REPORT: Cheshire Women’s League Finals Day 2022

Martin Saxon reports

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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.

Scorecard

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.

Scorecard

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.

Scorecard

ANALYSIS: How to Win at Domestic T20 – A New Approach

The tactics and strategies deployed by many women’s teams are fairly standard and largely mirror those seen in the men’s game (possibly not surprising given how many of the coaches are men) with seemingly little questioning as to whether these really are actually the best ways to win T20 games.

This article argues that just 2 stats* could drive a number of different approaches in team composition, batting order and bowling attacks. (*Taken from the 2021 WBBL – the best T20 competition in the world and the one with the most match data.)

Stat #1: “15 runs”

What’s the significance of this number? The margin of victory in 40% of games (21/53 completed) was 15 runs or less i.e.,

  • Chasing teams fell short by ≤15 runs; or
  • Teams batting 1st would have successfully defended a score which was 15 runs higher. This second point is obviously simplistic since it assumes that the chasing team wouldn’t have scored more quickly if they were chasing a higher target.)

But the crux holds true that just a few more runs made (or saved) would change the results of a large number of games.

Stat #2: Over-reliance on the top 4 batters

Bat Win/Tie Runs* scored by Top 4 Lose Runs* scored by Top 4
1st 28x 83.00% 25x 55.00%
2nd 25x 87.00% 28x 60.00%

* Runs off the bat only

Basically, teams don’t win unless their top 4 batters deliver the vast majority of the runs.

So, how could these 2 facts influence the way that a team might bat, field and select players?

Batting

Some might opine that if batters were capable of scoring more runs then they would. But this assumes, firstly, that these batters are making good decisions regarding how to make runs and, secondly, ignores the fact that top batters understand, and hence are constrained by, the correlation between their personal success and team success.

So how could a team score 15 more runs? The average 2022 Blast score was approximately 171 whilst the average 2021 WBBL 1st innings score was 137; the difference (34) being primarily attributable to approximately 3.4 fewer 6s, 1.1 fewer 4s and 11 fewer singles.

Can 6 hitting be improved? The best women batters can clear any boundary but the vast majority can’t. In the WBBL 50% of 6s were hit by just 10 batters. So, this wouldn’t seem a viable approach.

Can teams score more singles (and twos)? Most objective observers would agree that many teams could take far more singles through ‘drop and run’ or targeting weaker fielders. Rapidly improving batter fitness levels will also help. And boundaries need to be pushed out to avoid what some commentators have dubbed “1s or 4s games”. The recent Cricket World Cup saw big boundaries so it’s disappointing that the organisers of the Commonwealth Games have decided to bring them in so far. Big boundaries open up gaps, reward those batters able to manipulate the ball and allow the best fielders to showcase their skills.

But who is to score these runs given the highlighted reliance of teams on their top batters? More aggressive batting comes with higher risks and there simply isn’t the depth of batting in most teams to recover if several wickets fall early. (This is in marked contrast to the Blast where the SRs of batters #1 through to #8 barely drops.) So how do you reconcile the need to take more risk with the fact that you can’t afford to lose your top batters too early?

The proposal here is the deployment of pinch hitters. Central Sparks alluded to such tactics by using Issy Wong at the top of the order in this year’s CEC but this isn’t about promoting a solitary batter to ‘give it a go’ before the ‘proper’ batters come in – this tactic would see a succession of lower order batters promoted to the top of the order with the clear role of taking advantage of fielding restrictions during the powerplay. Losing 3 wickets in the powerplay is rarely recoverable in men’s T20s, but 30-3 off 3 overs might be fantastic start for a women’s team utilising this strategy. (For comparison, in 2021, the average powerplay in the CEC was 38.4 for 1.6 wickets.) And, if the opposition didn’t change their bowling order, it would also mean your best batters faced fewer balls for the opposition’s best bowlers.

Fielding / Bowling

The strategic ramifications of these 2 stats are just as important for the fielding team (particularly if your opposition also adopt the above batting tactics).

