MATCH REPORT: Sussex and Yorkshire Dunked At Mill Hill As Sophia Makes England Case

By Raf Nicholson and Syd Egan

On a sunny day at Mill Hill School, Middlesex fought back from their relegation to Division 2 of the Women’s County Championship last weekend by proving their mettle as a T20 side, with convincing wins against both Sussex and Yorkshire.

The day’s real star was Sophia Dunkley who – with today’s scores of 34* and 57* topping off an incredible run of form this season – looks to be challenging for a spot in the England squad.

Middlesex v Sussex

Sussex started steadily, seeing off the initial overs by Hayley Brennan and Katie Wolfe, and reaching 29 in the first 5 overs; but their attempt to force the pace with quick singles ultimately backfired as Middlesex enacted 2 successive run-outs, including that of captain Georgia Adams (19).

The middle order then fell apart, leaving Sussex 50-5, but the away side were saved from embarrassment by no.7 Freya Davies, who with an unbeaten 27 finished as top-scorer. Aided by some wayward Middlesex bowling – including 17 wides – Sussex managed to reach 107-8.

In reply Middlesex were slow to get going and Sussex kept themselves in the game by removing openers Naomi Dattani (5) with a stonking catch by Paige Scholfield at midwicket, and Tash Miles stumped (21) thanks to a neat piece of glove work from Abi Freeborn.

But that brought Fran Wilson to the crease and she hit a quickfire 42 from 33 balls before Sophia Dunkley (34*) finished the job in the 18th over with three successive boundaries, including a six hit back over the top of Davies’ head.

Sussex v Yorkshire

Sussex fought back in the second game of the day, winning by 5 wickets thanks to a 79-run partnership between Abi Freeborn and Izzy Collis.

Opening bowlers Freya Davies and Linsey Smith put the pressure on early for Sussex, but the Yorkshire openers Jess Watson and Adrianna Darlow didn’t do anything silly and plundered 13 runs, including 3 boundaries, off the 5th over bowled by Paige Scholfield to take them to 24-0.

Watson was out well caught by Georgia Adams running back at mid on off Tara Norris for 17, and Darlow followed soon afterwards for 9, caught at point after getting a thick edge trying to pull Scholfield through midwicket.

After 10 overs Maddie Walsh and Rebecca Newark had taken Yorkshire to 54-2 and they continued to run hard between the wickets to take it to 80-2 after 15.

Walsh was eventually caught on the midwicket boundary by Scholfield for 38 off 34 balls, while Newark was stumped off Davies for 13, as Yorkshire progressed to 103-6 off the 20.

Sussex made a calamitous start to their innings, with left-armer Katie Thompson bowling Georgia Adams for a 2nd ball duck and Paige Scholfield LWB to Abi Glen for 1, leaving them 2-2 after 2!

Collis smashed Georgia Draper’s first ball for 6 over midwicket as things started to get moving for Sussex – Collis and Freeborn taking them to 56-2 after 10 overs.

Thompson returned to the attack in the 14th over to bowl Freeborn for 37 off 34 balls, leaving Sussex needing 23 off 36 balls, which Collis and Chiara Green began to proceed towards, before Collis was caught for 45 playing one leg-side heave-ho too many. Linsey Smith was then dismissed for a golden duck by Glen, who bowled out a wicket maiden to the incoming batsman Freya Davies, giving Yorkshire a glimmer of hope.

With 2 needed off the last over, Glen bowled a wide first ball and Green then stole a single to short extra cover off the second ball for the win with 4 balls to spare.

Middlesex v Yorkshire

In the final game of the day Middlesex made it 2 from 2 in a convincing 6-wicket win against Yorkshire.

Having lost the toss and been put in to bat, Yorkshire raced away to have 41 on the board at the end of the powerplay, helped by some poor fielding by Middlesex who put down a couple of chances in the infield.

Adrianna Darlow was one of those put down and went on to take full advantage, finishing as Yorkshire’s top-scorer with 26 (33 balls)

But the introduction of Bhavika Gajipra to the attack in the 11th over shifted the momentum back in Middlesex’s favour as she had Darlow caught at long on and then also accounted for Anna Nicholls and Hannah Buck, finishing with figures of 3-15.

Ultimately a couple of run outs ensured that Yorkshire only just scraped 100 from their 20 overs.

Naomi Dattani didn’t want to hang around, hitting Katie Thompson’s second ball for six over midwicket. Middlesex did have a couple of wobbles with both Fran Wilson and Beth Morgan dismissed without scoring but Sophia Dunkley was once again imperious, finishing things off in the 16th over with a straight drive to the boundary.

Afterwards Dunkley told CRICKETher that Middlesex were delighted with their start to the T20 Cup: “Especially after [relegation] last week, it was about coming out with a fresh mind and going and having fun.”

“I’ve been working hard on my T20 at the moment and it was nice to go out and bat with some freedom.”

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OPINION: The Hidden Gem – Women’s County Cricket

By Richard Clark

There was no county cricket on Bank Holiday Monday.

Nothing.

Not a ball bowled anywhere in England or Wales.

We (that is, the wider public with an interest in cricket) know this because it has been discussed at some length in the cricketing press, blogs and social media. Beautiful weather, everybody off work, kids on half term… and yet no cricket to watch. It’s no wonder the ECB appear convinced that children don’t “engage” with the game if they can’t actually go and see it.

Yet we (and this is a much smaller “we” – those of us who cherish women’s cricket) also know that it’s bunkum.

For there was plenty of county cricket on Bank Holiday Monday – 18 matches, to be precise – in the Royal London Women’s One Day Cup (or County Championship if you prefer). Ample opportunity for those keen to spend a day in a deck-chair or on a bench absorbing the ebbs and flows of the game to get out and do so.

