MATCH REPORT: Essex v Middlesex – Dodd’s “Ken Do” Marathon Leaves Essex Tickled Pink

A 98-ball marathon from Beth Dodd took Essex to an upset victory over much-fancied Middlesex on the opening day of Div 2 of the Women’s County Championship at Chelmsford.

On a gorgeously sunny Easter Sunday at the County Ground, Essex won the toss and elected to bowl on the same pitch these sides’ respective men’s teams had hit nearly 700 runs on in a Royal London Cup game just two days before.

Middlesex openers Cordelia Griffith and Naomi Dattani made a steady start, moving to 45-0 after 10 overs, as Essex seamer Grace Poole bowled well with no luck – passing the edge several times in the powerplay.

A loose over costing 17 runs from the tiring Poole then allowed Dattani to race ahead, with the Middlesex captain reaching her fifty off 48 balls in the 14th over.

The breakthrough for Essex came of the last ball of the 14th over – Griffith brilliantly caught by former Middlesex player Cath Dalton at cover, bringing Sophia Dunkley to the crease for her first Middlesex knock since she became an England player at the World Twenty20 in November.

After a couple of close calls between the sticks, Dattani’s luck ran dry as she was run out by a direct hit from Poole for 57 off 56 balls.

New batsman Beth Morgan quickly followed in the most unfortunate fashion – run out at the non-striker’s end, after Anje Lague put down a fairly straightforward caught-and-bowled chance from Dunkley which then ricocheted onto the stumps, with the umpire adjudging that Morgan was out of her ground at the point of impact.

Lague made better work of her next caught-and-bowled opportunity, sending Emma Albery back to the pavilion for a 6-ball duck, as the visitors began to falter to 104-4 and then 107-5 as Dunkley was given out for 20, caught off what she was clearly convinced was a bump-ball.

Middlesex keeper Iqraa Hussain hung around for 28 balls for 16, before popping up a 3rd catch of the innings to Dalton, as Middlesex’s lower order crawled onward, passing 150 for the loss of 8 wickets in the 37th over.

Middlesex were eventually bowled out for 160, with Kelly Castle picking up 3-16 off 4 overs at the end, including a lovely caught-and-bowled to dismiss Rebecca Tyson – the last wicket to fall for 5.

Despite having not batted, Middlesex’s Katie Wolfe was soon into the action with the ball – opening the bowling, as she took advantage of new regulations which allow all 12 named players to be interchanged freely in and out of the on-field eleven.

First blood however went to Middlesex’s other opening bowler – Gaya Gole, who bowled Kelly Castle off an inside edge for 7 with 12 on the board.

Having negotiated the powerplay to take Essex to 32-1 at 10 overs, the two Beths – Harmer and Dodd – began to play a few shots, keeping well on top of the required rate, which soon fell to a strollable 3-an-over, with Middlesex needing wickets to stay in the game.

It was Naomi Dattani who provided the breakthrough – Harmer bowled for 29, trying to hoik the deceptively quick Dattani across the line.

Dodd however remained rooted to the crease, taking Essex past the 100 mark in 25 overs, together with Cath Dalton who maintained a Strike Rate of 100 despite largely playing second-fiddle to Dodd as the partnership built past 50.

With just 32 needed by Essex for the win, Dattani brought herself back into the attack with immediate results – bowling Cath Dalton for 34 with the first ball of her new spell.

Dodd’s marathon innings then finally ended after 98 balls, caught by Rebecca Tyson off Dunkley for 46; and Middlesex saw a chink of light as Megan Janman was run out shortly afterwards for 1, with 26 still required.

But while wicket-keeper Scarlett Hughes blocked for her life at one end, Jess Bird picked up where Dodd had left off – letting the runs find her as the target was slowly but surely whittled away – Bird finishing on 17, and Hughes on 7, as Essex reached their objective in 42.3 overs to set the early pace in Div 2.

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NEWS: Women’s County Championship To Be Decided On Points

The Women’s County Championship Playing Conditions have been updated [PDF here] and in a break with past seasons, the title will be decided on total points not average points.

Previously, in an attempt to equitably account for rained-off matches, points have been averaged so that cancelled games don’t count against a team’s placing. This system had its own quirks – in 2012, Essex came second despite having won just two matches, with 5 games cancelled – but it was generally accepted as fair.

The move to total points however is not accompanied by a change in the way points are allocated. Crucially, this means that while abandoned and tied matches share five points, games that are totally rained-off get zero points. With no obligation to rearrange cancelled matches, this could become very contentious – on a rainy day, the umpires decision to take the field for just 1 ball could be the difference between death and glory if a team needed, say, 5 points to seal the championship.

The new playing conditions are also somewhat shorter than before, because all the sections about promotion and relegation have been removed. Though it has been an open secret for some months that the 35-team county championship will be reduced to likely just 8 teams in 2020, with no promotion or relegation, the ECB has not yet made any official statement about this, and so the new playing conditions (amazingly!) represent the first semi-official confirmation of these changes.