The wicket-keeper becomes even more pivotal. All keepers should be able to stand up, even to the fastest bowlers, and thereby keep batters in their crease. This is not an unreasonable expectation as Amy Jones and Sarah Taylor have demonstrated. They should also look to how the best men keepers cover a wide area behind the stumps rather than, as many women keepers do, hovering by the stumps and expecting third and fine leg to field snicks and edges.

A keeper standing up combined with a ring of athletic fielders would put enormous pressure on batters – the tactic so brilliantly deployed by the men’s Gloucestershire team during their 90’s heyday or the current men’s Hampshire squad.

Teams then need a bowling attack capable of taking out the opposition’s top 4 batters. Economy rates shouldn’t matter and nor should overall Strike Rates (which can be flattered by cheap wickets at the back end of an innings) – just a bowler’s SR against the best batters. This also means teams shouldn’t necessarily copy the men’s tactics of using 4-5 different bowlers in the powerplay – teams need their best bowlers attacking the opposition’s best batters (because if the best bowlers can’t get the best batters out, what chance do the other bowlers have?)

Regarding the composition of the bowling attack, teams need to focus on what works versus what’s ostensibly exciting. The simple fact is that slow bowlers are hard to score off – in the 2022 Blast the 26 most economical bowlers were slow – so a team should have at least 3 spinners (ideally a wrist spinner, a left armer and a conventional off spinner). But why not 4?

Is this anti-fast bowler? No, but coaches should acknowledge the realities of what fast bowlers bring to a team versus the hype. It might sound exciting if someone is bowling at 70-75mph, but in itself that just means more speed off the bat and no decent batter should be fazed by such speeds since they’ll regularly face bowling machines set at this speed or, for the diminishing number who play men’s cricket, in club matches. Speed of this magnitude is only penetrative when it’s combined with something else. (The 27th most economical bowler in the Blast is the 6’7” Irfan.). So, your fast bowler needs to be tall (e.g., Bell, Arlott or Filer) or left arm (e.g., Kemp, Farrant or George) or someone who can take the ball away from the righthander (since the majority of women bowlers bowl inswing).

What therefore might a team look like built on these insights?

4 bowlers: selected for their SR against the best batters, not against the middle order and tail. (Once you’ve dismissed the top 4 opposition batters, further wickets become unimportant since the SRs of number 5 to 9 are pretty similar.) Hence a SR of 10 / ER of 9 is far more desirable a SR of 20 / ER of 6. But they need to be matched up against the best batters – your all-rounders and batters-who-bowl should be capable of getting the other batters out.

4 batters: capable of batting the bulk of 15 overs (although not the first few) with a SR of 120+. (A team could perhaps afford to have 1 ‘anchor’ but even then their SR should be at least 110.) Your keeper doesn’t have to be one of these 4 if they form part of the expendable opening batting line up, but their keeping and wider athleticism has to be exceptional. If any of these batters can offer the occasional over of bowling, all the better.

3 all-rounders: collectively capable of delivering 4-8 overs once the top 4 batters are out (or early in the innings if the opposition also cards their best batters lower) combined with role as pinch-hitters capable of scoring e.g., 10 off 4 balls and ‘gun’ fielding.

Fielding athleticism: the ability to squeeze teams in the field is core to this strategy. As we start to get better fielding stats, we can better assign value to this aspect of the game.

The most valuable player in such a squad might not be the batter with an average of 25/SR 120 or a bowler with an ER of 5, but instead someone who bats at 3 with an average of 12 / SR 150, often bowls 2 overs for 16 and typically saves 5 runs in the field compared to the ‘average’ fielder.
Einstein famously said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. It could similarly be contended that any team hoping to beat Southern Vipers by simply repeating the same tactics which haven’t worked to date is destined to the same fate. Is any team ready to re-think the way domestic T20 is played? If so, perhaps some of the answers lie herein?

