KSL Lightning v Vipers: Talking Points

Vipers bt. Lightning by 46 runs

Suzie Bates

If anyone was still wondering where we got the crazy idea that New Zealand were going to win the World Cup, we present Exhibit A: Suzie Bates in imperious form once again, taking her second consecutive Player of the Match award of the tournament. Her 119 is the highest score ever made in a “pro” domestic T20, beating the previous record 103 held jointly by Sophie Devine (in WBBL02) and Grace Harris (in WBBL01). She then went on to take 3 wickets for 15 as the Lightning were bowled out off the final ball, with the (admittedly massive) target still a distant speck on the horizon.

Sarah Glenn

The 18-year-old was perhaps a surprise selection, given that Marie Kelly had acquitted herself pretty well on her debut v the Storm. Glenn has made a few runs for Derbyshire over the past couple of seasons in Div 2/3, but nothing to write home about; so it was fantastic to see her jump feet-first into the KSL with 25 off 21 balls.

“That” Run Out

Elyse Villani was given run out at the non-strikers end off Tash Farrant’s fingertip on the follow-through, but… did she or didn’t she? The ball certainly appeared to deviate on the replay from the umpire-cam; but the view from the other end looked a lot less conclusive. Obviously Farrant felt she had got a hand on it, but you’ll “feel” a ball travelling at that speed even if you don’t quite touch it. My impression is that she probably did make contact, though others will disagree; but the really interesting question is whether she meant to? If you are the Vipers, it was smart work… if you are the Lightning, Villani was unlucky – you pays your money and you takes your choice I guess!

That “Other” Run Out

There was no doubt about the other run out Farrant effected though – that of Ellyse Perry. Georgia Adams will get the credit on the scorecard, but the ball was missing until Farrant (standing in front of the stumps, as the England players are coached to do) gathered it and diverted it on in a single, brilliant movement. That is where all those hours of fielding drills make the difference for the pros – first judging that it was indeed going to miss, and then executing the move to change the course of the ball without losing anything but a fraction of its speed. Suzie Bates or no Suzie Bates, it was the Play of the Day for me!

KSL Storm v Lightning: Talking Points

Storm bt. Lightning by 5 wickets, with 5 balls remaining

Stafanie Taylor – 1…

If yesterday belonged to the journeymen, today belonged to one of the superstars – Stafanie Taylor looked like she was playing on a different pitch to everyone else. Having already run out Ellyse Perry (of whom more later) she then took the wickets of Elwiss, Odedra and Brookes in one over, to break the back of the Lightning innings, finishing with figures of 4-5. She then went on to top-score with 34 off 32 balls, as the Storm made slightly hard work of the chase to win with 5 balls to spare.

… Ellyse Perry – 0

The Lighting got off to a good start, but that was mostly down to Amy Jones, with 21 off 13 balls. At the other end, Ellyse Perry made four more runs (25) but they took her fifteen more balls! She then took 0-17 with the ball, at an economy rate of 5.36. She wasn’t awful, but if anyone paid their money today to see Ellyse Perry the World-Beating Superstar… they would have left a bit disappointed!

Marie Kelly

Kelly entered the fray on her KSL debut in an awful situation. Lightning had just collapsed to 59-5 – there wasn’t much batting to come, and there were still 10 overs left. She had to do one thing, and one thing only: stay there! And that she did – it cost balls (at one point she was 1 off 10) but it had to be done. Then, things having finally settled down, she began to push the boat out, finishing with 18 off 30 – i.e. 17 off 20 in the second “half” of her innings. Job done, as they say!

Freya Davies

Before the tournament began, Heather Knight was talking up Davies new slower ball, which we saw rolled-out* today. She ended up with just the one wicket (though it was the big one of Amy Jones) but more importantly in the T20 game a very good economy rate of 4.25, including 13 dots – bearing in mind 3 of her overs were bowled to Jones and Perry in the PowerPlay, that’s a pretty good return.

—————-

* Rolled-out… as in rolled-out the back of her hand!!! No??? Oh… well I thought it was good, but never mind – I won’t roll that joke out again!!