And not just in the “traditional” areas of the country. Monday’s matches stretched far beyond the confines of the 18 First Class counties, from Pontarddulais to Dumfries, and from Long Melford to Instow. They say you’re never more than six feet from a rat, but it’s quite possible that wherever you were in the country on Monday you would have been ever closer to a women’s county cricket match!

Yet there will have been few in attendance, beyond family and friends, at most of those fixtures. Why? Various reasons, but not least amongst them is the almost total lack of noticeable publicity.

The ECB doesn’t include fixtures on its own website and the mainstream media are not interested. “The Cricketer” only includes England and KSL matches on its pre-season poster (although, in fairness, the typeface is fairly small as it is!), and “The Cricket Paper” gives but scant coverage. These games might as well not exist.

Even “the Counties” (with exceptions) provide very little publicity for their women’s teams – perhaps not surprising given that the two are usually totally separate entities run by different bodies.

There is some cohesion, some element of “joined-up thinking”. In my own county (Worcestershire), for example, the women now wear the same kit with the same “Rapids” branding as the men, albeit with different sponsorship. That’s unarguably a step in the right direction, but there is very little publicity given to the women’s team via the County’s official website and social media.

County Boards largely do a good job – again to use my county as an example, they use social media well to publicise matches in advance, and, pleasingly, have been able to encourage the local press to run a few stories this season in particular, but for the most part they are very much preaching to those already within the tent. Their reach beyond their own existing sphere is limited at best.

Websites and blogs such as this one, and a handful of social media champions do a great job, but I’m sure Syd and Raf will acknowledge that by and large they too are preaching to the well-and-truly converted. Nothing wrong with that, and all praise to them for doing a great job, but it has a minimal impact in terms of spreading the gospel.

The question that needs to be asked is this. Do we want to keep the status quo, where England’s games are well marketed and well attended, the KSL (and whatever it morphs into in two years’ time) likewise, but the county game all but invisible? Or do we believe in the Championship and its T20 cousin? Are we happy to keep it as our own little secret, shared between a select group, or would we rather share it – as much as we can – with the larger cricketing family?

And this is the thing. There are, I’m convinced, people out there who would be interested in the women’s county game if only they knew about it, and who would be keen to sample one of their county’s fixtures. Some of them may well be aware that it exists, but have no idea how to go about finding out more. We (that’s the second “we”) know where to look, but if others don’t know where to look how do they find out where to look?!

At times I feel – wrongly, I’m sure – that there’s a fear amongst those of us “in the know” of shouting too loudly about the women’s county game. Is it because those of us who appreciate it want to keep it to ourselves, or because we worry about criticism from newcomers who compare it with the men’s game, or the sneering and knuckle-dragging responses from the “caveman element”? maybe we fear it turning into something that isn’t quite what we came to appreciate in the first place? I hope, and deep down believe, that I’m wrong about all that.

So what do we do?

Well, take this Sunday for example. There is another round of Women’s Championship fixtures – Divisions 1 and 2 only, of course. There are also a number of Men’s Royal London Cup games, but obviously not every county is at home, and two (Yorkshire and Somerset) don’t have a game at all.

In Yorkshire’s case, their women play Nottinghamshire at Harrogate, and the Yorkies are still in with a decent shout of the Division 1 Title. That’s a game worth shouting about, worth publicising, surely? Yet neither Yorkshire CCC’s website nor their social media platforms make any mention of the match. There is – to their credit – an impressive section on their website about the KSL Diamonds, but nothing on the actual county team.

Elsewhere on their website, however, a page on the women’s county team (which I eventually found after some time searching) includes a useful link to “Our Review of 2013”. Hmm…

Meanwhile, Hampshire’s men are away to Glamorgan, whilst their women host Middlesex at Andover. With Hampshire currently topping the table, surely some supporters would like to get along and potentially see them lift the trophy? And to Hampshire’s great credit as I write on Friday morning it is the lead story on their website, whilst they have also plugged the match through their social media. Top marks to them!

These two examples illustrate perfectly what can be done, and what is not being done. And we can play our part in making sure there are more Hampshires and fewer Yorkshires.

Those of us on social media can influence the way counties behave in this area. Badger them, tag them in when you’re mentioning matches, remind them, make it hard for them to bury their heads in the sand.

Similarly, use Facebook pages and forums to mention games at every turn. Irritate people. Learn to appreciate the boneheaded comments from those still dwelling in the 17th century, for the one thing they tell you is that you’re being seen and heard. Besides, you know the answers to every snark and snipe. Take those jibes at face value and argue them down. It may not make a difference to that particular individual’s view, but others reading will take it in.

Women’s county cricket has so much going for it. Free (or very cheap) admission – making it affordable for a family, and also meaning you don’t feel you’ve wasted a load of money if you can only pop in for an hour or so – a friendly “traditional cricket” atmosphere, usually a bar (this is very important!), a chance to mix with and talk to the players to an extent, more often than not space for the children to run around unhindered…

But you know all this. I’m off on a converted-preaching mission again. It’s time we started to be proud of this game, and began to tell the world about it.

Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68

MATCH REPORT: Durham End Wildcats Unbeaten Run to take ECB Division 3 To The Wire

Jake Perry reports

Wildcats ‘A’ missed the opportunity to all but secure top spot in Division 3 North after defeat to rivals Durham at Gala CC.

Durham 223-5 (R Hopkins 44, L Wilkinson 2 for 33) beat Wildcats ‘A’ 131 (S Bryce 28, H Falla 3 for 17) by 92 runs

Wildcats ‘A’ Head Coach Steve Knox was left to reflect on a below-par performance from his side as Durham claimed a 92-run win in their ECB Division 3 North encounter at Gala CC. The host’s inconsistency proved costly as the visitors exacted revenge for their eight-wicket defeat earlier in the campaign by ending the Wildcats’ unbeaten league run in emphatic style.

