Mark Robinson: Dropping Farrant & Langston “Cruel To Be Kind”

England coach Mark Robinson has spoken about the decision to drop Tash Farrant and Beth Langston from the England squad, admitting it was tough on the players, who unlike the men have no professional county game to fall back on.

Acknowledging it wasn’t an easy decision, Robinson described Farrant as a “model pro [who] does everything right and gives herself every opportunity”, and he admitted that the decision was partly an economic as well as a cricketing one:

“You’ve got to create financial room for other players and room for opportunity on the pitch for Freya Davies and others.”

Going forwards, along with the support they get from the Professional Cricketers’ Association, Farrant and Langston will get 3 months of full support from England, including their salary package and medical insurance, but after that things get tough.

“That is the sad bit,” admitted Robinson. “It is the same as a [male] county cricketer being released – if he doesn’t get another job or doesn’t get another county that’s it. That is the unfortunate place we are in.”

However, Robinson’s take is that sometimes you have to be “cruel to be kind” to players on the fringes.

“With young players, you don’t want to string people on – it’s difficult – you have to be fair to them as well – you don’t want to release them at 26 and you’ve messed up their whole life.”

“I think at some point you’ve got to say ‘we can’t actually see you coming through’.”

But Robinson stresses that there is potentially a way back.

“Tash might re-invent herself – she could be a major player.”

“So for Beth and Tash their decision now is: do I play KSL and county cricket, then the year after, when hopefully semi-professionalism comes in, they do that; or do they go on to a different career?”

That, indeed, is the question…!!

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WNCL: New South Wales Breakers & Queensland Fire Through To Final On Bonus Points

Team Played Won Points
1. New South Wales Breakers 6 4 22
2. Queensland Fire 6 4 19
3. Tasmania 6 4 18
4. ACT Meteors 6 3 12
5. Victoria 6 2 9
6. Western Fury 6 2 8
7. South Australian Scorpions 6 2 7

New South Wales Breakers and Queensland Fire will contest next weekend’s 50-over WNCL final, after both won in the final round of matches to seal the top two spots in the group ladder.

New South Wales beat ACT Meteors by 5 wickets to top the table and secure home advantage for the final. Lauren Cheatle took 4-42 as the Meteors were bowled out for 195, which the Breakers then chased-down in 30 overs, thanks to fifties from Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry.

Queensland Fire went into the final weekend needing a bonus-point win to have any hope of qualification, but that is exactly what they got against Western Fury. The Fury were bowled out for 100, with Jemma Barsby taking 4-11, which the Fire overhauled in exactly 16 overs, Beth Mooney finishing on 44*.

It would all have been in vain though if Tasmania had won their final match against Victoria. However, a century from Meg Lanning was the difference as Victoria posted 260-7, and despite some late heroics from Ronnie Pike (53 off 45 balls, coming in at 7) Tasmania ended up 14 short, bowled out for 246.

That meant Tasmania unluckily missed out on the final despite finishing level on wins with the top two, with the run rate-based bonus points system* making the difference – Tasmania scoring just 2 bonus points in the season, compared to the Fire’s 3 and the Breakers’ 6.

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* 1 bonus point for a run rate 1.25x the opposition; 2 for a run rate 2x – unlike in the Women’s County Championship, there are no bonus points in WNCL for taking wickets, and it isn’t possible to secure any bonus points if you don’t win!

NEWS: Women’s County Cricket Set To Move To Pro / Feeder Structure in 2020

As reported by Lizzy Ammon in today’s Times (ECB plans to cut teams in women’s game [£]) the ECB are planning a radical restructuring of women’s county cricket in 2020, creating a number of “professional” counties and relegating the others to permanent Minor Counties-style feeder status.

CRICKETher understands that new setup would preserve the Women’s County Championship as a “thing” but with a top tier of 8 (or possibly 10, depending on who you talk to) professional counties, with no relegation or promotion.

