OPINION: A Vision For Women’s County Cricket

By A Roving Reporter

In men’s cricket, success at U19 level is no guarantee of subsequent success at county, franchise or national level, yet under the current structure any female player who hasn’t secured a place in a regional squad by their early twenties (or even their late teens) will have little realistic prospect of subsequently playing at the highest level.

This is not to detract from the tremendous progress of recent years, whereby a cohort of professional players, fringe squad players and Regional Development Centre (RDC) Academy players enjoy unprecedented support, great coaching and plenty of high quality match practice. Nor is this to suggest that those players don’t deserve their success.

However, what’s also been created is a self-fulfilling cycle whereby future stars will be drawn from a pool whose membership is decided at a incredibly early stage in most player’s development; ruling out the late developers, the players whose skills weren’t spotted, those who prioritised their academic studies during their teens, individuals whose parents couldn’t afford the time or money to get their child to training, the players who took longer to understand their game or didn’t seize their early opportunities, the players who responded to their coach’s plea to play ‘bold cricket’ and failed, only to see their more cautious colleagues rewarded. (Every cricketer understands that numerous failures underpin the experience to know how and when to play risky shots. Would a new Tammy Beaumont or Danni Wyatt be supported through several seasons of modest results over less exciting, but dependable players?) 

What, too, are the prospects for what will become a rapidly-expanding group of talented RDC Academy players who find themselves unable to secure professional contracts in competition with the incumbent beneficiaries of early contracts (who may aspire to 5, or perhaps 10, year careers)? What of franchise players who enjoy brief success but then find themselves released?

For all these players their future is club cricket with little coaching, no backroom support and mixed ability training and matches. And even if they perform well, who in the professional set-up will pay attention to their stats or watch these games? How many of these players, who were willing to make 4 to 5 hour return trips for junior county or RDC Academy matches, will be prepared to do so for premier club cricket? How soon before these players lose their ambition or drift away from cricket totally?

This early abandonment of talent, the squandering of investment and the consequent narrowing of the population from which the top echelons will be drawn can only be bad for the women’s game.

However, it’s not difficult to imagine an alternative universe where players at a level beneath the regions receive the coaching and support to ensure that late-developing and latent talent has the maximum chance to be discovered and flourish; where being released from a franchise wouldn’t effectively constitute a career-ending moment; and which additionally would provide early-career coaching and leadership opportunities in line with the ECB’s goal to increase the representation of women in the cricket workforce, and to support more women to take on leadership roles. All this would be built on existing structures and wouldn’t require a large budget.

The answer is the ignored and unloved county game. Surviving in name only, what is gained by the same professional players and local RDC players (all of whose talents are already recognised) playing against each other for a few games in May under a different badge? Instead, imagine a vibrant county scene fought between squads comprising players who hadn’t ‘made it’ by their early twenties, players who’ve experienced but not pressed their case at regional level, the fringe RDC players and good players who perhaps can’t commit to full-time cricket for family or work reasons. At a stroke there’d be hundreds of extra players playing quality cricket. How many overlooked or late-developing stars could be unearthed; the female Matt Milnes or Jake Lintott? How many more comeback stories like Tash Farrant’s would this facilitate? And good cricketers who won’t ever be in the ‘top 150’ could once again aspire to play for their county. All these players would be ambassadors for the game and role models for young players at their local clubs (who are unlikely to know or play with a franchise player).

Regarding coaching, contracted players could pass on their skills whilst developing skills and gaining qualifications for careers beyond their professional playing days. New administrators could gain their first experience, budding umpires could hone their skills, and supporters in sections of the country where there’s no franchise women’s cricket could see high-quality local matches.

The format should be T20 with games held every other week throughout the season; played on Saturdays (so as not to harm the nascent Sunday club scene which is already suffering from the removal of many of the best players). And it needn’t be expensive – players and officials wouldn’t need paying (although travel expenses would be nice), a commitment to delivering coaching could be made a requirement of professional contracts, and many fine school grounds are available. Only players who haven’t played regional-level cricket in the current or previous seasons should be eligible, and extensive efforts should be made to embrace older players before they give up or resign themselves to easy stats in local leagues. Conference leagues would minimise travel, but it could culminate in a round of matches to determine a national champion.