Speaking immediately after the game, the Head Coach gave his assessment of what had been a disappointing afternoon.

“We were very definitely second best today,” he said. “From the off I thought we were scrappy and a bit sloppy. We didn’t bowl the ball in the right place anywhere near enough and they were good enough to cash in on that and get a decent total. 

“Individually we had some good performances but at no stage did we have good partnerships with the ball or bat to let us impose ourselves on the game. To be fair that’s exactly what the girls have just said. They felt they were below par today and that was exactly right.”

The Wildcats’ victory in the opening match of the season had turned this into a must-win game for the visitors, and the Durham openers made their intentions plain from the outset as Laura Hockaday took two boundaries off Caitlin Ormiston’s first over. Lois Wilkinson and Katie McGill maintained a good line for the Scots, though, and with McGill beating the bat twice in the early exchanges the total was limited to 44-0 after ten nip-and-tuck overs.

The bowling side’s efforts were rewarded with a breakthrough in the 16th when Hockaday’s missed sweep saw her stumped for 26 off the bowling of Wilkinson. Rachel Scholes watched Laura Hopkins’ leading edge drop just short of wicketkeeper Sarah Bryce as pressure on the batsmen continued to build, and when Wilkinson claimed her second as Layla Tipton (36) edged behind, momentum was with the Wildcats.

From a precarious 72-2 Hopkins and Ami Campbell began to rebuild the innings, however. Their patient partnership took Durham beyond the hundred mark, and by the time Campbell (39) holed out to McGill in the 36th the visitors were well set at 143-3.

McGill’s well-taken catch had given Caitlin Ormiston a wicket on her home ground as she came back well from her difficult start, and the young Gala bowler added a second in the 42nd when visiting captain Becky Glen (22) was trapped in front. Hopkins and new partner Laura Ellison took Durham past 200, however, and although Hopkins (44) chopped on to give McGill deserved reward after another good display, Ellison (24*) remained unbeaten to steer the visitors to a good final total.

Wildcats openers Lorna Jack and Sarah Bryce began the chase watchfully, working the ball for ones and twos whilst waiting for the loose delivery, and when Jenny McDowell dropped short Bryce duly latched on with a pull shot to the rope. McDowell nearly had her revenge two balls later, however, as she found Bryce’s edge only to see the low chance put down at first slip.

With Bryce looking ominous once again it was a miss which could have proved costly, but as the opening pair threatened to break loose three quick wickets swung the momentum decisively in favour of the English County. Bailey Wanless found Jack’s leading edge to send the Wildcats’ captain on her way for 11 before Bryce (28) was stumped off Rachael Petherick, and with Rachel Scholes (5) chipping the slow left-armer to mid-off soon after, 33-0 had become 46-3. It was a position from which the chasing side would not recover.

Lois Wilkinson (20) played some good-looking shots as she looked to mount a fightback, but her departure amid another flurry of wickets was an ominous sign for the Wildcats’ chances. Despite Katie McGill’s battling 27, the lack of experience in the home batting line-up was exposed as the Wildcats innings petered out to 131, Hayley Falla taking 3 for 17 as the tail was quickly mopped up.

Division 3 concludes next weekend with a double-header in Dumfries as Wildcats ‘A’ take on Northumberland on May 27th and Cumbria on May 28th.

“We are still very much in this,” said Steve Knox. “I’m not sure of the exact situation with bonus points and so on but ourselves and Durham are now very close together. 

“We have to go out and get as close to maximum points as we can in our remaining games and then see where that takes us.”

“We were pretty disappointed in our performance today so we’ll be looking to bounce back,” added captain Lorna Jack. “There are two tough games of cricket coming up next weekend but we are all up for it.

“We’re very much looking forward to the challenge. Although today wasn’t to be, hopefully next time out we can show the West Coasters what we can do.”

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Jake Perry is a cricket writer based in Scotland.

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

MATCH REPORT: Worcestershire Beat Shropshire

Richard Clark in Kidderminster

This is an intriguing season for Worcestershire, who last season achieved the notable distinction of suffering relegation to Division 3 in 50 over cricket, whilst simultaneously earning T20 promotion to Division 1.

Thus far the county has made good strides towards the aim of regaining their second tier Championship place, and that continued with a third win from four games in glorious Kidderminster sunshine against Shropshire on Sunday.

In the end it was a comfortable – but not flawless – victory by 114 runs, built on a textbook batting performance. Electing to bat after winning the toss, the Pears got off to a solid start. But the loss in quick succession of Chloe Hill and captain Lauren Rowles left them 62 for 3 in the 19th over and needing a partnership.

It came from Clare Boycott (53) and Issy Wong (49), who bedded themselves in before beginning the acceleration as the third 50 came in just seven overs. Rachel Howells continued the good work alongside first Wong and then Ellie Fleck, whilst Emily Arlott contributed 14 off ten balls at the end.

Seven fours off the final 14 balls of the innings helped Worcestershire to an imposing 249-6 (their fifth highest Championship score), with the impressive Howells finishing 64 not out from 54 balls. It had been a perfectly-paced innings, showing the value of wickets in hand allowing batsmen to “catch up” after a patient start. Worcestershire had been 81-3 at halfway.

It felt like enough, and perhaps Worcestershire thought that too as they helped Shropshire along in the early overs with some wayward bowling, allowing the visitors to keep ahead of the required rate largely through the wides column.

Ashleigh Heath played a decent hand with 32 but partners came and went at the other end and although it wasn’t until the 29th over that Shropshire’s “worm” dipped below that of their opponents, and by that stage they were seven wickets down and fighting a lost cause.

Off-spinner Izzy Watson was chief tormentor, rattling through the middle order as she had done against Leicestershire a week earlier, adding 5-29 to her 6-21 from that match, whilst Wong showed good pace in conceding just 12 runs in her seven overs.