OPINION: Diamonds’ Davidson-Richards & Levick Shine As Journeymen Stand Up in #KSL17

When we talk about KSL, much of the focus tends to be on the big international names – the England players and the overseas stars that everyone recognises. Whether it’s Katherine Brunt steaming in at Headingley, or Suzie Bates carving up the Rose Bowl, they’re the ones they’re all here to see!

And perhaps they’ll also ask about the “Ones To Watch” – the next generation, who might be lifting a World Cup in 2021 or 2025. Will Freya Davies be the new Katherine Brunt? Could Emma Lamb be a future Suzie Bates?

But there is also a third group of players – the “journeymen” of county cricket – who are actually just as important. They won’t pull the crowds, and they probably won’t ever play for England, but they aren’t just here to make up the numbers either!

At yesterday’s “Roses” clash between Yorkshire Diamonds and Lancashire Thunder, Chamari Atapattu (41 off 38) and Lauren Winfield (41 off 43) laid down a solid platform for the Diamonds; but someone still needed to turn that platform into an intimidating total, and that job was done at the death of the innings by Katherine Brunt (31 off 16) and Alice Davidson-Richards (22 off 13).

Alice Whaty-What-Now? (As we could almost hear some people saying from our living room 200 miles away!)

Well… although she has been involved in the Academy recently, and has definitely improved as a player over the past couple of years, “ADR” (as she is known) will likely not ever pull on an England shirt; but she is in her 8th season playing county cricket for Kent, and is now their de-facto captain. (The “official” captain is Tammy Beaumont, but TB’s England commitments mean ADR does the job most of the time.) ADR has made 92 appearances for Kent, scoring nearly 1,000 runs (a big milestone when you play a maximum of 14, limited-overs, matches per season) and taking over 70 wickets.

And now ADR is doing it in KSL too – following up her cameo with the bat, she went on to take 3-20 with the ball, and scoop up the Player of the Match award – not bad for someone who is essentially an amateur playing in a league full of big name pros!

ADR had “competition” for Player of the Match however – a spinner! Perhaps it was Dani Hazell, still ranked one of the top international bowlers in the world despite having to “share” her spot in the England line-up with Laura Marsh? Or maybe Sophie Ecclestone, who made her England debut last summer? Nope – a leg-spinner! Ah – in that case, it must have been Sune Luus – the South African superstar, who at 21 already has over 100 international wickets? Wrong again! It was another “amateur” – Katie Levick – who took 3-30, including the big wickets of Emma Lamb and Amy Satterthwaite.

If ADR still might perhaps dream of circumstances coming together where she plays for England, self-described “Sheffield lass” Katie Lev realistically probably does not; but in county cricket she is actually something of a legend. The 26-year-old is the leading wicket-taker in this year’s County Championship, with 19 wickets; and currently lies 3rd in the “All Time” list, behind Alexia Walker and Holly Colvin. Given another couple of seasons, she will likely overtake them both; so she has some serious experience to bring to the KSL stage, and if yesterday is any indication, she is ready to bring it… as a certain American president might put it… bigly!!

Of course, KSL needs the international stars – they are the ones who bring the crowds to the stands and the TV audience to their sofas. Without them, it would just be a re-named County T20 Cup – a bit of fun for the hardcore fans like us… and a bit irrelevant to everyone else.

But long-term, it also needs the journeymen like ADR and Katie Lev – they might not be the face of the game, but they are its backbone.

And without a backbone… it’s a job to stand up!

#KSL17 – Bates Leads Vipers To Big Opening Win v Storm

New Zealand’s Suzie Bates put her World Cup disappointments behind her to hit 47 not out off 31 balls to lead the Southern Vipers to an opening-day bonus-point win against the Western Storm.

On a hot day at the Ageas Bowl in Hampshire, the Vipers won the toss and captain Charlotte Edwards elected to bowl, with her opposite number Heather Knight admitting the Storm would have done the same, with the pitch having sweated under the covers after several days of rain.