As well as the County Championship, these counties would also play a T20 competition, addressing concerns about the lack of domestic T20 when The Hundred is introduced.

As for all the other counties, they would become feeders for the pro teams – so for example, Berkshire would officially feed into Middlesex, creating an official pathway for any junior girls in Berkshire. CRICKETher understands that these structures are already being put into place, so expect to see more tie-ups such as yesterday’s announcement that Berkshire’s Lauren Bell will play for Middlesex in the T20 Cup this season.

The key advantage of this is it allows the pro counties to invest in the women’s game, without having to worry about promotion or relegation, creating a more stable system for the top players. (It has long been a concern for the England management that England players playing below Div 1 in the County Championship is (at best) unhelpful.)

It would also allow a degree of player payment to be brought in more easily, with the “pro” counties offering match fees and stipends, though this is likely initially to continue to fall some way short of full professionalism.

NEWS: 2020 Twenty20 Groups & Fixtures Announced

The groups and full fixture list for the 2020 Twenty20 (try saying that out loud!) have been announced, more than a year in advance… which is a big improvement on the last World T20, which felt very last-minute for those of us trying to book flights and hotels – so well done ICC/ Cricket Australia!

England have been drawn with South Africa, Pakistan and the West Indies, plus a qualifier to be confirmed; while in the other group, Australia will play New Zealand, Sri Lanka and India, plus qualifier. (So it looks a lot like the 2018 groups – with just Sri Lanka and Pakistan swapped-over!)

There will be a bit of travelling for everyone – England start off in Perth against South Africa, before heading to Canberra for fixtures against Pakistan and Qualifier 2, then to Sydney for their last group game against the West Indies.

21 February, 2020
Australia v India, Spotless Stadium, Sydney (7.00pm)

22 February, 2020
W. Indies v Qualifier 2, WACA, Perth (2.00pm)
New Zealand v Sri Lanka, WACA, Perth (7.00pm)

23 February, 2020
England v South Africa, WACA Perth (7.00pm)

24 February, 2020
Australia v Sri Lanka, WACA Perth (2.00pm)
India v Qualifier 1, WACA Perth (7.00pm)

26 February, 2020
England v Qualifier 2, Manuka Oval, Canberra (2.00pm)
W. Indies v Pakistan, Manuka Oval, Canberra (7.00pm)

27 February, 2020
India v New Zealand, Junction Oval, Melbourne (2.00pm)
Australia v Qualifier 1, Manuka Oval, Canberra (7.00pm)

28 February, 2020
South Africa v Qualifier 2, Manuka Oval, Canberra (2.00pm)
England v Pakistan, Manuka Oval, Canberra (7.00pm)

29 February, 2020
India v Sri Lanka, Junction Oval, Melbourne (2.00pm)
South Africa v Pakistan, Spotless Stadium, Sydney (7.00pm)

1 March, 2020
South Africa v Pakistan, Spotless Stadium, Sydney (2.00pm)
England v W. Indies, Spotless Stadium, Sydney (7.00pm)

2 March, 2020
Sri Lanka v Qualifier 1, Junction Oval, Melbourne (2.00pm)
Australia v New Zealand, Junction Oval, Melbourne (7.00pm)

3 March, 2020
Pakistan v Qualifier 2, Spotless Stadium, Sydney (2.00pm)
W. Indies v South Africa, Spotless Stadium, Sydney (7.00pm)

5 March, 2020
Semifinal 1, SCG, Sydney (2.00pm)
Semifinal 2, SCG, Sydney (7.00pm)

8 March, 2020
Final, MCG, Melbourne (7.00pm)

STATS: #WBBL Bowling Rankings – If The Kapp Fits…

If you were picking your dream T20 franchise XI, who would be at the top of your list? Perry? Devine? Smriti? For me, it would be Marizanne Kapp every time – top batsmen are almost two a penny, but there is only one Marizanne Kapp. Her worth really showed when the Renegades took their semifinal against the Sixers to a Super Over – Perry might have hit the runs that technically won the game, but it had been set up by Kapp conceding just 6 in the Renegades’ over. With the lowest Economy Rate in the competition at 5.8 runs per over, and 20 wickets too, Kapp is a Jaguar F-Pace with the petrol consumption of a 1 litre Ford Fiesta – she simply shouldn’t exist in an era when batsmen rule the roads, and the fact that she does is a constant marvel!

