FEATURE: CRICKETher Editor Raf Nicholson Plays Women’s Soft Ball Cricket

Writing about cricket is one thing; but sometimes there is nothing quite the same as getting out there and playing it. I do plenty of the former, but there are times when I miss picking up a bat.

Last summer, the ECB launched its first Women’s Soft Ball Cricket Festivals: an initiative designed to get more women of all abilities playing the sport in a fun, relaxed environment. This year the scheme has been expanded, with hundreds of Soft Ball Festivals taking place across the country.

I last played cricket years ago, at university; my late entrance into the game (years of Nicholson Beach Cricket, but no formal coaching) meant that I was never destined for greatness. The problem for women like me is finding a route in to club cricket: how do we work out where our nearest club side is? And would we find a welcome there if we did?

Soft Ball Cricket is the perfect initiative in that respect: “It’s a game for absolutely everybody, no matter your skill level, fitness, or age,” say the ECB.

The Festival I took part in was held at Loughborough University, right before Loughborough Lightning’s KSL match against Southern Vipers last weekend. It was a perfect representation of the all-abilities, all-ages mantra: a local club side formed one team; another team was made up of mums and daughters; and the third, my side, was formed of individuals. All three sides therefore got to play two 8-over matches.

The way in which Soft Ball Cricket works is incredibly inclusive. Everyone gets the chance to bowl an over (either underarm or overarm), and everyone bats for 2 overs, alongside a partner. If you get out, you switch ends with your partner, and wait for another opportunity in a few balls time.

Not only did we get free Loughborough Lightning t-shirts (I’ve been sporting mine ever since!) but we also got free Pimms, strawberries and cream, and free tickets to the Lightning v Vipers match afterwards, which most of us stayed on to watch, sitting in deckchairs around the boundary.

Chatting to participants on the day, motivations were varied. Some were already playing local club cricket; some had daughters who play regularly, and wanted to try it out for themselves; and some, like me, had played previously, but a long time ago, and want to try and get back into the sport. (It seems likely that some of them will get their wish, too, with several of my teammates recruited on the spot to sign up for a local Midlands-based club!)

What I loved most about the day was the supportive atmosphere. There was no embarrassment in putting down a catch, or swinging dramatically at a ball and missing it completely (guilty as charged!) My team won our first match but lost our second; but it didn’t much matter. It was just great to be out playing in the sunshine, and having fun.

The ECB should be hugely applauded for the whole initiative, which fills a big gap at the recreational levels of the game, and which I hope will lead to many more women (and girls) finding an accessible way into playing our sport.

If you want to sign up to play Soft Ball Cricket, it’s not too late! Find a list of festivals available in your area here.

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KSL: Stars v Lightning – Stars Win Ugly At Guildford

In a rain-reduced 13-over match at Guildford, Surrey Stars got their 2018 KSL campaign back on track, winning in convincing if not particularly graceful fashion.

With Lightning 35-1 after the (shortened) 4 over powerplay, and Nat Sciver’s first over of the day having been punished for 19 runs, the away side initially looked on course for a good total.

Things then went from bad to worse for the Stars as Grace Gibbs, having seized the wicket of Amy Jones, went down hard attempting to field off her own bowling and had to be stretchered off to Guilford Hospital with a serious-looking knee injury.

Before play resumed, captain Nat Sciver took the opportunity to bring her side back into a huddle and try to set them back on course. “It was horrible to watch [Gibbs’ injury],” said Sciver after the match, “but we had to rally as a group.”

Rally they did, as wickets fell at regular intervals – Sophie Devine and Elyse Villani both caught in the deep; with the Stars also enacting two tidy run outs in the final over – and Lightning were eventually restricted to a total of 100-7.

Stars had won the toss and deliberately chosen to chase, with Sciver putting full faith in her batsmen: “We’ve had quite a bit of success chasing in the competition so far and we’ve got a long batting line-up,” Sciver said.

Yet the 62-run partnership for the first wicket between Lizelle Lee and Bryony Smith was built more on good fortune than good cricket. Smith was dropped off successive Devine deliveries when on 5*, top-edging to Jones behind the stumps and then put down by Rachael Haynes at extra cover; she was subsequently dropped AGAIN by Villani at long on, when on 21*. When the speaker system blasted out Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer after she was finally dismissed by Jenny Gunn for 31 in the 8th over, it seemed rather apt.