Opening the bowling, Tash Farrant, having played very little cricket during the World Cup hiatus, struggled a little bit with her line, but got slightly lucky when Rachel Priest flashed at a ball which would have been called for a second consecutive wide, but Priest got a thin edge and was well caught by Carla Rudd standing up to the stumps.

At the other end, Linsey Smith continued where she left off a year ago – bowling tidily and taking the wicket of Heather Knight with a classic Smith “Sucker Punch” – a ball which looked a good length to sweep but kept low, ducking under Knight’s bat to bowl her for 1.

Having faced dot after dot, Georgia Hennessy finally started to get going in the 9th over, hitting Aran Brindle for a 6 and two 4s. But Hennessy was out 2 balls later, and remarkably those were the only boundaries the Storm scored in their entire innings.

Fran Wilson (10) was the only other batsman to reach double-figures, as the Storm disintegrated – helped along their way by a some top-draw fielding – Charlotte Edwards taking the catch to dismiss Stafanie Taylor at mid off, before running out Sophie Luff for a 4-ball duck; and then Linsey Smith topping off her contribution with the ball with a fantastic direct hit to end Freya Davies’ late 7-run cameo, hitting the stumps from outside the ring at cover point, to bowl the Storm out for 70 – the 2nd-lowest total in the KSL’s (admittedly short!) history.

As Suzie Bates said afterwards:

“When you go out to bat after a start like that, you have a lot of confidence.”

It nearly didn’t happen for her, however, as Rachel Priest fluffed a straightforward stumping chance in the first over – fumbling the ball, giving Bates time to dive back into her crease and beat the 3rd umpire review by a whisker.

But the real gift however came from Holly Huddleston, who had one of those overs that will give her nightmares for years to come. After Hayley Matthews took a single off the second ball, Bates then proceeded to hit five 4s and a 6 as the Hudd Missile misfired for four no balls, going for 34 runs off the over – almost half the total the Vipers needed.

“It is never nice to see,” Bates admitted later. “The first two, to be honest, I was licking my lips at a free hit, but then you do start to feel for a player like that. Holly had a really good World Cup and she is an outstanding bowler so I feel for her – it is her first chance in one of these leagues and she’ll be really disappointed; but she is the type of character that will bounce back!”

Ironically, it was a Vipers player – Hayley Matthews – who then played probably the worst shot of the day. Trying to dink Stafanie Taylor over the top of midwicket, the ball ended up in the hands of Georgia Hennessy on the other side of the pitch at extra cover! But it was all academic by then anyway, as Bates and Georgia Adams played out the game, Bates finishing things off with a 6 for the win inside 10 overs!

Summing up, Bates concluded:

“That was a tough wicket – it was holding a little bit and fortunately we won the toss and it was a little bit drier when we batted.”

“I thought we were outstanding with the ball – that was our strength last year – we got off to a good start and we were able to contain them and take wickets.”

Meanwhile, the Storm’s Georgia Hennessy also admitted the toss played its part, but wasn’t making excuses:

“It was a good toss to win in T20 cricket; but we should have hit the ball the ball straighter and harder earlier on and backed ourselves.”

“It wasn’t our day with the bat or ball but we’ll have a break and go again.”

The big win gives the Vipers an extra bonus point for getting the runs at more than 1.25x the rate of their opponents, and has set down a marker that they mean business again this season.

INTERVIEW: Captain Megan Fairclough On How Lancashire Bounced Back To Become T20 Champions

Back in May 2015, a bright dawn of optimism broke over women’s cricket in Lancashire. Newly promoted to Div 1 of the Women’s County Championship, the Lancashire Thunder – as they were known before that moniker was later taken over by the Super League team – promised great things. There was shiny new kit, a joint media day at Old Trafford with the men’s team, and a heap of press coverage, including an interview with then-captain Jas Titmuss in All Out Cricket.

Then the cricket started… and it all came crashing down.

