Women’s Ashes Preview Part 1 – England

The Women’s Ashes begins with the 1st ODI, at Allan Border Field in Brisbane, on Sunday morning – starting at just after midnight UK time, with live coverage on BT Sport and BBC 5 Live.

Instinctively, you might feel England are the favourites, having just won a World Cup at which Australia under-performed, but that isn’t how the bookies see it – at time of writing, both William Hill (11/8) and Bet365 (6/4) have England and Australia at identical odds.

The ICC’s own rankings seem to agree that it is a very close call between the two sides: both have a “rating” of 128, and you have to drill down to the second decimal place before you find England ahead by 0.05 “ratings” to claim top spot.

For me, I think the rankings have a point – England are favourites… but only just!

For the first time in what feels like forever, England have a truly settled team of players who you feel all deserve to be there. At the top of the order, Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield can write their own names on the team sheet; and although Winfield has looked slightly the lesser player recently, that is perhaps only because Beaumont has been so prolific, as she has transformed herself from a solid “county pro” to a World Cup-winning Player of the Tournament.

Then a middle-order of Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver and Heather Knight is a middle order that has some serious runs in it. It says something that if you were forced to name a “weak link” here, it would be Knight, who has actually been by some way the most successful England player in Australian domestic cricket in recent years, captaining the Hobart Hurricanes to an over-achieving semi-final qualification spot in both editions of the WBBL.

Fran Wilson rounds off the batting, with the ability to play a variety of different games according to the state of the match, and her athleticism in the field at cover/ point means you can add another 2o runs to whatever she scores with the bat.

And yet for all this quality in the batting department, that is not even England’s real strength – Australia have some good bats too! But every single one of England’s bowlers would walk into Australia’s team without question.

Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole have proved themselves time and again to be warhorses on the field of play; and whilst Jenny Gunn might not “look” too threatening these days, she weaves all her years of experience into every ball and you underestimate her at your peril!

There is one question mark over England’s starting XI though – which of the four (!!) world class spinners misses out? Laura Marsh, Dani Hazell, Alex Hartley and Sophie Ecclestone can’t all play… but you’d bet Mark Robinson wishes they could!

And then… speak of the devil… there is Mark Robinson himself – the calm, gently-spoken man, who took basically the same team that never quite convinced under the previous regime – tweaked it here and there – and won the World Cup at the first time of asking!

It is still going to be close – Australia will hit some big totals and England wouldn’t be England if they didn’t collapse at least once! But overall, there is a quiet confidence about England – they have the edge, and Australia know it – hence all the “bringing the bitch back” nonsense – they can bring back all the bitch they want… but it is England who will be bringing back the Ashes!

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NEWS: England Beaten By The Rain… Again… In Brisbane

With the Women’s Ashes starting on Sunday, England suffered another exasperating day in Brisbane, as their second ODI warm-up was rained-off without a ball being bowled.

Following Monday’s severely curtailed match against a young Australia XI, England were due to take on the local WNCL team – the Queensland Fire – but the rain meant the players were unable to take the field.

Head Coach Mark Robinson said: “It’s obviously hugely frustrating but there isn’t much you can do about the weather. We’re itching to be out on grass and be competitive.”

England’s only consolation is that Australia’s own preparations have been similarly affected, as they too have struggled to get time in the middle, with their match against the Fire also totally washed-out, and then their game against the youngsters abandoned after 30 overs.

We are told England are still hopeful of scheduling another warm-up prior to Sunday’s 1st ODI, which starts at just after midnight UK time.

NEWS: England Warm-Up Abandoned Due To Rain

The first of England’s two “official” Women’s Ashes ODI warm-ups – against a young “Cricket Australia XI” – was abandoned due to rain in Brisbane.

England named 12 players – adding Sophie Ecclestone to the XI they fielded in the World Cup final at Lords – but Ecclestone didn’t even get a chance to bowl a ball, as the match was rained-off after just 18.1 overs.

