2017 Women’s County Championship Preview

The Women’s County Championship begins this weekend with two rounds of games across the Bank Holiday. The counties will be missing all their England players, who are at a training camp in Abu Dhabi – but that is something they are going to have to get used to, as the home World Cup in June/ July, followed by the KSL in August, means that is likely to be the rule rather than the exception this season.

WHO’S GOING TO WIN IT?

Raf Nicholson: Sussex – The County Championship has almost always been a two-way fight to the finish between Sussex and Kent, but Sussex’s main rivals have now lost Charlotte Edwards, Suzie Bates and (probably) Lydia Greenway in one foul swoop. Meanwhile Sussex are pretty much at full strength, with a solid contingent of non-England players (including Academy stalwarts Freya Davies and Georgia Adams) in a season where that will really matter. They’ve got to be favourites.

Syd Egan: Lancashire – With the star names missing across the board, this looks set to be the closest County Championship in years. I’ll be massively surprised if anyone wins all their games, and in fact I think we’ll see a four-or-five-horse race for the title. The last time Lancashire were promoted, two seasons ago, they lost all their matches and went straight back down again; but that’s not going to happen this time. They have the same core squad, but with two years more experience; and although the re-signing of Alex Hartley is probably moot, as she’ll be playing for England most of the summer, grabbing Eve Jones from relegated Staffs is a major coup; and they will also have Amy Satterthwaite behind the guns for a few games too prior to the World Cup. Are Lancashire racing certainties? Absolutely not! Do they have as good a chance as anyone? Yes!

WHO’S GOING DOWN?

SE: Nottinghamshire – The bottom of the table is likely to be just as close as the top – I reckon everyone will win at least a game or two, and the fate of relegation is likely to be decided by the random cruelty of bonus points, which sadly are so dependent upon the weather and the state of the pitch, because they are absolute (how many runs/ wickets) not relative. As a Berkshire fan, I refuse to believe they are going down, so I’m afraid I’m tipping newly promoted Notts to drop back into Div 2 again this season.

RN: Berkshire – Sorry, Syd, but life isn’t looking particularly rosy for the Beavers right now, especially in the bowling department. Amanda Potgieter, now living in New Zealand, will no longer be steaming in with the new ball; Rachel Hardy has gone off to America on a soccer scholarship; Daisy Gardner is still struggling with injury; Linsey Smith has recently defected to Sussex. With the prospect of Heather Knight unlikely to feature much, if at all, it’s going to be a tough season and, much as I’d like them to, I’m not sure they’ll be able to survive in Div 1.

WHO’LL GET PROMOTED?

RN: Somerset – Somerset have got to be in with a shout. They went down last season only as a result of the triple-demotion ruling, and they still have most of the players available (including Sophie Luff) who in 2015 secured promotion by not losing a single game.

SE: Hampshire – I watched Hampshire absolutely hammer Middlesex in their pre-season friendly last weekend… and the thing was, Middlesex weren’t actually that bad. Hampshire were just very good – they batted first, timing their innings perfectly to put 223 on the board; and then they were sharp as razors in the field to bowl Middlesex out for 82! They are a young side, and last year wasn’t quite their time, as they missed out narrowly on promotion; but Charlotte Edwards will have them well-organised, and Suzie Bates will add even more firepower when she is available prior to the World Cup – if they don’t make the top 2, it will be a massive surprise.

T20 WINNERS

SE: Yorkshire – If you thought the 50-over County Championship was going to be close, the T20 Cup is likely to be even closer. But I’m tipping Yorkshire for this one – they will be in the mix for the WCC too, but I think maybe the T20 is where they can come good – like everyone else, they will miss their England players, but they have a strong youth system and the T20 format often favours that.

RN: Birmingham Bears (aka Warwickshire) – As with Sussex they have a good number of established players who won’t be distracted by England duty, not least Becky Grundy and Georgia Hennessy. Pipped to the post at the last minute by Kent in 2016, they’ll be looking to go one better this year, and are in with a good shot at doing so.

BREAKTHROUGH KID?

RN: Emma Lamb (Lancashire) – This could be a make-or-break season for Lamb, who has been on the verge of making the jump to international cricket for a while now and was actually in the squad for England’s tour of Sri Lanka (though her debut remains elusive). She was a standout player for Lancashire Thunder in KSL, the only non-international player to feature among the top ten group-stage run scorers. She’ll be out to prove her worth in this season’s County Championship.

