MATCH REPORT: Honours Even In Cold War At Billingshurst

Under overcast skies at Billingshurst CC an uneventful day turned into a thriller in the third, rain-reduced match of the day as Sussex successfully chased down their DLS target of 92 in 11 overs.

It left honours even amongst the 3 teams – Kent, Surrey and Sussex – with a win apiece across the day.

Sussex v Kent

In a low-scoring match first up it was Kent who triumphed, Sussex falling 9 runs of their 70-run target despite an unbeaten 20 from Chiara Green.

Captain Georgia Adams was the first Sussex batsman to depart in the third over, caught at extra cover off the bowling of Arlene Kelly directly after hitting a fluent four straight down the ground.

It was to be Sussex’s only boundary of the innings as, despite Green’s best efforts at the other end,  her partners came in and departed with regularity, none making it into double figures.

Green herself survived several chances as she attempted to push the score on, skying it several times and being put down by Kelly at mid-on, but she did at least manage to do what her teammates failed to and rotate the strike.

She ultimately ran out of partners as Sussex were all out for 61 in the 19th over.

Earlier Green had also chimed in with the ball, taking 2 wickets in 2 balls to put Kent at 29-5 and leaving poor Kirsty Dymond in the unenviable position of walking in to face a hat-trick ball in her first senior T20 match for Kent.

She successfully defended it, however, and hung around long enough to make 9 runs, providing good support to Izzy Cloke (21).

Cloke top-scored for the visitors, but was eventually out caught by Georgia Adams at long on as young 16-year-old Cassidy McCarthy chimed in with 3 wickets for 10 runs to finish off the Kent tail.

Surrey v Kent

Kent extended their winning streak to the toss in the second game, opting to bowl against Surrey.

Kirstie White was dropped first ball as a thick edge went through the hands of Jenny Jackson at backward point and down to the boundary for 4. Two singles and another 4 driven through mid on followed as Surrey took 10 from the opening over.

White and Alex Travers – who was also dropped by Jackson, albeit a much tougher chance – then took the score on to 28-0 after 5 overs, with some smart running between the wickets, something which had been conspicuously absent in the first match of the day.

The opening partnership was broken when White was out caught behind off a thin edge off Grace Gibbs for 23 in the 7th over, and Gibbs then comprehensively bowled Travers in her next over for 14.

Aylish Cranstone made 10 before she was bowled by Jackson with the score on 61 in the 12th over, as Kent began to take charge, with 3 run-outs contributing to Surrey finishing on a disappointing 91-9.

Chelsey Rowson and Phoebe Franklin got Kent off to a good start, taking 17 off the first 4 overs before Franklin was given out LBW trying to sweep Hannah Jones. Rowson followed soon after – brilliantly caught behind by Kirstie White diving low to her right, standing back to the pace of Molly Sellars.

Izzy Cloke made 10 but was bowled by young leg-spinner Danielle Gregory just as she looked like getting started; and Gregory then added the wicket of Lauren Griffiths, who returned to the pavilion shaking her head having been adjudged LBW to a ball which appeared to barely brush her pads. There was no doubt however about Gregory’s third – Grace Gibbs bowled for 11, leaving Kent 47-5 in the 12th over.

Jenny Jackson became Gregory’s 4th victim, another LBW; whilst at the other end Megan Belt was bowled middle stump by Mary Ali, attempting a premeditated ramp – a shot that looks great when it comes off, but leaves you looking like a bit of a chump when it doesn’t!

Debutant Kirsty Dymond was left fuming, having been run out after a mix up with fellow newbie Grace Scrivens, leaving Kent needing 16 off the last two overs with 2 wickets in hand.

7 off the penultimate over meant 9 off the last bowled by Eva Gray… or 8 if Kent could get them without losing a wicket. Scrivens and Arlene Kelly ran hard every ball; but they fell just one short in the end, finishing 90-8 as Surrey celebrated.

Sussex v Surrey

In the third and final game of the day, played in conditions so cold that Sussex captain Georgia Adams opted to field wearing a hoodie, Surrey won the toss but once again batted first.

Kirstie White again looked in fine touch across the powerplay overs, stroking Tara Norris’s first ball through backward point for a boundary, but was subsequently adjudged LBW to Chiara Green in the 7th over.

Green then chimed in with 2 more wickets including another LBW to remove Eva Gray, but by that point the rain was coming down and the umpires called a halt to proceedings with Surrey’s score 74-3 after 11 overs.

The covers were put on but the rain eventually eased enough to allow play to resume, the necessary DLS calculations indicating that Sussex needed to hit 92 off 11 overs to win the game.

It looked a ridiculous target – the DLS formula once again proving questionable as far as women’s county cricket goes – but Sussex somehow found the panache they had lacked earlier in the day and chased down the required runs to win by 7 wickets.