With Australia having won the toss and chosen to bat, Katherine Brunt took the early wickets of Sophie Molineux and Katie Mack, before Georgia Redmayne and Heather Graham dug-in to take the Aussies to 67-2. Graham was Caught & Bowled by Laura Marsh for 28, bringing Nicola Carey to the crease, but not for long, as the rain set in and play was abandoned, with Australia on 77-3.

England will get another warm-up chance on Wednesday against the same opposition, prior to the 1st ODI next Sunday.

NEWS: Women’s Ashes Squad – Ecclestone In For Langston

England have announced their squad for the Women’s Ashes in Australia next month. The 15-player squad is largely the same squad which won the World Cup this summer, with just one change – left-arm orthodox spinner Sophie Ecclestone, who was the leading wicket-taker in county cricket this season, comes in at the expense of fast-bowler Beth Langston.

England will also have Kate Cross and Amy Jones semi-available as potential injury replacements, with both already out in Australia playing domestic cricket.

Full Squad:

  • Heather Knight
  • Tammy Beaumont
  • Katherine Brunt
  • Sophie Ecclestone
  • Georgia Elwiss
  • Jenny Gunn
  • Alex Hartley
  • Dani Hazell
  • Laura Marsh
  • Anya Shrubsole
  • Nat Sciver
  • Sarah Taylor
  • Fran Wilson
  • Lauren Winfield
  • Danni Wyatt

The series begins with the 1st ODI in Brisbane on October 22nd and ends with the 3rd T20 in Canberra on November 21st. All matches are expected to be broadcast in the UK, with the limited overs games being shown live on BT Sport, whilst the Test will be live-streamed on the Cricket Australia web site.

NEWS: Kia Sponsorship Extended Until 2019… And Then…???

The ECB today announced that Kia’s sponsorship of women’s cricket has been extended for a further 2 years, running until the end of 2019.

Kia originally signed a 3 year deal to sponsor the England women’s team, which was later expanded to include the “title” sponsorship of the Super League.

The deal was/ is not a huge one in financial terms – the original agreement was worth only a fraction of what Waitrose were paying at the time to sponsor the men’s team – but it was/ is still hugely significant because it is a “stand-alone” deal for the women’s game – not a “tack-on” sponsorship to the men’s game.

And that Kia chose to expand their commitment via the Super League was also big news, because it put a value on women’s domestic cricket for the first time in this country.

Meanwhile Kia are clearly happy that it is a proposition which has worked for them, as they continue to target the “soccer cricket mom” market with their mid-range SUVs, as driven by all the England players.

So why have they only signed on for two years this time?

Well…

[Idle speculation alert!!]

In 2020 the ECB are planning to launch their “City T20” competition.

Right now, the City T20 is only being talked about as a men’s tournament; but following the logic of BBL/ WBBL, might not an aligned Women’s City T20 also make sense?

Put it this way: it would be a remarkable surprise if the idea hadn’t crossed anyone’s mind over at ECB Towers; and that would mean no more Kia Super League after 2019… which is exactly when the extended Kia deal is now scheduled to end.

As the kids say… you do the math!

OPINION: Women’s Ashes Squad Speculation – The 15th Conundrum

With just a month to go until England fly Down Under for the Women’s Ashes, coach Mark Robinson has been meeting with his team this week to finalise the squad.

The Ashes squad is officially 15 players, but there may be some wriggle-room in terms of naming different squads for different formats, so who is likely to be in and out?

It is probably safe to say that the 13 players who played during the World Cup are all pretty sure bets to be involved:

  1. Heather Knight
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. Katherine Brunt
  4. Jenny Gunn
  5. Alex Hartley
  6. Dani Hazell
  7. Laura Marsh
  8. Nat Sciver
  9. Anya Shrubsole
  10. Sarah Taylor
  11. Fran Wilson
  12. Lauren Winfield
  13. Danni Wyatt

This leaves officially just 2 spots to fill, so who is in contention?

There were two players named in the World Cup squad who didn’t play: Georgia Elwiss and Beth Langston; and a further three in the contracted squad: Amy Jones, Tash Farrant and Kate Cross.