SE: Lauren Bell (Berkshire) – Lauren Bell is something of a veteran already – despite being only 16, this will be her third season at the top level. Having been selected for England’s Academy program over the winter, she has been working hard up at Loughborough, where she has added a yard of pace to a ball which was already pretty quick – making her one of the fastest bowlers in the women’s game. With bounce (she’s well over 6 feet tall) and movement off the pitch she can be unplayable on her day… and her day is coming!

BEST OVERSEAS BUY?

SE: Holly Huddleston (Middlesex) – The Hudd Missile is back again for Middlesex this season, having basically resuscitated a career there which looked to be somewhat on life-support when she first arrived a year ago. She has since been recalled for New Zealand and seems virtually certain to be a big part of their World Cup squad. Her bowling may not be “fast” fast, but it’s nippy enough, and she is very consistent – she’s a very “English” bowler in a sense, and it isn’t just Middlesex who will reap the benefits of that in 2017 – watch out for her in the World Cup Final too!

RN: Suzie Bates (Hampshire) – Not only is Bates one of the best cricketers in the world, but she’s shown she can cut the mustard in English conditions. Across last year’s English summer she scored 678 runs at an average of 42, and took 30 wickets, helping Kent “do the double” and win both the County Championship and the T20 Cup. Hampshire will benefit hugely from having her around.

OVERALL MVP?

SE: Eve Jones (Lancashire) – An opening batsman who has been part of the Academy setup for a while, Jones was one of only two players to score a century in Div 1 last year. Unlikely to figure for England, she should be available for most matches and she has the temperament to have a big impact – if Lancashire do indeed win the Championship, she is likely to have been a big part of the reason why.

RN: Charlotte Edwards (Hampshire) – Given that most internationals will have very little chance to play county cricket this season, someone with as much top-level experience as Edwards is going to be invaluable. England’s loss is Hampshire’s gain!

NEWS: Pakistan World Cup Squad Announced

Hamadullah Sohu writes:

The PCB have announced Pakistan’s 15-woman squad for the forthcoming World Cup, which will be played in England from 24 June to 23 July.

They have also confirmed that Pakistan will feature in two warm-up matches before the main event, against West Indies and Australia on 20 and 22 June respectively.

Sana Mir, Pakistan’s captain, said: “The warm-up matches provide us with just the kind of chance we need to fine-tune our game ahead of the ICC Women’s World Cup. We get to play last year’s finalists Australia and the West Indies in these matches and look forward to using the opportunity to prepare well for the tournament ahead.”

Pakistan qualified for the tournament at the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2017, played in Colombo in February this year, along with India, South Africa, and Sri Lanka. They play their first game of the campaign against South Africa on 25 June at Grace Road, Leicester.

Full Squad:

Ayesha Zafar

Bibi Nahida

Marina Iqbal

Bismah Maroof

Javeria Khan

Syeda Nain Fatima Aabidi

Sidra Nawaz (WK)

Sana Mir (Captain)

Kainat Imtiaz

Asmaviiya Iqbal Khokhar

Diana Baig

Waheeda Akhtar

Nashra Sandhu

Ghulam Fatima

Sadiya Yousuf

Sabih Azhar (Coach)

 

 

Rising Stars: Up And Coming Talent From The England Women’s Academy, Part 2

Ffion Wynne continues her profiles of some of the top future England prospects.

(Catch up with Part 1 here!)

3. Alex Travers

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The great confidence of 16-year-old Alex Travers is remarkable for such a young age. Having played her county cricket at Surrey since the Under 11 age group, the winter of 2016/2017 has been her first in any England set-up, and her enjoyment in the squad is evident in her enthusiasm. “It was quite a big adjustment at first,” Alex explains, “but I learn so much from being around this environment, and I know exactly what I need to do to improve further from being here.”

She speaks highly of the set-up and the supportive nature of the coaching staff, demonstrating its importance in supporting the development of future England hopefuls. Similarly to Charlie Dean, Travers claims that the being a younger member of the squad doesn’t hinder the experience in the slightest, and that challenging herself against the best of her age will undoubtedly improve her skills.