Let’s make 2022 the year when women’s county cricket is resurrected and restructured, to provide the vital missing step between club and region.

NEWS: Chester Win Title For First Time In Five Years

Martin Saxon reports

Chester Boughton Hall are the champions of the Cheshire Women’s Cricket League for the first time since 2016. They wasted no time in making a statement by beating 2019 champions Didsbury on the opening day, and despite a minor setback in their second match, Boughton Hall maintained their momentum, wrapping up the Championship with a match to spare.

Ali Cutler was undoubtedly a key part of their success, leading them to some of their early wins with telling contributions with both bat and ball. However, as the season progressed, some of their younger players featured more prominently, and it was 15-year-old Gemma Rose who finished as the first division’s leading wicket taker.

The best known name in the Chester squad is the Sunrisers’ opening bowler Kate Coppack, who despite now playing for a South of England elite regional team, still made the journey north to play for the club where she began her career as often as she was able to.

Didsbury won the league last time a full season was played, in 2019, but had to make do with the runners-up spot this time, as well as the Senior Knockout Cup trophy. This was despite going unbeaten in all competitions for three months at one stage, a run bookended by two league defeats against Chester.

Oakmere finished third in the first division and also won the T20 Divisional Competition for the first time.
Despite having both the leading run scorer and the equal highest wicket taker in division one, Stockport Trinity finished no higher than fourth. Ellie Mason made 752 runs over the course of the league season, at an average of 107, smashing the previous individual record. Emma Royle took 20 wickets as the club’s opening bowler.

Second division champions in 2021 were Nantwich, who are now promoted to the top flight for the first time. Quite simply, none of their divisional rivals were able to cope with their talented and varied bowling attack. Nantwich capped an excellent season by reaching the Regional Final of the National Knockout, indeed the performances of all the Cheshire League clubs that entered the National clearly demonstrate how favourably the league’s playing standards compare to other leagues in the region.

Hawarden Park and Woodley were the champions of the two regional division three competitions, Stockport Georgians 2nd XI won division four and Alvanley and Langley 2nd XI won the two division five softball competitions.


Division 1 & League ChampionshipChester Boughton HallDidsbury
Division 2NantwichStockport Georgians
Division 3 WestHawarden ParkChester Boughton Hall 2nd XI
Division 3 EastWoodleyLindow
Division 4Stockport Georgians 2nd XIHeaton Mersey & Cheadle
Division 5 WestAlvanleyLeigh 2nd XI
Division 5 EastLangley 2nd XINorth East Cheshire
T20 Divisional CompetitionOakmere KatsDidsbury Swordettes
Senior Knockout CupDidsbury SwordettesAppleton Tigers
Development Knockout CupNantwich 2nd XIHayfield


 Batting Award – Most RunsBowling Award – Most WicketsFielding Award – Most Fielding Catches & Run OutsWicketkeeping Award – Most Wicketkeeping Catches & Stumpings
Division 1 Ellie Mason (Stockport Trinity)Gemma Rose (Chester BH)*Sophie Connor (Oakmere)Katie Bennett (Chester BH)
Division 2Amy Griffiths (Porthill Park 2nd XI)Sophie Morris (Upton)Molly Price (Oxton)Charlotte Neal (Nantwich)
Division 3 WestNicola Deane (Hawarden Park)Florence Seymour (Nantwich 2nd XI)*Laura Nicholls (Hawarden Park)No award – no ‘keeper attained three or more dismissals
Division 3 EastMichelle Hesslegrave (Lindow)Alicia Peacock (Hayfield)*Alex Wilson (Woodley)Abby Barlow (Woodley)
Division 4Amy Shaw (Heaton Mersey & Cheadle)Eliza Chadwick (Heaton Mersey & Cheadle)Elspeth Headridge (Hawk Green)Charlotte Appleyard (Heaton Mersey & Cheadle)
T20 CompetitionsRoshini Prince-Navaratnam (Didsbury Swordettes)Kerry Hartnett (Oakmere Kats)Sophie Connor (Oakmere Kats)Ruth Lomas (Hayfield)

* Bowling average used as a tie breaker where two or more bowlers tied for total wickets

The above listed players all win an award in recognition of their performances this year.

