NEWS: England Academy Schooled In South Africa / Australia Tri-Series

England’s Academy have lost all 4 games of their One-Day Tri-Series versus Australia and South Africa in South Africa.

England – at a slight disadvantage coming into this tour off the back of their off-season – were bowled out in every match, losing twice to Australia and twice to South Africa.

In the first match, Izzy Cloke and Sophia Dunkley combined with 3 wickets apiece as Australia were bowled out for 169; and Dunkley then went on to hit 57 off 62 balls as England chased hard, but eventually fell short by 9 runs.

That was pretty much as good as it got for England, whose batsmen didn’t hit another 50 in the series. Dunkley top-scored again with 38 in the second match against South Africa, as England were bowled out for 152, which the South Africans chased with 10 balls to spare.

In their third match, England collapsed to 83-7 before Tara Norris added a bit of respectability – hitting 38* as they finished 144 all out, which Australia easily chased inside 37 overs; and then in their final game yesterday, England laboured to 138 all out off 48 overs, which South Africa knocked off in just 26.3 overs for the loss of only 3 wickets.

Dunkley aside, the only real success story from the trip in terms of numbers was Durham’s previously unknown leg-spinner Helen Fenby, who bowled 25 overs, taking 3 wickets at an economy rate of 2.72. (Lancashire’s Emma Lamb also had a reasonable return with the ball, taking 5 wickets at 3.53; but considering her status and seniority, had a massively disappointing tour with the bat, averaging 6 with a highest score of 12.)

England will, not unreasonably, chalk this up as a “learning experience” but the gulf between them and Australia’s next generation in particular, who won all 4 of their matches, must be worrying. By 2020, when these players are starting to come to maturity, all the Aussies will be full-time pros playing 50-over WNCL and T20 WBBL in the toughest leagues in the world… whilst all the England girls will have to look forward to professionally is 5 weeks of Noddy Cricket in “The 100”. If Mark Robinson isn’t more than slightly concerned by that… he should be.

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NEWS: Somerset & Gloucestershire “100% Committed” To Western Storm Post-2020

In a joint statement, Somerset County Cricket Club and Gloucestershire County Cricket Club have said that they are “100% committed to supporting Western Storm and the KIA Super League” despite the ECB announcing last week that both would be disbanded following the inauguration of “The 100” in 2020.

The clubs state:

“At this week’s meeting of CEO’s and Chairmen, we discussed the future of the women’s game at length and whilst it was decided that the new women’s competition would be aligned to the men’s, it would be so only in structure and not necessarily in geography.”

“We are all excited by the prospect of the new 100-ball tournament, despite neither Taunton or Bristol being selected as a host venue for the men’s competition, and we are delighted that both venues could very well be staging fixtures in the women’s competition.”

What does this mean in practice?

Well… the ECB’s announcement said that there will be: “aligned competitions for both men’s and women’s teams – sharing a common format, brands and identities.” So we know that there will NOT be a team called Western Storm!

But this does indeed leave space for the one of the “100” franchises to base their women’s team at Taunton and Bristol, and this possibility seems to have been dangled in front of Somerset and Gloucestershire at last week’s meetings.

Assuming there is at some minimal semblance of geographic correlation between the men’s and women’s teams, there is only one remotely plausible candidate for this – the franchise based at Cardiff. But there may be potential issues with any outcome which looks like Cardiff “offloading” their women’s team elsewhere – not least in terms of potential applications for regional government funding, which would mandate gender-equality; and of course it is not necessarily the case that they would even want to do this anyway.

Nonetheless, the press release can be read as Somerset and Gloucestershire throwing their hats into the ring to effectively be able to continue to run the Storm, albeit under a new “brand”, after 2020 as part of the “100”.

OPINION: The 100 Is English Cricket’s Vietnam

“It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,” an American general is reported to have said in the wake of the annihilation of the city of Ben Tre during the Vietnam War in 1968.

There were really two disclosures made yesterday by the ECB, as they revealed details of The 100 – the new City “T20”.

  1. The 100-ball format
  2. The disbanding of the Kia Super League

The second of these announcements had been widely expected – the news last September that Kia’s sponsorship of the competition would be extended only until 2019 was an omen which was effectively confirmed by a job description posted on the ECB’s web site in December. The suggestion that one of the KSL coaches didn’t know anything about it is frankly bizarre, considering that players in New Zealand did.

