#WWC17 – Winfield Injury Makes Things Interesting For England

If you could pick one side England would NOT want to face in their opening World Cup game, who would it be? I think it might just be India – a game England probably HAVE to win if they are to avoid the unseemly Net Run Rate scrap in 3 weeks time for the 3rd and 4th semi-final spots.

India are the strongest of the middle-tier sides, having taken the honours recently against both South Africa in the World Cup Qualifiers and the West Indies in India; and while it is true that West Indies qualified directly for the World Cup ahead of India, that was only because politics forced India to forfeit their series against Pakistan.

So a game against India would be a definite proverbial “banana skin”… which is unfortunate because India are exactly who England face at Derby tomorrow!

England would have been planning to go into the World Cup with a well-balanced and mainly settled side, the bulk of which were automatic picks; but the injury to Lauren Winfield does make things a bit interesting.

  1. Tammy Beaumont – Having had a chequered England career under the previous regime, “TB” was the success story of last summer, filling her boots against Pakistan and adding two more half-centuries, against West Indies and Sri Lanka, over the winter. Although in some ways the jury is still out on her ability to compete at the highest level against the Australias and the New Zealands, this is her chance to put those remaining doubts to rest.
  2. Heather Knight – Knight vacated the opening spot when she inherited the captaincy last year; but with Winfield out, it looks like she might have to step back up – Knight has never scored an ODI century, so now would be an ideal opportunity to change that by leading from the front! Knight was also England’s leading wicket-taker in the Women’s International Championship; but she has been bowling a lot less recently, and the likelihood is that she will just fill-in two-or-three overs here and there during this World Cup, especially if she is opening the batting.
  3. Sarah Taylor – Taylor’s return is potentially the difference between an England who will be “there or thereabouts” and an England who will challenge for the trophy. Certainly the only England player in this team who is already a nailed-on “All Time Great” – though that isn’t to say others might not later add themselves to that list!
  4. Nat Sciver – Sciver has quite quietly become a pivotal player for England recently. Having made her debut as a back-up bowler just 4 years ago, her batting has since taken centre-stage, but her role as a bowler is still rather important. She isn’t quite good enough to open the bowling (she did the job when Anya Shrubsole was injured over the winter, and her limitations were exposed) but as a “We Need A Wicket” change option, she is England’s go-to, and she will probably bowl close to her allocation in most matches.
  5. Fran Wilson – Having made her “re-debut” last summer, after a false start to her international career back in 2010, Wilson was probably competing for a spot with Georgia Elwiss – the former is a better bat; but the latter offers a few overs with the ball. However, with Heather Knight set to move up the order to open in Winfield’s absence, it now looks likely both will play.
  6. Georgia Elwiss – See above!!
  7. Dani Hazell – Hazell’s position in the squad is an odd one – she is the unofficial “reserve captain”, having done the job in Sri Lanka over the winter and in one of England’s warm-up games, even though the official “vice captain” (Anya Shrubsole) was playing; and yet she isn’t guaranteed a place in the side, with Robinson seemingly preferring Laura Marsh as the right-arm compliment to Alex Hartley’s left-arm spin. But with Danni Wyatt misfiring more often than not with the bat at the moment, there is a good chance that Hazell – a solid batsman, who can definitely chip-in if and when things get tough – will get the nod, especially as it would take the pressure off Heather Knight to bowl as well as opening the batting.
  8. Katherine Brunt – The Hardest Working Woman In Cricket-Business, as Anya Shrubsole recently put it: “With Katherine, every ball’s an Effort Ball!” Injury worries mean she probably won’t play every game – especially if England have already qualified by the time their final group matches come around – but there is literally no one else in the women’s game you’d pick to open the bowling; plus she can also hit the kind of quick runs down the order which can turn a good total into a big one.
  9. Laura Marsh – Just over a year ago, it looked like Laura Marsh’s England career was over – playing through pain, plagued by a chronic shoulder injury, and dropped for the World T20 in India. But after flying out to India as a late injury replacement for Dani Hazell, she grabbed her opportunity and now seems to be Mark Robinson’s first choice right-armer; though it is likely that the plan was to rotate her with Hazell, which is something we may see ultimately presenting a dilemma if England reach the final!
  10. Anya Shrubsole – Shrubsole of course needs no introduction as the other half of England’s opening attack; but she is a very different bowler to Brunt – looking to get movement in the air where Brunt gets it off the deck – the variety just one of the reasons why they are so intimidating as a partnership. The vice-captain will, also like Brunt, have to be “managed” so perhaps won’t play every match, but she will play all the important ones.
  11. Alex Hartley – Variety is clearly something which Mark Robinson sees as the spice of life, and he tried two left-armers last summer in the search for adding something different to a mainly right-handed mix. Despite a tough introduction to international cricket last summer, Hartley was selected ahead of the much younger Sophie Ecclestone for elevation to the contracted squad, and repaid that faith over the winter, particularly in the West Indies, where she took 13 wickets – a record for England in a bilateral series – ensuring that she goes into this World Cup as England’s first-choice spinner.