The only players close to Kapp on economy were Lea Tahuhu (5.9) who has often looked a bit lost in T20 franchise cricket, but had a very good season for the Renegades; Georgia Wareham (5.9), who I think could be a big player in the Women’s Ashes this summer; and Grace Harris (also 5.9).

In fact, with Harris ranking No. 8 in bowling and No. 5 in batting there is an argument that she, rather than Perry, should have been Player of the Tournament, and it will be interesting to see whether her performances force the Aussie selectors into a rethink on her, having not played for the Southern Stars since 2016.

The leading wicket-takers in WBBL04 were jointly Delissa Kimmince and Heather Graham, with 22 victims each, but both were a bit expensive – Kimmince conceding 6.8 runs per over – exactly a run an over more than Kapp – and Graham 7.4.

The leading English bowler meanwhile was Heather Knight at No. 20, with the other English bowlers well back in the pack – Dani Hazell at 38, Alex Hartley at 43 and Kate Cross at 45.

Player Matches Wickets Economy
1. Marizanne Kapp (Sydney Sixers) 16 20 5.8
2. Sammy-Jo Johnson (Brisbane Heat) 16 20 6.2
3. Delissa Kimmince (Brisbane Heat) 16 22 6.8
4. Heather Graham (Perth Scorchers) 14 22 7.4
5. Molly Strano (Melbourne Renegades) 15 19 6.4
6. Dane van Niekerk (Sydney Sixers) 16 19 6.7
7. Stafanie Taylor (Sydney Thunder) 15 19 6.9
8. Grace Harris (Brisbane Heat) 16 16 5.9
9. Lea Tahuhu (Melbourne Renegades) 15 14 5.9
10. Sophie Molineux (Melbourne Renegades) 14 16 7.0
11. Alana King (Melbourne Stars) 14 15 6.7
12. Jess Jonassen (Brisbane Heat) 16 15 6.9
13. Brooke Hepburn (Hobart Hurricanes) 14 15 7.3
14. Nicola Carey (Sydney Thunder) 15 15 7.3
15. Megan Schutt (Adelaide Strikers) 14 13 6.5
16. Lauren Cheatle (Sydney Sixers) 16 14 7.0
17. Jemma Barsby (Brisbane Heat) 16 14 7.0
18. Rene Farrell (Sydney Thunder) 10 14 7.2
19. Georgia Wareham (Melbourne Renegades) 15 11 5.9
20. Heather Knight (Hobart Hurricanes) 13 14 7.57

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

STATS: #WBBL Batting Rankings – Perry Top… But No Icing

Hot Take: Ellyse Perry let the Sydney Sixers down this season.

[Ed: What? Have you gone you mad?]

Yes… but there is method in my madness, so let me explain!

Prior to this season, Perry the batsman had a problem in Twenty20 – although her big innings were always scored at a respectable Strike Rate, she invariably tended to start very slowly, often scoring her first 25 runs at a Strike Rate pushing as low as 50. This meant that if she got out for 25, she’d chewed up a lot of balls in the process, putting big pressure on the rest of the team.

However, this WBBL season was different – she found a way of adjusting mentally, and almost “starting her innings in the middle”, which allowed her to score at 100+ from the off; and this is one of the reasons she was able to score those two hundreds and six fifties which all-but guaranteed her the Player of the Tournament award well before we got to the business end of the competition.