Lancashire Thunder lost all 8 of their games in the County Championship that year, their season going from bad to worse as they were bowled out for 86 and 113 in their last two matches. They ended the season in last place on just 23 points. Notts – who finished just one place above them, and were also relegated – had 68.

Fast-forward two-and-a-bit years, however, and we are tweeting this:

Lancashire – now back in Div 1 in both formats – have won the T20 Cup, and are currently 3rd in the County Championship.

And they’ve done it with basically the same team – 9 of the players who played the last round of the T20 Cup, played in the disastrous 2015 season!

So what has changed, we asked captain Megan Fairclough:

“We are experienced playing together now,” she says. “After the difficulty of a couple of years ago, when we went back down to Div 2, we showed great character – we bounced back and came back up.”

And there is an element of success breeding success:

“The girls playing so well together constantly – playing such great games at the moment – is great motivation for everybody as well.”

With Lancashire now just back to being “Lancashire”, the “Thunder” name has been taken up by the KSL side, and the resources which have been ploughed into building that team, with a full winter training program, have also made a big difference:

“It is a good thing for us that we’ve got so many players playing for the Kia Super League – 8 of the squad is playing at Lancs Thunder, so they’ve trained together, and having the Thunder girls together constantly is kind of an advantage.”

And whilst Fairclough is clearly not intentionally having a dig at players at other counties who only play county, she does stress the importance for all players of just PLAYING – county, club, or whatever:

“People are playing cricket outside of county as well, so they are getting games under their belts and constantly developing their skills.”

One advantage Lancashire have had this season is that whilst other teams have been decimated by international call-ups, for Lancashire key players such as Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone have not been selected for England, and so have been available throughout; but whilst acknowledging this, Fairclough argues that there’s more to it than that:

“It can be seen as an advantage, but it’s not just those two [Cross and Ecclestone] who have won us the games – it has been a team effort. There has been different people shining through – everyone has worked well and we’ve worked well as a team.”

And looking at the numbers this is borne out: 3 players have scored over 250 runs – Emma Lamb (300), Eve Jones (292) and Natalie Brown (252) – and whilst Ecclestone is the season’s leading wicket-taker by a country mile with 25, others have chipped in, including Rachel Dickinson (16), Natalie Brown (13) and Fairclough herself (12).

Now with just two rounds of the Women’s County Championship, can Lancashire pull-off the ultimate comeback and do The Double? They will be depending on other results to do so, but it is possible that their final fixture against current leaders Warwickshire will be a decider. Fairclough though is taking each match as it comes:

“We’ve still got a chance but we don’t want to play the last two games under pressure so we’re just going to take it a game at a time and play like we have done all season – not overthink anything, just do our basics well – we’ll go out there and play our normal game and have fun.”

And who could argue that that is not what cricket is all about?

MATCH REPORTS: Lancashire Win T20 Cup v Surrey & Yorkshire

Lancashire battled their way to the T20 title on a windy day at Banstead Cricket Club in leafy Surrey, with victories over Surrey and Yorkshire.

Surrey v Lancashire

After heavy overnight rain, the first match between Surrey and Lancashire was delayed by a damp outfield and eventually reduced to 9 overs per side. After winning the toss, Lancashire reached 66-6 – Emma Lamb starring with 37 off 26 balls, as she found the boundary on 6 occasions, whilst for Surrey Beth Kerrins took 3-12 in the two (reduced) overs she was allotted.

Needing above 7-an-over, Surrey started off well enough with 7 off the first over, but quickly fell away, losing wickets at regular intervals, including 3 run-outs as they drifted towards a final tally of 45-7, 21 runs short.

Lancashire v Yorkshire

In the day’s second match, Yorkshire won the toss and elected to bat versus Lancashire; who already knew they were champions, after news of Warwickshire’s loss to Kent had come in via Twitter.

For Yorkshire, Jess Watson and Hannah Buck joint-top-scored with 20 each as the White Roses were bowled out for 87 in 17.2 overs. Natalie Brown and Rachel Dickinson took 2-apiece; but Sophie Ecclestone was really the pick of the bowling with 1 wicket for just 9 runs in her 4 overs.