NEWS: Winfield To Miss England Openers

Lauren Winfield has been ruled-out of England’s opening World Cup match against India tomorrow; and will probably also miss the second game against Pakistan on Tuesday.

The opening batsman injured her wrist in the warm-up against New Zealand. Having also kept wicket, she opened the batting in that match, but retired hurt on 27 after facing 10 overs.

This leaves coach Mark Robinson with a big headache – Winfield has opened the batting in all the ODIs England have played since last summer, and her partnership with Tammy Beaumont has been a foundation of England’s recent 9-2 winning record in one-day cricket.

The logical choice would be for Heather Knight to return to the opening role she vacated when she inherited the captaincy – it isn’t a role she wants; but sometimes needs-must!

POLL: Who Will Win #WWC17?

T20 CUP – Berkshire v Kent v Lancashire

On a melting hot day at North Maidenhead CC in Berkshire, Lancashire came away with two wins, whilst last year’s champions Kent left empty-handed.

Berkshire v Kent

In the first encounter of the day, a 64-run partnership between Anna Harris and Carla Rudd carried Berkshire to victory over Kent in a low-scoring thriller which went down to the final over.

The day couldn’t have began any worse for Kent as Emily Thompson swished at a wide first ball loosener from Lauren Bell, only to edge it to Carla Rudd behind the stumps.

Thereafter Kent never quite got going, with only Alice Davidson-Richards (16) and Tash Farrant (20) making it to double-figures as wickets fell throughout – 3 apiece to Emma Walker and Lissy Macleod, and 2 to Lauren Bell; with Kent eventually bowled out for 84 in the final over.

It wasn’t the total Kent might have wanted to defend on a perfect day for batting; but they made early inroads as both openers departed for ducks. Coming in at 5-2, Carla Rudd on nought nudged some straightforward catching practice to Alice Davidson Richards at slip; but ADR fumbled it, giving Rudd a life, and throwing Berkshire a lifeline.

Rudd didn’t look back after that, as she and Harris dug in to take the home side to within sight of the target. Harris was eventually run out for 29; but Lauren Bell gave Rudd the backup she needed to drag Berkshire over the line, smashing a final 4 through midwicket to bring up the Beavers’ first win of the season with 2 balls to spare.

Kent v Lancashire

The second match of the day was rather more one-sided than the first, with Lancashire showing just how far they have come over the past couple of years – dominating Kent with both bat and ball in a 72-run victory.

Having won the toss and elected to bat, Lancashire accumulated a formidable total across their 20 overs – 143-4 – building on a strong foundation, with 81 up on the scoreboard before the first wicket went down. Openers Emma Lamb (33) and Eve Jones (40) both batted beautifully – Jones sending a delivery of Megan Belt’s flying high over the square leg boundary for the only six of the game.

It was Belt who eventually got the breakthrough, having Jones caught at mid-wicket in the 13th over – but number 3 Kate Cross simply carried on the good work, finishing with 30 runs to her name. Ellie Threlkeld also chipped in with consecutive boundaries off the last two balls of the innings, ending with a somewhat ridiculous strike rate of 400!

Kent’s reply was distinctly unconvincing – from the time their first wicket fell in the 4th over they barely managed to stem the flow of batsmen making their way back to the cool of the North Maidenhead pavilion. Ultimately it was Extras (28) who top-scored by a long way, as only one of the Kent batsmen, Grace Gibbs (11), made it into double figures. Up-and-coming stars Sophie Ecclestone and Lamb both took advantage, finishing with figures of 3-6 and 4-15 respectively, as the game wended its way to a slow and inevitable conclusion.

— Raf Nicholson

Berkshire v Lancashire

In the day’s final game, Berkshire made things a little harder for Lancashire, but ultimately not hard enough, as the Red Roses cruised to a second victory by 28 runs.

Having won another toss, Lancashire again chose to bat, with Eve Jones (17) and Emma Lamb (14) once again hitting the ground running, before both were out in quick succession. With Kate Cross dismissed cheaply after coming in at 3, it was left to the middle-order to make their mark, which they did thanks to Natalie Brown (26) and Jess Couser (21). The Berkshire bowlers continued to put up a good fight, aided by some fine work in the field, to leave Lancashire 9-down when they closed on 130.

Berkshire once again lost early wickets – Lauren Bell and Carla Rudd the ducks on this occasion, whilst Lissy Macleod bashed her way to 22 off 17 balls. Once she was dismissed though, followed by two further ducks, things started to slip away from Berkshire. and although Mia Rogers (18) and Ashleigh Muttitt (also 18) had some fun at the end, the game was realistically already out of reach by that stage, with Berkshire eventually all out for 102 – Emma Lamb again the pick of the bowlers with 2-11.

Afterwards, Lancashire captain Meg Fairclough told CRICKETher:

“It was a long journey down, setting off at 7 o’clock this morning, but definitely worth it – the girls did great in both games.”

“This team has been together for 4 or 5 years now – a lot of the girls are in the England Academy; and then we’ve got these great players coming in – Sophie Ecclestone from Cheshire and Eve Jones from Staffordshire –  and so we’ve come on really strong this year.”

With Warwickshire having won both their matches, versus Somerset and Surrey, by huge margins, Lancashire are unlikely to be in 1st place when the table is calculated after this round; but they have set down a marker for this season, and perhaps many seasons to come, that this is now a team to be reckoned with at the highest levels of the women’s domestic game.

MATCH REPORT: Brutal Bears Batter Beavers

Warwickshire kept their County Championship dream on track with a stonking win over Berkshire at North Maidenhead CC, as Amy Jones led them romping to victory after the Beavers had been bowled out for 73.

Jones hit 34 off 14 balls, finishing things off with two sixes in the final over, somewhat eclipsing New Zealand superstar Sophie Devine at the other end, who finished on 20* at a Strike Rate of “only” 200!

The toss was won by Berkshire, who opted to bat; but it was downhill from there for the home side, as Annabel Flack was bowled for a golden duck by Laura Crofts in the second over, with Crofts’ opening spell of 3-12 also accounting for Carla Rudd and Anna Harris, whilst at the other end Sophie Devine sent Rachel Priest and Sherissa Gumbs packing – all for single-figures – leaving Berkshire in horrible trouble at 26-5.

Berkshire recovered a smidgen of respectability via Lauren Bell (14) and Lissy Macleod (24) who took them past the 50 mark; but after Bell sliced a slower ball from Jenny Gunn to Kathryn Bryce in the gully, Berkshire collapsed again to 73 all out in 28.1 overs.

With bonus points a potential factor in deciding the Championship, Warwickshire went out determined to chase the required runs down quickly. They had 18.5 overs to do it in… but they needed just 7 to walk away with 18 points, ensuring that they sit in first place at the season’s half-way mark, regardless of Yorkshire’s result against Sussex.

Afterwards, Warwickshire captain Marie Kelly told CRICKETher:

“We wanted to bat first and show everyone the score that we could get – get the top six in and all score runs; but sometimes that doesn’t happen. We lost the toss; but we knew that we could get 10 wickets – it was just about how quickly we got them – making sure we were ruthless and didn’t give anyone a chance to settle and get in – and we showed that by bowling them out for 73.”

“Crofty [Laura Crofts] bowled so well – I was at mid off so I got to see the lines and areas she was bowling and some of those balls were just unplayable.”

“Then it was so good to see Amy Jones and Sophie Devine doing their thing – it is a pleasure being able to watch them both.”

Warwickshire travel to Middlesex tomorrow, where they will be targeting another win; whilst Berkshire must pick themselves up, coming back to North Maidenhead to face Notts.

BREAKING: Sarah Taylor In England World Cup Squad

Sarah Taylor has been named in England’s 15-strong World Cup squad announced today. Taylor has only played one competitive match in over a year, scoring 61 for Sussex v Kent last weekend, but has continued to train with England throughout most of that period. If England ultimately decide she unable to play, they will be able to name an injury replacement.

Missing out are Tash Farrant, Kate Cross and Amy Jones – but all will presumably be on standby in case of injuries.

Full Squad:

  • Heather Knight (Berkshire)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
  • Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
  • Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
  • Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)
  • Alex Hartley (Lancashire)
  • Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire)
  • Beth Langston (Yorkshire)
  • Laura Marsh (Kent)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
  • Nat Sciver (Surrey)
  • Sarah Taylor (Sussex)
  • Fran Wilson (Middlesex)
  • Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
  • Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

OPINION: Free-To-Air Super League Final Good News… But There’s A But

UPDATE (18/05/2017) – We’ve now seen some fuller details: 8 KSL matches will be part of the FTA package, plus 1 women’s T20 international – so basically… it is all good news – no but!!!

Today’s exclusive by Elizabeth Ammon in The Times – that the KSL Final will be broadcast free-to-air from 2020 – is welcome news for the women’s game.

The KSL Final will be one element in a package of matches, including two men’s T20 internationals, which the ECB will require whoever wins the next broadcasting contract to make available free-to-air.

It is worth noting that this doesn’t necessarily mean these games will be shown on traditional “TV” – for example, BT Sport will this year fulfil similar contractual requirements for men’s football by partnering with YouTube.

Nevertheless, it’s good news… right?

It is… but there’s a but!

By continuing the policy of folding the women’s broadcast deal in with the men’s, it seems that this one match will be the only women’s cricket which will be shown free-to-air – Pay TV (be it Sky or BT Sport) will therefore likely retain exclusivity for England women’s internationals and the rest of the Super League; dashing hopes that a stand-alone women’s free-to-air TV deal might have become the driver for a surge in interest in the sport, as we’ve seen with both women’s football in England and women’s cricket in Australia.

With all the good news we’ve had recently, from All Stars Cricket (which anecdotally really does seem to have hit a sweet spot) to live-streaming of the Women’s World Cup, there’s no doubt that we do seem to be moving in the right direction – but it will take more than one game on free-to-air to change the landscape.

MATCH REPORT: Middlesex Edge Thriller in Mill Hill-er

Middlesex ran out winners by a single run against Berkshire at Mill Hill School, but there was controversy aplenty which left Berkshire ruing not one but two unfortunate umpiring decisions – Fi Morris given out LBW to a ball that appeared to hit her very high on her pads; and then on what turned out to be the final ball of the day, a catch off a high full-toss from Middlesex quick Naomi Dattani, which arguably should have been called a No Ball.

At the start of the day, Dattani had won the toss and opted to bat first on a pitch which was expected to get harder to score on as the day progressed. In fact, it proved hard to score on from the first, as Middlesex made a plodding start, looking to see off openers Lauren Bell and Catherine Guppy. That they did, and it was the introduction of off-spinner Emma Walker in the 9th over which brought the breakthrough, trapping Dattani LBW.

Walker’s first spell also saw the fall of Tash Miles and Fran Wilson, both nicely taken C&Bs, before a middle-order recovery led by (who else?) Beth Morgan took Middlesex past the hundred mark to 116-4.