NEWS: Carlton Win The Women’s Premier League

Jake Perry reports from Royal High School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Jake Perry on Twitter

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

By Jake Perry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s Premier League – 19 June 2022

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

Follow Jake Perry on Twitter

MATCH REPORT: CE Cup Finals Day – McCaughan & Dean Carry Vipers Home

Katya Witney at Northampton

The Southern Vipers were crowned the winners of the Charlotte Edwards Cup in Northampton on Saturday as they swept aside qualifiers the Central Sparks on their way to the trophy.

An exciting finals day got underway with the County Ground bathed in sunshine and the Sparks taking on the South East Stars in a thrilling low-scoring contest for a place in the final.

It was carnage from the first over as Issy Wong dismissed Bryony Smith with her third delivery. This started an almighty top-order collapse which saw Wong and Potts combine to leave the Stars reeling at 25 for 5 after the powerplay. There was some brilliant fast bowling from the pair, combined with some poor shot selection from the Stars’ top order.

Kalea Moore and Alice Davidson-Richards were tasked with rebuilding for the Stars in the middle overs and they managed to lift their side to 83 for 5 going into the final five.

Just as they may have been starting to think about a half-decent score, Sarah Glenn broke the partnership, dismissing Davidson-Richards in her final over for a well-batted 29.

The Stars managed to cobble their way to a total of 104 for 8 by the end of their innings, Wong finishing with impressive figures of 2 for 8 off her four overs. Despite the recovery, it looked to be a straightforward chase for the Sparks.

Indeed, Wong and Eve Jones made an explosive start, smashing boundaries to take their side to 34 for 0 off three overs. Sparks looked to be cruising towards their target when they suffered a rapid collapse. After losing Wong they lost three wickets for just one run to leave them 60 for 4 in the ninth over.

Tensions rapidly heightened as wickets continued to fall, Smith bowling beautifully taking 4 wickets for 14.

After Sarah Glenn was dismissed trying to smash a four square of the wicket, there looked to be another twist in the tale with the Sparks still needing seven and Grace Potts now at the crease.

It took the calm head of Emily Arlott to guide the Sparks to their target, farming the strike beautifully to knock the runs off. As Arlott smashed the first ball of the final over for four and leapt triumphantly in the air, the Sparks’ place in the final was secured. The Stars had put in an admirable defence of a small total, but their chance of back-to-back titles was always going to be tough after their first-innings collapse.

All eyes now turned to see whether the so-far unbeaten Southern Vipers could claim the trophy or whether the Sparks could spring a surprise on the favourites.

Fresh from their nervy early afternoon chase, the Sparks elected to bat again with an unchanged side.

After a tidy first over from Lauren Bell, Charlie Dean struck immediately, bowling Eve Jones as she looked to relieve the pressure with a big shot. Kemp replaced Dean from the Wantage Road End and produced another breakthrough as Wong mistimed a powerful drive and was brilliantly caught by Maia Bouchier at mid-on. Sparks were 15 for 2 in the fourth over.

Amy Jones looked in dangerous form and was finding the boundary with ease, an aerial shot from the right-hander flew straight through the hands of Georgia Adams at mid-off and down to the boundary. The drop didn’t prove too costly, however, as two overs later Jones mistimed another shot down the ground and Bouchier took a second excellent catch.

The Vipers bowled excellently and built the pressure well in the middle overs. It paid off as Abi Freeborn danced down the pitch to Elwiss, Rudd completing an easy stumping. With Campbell run out in the following over, Sparks were faltering at 62 for 5.

Glenn came in and looked to advance the scoring in the final five, picking up boundaries behind square to Dean. She was dismissed by Adams in her final over, the right-armer taking a smart catch off her own bowling. Adams took a second wicket in the same over, fielding off her own bowling again to run out Arlott at the non-striker’s end.

As the Sparks’ innings meandered to a close it was reminiscent of their earlier innings, a promising start stifled by the fall of quick wickets. Perrin was run-out in the last over pushing for a second and they finished on 109 for 8. Tight bowling from the Vipers had produced the rewards, forcing the errors from the Spark’s batters and derailing their innings.