Lee was the woman of the hour, fresh from her 37-ball 70 in Stars’ previous match v Thunder on Tuesday, and one of the players in the competition most capable of taking full advantage of the 13-over situation. Certainly Syd and I, sitting on the long off boundary, were very conscious that we might well be in her “firing line”!

But she, too, enjoyed her fair share of good fortune, also put down when still in single figures; and while she did eventually produce some of the huge boundaries she is renowned for, including one six over deep midwicket that nearly ended up in Woodbridge Road, today’s 28-ball 48 was probably overall still more slog than skill.

Nonetheless a win is a win and, crucially, today’s result (along with Thunder’s loss to Storm over in Taunton) takes Stars back up into third position, and well in the running to claim their spot at Finals Day.

KSL: Vipers v Diamonds – Diamonds’ Faith In Thea Brookes Shows KSL Bridging The Gap

Yorkshire Diamonds may have fallen short today in their match against Southern Vipers, but they will take plenty of comfort from the performance of Thea Brookes.

Promoted up the order to number 4 in the absence of Lauren Winfield with (would you believe it!) food poisoning, Brookes entered the fray today with her side 15-2 and in danger of an embarrassing collapse.

But Brookes appeared unfazed, racking up 45 off 36 balls at a strike rate of 125.00, in an innings that included 7 boundaries.

“I’m so proud of the fact that the coaches can trust me to go up the order,” she reflected after the match. “It allows me to play with freedom, and that for me is a win in itself. I’m thrilled to have that opportunity.”

The highlight of her innings was a six sent back over the head of Suzie Bates to bring up 50 for the Diamonds, in an over that was punished for 13 runs and sent Vipers’ captain and senior bowler Bates out of the attack until the 18th over.

It was an impressive performance from a player who has generally hit big lower down the order in KSL, often when the result was already a foregone conclusion, but before today had never batted in the top 4 in the tournament.

“I went to the coaches and said: ‘I’m more than happy to come up the order slightly, to try and relieve a bit of pressure off the internationals,” Brookes said. “If they can come in with runs on the board it’s a bit different than if we’re losing a couple of quick wickets early.” Tactically, her promotion made absolute sense: before today in KSL 2018 Brookes had a strike rate of 164.77, higher than almost all her teammates.

Brookes was also complimentary of Katherine Brunt’s captaincy, after she stepped into the breach with Winfield out of the reckoning. Brookes had not yet bowled an over in KSL 2018 when Brunt today chose to entrust her with the 17th, at a crucial juncture in the Vipers innings.

“I thanked her in the changing rooms after,” Brookes said. “Just thanked her for the trust. It’s like having a pat on the back saying, ‘we believe in you mate, you can do this, have the ball and have a go’. It’s belief in my ability. It was so nice.”

That trust was repaid handsomely when Brookes conceded just 4 runs from her over and also picked up the key wicket of Mignon du Preez, bowling her round her legs as Vipers failed to make hay, from that over at least.

Will Brookes retain her spot at number 4 when Winfield returns to the fray? Brookes certainly hopes so: “If I can bat at 4 every game, happy days!” she said.

And from a Diamonds perspective, it also makes sense. Because in a tournament where scores above 160 are becoming the norm, it is players who can bat like Thea Brookes that are the future.

KSL: Lightning v Vipers – Are Vipers the Unluckiest Team in the Super League?

In their previous KSL game, against the Diamonds, Southern Vipers fell agonisingly short in their run chase, reaching 163-9 after Diamonds had racked up 175-5. It was the highest ever aggregate score in a KSL match, but it was the Vipers who were on the wrong end of the result.

Today, with Loughborough Lightning needing 11 runs off the final over and Suzie Bates tasked with bowling it, you’d probably have had your money on Vipers to defend their substantial 172-run total. Nonetheless it was Lightning who triumphed, Elyse Villani’s six finishing things off with two balls to spare.

