23 129 64.00%
A Capsey 259 25.9 129 58.00%
AJ Healy 330 25.38 125 60.00%
BL Mooney 434 43.4 121 57.00%
EA Perry 408 40.8 120 56.00%

The stand out names? Harris, Gardner and Perry; because they bat down the order after the top order have chewed up lots of balls (scoring slowly).

Looking outside the top 25 runs scorers provides a vision of a different future. There were 6 other batters with more than 75 runs and a SR above 120:

PLAYER SR Boundary % Av BF per innings
Flintoff 166 60.00% 10
Brown 162 67.00% 11
Ecclestone 159 56.00% 9
Kapp 143 66.00% 16
Jonassen 135 49.00% 9
Johnston 123 68.00% 7

How then to hit bigger scores? The starting point has to be to differentiate between scoring rates which are capped by a player’s skill levels and those which derive from the position they bat (top 4 dependency).

The (few) international top order batters who can take advantage of the powerplay must open, but partnered by players with defined roles to take on the bowlers and the limit on out fielders. ‘Success’ has to be to be measured in terms of SR, not average. Imagine the team willing to open with batters like Laura Harris (batting for 4 overs with field restrictions instead of just 2 during the ‘Surge’), Flintoff or Ecclestone with complete freedom from ball 1. Some games it will come off and most it won’t. When it does the team score will surge above the 145 and the team will probably win. In those games a team’s experienced International players will come in later – but with a different role (akin to that which Kapp and Jonassen perform). And when your hard hitters fail, they won’t have wasted many balls and the more traditional players can rebuild and aim for a defendable 140.

OPINION: Central Contracts – Lessons Learnt and Possible Options

The next round of central contracts is to be shortly announced and will run from November 1st. Securing one of these contracts is primarily about recognition, but it would be naïve to ignore the associated financial rewards.

The current batch of 17 central contracts was awarded following what the ECB described as “a comprehensive and objective process” which saw all the existing contracts renewed (except Kirstie Gordon, replaced by Sophia Dunkley).

A positive spin on this would be that this demonstrated that, upon fair review, the existing squad members were adjudged to still be the best players in the country. A negative spin would be that, despite all the money and resource invested in the regional academies and the KSL, the system had produced only one cricketer capable of displacing any of the incumbents.

Less easy to justify was the usually-long duration of these contracts – 18 months; timed “to align with the professional contracts at the eight regional teams”. The first (obvious) observation is that 6-month contracts could also have achieved the same alignment. More crucially, by awarding 18-month contracts the ECB was perpetuating the ‘closed shop’ for two more seasons; committing to the same group of players regardless of their individual form or evolving team strategies whilst also ruling out the ability to award a central contract to anyone else for this entire period. Effectively nothing anyone did during 2021 (including the first season of The Hundred) could secure them a central contract whilst, conversely, holders of a central contract were guaranteed their status (and pay) regardless of performances or their level of involvement in England matches.

So, what happened?

Games During Contract Period

  Tests ODI T20
Tammy Beaumont 3 25 8
Katherine Brunt 2 16 15
Kate Cross 3 23 0
Freya Davies 0 5 10
Sophia Dunkley 3 25 19
Sophie Ecclestone 3 25 19
Georgia Elwiss 1 0 0
Sarah Glenn 0 3 19
Katie George 0 0 0
Heather Knight 3 23 7
Amy Jones 3 25 19
Nat Sciver 3 21 16
Anya Shrubsole 2 16 4
Mady Villiers 0 0 5
Fran Wilson 0 0 0
Lauren Winfield-Hill 2 12 0
Danni Wyatt 0 22 19

Obviously no one would expect teams to be chosen solely from the centrally-contracted cohort – but the right squad of 17 should contribute the vast majority of any team.

In fact, 9 players without central contracts were called up to the various teams; winning 93 caps (just under 20%).

Games During Contract Period

  Tests ODI T20
Lauren Bell 1 3 2
Maia Bouchier 0 0 14
Charlie Dean 1 19 1
Alice Capsey 0 3 10
Alice Davidson-Richards 1 2 0
Freya Kemp 0 2 9
Emma Lamb 1 8 1
Bryony Smith 0 0 5
Issy Wong 1 3 8

In addition, Emily Arlott would have made her Test debut if she hadn’t caught Covid and it’s reasonable to surmise that Tash Farrant would also have played if she hadn’t been injured.

Could anyone have predicted in May 2021 which of these 9 (or 11) would have played for England in the next 18 months? Perhaps Emma Lamb? But six months later, by October 2021, Dean had already played 5 ODIs and Bouchier 2 T20s and most observers could have confidently predicted the names of several other players who’d win their England caps in the next 12 months.

So, with the next round of central contracts due to be announced imminently, what could be done differently this time?

