England v New Zealand 2nd ODI – Old Guns (Go For It)

For a few years after the dawn of the professional era, the average age of England’s “Top 6” hovered around 26/27. Then around 2016, something happened.

England under the leadership of Mark Robinson and Heather Knight found a batting formula that worked and won the World Cup with it. Tammy Beaumont was leading run scorer and player of the tournament; Heather Knight and Nat Sciver hit their first ODI hundreds – England were flying.

There’s a saying in computer programming: If it ain’t broke… don’t fix it! And England applied that mantra to their new-found magic batting formula, with one important side effect: their batting line-up began to age. As every year passed, the Top 6 became a year older, hitting 30 in 2020.

Longer term, there has to be a concern about this – England aren’t debuting new batters, and the worry is that in the next two or three years the entire lineup retires without any transition taking place to the next generation, who will be thrown unceremoniously thrown to the wolves  just in time for the 2025 World Cup.

But in the short term, England’s “Old Guns” are absolutely owning the game, particularly in the longer 50-over format.

Last night’s 2nd ODI against the White Ferns was a classic case of older, wiser heads prevailing. Both teams lost early wickets – at 5 overs, New Zealand were 20-2; England were 21-2. It was in the next 5 overs that England won the game.

While New Zealand slumped, scoring just 8 runs in overs 5-10, and losing another 2 wickets in the process, Tammy Beaumont and Nat Sciver showed all their experience – shrugging off the match situation, they just played calm, sensible cricket. The result: 23 runs for the loss of no wickets.

And that was the game – Sciver and Beaumont both cruised passed 50, and although Sciver eventually holed-out with a slightly dozy shot, England’s win was never in doubt. Having initially required 3.8 runs per over, they scored steadily at well over 4 runs per over, to win the match inside 40 overs.

Tammy Beaumont’s innings – finishing 72 not out – really deserved to be a century, and had the White Ferns given her a few more runs to play with, she surely would have added to her tally of 8 international hundreds. With apologies to Knight, Sciver, and everyone else, Beaumont for me has been England’s best player through the past 5 years, and is now just 3 centuries away from overtaking Charlotte Edwards as England’s leading century-maker, despite having played just 73 ODIs to Edwards’ 191!

I’d still like to see England think a bit more about the future, and bring in some younger batting talent to ease the transition to the next generation a few years hence; but I have to admit, we’ll miss these Old Guns when they’re gone.

NEWS: Every Single Women’s Hundred Match To Be Live On TV

The ECB have announced the fixtures for The Hundred, with every single women’s match to be broadcast live on TV on either Sky or the BBC.

The Kia Oval will host the opening game of the women’s competition, with the Oval Invincibles taking on the Manchester Originals on 21 July – the day before the men’s competition begins.

The Oval will also host the women’s (and men’s) “eliminator” (AKA the 2nd v 3rd “semi-final”) at the other end of the tournament on 20 August, before the women’s (and men’s) final at Lords on 21 August.

The opening match and the final will both be shown on the BBC, with all other games on Sky. CRICKETher understands that the BBC have the rights to show 6 more matches, but the broadcaster is yet to make a final decision as to whether they will exercise this right and, if so, which matches they will choose.

The coverage represents a significant increase from what was promised for the 2020 women’s competition, where only the 9 double headers and the final were due to be televised. None of the standalone women’s group-stage fixtures would have been shown.

By contrast, in 2021 every match – apart from the opening day – will be a double-header, with the men’s and women’s teams playing the same opponents at the same venue on the same day.

Tickets for both games will be £10 for adults, £5 for under-16s and free for under-5s; with refunds promised if COVID means the games have to be played behind closed doors.

The full women’s schedule is below:

  • 21 July Oval Invincibles v Manchester Originals, Kia Oval
  • 23 July Birmingham Phoenix v London Spirit, Edgbaston
  • 24 July Trent Rockets v Southern Brave, Trent Bridge
  • 24 July Northern Superchargers v Welsh Fire, Emerald Headingley
  • 25 July London Spirit v Oval Invincibles, Lord’s
  • 25 July Manchester Originals v Birmingham Phoenix, Emirates Old Trafford
  • 26 July Trent Rockets v Northern Superchargers, Trent Bridge
  • 27 July Welsh Fire v Southern Brave, Sophia Gardens
  • 28 July Manchester Originals v Northern Superchargers, Emirates Old Trafford
  • 29 July London Spirit v Trent Rockets, Lord’s
  • 30 July Southern Brave v Birmingham Phoenix, Ageas Bowl
  • 31 July Welsh Fire v Manchester Originals, Sophia Gardens
  • 31 July Northern Superchargers v Oval Invincibles, Emerald Headingley
  • 1 August Birmingham Phoenix v Trent Rockets, Edgbaston
  • 1 August London Spirit v Southern Brave, Lord’s
  • 2 August Oval Invincibles v Welsh Fire, Kia Oval
  • 3 August London Spirit v Northern Superchargers, Lord’s
  • 4 August Birmingham Phoenix v Oval Invincibles, Edgbaston
  • 5 August Manchester Originals v Southern Brave, Emirates Old Trafford
  • 6 August Welsh Fire v Trent Rockets, Sophia Gardens
  • 7 August Southern Brave v Northern Superchargers, Ageas Bowl
  • 8 August Oval Invincibles v Trent Rockets, Kia Oval
  • 9 August Birmingham Phoenix v Welsh Fire, Edgbaston
  • 10 August Manchester Originals v London Spirit, Emirates Old Trafford
  • 11 August Southern Brave v Welsh Fire, Ageas Bowl
  • 12 August Northern Superchargers v Manchester Originals, Emerald Headingley
  • 13 August Trent Rockets v Birmingham Phoenix, Trent Bridge
  • 14 August Oval Invincibles v London Spirit, Kia Oval
  • 15 August Trent Rockets v Manchester Originals, Trent Bridge
  • 16 August Southern Brave v Oval Invincibles, Ageas Bowl
  • 17 August Northern Superchargers v Birmingham Phoenix, Emerald Headingley
  • 18 August Welsh Fire v London Spirit, Sophia Gardens
  • 20 August “Eliminator” Match, Kia Oval
  • 21 August Final, Lord’s

