NEWS: Charlie Dean Replaces Mady Villiers in England ODI Squad for New Zealand Series

Southern Vipers spinner Charlie Dean is included in England’s ODI squad for the up-coming 5-match series against New Zealand, with Sunrisers’ Mady Villiers making way.

Although Villiers has won 17 T20 caps since her debut in 2019, and is one of the best fielders in the world, England have never clearly defined a role for her with either bat or ball. Mark Robinson, the England coach at the time of her debut, always described her as a batter who could bowl, but England have invariably batted her down the order at 9 or 10, and recently she has rarely bowled more than two overs.

Dean, who was selected for the T20 squad but didn’t make an appearance, is likely to bat in a similar position, but will presumably have a more clearly defined bowling role as an off-spinner who looks to turn the ball.

Also retained from the T20 series is Danni Wyatt, who missed out on selection for the ODIs versus India earlier in the summer, and effectively replaces Fran Wilson in the squad. The expectation however would be that Lauren Winfield-Hill comes back into the starting XI to open the batting with Tammy Beaumont.

Kate Cross also returns to the squad. Having played in most of England’s ODIs over the past couple of years, Cross clearly remains part of England’s Ashes and World Cup plans, and with Anya Shrubsole currently nursing a sprained ankle will likely be fighting a 3-way battle for a spot in the XI with Tash Farrant and Freya Davies.

The series begins on Thursday in Bristol, with matches following in Worcester, Leicester, Derby and Canterbury.

Full Squad

Heather Knight (Western Storm)
Tammy Beaumont (Lightning)
Katherine Brunt (Northern Diamonds)
Kate Cross (Thunder)
Freya Davies (South East Stars)
Charlie Dean (Southern Vipers)
Sophia Dunkley (South East Stars)
Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder)
Tash Farrant (South East Stars)
Sarah Glenn (Central Sparks)
Amy Jones (Central Sparks)
Nat Sciver (Northern Diamonds)
Anya Shrubsole (Western Storm)
Lauren Winfield-Hill (Northern Diamonds)
Danni Wyatt (Southern Vipers)

ENGLAND v NEW ZEALAND: 3rd T20 – Unflappable Dunkley Gets England Over The Line

The depth of England’s batting line-up was the difference between the two sides, as England pulled off a series win from the penultimate ball at Taunton.

New Zealand were heading for a total of around 120 until the final four overs. With the big names – Bates, Devine and Satterthwaite – all back in the dugout, England’s bowlers might have felt like they’d already got the job done; but Maddy Green (16 off 14 balls), Brooke Halliday (25 off 16) and Katey Martin (13 off 6) had other ideas, smashing 50 runs from the last 24 balls, leaving Sophie Ecclestone kicking the ground in frustration as her final over went for 16.

It certainly kept things interesting, especially after Nat Sciver and Danni Wyatt holed-out off consecutive balls in the 7th over. But as Heather Knight, back into the side after two games on the bench with a minor hamstring niggle, just wasn’t going to let that happen. Knight just plays whatever game is in front of her, and she plays it so well. So when Amy Jones was in, hitting at a Strike Rate of 168, Knight held back and played the anchor role, going at around 80. But as Dunkley came to the crease Knight turned on a dime, accelerating to a Strike Rate of 135, looking relaxed and confident.

Ball by ball, she manoeuvred England into a position where they didn’t need a big finish, so that even a wobble right at the end, with the loss of first Knight herself and then Bouchier, didn’t prevent them from closing out the match.

Sophia Dunkley again was crucial to this, in an echo of the way she played in the ODI fixture here against India earlier in the summer. In that match, she’d come to the crease with England 4-down and needing 130, and assuredly guided them home. This wasn’t quite in that league, but especially after Bouchier got out it could all have gone south, with just 5 balls left to make 7 runs. Katherine Brunt had a mow at her first ball and missed it, then ran an almost comically panicked single to get Dunks back on strike. Needing 6 from 3 balls, Dunkley however just did her thing – playing two proper cricket shots to get over the line with a ball to spare.

There is definitely an increasing sense that Dunkley is taking up the baton for England’s future. Her consistency and confidence and sheer unflappability remind me of no one so much as Heather Knight in the period she cemented her role in the team 2013-15.

Knight took over the captaincy shortly after.

As the young folks say… just sayin’!