However, on a personal level, this official confirmation is still massively disappointing. We invested in the Super League – with our time, our hearts – and now it is being torn up in our faces.

It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.

Did it?

Time will tell, but try saying that to the Western Storm fans and the Loughborough Lightning fans as you try to get them excited about teams that simply won’t exist any more in two years time.

If the KSL had been a failure – if it had gotten county-sized crowds and no wider coverage – we could understand.

But it wasn’t a failure – it was a fantastic success. The atmosphere at Hove for Finals Day last year was positively bubbling. With three-and-a-half thousand people packed into the county ground, the pressure was so great that it actually broke one of the players; and there were correspondents there from the BBC, the Telegraph, the Mail, the Times and more.

This is really something, I remember thinking – this is what top level sport is – not the sleepy village of county cricket, but the hustling and bustling of a city filled with life!

And now…?

It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.

But if we thought the the disbanding of the KSL was a kick in the guts, we were really not prepared for “The 100” – the 100-ball format, which doesn’t divide into any number of overs, and leaves 10 “mystery” balls to be distributed somehow, like baubles on a TV game-show.

The concept is so bizarre that when we first read the headline, we assumed it was about a new recreational format – some sort of Last Man Standing / Prosecco Cricket affair to try to get the grass-roots buzzing.

And then the reality sank in – this isn’t a late April Fool; they are actually serious. They want to literally break cricket – re-write the laws which require 6-ball overs; re-write the scoreboards; re-write the statistics; and re-write history… until it just isn’t cricket any more.

It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.

Really?

Call me old-fashioned – the ECB will – but there are certain elements to cricket which are sacrosanct. Yes, we’ve had 4 ball overs in the distant past, and I actually remember 8 ball overs. [So… the distant past too? Ed.] But 6 has been the more general consensus for a long time now, and never have there been different lengths in the same game.

And what did cricket need saving from, anyway? The game itself isn’t the problem – look at the IPL and the BBL/WBBL for models of success, without changing one of the most fundamental rules.

It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.

Well… the Americans did destroy the town… and then another town… and then another… to “save” them.

But they failed.

And this will too… possibly taking the whole game with it.

See also: 100-Ball Cricket A Nuclear Disaster For The Women’s Game

Chestertons Give-Away – 1,000 Tickets for Middlesex v MCC at Lord’s

Chestertons, one of London’s top estate agents, is giving away 1,000 tickets to see a historic match at Lord’s Cricket Ground to celebrate its new sponsorship of women’s cricket at Middlesex Cricket.

On Tuesday 24 April Middlesex Women will play a Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) side captained by former England skipper Charlotte Edwards at Lord’s. It will be the first time in their history that Middlesex Women have played on the main ground at Lord’s – ‘The Home of Cricket’ – and fans are being given the chance to claim one of the thousand tickets that Chestertons has pledged to give out.

The 1,000 tickets will be given to the first people to visit: http://bit.ly/chestertons-womens-cricket and enter their details. They will join what is expected to be the biggest ever audience of a domestic women’s cricket match in England. The current (modern*) record stands at 3,413 but over 5,000 are expected at Lord’s on the 24 April, including thousands of children from local schools.

Middlesex Women is the latest team to benefit from Chestertons’ support of women’s sport. In 2015, the agent announced sponsorship of London Welsh Women and in 2017 it was instrumental in securing the first female captain of an England polo team, Hazel Jackson, at Chestertons Polo in the Park.

Giles Milner, Head of Marketing and Sponsorships, commented: “We’re very excited to be sponsoring women’s cricket, a fast emerging sport that had a huge boost last summer when England won the ICC Women’s World Cup at Lord’s. The tide has definitely turned for women’s sport in general, with attendance, publicity and awareness growing quickly, and we are proud to be at the front of it in London.”

Over recent years, Chestertons has emerged as one of the most diverse supporters of sport, culture and charity in London, sponsoring a range of events, teams, institutions and initiatives from Chestertons Polo in the Park, now the biggest three-day polo tournament in the world; the Royal Academy of Arts and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Richmond Cricket Club; St Mungo’s homeless charity; and has even started curating its own programme of niche art events, Chestertons Art Programme.