For the visitors, Zoe Griffiths and Jordi Matthews deserved credit as they dug in for the ninth wicket, Griffiths ending as second-highest scorer with 18, but Shropshire were never able to lift the rate to any extent once Worcestershire tightened up their bowling, and were eventually bowled out for 135 in the 37th over.

Worcestershire will be happy with the win, which moves them to the top of Group E, but will know that such profligacy with the ball could cost them against the tougher challenges of Staffordshire and Leicestershire next weekend.

Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68

MATCH REPORT: Stormers Ground Eagles as the Cricket Scotland Regional Series Begins

Jake Perry reports

Stormers 243 (L Jack 66, H Rainey 3 for 34) beat Eagles 148 (S Bryce 73, R Scholes 4 for 14) by 95 runs

The summer of women’s cricket got underway with an emphatic victory for the Stormers in the opening match of the Cricket Scotland Regional Series at Raeburn Place. Despite a defiant 73 from Eagles opener Sarah Bryce, Stormers captain Lorna Jack’s decisive hand in partnerships of 60 and 97 proved to be the difference as the side from the West, North and Borders secured a 95 run win in the only fifty over match of the competition.

Batting first after winning the toss, the Stormers opening pair of Jack and Rachel Scholes made a brisk start, with Scholes’ wristy flick through mid-off bringing the first boundary of the innings. Jack was soon into her stride, too, as the pair made the most of an excellent batting surface to take the total to 60 in untroubled style.

It was going to take something special to make the breakthrough, and it duly arrived in the form of Kitty Levinson’s pick-up and throw from the boundary to run Scholes out for 26. Emily Cavender (12) quickly followed, stumped by Sarah Bryce to give thirteen-year-old spinner Katherine Fraser a wicket with her first delivery, and when Becky Glen (3) was also run out by the powerful arm of Levinson the Stormers suddenly found themselves on the back foot at 97-3.

Jack and Priyanaz Chatterji settled any nerves, however, with what turned out to be the highest partnership of the match. The Stormers captain reached a 57-ball half century with her fifth four as the Scotland duo kept up the run-rate with some powerful hitting, and as the total approached 200 the game was slipping away from the bowling side for a second time in the day.

At the crucial time the Eagles found the breakthrough, though, as Jack (66) was trapped in front by Caitlin Ormiston, and when Chatterji (47) presented the Gala bowler with a second wicket in her next over, mistiming a pull to Ruth Foulds at midwicket, the bowling side had given themselves a chance once more. Led by Hannah Rainey (3-34) and Katherine Fraser (3-53) the final five Stormers wickets fell for just 42 as their total was limited to 243.

Despite the frustration of a high number of extras, the Eagles bowlers had stuck to their task well on a pitch that offered little assistance to them. Fraser bowled with particular maturity, varying her length and flight beautifully to add the wickets of Ellen Watson and Abtaha Maqsood to that of Cavender. Demonstrating very good control, a nice range of variations and evident confidence in delivering them, the young off-spinner looks to be an outstanding prospect for the future.

Although the runs required were fewer than had looked likely with Jack and Chatterji at the crease the Eagles were still faced with an imposing task, and the chase began with an immediate statement of intent from Sarah Bryce as she cracked the first ball through the covers for four. Fresh from her winter in Australia the Scotland wicketkeeper looked in terrific form, but as the innings unfolded the lack of a lasting partnership meant that the Stormers total was never seriously threatened.

The loss of Riti Patel (4), Kitty Levinson (8) and Katie McGill (1) reduced the batting side to 61-3, and although Bryce brought up her fifty with a single in the 24th over the dismissal of Ruth Foulds (7) next ball put the Eagles into further trouble at 93-4.

Tight bowling from the spinners kept the pressure up, and after Bryce (73) was finally out in the 38th the last two wickets followed quickly, Rachel Scholes taking 4 for 14 as the victory was confirmed.

The Regional Series continues with six Twenty20 matches over the summer, beginning with a double-header at Rossie Priory on June 3. At the start of a big year for Scotland’s Women, particularly in T20, it is another opportunity for players to put themselves into contention for national selection.

“We’re hoping that the competition will provide a platform for the strongest players in the country to exhibit their skills and we can hopefully build a bit of an identity as well,” said National Head Coach Steve Knox.

“We’ve only got the two teams this year but we’re hoping that that will expand over the next two years into a three-team competition which will provide the foundation for everything that happens over and above that.

“It’s a great opportunity for our best players to pit their skills against each other. This is another big season for us and I’m very excited about what is to come.”

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Report from Cricket Scotland

Jake Perry is a cricket writer based in Scotland.

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

OPINION: Alyssa Healy’s Sporting Gesture Shows The Way For Australian Cricket

Ravi Nair reflects upon a moment from today’s tri-series final between England and Australia, which took place earlier today in Mumbai

About mid-way through England’s innings, as they were attempting to chase down Australia’s mammoth total of 209, Amy Jones hit the ball deep and was called back by Nat Sciver for a second run. She never looked like making it; the ball hit wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy’s gloves and almost simultaneously the stumps were knocked askew. But Healy turned away glumly and shook her head at her colleague, Ellyse Perry.

The umpires were baffled, as they were prepared to give the run-out without even going upstairs, but Healy refused to appeal, saying she had knocked off the bails with her gloves just before the ball hit them and she then knocked the stumps sideways. She didn’t have time to go for the keeper’s back-up, of gathering a stump in her hands and uprooting it.

Jones was halfway to the Pavilion when the umpires called for a television review (perhaps some of the other Australians had instinctively appealed, as most of us spectators did) and, after three long minutes, confirmed what Healy had said. Jones’ innings continued, even though it did not eventually make a difference to the outcome of the match.

Australians apparently like their sporting heroes to play “hard but fair”. After and this action of Healy’s, I’d suggest they would have been better off following the fortunes of their national team in India, as opposed to the one in South Africa.