The return of Walker for a second spell brought the breakthrough once more, as the 18-year-old had Holly Huddleston caught by Millie Allerton, followed by Kathy Morley LBW, to bring up her maiden 5-fer in only her third ever match at this level. Meanwhile at the other end, Lauren Bell began a new over with 2 consecutive wides, but a quiet word from veteran Kiwi Rachel Priest obviously had the desired effect, as Bell sent down two rockets to trap Beth Morgan LBW for 37, and then Izzy Westbury, utterly flummoxed for pace, LBW for 1; with Middlesex finally closing at 152-8 from their 50 overs.

Berkshire’s reply got off to a lopsided start, as Priest hit out, whilst Annabel Flack played the blocking game at the other end – by the time Priest was out for a rollicking 47 off 37 balls, pulling Dattani to Cath Dalton at mid off, Flack was still only on 4! Flack made another 5, off 47 balls, before she became the second of Westbury’s 4 victims.

Victory appeared to be heading Middlesex’s way as they eyed up Berkshire’s long tail, but a stubborn stand between Bell (26) and Allerton (only 5, but lasting 31 balls in the process) looked to spoil the party, before Dattani took the decision to bring back Holly Huddleston early to try to finish things off. The “Hudd Missile” repaid the faith, bowling both Allerton and Bell – the latter perhaps slightly unfortunately off her pads – and then getting a bit of luck from the umpire to add Morris LBW.

But the end of Huddleston’s spell still left Middlesex with two wickets to find, and the target edged closer and closer as Ashleigh Muttitt dibbed and dabbed Berkshire to within one run of the Middlesex total, before the agonising finale ensued.

Afterwards, Middlesex captain Dattani admitted it was a close-run thing:

“We seem to put ourselves into positions like that: we were in control – we had them 7 wickets down – and we thought the 3 wickets should come relatively easy, but they did very well to dig in there at the end – they put up a good fight – it was a good competition.”

And on the final controversy?

“If it was a no ball, it’s the umpire’s call at the end of the day… It was a bad ball, but a wicket is a wicket.”

The result means that Middlesex can breathe a little easier in the Women’s County Championship, with a win under their belts at last; but leaves Berskhire bogged down in the “relegation zone” alongside Sussex, both with no wins from the first 3 rounds.

OPINION: Surrey’s Aylish Cranstone Turns Lanning’s Law On Its Head

Lanning’s Law asserts that:

It’s not a good shot if it goes straight to the fielder.

(I’m sure it isn’t a totally original thought; but Anna Lanning’s statement of it, attributed to her sister Meg, is the clearest expression of it that I’ve heard in 40 years of watching cricket.)

But in a 31-run cameo, off just 23 balls, in the Middlesex v Surrey London Cup at Radlett last night, Surrey’s left-handed No. 3 Aylish Cranstone set out to prove that the opposite might just also be true.

It started with a cut – chipped upishly into the area backward of square on the off-side, covered by two fielders. I gasped, waiting for the catch, but instead the ball found the gap between gully and point, and a single was chalked into the scorebook. Turning to my companion, I grimaced: “Lucky!”

A few balls later, Cranstone got fortunate again – a drive flew into the breeze between midwicket and mid on; but it wasn’t until the lightning struck a third time, through vacant extra cover, that it hit me: this wasn’t luck at all – Cranstone was perfectly comfortable playing the ball in the air, because she knew where it was going – into the gaps bisecting the fielders, wherever they were, off side or on!

In fact, Cranstone wasn’t really batting with her bat at all, but with her brain – and doing so quite exquisitely, running the Middlesex fielders all around the park, the ball dancing between them, sometimes just trickling to the boundary as they chased in vain. Even when Middlesex captain Natasha Miles reset the field, all it did was open up new spaces for Cranstone to play with.

I’ll be the first to admit that Cranstone’s shots don’t look “all that” – she doesn’t have the power of a Nat Sciver or the timing of a Sarah Taylor… though to be fair in the latter case, who does?

But if Lanning’s Law is right – it’s not a good shot if it goes straight to the fielder – then perhaps what Cranstone proved last night is that the opposite is also true:

If it finds the perfect gap… it is a good shot!