With just 1 win in their 6 opening matches, and Finals Day now all but out of reach*, some have questioned whether something has “gone wrong” for Vipers this season, and asked when they might start putting in the performances that would enable them to turn things around. In actuality, this is a side who have now put in two consecutive match-winning performances, but haven’t won either contest. T20 is a format of the game that can hang on the way the cards fall: and sometimes the luck just doesn’t go your way.

Today, after Sara McGlashan and Arran Brindle’s 71-run partnership ensured a strong finish to their innings, it definitely felt at the halfway stage that Vipers had their fangs into their opponents. Then, after Lightning had motored away to reach 100 in the 11th over with only 2 wickets down, it felt again that things had swung back in Vipers’ favour – Brindle making the crucial breakthrough to have the in-form batsman Rachael Haynes caught at point, just after reaching her half century.

But somebody at Vipers has clearly offended the cricketing gods. Two balls after the Haynes wicket Villani (who went on to reach 61*) was inches away from being run out; but survived by the skin of her teeth. Then, coming back to bowl her next over, Brindle was forced to leave the field one ball in after Georgia Elwiss pelted the ball straight back through her hands – Brindle dislocating a finger in her attempt to take the return catch. Finally, with Fi Morris beginning the following over, Tash Farrant dived to save a boundary at deep backward square and couldn’t get back up again. She eventually left the pitch with the help of medical staff, appearing to have dislocated her shoulder.

With 2 sub fielders brought on, Vipers were still in with a chance, especially while Lightning proceeded to throw away several more wickets – Elwiss run out; Georgia Adams and Jenny Gunn holing out and caught in the deep when singles would have sufficed – but Villani, fortunately for her team, kept a cool head.

And so Lightning continue what looks to be their inevitable charge towards Finals Day, in a performance that has surprised everyone. But maybe luck has played a role there as well? It was only two months ago that we found out that Ellyse Perry had dropped out of this year’s KSL. Her very-last-minute replacement? None other than the heroine of the hour, Elyse Villani…

*We think it is still mathematically possible for Vipers to reach Finals Day, but it would rely on several matches being rained off and all other results going their way.

BOOK REVIEW: Enid Bakewell: Coalminer’s Daughter by Simon Sweetman

£15.00 (ACS Publications) – Click here to buy

There are few bigger characters in cricket than Enid Bakewell, so who better to feature as the first female subject in the ACS’s Lives in Cricket series? Still playing cricket in her mid-70s, this book is a welcome and long overdue biography of the “coalminer’s daughter” from Newstead, a (former) mining village in Nottinghamshire.

The book revolves around the words of Enid herself: “it is her recollections that have driven this book”, writes Sweetman. This is one of its strengths. Amusing anecdotes are interspersed throughout, like the time she was “bribed” for every five-fer she took on the 1968/9 tour of Australia and New Zealand with port and lemon: “Dad was a Methodist so I had no experience of drink. When you get port and lemon here it’s mostly lemonade but it’s wine growing country round Adelaide so it was the other way round. But I managed to realise when it was getting a wee bit over the top.” Whether you have had the pleasure of meeting the great lady or not, she will jump right off the page at you as you work your way through Sweetman’s text.

The title Coalminer’s Daughter is an apt one: some of the most interesting sections in the book are those which deal with Enid’s background. Born on December 16, 1940 to parents Thomas and Mabel, she grew up in somewhat constrained circumstances, sharing a bedroom with her parents in their small village house until she was 17. Forbidden from playing cricket at school, Sweetman relates how she fell into cricket rather by accident, introduced by a teacher to the lady who ran the Nottingham Women’s Club. Attending grammar school then led onto a place at Dartford College of Physical Education, and to Enid becoming a PE teacher, which enabled her to continue with cricket. This is one of the most intriguing parts of Enid’s story: amongst the sea of middle-class, wealthy female cricketers that populated the sport up until the 1980s, she was the exception to the rule.

Throughout the text, there runs the theme of barriers to Enid’s cricketing journey which she had to overcome.  At Dartford, we learn, she overcame serious injury – “wounds on her ankles that turned septic” – before being able to return and qualify as a PE teacher. Cricket in her world was “unladylike” and she tells of not being able to teach it at school after she qualified as a teacher for this very reason: unperturbed, she formed an after-school club to teach the girls in her own time.