MATCH REPORT: Australian Practice Makes Perfect in Tri-Series Final

By Ravi Nair in Mumbai

Australia (209-4) comprehensively beat England (152-9) by 57 runs

A phrase apocryphally attributed to Gary Player goes: “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.” An earlier version of the phrase attributes luck to knowledge, instead. Today Australia’s practice and experience came together to show that they deserved all the luck they got, as they comprehensively beat England, despite batting first.

England’s chase eventually fizzled out as they chased Australia’s record T20 score of 209, a total powered by an unbeaten 88 from Meg Lanning, who does not have an average in this tournament, having not been dismissed throughout.

But practice, and perfection, showed up most in the difference between the fielding of the two sides since, once the batters got their hitting hats on, the bowling often seemed irrelevant. Alas for England, their newest players, Bryony Smith and Alice Davidson-Richards, were responsible for most of England’s fielding lapses, giving away boundaries and, on one occasion, letting a catch through the hands that might have made a more substantial difference to the result. Smith, in particular, had a tournament to forget, with both these fielding slips, and her lack of runs, proving a weak point for this young and developing England side.

As per usual, Australia’s Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney opened positively and took advantage of England’s slightly slipshod fielding. Then Tash Farrant had a huge slice of luck as Mooney was judged out to a delivery that, upon reflection, was clearly missing the leg stump. Later in the over though, the umpire didn’t make the same mistake, recognising the movement she got and rejecting an LBW shout for a delivery of prodigious movement, bowled from outside leg, pitching on middle, and turning so sharply it was missing leg.

Ash Gardner took full advantage of her let-off to join Healy in a stand that helped set up Australia’s monstrous total. Farrant lost her line entirely when put in on only her second over against the two “set” bats (it’s OK to call a batter “set” once she’s faced six deliveries in a T20, right?)

Luckily Gunn, taking pace off the ball, but not guile, induced a top edge that did for Gardner, and then had Healy going far outside leg and cutting onto her own stumps. But that was the last consolation England had, with Lanning and Elyse Villani joining each other at the crease.

Villani clearly has talent, and has worked on it over the last few years, making the most of what she has and turning herself into a bat that Australia can rely on. This is not to say that Lanning doesn’t work hard: it is just that when Lanning plays she seems to define the notion of timing, of using the crease, of easily making the bowlers look impotent. And she does it all with a cold-eyed look that could, you imagine, outstare the sun itself.

She put the English fielders under even more pressure than before, scoring fours apparently at will, down the ground and square of the wicket. Her timing and placement are so good she doesn’t seem to need the “360 degree” tricks of players like Tammy Beaumont. She never needed to sweep, or ramp a delivery; why would you when you can cut, loft and pull the ball for four?

When Villani finally got the opportunity to join her and get her eye in, we saw a slightly more conventional T20 innings, with two reverse swept fours followed by a conventional one to take advantage of the hole made when the fielder moved from fine leg to deep third man. In short, for fans of runs, runs, runs, this was paradise.

Dani Hazell was standing in as England captain for Heather Knight, who has a hamstring twinge. Knight’s form has not been such this series to believe that England missed her runs, but they may have missed her presence in the field: after all, the only match in their tour that Australia have lost is when Lanning didn’t play and Haynes was in charge. No matter what bowling changes Hazell made, Lanning gave us a masterclass in clean, frustratingly good, scoring. Hazell used up, perforce, her “gun” bowlers, Sciver and Gunn, through the middle overs, not because they went for fewer runs, but because they at least had the experience to know when they were up against an irresistible force and treat bowling triumph and disaster just the same.

The match did not involve India, so the free-to-enter crowd in the North Stand was down to a few hundred, if that. But the BCCI had helpfully brought in a number of school age spectators on an outing who took up a substantial amount of the West Stand near the Pavilion, and ensured the game was not played out to lone voices shouting in the wilderness.

Lanning and Villani, between them, showed how to bat first and set a target, to the extent that, even though Villani was out right at the last, and Lanning wanted to push the score along so much she actually forgot herself and hit a six, they still reached a record 209, now the highest score ever in a women’s T20 international.

So England were up against it right from the start. Here is where practice, or experience at least, again showed the difference between the two sides. Danni Wyatt started off, as always, brightly, like an Energizer Bunny on a 9 volt battery. She reminds one of the indomitable Gauls who populate the Asterix comics: nothing can hold her down. Until, of course, the inevitable happened and a lofted drive that should have gone straight through mid-on and to the boundary, was actually clasped by a leaping Lanning. Yes, that woman again, who ensured Wyatt’s adventure was cut off after 34 runs from 17 deliveries.

Even before that England showed that luck was not on their side, any more than experience and, maybe, big-match temperament. In the very first over Wyatt sent back the hapless Bryony Smith, who could only lose her footing disastrously and watch on all fours, as though nailed to the pitch, as she was run out by a delighted Jess Jonassen for a diamond duck. Tammy Beaumont, attempting to be positive, was out to the first ball she faced, nicking off while attempting an expansive drive against Ellyse Perry, who may not have the pace she once had, but can never be taken lightly.

Once Wyatt was out it was all down to Nat Sciver. Or could Amy Jones, perhaps, prove up to the task as well? Jones seems to have modelled herself on Sarah Taylor, standing up to the stumps at every opportunity when keeping and also using drives and flicks along the ground to get her innings going. Unfortunately for her, and England, while this technique, using a closed face of the bat for the most part, is very useful in ODIs, it doesn’t always answer the questions asked by a T20 chase. Eventually, after an innings that showed she has the ability to improvise, and talent to boot, she fell trying to push the rate along in an increasingly desperate chase, metaphorically opening the face of the bat and falling to a top edge to Villani at fine leg as she attempted a paddle sweep.