It looked a massively under-par total compared with the previous game, with the ball flowing more feely over the outfield as it dried; but Lancashire actually made quite hard work of it – struggling to get the ball off the square as the Yorkshire bowlers pegged them back, led by leg-spinner Katie Levick who took 3-7 in her 4 overs. However, with Levick bowled out, Kate Cross (22*) and Sophie Ecclestone (14*) accelerated, taking Lancashire over the line eventually with 3 overs to spare, and time for the celebrations to begin.

Afterwards, victorious Lancashire captain Megan Fairclough told CRICKETher:

“We came here knowing we needed to win both games, depending on what happened elsewhere; but we took it a game at a time. The girls showed great character and worked well under pressure, especially towards the end of the last game. It feels fantastic.”\

Surrey v Yorkshire

The third match of the day was thus a dead rubber, but ended up a thriller, with Yorkshire needing 15 off the final over, and eventually falling just 4 runs short of their target.

Surrey originally looked to have set a formidable total, finishing on 138-8 having raced along at 7 an over for most of their innings to set up far and away the biggest run chase of the day. For Yorkshire, Katie Levick (3-21) once again starred with the ball, and at one point it looked like she had well and truly spoiled Surrey’s party, racking up 2 wickets in the space of 3 balls to leave her opponents 68-5 with 9 overs still left to face.

But a rallying effort from Surrey’s no. 8 and 10, Aylish Cranstone (29*) and Molly Sellars (20*), ensured a strong finish for the home side.

Yorkshire’s reply was held together by Maddie Walsh, as they pushed forward towards their target, keeping up with the rate but losing wickets steadily along the way. When Walsh was out for 25 in the 14th over, pushing the ball into the hands of Amy Gordon at midwicket, it looked as if her side might fall well short – 6 wickets down and still needing 50 runs – but some sloppy fielding from Surrey almost cost them dearly, with Yorkshire still in with a shout until the last ball of the match.

It was left down to captain Cecily Scutt to bowl the final over; and for a minute it looked as if Surrey might have thrown it all away, as her first two balls were dispatched to the boundary by Izzy Bunn. Bunn, though, was caught on the leg side trying to repeat the feat, and Scutt then kept her cool to ensure the last three balls each went for only a single – Surrey winning by 3 runs.

— Raf Nicholson

OPINION: KSL 50 Is Dead… So Make The County Championship Count!

The news that plans for a “KSL-50” – a 50-over Super League to accompany the T20 KSL – have officially been abandoned (link) means that the Women’s County Championship is set to muddle-along for the next couple of years at least.

The problem with the KSL-50 was that it was the wrong thing to do in practice – there was no space for it in the calendar and the overseas stars who make the KSL what it is were not going to be available for a much longer competition with a very small budget.

But in principle, an elite 50-over competition is a “must” if England are going to look to successfully retain their World Cup in four years time – somewhere to blood the new players we will need by then, given that several members of the current team are unlikely to make it to 2021.

When the KSL-50 was first mooted, the suggestion was that the County Championship would become an “Age Group” feeder competition; but in a way that has already happened – with the England players mostly unavailable due to World Cup commitments, this was always going to be a year when the counties needed to raid their age-group squads for new talent.

But ironically, the KSL has actually made things worse in some cases, as older “county” players have found the pressure of County + KSL + Job + Life too much, and have decided to call it a day with cricket.

So whilst Australia press-on with the full-scale professionalisation of their domestic structures – both 50 and 20-over – we have Div 1 counties fielding teams of teenagers, with a dearth of senior players to support them as they inevitably struggle.

The importance of having senior players on the pitch can’t be underestimated. Earlier this year, I saw a young fast bowler struggling, as she sent down two wides at the start of an over. She was wobbling; but New Zealand wicket-keeper Rachel Priest came over… had a chat… and the bowler bounced back to take 2 brilliant wickets in the spell!

But without those senior players, the County Championship will count for less and less.

The good news is that there is a relatively easy fix – arrange the calendar so that all the England players can play all of the County Championship. After all – it is in the name – it is a County Championship… so make it count!