Motherhood, too, failed to get in the way of Enid’s dreams of playing for England: according to Sweetman she was still playing cricket at 5 months pregnant with her first, a daughter, who she left behind while still a toddler to go on the 1968/9 tour of Australia and New Zealand. It was time well spent: that was the tour that made her name as an international cricketer, during which she became the first cricketer to score 1000 runs and take 100 wickets in the same tour.

Enid’s close relationship with her father shines throughout the text. Thomas Turton, we learn, “had studied midwifery in case of need” when his wife became pregnant with Enid – not something one might have expected from a miner in the 1940s! Clearly supportive of Enid’s journey to the top levels of women’s cricket, he was himself at one time the president of the East Midlands Women’s Cricket Association; and when Enid became involved in politics later in life, elected to Ashfield District Council, she makes it clear that she was following in her father’s footsteps.

At times there are frustrations, particularly for the historian. Sweetman is above all a statistician, and his high regard for numbers means the text is populated by long lists of scores that break up the flow of the text, sometimes without proper contextualisation. It’s mentioned, for example, that Enid played cricket for the “Green Circle”, without any explanation as to what this organisation might have been (I was already aware that it was a reunion club for WCA members who had travelled overseas: other readers might be somewhat puzzled).

This also means that any controversy is quickly glossed over: the 1977 affair whereby Rachael Heyhoe-Flint was dismissed as England captain and became embroiled in a huge falling-out with the Women’s Cricket Association is dismissed in a few lines. One feels that Enid is rather let off the hook in the chapters on the “rebel” women’s tours to South Africa in the 1980s in which she participated, in flagrant disregard of the 1977 Gleneagles Agreement. Sweetman quotes Enid unproblematically saying that conditions in Soweto were “not as bad as the press made out”, an interpretation that is somewhat hard to swallow.

There are a couple of glaring errors, too, that I’m surprised weren’t picked up pre-publication: Sweetman claims that the 1968/9 England Women tour to Australia and New Zealand was the first in 20 years, when in fact they had toured there in 1957/8. He also suggests that South Africa’s last women’s Test was staged in 1961 when in actuality they have played plenty more in the modern era, the most recent in India in November 2014.

But ultimately the book, which concludes with Enid’s induction to the ICC Hall of Fame in 2012 alongside Brian Lara, itself serves as another form of recognition for a woman who undoubtedly deserves it. As such, it’s well worth a read.

KSL: Storm v Lightning – Storm Take Advantage Of Storm

The rain that fell in Taunton overnight and this morning may have negatively affected Sky’s coverage – those of us watching at home suffered no commentary for the first 3 overs and very poor image quality throughout – but it did set up an ideal game situation for Western Storm. Of all the teams in the competition, they have the batting firepower to flourish in a 6-over situation, and so it proved. Lightning fans can probably rightly feel slightly aggrieved that they haven’t had the chance to prove themselves properly against the defending champions.

For Storm, Smriti Mandhana is proving to have been a genius overseas “buy”, with 137 runs off 60 balls in the first 3 matches at a breathtaking strike rate of 228. A couple of stats from Hypocaust support the point:

By contrast the conservative batting of Rachael Haynes (who finished with 18 off 15 balls) ultimately cost Lightning the game. Going at a run a ball was never going to be enough in this situation. One almost felt that Lightning had lost the match before they even started their innings – Haynes isn’t known for her power-hitting and to see her walking out and even facing the first ball ahead of partner Sophie Devine smacked of uber-conservative decision-making. Devine did her damnedest, but even she couldn’t make the runs alone.

For Storm, credit should go to fast bowler Freya Davies, who captain Heather Knight entrusted with bowling 2 of their 6 overs. That trust was repaid handsomely – Davies kept it tight, and by conceding only 9 runs from her first over, turned the game hugely in Storm’s favour: one over like that and Lightning’s chances of chasing down the runs were already greatly reduced.

Finally, if you haven’t already, do have a watch of our review of week 1 of the KSL, recorded just before this match took place.

KSL: Vipers v Lightning – Have We Underestimated Loughborough Lightning?

Before today, in the 2 years since the Kia Super League was launched, Southern Vipers had never been bowled out. Now they have; and all the talk pre-competition about their strong batting line-up suddenly sounds rather hollow.

The demeanour of Tammy Beaumont in the post-match interview certainly suggested that this was a match her side expected to win. “It’s quite frustrating to lose this game tonight,” she admitted. “It’s a tough one to take.”

Beaumont was clear about what went wrong. Steering away from blaming dropped catches (both Elyse Villani and Amy Jones were dropped when on 20*) or tight run-out chances (a third-umpire review saving Jones after a Bates direct hit), Beaumont said, simply: “Getting bowled out for 105 cost us the game.”

Her description of it as “a naive batting performance” just about summed it up. From an England perspective Danni Wyatt’s continuing weakness against spin – once again she was dismissed caught on the ring – will be a concern ahead of the WWT20. A bigger, more immediate problem for Vipers is Suzie Bates’ slump in form, which has come at the worst possible time for them, and culminated today in her first ever duck in either KSL or WBBL. Whether Vipers can make Finals Day will likely depend on whether she can recover some semblance of her usual prowess with the bat over the next couple of weeks.

Amy Jones, meanwhile, praised the performance of Lightning’s younger players, who she said had “really stepped up in the first 2 games”. In particular credit should go to 18-year-old Sarah Glenn, whose economy rate of 3.50 was far and away the best of all the Lightning bowlers, an important feat in a game that could have been much closer than it was, had just 15 more runs been added by Vipers.

Lightning’s run chase was, as it transpired, relatively straightforward. Though Amelia Kerr was dazzlingly brilliant – her 4 overs (2 of which were bowled in the powerplay) going for just 6 runs and her variations tying both Amy Jones and Elyse Villani in knots – the required run rate never rose above 6 an over. “We didn’t have to force anything, which allowed us to just see her off and then take advantage of some of the other bowlers,” Jones said.

And so it’s Lightning, not Vipers, who go 2 from 2; and Lightning who have now bowled out both the sides they have faced in the competition. We predicted a mid-table finish for them, but maybe we’ve underestimated Loughborough Lightning?

Amy Jones definitely thinks so. “We’ve got a really good squad and our younger players have really stepped up in the first 2 games. We should be a contender [for the title].”

After tonight, it’s hard to disagree.

POST-MATCH: New Zealand Recklessness Costs Them At Bristol

At the start of this match, as Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine walked out to open the batting, I thought it rather odd that they hadn’t chosen to mix up the batting order. With 2 openers on fire and the rest of the line-up distinctly under-cooked, why not give the middle order an outing ahead of Sunday’s final?

As it turned out, the batting order didn’t matter a jot.

There are two wrong ways to approach T20 cricket. The first is to do as Laura Wolvaardt and Dane van Niekerk did earlier today and form a partnership where, while you might manage to hang around, neither of you is able to bat at a strike rate of anything like 100. The second is to bosh it all over, but get yourselves out. New Zealand became masters of the second approach today.

On 64-2, halfway through their innings and with the lean, mean fighting machine that is Sophie Devine unbeaten at one end, what New Zealand really needed was for a measured, mature approach to batting at the other. What they got was a middle order that, after Amy Satterthwaite fell victim to Katie George’s full, straight slower ball, collapsed in a heap – their last 7 wickets falling for 38 runs.

England fielded like tigresses – the highlights another stumping to add to Sarah “Legside” Taylor’s showreel; and two absolutely outstanding catches in the deep by Amy Jones off the bowling of Anya Shrubsole, Jones diving forwards both times to snatch the ball out of the air.

But New Zealand displayed a recklessness that England were able to take advantage of: slogging when they needed to defend; sweeping when they needed to play straight. Instead of letting Devine field the strike, they tried and failed to do her job for her.

Meanwhile Devine, who had said at the halfway point that a par score on this pitch was 150, looked on from the other end in disbelief.

“We just didn’t have enough batters that played smart enough cricket there with Sophie at the end,” Suzie Bates told us after the match. “She knew she could put her foot down and accelerate the innings but partners didn’t stick with her. It made it difficult for Sophie to kick on – she was caught in 2 minds which is never easy.”

Were they tired after that first game v South Africa? “It wasn’t about being tired – it just wasn’t clinical cricket. We play 50 over cricket and we’ve trained hard for this. I just don’t think we were smart enough.”