Even Sciver was not in a position, single-handedly, to somehow make a realistic chase of it for England. Forced to keep running quick singles and twos as the sharp Australian fielding relentlessly cut off the boundaries, she was red in the face and puffing by the time she reached her deserved half century. She was out, immediately after, trying to score in boundaries so she didn’t have to run.

After that it was a regular procession of wickets, with the admirable and excellent Megan Schutt easily having the best of the match figures (3-14), as England’s chase slowly deflated and they wound up 57 runs short, with just one wicket in hand. Schutt, for what it is worth, has not been called upon to bat even once in this Australian campaign, such has been the dominance of their top and middle order bats.

Of Australia’s newer additions Sophie Molineux and Delissa Kimmince have both had some success in wicket-taking, but for the most part they haven’t yet shown that they are up to the standards set by Perry, Schutt and Gardner, among others. For England, Davidson-Richards and Smith will probably want to forget this tournament altogether.

Eventually the ability to keep a cool head and perhaps the luck that comes with practice, ensured a comfortable win for Australia. England shouldn’t feel disgraced, but they know it is going to take a lot more practice before they can get as “lucky” as Australia. In the meantime, three slightly less pressured ODIs against India beckon. For Australia, Lanning can bask in the glory of the Player-of-the-Match award, well deserved, and Schutt in the equally well-deserved Player-of-the-Tournament award. They earned it.

INTERVIEW – Abbi Aitken Reviews Scotland’s Year

Jake Perry chats to Abbi Aitken

That 2017 will go down as a year of mixed emotions for Scotland’s Women is perhaps the most telling indication of the distance they have travelled. Their appearance at the Women’s World Cup Qualifier in February featured a victory against Papua New Guinea and a much-praised performance against South Africa while a table-topping performance on home soil in August secured a place in the final stages of an ICC Qualifying event for the third time in succession. There is, though, a tangible feeling around the Scotland camp that the true potential of this squad is yet to be revealed.

Of all their recent assignments it was the Global Qualifier in Sri Lanka which provided the sternest examination of Steve Knox’s side. It offered the most useful learning opportunities, too, as the team measured themselves against three of the top ten countries in the world game.

“It was an incredibly valuable experience,” said Scotland captain Abbi Aitken. “The opportunity to compete at another global tournament and put ourselves up against some of the best in the world was always going to be of benefit. 

“To play on different wickets and in different conditions, too, is an experience that the younger girls in the squad will have taken a lot from as well.”

In Scotland’s opening match a half-century from Kari Carswell backed by a tight performance in the field made much-fancied South Africa work hard for their six-wicket win. Subsequent defeats to Bangladesh and Pakistan were to put an end to any Scottish hopes of progression, however, although a seven-run victory over PNG at least provided some consolation.

“Playing South Africa will live long in the memory and to give them a bit of a scare was pretty cool,” said Abbi. “But overall I look back on that tournament with slightly mixed emotions as I think we let ourselves down against some of the lower-ranked teams. Although we beat PNG we let them get far too close to us, especially after we’d put in the performance we did against South Africa three days before. 

“It’s all about belief. I asked the girls to tell me many of them genuinely believed that we could win before the South Africa game. It’s easy for any group of sportspeople to say that they have belief but I think we learned as a group that if we genuinely believe then who knows what could happen? 

“PNG was the other side of the coin,” she continued. “We had confidence but faced a different issue in that we’re not used to being the favourite and there’s no doubt that that affected our performance.

“It is a mindset we need to change. We need to be comfortable being the favourite because if we continue to train and work as we are then there will be more games in the future where we are in that position.”

Scotland’s domestic summer saw progress matched by consolidation as the team secured a mid-table finish in Division Two of the NatWest Twenty20.

“Over the past two or three seasons of domestic cricket we’ve moved up, then down, then up again, so during pre-season we agreed that our goal for this year was to cement our place in Division Two,” said Abbi. “With Sri Lanka in mind we had focused on the fifty-over format the season before so we were happy to achieve that target in T20. 

“We’ll be looking to make a bit more of an impact next year though. Last time out we only showed flashes of what we are capable of so we’re looking to learn from the experience and go into the new campaign with the goal of winning the division. That would obviously be a great thing for us to achieve.”

Scotland’s year ended with the ICC Europe/Americas Qualifier for the 2018 Women’s World T20 against the Netherlands and USA. In a rain-affected week in Stirling the Scots secured one of the two available places at the upcoming Global Qualifier as winners of the competition.

“We had a great win against the Netherlands first up,” said Abbi. “They will no doubt have been disappointed by how they played but we put in an excellent performance. The pre-match words of the Dutch captain certainly helped us prepare, too.

“[Heather Siegers’] talk of exacting revenge for [Scotland’s victory] last year and coming over here to kick backside was definitely played in our changing room before the match and got the girls fired up a wee bit more!”

The seven-wicket win over the Dutch was followed by a nine-wicket victory over the USA, and although the Netherlands triumphed by eighteen runs in the final match of the competition Scotland had done enough to retain their trophy by virtue of a superior run-rate.

“We want to bring up a generation of players who continuously put in winning performances against teams like the Netherlands,” said Abbi. “Six or seven years ago I was brought into a Scotland team where we certainly weren’t the favourites to win these games. Although they came out on top in that last match it’s great that we have turned the tables over the past few years. It’s always a good competition with the Dutch and hopefully the overall picture continues to be one that’s in our favour.” 

Scotland has had to deal with some notable losses over the course of the year. The post-Sri Lankan retirements of Kari Carswell and Fiona Urquhart together with the unavailability of Kirstie Gordon have been significant, but as the matches in Stirling demonstrated others have moved to fill the vacuum. With 118 runs at 59 Lorna Jack proved to be a revelation at the top of the order, and with Sarah Bryce showing moments of brilliance in her new role behind the stumps, too, the remodelled side gives plenty of reason for optimism.