The Sparks needed early wickets if they were to produce a repeat of this morning’s thriller. Wong delivered in the first over, taking the wicket of Adams for a duck, brilliantly caught by Eve Jones low to the ground.

A big opportunity was missed by Glenn to dismiss Danni Wyatt for just five in the second over, a simple catch put down at mid-on. Wyatt looked in the mood to capitalise as she raced to 20 off 10 but another opportunity to dismiss her at mid-on was taken in the fourth over, Potts safely snaffling the catch.

The damage looked done however and as the powerplay ended with Vipers 50 for 2, Elwiss and Bouchier looked content to knock around the singles and pick the boundaries off bad balls. Elwiss was given out LBW to Glenn in the seventh over but Bouchier was hitting her stride at 26 off 16 in the 7th over.

It was looking very easy for the Vipers and the Sparks were struggling to build any pressure before a full and straight delivery from Arlott shattered Bouchier’s middle stump. As Dean came to the crease it was very much the last throw of the dice for the Sparks.

However, they couldn’t stop Vipers marching on towards their target. McCaughan and Dean built a solid partnership to see their side home with 25 balls remaining.

As McCaughan heaved the winning runs through the leg side for a boundary, the Vipers had completed a dominant T20 campaign. McCaughan and Dean were swamped by their teammates running onto the field in celebration. Their near clinical performance had proved too much for the Sparks who couldn’t build on their victory earlier in the afternoon.

Speaking after her team had lifted the trophy, Southern Vipers head coach Charlotte Edwards said:

“I couldn’t be prouder this week to go unbeaten in seven and to win in that fashion and to improve every game like we have done at the moment.”

“They’ll enjoy tonight. They deserve it. It’s been a great, great few weeks. It’s been tiring, but topped off well here at Northampton today.”

“I said to the team before they went out there that they’ve played brilliantly, but six out of six won’t mean as much if we don’t get the seventh. But the message wasn’t to do anything different than what we’ve been doing and this is what’s so great about this group. They’re used to finals and they’re used to having pressure.”

“Going into this T20 competition, we didn’t play as well as we should have last year and that disappointed us. Our goal is to win the double. We’ve done one bit of that – now we’ve got a massive part of the season to come in the 50 over comp.”

“We want to win, and I think that’s the kind of culture we’ve created down at the Vipers and we don’t want to be second place. I couldn’t be more pleased today really and to do it here again with the Rachael Heyhoe Flint win here last year as well is brilliant.”

“We’ve got Rachael and Charlotte now, that’s what the girls keep saying. They’ve been so desperate to bring Charlotte back to the Ageas and to do that today, under the pressure they’ve been under coming in as favourites, I’m really chuffed.”

“I think what we’ve created here (at the Vipers) is competition for places. I’ve had some really tough selections over the last few weeks and I think that means so much for us today. We just keep producing players that will go on and play for the Vipers and for England, which is again another part of our job. We seem to be doing both at the moment and I’m really, really proud.”

Central Sparks captain Eve Jones said:

“Obviously disappointed today. We thought we’d learn things once scores were on the board in the final. Things didn’t quite go to plan in the first game but we managed to scrape through. Obviously we didn’t quite reach our potential today.”

“Amy (Jones) has been unbelievable for us this season, both with the bat and the gloves so it’s great to have her around. Hopefully we might have her around a bit longer with the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy next up to give us a bit of confidence for that.”

“I think we’ve had a really good winter of training, and I think from that as time goes on, it’ll be good to see how we go in the longer format. Hopefully it gets us to the final and we can go one better.”

Follow @KatyaWitney on Twitter

MATCH REPORT: Thunder v Lightning – Ecclestone 5fer Outclasses Lightning

Katya Witney at Old Trafford

Sophie Ecclestone took career-best figures of 5-15 as the Thunder outclassed Lightning at Old Trafford on Friday.

Tammy Beaumont was still absent from the Lightning line-up but after winning the toss and electing to bat, the Lightning batters’ intent was clear from the off.