INTERVIEW: Warwickshire Captain Marie Kelly

We caught up with the Warwickshire skipper – batsman Marie Kelly – following her match-winning half-century against Kent last weekend.

When Marie Kelly first captained Warwickshire, standing-in for Becky Grundy in 2015, the club’s status as a “Div 1” county looked precarious at best – they had survived the previous season by the skin of their teeth, thanks to an unlikely last-gasp play-off victory against Somerset; and the start of the 2015 season saw them lose their first 3 matches to leave them bottom of the Championship.

In retrospect the 4th match of the 2015 season – a nail-biting 5-run victory against Surrey – represented something of a turning point. The Bears pulled off a further two wins to avoid relegation; and by the start of the 2016 season, big changes were afoot. Warwickshire CCC took the decision to get serious about women’s cricket, and appointed Kelly as captain to take the Bears into the new era.

2016 began brightly, with the Bears topping both the 50-over and T20 tables after a string of victories; until they finally ran into the Suzie Bates-driven Kent juggernaut in both competitions, finally finishing 2nd in the T20 Cup and 3rd in the County Championship.

Ultimately, then, 2016 ended in disappointment; but looking back now, Kelly isn’t too downhearted:

“We’ve had a lot of reflection on last season – we were happy with how we played and this season we are looking to do exactly the same again if we can.”

A cancellation against Staffs, and then the long international / Super League break, meant that Warwickshire unbelievably went almost three months in 2016 with no 50-over cricket, between their initial run of victories in May and their loss to Kent at the end of August; and Kelly admits they didn’t handle it as well as they might have done:

“We just expected it to pick up from where we left off – expecting it all to just fall back in place – but we found it hard getting the momentum back.”

It is something they will try to avoid this time around, with a similar schedule in this year’s County Championship:

“Rather than having a month break without seeing each other, we’ll try and get a few friendly matches in; and then it is just about training – even if it is just bowling a few balls; hitting a few balls – doing something to keep the momentum going ready for our next games.”

For Kelly, one of the big advantages Warwickshire now have thanks to their closer relationship with the men’s club is a proper “home” at the Edgbaston Foundation Ground – a professionally curated facility they share with the men’s 2nd XI:

“We love having a home ground – somewhere we can come to and know how the pitch is going to play. It is always difficult going from ground to ground – you never know what you are going to get – whereas coming here we know exactly what we are going to get; we know exactly how it is going to play so there shouldn’t be any excuses!”

Does it give them an edge over other teams? Kelly believes so:

“100 percent it is an advantage – just to have the same changing room and the same environment – it settles you and that is one less thing to think about – you just get on with the job in hand.”

Additionally, this season Warwickshire are also providing travelling expenses and some kit upgrades:

“That’s really important – it shows that we’ve got their support – Ashley Giles, our Sporting Director, and Neil Snowball [Warwickshire CEO] are fully on board with everything, so we feel really part of the club and they are backing us.”

“We always go to the Chairman’s Lunch and we had a double-header at Edgbaston last year, and we’ve got it again this year, so it is just nice to be involved in the club like that and to know that we are fully supported.”

Having russelled-up (sic!!) a second victory against Sussex the day after our chat last weekend, Kelly’s side are repaying that support, sitting second in the Women’s County Championship table, just half a point behind the early pace-setters, Lancashire. There’s a long season ahead of course, and Warwickshire aren’t a side full of international, or even Super League, stars; but for Kelly, this is actually the point:

“At Warwickshire we’ve always been a “team” – we don’t just rely on a few people to score all the runs or take all the wickets – the team comes first. It’s a team game, and it is all about a team win, so we are just going to try and play as a team and use all of our players.”

It’s the kind of thing you’ll hear a lot of captains say, but on Sunday it was tested, as leg-spinner Nish Patel struggled with her length early-on. A different captain would have taken her off – bowled herself perhaps, to stay on the safe side – but Kelly persisted. Patel bowled out her 10 overs, but the real reward came the following day, as Patel took 3-19 to clean-up the Sussex tail and earn the win against one of their big Championship rivals.

That’s leadership; and if Warwickshire do indeed go all the way this season, Kelly’s leadership will have been a big part of why.