England’s selection process is unquestionably far more sophisticated than the days of Kirstie Gordon and Linsey Smith’s short careers (or Bryony Smith and Alice Davidson-Richard’s first incarnations), in which case all 11 of these players must be assumed to be genuine contenders for a central contract.

Yet, the only certainty is that there are 2 contracts available following the retirements of Anya Shrubsole and Fran Wilson. And 11 doesn’t go into 2!

Some of the associated conversations will therefore be difficult with significant consequences for those affected (whether positively or adversely), yet surely there is an argument that, however fair and objective the selection process, the current structure is unnecessarily binary, restrictive and incapable of accommodating the very different teams which England might want to field for e.g., the world cup compared to the Ashes.

One easy improvement would be to have 2 types of central contracts. Instead of funding 17 full contracts (i) with the risk that some players don’t / rarely play) and (ii) having no ability to accommodate emerging talent, why not fund e.g., 12 full contracts for those players envisaged to form the core of any team across the formats and 10 incremental contracts for fringe players / emerging players / restricted format players (reserving 1 or 2 of these to be awarded based on performances after the World Cup or even the County Championship or Charlotte Edwards Cup).

This would give greater financial security to more players, increase the talent pool of centrally-contracted players, facilitate improved format-specific squad selection and provide the flexibility to recognise players who press their case for selection mid-term.

REPORT: Cheshire Women’s League Finals Day 2022

Martin Saxon reports


Senior Knockout Cup

Stockport Trinity Fire 95-6 (20; Carys White 25, Ellie Mason 21)

Nantwich Vipers 97-1 (17.5; Seren Smale 40ret, Grace Michell 20)

Nantwich secured their biggest prize to date in their short history with a commanding victory here. With Bethan Robinson – four overs for seven runs – and Beth Hughes – 11 from three overs – leading the way, the Vipers attack ensured Trinity never really built up any momentum.

Seren Smale’s 40 from 32 balls well and truly broke the back of this run chase, indeed 12 was scored from the opening over, 20 from the first two and 70 from the first ten. Although the scoring slowed down after that, with some tight overs from Lauren O’Reilly, the result was never in serious doubt.


Development Knockout Cup

Hayfield 83-3 (20; Ruth Lomas 25ret)

Greenfield 87-6 (19.5; Abigail Barlow 28*, Zoe Cuthill 22, Bethany Garforth 20, Rosie Bradshaw 2-13)

For the first time, the Development Knockout – the competition for division three and four clubs – occupied the prime middle slot on Finals Day and those watching were rewarded with the closest finish of the day. Hayfield might have won both of the crucial clashes between these teams in Division Three East this year, but Greenfield had the last laugh here, ensuring they have a trophy to mark their first year in the Cheshire League.

Both teams started their innings slowly and there were impressively economical figures for Gracie Wray, Hannah Stewart and Lily Bailey in the first innings and Molly Doody in the second. However, both sides also rallied strongly in the closing overs, and ultimately it would be Greenfield who prevailed, overcoming the loss of two wickets in Rosie Bradshaw’s opening over. Abigail Barlow’s 28 from 22 balls supplied the finishing touch, ensuring the trophy is bound for Tameside.


T20 Divisional Competition

Stockport Trinity Fire 122-7 (20; Ellie Mason 43ret, Lauren O’Reilly 20, Emily Page 2-7, Maddie Lawson 2-12, Abbey Gore 2-24)

Appleton Tigers 126-5 (17.4; Georgia Heath 39ret, Emma Barlow 33, Amy Seddon 23*, Emma Royle 2-11, Kate Harvey 2-16)

Appleton completed the highest successful run chase to date in a CWCL cup final to win this competition for the first time since 2018. It all meant that Stockport Trinity were unable to repeat their T20 double of 2019 and ultimately went home empty-handed.

However, this is one match that the Stockport side appeared to be bossing during the early stages. Ellie Mason had not quite been at her fluent best in the first final of the day, but here her unbeaten 43 set her side on the way to a good total. The total looked even better when Emma Royle struck two early blows in reply, and with Lauren O’Reilly contributing some tight overs at the other end, the Tigers were reduced to 15-2 from six overs. 

However, the next four overs would see the game turned on its head, as some big hitting from Georgia Heath led the way in adding 47 in four overs, firstly cashing in from the final overs bowled by the new ball pair, then dominating the opening overs from the change bowlers. 

Heath ultimately retired with 39 from 26 balls with five fours and two sixes. Trinity also dismissed Emma Barlow short of the retirement score, so had this wicket opened the door for Trinity? The answer proved to be an emphatic No, as Amy Seddon scored nine runs from the remaining balls in that over.

Although further wickets fell, Trinity could not halt Appleton’s momentum, and having been second favourites earlier, the Warrington club ran out winners with all of 16 balls in hand.