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* 15,000 people once watched Yorkshire Women v Lancashire Women, but that was in a place called “History”, which was a really long time ago** so we’ll let them off!

** 1949 to be precise – at Roundhay Park in Leeds!

OPINION: England In India – Silver Medals, But Work To Do

If this was the Commonwealth Games – currently taking place in Gold Coast, Australia – then England flying home from India with two silver medals in their bags might be thought quite a creditable achievement.

But it isn’t – it is cricket – and coming second in the Tri-Series versus India and Australia, and then second again in the bilateral ODI series against India, is probably not what England ideally wanted.

Of course, there is an element of being able to argue that the end-results didn’t really matter – a throw-away T20 “cup” and 3 non-Championship ODIs are both things you can afford to lose – no one will remember these reversals if England go on to win the World T20 in the Caribbean in November.

It was also a weak England team, without Sarah Taylor and Katherine Brunt – and they were consciously “experimenting” by bringing in Bryony Smith, Alice Davidson-Richards and Katie George for the Tri-Series; and bedding-in a new ODI opening partnership, after Lauren Winfield’s slump in form made her continued position at the top of the order untenable.

The new opening partnership for the ODIs – with Danni Wyatt joining Tammy Beaumont up-top – was definitely a success, with 70+ partnerships for the 1st wicket in the 1st and 2nd ODIs – it will be a big surprise now if that is not the opening partnership we see this summer against New Zealand and South Africa.

Wyatt herself was with little doubt England’s star player on this tour, with 304 runs (across both series) at an average of 38, and a Strike Rate of 143; though it bears pointing out that India’s star – Smriti Mandhana – made a lot more runs (389) at a better average (78) with a Strike Rate also well over 100 (108) despite playing one less match.

Elsewhere in England’s batting line-up, Nat Sciver (180) and Tammy Beamont (200) made runs, as did Amy Jones (143), although of course most of them came in her “deserved a” 100 in the final ODI. But there have to be some concerns about Fran Wilson – averaging 19; whilst Heather Knight didn’t quite fire, making starts but not passing 40 on the tour; and Georgia Elwiss, drafted in for the ODIs, also had a tour she will probably want to forget, making 11 and 1.

With the ball, Sophie Ecclestone and Dani Hazell were England’s stand-out performers – Ecclestone taking 10 wickets at 4.5; and Hazell 9 wickets at 4.8 – both can probably start shopping for a trip to the West Indies in the autumn… though hopefully there won’t be too much time for them on the beach, as England will be too busy winning the thing!!

With Katherine Brunt home injured, and Anya Shrubsole also missing the T20s and still clearly working her way back to full match fitness in the ODIs, England experimented with various other quick bowlers, but we are unfortunately still no nearer to the answer of who our backups are for Brunt and Shrubsole when they are unavailable… or indeed who will replace 32-year-old Brunt longer-term.

Tash Farrant didn’t have a bad T20 series – she went at 8-an-over, but to be fair that seems to be the new normal, especially when you are playing Australia! She is not an “out and out” quick though, so England probably don’t see her as a long-term opener. Katie George is still clearly as raw as onions; whilst even at county, ADR is more of a batting than a bowling all-rounder. Meanwhile, Kate Cross can’t get a game, and Freya Davies can’t even get a plane ticket.

So what is the long term answer? I’m not sure England know! I’ll be accused of “wearing a Berkshire hat” here, but… Lauren Bell, possibly? She is rawer than George, but terrifyingly quick when she gets it right, and England’s coaches might just be hoping that Brunt can carry on for another 2 years until Bell is really ready.

NEWS: Lancashire Captain Fairclough Retires

Lancashire captain Megan Fairclough has announced her retirement from county cricket in order to pursue a new life with her partner in Milan.

Fairclough, who captained Lancashire to the T20 and County Championship Double last year, played 11 seasons for Lancashire, taking exactly 100 wickets for the county, with best figures of 4-9 versus Durham in 2015.

Fairclough took over the captaincy at a difficult time, following Lancashire’s ignominious relegation from Div 1 after losing all their matches in 2015; but she led them back to promotion again the following year, and then to their double-triumph in 2017.

