MATCH REPORT: Wolfe Keeps Berkshire From The Door

In what will almost certainly be the last ever County Championship match for both sides, due to the ECB’s planned restructure of domestic cricket from next season, Berkshire fell an agonising 20 runs short of their target at Mill Hill School to finish the season as Division 2 runners up.

They were beaten into second place by Division 2 champions Middlesex, who took a late flurry of wickets – Katie Wolfe finishing with 3-12 across her 10 overs – to bowl their opponents out and finish a mere four points ahead in the final standings.

The match was also notable for what may well be the last ever 50-over innings in top level cricket from England legend Beth Morgan, who becomes the only player ever to have featured in every season of the Women’s County Championship (which has run since 1997).* Morgan additionally took a crucial catch at mid-off to see off Berkshire’s top-scorer, Emily Cunningham, setting off the batting collapse which ultimately cost the Beavers the game.

Berkshire had started their chase slowly but steadily, reaching just 16-0 off the first 10 overs but achieving their initial aim of seeing off twin pacers Wolfe and Gaya Gole.

With Lissy Macleod joining the chase in the 21st over, after Sherisa Gumbs was adjudged LBW to Emma Albery, the Beavers picked up the pace – Macleod playing a series of lofted tonks and Cunningham hitting the only six of the day over midwicket.

Their 61-run partnership was finally broken in the 31st over by Emily Thorpe, Cunningham departing for 43, but it was the reintroduction the following over of Wolfe – fresh from last week’s hat-trick against Somerset – which really broke the back of Berkshire’s chase.

She initially had Amanda Potgieter clean bowled for a duck, and then added to her tally of destruction by having both Macleod (42) and Phoebe Graham trapped LBW in successive deliveries – Ashleigh Muttitt seemingly lucky to have survived a similar fate after she walked in to face the hat-trick ball.

From there, although the lower order fought bravely, the result was all-but a foregone conclusion – Berkshire eventually bowled out for 146 in the 48th over, a direct hit run-out from Middlesex keeper Iqraa Hussain finishing the job.

Earlier, with Anya Shrubsole sitting on the sidelines (literally!) ahead of the England internationals this week, it had been Graham’s time to shine, opening the bowling with Lauren Bell in Shrubsole’s place and finishing with figures of 3-30.

In tandem, the pair out-paced the Middlesex top order, with Cordelia Griffith edging Graham behind in the second over; while at the other end Bell opened up with two maidens before clean bowling both Tash Miles and Albery.

That left Middlesex 19-3; but Morgan – in a fitting likely end to her lengthy county career – was once again the backbone of the innings, sharing a 40-run partnership with Naomi Dattani – Dattani displaying some powerful hitting over midwicket, while Morgan was content to carefully nurdle singles through the gaps.

Captain Macleod eventually induced one pull too many from Dattani to have her caught at midwicket, but Morgan took the less risky option and stuck around for 10 more overs, adding another 41 runs with Ollie Rae (26) before being run out by a smart piece of keeping from stand-in Berkshire glove-butler Ellen Watson.

Though Middlesex couldn’t quite see out the 50 overs, with Macleod, Graham and Sophie Day all chipping in with wickets, they did add a crucial 34 runs across the last 10 overs – number 11 Wolfe smashing 3 quick-fire boundaries with a 19-run cameo at the tail end of the innings, runs that proved just as critical as her wickets to the eventual scoreline.

Of course the result is purely academic, given that this is the last season in which the Women’s County Championship will run. For all that, it was a match which was clearly hard-fought on both sides – and a fitting end to the competition which has for so long been a critical breeding ground for the England players of the future, and which will (for those who have followed, played in and helped to run it) be deeply missed.

*Stat courtesy of @_hypocaust

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MATCH REPORT: Middlesex Shine In The Rain As Lord’s Plays Host To Historic London Cup Clash

Middlesex’s 100% record in the London Cup against Surrey remains just about intact after they got across the line on the final ball of a reduced-overs tonk-a-thon at Lord’s this evening, in the first ever women’s county fixture to be played at the ground.

