RHF TROPHY: Don’t Stop Bel-EVE-ing

The journey from Shropshire to Sparks HQ in Worcester takes about an hour by car; 6 hours by bike; 20 hours to walk… or 13 years if you’re Eve Jones!

Jones made her senior debut for Shropshire as a 15-year-old in 2007 – scoring her first fifty that season against Leicestershire. In 2012 she moved to Staffordshire, where she scored 3 centuries and 5 half-centuries in 5 seasons, before making another move to Lancashire, where she won the County Championship and T20 Cup double in 2017.

Now aged 28 she’s finally arrived at Worcester, as captain of the Central Sparks – the Warwickshire-Worcestershire franchise in England’s new regional competition, the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.

Three matches in, and Jones is already making an impact on the bigger stage of the RHF. A week ago at Edgbaston, the Sparks almost made a pickle of chasing just 135 against the Thunder – losing 6 wickets in the process. This weekend, they made a chase of 166 look easy, mainly thanks to a classic “captain’s innings” from Jones, who scored a lovely 90 off 113 balls.

But don’t just take my word for it – take the words of Thunder coach and former England boss Paul Shaw, who told us post-match: “It’s wonderful to see Eve Jones play beautifully the way that she has today.”

Jones happened upon the captaincy of the Sparks this season via the slightly unusual process, at this level at least, of being democratically elected by her team-mates: “It was really nice to get the support of the team,” she tells us, “and I’m enjoying the captaincy.”

And after spending much of the early part of her career propping up sides at the unfashionable end of the County Championship, Jones is also obviously relishing being part of a more elite unit at the Sparks:

“I feel like we’ve got a good, strong side so everyone is contributing, which is really nice as a captain – you can just chuck the ball to somebody and they are going to perform.”

It’s typical of Jones that she shares the credit around, and she’s down to earth about her new status as a ‘pro’ cricketer too:

“I’m enjoying being the senior player in the team – it’s nice to help the others along,” she says. “But I don’t really think too much about the ‘professional’ bit – we just stick to our game and try to do what we need to do on the pitch.”

With the Northern Diamonds having pulled a rabbit out of the hat against Lightning yesterday, Sparks sit second in the North Group of the RHF behind Diamonds, with next weekend’s fixture between the two sides at Headingley looking like a pivotal match in the race to the final at Edgbaston.

But first for the Sparks, there’s the Lightning to overcome next Friday:

“We’ve got some good momentum now with two wins on the bounce – even without our England players I feel like we’ve got a good, strong side and everyone is contributing, but we’re just looking forward to the next game here at Worcester next week.”

But with Jones in fantastic form, Marie Kelly finally getting a real opportunity to show what she can do at this level, and players like Clare Boycott, who took a 4-fer yesterday, and Gwen Davies stepping bleary-eyed into the limelight, the Sparks are really starting to fly down at Worcester, and you wouldn’t bet against them finishing the tournament where they started it, at Edgbaston for the final on September 27th.

STATS: The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy… Without The England Players

The opening weekend of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy was dominated by the England players – Katherine Brunt, Nat Sciver, Heather Knight, Sophia Dunkley and Sophie Ecclestone were all among those who put in match-winning shifts for their teams.

So after 2 rounds, Diamonds top the table in the North; while Vipers lead the way down South.

But now the England players go back into “The Bubble” to prepare for the T20 series versus West Indies, and their regional sides will have to make do without them, so how are they likely to do?

To give an idea of how things might pan out, we took the basic stats from the opening weekend – runs and wickets – and removed all the England “bubble” players.

The full “tables” are below, but if you are a Diamonds fan in particular you might want to look away now – they go from top to bottom in the North group, with Lightning the clear favourites going forwards, thanks mainly to the runs and wickets of Scottish duo Sarah and Kathryn Bryce. (There must be something in the porridge up at Loch Loughborough!)

In the South however, Southern Vipers actually retain their position at the top of the tree, thanks to good form with the bat from Georgia Adams and Charlie Dean, who both made 50s this weekend, and great numbers with the ball from Tara Norris and Paige Scholfield.

How scientific is all this? Not very! The non-England players will have the chance to prove themselves now. With everyone playing home and away, we are only a third of the way through the group stages and there’s still plenty of cricket to come. And of course, the final itself will see some of the England “bubble” players return – though not the big superstars, who will be on England duty.

So it’s all to play for, and while the Diamonds in particular might not have come out of this counterfactual so well, at the end of the day they are still the ones with the actual points on the board, which puts them in pole position going into next weekend’s third round of fixtures alongside the Vipers in the South group.