League President Di Totty has chosen Sarah McCann as the winner of this year’s President’s Award, given in recognition of an outstanding contribution to women’s cricket in Cheshire. Di says that Sarah – now stepping down from the Chair role, having done it for the last 11 years, and for another period back in the 2000s – was “the only choice” for the award this year.

PREVIEW: All Eyes on Nunholm as the Scottish Women’s Season Reaches its Climax

Jake Perry looks ahead to the Beyond Boundaries Women’s Scottish Cup Finals Day

The most prestigious occasion of the women’s domestic calendar takes place in Dumfries this Sunday as Carlton, George Watson’s College, Grange and West of Scotland come together for the fourth Beyond Boundaries Women’s Scottish Cup Finals Day. The T20 competition has gone from strength to strength since the charity began its sponsorship back in 2017, and with another new team taking part this year, the continued growth of the Scottish women’s game has been underlined even further.

On the same day that Ben Stokes was performing his heroics at Headingley in 2019, Carlton was wrapping up an emphatic victory over West of Scotland in the last Finals Day at New Williamfield. After a equally impressive win over league runners-up Stewart’s Melville in last month’s quarter-final, the Women’s Premier League champions go into the weekend as hot favourites to both retain their trophy and complete an historic league and cup double, but while semi-final opponents George Watson’s College are very a different prospect to the Sarah Bryce-led outfit that beat them to the cup in 2017, Annette Aitken-Drummond’s side will be taking nothing for granted against the team that knocked out Royal High Corstorphine a couple of weeks ago.

The form book is certainly in the holders’ favour, though, after a WPL campaign that ended with only one defeat for the season. The Grange Loan side came out on top against each of their fellow semi-finalists, piling on the runs against Watsonians/Grange to win by 308 before beating GWC by 107 and West of Scotland by eight wickets. Charis Scott topped the final averages with both bat and ball, while Annette Aitken-Drummond and Scotland Under-15 Maisie Maceira finished only just behind her in what was a clean sweep of the top two in the respective tables. Carlton’s blend of youth and experience is testament to the behind-the-scenes work that has gone into the development of its women’s section: GWC has a fine record in that regard, too, but it will still take a monumental performance from its young side to keep the Arrows out of the final.

The first game of the day sees West take on Grange, who, after playing the WPL season in tandem with Watsonians, will be making their first appearance in the competition. It was West who were doing the same in 2019 in what was their first season of competitive action, and while they left Stirling with a runners-up medal that day, they will hope that the experience of Wildcats Abtaha Maqsood and Ellen Watson as well as fellow 2018 cup-winners Charlotte Dalton-Howells and Nayma Shaikh will see them go one better this time.

They will certainly fancy their chances of doing so after a COVID-delayed start ultimately scuppered their WPL ambitions. West’s victory over RHC at New Williamfield showed their solidity with the bat in pressure situations, and if they can find that same form again at Nunholm, they will provide a stern examination for their Edinburgh-based opponents.

After the frustrations of 2020, Scotland has seen an outstanding programme of women’s cricket this year, which began with the WPL and continued into the inaugural Women’s Super Series. Whoever is destined to succeed GWC, The West and Carlton as Scottish Cup winners this time around, Sunday is sure to put the icing onto what has been an unforgettable summer. 

Beyond Boundaries Women’s Scottish Cup Finals Day (at Nunholm)

Semi-final One: Grange v West of Scotland (10.30am)

Semi-final Two: Carlton v George Watson’s College   

The Finals Day will be streamed via Cricket Scotland Live.

The Cricket Scotland Podcast will include a round-up of the men’s and women’s league and cup action from across the country every Tuesday, with player interviews from our featured games. Follow @ScotlandPod on Twitter for all the latest information.

And if you or your club has a story for us, please email jakeperrycricket@gmail.com and gary@gh-media.co.uk – we look forward to hearing from you!

OPINION: How To Attract A New Audience To Regional Cricket

By Daniel Bingham

Sunrisers vs Thunder, at Northamptonshire on Saturday, was an excellent example of how to get more people watching live cricket.

First of all, tickets were just £2 – a price point which is accessible to everyone. (Of course, cheap tickets shouldn’t come at the expense of further professionalising the women’s game – but if you get people coming along now, you can hopefully persuade them to pay more next season.)