Though the rain attempted to intervene, with only 12 overs able to be played out and a lengthy delay between the two innings, it was clearly still an intensely exciting day for the players, who had earlier been out and about assisting with the various softball cricket matches taking place on the ground throughout the afternoon.

“It was a great honour to be playing here,” Surrey captain Hannah Jones said after the match. “For a lot of us it’s the only time we’re ever going to get to play here – the moment really got us all as a team when we were walking out of the Long Room at the start of the match.”

Head of Women’s Cricket at Middlesex and MCC, Danni Warren, also heralded the day a great success.

“We had a very successful ‘Women’s Day’ in 2018, and the question is, how do you go one better? The London Cup is a very competitive fixture and one which the girls look forward to – it’s always been a goal of mine to make sure that we got to play it at Lord’s at some point, and the MCC were kind enough to let us take over their ‘Women’s Day’ with that.”

“It’s been a really enjoyable day, and the women’s softball event got over 200 women out here playing cricket on the outfield at Lord’s.”

On the pitch, the star of the show was Lauren Bell, making her Middlesex debut, who not only removed Surrey’s best batsman Bryony Smith in the opening over of the fixture; but also made an unexpected cameo with the bat, entering the fray with her side needing 8 runs from the last 5 balls of the match.

Bell kept a calm head, finding the gaps with two singles, running hard with partner Tash Miles, and – crucially – chipping in with the only boundary of the Middlesex innings as she middled it through backward point, finishing 6* at the end as Miles hit the necessary single off the last ball.

Earlier, play had eventually got under way 15 minutes after the scheduled start time, with Middlesex electing to field having won the toss.

Bell, who claimed the honour of being the first woman to open the bowling in a county match at Lord’s, celebrated by bowling Smith with a full-pitched inswinger with her fifth ball of the day.

Fellow pacer Katie Wolfe also struck in her first over – a wicket maiden – as Kirstie White sent a leading edge to Beth Morgan at midwicket.

By the time the rains came down, 7 overs into Surrey’s innings, the visitors were 3 wickets down with 28 runs on the board – Dunkley having trapped left-hander Aylish Cranstone LBW attempting the sweep.

It should have been an easy chase for Middlesex, who were set a reduced target for 26 off their allotted 5 overs, but nerves almost got the better of them.

The home side initially put their hopes in Naomi Dattani and Amara Carr, fresh from herself punishing the Middlesex bowlers in the Women’s County Championship on Monday with a century for her 50-over county, Devon.

However, Bryony Smith conceded just 2 from her first over, meaning the pressure was on. It quickly told: some smart work from Surrey keeper Rhianna Southby ensuring that – in the space of 3 balls – both Carr and the in-form Sophia Dunkley were stumped chasing deliveries from captain Hannah Jones.

When Dattani also departed in Smith’s next over – caught by Priyanaz Chatterji at mid-off – Middlesex were 5-3 and looking out of it completely.

Miles and Cordelia Griffith clawed it back by plundering 12 runs from the fourth over, taking advantage of the pace of Eva Gray and some sloppy fielding which cost Surrey a crucial overthrow.

It was Jones who stepped up to bowl the final over of the day, but despite a third lightning quick stumping from Southby (who was voted Player of the Match by the umpires) to see off Griffith, Bell’s cool head saved the day.

Credit should be given to the Lord’s groundstaff, who fought to get the players back out after it looked like the rain had set in for the evening; as well as to those at the MCC who allowed the fixture – which had been relegated to outgrounds on its two previous outings – to take place at Lord’s, thereby giving all the players a chance to make history.

MATCH REPORT: Frantastic! Wilson Stars As Kent Continue At The Top

Despite a flurry of late wickets from seamer Katie George, Kent eventually got over the line at Polo Farm against Hampshire with 2 and a half overs to spare, taking them to a 7-wicket victory against the former County Champions.