Marie Kelly smashed three fours in the first over before she was bowled by Alex Hartley looking to hit the left-arm spinner for a second six over square-leg. Ecclestone then took two wickets in her first over, Ella Claridge and Beth Harmer both playing attacking shots.

Despite the early flurry of wickets, Lightning continued to go after the Thunder’s spinners. Sarah Bryce was dismissed by Ecclestone after hitting her for a huge six in her second over and whilst their intent made for exciting watching, the shot execution was lacking from the batters.

Bethan Ellis top-edged a shorter delivery from Emma Lamb which fell comfortably into the hands of the fielder at backward square leg to leave Lightning 54 for 5 going into the 10th over.

Phoebe Graham combined with Ellie Threlkeld to secure two well-executed runouts, first dismissing Katherine Bryce in the 12th over and Lucy Higham in the 16th. The innings looked to be descending into chaos at 86 for 7 going into the final four.

The visitors were still in with a chance of setting a competitive total if they managed to stem the continual haemorrhaging of wickets but any hopes they may have had were put to bed by Ecclestone in her final over.

She took the wickets of Sophie Munro and Jade Ballinger off the first and fifth balls of her over and was one wicket away from a fifer with just one ball of her spell remaining and the number 11 on strike. Ecclestone did not disappoint on her home turf, snaring Josie Groves stumped around her legs to complete her career-best T20 figures of 5-15 before being mobbed by her teammates.

Whilst entertaining, Lighting were reckless and fell well short of the total they were capable of, having been bowled out two overs short of the 20. They now faced the difficult task of defending just 103.

Thunder lost Boyce early in their chase, LBW to Kelly but the home side clearly intended to continue the attacking theme of the day. Cross drove Ballinger beautifully for four before chipping the ball into the hands of Munro at mid-off two balls later.

After coming in at number four Ecclestone was next to go, missing a sweep-shot to Katherine Bryce and given LBW. Lightning were dragging themselves back into the contest with Thunder 26 for 3 at the end of the fifth.

Where the Lightning’s innings came undone through was continuing to attack despite losing quick wickets, while the Thunder found success by consolidating after their early losses. Lamb and Collins built a 50-run partnership in the middle overs, taking advantage of some loose deliveries from the Lightning spinners. Kelly was taken out of the attack after bowling two high no-balls.

Emma Lamb was the main source of runs, wracking up an impressive 42 off 35 deliveries before falling LBW to Ellis off the last ball of the 10th over.

Despite the loss of Collins, the victory was sealed by the Thunder in the 14th over, Threlkeld and Mullan seeing the home. Both sides put on an entertaining display with the bat but it was the execution of the Thunder batsmen and the superior quality of their spinners which was the difference between the sides.

Follow @KatyaWitney on Twitter

PREVIEW: Stew-Mel looking to stay at the front of the pack in Scotland’s Women’s Premier League

By Jake Perry

The summer may be young, but the Women’s Premier League table is already telling a story. Three teams sit with hundred per cent records after round two of the competition, including Northern Lights, who followed up their WPL-record total of 334/3 at Raeburn Place by going four better against Watsonians at Mannofield. Centuries from Ailsa Lister – off 47 balls – and Megan McColl – her second in two games – powered the Lights to a 258-run win, while Carlton’s opening pair of Abbi Aitken-Drummond and Charis Scott did the same as the champions, too, made a statement after their opening-day loss to West of Scotland.

This weekend sees West travel again to the capital, to meet also-unbeaten Stewart’s Melville at Inverleith. The Edinburgh side has had a quieter but no less emphatic start to the campaign, and after seven- and eight-wicket wins over Watsonians and RH Corstorphine – the latter despite a debut innings of 99 from Bronwyn Sumption – captain Catherine Holland is confident that it can be extended.

“We’ve had a good start,” she said. “It’s great to have [Tasmanian batter] Hannah Short back to help us develop more, individually and as a team, and I’m very pleased with where things are.”