One thing you need on a long, distant tour is a versatile all rounder to act as an injury back-up, and Georgia Elwiss is that player – a good enough batsman to be selected on merit and a good enough bowler to fill-in when required – it would be a big surprise if she was left behind, so that’s 14!

The final, 15th spot is where all the big questions lie, which is why England might go with two, or even three, 15ths!

Beth Langston was in the World Cup squad and never got her chance, so it might seem unfair to leave her behind, but (as my dad used to say) life’s not fair… and he might have added that professional sport definitely isn’t, so is there an opportunity for A.N. Other?

Kate Cross is as close as England get to a “Test Specialist” – she didn’t have a great Super League (1 wicket, and an economy rate of 9) but that probably shouldn’t have too much bearing on Test selection, and her batting, which has come on a lot over the past couple of years, could be handy, so there is perhaps a case to be made for her in the Test squad.

If England have a “T20 Specialist” it is Tash Farrant, who has played just one ODI but 9 T20s since her debut in 2013. She opened the bowling for the Vipers in the Super League and took 6 wickets at an economy rate of 6.2 – not terrible numbers by any means, but not exactly “banging down the door” either.

Amy Jones (who should have recovered from the broken finger which kept her out of the last couple of rounds of Super League) is England’s official under-glove-butler* but we have a feeling that Tammy Beaumont keeping-wicket for the Surrey Stars in Super League (even when they had a “proper” keeper – Kirstie White – on the field) might have been a sign from on-high that England will look to turn to her if Sarah Taylor gets injured out in Australia.

In addition to the contracted squad, there are a handful of wildcards. Sophie Ecclestone had a fantastic domestic season – topping the wicket-taking charts in the County Championship – but England are pretty flush with spinners right now, with Alex Hartley, Laura Marsh and Dani Hazell, so she will probably have to wait her turn – it will come – but maybe just not quite yet!

The other outside shots are opening batsman Emma Lamb and fast bowler Freya Davies.

Lamb is one of those players who would thrive if the game we played was more like men’s Test cricket – pace on the ball, and 5 days to bat – but it isn’t. Yes there is a (4 day) Test, and yes it is Australia where the pitches will be faster, but there won’t be serious pace on the ball from this Aussie attack; and besides, who would you drop…?

So if England do make an “outside” pick it is more likely to be Davies, who the England management clearly see as a long-term replacement for Katherine Brunt, who is 32 now and therefore unlikely to continue much past next year’s World T20 in the West Indies. Heather Knight obviously rates Davies, trusting her to open the bowling for the Storm in the Super League; and although England got through the World Cup with the injury-prone axis of Shrubsole and Brunt playing every match, they might not be so lucky this time, so taking another “proper” fast bowler might be a wise move.

Will Mark Robinson agree? For what it’s worth, we haven’t got a clue… but we will find out very soon!

—————

* Back-up wicket keeper!

KSL FINAL – Storm v Vipers: Priest Reads Edwards Last Rites

Rachel Priest is – as Forrest Gump might have put it – like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get!

Her scores at the World Cup this summer read: 2 against South Africa, 8 against Australia, 8 against Pakistan, 12 against England, 5 against India. Oh…and 90 off 55 balls against the West Indies!

In this year’s Super League, her first two innings were 3 off 8 balls versus the Vipers, and a 4-ball duck against the Lightning.

Then came York: the Storm v the Diamonds.

With the Storm chasing 160, after what Women’s Cricket Blog described as an “iffy” start, Priest reached her 50 off 39 balls… and then she really got going! Finishing on 106*, the second 50 had taken just 25 balls. In total she hit 14 4s and 3 6s, including 15 off an over from Sophie Devine and another 15 off Chamari Atapattu.

In the Storm’s final group match, against the Thunder at Bristol, there was really no “start” at all – just a “finish”! After hitting 10 off the first over from Kate Cross, Priest went on to smash the fastest 50 in KSL history, off 22 balls, with 7 4s and 3 6s.

And so to Hove for Finals Day, with the Storm distinctly unfancied: our statistical analysis said they had only a 24% chance of lifting the title, and our followers on Twitter agreed – just 17% of them made the Storm favourites!