Fran Wilson top-scored for the hosts with 74 from 75 balls, her second big score in her maiden season for Kent after she made 87 against Warwickshire two weekends ago. Both performances should put her in contention to claim a place in the England squad ahead of the internationals against West Indies which begin next month.

Wilson came to the crease with Kent 0-1, chasing Hampshire’s 233 – Alice Davidson-Richards having been bowled by Maia Bouchier before her side had troubled the scorers.

Wilson, though, quickly took charge, with Hampshire feeding her some short and wide balls outside of off-stump which she gobbled up eagerly. She raced away to 50 with partner Tammy Beaumont still on only 15*.

Hampshire eventually found the right line to bowl to her, cramping her for room and having her trapped LBW to Charlie Dean. Beaumont fell the very next ball, caught behind to Charlotte Taylor, leaving Kent stumbling somewhat at 123-3.

Laura Marsh and Maxine Blythin then came together in a 72-run partnership, scampering singles to take the hosts within touching distance of victory.

There was one last twist in the tale for Kent, in the shape of Katie George’s second spell of the innings. George initially surprised everyone with a lone appeal for caught behind against Marsh, which the umpire acquiesced with. In her next over she took two further wickets in two balls, having Tash Farrant caught at cover and Izzy Cloke done for pace and bowled.

Lauren Griffiths successfully survived the hat-trick ball, but George got her eventually – trapping her LBW in her next over. At that point George had 4-62 and Kent were 213-7, still needing 21 runs to win.

It was left to Blythin and Chelsea Rowson to hustle Kent over the line, and they got there in the end – Blythin finished with an unbeaten half-century, and Rowson showed her mettle with a four creamed through the covers to finish things off.

Earlier, Hampshire had initially stumbled after winning the toss and choosing to bat – both Dean and George falling LBW without scoring.

The return of superstar Suzie Bates from the Women’s IPL, though, appeared to have a transformative effect on the rest of Hampshire’s batting, which looked a million miles away from last week’s showing against Sussex.

Bates herself racked up 63 in a partnership of 88 with Bouchier, though she lacked some of her usual fluency and was dropped on 6* and 23*, both chances coming off the bowling of Marsh. Beaumont finally snaffled her at midwicket in the 39th over.

Bouchier, meanwhile, went 1 run better and showed her strength in the V to top-score with 64 (86 balls), before being done by a Sarah Taylor-esque piece of glovework from Griffiths, who – standing up to the stumps for Farrant – had the batsman stumped from a leg side wide.

Hampshire’s lower order then also came good, with Emily Windsor hitting an attacking 34 before Taylor (22*) and Lucia Kendall (28*) put on 39 in the last 6 overs of the innings – Kendall celebrating her 15th birthday in some style! In the context of a close Championship race, Kent’s failure to dislodge either of the pair meant they missed out on not just 1 but 2 bowling bonus points, which could prove crucial.

For the moment, however, Lancashire’s loss to Yorkshire puts Kent firmly atop Division 1, with 3 matches left to play in this year’s Women’s County Championship.

MATCH REPORT: Lamb-ing Season As Surrey Fail To Clear The Baaaaa Against Lancashire At Guildford

An overcast day at Guildford Cricket Club ended in a thriller as Lancashire squeaked home by just 1 run against Surrey, having looked dead and buried for much of their opponent’s innings.

A late spell from Emma Lamb eventually saved the day for Lancashire, the off-spinner finishing with figures of 2-39 and, crucially, yielding just 8 runs from her last 4 overs, which included a maiden.

Lamb was finally entrusted with delivering the last over of the day: Surrey needed 8 from it but were only able to pick off singles, and – left needing 3 from the last ball of the day for a win, 2 for a tie – Lamb carefully removed the bails to deny her opponents an attempted second run before Lancashire huddled to celebrate.

The match should have been Surrey’s for the taking: chasing 242, they had initially reached 136 without losing a wicket, with openers Bryony Smith and Kirstie White both reaching half-centuries – Smith in particular slamming the Lancashire bowlers around the park.

Smith eventually fell for 86, sending a straightforward return catch straight into the hands of off-spinner Georgie Boyce. White, though, took on the anchor role and hung around until the 39th over, departing when Surrey needed just 47 runs from the last 11 overs.

Number 3 Aylish Cranstone then notched up a stylish half-century of her own, punishing one Kate Cross over for 14 runs – all still looking hunky dory for Surrey.

That was until the reintroduction of Lamb to the attack in the 44th over, a strategy that paid dividends. The off-spinner firstly had Cranstone caught in the deep; then in her next over was instrumental in the run-out of Kira Chathli, the ball ricocheting off her hand into the path of Alice Dyson at mid-off with Dyson achieving a direct hit at the non-striker’s end.

The very next ball Lamb removed Eva Gray with a smart caught and bowled, leaving Surrey 5 down and with 12 runs still needed from the final 4 overs – ultimately too big an ask for their young middle order.

Earlier, Lamb had also chipped in with the bat, hitting 23 (34 balls) as she put on 50 for Lancashire’s first wicket with opening partner Eve Jones.

Surrey’s captain Hannah Jones eventually broke through, having Lamb caught at point after she tried to push the run rate along. Lamb’s dismissal, though, brought Georgie Boyce to the crease, a position she occupied until the 46th over.

She was able to successfully farm much of the strike, and used the pace of Surrey’s quicks to her advantage, taking 13 runs off one Danielle Gregory over and punching the only six of the Lancashire innings over deep square leg.

Surrey clawed back some momentum (and some bowling bonus points) by continually making inroads at the other end, with Boyce herself eventually dismissed in the 46th over, falling short of 3 figures after Kirstie White took a straightforward catch at midwicket off the bowling of Bryony Smith.

Alex Hartley was then run out off the last ball of the day, leaving Lancashire 9 wickets down and giving Surrey a 4th bowling bonus point – which could yet prove crucial in the fight to top Division 1.

Proceedings were watched by a keen crowd of about 100, including a group from local school Royal Alexandra and Albert School in Reigate, as part of wider Women’s County Cricket Day celebrations around the country. The match was also live-streamed by Surrey CCC on kiaoval.com, in a brilliant innovation for the women’s county game.

The win sees Lancashire go 2 from 2 in the opening weekend of the County Championship after they beat reigning champions Hampshire in yesterday’s match, making them early runners in the battle for this year’s title.

NEWS: ECB Explain New County Championship Playing Regulations

Speaking exclusively to CRICKETher, the ECB have issued a statement clarifying the new Women’s County Championship Playing Regulations.

Two radical new changes have come into force this season:

1. The title will be decided on overall points, not average points. This season, while abandoned and tied matches will result in the points on offer being shared between the two sides, for games that are totally rained off zero points will be awarded to either team.

2. There is now a “rolling subs” rule, whereby teams are required to name 12 players who can be exchanged interchangeably – i.e. there is no requirement to nominate which 11 players will bat.

The ECB’s statement is as follows:

“The decision to decide the Royal London Women’s One-Day Cup on total points, not average points, brings the tournament in line with tournaments across the world and incentivises the playing of cricket. In both cancelled and abandoned games in the Royal London Men’s One-Day Cup the points are shared – but teams are not given the chance to replay the fixture.

We want to avoid losing fixtures where possible, which is why we are giving women’s County teams the chance to replay their games. Teams have until September 29 to replay any abandoned fixtures.

To encourage participation and to provide opportunity for more players, the decision was taken to allow teams to name 12 players, 11 of whom can bat and 11 of whom can field. These names are nominated by the teams prior to the game.

We ask all Counties for feedback throughout the domestic season and Counties have ongoing dialogue with their respective Regional Talent Manager and ECB. Any changes to rules and regulations are debated at end-of-season review meetings.”