Travers has also been included in the Regional Development Centre of the Surrey Stars, and is highly motivated to participate in the KSL during the next few years of her career. “It would be amazing to play in the Super League and I’d love to play for England eventually. Just from being involved in these camps over the past few months, I feel like I can improve so much,” Alex says.

Despite the high hopes for her future, Travers remains focused and is determined to keep enjoying her cricket as much as she currently does. Having made her way into Surrey’s first XI last summer, Travers’ clear enthusiasm for the game and willingness to learn will undoubtedly make her a regular performer this season, aiding her progression towards her KSL and England dreams.

4. Izzy Cloke

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Kent’s young talent Izzy Cloke concludes the trio of 16-year-olds, but this winter already marks her third in any England set-up. This experience is evident in Cloke’s enthusiasm and confidence, as she describes her aim to fully establish herself in Kent’s first XI this summer, after playing her first two games last season. “It’s a really strong team, which made it quite daunting to begin with,” Cloke says, “but Lydia Greenway was captain and she was really helpful in making me feel included. I bowled three overs on my debut at Arundel, which went really well and gave me a lot of confidence.”

Last winter, Cloke emerged onto the Development Programme from the Under 15s, which she describes as initially quite difficult as many of the girls were much older, and had been in the programme together for a while. However, Cloke also states that the supportive nature of the coaches cannot be faulted in providing a friendly and welcoming environment, where the correct amount of pressure is applied without being too overwhelming for the younger members of the squad. Alongside her England experience, Cloke trains alongside Alex Travers in the Surrey Stars Development Centre.

As she is currently studying for her AS Levels, Izzy is firmly focusing on her cricketing and academic future. “Loughborough is definitely one of my university choices,” she explains, “because I really want to stay on an England programme, and it would be useful to combine that with a really good course, but I am looking at quite a few others at the moment.”

Further along the line, Cloke does aspire to be involved in the KSL, as her experience as a spectator watching the Stars demonstrated its status as a great competition, and would really allow her cricket to develop further. With high hopes to progress into the Senior Academy over the next few years, Cloke’s positivity and the maturity of her attitude suggests that her cricket will continue to go from strength to strength.

Rising Stars: Up And Coming Talent From The England Women’s Academy, Part 1

Ffion Wynne profiles some future England prospects.

Towards the end of a successful summer, notably due to the emergence of the KSL, the England Women’s Pathway introduced a few changes to their system. For what used to be called the England Women’s Development Programme, the Academy aims to prepare young and talented individuals between the ages of 14 – 19 for the Senior Academy, the KSL and hopefully for international honours.

With the professionalisation of the women’s game firmly in place, alongside securing Sky Sports coverage for the next edition for the KSL, the future is looking extremely bright for the England women’s side. With this in mind, we decided to get an insight into the life of an Academy cricketer and catch up with some up-and-coming stars from the Academy to discuss their experiences in the setup and their hopes for their futures in the game.

1. Anna Nicholls

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Aged 19, Anna Nicholls is one of the Academy’s older and more experienced members, with plenty of Division One cricket under her belt for Middlesex already. However, with a recent move to Leeds to study Medicine, Nicholls has transferred to Yorkshire for the upcoming season and is hoping for first team selection in order to continue her progress at such a high standard.

A promising batsman and former pace bowler, Nicholls has been around the England set-up for nearly four years, when the Under 15 programme was still in place. “In the Under 15s, we only trained 3 weekends over the winter,” she explains, “but I’ve been in this development programme, which used to be the Under 19s, for a while now and we have camps about once a month plus a summer competition.” For Anna, the best part about the programme is being able to challenge herself against better players, and using scenario practice to improve her knowledge and tactics of the game.

In the 2016 season, her talent was evident from her selection for the Yorkshire Diamonds in the KSL, notably featuring in their final game against Western Storm. Nicholls speaks emphatically about the competition, and describes the incredible experience of being surrounded by such high profile elite cricketers, notably her teammate Alex Blackwell, and the importance of learning from them. The professional environment, and the amazement of Blackwell’s ability to create shots “out of nowhere”, succeeded in inspiring Nicholls immensely.