In the semi-final, with the Storm chasing a low total against the Stars, Priest got a bit of a start, hitting a couple of 4s, before horribly missing a fairly innocuous ball from Nat Sciver to be bowled for 11, as the Storm collapsed to 17-4.

Had everyone been right about the Storm?

No! It was Stafanie Taylor who kept them in it, guiding them home with an over to spare, with a patient 37 off 45 balls – Priest was to have one more chance to really make her mark, in the final against the Vipers.

At the half-way point in the final, however, the odds were stacked against the Storm once again. Although the Vipers highest individual score was just 31, a massive “team effort” had taken them to an imposing 145 – all-but 50% more than the Storm had just about managed to chase earlier in the day. There were men in white coats standing outside Ladbrokes on Portland Road, waiting to cart anyone betting on the Storm off to the loony bin!

Meanwhile in the press box, all the talk was of Charlotte Edwards, who had just hit 20* off 8 balls, with no 6s (Lottie does it “old school”) but 4 sweet 4s. If it was a secret that this was to be Edwards’ final game, it wasn’t a very well-kept one, and the fairy-tale ending was already being hotly anticipated and written-up for the morning’s papers.

But Rachel Priest had other ideas.

She hit her first 6 in Linsey Smith’s second over, but it was her brutal treatment of Smith’s third (and final) over which changed the course of the match. It began with a wide; before Smith seemed to pull it back with two dots. Then the damn broke – a 4, another wide, a no-ball hit for 4, the free hit sent for a soaring 6, then 2 more 4s – 26 off the over, and the Viper’s leading bowler quite literally battered out of the game.

By the time Rachel Priest was finally dismissed, brilliantly caught by Danni Wyatt, with a racing dive from deep midwicket to deep mid on, she had made 72 off 36 balls – a strike rate of exactly 200. There was still work to do – the required rate was just a little under 6 at that point – but it was as if Priest’s innings had lifted all the pressure off. Sophie Luff in particular looked a different player from the one who had made a nervous 5 off 6 balls in the semi-final – Priest had made batting look easy again, and Luff, Stafanie Taylor and Fran Wilson (running for Taylor, who was suffering from cramp) eased the Storm to victory with 12 balls to spare.

Charlotte Edwards – her fairy-tale ending denied – said afterwards that the Storm were simply the better team.

They weren’t.

But Rachel Priest was.

She might be infuriatingly inconsistent; but on her day she can be the best player in the world.

And this was her day.

KSL SEMI-FINAL – Stars v Storm: In Charts

Stars Innings

  • The Stars innings never quite got going – Claire Nicholas was exceptionally economical in the powerplay – conceding just 5 runs in her first 3 overs (overs 1, 3 & 5). Admittedly, she conceded 9 in her final over (over 7), but by that point the pattern of the game had been set; and 100 didn’t feel like a par score at all.
  • It was the Storm’s spin attack which controlled the game – their quicks went for 6-an-over on average; their spinners just 4.57.
  • But… to be fair to them… the quicks were more than twice as likely to take wickets – taking a wicket every 2 overs bowled; compared with one every 4.5 overs for the spinners.

Storm Innings

  • The Storm’s reply was a case-study in not panicking, despite losing wickets – they were always on-course with the rate but at 4-wickets down after 10 overs, with all-but-one of their “big” batsmen back in the dugout, they could so easily have hit The Big Red Button.
  • The last “big” batsman was Stafanie Taylor; but she didn’t “bat big” – she batted at a Strike Rate of just over 80 – that’s absolutely not a big number, but it was enough of a number as long as she stayed in – and she did! She was there to guide the tail home and hit the winning runs with 7 balls to spare.

  • They say slow and steady wins the race! Well, not always; but it did in this semi-final!
  • In contrast to the Storm, the Stars spinners were more expensive – going at 6.4-an-over, compared to 4.5 for the quicks.

STATS: Women’s County Championship 2017: Batting Rankings

Div 1 Stats – Other Divisions Are Available!