Secondly, tickets doubled up as tickets to “Bite Street” – a food festival being held at the Northamptonshire County Ground. This is a great way of bringing in people who previously thought that going to the cricket would be boring. There will have been some people there on Saturday who only went to the ground to grab some street food for lunch, but who stuck around on a gorgeous sunny day.

This isn’t to say that the day was perfectly organised: the food stalls were table service only – so it was unclear if you could take your food to the stands while the game happened. There also could have been more signage pointing people to where to go if they wanted to watch the cricket, and indicating that it was free to watch having already bought a ticket for Bite Street.

Ultimately, I think that grounds which rarely see international cricket should seriously consider organising something similar during the T20 Blast / Charlotte Edwards Cup. It is an excellent way to attract new people to the sport, as well as offering a bonus to the people who are going for the cricket already.

The Hundred was a good vehicle for children’s interest, with its DJs and in-ground activities, but other tournaments need to do more to attract that younger audience. If you can get more adults choosing to attend other matches outside of The Hundred, they’ll (hopefully) be excited to take their kids and grandkids in the future.

CE CUP: Diamonds Reach Finals Day With Emphatic Win Against Thunder

Martin Saxon reports from Cheshire

An emphatic victory for the Northern ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Yorkshire’ Diamonds over ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Lancashire’ Thunder not only restored some local bragging rights – after Thunder won the T20 clash earlier in the year and Manchester Originals won the Northern derby in the Hundred – but also took Diamonds to Finals Day as winners of the group, after other results went their way.

This was effectively the Roses clash in all but name and, while almost all of the Thunder eleven are drawn from the Red Rose county, this match, like all but one of the Thunder home matches in 2021, was played in Cheshire. Much has been made of how the women’s regional teams are making higher scores when they play on first-class county grounds, but the Chester Boughton Hall club ground – staging its fourth women’s regional match of the season today – is a batting paradise by any measure, and Diamonds certainly made hay as they strolled to their target of 91 with eight wickets and 46 balls in hand.

There was certainly nothing in the pitch to excuse a first innings score of 90-9, but the Diamonds bowlers never allowed Thunder to really build any momentum. There were brief promising signs, such as Georgie Boyce leading the way when 20 were scored in the first three overs, Laura Marshall hitting some good shots as 26 after five became 42 from seven, and Kate Cross taking ten from the 13th over.

However, once Cross had departed, Thunder managed just two boundaries and 23 runs from the remaining seven overs. The standout bowlers during this period were Linsey Smith, who conceded one from the 16th over and two from the last; Alex Macdonald, who ensured the score only advanced by three during the 18th over; and Jenny Gunn, who struck three times in four deliveries in the 19th.

Amongst a series of unT20-like statistics, eight Thunder batters had a strike rate of 64 or less, with Cross’s 127 the only one to better a run per ball. Danielle Collins was the top scorer with just 16. The bowling economy rates also looked very unusual for this format, with the relatively expensive Rachel Slater and Katie Levick still conceding less than six per over, while Macdonald’s 0-14, Smith’s 2-12 and Gunn’s 4-15 return literally speak for themselves.

Diamonds completed their massive win without a major contribution from their taliswoman Lauren Winfield-Hill – only 34 were needed when she faced her first delivery, and she ultimately scored just five. Instead, Bess Heath cut, drove and pulled her way to an unbeaten 58 from 40 deliveries, with her ten fours matching the entire boundary count from the Thunder innings.

On this wretched day for the North West team, Hannah Jones was at least able to cement her growing reputation, conceding just 12 runs from four overs and bagging the prize wicket of Winfield-Hill, all just two days after she saved Thunder from defeat to Sunrisers by only conceding four from the final over.

Sterner tests await the Diamonds in Sunday’s Finals Day, but this performance may have given them the confidence and momentum needed to challenge for the trophy.


Martin Saxon is the Vice Chair and Press Officer of the Cheshire Women’s Cricket League

REPORT: Cheshire Women’s League Finals Day 2021

Martin Saxon reports

Development Knockout:

Nantwich 2nd XI 85-3 (20; Ashlee Prince 25 retired)

Hayfield 43 (20; Imogen Collinson 10, Prince 2-1, K Conroy 2-10)

Nantwich 2nd XI were the first winners on Finals Day as they comfortably won the final of the knockout competition for division three and four clubs, in what was a clash of two teams in their first year of competitive cricket – both have much to be proud of this year. After an accurate opening spell from Hayfield’s Lily Dalkin-Strube, Nantwich accelerated well in the second half of the innings, with Ashlee Prince to the fore. Prince also took the final two wickets with the ball to apply the icing on the cake to this win, although all of the Nantwich attack bowled well to take a clutch of early Hayfield wickets – Charlotte Neal finishing with one for six with two maidens from her four overs.