NEWS: Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Schedule Announced

The ECB have released the schedule for this summer’s regional competitions, confirming that the 50 over tournament will retain the “Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy” moniker which was so successful in 2020.

The “RHF” will run through the whole summer, beginning on the 29th of May, with a grand final to be held on the 25th of September. Each team will play each other once during the group stages, with the top team proceeding directly to the final, and the second and third placed teams playing off to join them.

Alongside the RHF, a T20 competition will run from late June, with a finals day on the 5th of September. The 8 regional teams will be divided into two seeded groups playing home and away as follows:

Group A

  • Vipers
  • Stars
  • Sparks
  • Lightning

Group B

  • Diamonds
  • Storm
  • Sunrisers
  • Thunder

However… here’s where it gets a tad confusing! The table will effectively be combined across both groups, with the highest placed side going straight to the final, while second and third contest a single semi-final on finals day.

All in all, there will be 56 matches played across both competitions, with each team guaranteed at least 13 games.

The full fixture list can be downloaded here:

https://www.ecb.co.uk/about-us/media-room#/documents/2021-womens-domestic-fixtures-104017

REVIEW: The Record – History Written By The Winners

The Record – a two-part documentary mini-series, now available on Amazon Prime – tells the story of the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup from inside the Australian camp.

In terms of the level of access the filmmakers got, The Record isn’t quite unprecedented – the team which made Beyond the Boundary about the 2019 Women’s Ashes tour got a similar inside track into the locker room, and in some ways made better use of it. The Record is relentlessly positive – it’s all team songs and patriotic pep-talks; and there’s no equivalent of the eye-opening footage from Beyond the Boundary of Meg Lanning metaphorically throwing her toys around the Loughborough dressing room after being bowled by Freya Davies in a warm-up!

Where The Record wins out though is in the use of a series of startlingly honest post-tournament interviews with some of the key figures involved, including Mathew Mott, Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy. Not only are these totally uncensored, with enough f-bombs to make an NWA album blush; but they border in several cases on ‘saying the quiet part out loud’ in a way which is not entirely flattering.

Healy for example admits to having “blatantly lied” to the press about the pressure the team were under; whilst Lanning and Mott both acknowledge their attempt to lean on the match referee as he was making his decision as to whether Australia’s crucial rain-affected semi-final would go ahead, with Australia set to be knocked out if the game had been abandoned.

Whilst The Record to a certain extent treats all this as larks, the filmmakers must also have been well aware of the other sides of these coins – journalists will watch this, as will ICC match referees, and they might not go so easy on the Aussies in future, knowing what they do now. Mott and Healy et al may find they have become the footballer who goes down too easily, and then sees the referee shrugging when she really is fouled right in front of the goal!

Perhaps the oddest part of the whole film is the way it ultimately falls flat having to admit that the tournament technically failed to break the eponymous ‘record’ for attendance at a women’s sporting event, coming in a few thousand short of the 90,000 who attended the 1999 women’s football World Cup final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, USA. While we’d actually agree with Nick Hockley, who closes the show arguing that it didn’t really matter in the greater scheme of things, the program has just spent the last 2 hours telling us it did, including footage of the very same Mr Hockley on the day of the final checking the numbers on his phone every 15 minutes.

The lack of budget also starts to become apparent in the closing sections – they obviously only licensed a certain amount of footage of actual play, leading to over-use of Ken Burns-affected still photos to illustrate key moments in the final; and Katy Perry’s performance is overdubbed with “generic bombastic pop”, even as the Aussies are reminiscing about singing Firework on stage with the superstar, presumably because they couldn’t afford a license for the actual song!

If this is “history” it is definitely history written by the winners – Australia’s distinguished victories are accompanied with stirring classical symphonics; their tragic losses with sad piano melodies. Australia’s annihilation of Bangladesh is shown entirely without the context of it being a match played between the number 1 side in the world and a team of million-to-one-shot outsiders – it is a glorious win, and that’s that!

So unsurprisingly the degree to which you actually “enjoy” The Record may be strongly correlated with the degree to which you hold an Australian passport! Nonetheless, if you’ve got Amazon Prime it’s still probably the best thing you can do with a couple of hours this weekend, while you wait for the real cricket to start up again soon.