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INTERVIEW: Mark Robinson Reflects On South Africa Series Win

England coach Mark Robinson was full of praise for his team after yesterday’s series win against South Africa at Canterbury, and particularly centurion Tammy Beaumont.

He told CRICKETher: “I’m immensely proud of her. She wears her heart on her sleeve and she works really hard. She’s got better technically.”

“Today was as good as I’ve seen her bat because it was ugly for the first 25 runs, she really had to fight for it. Previously she might have given it away but today she stuck at it.”

Reflecting on Saturday’s defeat in the series opener at Worcester, he admitted that England had “messed up at the toss. It was definitely a bowl first wicket so we gave away a big advantage.”

He said that the batsmen had been “passive” and “nervous and jittery” in the first game and let South Africa bowl at them, but added: “that wasn’t really us and we know that. We’ve shown better signs of us in the last 2 games.”

On the batting order he implied that the opening question had not yet been fully resolved, with Lauren Winfield “desperately unlucky” to miss out. “It’s not set in stone,” he said. “You want one of your players to really come back and claim it.”

The implication, though, was that Danni Wyatt would remain in the middle order in ODIs: “She gives us that balance at 6 – we need that energy [lower down the order].”

Regarding the bowling, he said that the addition of Kate Cross to the squad for the final game had been made very much with the intention of playing her had the conditions been favourable: “She gives us an extra bowling option – a little bit of something else. On Thursday the wicket was a bit moist and damp. If it had been anything like that, she would have played, but the wicket dried out and it looked good for batting.”

He was clear, though, that Katherine Brunt will play a big role in the forthcoming T20 tri-series: “Brunt is fully fit and she’s an integral part of this team. She’ll definitely be involved in the T20 series. We haven’t got enough games to rest her.”

He said that the T20 series would be crucial preparation ahead of the World T20 in November:  “We’ve got to try and find out formulas, where people bowl, where they don’t bowl, and as an England team we’ve not played much T20. Heather needs to get used to how to manage her bowlers and batters.”

The squad for the tri-series is likely to be announced on Monday morning.

Tammy Beaumont – “This is my proudest hundred for England”

Speaking to CRICKETher after today’s match at Canterbury, having hit back-to-back centuries for England in a Player-of-the-Series winning performance, Tammy Beaumont was unequivocal about which she considers the better innings of the two:

“This is my proudest hundred for England,” she said.

“I don’t normally get runs in chases. Hove was the flashier, better-looking hundred but today it was very tough early on and I’m proud of getting through that new ball spell and making sure that I cashed in.”

“Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail upfront bowled 2 exceptional spells and it was just a case of getting though it,” she said.

“I like facing them. They have a bit of pace on the ball which suits me just fine from a history of men’s cricket.”

Opposing captain Dane van Niekerk also praised Beaumont’s performance: “Tammy stuck at it and England made us pay,” she said.

She contrasted England’s bowling today unfavourably with the performance of her own team:

“We had to adapt all the time – I never felt quite in. I have to commend the English bowlers, the way they went about that.”

“We need to fight more for wickets and not just expect wickets to come. It’s almost as if our bowlers get bored.”

Van Niekerk also called for more use of DRS in the women’s game, after Lizelle Lee was given out early on in South Africa’s innings to a ball that was almost certainly missing leg stump:

“From the top it looked out for me, but she knew she wasn’t out and she was right,” she said. “If there’s televised games I can’t see why we can’t use [DRS].”

NEWS: Clare Connor – “My aspiration is for a fully professional domestic structure by 2024”

In an interview on BBC TMS yesterday Clare Connor has stated that the ECB are currently reviewing the women’s domestic structure and that her personal ambition is for a fully professional set-up by 2024.

“I think it’s achievable – we’ll see,” she said.

“We’ve outgrown the current domestic structure underneath the KSL. We’ve been looking for the last 6 or 8 months at what it should look like… We’ve got an internal performance group that is looking at these issues”.

She said that it was important to sustain the success achieved by England in last year’s World Cup, and that a renewed county structure would help to do that.

“Paying players allows them to focus on their training, it allows them to make cricket their priority. And that isn’t paying them 6 or 8 thousand pounds, it’s got to be enough so that they can be a fully fledged cricketer for the majority of the year.”

Asked what the new domestic structure would look like, she said: “We’re not sure what the right number of players looks like yet.”

On The Hundred, she said that the decision to make the women’s game part of the new format was “based on the scale that it can give to the women’s game. It enables us to send a very powerful message that we are putting men and women on the same playing field, in the same teams.”

She praised the KSL and those involved in it, saying that they had “done a phenomenal job in creating a brand new competition from scratch”, but said: “We mustn’t be scared of change. I’ve loved going to all of the [KSL] grounds and seeing people wearing new kit and getting behind their teams in new ways. I would urge those people to trust us.”

She pledged to deliver a new women’s domestic T20 competition that is “equally worthwhile [to the KSL]”.

OPINION: England’s Loss Leaves Robinson Facing Some Tricky Decisions

Lizelle Lee finishing it with a six just about summed things up, didn’t it?

Despite the fact that in the innings break we thought that England still had a fair crack at winning this match, the ease with which South Africa strolled to victory today showed that England really lost this game with the bat, not the ball.

Was this a difficult pitch to bat on? I’m not convinced. England’s batsmen were – with the exception of Tammy Beaumont – either beaten for pace or out playing a silly shot. “It looks like a good pitch,” Heather Knight said at the toss, as she chose to bat. She wasn’t wrong.

South Africa are a bowling side – cf their World Cup match v West Indies last year – so it would be unfair to say England “should” have won today: they lost to a good side and the stat about it being the Saffers first win against England in a home ODI for 15 years is a bit illusory.

But what this result does do is leave Mark Robinson facing some tricky selectorial decisions for the rest of the games.

The key one relates to filling the two opening slots. Today he chose to go with Beaumont and Amy Jones up top, who made 19 and 6 respectively. One could argue that neither did a lot wrong: Jones played positively, looking to attack Shabnim Ismail early on, while Beaumont was done by one of the only balls (from Ayabonga Khaka) that moved significantly all day.

Unfortunately the current squad contains four openers, not two: and therein lies Robinson’s dilemma. Lauren Winfield has been brought back after missing the India tour. She was left behind with instructions from Robinson to work on her game; she has, and after scores of 28, 55, 69 and 45* for Yorkshire in the Women’s County Championship has played her way back into contention. But for someone who has done nothing except open for England in ODIs for the past 3 years, does it make sense for her to come in further down the order?

As for Danni Wyatt, her recent success for England – including both her international centuries – has all come at the top of the order. Arguably what England really needed today up top was a Lizelle Lee: someone who would hit it hard and play positively. Of the 4 candidates it is Wyatt who most fits that bill. What she isn’t, is the kind of player who will feel comfortable coming in at 6 to play a steadying role – it just isn’t her natural game.

So how does Robinson make room in his side for 4 openers?

One other dilemma for Robinson relates to the third ODI of this series v South Africa. The decision to only announce a squad for the first two matches, with room to adjust prior to the third game, may well have been made with the intention of resting key players, in what is going to be an extremely busy summer.

A prime candidate for “resting” is Katherine Brunt, who admitted in the BBC Stumped podcast this week that she found last year’s packed schedule incredibly tough on her prone-to-injury back. As she spoke to the media after close of play today she was clearly pretty stiff.

But if Brunt is going to prop up the team with both bat and ball, as she did today, it’s going to be very difficult to leave her out – especially as these are all Championship ODIs that count towards World Cup qualification.

For England, today’s game poses more questions than it answers – questions that no doubt will rumble on across the summer.

NEWS: Pay Rises For England Women as Contract System Extended

In the match day programme for the England v Australia Men’s ODI series, made public today, the ECB have officially confirmed that the current women’s contract system now extends to 22 players – 19 full contracts and 3 Rookie contracts.

Sophie Ecclestone has had a full contract since September 2017 and the 3 “Rookies” are Freya Davies (Sussex), Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent) and Katie George (Hampshire).

The ECB have also announced that from February 2018 10 of the contracted players have seen pay increases of 50% or more and that the overall salary pot is up by 40%. Additionally there is now a bonus pot of money awarded for wins in bilateral series.

While the ECB have never confirmed how much the contracts are worth, the players on the top level of contract – Tier 1 – are likely to now be earning in the region of £50,000.

The Rookie contracts, which will come up for renewal in September, are thought to be worth significantly less, with the current 3 Rookie players remaining reliant on other sources of income or parental support.

The main contracts are renewable in February each year but are now rolling contracts that can be extended for up to 2 years, adding to player security in a system where losing a central contract means going straight from hero to zero with no fallback underneath.

In the piece, ECB Director of Women’s Cricket Clare Connor states that: “Any increase to a player’s salary is judged on performance and potential.”

She highlights that equal pay is not a current goal but emphasises that “we should be bold… and demonstrate a commitment to closing that gap.

“The objective is to get to a situation in 2020 – when the new investment in the game kicks in – whereby the players are paid double what they were paid when they won the World Cup. It’s the direction of travel that’s important.”

NEWS: England Name Squad For South Africa ODIs

With just 5 days to go until the start of the summer internationals, England have named a 14-player squad for the first two ODIs against South Africa.

Lauren Winfield has been recalled after missing out on the ODI and T20 series’ in India, while Alex Hartley and Fran Wilson have both been omitted. Katherine Brunt and Sarah Taylor both return to the squad after being rested for the India tour.

Interestingly, the ECB’s press release indicates that this squad is only for the first two ODIs of the summer, leaving Mark Robinson’s options open for the third ODI against South Africa and the ensuing T20 tri-series.

The full squad is as follows:

  • Heather Knight (captain, Berkshire)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
  • Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
  • Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
  • Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
  • Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)
  • Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire)
  • Amy Jones (wicketkeeper, Warwickshire)
  • Laura Marsh (Kent)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
  • Nat Sciver (Surrey)
  • Sarah Taylor (wicketkeeper, Sussex)
  • Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
  • Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

RESULTS: Women’s County Championship 2018 (Divisions 1 and 2)

A quick summary of today’s key events*:

Division 1

At Andover, Hampshire beat Middlesex by 63 runs to see them crowned winners of the 2018 Women’s County Championship.

Finishing in second place are Yorkshire, who beat Nottinghamshire by 77 runs at Harrogate but could not quite catch Hampshire on bonus points.

At the other end of the Division 1 table Warwickshire avoided relegation at Newton-le-Willows by winning big against Lancashire – by 84 runs.

It was a tight scrap for who would join Somerset in Division 2 next season between Middlesex (who lost to Hampshire) and Nottinghamshire (who lost to Yorkshire) but ultimately Middlesex lost out, relegated by just 0.17 points.

Division 2

Sussex topped Division 2 with a comprehensive 7-wicket win against Berkshire at North Maidenhead.

Surrey will join them in Division 1 next season, finishing second in Div 2 thanks to an unbeaten hundred and 5 wickets from Bryony Smith, as they beat Essex by 8 wickets at Reeds School.

With Derbyshire and Northamptonshire already relegated, the real question was which of Berkshire and Essex would land up in the play-off with one of the top Division 3 sides. Essex’s inability to see off the Surrey batsmen ultimately cost them big as they failed to secure enough bonus points, and will therefore face off against Suffolk in the play-off on Monday 27th August.

Full results and round-ups to follow.

*NB: This information is based on tweets from individual counties, rather than official scorecards, and may not be wholly accurate.

MATCH REPORT: Smith Makes KSL Case As Surrey Turn Up The Wattage At Wantage Road

Surrey made it from 2 from 2 this weekend in a clinical win against Northants at the Northamptonshire County Ground, beating their Division 2 opponents by 87 runs.

Bryony Smith led the charge, making 52 from 42 balls in an innings that will surely help to make the case for her return to the top of the order for Surrey Stars in this year’s Kia Super League.

“Our aim was to win both these 2 games convincingly and get as many bonus points as possible to help our promotion chances,” Smith told CRICKETher after close of play.

“I’ve had a few rough games so it was good the last few days to spend some time in the middle and get some runs on the board.”

“I’m looking ahead to the Super League to dominate in that back at the top of the order. The aim for me [for Surrey Stars] is to open again.”

The two sides were fortunate to get in a game at all after torrential rain fell overnight, leaving the original pitch unplayable due to moisture in the bowler’s run-up. But, after some creative conferring with the groundsmen, the game was moved across to a neighbouring wicket and a 29-overs-a-side match ensued, commencing at 3.30pm.

After winning the toss and putting Surrey in, the Northants bowlers looked dangerous early on, with Kirstie White surviving a convincing appeal for caught behind off Meera Patel’s first ball of the day, and Smith dropped by Alicia Presland off her own bowling after skying it when on just 9*.

The pair eventually added 89 for the first wicket as Smith in particular punished some short bowling, racking up 8 fours, 3 of which were clubbed over midwicket.

The introduction of off-spinner Emily Starr to the attack in the 11th over helped stem the flow as she bowled a consecutive 6-over spell that yielded 3 wickets for 25 runs, including both White (37) caught behind and Smith, bowled by a looping yorker just after bringing up her half-century.

Starr was instrumental, too, in Surrey’s late-order collapse, finishing with a catch and a run out to her name, leaving Extras (29) their third highest scorer and Surrey 8 wickets down at the end of their 29 overs.

Nonetheless Surrey’s total of 181 was always going to be an imposing one for a side whose highest score with the bat this season has been 127.

And while Northants kick-started their effort with successive boundaries in the first over from Amelia Gardner (17) through the off-side, her dismissal at the hands of Beth Kerins 6 overs in set the tone, as 5 Northants batsmen came and went by the 14th over.

Bethan Solomon (32*) and Meera Patel (19) shared a 32-run partnership for the 6th wicket but quickly fell well behind the required rate as the game eventually petered out to a slow conclusion.

For Surrey, it follows on from their annihilation of Derbyshire yesterday at the hands of Nat Sciver (180*) to leave the London-based club in the running for promotion to Division 1 as the Championship wraps up next weekend.