Looking ahead to Sunday’s final, Bates was upbeat:

“We can only get better after that second effort today! We’ve got to take what we did against South Africa and do it for longer.”

But the ease with which England chased down the required runs – a beautiful half-century from Sarah Taylor, plus unbeaten contributions from Nat Sciver and Heather Knight, as England’s middle-order did what New Zealand’s had failed to do and steadied the ship – surely suggests that a win for the home side at Chelmsford is the most likely result, come the weekend.

MATCH REPORT: Career Best For Davies As Sussex Show Their Edge At Edgbaston

Sussex put in two convincing performances in the third round of the T20 Cup at Edgbaston Foundation Ground, beating both Warwickshire and Lancashire as Freya Davies took 4-8, the best ever T20 bowling performance by a Sussex player.

Meanwhile Warwickshire kept themselves in contention for the trophy by beating Lancashire, Becky Grundy taking 4-14 and Ria Fackrell top-scoring with 37.

Warwickshire v Sussex

In the first match of the day, Sussex bowled Warwickshire out for 67 to win by 42 runs, despite being a bowler short.

Sussex had racked up 109 runs in their 20 overs, making the most of the powerplay as Georgia Adams (32) and Izzy Collis (19) hit 8 boundaries between them.

Both eventually fell victim to Becky Grundy (4-10) but Sussex continued to battle hard, with Linsey Smith struggling on through injury to reach 26, Paige Scholfield doing an excellent job as her runner – a situation as unfamiliar to the players at this level as it was to us watching on from the boundary.

The injury left Smith unable to bowl, however, putting pressure on opening bowlers Freya Davies and Chiara Green to strike early.

Davies rose to the challenge, not giving an inch as her first 2-over spell yielded 2 wickets for 7 runs, including inducing a feather edge from Millie Home to Abi Freeborn behind the stumps.

Green then chipped in with 2 wickets of her own, including that of the dangerous-looking Ria Fackrell, bowled for 26.

Meanwhile captain Georgia Adams (3-9) also contributed with the ball, decimating Warwickshire’s middle order despite having barely bowled a ball all season.

It was Davies, though, who wrapped things up in the 17th over with the final 2 wickets, finishing with incredible figures of 4-8.

Sussex v Lancashire

Lancashire’s opening partnership of Eve Jones and Emma Lamb has been crucial to them this season, but after putting Lancashire in to bat it was Sussex that got the early breakthrough in the second over, as Jones was bowled by Chiara Green for 4.

This brought Danielle Collins to the crease, but she didn’t last long either – edging a rising ball from Freya Davies to Abi Freeborn behind the stumps for 8.

Emma Lamb found the boundary twice with a couple of powerful strokes before giving up her wicket in rather tame fashion on 11, dinking Beth Harvey straight to Davies at square leg, to leave Lancashire 25-3.

With Nancy Harman accounting for Kate Cross, bowled for 5, Lancashire looked in danger of disintegrating, but Ellie Threlkeld and Natalie Brown (21) restored some credibility to the scorebook with a stand of 40 before Brown hit a big hoik down to cow corner where she was well caught by Tara Norris running round from long on.

Threlkeld finished 41* as Lancashire closed on 109-6.

After her remarkable debut last weekend, young left-arm seamer Millie Hodge opened the bowling for Lancashire, going for consecutive boundaries off her first 2 balls to Georgia Adams, before Adams survived a big appeal for a stumping off the third.

At the other end, Kate Cross ran in hard to clean bowl Paige Scholfield in her first over, but by her third over was starting to leak runs as Izzy Collis paddled successive leg-side deliveries for 4.

At the halfway mark Sussex were well-placed at 67-1, with Adams on 40* and Collis on 21* – both batsmen reaping the rewards of hitting up and over the ring. The pair cruised on, Adams passing 50 in the 13th over.

Lancashire brought Kate Cross back for her final over to try to break the partnership, but it proved to be a futile last throw of the dice.

Four leg-byes off Adams’ toe in the next over from Natalie Brown brought a cry of “Unbelievable!” from the bowler which could be heard on the boundary (and we suspect well beyond!), and which rather summed things up from a Lancashire perspective. This was not a match they should have lost by 9 wickets… and they didn’t, as Adams was caught for 61 with the scores level, the match ending when Brown sent the next ball wide, to gift Sussex an 8-wicket victory and 2-from-2 for the day.

