NEWS: Dunkley, Gordon & Linsey Smith In For England

KSL break-outs Sophia Dunkley, Kirstie Gordon and Linsey Smith have been called up to the England squad for the Women’s World T20 in the West Indies next month. All are selected on form but the inclusion of three debutantes in the 15-player squad is nevertheless a massive surprise for a major tournament, and a departure from England’s usual policy of safety first, with big names and World Cup winners axed to make way for the new faces.

Middle-order batsman Sophia Dunkley won the County T20 Cup this season with Middlesex, after having had an outstanding winter with the England Academy; and then followed that up by impressing in the opening round of the Kia Super League for Surrey Stars – scoring 66 off 43 balls versus the Vipers at Guildford.

Kirstie Gordon – a left-arm orthodox spinner – is a former Scotland player from Aberdeenshire, who made the decision 2 years ago to pursue her cricketing career in England when she accepted a place at Loughborough University. She was the leading wicket-taker in both the Women’s County Championship for Notts and the KSL for Loughborough Lightning this year.

Linsey Smith – another left-armer – also had a good KSL season. One of the leading wicket-takers in KSL01 for the Vipers, despite only being drafted in late as an injury replacement, this year Smith transferred to the Lightning, where she took 11 wickets at an Economy Rate of 6.4.

The only other semi-surprise in the squad is Tash Farrant, who has made a swifter recovery than might initially have been expected from the broken collar-bone she sustained fielding in a KSL match at Loughborough this summer – she makes the squad as fast bowling cover for Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole.

Missing out are World Cup winners Alex Hartley, Laura Marsh and Fran Wilson, as well as all three of England’s 2017 debutantes – Alice Davidson-Richards, Katie George and Bryony Smith; plus four others from the contracted squad – Georgia Elwiss, Kate Cross, Freya Davies and Beth Langston.

With Sarah Taylor not travelling to the West Indies, Amy Jones will take the gloves for England, with Tammy Beaumont as backup.

Possible 1st Choice XI

  1. Danni Wyatt
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. Amy Jones (wk)
  4. Nat Sciver
  5. Heather Knight
  6. Lauren Winfield
  7. Katherine Brunt
  8. Dani Hazell
  9. Anya Shrubsole
  10. Sophie Ecclestone
  11. Kirstie Gordon

Full Squad

  • Heather Knight
  • Tammy Beaumont
  • Katherine Brunt
  • Sophia Dunkley
  • Sophie Ecclestone
  • Tash Farrant
  • Kirstie Gordon
  • Jenny Gunn
  • Dani Hazell
  • Amy Jones
  • Nat Sciver
  • Linsey Smith
  • Anya Shrubsole
  • Lauren Winfield
  • Danni Wyatt
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DEBRIEF: WNCL – Double Brucie Bonus Puts New South Wales Top

Team Played Won Lost Points NRR
1. New South Wales Breakers 2 1 1 6 1.51
2. Victoria 2 1 1 5 0.15
3. Queensland Fire 2 1 1 4 0.20
4. ACT Meteors 2 1 1 4 -0.01
5. Western Fury 2 1 1 4 -0.03
6. South Australian Scorpions 2 1 1 4 -0.09
7. Tasmania 2 1 1 4 -1.66

With 2 rounds played this weekend, perennial champions New South Wales sit at the top of the WNCL ladder, despite a dramatic opening-day loss to Queensland. Queensland put themselves in a great position, bowling NSW out for 149, only for Rene Farrell to knock-over their entire top order in a remarkable 5-wicket opening spell which left Queensland 18-6. But Queensland recovered thanks to 50s from Sammy-Jo Johnson and Josie Dooley to win the match with just one wicket remaining!

Normal service was restored for NSW the following day, as they smashed Tasmania for 344 – Rachel Haynes and Alyssa Healy both hitting 80s – and then bowled them out for 158 to grab a double-dose of bonus points.