ENGLAND v NEW ZEALAND: 2nd T20 – Devine, Women & Song

They’ll be singing on the streets of Wellington tonight… or today… or tomorrow… or whatever time it is in New Zealand… after Sophie Devine led New Zealand to victory in Hove, with an innings of 50 off 41 balls, with all-but half of those runs coming in just 4 shots for six.

The biggest of those sixes – onto the rooves of the hospitality boxes over deep midwicket – were vintage Devine – an effortless whip of the wrists sending the ball sailing through the starless black skies over the county ground at Hove.

Nonetheless, New Zealand almost blew it, partly thanks to some magic fielding from Mady Villiers, who brilliantly threw down the stumps to send Suzie Bates back to the pavilion for 8, and then produced a stunning running dive to catch Devine. There was also a smart Caught & Bowled to get rid of Maddy Green.

There remain doubts about exactly what Villiers’ role in this team is – she is batting below Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn, neither of whom are genuine allrounders – so she is batting in a bowling position, but she only bowled one over. That over did produce a wicket, but what England really needed at that stage in the game, with 23 required from 5 overs, was for an over not to go for 8 runs… which is what it went for. Nonetheless, there is little doubt that Villiers is among the best fielders in the world… if not the best – and that’s pretty handy to have on-board.

Devine’s heroics overshadowed what was a strong debut for Maia Bouchier – her 25 off 24 balls was the highest score by an England player on T20 debut since the very first T20, played at this same ground in 2004. I wrote during The Hundred about how Bouchier seemed to have a new sense that she truly belongs at the highest levels of the game, and she showed that again today. One shot in particular – a cut through point off Amy Satterthwaite – was a stroke out of the very top draw.

Less than a year ago, Bouchier was heartbroken to be banned from bowling by the ECB for an illegal action; but she vowed to go away over the winter and rectify the issue with her action, which she did to the satisfaction of the board, who cleared her to bowl again earlier in the summer. It took real character to do that, not to mention hard work, and that was rewarded with an England cap tonight, and the chance to do what Emma Lamb didn’t have the chance to do on her debut last week: to actually make an impact on the game.

Coming in at 4-down with 10 overs to go though is a mixed blessing – you have time, but it is all on you! It was a real pressure situation for Bouchier, and some slightly crazy running between the wickets suggested she was feeling that pressure. But with luck and pluck she came through it, and it seems safe to say that although she is unlikely to play in the 3rd T20, assuming Heather Knight returns to the XI, we will see her in an England shirt many more times in years to come.

ENGLAND v NEW ZEALAND: 1st T20 – Beaumont Back To Her Best

139. That was the number of runs scored by Tammy Beaumont for London Spirit in The Hundred – 139 runs off 135 balls, leaving her 20th in the list for the competition. It wasn’t the worst return in the world, but for one of England’s biggest stars it wasn’t her at her best.

So this series was an important one for Beaumont. Not in an existential sense – she wasn’t going to be dropped, even if she didn’t score a run! But she definitely had a point to prove… and she proved it at Chelmsford this evening.

Beaumont’s 97 runs off 65 balls set up England for a huge win, despite another slightly iffy bowling performance. It wasn’t a flawless innings – she was dropped a couple of times – but T20 is a game where taking a few risks can be richly rewarded, and it was tonight.

She’ll be kicking herself she that didn’t get a second T20 hundred, caught off an attempted ramp for 97 from the penultimate ball of the innings. I continue to maintain that the premeditated ramp isn’t a productive shot for her – she used it (I think?) 4 times in this innings, and it came off just once – she made a mess of it twice; and was eventually caught off it when a century was within her grasp.

But at the end of the day, it’s not about exactly how many Tammy Beaumont scored – it’s about the runs the whole team put on the board. Sophia Dunkley in particular played a great little knock at the back-end of the innings – 23 not out off 17 balls. She didn’t score a single boundary until the 15th ball she faced, yet she still maintained a strike rate of 100, simply by turning the strike back over to Beaumont again and again – it was exactly what England needed from her.

With that many runs on the board, New Zealand were really up against it, and the early loss of both the “Smash Sisters” – Sophie Devine for 2 and Suzie Bates for 1 – left them reeling. They really need something from Amy Satterthwaite, and they got something… but it wasn’t quite something enough to make a real impact on the game. The difference between Satterthwaite and Beaumont – 54 runs – was pretty-much the difference between the two sides as a whole.

One caveat remains though. As happened against India earlier in the summer, you do feel that England got away with a fairly average performance with the ball. The scorecard will tell you that they took 10 wickets, but the Kiwis largely got themselves out, slogging as they chased the game.