Senior Knockout:

Didsbury Swordettes 87 (19.2; Mishel Jeena 24, Roshini Prince-Navaratnam 20, Abbey Gore 3-16, Georgia Heath 2-8, Olivia Horsfield 2-14)

Appleton Tigers 83-9 (20; Emma Barlow 30*, Hannah Marshall 3-7, Rosy Wilson 3-19)

The most tense finish of the day’s three matches came here, as Didsbury pulled off something of a Great Escape to win this competition for the first time since 2016. Appleton required just seven from 17 deliveries but, in an extraordinary finale, they mustered just two more in the face of some impeccable bowling from Hannah Marshall and Roshini Prince-Navaratnam. Even the return to the crease of Emma Barlow, at the fall of the ninth wicket, wasn’t enough to get the Tigers over the line, even though she had earlier scored at a run per ball in reaching the retirement score of 30. Although there may have been spells to rival it over the years, Marshall’s contribution of three wickets for seven runs in three overs, with a wicket maiden in the 20th over, must go down as one of the very best death bowling performances in the history of the league’s cup finals. 

Few observers could argue that Appleton lost this match through having both a poor beginning and a poor end to their reply – Rosy Wilson’s three early strikes reduced them to 16-3.

Didsbury themselves scored 49 from the first eight overs, with their reliable opening pair of Prince-Navaratnam and Mishel Jeena putting on 33 inside six overs. Abbey Gore, Georgia Heath and Olivia Horsfield all bowled well to peg back the Swordettes, but their final total of 87 proved to be a winning one.


T20 Divisional Competition:

Oakmere Kats 85-6 (20; Natalie Lyons 24*, Nicola Deane 24, Rosy Wilson 2-20)

Didsbury Swordettes 77-7 (20; Rosie Davis 23)

Didsbury, champions of the T20 Eastern Division this year, failed to make it a double as Western Division winners Oakmere won this trophy for the first time. Oakmere slumped to 16-3 early on and, for much of the innings, struggled to accelerate. However, things all changed suddenly when 22 were added in the final two overs, transforming what looked like being a below par total into a target that looked more than defendable, when considering the strength of the Oakmere attack.

Natalie Lyons was instrumental in Oakmere’s late charge with the bat, and she was in the act again with three economical overs at the start of the reply. Rachel Tidd then conceded just eight from four overs in the middle part of the second innings as the required rate climbed. Although 13 came from the penultimate over, with two boundaries for Lucy Smith, it proved too little, too late for Didsbury.


The league thanks hosts Upton CC for taking on the significant task of staging this triple-header Finals Day. Thanks also go to the umpires and scorers and to the spectators from Stockport Trinity CC who provided the music and the PA during the afternoon matches.


Martin Saxon is the Vice Chair and Press Officer of the Cheshire Women’s Cricket League.

PREVIEW: Cricket Scotland Super Series Set For A Grand Finale

Jake Perry catches up with Peter Ross and Daniel Sutton ahead of the final round of matches in the Women’s Super Series this Sunday

The final round of the Cricket Scotland Women’s Super Series begins at Titwood this weekend, with the Ross and Sutton XIs locked at four-all in the ten-T20 competition. Their last visit to Clydesdale’s ground produced the highest-scoring day of the contest so far, and after 179 played 154 in the sides’ most recent meeting at Goldenacre, both head coaches are hoping for a similarly memorable end to what has been an excellent tournament overall. 

“I think it’s been great,” said Daniel Sutton. “There have been quite a few girls who have shown exactly why they’re Wildcats, and there have also been a few who have shown that they are on the verge of playing at that level, too, which has been excellent.” 

“The overall quality has been fairly high, especially [compared to] previous years, when the batting quality we’ve seen this year hasn’t been there as much,” said Peter Ross. “Teams have chased 150, 160, and we’ve had teams scoring 170, which is testament to the ability of the players and also to the exceptional facilities we’ve been using.” 