KSL: Full Squads Announced

The ECB have today announced the full squads for this year’s edition of KSL, which starts on Thursday 10 August and runs until Finals Day on Friday 1 September.

The squads are as follows:

Lancashire Thunder

  • Danielle Hazell (C)
  • Sarah Taylor
  • Kate Cross
  • Amy Satterthwaite
  • Jess Jonassen
  • Lea Tahuhu
  • Sophie Ecclestone
  • Emma Lamb
  • Eve Jones
  • Ellie Threlkeld
  • Natasha Miles
  • Natalie Brown
  • Alice Dyson
  • Rachel Dickinson
  • Ella Telford

Loughborough Lightning

  • Georgia Elwiss (C)
  • Amy Jones
  • Beth Langston
  • Ellyse Perry
  • Kristen Beams
  • Elyse Villani
  • Paige Scholfield
  • Thea Brookes
  • Georgia Boyce
  • Becky Grundy
  • Sonia Odedra
  • Marie Kelly
  • Sarah Glenn
  • Lucy Higham
  • Abi Freeborn

Southern Vipers

  • Charlotte Edwards (C)
  • Tash Farrant
  • Danni Wyatt
  • Arran Brindle
  • Suzie Bates
  • TBC – 3rd overseas*
  • Hayley Matthews
  • Georgia Adams
  • Katie George
  • Linsey Smith
  • Ellen Burt
  • Tara Norris
  • Izzy Collis
  • Carla Rudd
  • Charlie Dean

Surrey Stars

  • Nat Sciver (C)
  • Tammy Beaumont
  • Laura Marsh
  • Alex Hartley
  • Marizanne Kapp
  • Harmanpreet Kaur
  • Rene Farrell
  • Bryony Smith
  • Sophia Dunkley
  • Grace Gibbs
  • Aylish Cranstone
  • Cordelia Griffith
  • Hannah Jones
  • Naomi Dattani
  • Kirstie White

Western Storm

  • Heather Knight (C)
  • Anya Shrubsole
  • Fran Wilson
  • Holly Huddleston
  • Stafanie Taylor
  • Rachel Priest
  • Georgia Hennessy
  • Sophie Luff
  • Freya Davies
  • Danielle Gibson
  • Claire Thomas
  • Lauren Parfitt
  • Jodie Dibble
  • Amara Carr
  • Alice Macleod

Yorkshire Diamonds

  • Lauren Winfield (C)
  • Katherine Brunt
  • Jenny Gunn
  • Chamari Atapattu (Replaces Beth Mooney*)
  • Sune Luus
  • Sophie Devine
  • Hollie Armitage
  • Alice Davidson-Richards
  • Anna Nicholls
  • Katie Levick
  • Katie Thompson
  • Steph Butler
  • Laura Crofts
  • Teresa Graves
  • Maddie Walsh

* Beth Mooney (Yorkshire Diamonds) and Dane van Niekerk (Southern Vipers) have withdrawn through injury and their replacements will be announced in due course.

INTERVIEW: Cecily Scutt – Surrey Skipper On Life In Div 2… And Getting Back To Div 1

2016 was a tough season for Surrey. After 5 years in Division 1 of the Women’s County Championship, including a second-placed finish in 2014, they were relegated to Division 2 having lost 7 of their 8 games.

But for long-standing county captain Cecily Scutt – now in her 9th season with the club, and with 91 wickets to her name, closing in on the big 100-wicket milestone – this wasn’t the time to cut and run:

“Relegation was hard because I felt a lot of responsibility personally; but I don’t think that is the time for a captain to leave, when their team gets relegated. We have a very young side, so if I were to leave at that point it would have left a lot of people on their own – Bryony Smith who is pushing to play for England; Alex Travers, Amy Gordon, and Rhianna Southby, who are all trying to develop their games – if I can take the pressure off them with the captaincy, then we’ll give them the best platform we can.”