With an intense few years at medical school awaiting her, alongside cricketing ambitions, the future looks extremely bright for Yorkshire’s latest arrival. “There is definitely a challenge ahead,” Nicholls states, “but at the moment I’m just determined to push my cricket and medicine as far as they can both possibly go.”

2. Charlie Dean

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Hampshire’s Charlie Dean has been involved at the county since she was 11 years old, and now at 16, has started her first year in the Academy programme, having progressed from the Under 15 set-up the previous winter. Alongside the monthly England camps, the talented all-rounder trains several times a week with the Hampshire Academy. Despite being a younger member of the squad, she seems unfazed by the challenge. “The environment is really positive and friendly,” Charlie says, “and I think it’s actually making me a much better player being one of the younger ones. It’s good to challenge myself against the older and more experienced girls.”

Dean’s heavy cricketing schedule is boosted by her inclusion in the Young Vipers squad, the development centre for the KSL team. The squad trains every Saturday over the winter, preparing players for long term development into the Super League. With the vast amount of winter training for Hampshire, Vipers and England, it seems that Charlie has a very exciting and promising summer ahead of her. Such promise at such a young age suggests that her progress will develop immensely over the next few years, and with aims for reselection into the Academy before hopefully progressing into the Senior Academy, it seems Dean will be a vital asset to Charlotte Edwards’ Hampshire squad this summer!

INTERVIEW: Scotland’s Kathryn White Retires From International Cricket

Jake Perry reflects on the end of an era for Scotland.

As Scotland’s Women arrive home from Sri Lanka and begin to plan for the 2017 season they do so in the knowledge that they will be without the services of their two most experienced campaigners. The retirements of Kathryn White and Kari Carswell (nee Anderson) either side of the ICC Global Qualifier will be keenly felt both on and off the field as an era ends in Scottish cricket.

With a collection of caps second only to Carswell, White has been one of the most consistent performers for her country for the best part of two decades. In 132 appearances she scored 2165 runs at 20.62, with five fifties and a best of 99, and claimed 126 wickets at 22.02. It has been a career full of highlights and the decision to bring it to an end did not come easily.

“It was very difficult,” she said. “But I suppose I got to that point where I realised that having not been selected for Sri Lanka the time was right to make the call.

“I’m thirty-eight now, I have a four year old at home and I work full time, so I was trying to get that balance of full time job, family as well as putting in all my training and it reached that point where something had to give.

“It was hard. Cricket has been a huge part of my life for so long.”

Since her debut in 2000 White has watched the funding and profile of the women’s game change almost beyond recognition. The all-rounder has been part of the Scotland team from its very earliest days and she looks back over the evolution of the side with pride and considerable satisfaction.

“Both myself and Kari know where we started all those years ago, we know how few games we played and how few women were playing at the time,” she said.

“To see where we have got to now, to see the team and the set-up we have, the Under 17s coming up behind us, the regional squads and so on, and then watch us perform on the international scene as we have over recent years is very satisfying.

“In Scotland there is much more professionalism now. The support we get from Cricket Scotland has totally changed over the last five or six years in terms of the facilities that we use, how often we get to meet together and so on. We’ve now got our strength and conditioning coaches, we get help with travel allowances… It’s the things like that that make a huge difference.”

And although sad to no longer to be a part of it, White is excited at the prospect of how the team might continue to develop.

“I think we’re in a really strong position,” she said. “Yes, with 284 caps between us it is a loss losing myself and Kari so close together but there are plenty of girls coming up behind us.

“Abbi [Aitken] has already reached a hundred caps and most of the remaining squad are if not already past fifty caps then certainly nearing it. So there is a lot of experience there and there is a chance now for new people to step up to the plate and produce the goods too.”

As to the future, White will continue to be around the game she loves.

“I’m still going to be involved in cricket. I’d find it really difficult to move away from it totally,” she said.

“I was lucky to get an extra year out of what I could have. I had a potentially career ending injury eighteen months ago and I worked very hard to get back on the pitch. Cricket was so much of my life that when I was almost told that I wouldn’t play again I was determined to fight to get that opportunity again.

“I’m still going to be involved with the Scotland Under 17s as Assistant Coach/Manager. I do a lot of coaching myself down in the Borders, too, and I’ll still be playing club cricket.