But, but, but… then came the final – the big match – the one that mattered… and who should walk out to open the batting for the Sixers but the old Ellyse Perry. At the end of the powerplay, she was 7 off 15 balls, and the lack of momentum up top was arguably a critical factor in tipping the balance of what turned out to be a very close game away from the Sixers. It shouldn’t take away from the fact that Perry obviously had an outstanding season overall, but when you buy a cake, you expect icing on the top… and for once Perry’s cake didn’t.

The New Zealand opening pair of Sophie Devine, who is ranked in our list at number 2, and Suzie Bates, ranked at 7, both had good returns, though the Adelaide Strikers’ season overall was a disappointment – their main achievement being definitive proof that packing your bowling line-up doesn’t work in T20 – you need batsmen, not a tail that starts at 3!

Elsewhere, the highest ranked English players were Heather Knight at 9, and Danni Wyatt at 13 – both seem to always play well in Australia, which could be good news for England at next year’s World Twenty20.

It is also interesting to see Sophie Molineux ranked so highly at 14 – Raf picked her as One To Watch in 2019 for the Guardian at New Year, but obviously mainly for her bowling not her batting. Arguably, Australia’s batting is so strong, they don’t need to worry too much about how well the bowlers bat, but nonetheless she is looking like she could be very useful for the Southern Stars over the next few years, maybe coming in at 7 or 8 with a couple of overs to go.

Player Matches Runs SR
1. Ellyse Perry (Sydney Sixers) 16 777 121
2. Sophie Devine (Adelaide Strikers) 13 556 137
3. Alyssa Healy (Sydney Sixers) 16 445 142
4. Beth Mooney (Brisbane Heat) 16 486 128
5. Grace Harris (Brisbane Heat) 16 374 148
6. Meg Lanning (Perth Scorchers) 9 389 137
7. Suzie Bates (Adelaide Strikers) 14 421 112
8. Smriti Mandhana (Hobart Hurricanes) 13 318 145
9. Heather Knight (Hobart Hurricanes) 13 374 122
10. Elyse Villani (Perth Scorchers) 11 403 113
11. Rachel Priest (Sydney Thunder) 15 338 134
12. Rachael Haynes (Sydney Thunder) 13 376 115
13. Danni Wyatt (Melbourne Renegades) 14 368 112
14. Sophie Molineux (Melbourne Renegades) 14 354 115
15. Harmanpreet Kaur (Sydney Thunder) 13 310 127
16. Ashleigh Gardner (Sydney Sixers) 16 337 115
17. Lizelle Lee (Melbourne Stars) 14 276 137
18. Alex Blackwell (Sydney Thunder) 15 301 122
19. Sammy-Jo Johnson (Brisbane Heat) 16 260 140
20. Tahlia McGrath (Adelaide Strikers) 14 276 126

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

NEWS: Dani Hazell Retires With Head Held High

England’s Dani Hazell has announced her retirement from international cricket, after a 141-match career in which she took 146 wickets and won two World Cup winner’s medals.

Ironically, the way she won those two medals rather summed-up her career – in 2009, she was in the squad but didn’t play at all in England’s victorious World Twenty20 campaign; and although she played 5 matches at the 2017 50-over World Cup, she was relegated to bench for the both the semi-final and final as England triumphed.

Despite having reached the dizzy summits of No. 1 in the ICC rankings for T20 bowling, Hazell was never able to hold down a long term place in the England side – a source of constant frustration for the player, who was rumoured to have considered quitting during the 2015 Women’s Ashes, after she was left out of the ODI team that summer for reasons that were only tangentially cricket-related. (The Australians, as documented in David Tossell’s Girls of Summer, couldn’t believe their luck at not having to face the one England spinner they really rated, as they went on to win the series by 10 points to 6.)