“I’m particularly happy with our batting so far,” she went on. “In the game against RHC our top order contributed a decent amount [153/3 in 20.1 overs, chasing the home side’s 151/8], and with our bowling, some of our younger and developing Scotland players like Molly Paton have really shown that they are capable of doing well.”

After back-to-back league titles before the pandemic, a lack of consistency at crucial moments – coupled with a relentless Carlton – saw Stew-Mel finish as joint runners-up in 2021. The team’s blend of youth and experience, however, using internationals Katie McGill and Katherine Fraser in the top to middle order to support what has been a prolific opening partnership between Catherine and Emma Walsingham, brings both depth and balance to the side.

“It lets me and Emma play in the way we’ve learnt to bat together, and also be comfortable because we know that the likes of Katie, Katherine, Hannah and even some of the younger players like Molly and Jenny [Ballantyne] are ready to come in and back us up,” she said.

“Molly, who I’ve mentioned a few times, is an important player for us, and Jenny can do well with the bat as well. Bowling-wise, Chloe Kiely [also plays a key role in the team].”

Catherine’s own game continues to develop apace. On the day of our conversation, she had appeared at Grange Loan for Scottish Universities against a touring MCC side containing Kari Carswell, taking the wicket of Georgina Macey in the first over of the game. After finishing the 2021 league season with 138 runs and four wickets, Catherine is keen to see where this campaign can take her.

“I’m just looking to be as consistent as I can be across the season,” she said. “Being involved in the Super Series last year [with the Ross XI] was really good for me: it was great seeing how some of the more experienced players play, and getting to work with them and bat and bowl alongside them was an excellent experience. I’d like to be doing that again.”

Before then, though, there is the league to settle, and Sunday’s match is a crucial one for both sides.

“I think it’ll be a good game and I’m looking forward to it,” said Catherine. “Both teams have looked strong this season.”

“But we’ll just go with our usual plan, play to our strengths and hopefully get the win.”

Women’s Premier League – 5 June 2022

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

Follow Jake Perry on Twitter

MATCH REPORT: Thunder v Vipers – Dean Bowls Vipers Directly To Charlotte Edwards Cup Final

Katya Witney at Old Trafford

The Southern Vipers charged into the final of the Charlotte Edwards Cup after thrashing the Thunder by six wickets at Old Trafford on Friday night.

With a few drops of rain in the air, Ellie Threlkeld won yet another toss and elected to bat. Despite the Vipers being the favourites having won four from four in the tournament, the return of Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone to the side bolstered the home side’s chances.

But the Thunder’s innings failed to ever really get going thanks to some tight bowling from the Viper’s bowling attack. Emma Lamb was dismissed by Freya Kemp in her second over, caught by Georgia Adams at mid-on. The wicket brought Cross to the crease for a short cameo where she hit a four off her third delivery and went on to score 18 before she was dismissed by Charlie Dean.

Ecclestone replaced her England teammate at the crease and crashed a six off her second ball before Georgie Boyce was bowled at the other end by Kemp for just 9 off 23 deliveries. The Thunder were left struggling at 44 for 3 at the halfway stage.

Danielle Collins’ stay at the crease was also short, she was LBW to Dean in the 13th over.

Ecclestone and Threlkeld built a small partnership in the following overs, knocking the singles to take the home side to 82 for 5 in the 17th before Threlkeld was dismissed by Dean, the right-arm off-spinner taking a smart catch off her own bowling.

Laura Marshall then lasted two deliveries before she got a big top edge on a ball from Tara Norris which popped up in the air nicely for Maia Bouchier to take a simple catch.

At the end of their innings, the Thunder had only managed 94 for 6, Ecclestone top-scoring with 28 off 32 balls. Dean starred with the ball, taking 3 for 16 off her four overs. It looked like a near-impossible task for the Thunder to defend their total and the real question was whether the Vipers could chase the total in under 16.4 overs to gain a bonus point victory and automatic qualification for the final.