“But I’ll miss the friends that you make. Some of the girls that I’ve had the opportunity to play with for Scotland and in club cricket I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet otherwise, friends that I now have for life.

“Kari, for example, it was a huge decision for her to have to take as well. She has had a fantastic career and I’ve enjoyed every second of being on the pitch with her.

“I’ll miss it all, the team spirit and being together on the field representing your country. There’s really no better feeling.”

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Jake Perry writes on Scottish cricket for Cricket Scotland and CricketEurope and is a regular contributor to HoldingWilley.

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

NEWS: Aitken Praises Scotland Performance After Win v PNG

Scotland Women 169 (50/50 Ov – RV Scholes 35, P Siaka 6 for 19) beat

Papua New Guinea Women 162 (50/50 Ov – B Tau 46, K Anderson 3 for 35) by 7 runs.

Jake Perry writes:

Scotland claimed their first win of the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier with a thrilling seven run victory over Papua New Guinea at the Mercantile Cricket Association Ground in Colombo. A tight display in the field featuring two crucial run-outs and three wickets for Kari Anderson was enough to see the Scots home and keep alive their hopes of progressing to the Super Six phase of the competition.

Captain Abbi Aitken was delighted with the character shown by her side.

“It was a tough game,” she said. “It went right to the wire which is never easy but credit to the girls for sticking at it and keeping cool heads.”

“PNG won the toss and wanted to bowl first but we always had the intention to bat and get a big total. We had hoped to put a bit more on the board than we [did] but we knew we could defend that out there.”

“Credit to PNG’s batters, when you’ve got wickets in hand you can afford to go a bit slower at the start. They did that really well and we definitely felt the pressure.”

“But we kept our composure really well and didn’t let them get too close to the mark.”

Player of the Match Kari Anderson, winning her 150th Scotland cap, continued her excellent form.

“Kari Anderson was as reliable as ever,” said Aitken. “She has been a brilliant player for us and hopefully she’ll have a good game against Pakistan as well.”

Scotland play their final Group B match against Pakistan on Monday and after their encouraging performances against South Africa and Bangladesh earlier in the week they will hope to mark the end of the group phase with a notable scalp.

“I think it has to be a real team effort when it’s under these conditions,” said Aitken. “You need every player [to perform] and we [got that] today.”

“Against Pakistan we’ll go out there again, give it our all and see where it gets us.”

(Reproduced with the permission of Cricket Scotland)

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Jake Perry writes on Scottish cricket for Cricket Scotland and CricketEurope and is a regular contributor to HoldingWilley.

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

OPINION: KSL On TV: A Double-Edged Sword?

Michael Cooper reflects on the pros and cons of Sky Sports’ impending coverage of the second Kia Super League in August.

On 1st February Sky Sports announced that they would be showing live coverage of the first six games of the second KSL season, as well as Finals Day: the first time that women’s domestic cricket will be shown live on UK television. The inaugural season was a success, attracting 15,465 people to the seventeen matches played, and live television coverage is the next step in the development of the league.

The games will be shown as part of a double header with a men’s NatWest T20 Blast match at the same venue, a tactic that has been used previously with women’s T20 games. It is also a tactic that was used in this year’s WBBL and one that proved highly successful. Twelve games were shown live on free-to-air TV, with nearly six million people watching the games and the final attracting a peak of 690,000 viewers. The games were also streamed live via the Cricket Australia website.

Live coverage on Sky will increase the visibility of the women’s domestic game as well as promote the game to aspiring female cricketers. A study by Women in Sport in 2015 stated that just over 10% of televised sports coverage, and only 2% of newspaper sports coverage, is dedicated to women’s sport. So with such a paucity of coverage of women’s sport, this news is a great shot in the arm for the development of the game. The double headers with T20 Blast games may also provide bigger crowds to see the games first-hand and provide players with the potential to compete in atmospheres similar to their male counterparts.

But there are downsides to linking the KSL so closely with the NatWest T20 Blast, the most obvious issue being ticket prices. People who want to go and see a KSL game within the double headers will presumably have to pay considerably more than they would pay to see a standalone KSL game; will this discourage people from coming to those games?