NEWS: Surrey To Live-Stream Women’s County Cricket Day Match v Lancashire #YourCounty

In a first for women’s county cricket, Surrey have announced that they will be live-streaming their match against Lancashire on Women’s County Cricket Day – Bank Holiday Monday 6th May!

The 50-over match at Guildford, the Club’s second home encounter in this year’s County Championship, will be available to view live on kiaoval.com with commentary from the BBC’s Mark Church and a range of guests.

Surrey’s Director of Women’s Cricket Ebony Rainford-Brent said:

“We’re delighted to be able to offer a live stream of a women’s county cricket match for the first time in this country.”

“With free entry for all county matches and an exciting crop of Surrey youngsters in this year’s team, hopefully we can inspire a new generation of girls to pick up a bat and ball.”

Surrey’s Head Coach Richard Bedbrook said:

“It’s exciting for all of us involved in the women’s game in the county that more fans will have the opportunity to see our first team play this season.”

“We’ve trained hard throughout the winter and hopefully we can showcase our competitive, exciting brand of cricket on a bigger stage this summer.”

NEWS: Claire Taylor Hails Launch Of Home Counties Women’s Cricket League

England legend Claire Taylor was at Thame Cricket Club in Oxfordshire this week, to metaphorically “cut the ribbon” at the launch of a new women’s club cricket league.

Clubs from Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire have come together to form the Home Counties Women’s Cricket League, with the 24 clubs involved playing up to 15 fixtures over the season.

The season begins with the Super 8s – a series of triple-header festival days, played under “pairs” rules to ensure maximum participation. The competition then moves to one-day formats, with the clubs divided into local groups across 3 divisions – the Division 1 teams playing nine 35-overs-per-side fixtures through the season.

Sponsorship has come in from Serious Cricket, whose MD Neil Rider was manager and assistant coach of the England Women’s team between 2003 and 2007.

League Chairman Tim Haworth described how much things had changed since he first became involved with women’s cricket:

“I have 3 daughters – the youngest was the one who started playing cricket first, and the older two realised it was fun and joined in. When we started, the number of teams was severely limited, but now we do proper training and there are plenty of teams to play.”

But Haworth realised things could be better still:

“The situation was a little bit piecemeal – each county had an offering of sorts, but it wasn’t very joined up. The need was flagged up that we needed some competitive cricket at various levels in these counties. So what we have tried to do is bring the full spectrum of opportunity to clubs so they can pick and choose what is appropriate to them at their stage of development.”

And Haworth is already looking further than the coming season, to 2020 and beyond:

“We want to have a Premier League and we hope that in 2020 some of the clubs from the Midlands League will come in to bolster the top end for us. Then in future years we’d like to also engage with fledgling clubs just starting out, by offering softball too. So the idea is to have the full range of cricket opportunities for every club.”

You can follow the Home Counties Women’s Cricket League on Twitter @HomeCountiesWCL and on Play Cricket at homecountieswcl.play-cricket.com.

APRIL FOOLS: ECB To Abolish Overs In New Competition

The ECB has announced that they are abolishing overs in their new “100-ball” tournament to be launched next year.

The concept of an “over” is one of the oldest laws in cricket. After six balls the fielding team switches ends, and a different bowler is selected to bowl from the opposite end – crucially, no bowler may bowl two overs in succession.

But in order to simplify cricket for a new generation, the ECB have decided to abolish overs and replace them with “ends”. Under these new simplified rules, the fielding team will change ends after ten balls, but they can opt to change bowlers either half way through an end (or not) while a bowler may bowl in successive ends, as long as they don’t exceed 20 balls.

As Theresa May might say: Simples!

Additionally, in order to add to the drama and cram matches into the two hour window required by the tournament’s free-to-air broadcaster the BBC, the new competition’s playing conditions will include time-outs. These will shorten the game and ram-up the excitement, by adding several minutes during which very little will happen.

While many of these changes are aimed at people who don’t really like cricket mums and kids, the ECB will ensure that its existing fanbase feels a sense of continuity and buy-in, by abolishing all the existing teams and replacing them with new ones further away. Fans of the most successful men’s counties, like Essex who regularly sell out Chelmsford, and current Blast Champions Worcestershire, will be able to select from one of eight new teams to support, with a range of lovely replica shirts, in gorgeous primary colours, to choose from.

Editor’s Note

Last year’s April Fools piece, which suggested that the Australian team were going to have GPS chips surgically implanted into their bodies, led to the editor fielding a stern call from a representative of Cricket Australia, demanding to know our source for the story. The editor would like to make it clear therefore that this story is just a made-up joke in the great tradition of April Fools hoaxes and is obviously not going to happen! 

STATS: England In India & Sri Lanka Bowling Rankings – Brunt Still Burning

Defying all the cliches for a subcontinental tour, England’s leading bowlers in India and Sri Lanka were all quicks.