This was after Tasmania, under new coach Salliann Briggs, had got their first points on the board in almost 2 years on Day 1, thanks to Player of the Match Corinne Hall, who hit 86 off 98 balls as Tasmania successfully chased ACT’s 218 all out to win by 5 wickets.

For South Australia, Tahlia McGrath hit 105 as they posted 251 versus Victoria, but McGrath’s efforts were trumped by Meg Lanning’s 120* as Victoria chased the runs in under 40 overs for the bonus-point win that puts them 2nd.

There was better luck for South Australia the following day, as Bridget Patterson became their second centurion of the weekend, hitting 109 against Western Australia, who were then bowled out for 205, with 3 wickets apiece for Megan Schutt and Amanda Wellington.

With everyone getting a win on the opening weekend, it’s all to play for when WNCL resumes in… er… November – yes, you read that right – without the internationals, who will be in the West Indies (along with us!) for the Women’s World T20. Then we have to wait until February for the final round of games, prior to the top two playing off in the final on February 9.

OPINION: The 100 Is Still Nonsense… But It’s All The Nonsense We’ve Got

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we weren’t invited to the trials for The 100 that took place this week at Loughborough and Trent Bridge; but enough information has dripped out to get a good idea of where things are going with the ECB’s new competition.

As the ECB are discovering, cheap slogans and simple promises don’t necessarily translate easily into actual workable solutions. The problems begin with the very concept of “100” – a number of balls which it turns out isn’t divisible by 6, and so can’t be slotted neatly into traditional 6-ball overs! So… let’s have 5 ball overs… but that means more changes of end… okay, so let’s have 10 ball overs… but that would lead to fast bowlers getting injured… okay so let’s have 5 or 10 ball overs, according to whether the batsman’s mother’s maiden name ends in a “Y”?

Not quite as simple as it sounded in the blue-sky marketing meeting, is it?

Other ideas floated around – cutting the “red tape” of LBWs and/or PowerPlays – have gone nowhere, because it turns out there were actually quite good reasons for these laws after all, and scrapping them would have a lot of negative externalities – scrap LBW and I’d give it 5 minutes before batsmen started taking advantage and using their pads deliberately to protect the stumps; scrap the PowerPlay and you’d have 9 men on the boundary before you could say “Howzat?”!

So it looks like what we will end up with is exactly like cricket… but with a more complicated “overs” system (possibly not even called “overs” but “fives”) which they will try to mask by having a big scoreboard count down from 100 – even though they HAVE to keep some concept of overs (/ fives) to control how many balls each bowler can bowl and from which end they will be bowled, because counting actual balls would obviously be a nightmare!

What a farce!

And yet… for all the nonsense… there will be an upside – the fillip in visibility that will come as the media latch on to Something New™, as they did with the KSL; the Free-To-Air TV numbers that will dwarf those that have sat behind Sky’s paywall for a generation; the families that will come for the fireworks in the sky and stay for the fireworks on the field.

There will be more opportunities for players too – especially the fringe players, with two additional rosters to fill. So the players are on-board, because it offers them more – more cricket, more visibility, more fame… and more money!

And at the end of the day… as I’m not the first to say… it’s still cricket – swingers will still swing; spinners will still spin; and batsmen will still bat.

And we’ll be there to watch, like we always are.

Because it might be nonsense.

But it’s all the nonsense we’ve got.

NEWS: Bates Quits New Zealand Captaincy

Suzie Bates has resigned as New Zealand captain after six years in the role.

But 30-year-old Bates will continue to play for the White Ferns, saying:

“I still have a lot to contribute to the White Ferns and international cricket and that the best way for me to do that is by concentrating more energy into my performances on the field.”

Bates has led New Zealand at a time of great change, with the professionalisation of the women’s game adding new challenges for the smaller nations, as they try to keep up with the pace set by Australia and England, but without the same resources.

Bates responded by burning the candle at all 3 ends to try to maintain the pace – playing domestic cricket at home in New Zealand and in Australia during the antipodian summer, literally shuttling between the two; then spending her winters in England playing county cricket for Kent and latterly Hampshire, and KSL for Southern Vipers.