Another issue is whether this will impact the KSL brand? Whereas the Women’s BBL is an extension of the wider BBL brand, the KSL is its own product and should be marketed as such. It thrived in its debut season despite lack of coverage, as people were eager to see more women’s cricket after England’s dominant displays against Pakistan on home soil. The emergence of players like Tammy Beaumont, Lauren Winfield and Danni Wyatt is proof that the women’s game has stars in its own right, stars that deserve to have the stage all to themselves.

While Sky’s coverage of the KSL will undoubtedly prove to be a boon for the women’s game, one hopes that it won’t be in shadows of the men’s game for too much longer.

Michael Cooper tweets at @m_j_cooper82

INTERVIEW: Abbi Aitken targets Super Six as Scotland prepare for Sri Lankan adventure

Jake Perry talks to Scotland captain Abbi Aitken

The line-up for the ICC Women’s World Cup will be completed in Sri Lanka this month as ten teams contest the Global Qualifier for the tournament to be held in England later this year. With only half of the participants confirmed so far, the four teams who missed out in the ICC Women’s Championship will join the six winners of the ICC Regional Qualifiers in a bid to claim one of the four remaining places at the showpiece event to be played in June and July.

Scotland’s women will be in Sri Lanka after an outstanding summer brought them victory against the Netherlands in the European Qualifier as well as promotion to Division Two of the NatWest Twenty20, and as the side now looks to carry that momentum into the upcoming tournament captain Abbi Aitken is both excited and quietly confident about her side’s chances.

“Our preparations are going really well,” she said. “[Coach] Steve [Knox] has brought in a lot of new ideas and training methods and the squad is in a really good place at the moment. We are really lucky to have had access to the facilities of two partners to assist in our training too, Nuffield Health and Tribe Yoga, who have both been brilliant.

“Steve understands the commitments of everybody with work, university, school and so on, so we’ve tried to focus on having at least one full weekend a month away,” she continued. “That’s not always easy with the geographical locations of the girls. We have people the length and breadth of the country from Aviemore to London, but there has been great commitment from everybody.

“The squad has been away to a variety of places. We went to Loughborough, for example, the ECB facilities there are world class, and that was very helpful to us.

“They have been packed, tough, physical weekends, really good sessions,” she said. “We’re definitely preparing well.”

Thirteen of Scotland’s fourteen-man squad have experienced tournament play before, having played at the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier in Thailand in 2015. With seamer Priyanaz Chatterji the new addition Scotland has a number of options on which to call, and for Aitken the ever-growing experience within the squad bodes well both for this tournament and beyond.

“We had an eighteen-man squad to pick from, a very committed, talented group,” she said. “The pool of players we have continues to grow and as it does it becomes more and more difficult to get into that final group. It’s a good problem for us to have, of course, but it does mean at the end of the day that there are disappointed people left at home.

“Unfortunately Annette Drummond has had to miss out. She broke her wrist back in July so was unavailable for selection which is a shame. We do wish Annette the best in her recovery as she is unfortunately still battling with the injury.

“But I’m more than happy with the final fourteen. We have that blend of experience and youth and we’ve also got a good variety of skills in there.

“A number of the girls are also getting experience abroad at the moment,” Aitken continued. “Katie McGill and Kari Carswell are in the middle of a season with Northern Spirit in New Zealand just now. They are playing a standard of cricket which has been brilliant for them, a real eye-opener, and that will undoubtedly be advantageous for Scotland too. Lorna Jack has just headed out to join them as well.

“Fi Urquhart lives in Sydney and is playing a good level of grade cricket out there, and last but not least, of course, Kathryn Bryce is with the Melbourne Stars [at the Women’s Big Bash] just now. It will be brilliant to hear her stories and what she’s learned about how they go about things over there. It’s fantastic for Kathryn to get that experience at such a young age.”

Scotland has been drawn into Group B alongside South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea. After the initial round-robin stage the top three in each group move into the Super Six phase, with the first four qualifying for the final stages of the World Cup and the remaining two retaining – or perhaps gaining – ODI status.

“Obviously there are big names there that everyone will associate with cricket on a global scale. South Africa and Pakistan are two big, big teams and there is nothing but excitement from the girls at the prospect of playing them,” said Aitken. “The opportunities to meet teams like that don’t come around often for us so the chance to put our skills up against theirs, to see what level they are playing at and what we need to do to get to that level ourselves is a great prospect. There are obviously nerves there but being the underdog we have nothing to lose.