Of course this was partly because their leading spinner – Sophie Ecclestone – played only 2 matches before injury ended her tour. She was effectively replaced in the lineup by seamer Kate Cross, which was an interesting like-for-(not)-like choice – perhaps something to do with maintaining that vital balance in the team between northern and southern accents? Whatever the reason it worked out pretty well, with Cross taking 11 wickets at a respectable Economy Rate and bagging a Player of the Match award for that final over in the 3rd T20 against India, closing out the match with 2 wickets for 1 run when India had needed just 3 runs to win.

England continued dependence on Katherine Brunt was underlined once again, as she topped the rankings despite sitting out of most of the Sri Lanka leg, where the “easier” wickets were. To be fair (unlike with the batting) England have a succession plan for Brunt, with Katie George looking to be back from injury this summer and Freya Davies making her debut on this tour, and no player is genuinely irreplaceable… but Brunt really is as close as it gets.

Anya Shrubsole ranked second with 14 wickets, and was the only one of England’s bowlers apart from Ecclestone to finish the tour with an Economy Rate under 4. She didn’t do anything spectacular, but she took at least one wicket in every match she played, and she is a Big Game Player™ – come the Big Games against the Aussies this summer, she’ll be fired up alongside Brunt to win back those Ashes for England, and together they will be key to England’s hopes.

Finally, it would be remiss not to mention Georgia Elwiss, who in the 3 matches she played before going home injured, contributed with both bat and ball – bowling economically in the middle overs, and crucially scoring 33* in the final ODI v India, to get England over the line as they were starting to wobble. With the old Jenny Gunn nearing the twilight of her career, England will be searching for a new Jenny Gunn; and short of someone else changing their name by deed poll to “Jenny Gunn”, Elwiss is looking like the leading candidate for that role now.

Player Matches Wickets Economy
1. Katherine Brunt 7 15 4.07
2. Anya Shrubsole 10 14 3.87
3. Kate Cross 7 11 4.19
4. Laura Marsh 8 7 4.45
5. Linsey Smith 6 9 6.47
6. Nat Sciver 12 5 4.14
7. Alex Hartley 6 5 4.23
8. Georgia Elwiss 3 4 3.90
9. Freya Davies 3 3 4.58
10. Sophie Ecclestone 2 2 3.41

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

STATS: England In India & Sri Lanka Batting Rankings – Jones The Steam In England’s Engine

England fly home from their tour of India and Sri Lanka with a certain spring in their step. Despite losing the first two ODIs of the tour, they bounced back to win every one of the following 10 matches, and now sit a fairly comfortable 2nd in the ICC Women’s Championship, on course for direct qualification for the World Cup in New Zealand in 2021.

Those first two games aside, the batsmen have stood up and been counted, especially in Sri Lanka, where perhaps the only negative has been that the players further down the order like Fran Wilson and Sophia Dunkley haven’t had a look-in, due to the form of Amy Jones, Danni Wyatt, Tammy Beaumont and Nat Sciver. Wilson played 3 matches in Sri Lanka, and faced 3 balls; Dunkley played 3 and didn’t bat at all, though she did get a bowl at least.

Amy Jones comes out on top of our batting rankings, just, after having been promoted to open in the T20s as well as the ODIs, with Tammy Beaumont dropping down the order in the T20s to make way. Jones is clearly relishing the responsibility of opening and keeping, and Sarah Taylor, who scored just 13 runs in 3 innings in the India ODIs, might just need to start looking over her shoulder this summer!

Danni Wyatt, at No. 2 in the rankings, had another good sub-continental tour, hitting nearly 350 runs at a Strike Rate of over 100, which won’t have done her case for a potentially lucrative spot in the Women’s IPL any harm. Tammy Beaumont, ranked third, played more of an accumulating role – striking at only 86, but notching-up over 400 runs in total on the trip.

Rounding out the top 5, Nat Sciver and Heather Knight both made vital contributions. Sciver’s tour was a bit up and down – a big 85 in the 2nd India ODI was followed by a disappointing T20 series (4, 1 and 0), but she made amends with 93 off 73 balls in the 1st Sri Lanka ODI and 49* in the last T20 in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, Knight’s haul of 225 runs looks thin on paper, but was again slightly reflective of lack of opportunity – she was another one who didn’t bat at all in the Sri Lanka T20s.

It certainly doesn’t look like there are too many questions about who England’s top order will be for the Women’s Ashes this summer, though where Sarah Taylor fits in is certainly one that Mark Robinson might be scratching his floppy hat over!

The only real worry is more long-term – with all of England’s top batsmen having made their debuts in 2013 or earlier, where is the next generation coming from? It is a problem… but perhaps also an opportunity for some young batsman to stand up in this year’s County Championship and say “Over Here”!

Player Matches Runs SR
1. Amy Jones 11 368 119.09
2. Danni Wyatt 11 343 109.58
3. Tammy Beaumont 12 407 86.05
4. Nat Sciver 12 304 92.97
5. Heather Knight 12 225 80.65
6. Lauren Winfield 11 138 83.64
7. Georgia Elwiss 3 39 60.94
8. Fran Wilson 3 8 266.67
9. Katherine Brunt 7 31 63.27
10. Sophia Dunkley 5 14 77.78

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate