NEWS: Smriti Mandhana & Harmanpreet Kaur To Miss KSL Finals Day

The ECB have confirmed that both Western Storm’s Smriti Mandhana and Lancashire Thunder’s Harmanpreet Kaur will miss KSL Finals Day, due to an Indian training camp.

The Western Storm are already through to Finals Day, and Smriti has been a key player for them – with 416 runs at an average of 69, she has scored nearly half of the Storm’s runs this season. (The competition’s next-highest run-scorer is Heather Knight with 272 runs, which emphasises just how vital Smriti’s contribution has been.)

Lancashire Thunder are currently 4th in the table, so will only make Finals Day if they win and the currently 3rd-placed Stars lose their last group match on Saturday. Although Harmanpreet has been a bit hit and miss – there have been some dodgy run-outs and a couple of ducks – she also won them two games, against the Stars at The Oval, where she closed-out the game with 34* at the death, and against the Diamonds at Blackpool, when she struck 74 off 44 balls to top-score.

The scenario, which mirrors the situation faced by the Sydney Sixers in the 2017/18 WBBL when they lost Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk for the latter stages of the competition, will certainly leave many fans – who may have bought tickets hoping to see Smriti in particular – disappointed, and perhaps reinforces the need for a “window” for these tournaments.

Advertisements

KSL: The Race For 3rd Place

With the top two teams – Storm and Lightning – already qualified for Finals Day, today is a crucial day for the rest in the race for the third and final spot at Hove.

Here’s how they currently stand.

Team Played Won Lost N/R NRR Points
1. Storm 8 6 1 1 1.796 30
2. Lightning 8 6 2 0 1.325 28
3. Stars 8 3 4 1 -0.59 16
4. Thunder 8 3 5 0 -1.144 13
5. Diamonds 8 2 5 1 -0.334 11
6. Vipers 8 2 5 1 -0.528 10

All 4 “racing” teams play each other this afternoon – Vipers v Stars & Thunder v Diamonds – and right now, all 4 could still qualify.

Although the Stars have their destiny in their own hands, they can only qualify today if they win with a bonus point and the Diamonds win without a bonus point.

Any win for the Stars will however knock the Vipers out of contention.

Any win for the Thunder will knock the Diamonds out too whatever happens (because Thunder would then have an unassailable 17 points); but the Thunder could lose and still go through if other results go their way at the weekend.

KSL: Vipers v Diamonds – Bell Sets Sail To A Promising Future

After a couple of near-misses, the Southern Vipers finally got things back on track with a win against the Yorkshire Diamonds in front of a big double-header crowd at The Ageas.

With opening bowlers Tash Farrant and Katie George both out for the rest of the season – Farrant after breaking her collarbone against the Lightning at the weekend and George with a persistent knee niggle – the Vipers handed a professional debut to 17-year-old Berkshire quick Lauren Bell; whilst at the other end of the order, the absence of Danni Wyatt for personal reasons meant Tammy Beaumont moved up to her preferred opening slot.

Beaumont made the most of her opportunity – hitting a Player of the Match-winning 64 off 37 balls – though she will be kicking herself that she got out tamely again, presenting Thea Brookes with catching practice as she failed to clear the ring.

The dismissal of Suzie Bates had already slowed down the run-rate, from 11 at the end of the powerplay to 8 at the half-way mark, and after Beaumont’s dismissal the Vipers engine was beginning to stutter; but they somehow rode the clutch just enough to avoid a total breakdown, leaving wickets in hand for a thrash in the last couple of overs.

And thrash they did – Paige Scholfield, playing in considerable pain with a broken finger, hitting 22 off 10 balls, including consecutive sixes off Katie Levick in the final over, to leave the Diamonds needing 160 on a ground which isn’t always that easy to bat on.

As Suzie Bates reflected afterwards:

“There was a point in that game where it could have gone either way, but those two sixes were massive for us – to get that score up to 160 was probably the winning of the game.”

The total still had to be defended though, and it was up to a slightly make-shift bowling unit to step up, with Lauren Bell opening the bowling on her debut.

“Lauren Bell may not have got an opportunity had Tash Farrant and Katie George remained fit,”  Bates admitted post-match.

“Sometimes you have a player like that and you maybe protect them a little bit, but today we had no choice – she was our front-line seamer – we had to open the bowling with her and she responded.”

Bell got hit for 11 off her opening over, as Beth Mooney looked to attack; but she later came back for a two-over spell which went for just 6 runs and was crucial in pushing the Diamonds’ required rate up towards double-figures. She might have finished wicketless, but she also closed her account with an overall economy rate of just 5.66 – bettered on the day only by Amelia Kerr.

Afterwards, Bell admitted the first over hadn’t gone entirely to plan:

“I hadn’t practiced loads against lefties and I was thinking ‘Don’t bowl too straight!’ but I’ll learn from it, and I think I came back strong so I’ll take it.”

“In the second two overs I went full and went for yorkers – I wasn’t thinking to bowl as quick as I could – just getting my lengths right.”

With the Diamonds chasing runs, Suzie Bates was able to clean up the tail and celebrate bowling the Yorkies out to claim the win.

“The last two games we’ve been in positions to win and haven’t been able to do it, so it’s just so pleasing!” Bates said afterwards.

As for Bell, Bates clearly believes she has a promising future ahead of her:

“She was brilliant – someone with that sort of physique, swinging the ball in – if she keeps tracking in the right direction she could play for England one day.”

We know we are biased, but we’d disagree only with the word “could” – if she keeps tracking in the right direction she will play for England one day!

KSL: Stars v Thunder – Harmanpreet Keeps Her Cool

In a dramatic match which went down to the penultimate ball, Lancashire Thunder came out on top thanks to the cool head of Harmanpreet Kaur, making her debut 3 games into the KSL campaign after bureaucratic issues delayed her arrival.

Off strike with 10 required from 5 balls, Harmanpreet clearly decided that the wicket of Ellie Threlkeld was a sacrifice she was willing to make – running a single which looked suicidal even before Threlkeld slipped. The Lancashire keeper’s face looked like… well… thunder as she walked back to the dugout, but it was ultimately justified as the Indian T20 captain hit a huge 6 to win the match with a ball to spare.

“I had that belief if I got two boundaries we would be able to win the game,” Harmanpreet said afterwards. “The person I like to take responsibility is me, and I’m really happy today that whatever expectations our team had on me, I did that.”

“There were some visa issues going on – there was a strike, so I wasn’t able to get my passport as soon as possible; but I’m really happy to join the team now and happy my team is doing well.”

From a Surrey perspective it was a disappointing afternoon, after a massive innings of 95* from Nat Sciver had put them in a match-winning position at the break. But the home crowd of over 2,000 – many likely tempted by the opportunity to come to just the first match of this double-header for as little as £1 for kids – still got to see an exciting game of cricket in a brilliant atmosphere; and full credit to Surrey for making that happen on a mid-week afternoon, which probably isn’t the ideal time to get bums on seats.

The result puts the Thunder firmly in the top half of the table, defying many expectations – including ours! With the much-fancied Vipers going down to another defeat, this time at the hands of the Storm, the table is perhaps starting to take shape, and on this form you’d now be mad to bet against the Thunder rolling on to Finals Day.

KSL: Stars v Vipers – Dunkley Brings Her “A” Game To Super League

Although it was the Vipers that came away with the opening-day victory in their contest with the Stars at Guildford, it was the Stars Sophia Dunkley that stole the show with 66 off 43 balls as the Stars recovered from an early collapse at 18-4 to post 141-9 and make the Vipers work for their win.

Dunkley’s admission afterwards that 18-4 was “not the way we wanted to start off” was something of an understatement but as she also acknowledged it was “a good opportunity to go out there and bat” and that is what she did, hitting some beautifully timed cricket shots along the way.

“I was a bit nervous to start off with – first game nerves and stuff – I just tried to be positive and ignore the situation – stick to my strengths and just bat.”

“The worst thing I could have done in that situation was go into my shell and bat defensively; but as soon as I got going I felt pretty comfortable. I batted well with Dane van Niekerk – she was really helpful and then I felt good out there.”

“It would have been better to be in a better position and get the win but I guess you’ve got to take the little wins – I hope it has got me a bit of recognition.”

Vipers and England’s Tammy Beaumont certainly thought so:

“She batted exceptionally well,” she said. “The way she put any width away – that it’s the best I’ve seen her bat.”

“She’s put in a number of good performances before but she seems to be taking it up a notch. She must be knocking on the door for an England contract.”

Of course, England are so strong with the bat at the moment that it is hard to see how anyone breaks into the squad right now; but Dunkley is only just 20 years old and has time on her side – even if she doesn’t get the call-up for November, on the evidence of today it will come – probably sooner rather than later!

OPINION: If You Think The 100 Will “Safeguard” County Cricket… I’ve Got Some Men’s Tests To Sell You

Cast your mind back 20-something years to when Men’s Tests had “Crown Jewel” status – meaning they could ONLY be shown on Free-To-Air TV – and the ECB were lobbying for this to be removed.

The conversation went something like this:

ECB: Please can we remove “Crown Jewel” status from [Men’s] Tests?

Fans: But then you’ll just sell them to SKY and lock-out ordinary viewers!

ECB: We totally won’t do that – pinkie promise!

Government: Okay then. [Removes “Crown Jewel” status.]

ECB: Haha – we sold the Tests to Sky and locked-out ordinary viewers – LOL!

Fans: *sad face*

Now fast-forward to 2018…

The ECB are telling cricket fans that The 100 not only won’t impact county cricket – it will help preserve it.

Riiiiiiiiiight.

Whenever questions get asked of the ECB, the comparison that comes up is always Australia: Cricket Australia do this so much better… they do that so much better… etc.

And the answer that comes from people who work at the ECB is frequently the same:

The Australians can do that because they only have 6 states, not 18 counties!

If I had a penny for every different person I’d heard this from, I’d be as rich as… well… I’d have about 5p; but given the size of the ECB that’s actually quite a lot of people. And to be fair, they aren’t wrong – the structure in Australia is much more centralised and less conservative. From a “governance” perspective, it is just more manageable, and the folks at the ECB look on it with envy.

So if you think that one purpose of The 100 is anything other than an attempt to marginalise and eventually kill county cricket, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you… and some Men’s Tests!

POST-MATCH INTERVIEW: New Zealand Coach Haidee Tiffen On Batting Selections & Looking Short & Long Term

New Zealand finally pulled off a win against England this summer, at the 6th time of asking, as a gutsy run-a-ball hundred from Sophie Devine saw them chase a slightly under-par 219, after England were bowled out batting first at Leicester.

We’ve been saying all along in this series that with New Zealand if you get Bates and Devine, you’ve won the game; but we saw the other side of that coin today: if you don’t get Bates and Devine, you’ve probably lost it!

Nevertheless, the questions remain – do New Zealand have enough batting going into the World Twenty20 in November?

Haidee Tiffen, speaking to CRICKETher post-match, is confident:

“I absolutely believe in our batting order,” she says “We’ve got Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine who have been outstanding; Amy Satterthwaite who has been the ICC One Day Player of the Year not so long ago; Maddy Green, who has been our domestic batter of the year this summer been; Katey Martin, who was Player of the Series in our previous series; Leigh Kasperek who has scored a lot of runs domestically; and then Amelia Kerr gets 230 [v Ireland].”

“So we’ve got the batters there – it is just a question of keeping to our cricket smarts and our game plan – building those partnerships!”

The challenge for New Zealand, as it is for any side to be fair, is to find the balance between looking short-term, at the World T20; and long-term at the World Cup, which is being played in New Zealand in 2021.

“We identified that the last couple of series have been ones we wanted to look long term and short term; whereas this was a bit more of a focus on the T20 – we’ve exposed players that have shown that they can be there in the T20 but also be there in 2021.”

“It is an art – sometimes you get it right, sometimes you don’t; but what we’ve found out about our younger players is really promising, and we’ve just got to keep working hard and developing those players and the balance of the experience as well as the youth has been really positive.”

“Our experienced players probably haven’t had the performances we would have liked in this series but Sophie today showed what they are capable of doing; and we are looking forward to that T20 World Cup.”

One player who has arguably been badly missed when New Zealand have struggled for runs this summer has been Rachel Priest, but Tiffen insists that she isn’t out of the picture in terms of WWT20:

“The door is not closed on Rachel – we’ve given clear feedback about the areas she needs to work on; but I don’t shut the door on anyone – it is just who is doing the work and who is improving their game.”

We’ve seen today that when Devine and / or Bates really turn it on, they are forces of nature who can win any game of cricket you put in front of them – even on a tricky pitch at the end of a long, draining tour, when all bets were against them. If they can do that at WWT20, or longer term in 2021, then the world trophy that Suzie Bates wants so desperately to cap her brilliant career with could still be within reach.

POST-MATCH: New Zealand v England – Oh Dear!

When my son was a toddler, the very first phrase he learned was “Oh dear!” and for several weeks everything was “Oh dear!” this and “Oh dear!” that!

I could have hired-him out to the BBC to commentate on New Zealand’s innings today.

It began with a “Double-Oh Dear!” as “Oh Dear! No. 1” – a rank wide full toss from Katie George – was slapped not to the boundary but straight into the hands of Amy Jones by Sophie Devine for “Oh Dear No. 2”. (George at least had the self-awareness to face-palm as Devine walked back to the pavilion!)

George’s next wicket was a demonstration of what she is capable of when she isn’t spraying it for wides – Amy Satterthwaite the victim of an unplayable delivery which took out her off stump.

But the “Oh Dears!” soon continued as Katey Martin – perhaps starting to look like she is a bit out of her era in the professional age – was trapped in front by Katherine Brunt; and it was downhill from there for New Zealand.

Laura Marsh got some big turn to dismiss Suzie Bates, but Bates will feel she should have played it better – she has been out a couple of times cutting this summer – and the “Oh Dear” was then written all over her face as she had to watch her team collapse in epic style, from 75-3 to 83-8, and thence to 118 all out – a sheen of respectability added to the scorecard as Kate Ebrahim and Holly Huddlestone put on 26 for the final wicket as the White Ferns at least staggered to 3-figures.

Earlier in the day Tammy Beaumont and Nat Sciver had shown that it was possible to bat on this pitch, if you did it slowly and patiently; and although it is true that the pitch appeared to deteriorate a bit, it didn’t do it to the tune of the 123 runs New Zealand lost by!

So… where now for New Zealand? Well… Leicester on Friday for starters, where they will try to dust themselves down for a consolation win after a disappointing “winter”.

And then as they fly home, they might do well to remember one thing:

Until a couple of years ago, England used to do these kind of collapses so regularly that we started referring to it as “Doing An England” – now they are World Champions!

However bad it looks now, come 2021 New Zealand could yet be World Champions too.