Two particularly exciting prospects are 18-year-old Hannah Jones and Aylish Cranstone, who has moved to Surrey after 5 years at Devon, to try to push her career forwards after being selected in the Surrey Stars KSL squad last season:

“Hannah has been bowling really well and taking lots of wickets – she sticks to her line and length, and plays really positively with the bat – she is starting to enjoy it a lot I think, which is good to see; and Aylish adds a lot of energy – she is really busy – working it into the gaps and running really well between the wickets, so she is a real asset for us.”

Reflecting on life in Div 2, the word that Scutt uses is “different”:

“It is a different game, but it’s been alright actually – it has been different but it has been positive. Everyone has found out more about the way that they play and had the opportunity to score a lot of runs, so we’ve gained a lot of confidence which has been nice and a lot of the younger girls are doing really well, which is good to see.”

One player who made the most of her opportunities in Div 2 was England’s Nat Sciver, who smashed back-to-back not-out centuries against Hampshire and Staffs:

“It was good for Nat going into the World Cup off the back of a couple of hundreds – her success is so deserved – she has worked really, really hard, and it is amazing – we love it!”

Now with 2 rounds remaining of the 2017 County Championship, it could hardly be closer at the top of Div 2, with Somerset, Hampshire, Surrey and Devon all on 4 wins from 5, and Surrey currently sitting 3rd on bonus points in the battle for one of the two promotion spots back to Div 1, with fixtures against Somerset and Devon to come:

“The last 2 games will be quite tough – Somerset will be a hard game – they are playing pretty well. We played them in the T20 and they beat us, but it was close; so we’ll try and win and give ourselves the best chance we can to get promoted.”

“We want to be playing Div 1 cricket – that’s our aim. There is a difference between the divisions and while I think it has been good for us – we’ve had a chance to regroup and everyone has learned a lot – we would like to be playing Div 1 cricket!”

OPINION: Women’s Cricket At The Olympics – The Devil Is In The Details

Following the commercial success of the recent Women’s World Cup, the idea of bringing cricket (back) to the Olympic Games appears to be back on the table.

The idea seems to be that it would be a T20 competition, and that one of the World T20s, currently held every 2 years, would be sacrificed to make space for it in the calendar.

The key advantage would be increased funding, especially for the “Associate” nations, which could see big increases in their budgets; but elsewhere the arguments seem less clear-cut.

The suggestion that this would be an 8-team tournament, with the Caribbean nations competing separately, is particularly problematic. Although various Caribbean nations have previously competed independently in Women’s World Cups, the strength in depth just isn’t there to support them being competitive, especially given that Great Britain (which would basically be England), Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India would all be at full-strength – if you thought the West Indies v South Africa was a mismatch last month in Leicester, you ain’t seen nothing yet!!

One big winner, potentially, could be Ireland, who would on current form walk into a prospective second European qualifying spot. The increased profile it could give the game there would be fantastic; and obviously they would welcome the money; but what Ireland really need on the pitch is more regular international competition – i.e. a place in the Women’s International Championship – not a once-every-four-years chance to be smashed into smithereens by the big girls.

Even for the top sides there are potential issues – you don’t need to look further than this week’s furore over England’s women’s rugby contracts, as they struggle to balance the short-term priority of the 7-a-side Olympic game with the longer-term health of the nascent 15-a-side professional setup, to get a hint of some of the problems we might be facing down the line if this is a road we choose to go down.

Our suspicion is that this if remains a big one – although it is true that the Olympics gave a big recent fillip to women’s football in this country; the boost that it gave to women’s “soccer” after their triumph in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics proved somewhat illusory, followed as it was by a literal “bust” which left the game there basically bankrupt by 2003.

And of course all this is assuming that some of the more prosaic issues like sponsorship and TV rights, currently allocated globally and with all manner of exclusivity clauses could be sorted… though to be fair the fight between Pepsi and Coke over that one could be an Olympic sport all by itself!!

Cricket in the Olympics sounds like a nice idea – global and inclusive; but the devil is always in the details, and our guess is that once this becomes clear, it just ain’t gonna happen.