NEWS: Cricket Asylum Tour To Barbados A Great Success For Cheshire’s Georgia Heath

15-year-old Georgia Heath, who made her debut for Cheshire in last season’s Women’s County Championship, has recently returned from an age-group tour to Barbados organised by The Cricket Asylum Cricket Academy.

The kit for the tour was supplied by SM Cricket, who are great supporters of the women’s game.

Barbados

Heath was the only girl on the 30-strong tour, with ages ranging from 10 to 19. Highlights of the tour included facing Jofra Archer’s 8 year old cousin who opened the bowling for Bayleys Primary school, meeting and being coached by cricketing legend Desmond Haynes, and a final match at the iconic Kensington Oval.

She also met and worked with West Indian Coaches Ezra Moseley and Vasbert Drakes (former coach of the West Indies national side) at the University of West Indies, Cave Hill and also played at Isolation, Holders Hill, Bayleys Primary School, Combermere Secondary School and Kensington Oval.

Barbados

Heath captained the side at Bayleys Primary School , who have been national Barbados Primary School champions for 3 years running, and was presented with a Bayleys Primary training shirt from their coach.

Reflecting on the tour, Heath commented: “It was really fun going on my first international tour, some excellent wickets to play on and my performance was helped by the brilliant kit that SM Cricket supplied. The highlight of my week would have to be the four I scored playing a strong cover drive at the Kensington Oval and a wicket from the Malcolm Marshall end.”

Although Georgia was the only girl on the Cricket Asylum Tour, the Wales Women’s cricket team were staying at the same hotel and played a friendly match against the West Indies Women’s team at Isolation as part of a wider Barbados training camp.

Due to the success of the tour, TCA Sports Tours are already planning a return trip for Easter 2020.

NEWS: Scotland’s Olivia Rae Launches Rae Cricket Coaching

Olivia Rae, current Middlesex player and former Scotland international, has become one of the first women ever to launch her own cricket coaching business – Rae Cricket Coaching.

The launch took place on Friday at North London Cricket Club, where Rae will be leading the girls programme, as well as working as part of the coaching team that coaches junior boys and senior men.

Rae Cricket Coaching offers coaching sessions for individuals, small groups and schools throughout London. Rae herself is Level 3 qualified and a former coach of the Scotland Under-17s, as well as the current Berkshire U17 county girls head coach and Middlesex county U11 girls coach.

“Rae Cricket Coaching is bringing all my coaching experience together,” Rae told CRICKETher at the launch. “I’m using the tagline Refine, Adapt, Excel, which is something that I’ve developed over the 12 years I’ve been coaching.”

“We look at refining what people already have, because everybody’s got something. It’s about being able to adapt to different situations, whether that’s tactically, technically or mentally. And we believe that will make you excel at what you do.”

“I believe mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation, so that’s a really big part of what we’re doing – integrating basic mental skills into sessions. We use player diaries for instance for players to reflect, and that’s something they will get used to doing throughout the sessions.”

In a still male-dominated profession, it is great to see a female coach like Rae seeking to make use of her long experience playing and coaching in both women’s and men’s cricket.

“Our ethos at Rae Cricket Coaching is about creating an all-round cricketer,” Rae says. “We can benefit boys, girls, men and women in that respect.”

“Sometimes as a female coach, you can feel like you’re coaching for all women. Because if you mess up they’ll say ‘women can’t coach’. But I’d like to take it away from gender – hopefully the boys can look at me as someone who’s played a high level of cricket, someone who sometimes turns out and plays men’s cricket as well, and who knows what I’m talking about.

“I hope everyone I coach will look at me for my experience – it’s not that I’m a female coach, it’s that I’m a good coach.”

Rae is also part of Middlesex’s squad for the forthcoming season and will continue to play, alongside her work with Rae Cricket Coaching. We look forward to seeing her on the county circuit, and wish her every success with this latest venture.