Wyatt and Adams made a solid start for the Vipers, Wyatt hitting a six off Ecclestone in the third over, slog-sweeping the ball over deep mid-wicket to take her side to 22 for no-wicket.

She was dismissed by Alex Hartley in the fifth over, advancing down the wicket looking to swing into the leg side, but missed the ball completely and was stumped by Threlkeld.

Adams followed two balls later, Laura Jackson taking a smart catch inside the ring to give Cross a wicket, leaving the Vipers at 34 for 2 in the sixth over.

With both openers back in the dugout, Bouchier and Elwiss set about consolidating for the Vipers, working the singles to take their side to 52 for 2 at the halfway stage.

Bouchier was dismissed in the following over by Ecclestone, taking a good catch above her head to complete the caught and bowled. Kemp followed at the end of the 13th over, bowled by Jackson, but at this point, the Vipers were in cruise mode needing just 20 to win.

The victory, bonus point and qualification were wrapped up in the 16th over off the bat of Elwiss who finished with an unbeaten 38.

The Vipers once again didn’t put a foot wrong and deservedly qualify as the best group stage team. They will be back in action on Saturday against the Diamonds, whilst the Thunder will be back at Old Trafford on Friday to face the Lightning.

Follow @KatyaWitney on Twitter

MATCH REPORT: Diamonds v Thunder – Diamonds Heist at Headingley

Katya Witney at Headingley

The Northern Diamonds fought back to pull off an important victory against the Thunder at Headingley on Sunday and keep their finals day hopes alive.

Both sides went into the match on level points, well behind the Southern Vipers in group one and looking to bounce back after suffering defeats in the previous round of fixtures.

After electing to bat, Beth Heath and Sterre Kalis made a steady start for the Diamonds before Heath was dismissed for 13 by Emma Lamb in the fourth over.

Kalis looked and kept advancing down the pitch to advance the scoring rate but was unable to get the big shot away. At the halfway stage the Diamonds were 58-1.

Alex Hartley found the breakthrough in the 11th over, dismissing Kalis for 28 and Holly Armitage was clean bowled by Lamb after missing a sweep shot in the following over.

Phoebe Turner took centre stage in the 15th over to dismiss Leah Dobson and Leigh Kasperek in consecutive deliveries. The hattrick ball went straight through Abi Glen, missing the stumps and the keeper to run away to the boundary leaving the Diamonds 85-5 going into the final five.

Hannah Jones executed a smart throw from the boundary to run out Glen in the next over and after hitting three consecutive fours Lindsay Smith was dismissed by Hartley in the 17th.

The last over completed the collapse for the Diamonds, Jones taking the wickets of Turner, Marlow and Levick – all bowled – off the final four balls of the innings. From 78-3 in the 15th over, the Diamonds had collapsed to 124 all out, the Thunder spinners taking seven wickets between them and Lamb as ever bowling with control and picking up a couple of wickets.

Lamb and Boyce began the chase for the Thunder, and both looked in good touch as ever. By the fourth over they had reached 31-0 before, completely against the run of play, Boyce chipped a ball to Smith at cover and had to depart for 16.

Disaster struck for the Thunder in the seventh over as Lamb was run out for 15 thanks to a great throw from Dobson at deep midwicket and after looking untroubled in their respective innings both of the Thunder’s openers were back in the hutch.

Threlkeld was bowled by Katie Levick in the ninth over and was quickly followed by Shachi Pai, also dismissed by Levick for a two-ball duck prompting jubilant celebrations from the Diamond fielders. The home-side looked boosted by the breakthroughs and determined to capitalise.

Kasperek gave her team more reason to believe in the following over, dismissing Laura Jackson for a duck and reducing the Thunder to 52-5 still needing 73 to win at the halfway stage of the innings.

Collins and Marshall looked to rebuild during the middle overs, steadily consolidating a partnership of 25 by the end of the 14th over to give Thunder some hope.