Talking to the Bolton News, Fairclough said:

“I’m 26 years old, so it’s an early retirement. You never say never. If things change and I come back to the UK or go somewhere else more dominated by cricket, of course I’d look at playing again.”

“I wish the girls and the coaching staff all the best. I will be following from Milan.”

STATS: India v Australia v England Tri-Series – Bowling Rankings

This Tri-Series was a batsman’s paradise if ever there was one. Good pitches meant batsmen were rewarded – and bowlers punished – with an average run-rate of 8.09 runs an over across the whole tournament. As Martin Davies of Women’s Cricket Blog put it after the Aussies posted 209 against England: “Who’d be a bowler?”

In this environment, one bowler stood out above all the others – not only did Megan Schutt take more wickets than anyone else, but she did so at an Economy Rate of 6.28. Now 25 years of age, Schutt is practically middle-aged in cricketing terms, and like South Africa’s Marizanne Kapp seems to have figured out that having a plan… or perhaps more accurately having lots of plans, and sticking to them like superglue… is actually the bowler’s most valuable weapon of all.

Having been dropped in 2014, medium-fast seamer Delissa Kimmince made her come-back for the Southern Stars in the T20 round of the Women’s Ashes, and her performance on this tour to India has validated that recall, with 8 wickets at 7.76.

But will Kimmince be in Australia’s starting XI in the West Indies at the World T20? Well… an interesting point made by Snehal Pradhan on our recent podcast was that the pitches here have been very good and friendly to the quicker bowlers. Seamers dominate this list – unusually for a women’s tournament, especially one held in the sub-continent – but will the pitches be the same in the West Indies? Or will they be slow turners that produce a very different list come November?

Player Matches Wickets Economy
1. Megan Schutt (Australia) 5 9 6.28
2. Delissa Kimmince (Australia) 5 8 7.76
3. Ashleigh Gardner (Australia) 5 6 7.18
4. Jhulan Goswami (India) 4 5 7.90
5. Poonam Yadav (India) 4 4 7.20
6. Ellyse Perry (Australia) 5 4 7.94
7. Deepti Sharma (India) 3 4 8.22
8. Jenny Gunn (England) 4 5 9.42
9. Radha Yadav (India) 2 3 7.85
10. Tash Farrant (England) 4 3 8.08

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

STATS: India v Australia v England Tri-Series – Batting Rankings

Perhaps unsurprisingly after becoming only the second woman to make two T20 hundreds, England’s new T20 opener Danni Wyatt tops the batting rankings for the T20 Tri-Series, with 213 runs in total. Although over half her runs came in that century innings of 124, she only had one real failure – 6 in the penultimate group game versus Australia – and even then she maintained a Strike Rate of over 150, finishing the tournament with the leading Strike Rate of 182.

It has to be said though that although the numbers (just) favour Wyatt, second-placed Smriti Mandhana was actually the most impressive batsman in the tournament – playing just 4 innings to Wyatt’s 5 due to India not making the final, she too had one failure (3 against Australia) but she passed 50 in each of the other 3 innings she batted, making 67, 76 and 62* at a Strike Rate of 165.

Despite having sat out of one game, Meg Lanning makes the list at No. 3, after her explosive performance in the final, scoring 88* at a Strike Rate of 196 as Australia made their record total of 209. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of that innings is that she did it mostly in 4s – 16 of them, to just the 1 six.

Player Matches Runs Strike Rate
1. Danni Wyatt (England) 5 213 182.05
2. Smriti Mandhana (India) 4 208 165.07
3. Meg Lanning (Australia) 4 175 162.03
4. Elyse Villani (Australia) 5 157 134.18
5. Nat Sciver (England) 5 155 134.78
6. Beth Mooney (Australia) 4 120 136.36
7. Tammy Beaumont (England) 5 120 134.83
8. Ashleigh Gardner (Australia) 5 93 172.22
9. Rachel Haynes (Australia) 5 88 149.15
10. Anuja Patil (India) 4 75 156.25

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

NEWS: Australians Take GPS Tracking To The Next Level

In a revolutionary new program, the Southern Stars are set to work with researchers from the Sydney University of Medicine, to pioneer the use of advanced GPS technology to track them both on the field and off.

