LIVE BLOG: Hampshire v Sussex

11.00 – Welcome to the Battle of the Vipers! We are at Brighton to watch Hampshire take on Sussex in two T20 matches. EXCITING NEWS that Sarah Taylor will be keeping wicket today for Sussex as part of her domestic comeback. Her first competitive cricket since 2019. Her quality endures!

11.02 – Ella Chandler and Maia Bouchier are opening the batting after Hampshire won the toss – Chandler fresh from helping her club side Aldershot to a big win against Hursley Park yesterday. Chandler edges Tara Norris’s first ball over the head of first slip – it’s all happening here! They take 9 off it – 9-0 after the first over.

11.10 – WICKET! After a couple of lovely shots, Bouchier miscues a pull shot and is caught at deep square leg. Good low catch from Cassidy McCarthy. New pro Tara Norris looks to have gained a bit of pace over the summer! Hampshire 17-1.

11.22 – WICKET! Chiara Green turns one into Charlie Dean and bowls her. 42-2 in the 6th.

11.39 – WICKET! Sarah Taylor is in the action and whips off the bails to have Fi Morris stumped off a wide – her trademark! At the halfway stage, Hampshire are 61-3 – Chandler 30*.

11.57 – WICKET! Sussex finally break the Chandler-Ariana Dowse partnership – Dowse falls LBW to Mary Taylor. The pair added 32 for that wicket – 88-4 in the 16th.

12.01 – WICKET! Some scrambling going on here – Abbie Whybrow has been dropped twice and had to dive to get home on the first occasion after ball-watching, but she is hanging on out there… Finally Tara Norris hangs onto a c&b and Whybrow goes. Hampshire 97-5 with 3 overs to come.

12.06 – WICKET! Mary Taylor picks up her second – Alice Monaghan clean bowled for a duck.

12.11 – WICKET! Chandler has been holding it together for Hampshire, but falls 9 runs short of her half-century – run out by a direct hit from cover. She’s looked in very good touch today so Charlotte Edwards (who is here watching) will be pleased!

12.18 – Hampshire finish on 114-8. Innings tailed off a bit towards the end, and Sarah Taylor picked up another stumping in the final over. Sussex probably favourites here.

12.35 – WICKET! That’s a big one. Last year’s star of the RHF Georgia Adams is bowled by Gemma Lane and trudges off for just 1. Sussex 1-1… and that brings Sarah Taylor to the crease. Looking forward to this!

12.48 – Alice Monaghan making Sarah Taylor duck and dive a bit in her opening over! Sussex 14-1 after 5 overs.

13.02 – WICKET! That is HUGE for Hampshire. Just as Taylor looked to be getting into her stride, Charlie Dean comes on and fools her with some uneven bounce – she is bowled for 28. Sussex are 42-2 in the 9th and behind the rate – could that be the tipping point?

13.08 – WICKET! Ella Mac never quite got going today and Fi Morris finally puts her out of her misery – she goes caught behind for 10 off 25 balls.

13.16 – WICKET! Dean gets her second – Norris tries to reverse her but is caught at short third man. Great running catch from Finty Trussler (who we’ve never seen before but what a brilliant name!)

13.22 – WICKET! Trussler chimes in with the ball now. Chiara Green mistimed a drive to Fi Morris at long on – well held by Morris. Sussex 57-5 after 14 overs. This game is definitely heading in Hampshire’s direction.

13.27 – WICKET! Monaghan beats Emily Spooner for pace, and she is bowled. Identical twins Taylor and Taylor now at the crease. Pity the poor scorer because no one can tell them apart!

13.32 – WICKETS! Trussler takes two in two! One of the Taylors (don’t ask me which) falls caught behind and then Cassidy McCarthy skies one. Sussex 64-8 after 15 overs.

13.35 – WICKET. Poor running from Sussex – Beth Harvey is run out for 1.

13.38 – Hat trick ball for Trussler! Taylor gets an edge but it flies over the keeper’s head.

13.39 – HAMPSHIRE WIN (by a lot). Fi Morris takes a brilliant catch in the deep and Sussex are bowled out for 67 in 18 overs. Finty Trussler finishes with excellent figures of 4-12.

———

14.40 – Play underway here in the second T20 at Brighton. Sussex batting first this time. They’ve been allowed to start a bit earlier than 3pm as both sides have agreed, as it’s “only” a friendly.

14.57 – Sussex 18-0 at the end of a very sedate powerplay.

15.05 – WICKET! Ella Mac swings and misses and is bowled by Fi Morris. Sussex 36-1 off 8 overs.

15.12 – After 10 overs, Sussex are 47-1 – have picked up the pace somewhat. Gads 25*.

15.18 – WICKET! Fi Morris gets another and it’s Adams this time, who is given out LBW. Got in a muddle with that one and didn’t seem to move her feet. 54-2 after 12.

15.20 – New batter Tara Norris is batting in short sleeves. It’s about minus 5 degrees. Brave, or stupid? 😁

15.24 – WICKET! Norris can go and put a jumper on now. Slashed wildly outside off stump and caught behind. Finty Trussler has another!