It was a schedule that was perhaps starting to take its toll, as she began to look a slightly tired shawdow of her usual self towards the end of this season in England.

Bates will be succeeded as New Zealand captain by Amy Satterthwaite who will take charge for the upcoming T20 series versus Australia.

This is clearly not an appointment for the future – Satterthwaite is a year older than Bates – but she has the experience that New Zealand need right now to keep the seat warm for a couple of years until Amelia Kerr – the only realistic long term candidate – can perhaps take over after the 2021 World Cup.

STATS: KSL2018 Non-International Rankings

As we observed when looking at the overall Batting and Bowling Rankings, the tendency of sides to prioritise the recruitment of big-hitting batsmen when selecting their overseas players has meant that young English talent has had more opportunities with the ball than with the bat – non-internationals (who are by definition English-qualified – the rules essentially require this) bowled 35% of the overs in KSL2018 but batted just 15%.

Especially regarding the batting therefore, these stats are then very much a reflection of the opportunities a player had, rather than necessarily how “good” she is.

Topping the Non-International Batting Rankings is Thea Brookes, who was a consistent performer for the Diamonds in the middle order with 4 scores over 20, including an impressive 45 off 36 balls v the Vipers.

At No. 2 in the Batting Rankings Eve Jones scored more runs than Brookes, but the unfortunate truth is that Jones seems to have been left-behind by professionalism – a Strike Rate of just 85 just doesn’t cut it these days, in this age of power hitting.

Of the England prospects, batting-wise Sophia Dunkley is probably the closest – popping up in both the Batting and Bowling Rankings, though she was probably one big score short of booking a ticket to the West Indies for the World T20.

At the top of the Non-International Bowling Rankings is of course Kirstie Gordon, who topped the overall Bowling Rankings with 17 wickets. Gordon’s route to England representation is currently blocked by Sophie Ecclestone and Alex Hartley – a classic case of why we really need professionalism at the next level down, so she can stay in the game full time and develop, rather than slipping behind as the likes of Eve Jones have done.

Batting

Player Played Runs SR
1. Thea Brookes (Diamonds) [21] 9 139 121
2. Eve Jones (Thunder) [24] 9 168 85
3. Ellie Threlkeld (Thunder) [26] 10 138 99
4. Sophia Dunkley (Stars) [32] 11 98 120
5. Georgie Boyce (Thunder) [34] 9 98 88
6. Georgia Adams (Lightning) [36] 11 69 93
7. Paige Scholfield (Vipers) [40] 8 36 129
8. Natalie Brown (Thunder) [42] 5 34 117
9. Maia Bouchier (Vipers) [43] 4 40 93
10. Sophie Luff (Storm) [44] 11 36 97

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate; [X] = Overall Rank

Bowling

Player Played Wickets Economy
1. Kirstie Gordon (Lightning) [1] 11 17 6.05
2. Linsey Smith (Lightning) [8] 11 11 6.40
3. Katie Levick (Diamonds) [9] 9 11 7.00
4. Emma Lamb (Thunder) [11] 10 11 8.06
5. Freya Davies (Storm) [19] 11 8 7.72
6. Claire Nicholas (Storm) [20] 10 7 7.03
7. Fi Morris (Vipers) [23] 7 7 8.01
8. Sophia Dunkley (Stars) [27] 11 6 8.00
9. Maddy Villiers (Stars) [29] 11 5 6.92
10. Danielle Gibson (Storm) [30] 11 5 7.41

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

STATS: KSL 2018 Bowling Rankings

With the KSL teams prioritising big-hitting batsmen in their overseas picks, there’s a bit more room for non-internationals in the Bowling Rankings, compared to the Batting Rankings where no non-internationals made the Top 20.

Top of the tree is Kirstie Gordon, Saviour of the Loughboroughverse, with 17 wickets at an Economy Rate that only just tipped over 6 after Lizelle Lee’s onslaught in the final.