The Women’s County Championship can be an unforgiving place to be a batsman – matches are mostly played on used club pitches, often with huge boundaries (in contrast to KSL) and unforgiving outfields where the ball will quickly run out of puff. So if you are thinking these numbers look low… perhaps they are, but there’s a reason!

Sophie Devine tops the 2017 batting rankings, largely thanks to one of the greatest innings in the history of the Women’s County Championship – 122 off 78 balls for Warwickshire versus Middlesex. (Incidentally, this was the only century scored in Div 1 this season.)

Middlesex’s own Beth Morgan comes in at No. 2 – six years after retiring from England duty, she still looks a classy player, with the numbers and consistency to back it up – having reached double-figures in all 7 innings, with a high of 80 against Yorkshire.

The leading run-scorer this season was Notts’ veteran skipper Sonia Odedra with 253 – including carrying her bat for the 79* which deprived Yorkshire of the County Championship title in the final game. (Notts won the match, finishing on 178-4 – if they had finished on 178-5, Yorkshire would have got the one extra bonus point they needed to win the title.)

Batting Played Runs Strike Rate
1. Sophie Devine 4 159 135.9
2. Beth Morgan 7 245 71.85
3. Amy Jones 3 136 127.1
4. Sonia Odedra 7 253 63.57
5. Danielle Wyatt 4 163 94.22
6. Amy Satterthwaite 7 242 63.35
7. Rachel Priest 5 146 97.99
8. Katherine Brunt 2 146 94.19
9. Evelyn Jones 6 218 59.73
10. Hollie Armitage 6 192 54.55
11. Marie Kelly 7 140 72.54
12. Anna Nicholls 7 140 70.71
13. Georgia Hennessy 6 152 61.79
14. Sarah Taylor 3 118 69.41
15. Catherine Dalton 5 94 87.04
16. Kathryn Bryce 7 127 60.19
17. Sophie Ecclestone 7 100 70.92
18. Danielle Hazell 3 98 72.06
19. Alice Davidson-Richards 5 140 49.47
20. Lissy Macleod 7 104 65

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

STATS: Women’s County Championship 2017: Bowling Rankings

Div 1 Stats – Other Divisions Are Available!

The star turn of this season’s Women’s County Championship was undoubtedly Sophie Ecclestone, with a massive 27 wickets in 7 games for title winners Lancashire. (By comparison last season’s top-ranked bowler – Kent’s Megan Belt – took just 16 wickets.) Ecclestone took two 5fers, including 6-12 in the crucial final match of the season, which catapulted Lancashire over Warwickshire and Yorkshire to the title.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire leg-spinner Katie Levick eased past one “C.M. Edwards” into 3rd place in the “All Time” list of Div 1 wicket-takers, with another 21 wickets this season.

In a season more than ever dominated by spinners, only one fast bowler made the top 10 – Holly Huddleston. Huddleston might not have had a great KSL (though Finals Day is still to come) but 50-over cricket is really her game, and she showed it again in this year’s County Champs.

One to watch for the future is Berkshire’s 17-year-old off-spinner Emma Walker, who made the list at No. 11 in her debut season, with 11 wickets including a 5fer against Middlesex. (She also top-scored for Berkshire in their last match against Kent!)

Bowling Played Wickets Economy
1. Sophie Ecclestone 7 27 2.76
2. Katie Levick 7 21 2.68
3. Anisha Patel 7 14 2.93
4. Kirstie Gordon 7 13 2.89
5. Sophia Dunkley 4 11 2.56
6. Kaitie Thompson 7 10 2.48
7. Linsey Smith 4 9 2.34
8. Rebecca Grundy 7 10 2.76
9. Jodie Dibble 7 12 3.73
10. Holly Huddleston 4 9 2.8
11. Emma Walker 6 11 3.44
12. Liz Russell 3 10 3.41
13. Sophie Munro 4 10 3.58
14. Ellen Burt 7 10 3.62
15. Rachel Dickinson 7 9 3.3
16. Teresa Graves 5 7 2.86
17. Alice Davidson-Richards 5 8 3.28
18. Megan Belt 7 9 3.76
19. Natalie Brown 7 6 2.57
20. Izzy Westbury 5 11 4.87

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy