WWT20 Preview Part I – Group A: England’s Group

The Women’s World T20 is less than a week away now – we are flying out to the West Indies on Thursday, with England’s first match against Sri Lanka coming up on Saturday. The competition is initially divided into two groups of 5, with the winners and runners-up going through to the semi-finals and final. First up, Syd previews England’s group – Group A – and makes some predictions; then check back here later for Raf’s preview of Group B and her predictions.

England

The 50-over world champions have high hopes of adding the other global title to their trophy cabinet, following on from a successful summer where they beat South Africa and New Zealand in both limited-overs formats, setting down a marker at Taunton where they posted a T20 world record 250-3 against South Africa. Coach Mark Robinson surprised everyone by naming 3 debutantes in his squad, and he may well need them as he sweats on the availability of Katherine Brunt, who is fighting to be fit for the start of the group stages. If Brunt is unfit, expect one of those debutantes – Linsey Smith – to be thrown straight into the deep end to open the bowling against Sri Lanka on Saturday. Even without Brunt, however, England will be expected to make the semi-finals, and they will be bitterly disappointed if they don’t go at least one step further too.

South Africa

It has been a mixed 12 months for the Women Proteas since they came within a cats-whisker of making the World Cup final in 2017. They ran-in last in the Tri-Series with England and New Zealand over the summer, and against the West Indies last month, having drawn the ODI series 1-1, they looked to be on-course for a T20 series defeat at 2-0 down with 2 to play. But they dragged themselves back against the Windies, with Lizelle Lee finding some form and Laura Wolvaardt hitting her maiden T20 half century, adding to the impression that, despite a slightly shallow batting lineup, they are a better side than their results over the English summer suggested; especially with Trisha Chetty (who missed the summer and autumn internationals) and Shabnim Ismail (who missed the West Indies tour) both returning to the fold. Will South Africa win the WWT20? Probably not – being thrashed by Pakistan in the warm-ups was not a good omen! But could they still win it if everything falls into place? Absolutely!

West Indies

Although they are the holders, their disastrous World Cup in England last year, including being bowled out for 48 by South Africa, has led many to write the West Indies off for this tournament, despite home advantage. However, they beat England in an unofficial warm-up last week, and their best players – Stafanie Taylor, Deandra Dottin and Anisa Mohammed – are still top, top performers. The star of the 2016 WWT20 final – Hayley Matthews – hasn’t quite lived up to her potential in the intervening 2 years, but she is only 20, so she has time-and-a-half on her side. Their group stage match against South Africa on Wednesday could well be their de facto quarter-final which determines whether they go on in the competition.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka have played 19 T20 internationals in the past 2 years, and have won just 4 of them, and it would be little surprise if they failed to add much to that statistic in the West Indies. They do have one weapon that the other “no hopers” don’t – a genuinely world class player in Chamari Atapattu, who has WBBL and KSL experience on her side – and if she fires they could pull off an upset (singular); but upsets (plural) would be a surprise.

Bangladesh

The highest-ranked of the non-ICC Women’s Championship sides, Bangladesh look like rank outsiders; but then they also looked that way in the Asia Cup earlier this year. In that tournament they shocked India with a 7-wicket win in the group stages, and then went on to repeat the feat in the final, restricting a pretty-much full-strength India to 112, and then making the runs with two off the final ball to celebrate the biggest day in their cricketing history. Since that day they have also won the qualifying tournament in the Netherlands to earn the right to be here, and the news that they are due to be added to the ICC Championship after 2021 will be a further fillip for the up-and-comers, for whom holding their own here will be a victory in and of itself.

Predictions

Group A: England (winners); South Africa (runners up)

Group B: Australia (winners); New Zealand (runners up)

Eventual Winners: Australia

Outside Bet: South Africa

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NEWS: Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations Report – True Professionalism Still Some Way Off

A new report [here – PDF] from the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations – the international branch of the English Professional Cricketers’ Association, the Australian Cricketers’ Association, and their equivalents throughout the cricketing world – surveys the growing professionalisation of the women’s game globally, concluding that although “huge strides” have been made recently, there is much work still to do.

The report worries that Australia and England are pulling away from ‘the rest’ as the game moves into a professional era, and that this needs to be addressed.

As FICA Board Member Lisa Sthalekar writes in her introduction:

“For the game to excel at a global level and allow players to play on an even playing field and ensure competitive balance, minimum standards need to be enforced in terms of playing opportunities and pathways.”

The report states that there are only around 120 fully professional players globally – essentially, the nationally contracted squads of Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and the West Indies (ie. the ICC Championship sides, less Sri Lanka) – with about a further 200 semi-professionals on top of that, playing in the WBBL/WNCL and KSL.

Interestingly, the report therefore calls out the fact that players in Australia’s domestic comps continue to fall short of the mark required for them to be considered full time pros – i.e. not needing secondary jobs to carry them through the year. Despite repeated claims to the contrary – e,g, this piece on ABC News from 2016 “NSW Breakers become first fully professional women’s team in Australia” – the reports concludes that WBBL/WNCL offers “a reasonable semi-professional base wage” but not a fully professional one!

However, the report also acknowledges that this far exceeds the situation with the only other semi-professional domestic competition anywhere else – the Kia Super League:

“With 6 teams and 15 contracted players per team the KSL does provide earning opportunities for those below national level but not sufficient to avoid the need for supplementary income or dual careers.”

The report then goes on to also damn the KSL for “inconsistency in facilities, pitches, coaching standards, and accommodation provision” albeit acknowledging that there are current proposals to address this via The 100.

Overall the report concludes that most (89%) of the players surveyed remain optimistic about the future of the game, but bearing in mind that the players surveyed were largely members of FICA-affiliated associations, this is perhaps a little misleading – they are mainly the lucky ones playing international cricket, not those toiling away unpaid in the lower reaches of the domestic game.

For them, the report challenges the game to do better – to move away from insecure, short-term contracts; and to invest in improved coaching and medical support, better playing facilities, and extended welfare and education support.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, FICA advocates that part of the solution is improved player representation – it is after all their raison d’être! But it genuinely is worrying that in England for example, only the centrally-contracted England players have such representation in the form of the Professional Cricketers’ Association. If the PCA don’t want them (and the evidence suggests they don’t) then a “Semi-Professional Cricketers’ Association” would be a powerful voice for a somewhat marginalised, yet very significant group – KSL (and down the road, The 100) couldn’t happen without them – perhaps it is time they looked to themselves to leverage that power?

NEWS: Dunkley, Gordon & Linsey Smith In For England

KSL break-outs Sophia Dunkley, Kirstie Gordon and Linsey Smith have been called up to the England squad for the Women’s World T20 in the West Indies next month. All are selected on form but the inclusion of three debutantes in the 15-player squad is nevertheless a massive surprise for a major tournament, and a departure from England’s usual policy of safety first, with big names and World Cup winners axed to make way for the new faces.

Middle-order batsman Sophia Dunkley won the County T20 Cup this season with Middlesex, after having had an outstanding winter with the England Academy; and then followed that up by impressing in the opening round of the Kia Super League for Surrey Stars – scoring 66 off 43 balls versus the Vipers at Guildford.

Kirstie Gordon – a left-arm orthodox spinner – is a former Scotland player from Aberdeenshire, who made the decision 2 years ago to pursue her cricketing career in England when she accepted a place at Loughborough University. She was the leading wicket-taker in both the Women’s County Championship for Notts and the KSL for Loughborough Lightning this year.

Linsey Smith – another left-armer – also had a good KSL season. One of the leading wicket-takers in KSL01 for the Vipers, despite only being drafted in late as an injury replacement, this year Smith transferred to the Lightning, where she took 11 wickets at an Economy Rate of 6.4.

The only other semi-surprise in the squad is Tash Farrant, who has made a swifter recovery than might initially have been expected from the broken collar-bone she sustained fielding in a KSL match at Loughborough this summer – she makes the squad as fast bowling cover for Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole.

Missing out are World Cup winners Alex Hartley, Laura Marsh and Fran Wilson, as well as all three of England’s 2017 debutantes – Alice Davidson-Richards, Katie George and Bryony Smith; plus four others from the contracted squad – Georgia Elwiss, Kate Cross, Freya Davies and Beth Langston.

With Sarah Taylor not travelling to the West Indies, Amy Jones will take the gloves for England, with Tammy Beaumont as backup.

Possible 1st Choice XI

  1. Danni Wyatt
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. Amy Jones (wk)
  4. Nat Sciver
  5. Heather Knight
  6. Lauren Winfield
  7. Katherine Brunt
  8. Dani Hazell
  9. Anya Shrubsole
  10. Sophie Ecclestone
  11. Kirstie Gordon

Full Squad

  • Heather Knight
  • Tammy Beaumont
  • Katherine Brunt
  • Sophia Dunkley
  • Sophie Ecclestone
  • Tash Farrant
  • Kirstie Gordon
  • Jenny Gunn
  • Dani Hazell
  • Amy Jones
  • Nat Sciver
  • Linsey Smith
  • Anya Shrubsole
  • Lauren Winfield
  • Danni Wyatt

DEBRIEF: WNCL – Double Brucie Bonus Puts New South Wales Top

Team Played Won Lost Points NRR
1. New South Wales Breakers 2 1 1 6 1.51
2. Victoria 2 1 1 5 0.15
3. Queensland Fire 2 1 1 4 0.20
4. ACT Meteors 2 1 1 4 -0.01
5. Western Fury 2 1 1 4 -0.03
6. South Australian Scorpions 2 1 1 4 -0.09
7. Tasmania 2 1 1 4 -1.66

With 2 rounds played this weekend, perennial champions New South Wales sit at the top of the WNCL ladder, despite a dramatic opening-day loss to Queensland. Queensland put themselves in a great position, bowling NSW out for 149, only for Rene Farrell to knock-over their entire top order in a remarkable 5-wicket opening spell which left Queensland 18-6. But Queensland recovered thanks to 50s from Sammy-Jo Johnson and Josie Dooley to win the match with just one wicket remaining!

Normal service was restored for NSW the following day, as they smashed Tasmania for 344 – Rachel Haynes and Alyssa Healy both hitting 80s – and then bowled them out for 158 to grab a double-dose of bonus points.

This was after Tasmania, under new coach Salliann Briggs, had got their first points on the board in almost 2 years on Day 1, thanks to Player of the Match Corinne Hall, who hit 86 off 98 balls as Tasmania successfully chased ACT’s 218 all out to win by 5 wickets.

For South Australia, Tahlia McGrath hit 105 as they posted 251 versus Victoria, but McGrath’s efforts were trumped by Meg Lanning’s 120* as Victoria chased the runs in under 40 overs for the bonus-point win that puts them 2nd.

There was better luck for South Australia the following day, as Bridget Patterson became their second centurion of the weekend, hitting 109 against Western Australia, who were then bowled out for 205, with 3 wickets apiece for Megan Schutt and Amanda Wellington.

With everyone getting a win on the opening weekend, it’s all to play for when WNCL resumes in… er… November – yes, you read that right – without the internationals, who will be in the West Indies (along with us!) for the Women’s World T20. Then we have to wait until February for the final round of games, prior to the top two playing off in the final on February 9.

OPINION: The 100 Is Still Nonsense… But It’s All The Nonsense We’ve Got

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we weren’t invited to the trials for The 100 that took place this week at Loughborough and Trent Bridge; but enough information has dripped out to get a good idea of where things are going with the ECB’s new competition.

As the ECB are discovering, cheap slogans and simple promises don’t necessarily translate easily into actual workable solutions. The problems begin with the very concept of “100” – a number of balls which it turns out isn’t divisible by 6, and so can’t be slotted neatly into traditional 6-ball overs! So… let’s have 5 ball overs… but that means more changes of end… okay, so let’s have 10 ball overs… but that would lead to fast bowlers getting injured… okay so let’s have 5 or 10 ball overs, according to whether the batsman’s mother’s maiden name ends in a “Y”?

Not quite as simple as it sounded in the blue-sky marketing meeting, is it?

Other ideas floated around – cutting the “red tape” of LBWs and/or PowerPlays – have gone nowhere, because it turns out there were actually quite good reasons for these laws after all, and scrapping them would have a lot of negative externalities – scrap LBW and I’d give it 5 minutes before batsmen started taking advantage and using their pads deliberately to protect the stumps; scrap the PowerPlay and you’d have 9 men on the boundary before you could say “Howzat?”!

So it looks like what we will end up with is exactly like cricket… but with a more complicated “overs” system (possibly not even called “overs” but “fives”) which they will try to mask by having a big scoreboard count down from 100 – even though they HAVE to keep some concept of overs (/ fives) to control how many balls each bowler can bowl and from which end they will be bowled, because counting actual balls would obviously be a nightmare!

What a farce!

And yet… for all the nonsense… there will be an upside – the fillip in visibility that will come as the media latch on to Something New™, as they did with the KSL; the Free-To-Air TV numbers that will dwarf those that have sat behind Sky’s paywall for a generation; the families that will come for the fireworks in the sky and stay for the fireworks on the field.

There will be more opportunities for players too – especially the fringe players, with two additional rosters to fill. So the players are on-board, because it offers them more – more cricket, more visibility, more fame… and more money!

And at the end of the day… as I’m not the first to say… it’s still cricket – swingers will still swing; spinners will still spin; and batsmen will still bat.

And we’ll be there to watch, like we always are.

Because it might be nonsense.

But it’s all the nonsense we’ve got.

NEWS: Bates Quits New Zealand Captaincy

Suzie Bates has resigned as New Zealand captain after six years in the role.

But 30-year-old Bates will continue to play for the White Ferns, saying:

“I still have a lot to contribute to the White Ferns and international cricket and that the best way for me to do that is by concentrating more energy into my performances on the field.”

Bates has led New Zealand at a time of great change, with the professionalisation of the women’s game adding new challenges for the smaller nations, as they try to keep up with the pace set by Australia and England, but without the same resources.

Bates responded by burning the candle at all 3 ends to try to maintain the pace – playing domestic cricket at home in New Zealand and in Australia during the antipodian summer, literally shuttling between the two; then spending her winters in England playing county cricket for Kent and latterly Hampshire, and KSL for Southern Vipers.

It was a schedule that was perhaps starting to take its toll, as she began to look a slightly tired shawdow of her usual self towards the end of this season in England.

Bates will be succeeded as New Zealand captain by Amy Satterthwaite who will take charge for the upcoming T20 series versus Australia.

This is clearly not an appointment for the future – Satterthwaite is a year older than Bates – but she has the experience that New Zealand need right now to keep the seat warm for a couple of years until Amelia Kerr – the only realistic long term candidate – can perhaps take over after the 2021 World Cup.

STATS: KSL2018 Non-International Rankings

As we observed when looking at the overall Batting and Bowling Rankings, the tendency of sides to prioritise the recruitment of big-hitting batsmen when selecting their overseas players has meant that young English talent has had more opportunities with the ball than with the bat – non-internationals (who are by definition English-qualified – the rules essentially require this) bowled 35% of the overs in KSL2018 but batted just 15%.

Especially regarding the batting therefore, these stats are then very much a reflection of the opportunities a player had, rather than necessarily how “good” she is.

Topping the Non-International Batting Rankings is Thea Brookes, who was a consistent performer for the Diamonds in the middle order with 4 scores over 20, including an impressive 45 off 36 balls v the Vipers.

At No. 2 in the Batting Rankings Eve Jones scored more runs than Brookes, but the unfortunate truth is that Jones seems to have been left-behind by professionalism – a Strike Rate of just 85 just doesn’t cut it these days, in this age of power hitting.

Of the England prospects, batting-wise Sophia Dunkley is probably the closest – popping up in both the Batting and Bowling Rankings, though she was probably one big score short of booking a ticket to the West Indies for the World T20.

At the top of the Non-International Bowling Rankings is of course Kirstie Gordon, who topped the overall Bowling Rankings with 17 wickets. Gordon’s route to England representation is currently blocked by Sophie Ecclestone and Alex Hartley – a classic case of why we really need professionalism at the next level down, so she can stay in the game full time and develop, rather than slipping behind as the likes of Eve Jones have done.

Batting

Player Played Runs SR
1. Thea Brookes (Diamonds) [21] 9 139 121
2. Eve Jones (Thunder) [24] 9 168 85
3. Ellie Threlkeld (Thunder) [26] 10 138 99
4. Sophia Dunkley (Stars) [32] 11 98 120
5. Georgie Boyce (Thunder) [34] 9 98 88
6. Georgia Adams (Lightning) [36] 11 69 93
7. Paige Scholfield (Vipers) [40] 8 36 129
8. Natalie Brown (Thunder) [42] 5 34 117
9. Maia Bouchier (Vipers) [43] 4 40 93
10. Sophie Luff (Storm) [44] 11 36 97

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate; [X] = Overall Rank

Bowling

Player Played Wickets Economy
1. Kirstie Gordon (Lightning) [1] 11 17 6.05
2. Linsey Smith (Lightning) [8] 11 11 6.40
3. Katie Levick (Diamonds) [9] 9 11 7.00
4. Emma Lamb (Thunder) [11] 10 11 8.06
5. Freya Davies (Storm) [19] 11 8 7.72
6. Claire Nicholas (Storm) [20] 10 7 7.03
7. Fi Morris (Vipers) [23] 7 7 8.01
8. Sophia Dunkley (Stars) [27] 11 6 8.00
9. Maddy Villiers (Stars) [29] 11 5 6.92
10. Danielle Gibson (Storm) [30] 11 5 7.41

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

STATS: KSL 2018 Bowling Rankings

With the KSL teams prioritising big-hitting batsmen in their overseas picks, there’s a bit more room for non-internationals in the Bowling Rankings, compared to the Batting Rankings where no non-internationals made the Top 20.

Top of the tree is Kirstie Gordon, Saviour of the Loughboroughverse, with 17 wickets at an Economy Rate that only just tipped over 6 after Lizelle Lee’s onslaught in the final.

Linsey Smith at No. 8 is another non-international who had good year, after transferring from the Vipers to the Lightning – albeit not quite as spectacular as KSL01 when she topped the rankings; while Emma Lamb spun her way to No. 11, and Freya Davies also sneaked into the Top 20. Davies in particular is probably an outside bet for World T20 selection, depending on the injuries to Tash Farrant and Katie George – though both are officially hopeful of returning to fitness by November.

Amongst the established players, England will obviously be happy with the performance of Sophie Ecclestone at No. 2; but also interested to see Jenny Gunn in at No. 4. Gunn isn’t an automatic pick for England any more, and at 32 she is getting on in years, but she remains a useful squad player, and she’s probably done enough this summer to get on the plane to the West Indies.

Player Played Wickets Economy
1. Kirstie Gordon (Lightning) 11 17 6.05
2. Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder) 10 15 6.41
3. Sophie Devine (Lightning) 11 16 7.22
4. Jenny Gunn (Lightning) 11 14 6.84
5. Dane van Niekerk (Stars) 9 13 6.62
6. Marizanne Kapp (Stars) 11 11 5.66
7. Katherine Brunt (Diamonds) 7 10 5.42
8. Linsey Smith (Lightning) 11 11 6.40
9. Katie Levick (Diamonds) 9 11 7.00
10. Amelia Kerr (Vipers) 10 10 6.50
11. Emma Lamb (Thunder) 10 11 8.06
12. Alice Davidson-Richards (Diamonds) 9 10 7.45
13. Tash Farrant (Vipers) 6 10 7.77
14. Alex Hartley (Thunder) 10 10 7.83
15. Georgia Elwiss (Lightning) 10 9 7.36
16. Nat Sciver (Stars) 11 10 8.23
17. Suzie Bates (Vipers) 10 9 8.18
18. Laura Marsh (Stars) 11 8 7.36
19. Freya Davies (Storm) 11 8 7.72
20. Claire Nicholas (Storm) 10 7 7.03

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

STATS: KSL 2018 Batting Rankings

There are no real surprises in the 2018 Kia Super League Batting Rankings – no non-international players make the Top 20, though a couple were just outside it: Diamonds’ Thea Brookes at No. 21 and Thunder’s Eve Jones at No. 24.

England’s two spring batting debutantes – Alice Davidson-Richards and Bryony Smith – placed at Nos. 25 and 28 respectively, giving Mark Robinson little to think about in terms of World T20 selection; and whilst Sophia Dunkley had a good opening day, making her highest score of 66 against the Vipers, she was hard-pressed for opportunities with the bat thereafter, and those 66 runs ended up being well over half the runs she scored in the entire tournament, though she maintained a good Strike Rate of 120.

The positives for England are that Nat Sciver (No. 3) and Heather Knight (No. 4) both had very good tournaments – especially in the case of Knight actually, who was playing second-fiddle for much of the time to Man Women Person (sorry Michael… which is it??? Ah yes…) Player of the Tournament Smriti Mandhana at No. 1.

England will though be less happy with the performances of their two opening batsmen, Tammy Beaumont and Dani Wyatt. Did the Vipers under-perform because Beaumont and Wyatt under-performed, or vice-versa? A bit of both, maybe?

One player who will have impressed her national selectors is Rachel Haynes at No. 5 – Ashes-winning captain she might be, but she is not guaranteed a spot in the Australian XI – and her 324 runs at a Strike Rate of 128 will have done her case no harm at all.

Lizelle Lee at No. 2 of course is sure of a spot in South Africa’s XI – her runs go without saying, but she also fielded very well, and will probably be secretly relieved that Trisha Chetty has made her peace with the selectors and been brought back into the wicket-keeping role for South Africa, so that Lee can now focus on her batting in the West Indies, as she was able to do here with tip-top results.

Player Played Runs SR
1. Smriti Mandhana (Storm) 10 421 175
2. Lizelle Lee (Stars) 11 352 149
3. Nat Sciver (Stars) 11 362 144
4. Heather Knight (Storm) 11 368 134
5. Rachel Haynes (Lightning) 11 324 128
6. Sophie Devine (Lightning) 11 269 147
7. Beth Mooney (Diamonds) 9 267 138
8. Amy Satterthwaite (Thunder) 10 277 127
9. Nicole Bolton (Thunder) 10 274 120
10. Suzie Bates (Vipers) 10 245 115
11. Rachel Priest (Storm) 11 183 140
12. Tammy Beaumont (Vipers) 7 198 128
13. Harmanpreet Kaur (Thunder) 7 164 152
14. Lauren Winfield (Diamonds) 8 205 120
15. Amy Jones (Lightning) 11 202 120
16. Elyse Villani (Lightning) 11 175 128
17. Sarah Taylor (Stars) 10 177 123
18. Dani Wyatt (Vipers) 9 172 123
19. Sara McGlashan (Vipers) 10 164 123
20. Mignon du Preez (Vipers) 10 174 104

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

KSL: Flash Gordon – Saviour of the Loughboroughverse

It may not have been the dream ending for Loughborough Lightning yesterday at Hove – beaten in the final by a rampant Lizelle Lee – but having finished top of the group stages, with 7 wins from 10, in reflection they really ought to look back on this campaign as a success.

A part of this was the contributions of their international superstars – Rachel Haynes finished the tournament as the 5th highest run-scorer; with Sophie Devine 2nd in the list of wicket-takers. Devine also hit 269 runs in the campaign; and there were solid performances from England’s Amy Jones, with 202 runs, and Jenny Gunn, with 14 wickets.

And then there was Kirstie Gordon.

Hang on… Kirstie Whodon…???

Unless you’ve been paying attention to county cricket, you’ve probably not heard of Kirstie Gordon, but the former Scotland international, who is now pursuing her career in England, finished the season not only as Loughborough Lightning’s leading wicket-taker, but the top stump-botherer in the whole KSL.

The signs were all there of course – she was the leading wicket-taker in county cricket in 2018, taking 35 wickets across both formats for Notts; but the KSL is a significant step-up from the County Championship, and to finish with even a handful of wickets would have been an achievement. To finish, as Gordon did, with 17 wickets at an Economy Rate of just a shade over 6, was outstanding.

As Lightning captain Georgia Elwiss told CRICKETher after the final:

“She is a real find – she has been absolutely brilliant. She stands up in the big pressure moments, and for someone that’s playing in her first season of KSL, that says a lot about her as a person.”

“She is a great character to have around the squad – she is always up and about, always lively, and brings loads of energy.”

“She works really hard [and] she deserves everything she is getting – there will definitely be more to come from her.”

Whether “more” includes one day pulling on an England shirt, only time will tell; but if it does, this season for Loughborough Lightning will be where it really started.