“Massive credit needs to go to Lorna,” said Abbi. “She has been a great wicketkeeper for us over the years but it was fantastic for her to finally cement her place in the batting line-up this year.

“After losing a few people we have needed players to step up and being a senior member of the squad it was great that Jacko did that. Fingers crossed that it’ll be a successful season for her next time as well.

“The Qualifier gave us an opportunity to bring a few younger girls into the set-up as well,” she continued. “Laura Grant came up from the U17s and for her to be around the team in Stirling and understand how a tournament like that works will stand her in great stead going forward. 

“It’s opportunities like that which are so important for the development of our players and as the seasons go by more and more are created. It’s exciting for the future.”

But for Abbi the year has been significant for more personal reasons, too, as in late October the news emerged that she had decided to step away from the national captaincy after seven years at the helm. It was a necessary decision, she says, for both her own future and that of the team.

“It’s been a difficult year from a personal point of view,” she explained. “Over the past year and a half I’ve struggled with a foot injury and my personal performance has suffered badly as a result. 

“Putting the captaincy aside I am picked in the team as a bowler and not being able to bowl a ball in the [Europe/Americas] Qualifier was tough for me. Without a doubt I had thoughts in my head that captain or not I was taking up a shirt. 

“To me the captain should be a main contributor to the team as well as the leader and I wasn’t doing that. I had probably lost a bit of my love for the game, too, and I felt that it wasn’t fair for me to continue as captain if my heart and my head weren’t fully in it.

“It’s a real compliment that Steve [Knox] kept me in the team whether I was bowling or not. Leading the side is a role in itself but I’ve always wanted to be a captain that can both lead and contribute. If I wasn’t able to do both then I didn’t want to continue in the role.

“I sat down with Steve and was completely honest. I told him that I needed to find my passion again. I’m certainly not ready to give up completely but something needed to change if I was going to start to enjoy the game in the same way again.

“To be honest it was probably time for a bit of a freshen-up as well. After hearing my voice for seven years the girls will probably be feeling a little bit relieved!” she laughed.

Abbi had been appointed captain as a nineteen year-old as Kari Carswell moved from the captaincy into the role of Head Coach.

“I had made my Scotland debut at fourteen so I was practically a veteran by the time I became captain!” said Abbi. “My initial reaction was probably ‘woah there’ but I was massively honoured to be asked at such a young age. There were a lot of players who were older than me and had played for much longer in the team so I naturally had doubts about whether I was ready to do it.

“But having Kari there was brilliant for me,” she continued. “She was still on the pitch as a player and to be fair to her she probably still did everything for the first couple of seasons. I did have to learn quickly but Kari always said to me that while tactical awareness would develop over time the fact that I had such a good relationship with the players was just as important. 

“I took that as a huge compliment. From a young age I’ve been able to understand how people work, I suppose, and that always helped me as captain.

“It was a role that taught me to be confident, even during those times when that confidence had to be faked, and if I was to pass on one piece of advice to my successor it would be to trust gut instinct. It always served me well.” 

The announcement of Abbi’s departure was met with heartfelt tributes from across the cricketing community. What pleases the twenty-six year old most, however, is that the legacy being passed to her successor is an environment in which Scottish women’s cricket is stronger than ever before.

“It’s been a whirlwind journey but the transformation of Scotland Women from seven years ago to where we are now has been huge,” she said. “We’re more knowledgeable, fitter and so much better supported from within Cricket Scotland.

“I’ll look back and say that my job over the past seven years has been to be a voice for the girls, to promote the fact that we’re here and on the up. The ultimate highlight for me was to be able to witness that journey. 

“The real highlight for Scotland’s Women is yet to come, though. Watch this space!”

And, with another outing on the global stage to look forward to next year, could it come as early as next summer?

“We’re very much focused on the [ICC Women’s WT20 Global] Qualifier,” said Abbi. “It looks like it will be in July which will dovetail nicely with our T20 Division Two campaign. 

“It will be an exciting couple of weeks. There has already been a shock with Uganda knocking Zimbabwe out of the tournament in the Africa Qualifier. Zimbabwe beat us in Thailand [in the 2015 WWT20Q] in the third place play-off so not having them there this time will make things interesting. 

“With two places available at the main tournament Ireland and Bangladesh will be the ultimate favourites as the two highest-ranked sides but I would expect it to be us ranked next. It’s definitely an opportunity for us. 

“We have never played Uganda before, it will be interesting to see what they have, and the Dutch are sure to bring a strong team, but fingers crossed we can put a bit of pressure on Bangladesh and Ireland and see what happens. 

“The Caribbean would be quite nice to head to in November!” she smiled.

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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 Kathryn and Sarah Bryce Head to WBBL

Jake Perry Reports

Two of the brightest stars in the Scottish game will be rubbing shoulders with the best in the world as participants in the 2017/18 Rebel Women’s Big Bash League Rookie Placement Programme. Sisters Kathryn and Sarah Bryce will head to Australia to take up two-week placements with WBBL franchises Adelaide Strikers and Hobart Hurricanes in the third edition of the innovative joint venture between Cricket Australia and the ICC.

Each of the eight nominees is given the opportunity to experience women’s cricket at its very highest level, and with the added possibility of being called into the tournament itself in the event of an injury to a contracted player, too, the initiative opens up a unique window onto the elite world.

Both Kathryn and Sarah are looking forward to the experience.

“It was so exciting to get everything confirmed,” said Sarah. “It was unexpected for me at least and the family are very proud to have us both involved.”

“I’m really looking forward to visiting Tasmania,” she continued. “Being around such high-quality players and getting to see how they go about their training and everything else is really exciting.”

Whilst Sarah has been selected for the first time it will be a second trip in two years for Scotland vice-captain Kathryn, and the twenty year-old all-rounder is relishing the opportunity to be part of the programme once again.

