MATCH REPORT: Sussex v Hampshire – Hampshire Purged By McCarthy

Cassidy McCarthy took two crucial wickets at the death, as Sussex beat Hampshire by 1 run at the Aldridge Academy in Brighton.

Chasing 156, Hampshire reached 152-8, with 25 balls remaining and Charlotte Taylor set on 19 not out before McCarthy intervened, bowling both Taylor and then Providence Cowdrill to snatch victory by the closest of shaves.

On paper it was a match Sussex should have won easily, with all three of the Southern Vipers “pros” – Georgia Adams, Tara Norris and Paige Scholfield – wearing the blue of Sussex Sharks, against a young Hampshire side which included two debutantes – England Academy Training Squad fast bowler Alex Avoth, and Berkshire wicket keeper Mia Rodgers.

Opening the bowling to Adams and Ella McCaughan, Avoth was hit for 14 in her first over, but came back in her second to dismiss Adams (14), who was beaten for pace, looking to flick it over midwicket, and clean bowled. McCaughan (36) however ploughed on, putting on a fifty partnership with Izzy Collis (23) before adding another 30 with Rodgers predecessor at Berkshire, Carla Rudd, who did her case for a spot on the Vipers squad no harm at all with 22. From 114-3 though, Sussex collapsed somewhat, with no one else reaching double-figures as they were bowled out for 156 inside 40 overs, with Avoth finishing with 3-35.

Hampshire’s reply was very-much a collaborative affair, with no one apart from Ms Extras (27) making more than 23, though Maia Bouchier (21), Charlie Dean (22), Emily Windsor (23) and Alice Monaghan (22) all made it into the twenties; with Beth Harvey taking crucial wickets for Sussex in the middle overs to keep the Sharks on top.

With Hampshire stumbling at 123-7 it looked to be all over bar the shouting, but Taylor had other ideas as the Sussex attack fed her favoured cut shot with a string of half-volleys outside off stump. McCarthy however kept her nerve, bowling first Taylor for 19 and then, having conceded a wide to take Hampshire to within one run, doing the same to Cowdrill to bring home the win for Sussex.

Q&A – The Return of Domestic Cricket

What’s Happening?

Domestic cricket is coming back! While the BCCI wriggle-out of international series, and prevaricate on the Women’s IPL-Lite, the T20 Challenge, the ECB have committed to holding a “proper” women’s domestic tournament in what’s left of 2020.

Is That A Good Thing™?

It is fantastic news, and definitely A Good Thing™!

Which Teams Will Be Involved?

We’re talking about the 8 new regional teams which broadly align geographically with The Hundred sides – so there’s one based around Middlesex, one in the West Country, one in Yorkshire, another in Lancashire, etc. etc..

What Are The Team Names?

Several of the teams have chosen to carry-forward their brands from the KSL – so fans will still be able to watch the Southern Vipers and the Western Storm, as well as new teams like the Sunrisers in Middlesex/ Essex.

What’s The Format?

This will be 50-over cricket, with the teams playing in two regional groups (presumably north and south) followed by a national grand final.

What Will The Competition Be Called?

We don’t know yet, but The Enid Bakewell Trophy would look to be a popular choice!

Which Players Will Be Playing For “My” Team?

Apart from the 20 players who were given regional retainers, even the teams don’t know yet! A handful of players have made informal agreements to play at a particular side, but all the rest of the spots are still up for grabs. Players have been told to treat the “friendly” county matches which are going on at the moment as trials, where they can make a case for themselves!

Will The England Players Be Playing?

Probably not – the England squad are currently strictly “bubbled-up” under government COVID-19 regulations, in preparation for a hectic international series versus South Africa at Derby in September; and England will be reluctant to let anyone out of that bubble because they will then have to re-quarantine (a-la Jofra Archer) before being let back in to the bubble, in the event that they are needed.

Will The Players Be Paid?

In more good news, the answer is YES – everyone that plays will get a match fee. It won’t be huge, but in the light of the current situation this is great for the players.

Where & When Will The Games Be Played?

This is still TBC – even the regional directors don’t know yet – so expect an announcement in the next couple of weeks.

Will I Be Able To Go And Watch?

That’s partly up to the government, as these matches will count as “Elite Sport”. This means they are covered under completely different COVID-19 regs to club or women’s county cricket, which are “Recreational Sport”, so TLDR… no one can give you a definitive answer on that yet.

Will The Games Be Live-Streamed?

That will likely be up to the teams to organise themselves. (Additionally, there are technically some restrictions on live-streaming when Sky are also showing live cricket, so that may factor-in too if Sky decide to enforce their exclusivity rights.)

What About County?

There will definitely be some county fixtures, but that’s up to the counties themselves to organise – keep a close eye on Twitter, as they’ll probably deliberately be flown slightly under the radar, certainly at the bigger counties, to keep everything COVID-safe.

OPINION: The London Cup – A Surrey State Of Affairs

On paper, you wouldn’t have given Surrey too much of a prayer in last night’s London Cup – I certainly didn’t, telling our YouTube viewers (above) that while there were two teams that could win the match, only one would… and that one wasn’t going to be Surrey!

How wrong was I?

Despite having no “pros” to Middlesex’s three – though you’d think Hannah Jones and maybe Aylish Cranstone will be added to the “pros” list for the Stars when it is expanded to five later this summer – Surrey finally pulled off a win in the London Cup at the sixth time of asking. Surrey Director of Women’s Cricket Ebony Rainford-Brent, whose brainchild the cup was back in 2015, was so delighted with the result that she stood at the gates of The Oval giving everyone, including us, socially distanced high-fives as they left the ground!