“We know Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea a bit more. In the WT20 Qualifiers we came up against Bangladesh and lost, unfortunately, but that experience gave us an idea of where they are and where we need to be, what areas we need to improve on and so on, so tactically we are more aware this time around.

“And Papua New Guinea, we played against them in a warm-up game and won so we can perhaps take a bit more confidence into the game against them.”

After a warm-up match against Zimbabwe Scotland play South Africa on February 8th in the first of four matches to be played over the next six days. The contrast between the notoriously humid Sri Lankan summer and the Scottish winter could hardly be starker, but the experience of 2015, says Aitken, will prove invaluable.

“Thailand was a massive eye-opener for the girls,” she said. “Before we went away we knew that fitness would play a big part but it was only when we were there that we realised how crucial it was.

“Experiencing that has really helped for the upcoming tournament. We know that if anything Sri Lanka is going to be even hotter and more humid so we have really focused on squad fitness.”

The upcoming tournament offers Scotland a rare opportunity to measure themselves against some of the big hitters on the world stage. But this is not a team merely content to make up the numbers. For Aitken qualification for the Super Sixes, and with it the guarantee of ODI status, is the clear objective.

“The squad sat down a few months ago and it was the unanimous decision that that was our goal,” she said. “We know that to do so we will have to beat a team we have never beaten before and a team that are ranked higher than us but we wouldn’t have set it if we didn’t think it was realistic.

“Cricket Scotland’s support has been brilliant with more funding and more resources which is all we can ask for. The squad know that they have to put in the performances to justify that support.”

And every one of those performances will be critical.

“First up we have Zimbabwe in Colombo in our official warm up game,” said Aitken. “They are ranked similarly to us and I feel that we are relatively evenly matched.

“It will be our first game in Sri Lankan conditions as well as our last chance to try out a few combinations, but we will be very much going into that game with intent and knowing that a win will set the tone for the rest of the competition.

“We are setting our standards high in this tournament. We may be the underdogs but we are up for the challenge.”

(Reproduced with the permission of Cricket Scotland)

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Jake Perry writes on Scottish cricket for Cricket Scotland and CricketEurope and is a regular contributor to HoldingWilley.

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

INTERVIEW: Scotland’s Priyanaz Chatterji On The Women’s World Cup Qualifier

Jake Perry chats to Priyanaz Chatterji

Scotland’s Women travel to Sri Lanka for the ICC Global Qualifier in buoyant mood. Qualification for the event crowned a memorable season for Steve Knox’s side, and after two warm-up games against Ireland in Dubai they will look to make the most of the opportunity to measure their skills against some of the finest players in the world.

For Priyanaz Chatterji the final weeks of preparation have been busier than ever. The Dundee-born seamer combines her Scotland duties with a full-time job at an energy consultancy in London, and as she prepares to meet up with her team-mates again her excitement at what lies ahead is clear.

“It’s probably not fully sunk in yet that I’m actually going, it’ll probably hit me on Sunday when I get on the plane!” she said. “I’m very excited, it’s an amazing opportunity and one that the girls have been working really hard for. There are some nerves there too of course, we’re going to be up against some pretty impressive opposition and we want to do ourselves justice.

“But personally it’s been really great to be involved with Scotland again and to see everyone on a regular basis. The team is definitely moving in the right direction, there’s a real togetherness about the squad and as last season went on we got more and more confident both individually and as a group.

“We had often relied very heavily on Kari [Carswell] in the past, and still do to some extent, but it was great to see other players stepping up and performing when it really mattered. That will stand us in good stead for Sri Lanka.”

Still only twenty-three, Chatterji was a regular wicket-taker for the Wildcats as they secured promotion to Division Two of the NatWest Twenty20 last season. It was a consistency of performance made all the more remarkable by a glimpse of her hectic weekly schedule.

“Monday-to-Friday I get up in the morning and go to the gym before work,” she said. “I aim for five times a week in an ideal world but depending on what else I have to do it might be closer to three or four. I work full-time but manage to train a couple of times a week after work, too, although being in London that can add an hour on just getting there.