Warwickshire v Lancashire

The Warwickshire top order fought back hard in the final game of the day with their top 3 all making scores – Gwenan Davies 34, Ria Fackrell 37 and Milly Home 25 – as they beat Lancashire by 26 runs.

Chasing 126, Lancashire lost in-form Eve Jones early, run out in the 3rd over trying for a quick single by a direct hit from Georgia Davis at mid on.

Emma Lamb initially looked as if she might make the required runs on her own, as she raced to 30* after 7 overs, with her side’s total at that point 38-3.

But once again Davis proved her worth in the field, taking an excellent catch at midwicket to dismiss Lamb. Congratulating her afterwards, one spectator described it as “the catch that won the match” – it’s hard to disagree.

It was left to Becky Grundy to dismantle the Lancashire middle order, finishing with figures of 4-14 across her 4 overs; and though Nalisha Patel and Millie Hodge put on an impressive 32-run partnership for the 9th wicket and were both unbeaten at the end, they ultimately fell way short of the total.

Having won the toss and chosen to bat, Davies and Fackrell had set the foundation for Warwickshire up top, putting on 58 for the first wicket in the first 10 overs as they pushed hard to rotate the strike.

After Davies was caught by Kate Cross at mid on off Laura Jackson’s first ball of the innings, Fackrell and Home then rode their luck – the Lancashire fielders putting down several catches – to take the score past 100.

Lancashire pegged them back in the final few overs, taking 3 quick wickets as Kate Cross – released from England duty – finished with 1-24 and a run out to her name; but 126 looked an imposing total, and so it proved.

POST-MATCH: Ecclestone Excellence Makes It Easy For England v New Zealand

After Wednesday, this was the match that we all wanted to see: the titans v the titans.

For the home crowd at Taunton, it didn’t disappoint. For the neutral, though, it ended up somewhat undercooked.

From an England perspective the biggest positive was the way in which they picked themselves up after defeat to South Africa earlier in the day. They could so easily have been down-and-out psychologically; but whatever Mark Robinson said to them after the first game clearly worked its magic. “The team showed a lot of character,” reflected Player of the Match Sophie Ecclestone after play.

None showed it more than Ecclestone, who was the standout star. Once again she was belted for runs by Lizelle Lee in the first match of the day; once again she came back stronger, ending with 2 wickets in her final over.

Then, against New Zealand she was steely-calm, starting off with a maiden that forced the wicket of the dangerous Suzie Bates in the following over; and coming back in her second over to break the Katey Martin-Maddie Green partnership; before finishing off the New Zealand tail to finish with 4-18.

But it was perhaps with the bat that she did the most important job.

Tammy Beaumont, speaking in the break between the games, had been clear what England needed to do on this pitch: “165 / 170 is par.” It might have slowed down a little since Wednesday; but not that much. Earlier in the day against South Africa, 160 had simply not been enough.

When England lost 3 wickets in the space of 6 balls in the 17th and 18th overs, leaving them 140-7, “par” looked a way off.

But by the end of the innings you ended up wondering what you’d been worrying about – across the last 3 overs, Anya Shrubsole and Ecclestone (plus a brief cameo from Dani Hazell) between them added 32 runs, England finishing on 172-8.

While it’s been a hallmark of this England side that they bat deep, “genuine number 12” Sophie Ecclestone (to coin a Don Miles phrase) was hardly the player you would have expected to punish Sophie Devine for four.

And the sight of Anya Shrubsole sending Leigh Kasperek over the top for the only maximum of the innings was equally unexpected.

“If we’d kept them under 160 the momentum would have been in our favour,” reflected Suzie Bates after the game. It wasn’t; and more to the point it put the pressure on the Kiwi top order, right from the outset. Bates summed it up: “When you are chasing over 10 an over it makes any bowler look better.”

Afterwards, Ecclestone reflected on her innings in a succinct but apt manner: “I love batting! To get out there and give it a whack is fun to do.”

Coach Mark Robinson, whose mantra as coach has been “go out and bat with freedom”, should be very, very proud of his young protege.