Linsey Smith at No. 8 is another non-international who had good year, after transferring from the Vipers to the Lightning – albeit not quite as spectacular as KSL01 when she topped the rankings; while Emma Lamb spun her way to No. 11, and Freya Davies also sneaked into the Top 20. Davies in particular is probably an outside bet for World T20 selection, depending on the injuries to Tash Farrant and Katie George – though both are officially hopeful of returning to fitness by November.

Amongst the established players, England will obviously be happy with the performance of Sophie Ecclestone at No. 2; but also interested to see Jenny Gunn in at No. 4. Gunn isn’t an automatic pick for England any more, and at 32 she is getting on in years, but she remains a useful squad player, and she’s probably done enough this summer to get on the plane to the West Indies.

Player Played Wickets Economy
1. Kirstie Gordon (Lightning) 11 17 6.05
2. Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder) 10 15 6.41
3. Sophie Devine (Lightning) 11 16 7.22
4. Jenny Gunn (Lightning) 11 14 6.84
5. Dane van Niekerk (Stars) 9 13 6.62
6. Marizanne Kapp (Stars) 11 11 5.66
7. Katherine Brunt (Diamonds) 7 10 5.42
8. Linsey Smith (Lightning) 11 11 6.40
9. Katie Levick (Diamonds) 9 11 7.00
10. Amelia Kerr (Vipers) 10 10 6.50
11. Emma Lamb (Thunder) 10 11 8.06
12. Alice Davidson-Richards (Diamonds) 9 10 7.45
13. Tash Farrant (Vipers) 6 10 7.77
14. Alex Hartley (Thunder) 10 10 7.83
15. Georgia Elwiss (Lightning) 10 9 7.36
16. Nat Sciver (Stars) 11 10 8.23
17. Suzie Bates (Vipers) 10 9 8.18
18. Laura Marsh (Stars) 11 8 7.36
19. Freya Davies (Storm) 11 8 7.72
20. Claire Nicholas (Storm) 10 7 7.03

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

STATS: KSL 2018 Batting Rankings

There are no real surprises in the 2018 Kia Super League Batting Rankings – no non-international players make the Top 20, though a couple were just outside it: Diamonds’ Thea Brookes at No. 21 and Thunder’s Eve Jones at No. 24.

England’s two spring batting debutantes – Alice Davidson-Richards and Bryony Smith – placed at Nos. 25 and 28 respectively, giving Mark Robinson little to think about in terms of World T20 selection; and whilst Sophia Dunkley had a good opening day, making her highest score of 66 against the Vipers, she was hard-pressed for opportunities with the bat thereafter, and those 66 runs ended up being well over half the runs she scored in the entire tournament, though she maintained a good Strike Rate of 120.

The positives for England are that Nat Sciver (No. 3) and Heather Knight (No. 4) both had very good tournaments – especially in the case of Knight actually, who was playing second-fiddle for much of the time to Man Women Person (sorry Michael… which is it??? Ah yes…) Player of the Tournament Smriti Mandhana at No. 1.

England will though be less happy with the performances of their two opening batsmen, Tammy Beaumont and Dani Wyatt. Did the Vipers under-perform because Beaumont and Wyatt under-performed, or vice-versa? A bit of both, maybe?

One player who will have impressed her national selectors is Rachel Haynes at No. 5 – Ashes-winning captain she might be, but she is not guaranteed a spot in the Australian XI – and her 324 runs at a Strike Rate of 128 will have done her case no harm at all.

Lizelle Lee at No. 2 of course is sure of a spot in South Africa’s XI – her runs go without saying, but she also fielded very well, and will probably be secretly relieved that Trisha Chetty has made her peace with the selectors and been brought back into the wicket-keeping role for South Africa, so that Lee can now focus on her batting in the West Indies, as she was able to do here with tip-top results.