“Every ground has provided really good quality, high-scoring cricket, and in the women’s game especially, being able to play on such good pitches has allowed us to showcase the skills that the players have worked so hard on developing over these past 24 months.”

“It’s challenged the batters to score quickly, but also the bowlers,” he went on. “In years gone by they had been used to defending 100, 120, whereas now they are being put under pressure to restrict scoring rates, which is a really good thing for them to experience.” 

While the batters have often dominated, there have been some exceptional performances from the bowlers, too, with spinners Abbie Hogg and Katherine Fraser leading the way in the averages with twelve wickets apiece. 

“Abbie has been excellent for us with her slow left-arm,” said Daniel, “and then the likes of Priyanaz Chatterji, Katie McGill and Lorna Jack have shown why they have so many caps for Scotland, too. They have been consistently good throughout the competition.” 

“Abbi Aitken-Drummond has been our best batter so far, which has been a really exciting role for her to fulfil,” said Peter. “She has always had batting potential, but this year she’s really shown that she can do a job at the top of the order as well as in the middle. Megan McColl has been good across the board, scoring runs and always taking wickets, and the same is true of Katherine Fraser, who has been going at six runs an over when everyone else has been going at eight.” 

“But it’s also been a good chance for the younger players to be pushed in that environment, too, and it’s shown them exactly where they need to develop to be able to put in the performances they need to at that next level.” 

And what of the wider future? The balancing of the teams according to specialism rather than location has led to four evenly matched and hard-fought days of cricket. For both coaches, the way ahead is clear. 

“I think this format is the best way going forward,” said Daniel. “There’s probably not enough strength in depth at the moment to facilitate cricket at this level across three regions, so two teams of the best 22 girls playing against each other week in, week out is a good way to do it.” 

“Based on the quality of the cricket we’ve had, it would be hard to argue a move away from this,” agreed Peter. “Almost every game has been close, which is a reflection of the teams that have been picked and how balanced they have been.” 

“I know that Cricket Scotland want to move towards a three-region approach as they have in the men’s stuff and at some point that will happen, but I think until that point in time you just want to have the highest quality cricket you can – the best cricketers in the country playing against each other on the best facilities we can provide.” 

The Cricket Scotland Super Series will be live-scored and streamed via CS Live. 

Ross XI: Abbi Aitken-Drummond, Ailsa Lister, Becky Glen, Megan McColl, Emily Cavender, Katherine Fraser, Hannah Rainey, Caitlin Ormiston, Anne Sturgess, Zoe Rennie, Lois Wilkinson. 

Sutton XI: Katie McGill, Priyanaz Chatterji, Ellen Watson, Samantha Haggo, Lorna Jack, Abbie Hogg, Charis Scott, Emma Walsingham, Emily McKenzie, Orla Montgomery, Nayma Shaikh, Niamh Muir.


Jake Perry is the author of The Secret Game

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

As part of their ongoing coverage of men’s and women’s domestic cricket, The Cricket Scotland Podcast will include a round-up of the Super Series every Tuesday, with analysis and player interviews along with those from other featured games. Follow @ScotlandPod on Twitter for all the latest information.

THE HUNDRED: Brave Surge As It’s All Over For Fire

Sasha Putt reports from the Ageas Bowl

A sunny day at the Ageas Bowl saw a determined Southern Brave side easily overcome the Welsh Fire, in a game which sees the hosts through to the final and Fire out of contention as they failed to chase down 167 off their 100 balls.

Batting first, the Brave started on the front foot, Danni Wyatt and Smriti Mandhana taking advantage of plenty of bad balls and a lucky reprieve off a no ball to score quickly, early. Wyatt reached 50 off 29 and the Brave made 100 off 62.

Wyatt’s departure for 53 did little to stem the flow of runs, as Mandhana brought up her half-century a few balls later. Full tosses, leg-side deliveries and errors in the field meant she and Sophia Dunkley brought up 150 for the Brave off 91.

A couple of late wickets and two wickets in two balls for Hayley Matthews came too late to help the Fire, who saw the Brave put up 166, the highest score the women’s competition has seen so far.

With a mammoth total before them the Fire were under pressure from the get-go, and excellent bowling from Lauren Bell, Anya Shrubsole, Amanda Jade-Wellington and co kept the Cardiff side to almost a run a ball for their first 40.

Bryony Smith, Georgia Redmayne and Sophie Luff all made it into the 30s, but kept managing to find fielders in the deep to restrict themselves to singles.

The run-per-ball requirement kept growing and growing, and soon the Fire found themselves chasing an unassailable total.

The result confirms what was predicted before the tournament – firstly that the Brave were by far tournament favourites, boasting a plethora of international talent in both the bowling and batting department. It also showed the Fire did not have the required star-power to wrest control of the game, especially in the bowling department.

This was most prevalent when the Fire found themselves unable to restrict or dismiss Mandhana or Wyatt, who swept spinners comfortably and punished bowlers who were off their length.

Following the game, Hero of the Match Mandhana found plenty of praise for all of the Brave’s attack: “The bowlers deserve to celebrate a lot – we’ve won a lot of matches because of them.”

Both teams now welcome a London side for their final game, with the Oval Invincibles travelling to Southampton and Cardiff welcoming the London Spirit. The Brave will look to keep their strong form going, whilst the Fire face a potential dead-rubber if the Spirit lose their next game.

THE HUNDRED: Explaining The Struggles Of Manchester Originals

Sasha Putt reports

Before the tournament began, the Manchester Originals were one of the favourites to make the playoffs of the inaugural Hundred. They boasted a strong spin attack anchored by Sophie Ecclestone, and a batting line-up full of international talent.

But five matches in, the Originals find themselves seventh in the table with the worst Net Run Rate in the competition at -0.391. (This is, at least, something of an improvement – it was considerably worse than that before their first victory against the Southern Brave.)

But why has the team struggled in recent weeks, and what can be done to enable the Old Trafford side to finish the tournament strongly?

A key weakness has been an inability to capitalise on key moments and take control of the game. This was clearly displayed in the first game of the tournament against the Oval Invincibles, where the Originals had put up a good total of 135 and were taking early wickets. The win-predictor had the Invincibles at 7% after 35 balls: surely Manchester’s game to win. Then came a slew of dropped catches and missed opportunities, allowing Dane van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp to rally and take the game.

Manchester’s first home game saw a similar collapse. Excellent bowling from Ecclestone, Emma Lamb and Laura Jackson reduced the Birmingham Phoenix to 113 from their 100 balls. The Originals proceeded to record the lowest score of the tournament so far, managing 93 in their innings, with only two batters getting into double figures.

These two games have illustrated the problems Manchester have had so far, both with the bat and ball. In the loss to Birmingham, Harmanpreet Kaur was criticised for her slow scoring, making 49 off 47 balls. However, criticism belongs with the rest of the Originals’ top order. Until their game against the Southern Brave, Kaur had three out of five of the top scores for Manchester, and her 49* is the second highest score in a losing effort. The rest of the top five averaged below 20 at that point. Ecclestone has been the standout bowler, with a run-per-ball (rpb) of 0.91. Of the other Manchester bowlers to have played in all four games, nobody else features in the top 30 for the tournament.

Things were looking dire a few days ago. The Originals’ stars were performing, but their supporting cast failed to provide the backup needed to bring them over the line. Then, against the Brave, came the much-needed injection of fresh talent. Hannah Jones bowled excellently, removing Danni Wyatt, Smriti Mandhana and Anya Shrubsole at a rpb of 0.85. With Kaur out of the side for the game, the pressure was on for their top order to perform. As the rain came down, up stepped Lizelle Lee and Emma Lamb, bringing them to 97/1 after 70 balls, well above the D/L target of 81.

Manchester’s win in that game was the blueprint of how the team was expected to perform, but the big question is if this is sustainable for the rest of the tournament. Aside from Ecclestone, the Originals’ usual crop of bowlers haven’t performed as well as they would have liked, which places a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Jones to continue her form. This could partially be the result of a squad dominated by spinners, which may work at Old Trafford but runs into problems when playing away. 

On the batting side, although Lee and Lamb batted well against the Brave, Lamb still averages 10 across four innings, with only two top-six batters averaging above 20. Kaur’s strike-rate of 109.47 is low, but her resilience at the crease should create the platform needed for the more explosive bats to put runs on the board later in the innings – unfortunately it has mostly failed to do so thus far.