“I’ve been travelling back to Scotland every other weekend for the last few months which is definitely challenging, especially when we have a double-header training session. Our starts on Saturdays are usually 9am and the same on Sundays and I don’t tend to get back home until about eleven or twelve at night.

“It’s tiring, but it’s the level of commitment that Knoxy is expecting and it is what’s needed to see my game improve.”

A successful season of Australian club cricket in 2014-15 with Perth’s Subiaco Floreat Cricket Club proved to be a memorable experience, and as she continues to develop her game Chatterji is keen to find other opportunities a little closer to home.

“To be able to train and play regularly for a Division Two county near me would be great,” she added. “Obviously if it happened to be a Division One side it would be too!”

But for now her attention is firmly directed towards Sri Lanka and the biggest occasion of her career to date. Scotland will play in Group B against South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea whilst India, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Ireland and Thailand meet in Group A. The top three teams in each group qualify for the Super Six phase and the chance to claim a place at the ICC Women’s World Cup to be held in England later this year.

“It’s inevitably going to be a massive learning experience for us,” said Chatterji. “Just playing out in those conditions is going to be a massive physical and mental challenge after cold and rainy Scotland! But ultimately it’s a competition and we want to come away with as many wins as possible.

“Getting to play against world-class players can only be a good thing,” she continued. “But whatever happens, we will learn from it, we’ll come back home and carry on working hard.

“We’ll keep on challenging ourselves to improve.”

(Reproduced with the permission of Cricket Scotland)

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Jake Perry writes on Scottish cricket for Cricket Scotland and CricketEurope and is a regular contributor to HoldingWilley.

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

 

WBBL: Our Champagne Moments

Amy Satterthwaite’s Hat Trick

T20 cricket is about fine margins, and the difference between a total of 115 and one of 125 can be everything. The Sydney Thunder, batting first against the Hurricanes, must have been hopeful of 125+ going into the last two overs at 108-5, but Amy Satterthwaite had other ideas. A single was followed by two dots and then wicket, wicket, wicket. The Thunder had been silenced, leaving a final total of just 115, which the Hurricanes chased down with an over to spare – basically, the over Satterthwaite had bowled! [SE]

Sophie Devine’s Boxing Day Gift

Up against the Hurricanes on Boxing Day, the Strikers had conceded 143 in the field, and it looked a formidable total, especially after they lost 2 wickets with just 5 runs on the board. Enter a totally unfazed Devine, who proceeded to tear apart the ‘Canes attack, accumulating the second ever WBBL hundred in just 48 balls. Charlotte Edwards described it as the best T20 innings she had ever seen. The result: an easy win for the Strikers, coming off just 16.3 overs. [RN]

Corinne Hall Holds Her Nerve

In the Hurricane’s “winner takes it all” chase against the Stars, with the score on 123-4, chasing 135 with 8 balls to go, Corinne Hall knew that all she had to do was play the supporting role to Amy Satterthwaite – the big-hitting New Zealander at the other end. Two balls and two wickets later, suddenly Satts was back in the dugout and Hall was the senior partner. A single off the 4th ball of the final over, left Hall on strike needing 4 off 2 – the pressure was on, but she held her nerve magnificently, driving the 5th ball straight along the floor to the boundary to take the Hurricanes into the semis. [SE]

Deandra Dottin’s Comeback

3 weeks previously Deandra Dottin had suffered a horrific head clash with teammate Laura Harris as both of them attempted to prevent a boundary. Following surgery on her face she was, incredibly, allowed to play in the final two group games – fortunately for the Heat. In their must-win last clash with the Strikers, it was Dottin – complete with protective face mask – who was selected to bowl both the final over of the Strikers innings and then the requisite Super Over, in which she dispensed with Megan Schutt and Bridget Patterson, and conceded just 3 runs. Impossible to get away and bang on the money with every ball, the Comeback Queen thus sealed Heat’s place in the semi-finals. [RN]

Haidee Birkett’s Dolphin Dive

The Heat’s Haidee Birkett had quite a game in the field versus the Thunder – 2 run-outs, a C&B and 2 other catches, of which this was the pick – a dolphin dive running towards a sharply dropping ball at deep midwicket to dismiss Naomi Stalenberg. Will you see a better catch this summer? Well yes, actually… but you won’t see two!! [SE]