Player Played Runs SR
1. Smriti Mandhana (Storm) 10 421 175
2. Lizelle Lee (Stars) 11 352 149
3. Nat Sciver (Stars) 11 362 144
4. Heather Knight (Storm) 11 368 134
5. Rachel Haynes (Lightning) 11 324 128
6. Sophie Devine (Lightning) 11 269 147
7. Beth Mooney (Diamonds) 9 267 138
8. Amy Satterthwaite (Thunder) 10 277 127
9. Nicole Bolton (Thunder) 10 274 120
10. Suzie Bates (Vipers) 10 245 115
11. Rachel Priest (Storm) 11 183 140
12. Tammy Beaumont (Vipers) 7 198 128
13. Harmanpreet Kaur (Thunder) 7 164 152
14. Lauren Winfield (Diamonds) 8 205 120
15. Amy Jones (Lightning) 11 202 120
16. Elyse Villani (Lightning) 11 175 128
17. Sarah Taylor (Stars) 10 177 123
18. Dani Wyatt (Vipers) 9 172 123
19. Sara McGlashan (Vipers) 10 164 123
20. Mignon du Preez (Vipers) 10 174 104

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

KSL: Flash Gordon – Saviour of the Loughboroughverse

It may not have been the dream ending for Loughborough Lightning yesterday at Hove – beaten in the final by a rampant Lizelle Lee – but having finished top of the group stages, with 7 wins from 10, in reflection they really ought to look back on this campaign as a success.

A part of this was the contributions of their international superstars – Rachel Haynes finished the tournament as the 5th highest run-scorer; with Sophie Devine 2nd in the list of wicket-takers. Devine also hit 269 runs in the campaign; and there were solid performances from England’s Amy Jones, with 202 runs, and Jenny Gunn, with 14 wickets.

And then there was Kirstie Gordon.

Hang on… Kirstie Whodon…???

Unless you’ve been paying attention to county cricket, you’ve probably not heard of Kirstie Gordon, but the former Scotland international, who is now pursuing her career in England, finished the season not only as Loughborough Lightning’s leading wicket-taker, but the top stump-botherer in the whole KSL.

The signs were all there of course – she was the leading wicket-taker in county cricket in 2018, taking 35 wickets across both formats for Notts; but the KSL is a significant step-up from the County Championship, and to finish with even a handful of wickets would have been an achievement. To finish, as Gordon did, with 17 wickets at an Economy Rate of just a shade over 6, was outstanding.

As Lightning captain Georgia Elwiss told CRICKETher after the final:

“She is a real find – she has been absolutely brilliant. She stands up in the big pressure moments, and for someone that’s playing in her first season of KSL, that says a lot about her as a person.”

“She is a great character to have around the squad – she is always up and about, always lively, and brings loads of energy.”

“She works really hard [and] she deserves everything she is getting – there will definitely be more to come from her.”

Whether “more” includes one day pulling on an England shirt, only time will tell; but if it does, this season for Loughborough Lightning will be where it really started.

KSL Finals Day – All-Stars Stars Sneak Up The Inside To KSL Glory

Going into the final fortnight of the 2018 Kia Super League, the Surrey Stars had lost more matches than they had won – standing third in the table, with just three wins to four losses, with one game rained-off. In contrast, the Storm and Lightning were dominating the group stages, with 6 wins apiece.

And yet, come Finals Day it is the Stars who have triumphed – winning their last two group matches to qualify for Finals Day in third spot, and then defeating both the Storm and the Lightning to lift the trophy at Hove.

“We were waiting for the game where everything clicked,” said final centurion Lizelle Lee afterwards, “and today it all just came together!”

Lee of course was the difference in the final itself – as losing Lightning captain Georgia Elwiss acknowledged:

“Lizelle played out of her skin – it really was a special knock and someone like that is hard to stop on a good pitch,” Elwiss said.