Kasperek dismissed Collins in a bizarre manner in the following over. An edge popped straight up gently off the bat and keeper Heath dove forwards to catch the ball right at Collins’ feat, leaving her standing at the crease questioning whether the ball had been caught while her opponents celebrated around her.

Marshall was run out shortly after for 11 and Graham was bowled by Marlow in the following over. The wheels were well and truly off for the Thunder at 82-8.

Graham was bowled for 20 by Levick in the 19th over and Jones was run out the following ball to round-up proceedings and with the Thunder 99 all-out.

Speaking after the match Lee Kasperek said:

“Whatever runs you get you have to think that it’s good enough. Dani gave us a good pep talk at the interval, as well as Holly and just kind of, you know, tried to fire us up a little bit.”

“Usually coming in bowling in England’s not necessarily that much fun, so today was an absolute treat on a slightly slower pitch.”

“It’s awesome to have experience in the camp and we love playing at Headingley, there are pretty amazing facilities and stuff so it’s been awesome, and we got to train here yesterday.”

“We’ve got the day off tomorrow and then we’ll head up to Durham for the Lightning match and it’s a do or die situation, we’ve got to bring our best performance. I think we’ve just got to take it one game at a time and just look to Durham. We don’t want to look too far ahead and yeah, just give it our all.”

Follow @KatyaWitney on Twitter

PREVIEW: Northern Lights Ready To Shine As Scotland’s Women’s Premier League Begins

By Jake Perry

There is a new force to reckon with in the Women’s Premier League this year, with the Aberdeen-based Northern Lights making their debut in what promises to be the most hotly contested competition to date. With Watsonians and Grange now playing as separate entities and plenty of input from national and regional players, the eight-team division marks another important point in the upward trajectory of the domestic women’s game in Scotland.

Northern Lights skipper Megan McColl is in no doubt as to the significance of the moment.

“We’re really excited about having a team representing the clubs from the north,” she said. “It’s a big step forward and we’re going to enjoy playing our first game on Sunday.”

“Having the teams from Edinburgh and Glasgow come up to play cricket here is really important for the women and girls’ game in Scotland. Hopefully the Northern Lights will be the first of many more sides in the future.”

Last year saw virtually all of Scotland’s national players aligned with a WPL club – the only exceptions being Lightning’s Bryce sisters – but the addition of the Lights will make life considerably easier for those based north of the central belt.

“It was good to get involved in women’s cricket first and foremost, having only played men’s club cricket for Arbroath before,” said Megan, who scored 115 runs and took seven wickets in her three games for Watsonians/Grange. “It was great to play and see the different standards of the teams, but to have something in the north now is really good.”

“Along with myself we have Becky Glen, Abbie Hogg and Ailsa Lister [from the national set-up], as well as my sister Kirsty McColl and [Falkland’s] Emma Halliwell who are both part of the Scotland Under-19s. There’s also Zoe Baillie from Forfarshire, who is part of the emerging [group]. So we’ve got a good few Scotland players and up and coming Scotland players which will hopefully be good for our chances.”

While Carlton is again likely to be the team to beat – the depth and bedded-in structure of last season’s double-winners has enabled them to put out a women’s second XI this year – 2018 and ’19 champions Stewart’s Melville will also be amongst the favourites for both league and cup. West of Scotland, Dumfries & Galloway and RH Corstorphine also produced some excellent cricket over the course of the last campaign, as did Watsonians/Grange, who finished third in the final table. Watsonians will be the first to visit Mannofield next Sunday: before then, however, the league’s newest side is looking forward to a trip to a similarly iconic venue.

“It’ll be great to start our season at The Grange this weekend,” said Megan. “It’ll be the first time I’ve actually played there.”

“Hopefully we can make a good start, and come away with a win.”

Women’s Premier League – 22 May 2022

Grange v Northern Lights (at Portgower Place)

Carlton v McCrea FS West of Scotland (at Grange Loan)

Stewart’s Melville v Watsonians (at Inverleith)

Dumfries CC/Galloway CC v RH Corstorphine (at Nunholm)

Follow Jake Perry on Twitter