In recent years Australia, in common with other top teams, have used on-field GPS trackers which are worn via a small harness attached across the shoulders; but this setup was designed for men and is uncomfortable to wear with a sports-bra, so the professors at SUM have come up with an alternative where the tracker is surgically implanted directly into the spine of the player.

Dr April Fulio, Dean of Cyber-Medicine at SUM, speaking at a joint airport press conference following the Southern Stars triumphant return from India, explained:

“It is a quick and relatively painless procedure, which has been used for years to microchip cats and dogs – these gizmos are getting smaller and more functional ever year, and the latest generation trackers are little bigger than a fun-sized Mars bar, making them ideal for surgical use.”

“As well as tracking their mileage on the field, the new tech has advantages off the field as well – if any of them ever gets lost, it will be as simple as taking them to the nearest vet, who will be able scan them in and return them to their family.”

One leading Australian player told CRICKETher: “Everyone already thinks I’m a robot, so I thought, why not!”

Meanwhile, another said: “Hang on… relatively painless…?” before making a quick dash for the nearest emergency exit.

INTERVIEW: Sussex Development Officer Charlotte Burton – On Sussex’s Shiny New Future & How Much Has Changed ‘Since She Were A Lass!’

When Charlotte Burton was a lass… well… it wasn’t quite “all fields ’round here” but it wasn’t far off!

The Sussex Development Officer started her cricketing journey as a girl in the Sussex pathway back in the 90s, and it was a very different world:

“We trained in the Gilligan Stand at the County Ground, which is now a flooring company next to the pub – it had two lanes and it had wooden flooring, so it was very difficult batting and bowling in there.”

And things didn’t get much better on match-day either:

“We played on a tiny pitch at Roedean School, where if you hit it over the boundary it was ‘6-and-out’ because of the road there!”

Twenty years later, Burton sits in an office at Sussex’s shiny, new HQ of Women’s Cricket – the Aldridge Cricket Academy – and reflects upon how much has changed:

“What the girls have now, compared to when I was playing, is unbelievable and amazing – we are looked after so well – we’ve got use of all the facilities here at the Academy: the gym, the social space, and in the summer the ground outside for training and matches. All our players, from our Under 11s right through to our senior women, train here, and it is an aspiration for our youngsters to see that the senior women train and play here too.”

Thanks to the generosity of Sir Rod Aldridge – the millionaire founder of outsourcing group Capita – girls cricket is going from strength to strength in Sussex.

“We’ve got Under 11s, 12s, 13s, 15s and 17s squads, then the Academy and the women’s [1st XI] team,” Burton explains. “The 11s to the 13s play friendly matches against other counties whilst the 15s and 17s play their Championship and a few T20s.”

But it’s not just about the elite pathway:

“The Aldridge Foundation have given us a large pot of money to go out and work in the community with girls’ cricket. We’ve got 5 hubs for girls 12 and upwards, where they get free coaching from Sussex coaches. It’s softball – they don’t need any experience or equipment – they can just come along and practice their cricket – do some skills and drills and play some fun games; and then if they are not with a club we try to link them up with one.”

A couple of girls have already come through the hubs onto the elite program, where they will hope to one day follow in the footsteps of some of the age-group players who are stepping up to the senior squad this year.

The one whose name precedes her is of course Ellie Robinson – daughter of England Head Coach Mark – but Burton tells us there is plenty of other talent to look out for:

“Ella McCaughan is an outstanding batter and leg-spin bowler, who plays like Sarah Taylor – very natural – and times the ball well.”

“We’ve got Ella Wadey from the Under 17s – she is an all-rounder – more of a batter, but she bowls a bit of seam.”

“Then we’ve got Cassie McCarthy, who is a very quick pace bowler. She was found through the Chance To Shine program when she was 11 years old, and she came into county as a wicket keeper – this is only her 3rd season as a pace bowler but she is probably one of the quickest bowlers we’ve got on the county scene.”

After Sussex’s shock relegation from Div 1 at the end of last season, they will be slumming-it in Div 2 this year, but Burton is sure they will bounce right back:

“No doubt! There is a lot of talent there, from the experienced players to the youngsters coming through. They are so determined to get back into Div 1 next year, and I’ve got every faith in them doing it – they are going to have a great season, I know they will!”