But over the course of the tournament, different players have stood up for the Stars – particularly Nat Sciver in the semi-final today, who made 72*, without which they likely wouldn’t have made the final. With 252 runs at a Strike Rate of 144, she has moved her game onto a different level this season – scoring runs at a tremendous Strike Rate without seeming to take the kind of risks that others do to maintain that sort of momentum.

With the ball, Marizanne Kapp has taken 11 wickets, but perhaps more importantly in T20 cricket has done so at an Economy Rate of well under 6-an-over, which is pretty remarkable in a tournament where par scores have soared well past 7-an-over.

Sophia Dunkley has also come up with some crucial performances – her 50 against the Vipers on the opening day was in a losing cause, but her 3-18 helped beat the Storm at Cheltenham, and she held her nerve to hit the winning runs in the final group match too. Will it land her in the West Indies in November? Probably not – it would be a huge surprise if Mark Robinson included any uncapped players in the squad – but it will certainly have given him notice that she is knocking on the door for a contract when her uni studies end next year.

The likes of Lee, Sciver, Kapp and Dunkley wrote the headlines then, but we shouldn’t forget the performances of some of the younger players either – Eva Grey, Bryony Smith, Mady Villiers, Grace Gibbs et al all did their bit, and fully deserve their winners medals. They’ve given everything they could over the past months and years to be the best cricketers they can be – they didn’t do it for the fame, and they certainly didn’t do it for the money – but they did it! They are Stars too, and this is their win as much as it is that of the bigger names you’ll read about in the papers tomorrow.

KSL: Stars v Storm – Stars Ride The Rollercoaster To Finals Day

In a game which mirrored a season in which they have won just 5 of their 10 matches, and yet still managed to qualify for Finals Day, Surrey Stars dug out a last-gasp win against the Western Storm with just two balls to spare, sealing 3rd spot in the group stages and a Bank Holiday trip to the seaside next weekend, where they will meet the Storm again in the semi-final in Hove.

“Everyone’s heart rate was going through the roof,” admitted Stars skipper Nat Sciver afterwards. “Those kind of games you can easily be on the losing side – a couple of things don’t go your way and that’s it – you are out of the competition!”

With the Thunder beating the Vipers at The Ageas, a loss would indeed have meant exactly that – they would have been out.

That they live to fight another day is very-much down to the leg-spinners Dane van Niekerk and Sophia Dunkley, who bowled 4 overs each for 20 and 21 runs respectively – 5 runs an over, compared to the all-but 10 an over everyone else was going at.

“After the first few overs of spin it seemed it was a bit slow and a bit of turn,” said Sciver. “So I thought: we’ve got two leg-spinners, we might as well use them – and they were finding it fairly difficult against them.”

Counterfactually, if van Niekerk and Dunkley had conceded at the same rate as the rest of the Stars attack, they would have found themselves chasing not 158, but a massive 195!

Nonetheless, the Stars still faced, if not a mountain, then a very big hill at the half-way stage – 158 was a good total on that pitch, and chasing it was never going to be straightforward.

As with the bowling, it was two performances rather than one which set them up – Lizelle Lee and Bryony Smith’s opening stand of 90 put them in a strong position at 10 overs; but with Lee’s dismissal at the end of the 10th over the chase stalled dramatically. Between the 11th and 16th overs, the Stars scored just one boundary, and the Required Rate climbed towards 9-an-over.

12 runs off the 17th over bowled by Stafanie Taylor, who was having a bit of a nightmare with the ball after having earlier conceded 22 off an over to Lizelle Lee, put things somewhat back on track for the Stars, before this rollercoaster of a match changed course yet again as first van Niekerk and then Sciver were dismissed with a handful of runs still required.

It was up to Sophia Dunkley and Marizanne Kapp to keep their eyes wide open on the final descent – 9 runs from 10 balls is one of those asks that sounds easy, until you are actually faced with it; but Kapp and Dunkley held their nerve to take the Stars to Finals Day, where they will look to make it 3-from-3 versus the Storm in the semi-final and earn the right to play for the trophy against group winners Loughborough Lightning in the final.