Surrey did it against the odds by winning some big moments… and losing one crucial one – the toss! Middlesex opting to bat might have been the right call by the book, but with so much rust in everyone’s gears after the non-season we’ve had so far, it proved to be a big mistake, as they failed to score a run in the first two overs, whilst losing the wicket of captain Naomi Dattani.

The Dattani wicket was a big moment in retrospect, because it set the tone – the ball was leaving her quite sharply, and might even have been called a wide if she’d left it, but she swung at it so vaguely that her bat flew out of her hand in the opposite direction and the edge went through to Rhianna Southby, whose catch was controlled and confident – everything that the shot that preceded it wasn’t!

Of the Middlesex pros, only Cordelia Griffith really looked the part, hitting 30 off 23 balls, including the game’s only maximum. Veteran (though she probably won’t thank me for calling her that!) Tash Miles gave Griffith a bit of support, until she got this…

A Ball of the Season contender in any season from leg-spinner Dani Gregory! There aren’t many who can do that, but Gregory’s challenge is that England don’t pick bowlers – particularly spinners – based on the ability to bowl a magic ball. England value consistency over turn, and that’s what they get from Sarah Glenn. Can Gregory add the consistency, without losing the spin? If she can, she’s going places!

Even having restricted Middlesex to 108, Surrey still had a lot of work to do, and whilst their top order all got starts, none of them pushed on, so by the time Kira Chathli came to the crease, with 5 down and 50-odd still needed, it looked a really big ask.

Then Chathli did this…

I’m a bit of a traditionalist sometimes – scoops belong on Fleet Street, not on a cricket pitch – but you can’t argue with the result, and having faced-down a Required Rate of 8.4 at one stage, Chathli found herself the hero of the hour… of the day… of the season, such as it has been so far, having ensured that the London Cup was, for once, a Surrey state of affairs!

 

VIDEO: The CRICKETher Weekly Vodcast – Episode 18

Raf & Syd discuss WBBL fixtures and transfers, Cricket Australia’s appointment of a mental health overseer, a new brand for the London & East Regional Hub here in England, and the appointment of Trevor Griffin as London & East coach.

No live cricket in the background this week due to the English weather (boooo), but we do have new credits to reflect the fact that we’re no longer in Social Isolation (yay!)

INTERVIEW: Tash Farrant – I’ve Still Got England Aspirations

Speaking for the first time as a South East Stars player, Tash Farrant has told CRICKETher that her sights are set on an England comeback, 18 months after she was unceremoniously dropped from the squad by then-coach Mark Robinson.

Farrant, who was unveiled last week in the first tranche of what will eventually be 40 new domestic professional contracts in England, was appearing alongside fellow Stars signings Sophia Dunkley, Alice Davidson-Richards and Bryony Smith, and newly appointed Regional Director Richard Bedbrook, who told us that inking-in the former England player, currently living in Loughborough, was an easy decision to make:

“Tash is a Kent girl at heart, and when we initially chatted there was a desire for her to come back this way, so it was a no-brainer then that she’d be part of the group.”

For Farrant, losing her England contract at the start of 2019 was a bitter blow that came somewhat out of the blue: “When I got let go I wasn’t really expecting it, so for the last year and a half it has been tough.” There were even thoughts of packing it all in: “I potentially wanted to [give up], because if you get let go from the England setup, you’re living the best life, you’re contracted, you’re stable, but as soon as you lose it, there’s nothing to fall back on.”

But fortunately for everyone, those thoughts were short-lived: “I quickly switched out of that. For me, I just love the game – I would play in the back garden!”

Working with a new bowling coach – Scott Boswell, formerly of Lancashire and Leicestershire – has been a big positive for Farrant:

“I feel like I’ve got a new sense of my cricket life – I’ve been working at Trent College with Scott, who I cannot praise highly enough. We’ve been going back to the basics, and looking at some points of my action – it’s quite mundane stuff, but I’ve worked really hard, so hopefully we can get some games and I can get out there playing again with the girls, which would be amazing”.

Meanwhile Farrant’s new boss Bedbrook, who was formerly head coach of Surrey Stars in the KSL, is keen to support the ambitions of his players as far as they want to take them: “We want to help players make the next step up and realise the ambitions that they might have, which might be to play for England, but equally it might be to be a professional cricketer for as long as they can.”

For Farrant, the former is clearly very much on her mind, but she remains grounded about it: “I definitely have aspirations to get back into the England squad, so hopefully if we do get back out there at the back end of the summer, I can get out there and show what I can do. If it will happen, it will happen; but if not, then I’m happy to be a professional cricketer in the domestic game.”

NEWS: Harrison Throws Doubt On Elite Regional Cricket This Season

Less than a week after the confirmation of regional retainers for 20 new domestic professional cricketers in England, ECB Chief Executive Tom Harrison has cast doubts upon whether the ECB’s plans to go ahead with the regional “Centres of Excellence” competition this season can proceed.

Announcing the rescheduled start of the men’s domestic season on August 1st, Harrison had the following to say about the women’s game:

“Our strong preference is that the women’s new elite domestic structure starts this summer and we will work hard to ensure that happens.”

But… there was a but:

“For this to be achieved, brand new infrastructure still needs to be rolled-out, alongside imperatives we need in place when playing competitive cricket during a pandemic.”

“Our first choice remains to do everything we can to start this year and build on the fantastic momentum in the women’s game. In the event that proves impossible, we will explore other options for play to enable our women’s players to enjoy competitive domestic cricket in 2020.”

Those other options may well ironically be local county competitions, of exactly the sort the ECB tried to discourage the counties from organising, following the disbanding of the Women’s County Championship.

“Planning for the return of the women’s domestic game remains ongoing, but our commitment to women’s domestic cricket is unwavering and we look forward to sharing further news shortly.”

Hopefully we’ll get some answers soon.