England’s batters are all in great form – 5 of England’s top 6 ranked in the top 20 in The Hundred, with Beaumont the only exception; but the bowlers, frankly, are not where they should be, with only 2 of the 6 bowlers used today making their top 20. So it remains a concern that this attack are flattering themselves slightly at the moment – they will have to bowl a lot, lot better than they did tonight if they want to really challenge Australia in the Ashes and the World Cup this winter.

INVTERVIEW: Marie Kelly – The Hundred & The Hundred

Marie Kelly

Marie Kelly (c) Don Miles

August 25th 2021. I’m sitting on the boundary at Guildford, watching Stars v Lightning in the Charlotte Edwards T20 Cup, while keeping half an eye on the scorecard from Hove, where Vipers are playing Sparks. Vipers have made 162-4, but Sparks are going well in reply – after 10 overs, they are 103-0, with Eve Jones on 37 and Marie Kelly on 57, needing 6 an over from there.

By the end of the 15th over Sparks are cruising, despite the loss of Jones. They need 26 runs from 30 balls, with Kelly set on 77. It is technically possible for Kelly to hit her first T20 century, but she’d have to score all but 3 of the remaining runs required, so it doesn’t feel likely.

An over later, that’s all changed – Kelly has hit 13 of the 14 runs to come off Georgia Elwiss’s 3rd over, and she’s now on 90, with Sparks needing 12 off 24.

But is there a twist to come? Charlotte Taylor comes on, and dismisses both Milly Home and Gwen Davies, for the cost of only 1 run; then Lauren Bell sends down an over which goes for just 3.

The equation is now 8 off 12 balls, with Kelly 7 short of that hundred and wickets starting to fall around her.

With Stars in the meantime having closed out the win at Guildford, I tweet:

Five minutes, and a severe dent in my mobile data plan later, Sparks have won the game in the 19th over, with Kelly finishing on exactly 100 not out off 53 balls.

I tweet again:

You see, I’ve always felt cricket has been slightly unfair to Marie Kelly.

Admittedly this sounds like an odd thing to say about someone who became Warwickshire captain aged 20, just at the point where the men’s county club were starting to invest in the women’s game, leading them to their first (and ironically, with the demise of county cricket, last) ever silverware – winning the County T20 Cup in 2019.

But then there was the Kia Super League. With just six franchises to cover the whole of England and Wales, some teams were always going to miss out… and one of them was Warwickshire.

“We were definitely disappointed at the time,” says Kelly reflecting on the formation of the KSL. “Watching on, we felt that the West Midlands really needed that franchise; and it meant a few of us didn’t quite get the opportunities that we might have gotten.”

Kelly herself was a case in point. Despite being Warwickshire captain throughout the lifetime of the competition, she made just 6 appearances in 4 seasons: one with Lightning in 2017, then a further five in the final year of the competition with Vipers, even then batting well down the order. It can’t have been easy, but it is an experience she reflects on philosophically:

“We just tried to get what opportunities we could in those franchise teams – you learn different things in different environments, and you get to see how other teams operate; and then you bring that back into county cricket, which hopefully we did quite well.”

The disbanding of the KSL, and the reorganisation of elite women’s cricket into 8 regional teams in 2020, saw the creation of a new West Midlands franchise – the Central Sparks – with Kelly become one of the first domestic pros. In some senses, however, not much changed:

“We’ve all been training like professionals for a long time – especially the guys that have been to Loughborough University, or on the England program or the MCC [Young Cricketers]. So we were used to training like professionals… just without the pay!”

“Now, even though we’re professional, we still have to do other work because the salaries aren’t quite high enough yet; but it does give you that opportunity to train more and play more and practice more.”

The more intense level of competition in the 2020 RHF Trophy was quickly apparent however, as were its benefits:

“It was quite an interesting season – there was a lot of good cricket played and there were a lot of times where we knew we kind of needed to step up and be a bit more professional – I feel like it made us cleverer and smarter as cricketers.”

Kelly herself was going well – averaging 55 in the first season of the RHF for Central Sparks – but when it came to The Hundred this year it was deja-vu all over again, with Kelly sat on the side-lines just as she’d done for so much of the KSL.

“It was disappointing,” she admits. “I feel like I’ve learned as much as I can off the pitch – the next thing for me to progress as a batter was simply to just play in those environments and I didn’t quite get the opportunities I thought I should have had.”

Nonetheless, she did “go viral” when the official The Hundred Twitter account posted this clip of her and three other Phoenix players busting some moves during a strategic timeout.