“Having as much exposure as possible to that professional set-up helps my game a lot,” she said. “It is experience that I take back into my training and tournament play with Scotland.”

“[Last year] gave me an insight into the preparation and hard work that goes into cricket at this level. It’s not just what happens in games and in training, it’s the whole thought process that goes into it as well.”

Kathryn was placed with Melbourne Stars during the last campaign.

“I was given a bit of time to settle in then I fitted into all the training and gym schedules,” she said. “Last year I went along to watch some of the other WBBL games in Melbourne, too. The Renegades were playing as well as the Stars so I went and watched them and got to know a few of the girls, went out to dinner with them and so on.”

“I was living in the same hotel as other international players so I got to spend a lot of time with them as well. Just being in that environment and the routine of training, gym and everything else taught me a lot.”

“I had a couple of training sessions out on the MCG, too, which was fantastic. That outfield and the indoor nets are something else.”

“In Adelaide there is the main Adelaide Oval but I’m not entirely sure what facilities we’ll be using,” continued Kathryn. “But wherever it is it’ll just be good to be playing some outdoor cricket at this time of year!”

“I don’t know a huge amount about what it’s going to be like but I know the facilities and the coaches are going to be of a great standard,” added Sarah. “It will be interesting to see what resources they have and how they use them.”

The news crowns a memorable year for both players. As well as winning her fiftieth Scotland cap Kathryn scored 241 runs at 30.13 for Warwickshire in her first season in the Women’s County Championship, adding a 49-ball 73* in the T20 Championship for good measure.

Seventeen year-old Sarah also made great strides after taking over from Lorna Jack behind the stumps as both players helped Scotland to the ICC Women’s World T20 Global Qualifier.

“It’s been a really good season,” said Sarah. “Going to Sri Lanka at the beginning of the year for the [ICC Women’s World Cup] Qualifier and playing against teams like South Africa was incredible. Putting yourself up against those sorts of players was a challenge we all relished.”

“I think that having both Kathryn and me at the WBBL shows that the women’s game in Scotland is really on the up. In the past a couple of players were relied upon a lot whereas that’s definitely changing now. These days the whole team is contributing which says a lot about how we have progressed.”

“Speaking personally taking over the gloves has been great for me,” Sarah continued. “I’m just trying to keep improving all aspects of my game. Having Kathryn doing so well [has been an inspiration] and it’s nice to be able to follow in her footsteps to the WBBL this year.”

The end of the placement will not be the last Sarah sees of Australia this winter, either.

“I’ll be spending three months at the Perth Cricket Academy after the Big Bash so that will get me into a good routine of how to go about training and fitness and so on too.”

“The whole winter is going to be a great experience and both of us will be looking to bring back as much knowledge to Scotland as we can.”

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Jake Perry writes on Scottish cricket for Cricket Scotland and Cricket 365 and has contributed to ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket.
Twitter: @jperry_cricket
Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

THE GREAT DEBATE: Women’s Tests – The Case Against

By Richard Clark

With the Kia Super League done and dusted, all eyes are now turning to this winter’s Women’s Ashes in Australia, and the prospects of Mark Robinson’s squad regaining the trophy Australia took on these shores in 2015 to sit nicely on the mantelpiece alongside the World Cup.

As with the last three Ashes battles, the series will be decided over a multi-format campaign, involving three One-Day Internationals, followed by a four-day Test Match, and ending with three T20 games.

It’s a format that may be considered “tried and tested” to a point, albeit with some tweaks along the way – the Test Match has been moved from the beginning to the middle of the programme since it was first introduced in 2013, and has also been “downgraded” from six points to four to decrease the emphasis on one match.

The question that occurs to me, however, is “Why?”

Why is there a Test Match?

England’s women cricketers play nothing other than “short form cricket” – be it for their clubs, counties or internationally – other than during the Ashes (barring the one-off Test against India in 2014). Likewise the Australians, as far as I am aware. Whilst Tests are still considered (rightly) to be the pinnacle of the men’s game, they are virtually alien to the women’s version.

For any player making her debut in this winter’s Test – and there will be a few on both sides – this will almost certainly be their first experience of coming back the next day (and the next, and the next) to continue a match. It will be the first time they field all day, or attempt to play a “long” innings. And that’s before we throw in the floodlit aspect, too!

That won’t necessarily make for a poor match, of course. The 2013/14 Test – played in Perth – was a captivating tussle. Lowish scoring, perhaps, but fiercely contested, and in doubt until the final morning. It ebbed and flowed as Test Match cricket should, and there were key performances from Kate Cross and Nat Sciver that “announced” their arrivals.

The Test at Canterbury in 2015, however, was (and I’m a fan of women’s cricket, remember) fairly awful to watch, and to describe it as a poor advertisement for the game would be a kindness. It seemed clear that England in particular looked rudderless in their approach the game. Whilst some of the blame for that could be laid at the coach’s door, that only tells part of the story. Sheer inexperience paid a huge part.

So why play Tests? I can think of only two reasons. Firstly, because it’s what we’ve always done – the Women’s Ashes were exclusively Test-based until 2011, and a Test has been part of the three series since. Secondly, the multi-format series is the “USP” – it’s what marks the Women’s Ashes out from ANY other cricket contest, men’s or women’s (yes, I know the men have used it but it was largely ignored as a concept by all and sundry).

Are either of those arguments enough? I can’t think of another sport that uses such an alien format in one of its highest profile contests – apart, perhaps, from the foursomes segment of Golf’s Ryder Cup. Nobody would expect footballers to turn up every four years and play five-a-side for the World Cup!

It would undoubtedly be a huge shame not to see a Test Match on the calendar, but if we really want the players to produce a contest befitting the Trophy then surely they should be playing what they know best, and that is limited overs cricket.

(Tomorrow Raf Nicholson will present The Case In Favour).