Hazell did play in the recent World Twenty20 final in the West Indies, and has just finished a reasonably successful stint with the Adelaide Strikers in the WBBL, taking 9 wickets in the season. But with England’s squad for the spring tour to India due to be announced shortly, the speculation will presumably be that she had once again lost her place and that this was the last straw for a player who never made a secret of the fact that she thought there was more to life than just playing for England, and wasn’t prepared to sacrifice her mental or physical health to do so, especially when she was sitting out half the time anyway.

Nonetheless, she should leave with her head held high, knowing that she will be remembered as a player good enough to have captained England on 2 occasions when Heather Knight was injured, and a bowler who the opposition always feared – perhaps the ultimate compliment the game can give.

NEWS: Players Face Crack-Down On Social Media “Ads”

Hundreds of cricketers may be breaking the law and could in theory face significant penalties, as the UK government cracks down on covert social media advertising.

Following high-profile scandals such as the Fyre Festival, where celebrities were paid up to a quarter of a million dollars to promote a non-existent music festival via posts on Instagram and Twitter, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published new guidance for social media influencers, which lays down the law about sponsored content.

The start of a new cricket season is always heralded by a murder of posts to the tune of: “Can’t wait to get out in the middle with my new Batty-Bats bat!”

But George Lusty, the CMA’s Senior Director for Consumer Protection said:

“If celebrities or influencers are posting about a product on social media, they must make it clear if they’ve been paid.”

The CMA’s guidelines now state that such posts should include the hashtag “#ad” at the start of the post to indicate this.

And crucially these guidelines don’t just address traditional endorsement deals, where top players are paid directly to lend their name to a range of equipment; but also to those cases where players have a less formal relationship with a brand, such as being sent free kit, even when no money changes hands and there is no signed agreement between the player and the brand to promote the product.

The guidelines state that:

“Any form of reward, including money, gifts of services or products, or the loan of a product, is ‘payment’ – whether you originally asked for it or got sent it out of the blue (e.g. ‘freebies’).”

This would apply not just to players promoting bats, but to those who are lent cars during the season, or sent energy bars, headphones, or beer (yes… beer!) to try. A quick scan through the recent social media feeds of current and recent England players shows several such posts, one as recently as yesterday, none of which are accompanied by the “#ad” hashtag.

And as Lusty explains, this matters because it is important to ensure that all advertising relationships remain transparent in the social media age:

“Stars can have a big influence on what their followers do and buy. If people see clothes [or] a car… being plugged by someone they admire, they might be swayed into buying it. So, it’s really important they are clearly told whether a celebrity is promoting a product because they have bought it themselves, or because they have been paid or thanked in some way by the brand.”

Although the most likely outcome of any direct investigation would be a slap on the wrist, in theory breach of the applicable law (The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008) could lead to a large fine or up to two years in prison.

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Want to know more? Download the official guidance here:

https://www.asa.org.uk/uploads/assets/uploaded/3af39c72-76e1-4a59-b2b47e81a034cd1d.pdf

The CRICKETher 2018 Christmas Quiz

PS – If you’ve got any questions for us for our End of Year Vodcast, please post them in Have Your Say below!

WBBL: Mid-Term Reports See Thunder Top The Christmas Tree In Oz

Team Played Won Lost N/R Points
1. Sydney Thunder 7 6 1 0 12
2. Sydney Sixers 7 5 2 0 10
3. Brisbane Heat 7 4 3 0 8
4. Perth Scorchers 8 4 4 0 8
5. Melbourne Stars 8 4 4 0 8
6. Adelaide Strikers 7 2 4 1 5
7. Melbourne Renegades 6 2 3 1 5
8. Hobart Hurricanes 8 1 7 0 2

With Christmas falling at pretty much the mid-point in the WBBL, we take a look at who has been good… and who is on Santa’s “Naughty List”!

Sydney Thunder

With just one defeat – to the Sixers – the Thunder sit atop the tree on Christmas Day. They have been professional, rather than spectacular – perhaps indicated by the fact that their star player has been Stafanie Taylor… with the ball! Taylor has taken 14 wickets at a respectable 6.92, and has also done a job with the bat, coming in down the order and finishing Not Out in 4 of 7 innings.