North

Batting

Team Runs
Lightning 245
Central Sparks 171
Thunder 167
Northern Diamonds 104

Bowling

Team Wickets
Lightning 14
Thunder 7
Central Sparks 7
Northern Diamonds 6

South

Batting

Team Runs
Southern Vipers 274
Sunrisers 218
South East Stars 208
Western Storm 154

Bowling

Team Wickets
Southern Vipers 14
Western Storm 11
Sunrisers 10
South East Stars 5

NEWS: England Player Allocations Announced For Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy

The ECB have announced the England player allocations for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, with players mainly going to teams where they have existing connections. For example, Katherine Brunt and Lauren Winfield will be playing at Yorkshire for the Northern Diamonds, where they played both county and KSL, while Heather Knight and Anya Shrubsole are returning to Western Storm, which was also their KSL side.

It has also been announced that the final will take place at Edgbaston, and will be shown live on Sky Sports on Sunday September 27.

Northern Diamonds
Katherine Brunt, Nat Sciver, Lauren Winfield, Linsey Smith

Thunder
Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone, Emma Lamb

Central Sparks
Amy Jones, Sarah Glenn, Issy Wong

Western Storm
Heather Knight, Anya Shrubsole, Katie George

Southern Vipers
Danni Wyatt, Georgia Elwiss, Lauren Bell

South East Stars
Freya Davies, Alice Davidson-Richards, Bryony Smith, Sophia Dunkley

Sunrisers
Fran Wilson, Mady Villiers

Lightning
Tammy Beaumont, Kirstie Gordon

BREAKING: England To Play West Indies In September

The ECB have announced that England will host a 5 match T20 series against the West Indies in late September.

All 5 games will be played behind closed doors at Derby, but will be broadcast live on Sky, with one match also being shown Free To Air on the BBC.

  • Monday September 21: 1st T20, England v West Indies (Sky Sports)
  • Wednesday September 23: 2nd T20, England v West Indies (Sky Sports)
  • Saturday September 26: 3rd T20, England v West Indies (Sky Sports, BBC)
  • Monday September 28: 4th T20, England v West Indies (Sky Sports)
  • Wednesday September 30: 5th T20, England v West Indies (Sky Sports)

[Start times all “TBC”]

The confirmation of the schedule has necessitated a change in date for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Final, which will now be played on Sunday September 27.

England currently have 24 players in their training group, and all 24 will be made available for the first two rounds of the RHF on Saturday August 29 and Monday August 31. (So expect an announcement on teams very soon!)

Anyone not selected for the Windies series will be released to return to their regional team for the final round and final of the RHF.

VIDEO: The CRICKETher Weekly Vodcast – Episode 22

This week Raf & Syd discuss:

  • News on the likely cancellation of England’s internationals v South Africa
  • Fixtures and squad selections for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy
  • A Rae-ny Day at Guildford for Middlesex v Surrey
  • Should England select 15-year-old Alice Capsey to play in this summer’s fixtures?

Plus we relive happy memories of our adventure in Australia through the medium of the ICC’s Netflix documentary, Beyond the Boundary.

NEWS: ECB Announce Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy

The ECB have announced that the 8 regional Centres of Excellence will compete in a 50-over competition for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy later this season, honouring one of England’s greatest former captains, as the men are doing with the Bob Willis Trophy.

It has also been confirmed that the 8 team names are:

  • Central Sparks (Warwickshire CCC & Worcestershire CCC, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire)
  • Lightning (Loughborough University, Derbyshire CCC, Leicestershire CCC, Nottinghamshire CCC, Lincolnshire)
  • Northern Diamonds (Yorkshire CCC, Durham CCC, Northumberland)
  • Thunder (Lancashire CCC, Cheshire, Cumbria)
  • South East Stars (Surrey CCC, Kent CCC)
  • Southern Vipers (Hampshire Cricket Ltd, Sussex CCC, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire)
  • Sunrisers (Middlesex CCC, Essex CCC, Northamptonshire CCC, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Norfolk, Suffolk)
  • Western Storm (Glamorgan CCC, Gloucestershire CCC, Somerset CCC, Cricket Wales, Cornwall, Devon, Wiltshire)

These teams will compete in 2 regional groups, playing each other twice, with Sparks, Lightning, Diamonds and Thunder contesting the “North” group; and Stars, Vipers, Sunrisers and Storm the “South”. The group winners will play off for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy in the final on Saturday 26 September.

Squads will be confirmed shortly, and (quote) “the availability of England Women’s Centrally Contracted players will be known once the international schedule has been confirmed.”