There is still a good chance that the Originals can meet expectations in the latter stages of the tournament and give their younger talent some vital experience that they can take into next year’s competition. The final three games will be a good indicator of whether this side is over-hyped or merely suffered a few setbacks and lapses in concentration.

To succeed, the push has to come from the players surrounding Manchester’s top performers, who need to show that they can support an innings when one of their stars is firing. If they do, the Originals can turn a poor season into an average one and finish with four wins.

PREVIEW: Carlton Eyes The Double, But Stew-Mel Could Spoil The Party

Jake Perry looks ahead to the start of the Beyond Boundaries Women’s Scottish Cup, where holders Carlton face a tough home tie against the side that finished just behind them in the Women’s Premier League, Stewart’s Melville. 

The Beyond Boundaries Scottish Cup gets underway this weekend, with four quarter-final ties to decide the teams going forward to Finals Day on 5 September. The tie of the round is at Grange Loan, where newly-crowned Women’s Premier League champions Carlton meet runners-up Stewart’s Melville, the only side to have beaten them in their victorious campaign earlier this summer.

A month has now passed since the league was decided, but while a number of players from both teams have been involved in the ongoing Women’s Super Series, there has been plenty of other action to keep their competitive edge keen.

“We’ve had a few matches,” said Carlton skipper Annette Aitken-Drummond. “We’ve played a few ESCA T16 games and a lot of the players have been playing in the Super Series as well, so there have been quite a few games to keep things ticking along. But we’re really looking forward to getting stuck into our first cup match at the weekend.”

While Carlton’s title win was comfortable in the end, that one blemish on their record adds extra spice to the upcoming encounter. Stew-Mel’s defence of their total of 176 for 8, a score powered by a 91-run opening stand between Catherine Holland and Emma Walsingham, withstood the pressure of a brilliant late comeback from Samantha Haggo and Charis Scott, and while the challenge of Holland’s team fell away as the season progressed, Annette is expecting a similarly testing encounter. 

“It’s a very tough game for us to have first up,” she said, “but we feel we’ve got the players who can go out and do the job for us. They have obviously got some good players too, but we’re going to give it everything and hopefully get to that Finals Day.” 

And while the year began with the league as the main target for the current cup-holders, thoughts have inevitably turned towards what would be an historic double. 

“If we could go out there and become the first women’s team to do the league and cup double, that would obviously be a great achievement,” said Annette. “It’s something that we have chatted about and it’s something that we have our sights set on, so fingers crossed it starts to come together at the weekend.” 

Another intriguing tie is at Nunholm, where Dumfries & Galloway take on West of Scotland, who finished the WPL season with a near-identical record. West’s final position was skewed by the COVID-cancellation of their first two rounds of matches, however, and Charlotte Dalton-Howells’s side will be keen to make the most of their opportunity to salvage something special from what has been a particularly frustrating year. 

Royal High Corstorphine visit Craiglockhart to take on George Watson’s College in a repeat of the opening match of the league season. That ended in a comfortable win for Megan Taylor’s team, who went on to have an up-and-down sort of campaign, mixing fine wins with narrow losses. While injury has robbed them of Ikra Farooq, they are still capable of beating anyone on their day, and despite the abundance of young talent who have made their mark for GWC, the Barnton team are likely to have too much firepower for them again. 

The final tie of the round is at Myreside, where Watsonians meet Grange, the side with whom they combined in the WPL this year. A third-placed finish was the result after three excellent wins saw them draw level on points, if not run-rate, with Stew-Mel in the final standings. It will be particularly fascinating to see how this game pans out – for two of Edinburgh’s oldest clubs, a first-ever trip to Finals Day is now guaranteed. 

Beyond Boundaries Scottish Cup Quarter-finals – 8 August (Reserve Day 15 August):

Watsonians v Grange (at Myreside)

Dumfries & Galloway v West of Scotland (at Nunholm)

Carlton v Stewart’s Melville (at Grange Loan)

George Watson’s College v Royal High Corstorphine (at Craiglockhart)


Jake Perry is the author of The Secret Game

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

As part of their ongoing coverage of men’s and women’s domestic cricket, The Cricket Scotland Podcast will include a round-up of the Super Series every Tuesday, with analysis and player interviews along with those from other featured games. Follow @ScotlandPod on Twitter for all the latest information.