Sydney Sixers

After her incredible run of form at the World Twenty20, and an opening-day 70, Alyssa Healy has subsequently had a bit of a slump with a run of low scores; but the reason the Sixers were favourites wasn’t that they had Healy – it was that they had Healy and Perry and Gardner and van Niekerk and Kapp and… you get the idea! And whereas the Thunder have been clinical, the Sixers have sparkled, especially Ellyse Perry. With 2 centuries and 3 further fifties, the Player of the Tournament is probably already decided – the only question is whether Perry will get a winner’s medal to go with it.

Brisbane Heat

Unloved and unfancied… at least by us in our preview… the Heat have upset some apple carts to sit third – on Net Run Rate, but with a game in hand over the Scorchers and the Stars. They have been helped by a couple of outstanding one-off displays – Grace Harris’s 101* against the Stars will be the one that goes down in the record books, but Sammy-Jo Johnson almost single-handedly beating the Sixers, with 51 runs with the bat and then 3-23 with the ball, was actually the bigger performance. However, consistency is going to be their issue during the run-in.

Perth Scorchers

The Scorchers have to be disappointed with only 4 wins from 8, with Heather Graham’s comp-leading 15 wickets only partly compensating for some disappointing performances with the bat. To be fair, the injury to Meg Lanning, which led to her missing 5 matches, didn’t help things. With Lanning back and in-form, scoring 75 off 50 balls to beat the Renegades with some g-force acceleration at the back-end of the innings, the Scorchers should pick things up from here and cruise through to the knock-outs. Should!

Melbourne Stars

The Stars may have been laid waste by “Bomber” Harris, but they have actually done okay overall. Veteran captain Erin Osborne has led from the front with wickets and runs, while Lizelle Lee scored a match-winning hundred to beat the Sixers, and probably has another couple of big scores in her before we’re done. The crucial player for them could be their other South African, Mignon du Preez. She is not, and never will be, a “Bosher”, but she seems to have found a way to play T20 cricket at this WBBL, taking the boundaries where she can and still running hard between the wickets – averaging 30 at a really useful Strike Rate of 128, she is giving them the backbone they will need if they are to push on.

Adelaide Strikers

The question for the Strikers was always going to be whether a great bowling attack was enough, when your batting tail starts at 3 – the answer so far has been a qualified “No!” Sophie Devine has been outstanding, averaging 50 with the bat, but it hasn’t been enough, and their bowlers are struggling to make up the difference – Devine is their leading wicket-taker, with 8, but she has been expensive, while the likes of Megan Schutt and Sarah Coyte aren’t making enough of an impact in the wickets column to really peg anyone back. They could still pull through, of course… but I wouldn’t bet money on it. (Sorry Raf!)

Melbourne Renegades

The Renegades problem has been runs on the board – Danni Wyatt has been in reasonable nick, as she usually is in Australia when the ball is coming on to the bat, but even she hasn’t really been laying on the fireworks. Wyatt aside, only Amy Satterthwaite has scored more than 100 runs for the Renegades so far… and Satterthwaite only just, with 115! With the ball, the notable performer has been Georgia Wareham – she has only taken 3 wickets, but at an Economy Rate of under 5, to which no one else in WBBL is even close!

Hobart Hurricanes

The positive for the Hurricanes is that they’ve had some close games. But unfortunately not close enough to actually get more than the solitary win on the board. Heather Knight and Smriti Mandhana have hit enough runs to keep the wolf of embarrassment from the door; but they have been poor with the ball and their fielding has been terrible, bordering on amateur at times. Surrey Stars coach Richard Bedbrook has been now flown out to Hobart to try to rescue something for the ‘Canes from the season – we wish him luck… he is going to need it!