Kelly looks faintly embarrassed.

“I didn’t actually know that that was going to be on Sky – if I’d known that I probably wouldn’t have suggested going in the box! But you know what? I thought: if I’m not gonna play I might as well enjoy as much as I can out of it; so I thought I’d entertain the crowd, and if my cricket career doesn’t pay off, I think I’ll become a dancer!”

After 8 matches running drinks, Kelly finally got her chance – thrown into the cauldron of The Eliminator at The Oval, replacing the departed Shafali Verma in the Phoenix XI. It was a baptism of fire, in front of a crowd of 12,000, and the game was already pretty-much lost when Kelly came in with 4 wickets down. She made 4, as Phoenix fell to defeat to the soon-to-be champions, Oval Invincibles.

“I just tried to stay positive – I was only playing that game, so there was nothing for me to lose. And I actually felt really comfortable at the crease, considering I hadn’t played for five weeks – it actually felt better playing in front of a bigger crowd because it felt a little bit more detached. So that was a good sign for me – that actually, yeah, this is what I want to do; and hopefully I can play a bit more next year.”

After the disappointment of The Hundred, a loss of personal momentum for Kelly on her return to Sparks would have been understandable; but instead she came out of the blocks flying to play the innings of her life at Hove.

Was this, I ask, a big “f- you” to the world in general, after the bitter pill of The Hundred?

“It was more like just ‘f- it‘,” she replies. “I wouldn’t say The Hundred was a write off… but it was from a personal point of view – there was nothing for me to lose, and it couldn’t really get any worse.”

“My performances before, in particular in T20, hadn’t been great. So I was just kind of like: well, what I’m doing currently isn’t working, so I was trying to switch up. I did a lot of analysis on their bowlers before I went in, so I knew exactly what my plans were for each bowler and just went out and tried to execute it.”

The availability of video analysis data is still fairly novel in the women’s game, and not every player makes use of it; but Kelly is one of those that has devoured it.

“A lot of coaches have said I overthink, but I say I don’t overthink: I just think! Having NV Play and things like that, where you can go back and watch videos, I think helps massively – especially for me – it helps create a plan. I’ve basically watched every dismissal that Charlotte Taylor’s got people out on; and every dismissal that I’ve got out to, so I don’t make the same mistake twice.”

One thing Kelly is consciously not thinking too much about, however, is the future.

“I think now’s the time to really commit to playing professionally – The Hundred will be bigger and better next year – I think it will open many doors in the future, so I feel like now’s the time to really, really commit to this. I’ve got my Level 3 [coaching badges] but Level 4 is quite time-consuming. All my life, I’ve juggled studies and cricket, or work and cricket. So I feel like now’s the time to just fully commit to being a professional cricketer and see what see what comes out of it.”

CE CUP: Vipers v Stars – Crazy Little Thing Called Capsey

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Alice Capsey really is quite good at this crazy little thing called cricket.

Going into this game, despite their midweek loss to Sparks, Vipers were still top of the combined table in the Charlotte Edwards Cup – on course to qualify directly for the final back at the Ageas Bowl next weekend. By the end of it, Stars had turned that around – now, if they win their last game versus Sparks, it’s them that will go straight through to the final… and it’s all thanks to Alice Capsey.

Capsey hit a cool 61 off 46 balls, took 2-9 from just two overs, and snatched a stonking catch, diving forward at midwicket, to dismiss Emily Windsor just at the point when it looked like Vipers might be able to pull off an improbable comeback win.

The only worry for Stars is that she walked off clutching her quad towards the end of the match, having initially injured it trying to turn sharply whilst bailing out of a second run off the penultimate ball of the innings. (Georgia Elwiss ran her out while she was down out of her ground, and clearly in pain, although it would have made no difference not to, as she wasn’t going to face the final ball – but I guess when someone has just done “that” to you, the spirit of cricket be damned!)

In contrast to her previous outing v Lightning, Capsey didn’t get off to the quickest of starts – after 8 overs, Bryony Smith was 42 off 24 balls, whilst Capsey was on just 5 off 13. Capsey didn’t score a single boundary in the powerplay, focussing instead on turning the strike over to Smith by running between the wickets. It wasn’t until Smith was out that Capsey really started to motor, scoring her next 56 runs off only 33 balls, at a Strike Rate of 170.

It is true that Vipers’ bowling was depleted, with Lauren Bell ruled out after coming into close contact with a COVID case, and Charlie Dean off with England… though ironically also having to isolate along with Maia Bouchier, after also coming into contact with presumably the same case. This meant a professional debut for 27-year-old Sussex veteran Chiara Green*, who did a tidy enough job in the circumstances, but was always unlikely to tear through the Stars batting. Vipers were poor in the field too, gifting several boundaries that will have had coach Charlotte Edwards rolling her eyes, in the way that she does!

Nonetheless, the runs still needed to be scored, and Stars scored them convincingly – every single one of their batters (apart from Kira Chathli, who technically batted but didn’t face a ball) reached double figures at a Strike Rate of over 100 – Capsey led the way, but it was a team performance.

With big runs required, Vipers needed to go for it, hence sending in Tara Norris to pinch-hit at the top of the order, alongside Georgia Adams. Capsey, opening the bowling as she did several times in The Hundred, did for them both in her second over – thanks to catches from Kirstie White and Alice Davidson-Richards – and that set the tone for the rest of the match. Despite overtures of a recovery led by Elwiss, no one could quite stick with her, and the Vipers went down to their second consecutive defeat following the resumption of regionals after The Hundred.

Vipers aren’t out of it, of course, and they could yet end up doing to the Stars what the Invincibles did to the Brave in The Hundred – coming through the eliminator and winning the final. But right now the momentum is very much with the Stars and with Alice Capsey in particular.

Six weeks ago, the sports editor of The Guardian asked the editor of this site to write a preview for The Hundred, based around an interview with a player of Raf’s choice. We debated long and hard – Capsey was an exciting prospect, but would she get a game, Raf asked me? I sat at my desk with the Invincibles squad in front of me, and wrote out a team-sheet. “I think so,” I replied, and though it felt like a bit of a gamble, Raf wrote the piece.

But note the caveat in the headline:

Meet Alice Capsey, the 16-year-old schoolgirl *hoping to* star in the Hundred

The past few weeks have changed Alice Capsey’s life for ever – she is no longer a prospect; she is no longer a “hoping to” – she’s a “did”. She’s one of the 11 best players in England – I know it; you know it; and it won’t be news to her either.

There is an argument that her education still has to come first for the next two years, over and above playing for England, but the equation isn’t the same as it was when Sophie Ecclestone was forced to miss the 2017 World Cup to focus on her A-Levels. Ecclestone at that point was still competing for her England spot with Alex Hartley; and furthermore, the future of the women’s game wasn’t quite so secure career-wise as it is now, five years down the line.

There is absolutely no doubt that Alice Capsey is one of the 11 best players in England.

And the 11 best players in England should be playing for England.

——

* Serious men’s county cricket geeks may remember Chiara’s brother Matt, who was on the books at Sussex and Surrey as a youngster, around 10 years ago.

CE CUP: Stars v Lightning – Freeborn Stars But Stars Shine Through

A half-century and four stumpings for keeper-batter Abbey Freeborn proved in-vain as Lightning lost by 28 runs to South East Stars in the Charlotte Edwards T20 Cup at Guildford.

Kirstie Gordon – continuing the long and venerable tradition of Scottish skippers at Loch Loughborough by standing in for Kathryn Bryce – invited Stars to bat after winning the toss, and might soon have been regretting it as Bryony Smith raced to 16 off 12 balls with some thumping strokeplay. Although one thump too many did for Smith, caught at mid on by Grace Ballinger, Alice Capsey continued where Smith had left off with some big hits of her own, as Stars finished the powerplay on 49-1.

Post-powerplay, Capsey settled into more of a running rhythm which took her to to a 28-ball 38 before she was bowled coming down the track to Lucy Higham in the 12th over.

From 80-4, things could easily have drifted for the Stars, but Alice Davidson Richards (41 off 25) and Tash Farrant (35 off 18) had other ideas – taking them to a 175-6 at the close, including two 6s off the first and last balls of the final over by ADR.

Lightning’s reply got off to a tough start, with Beth Harmer caught by Alice Capsey off Tash Farrant for a duck in the first over. This brought Freeborn to the crease, who battered the Stars attack for 61 off 50 balls, but with no one else in the Lightning top-order able to stand up and give her some proper company, the ask quickly began to disappear over the horizon.

Shachi Pai, coming in at 6, had some fun hitting 24 off 18, as did Sophie Munro (17 off 8) but with the required rate already over 13 when Pai entered the fray, the game was already gone, with Lightning finishing 28 runs short on 147-7.