15.34 – Syd says that if this over was a spy novel it would be called “Taylor Taylor Taylor Spy”. (Charlotte bowling to Sarah and Mary.) Sussex 75-3 after 17.

15.46 – WICKETS! Mary Taylor stumped and Chiara Green bowled in the last over – two more scalps in the bag for Trussler, who has picked up 7 wickets in total today. Sarah Taylor stranded on 29*, while Sussex finish on 90-5, which Hampshire should really be able to chase… if the weather holds!

16.03 – Hampshire’s chase begins with an early WICKET – Bouchier holes out to deep square leg in the first over. 6-1.

16.15 – Ella Chandler has retired hurt. She was hit on the side of her helmet and the concern is obviously a possible concussion. Essential to take these things seriously so she is quite rightly coming off.

16.31 – Hampshire 40-1 after 7. Charlie Dean and Fi Morris making good progress.

16.48 – Hampshire 72-1 after 12. Dean 20* off 24 and Morris 34* off 34. They really are making short work of this.

16.59 – HAMPSHIRE WIN BY 9 WICKETS. Dean 26*, Morris 47*. A good day for Hampshire who finish 2 from 2 – both easy wins.

MATCH REPORT: Rowe Makes Case For Regionals As Kent Draw First Blood In London Championship

An aggressive 65-ball 63 from Susie Rowe made the difference, as Kent beat Essex in the opening round of the 2021 London Championship by 46 runs.

Rowe, who staged a comeback in competitive cricket last summer representing South East Stars in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, was by far the top-scorer from both sides on a pitch that was so green it looked like it wouldn’t know what a mower was if it ran it over.

“It didn’t come on that well,” Rowe said after the match. “There wasn’t much pace in it. You had to really wait for it and watch it. It meant you had to be quite aggressive and quite bold to get runs.”

“It was a tricky one but we got a score that we were able to defend. Essex got off to a good start but we were able to pull it back and come away with a decent victory.”

Essex had finished the 2020 mini-season winless, but came back fighting to turn their match against reigning 50-over County Champions Kent into a real contest – bowling the Horses out for 203.

Essex’s line-up were buoyed by the addition of Sunrisers’ Jo Gardner and Lissy Macleod, more usually found sporting Warwickshire and Berkshire shirts respectively.

However, both were keen to get some 50-over cricket under their belts before the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy begins later this month, and both made crucial interventions for Essex.

With the ball, Jo Gardner (3-37) took out the middle stump of Kent openers Megan Sturge and Sarah Bryce in successive overs, after Kent had reached 65 without loss.

Macleod, after bagging a couple of wickets with her off-spin, then led the charge at the top of the batting order, as Essex raced to 58-0 in their first 15 overs.

But 17-year-old Kalea Moore made the crucial breakthrough, trapping Macleod LBW for 28, while two run outs in quick succession dented Essex’s progress to the target still further.

It was the second spell from England left-armer Kirstie Gordon which really tore the heart out of their chase, though. Gordon – playing in just her third match for Kent after being handed her county cap in the T20 Cup last weekend – struck immediately to see off both Hayley Brown and Katherine Speed LBW, finishing with 4-23 as Essex were bowled out for 157 in 40 overs.

“It was a very green pitch, so we always knew that if we got a wicket there was a chance to get into them and take a cluster of wickets, and that’s exactly what Kirstie did,” said Rowe. “It was needed because at that stage the game could have gone either way.”

This year’s South East Stars squad is yet to be announced, but after today’s performance it would seem to be a no-brainer that Rowe’s name should be firmly on the team sheet when Stars play their opening fixture of the trophy against Sunrisers on 29 May.

LIVE BLOG: Essex v Kent

11.00 – We’ve arrived at Chigwell for the opening encounter of the 2021 London Championship – Essex v Kent. Essex are sporting their new kit (Top Secret ™️) and a few new faces including Sunrisers Lissy Macleod and Jo Gardner. A good way for them to get some 50-over practice in ahead of this year’s RHF! Trevor Griffin is obviously setting some store by this game as he has braved the cold to be here and watch in person.

11.20 – HYGIENE BREAK! Essex won the toss and chose to bat. Kent are opening with Sarah Bryce, who looks in beautiful touch, and Megan Sturge. They’ve put on 24-0 in the opening 6 overs (Bryce 17*). The weather can’t quite make up its mind so we are alternately freezing and too hot!

11.51 – WICKET! Essex make their first breakthrough. New pro Jo Gardner, in her second over of the day, clean bowls Megan Sturge with a straight one. Kent 57-1 after 15 overs.

12.01 – WICKET! That’s the big one. Sarah Bryce departs for 33 and Jo Gardner picks up her second. The ball hit top of middle stump – perfect! Kent 61-2 and ex-England batter Susie Rowe walks to the crease. PS It’s cold.

12.05 – There is a live stream of the Vipers warm-up match on the Isle of Wight available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=di1WvEPKnOQ

Personally we don’t think they should be able to use the term “warm-up” when it’s 3 degrees outside.

12.35 – At the halfway stage, Kent have just brought up 3 figures – 102-2 after 25 overs. Susie Rowe is adding some much-needed impetus – she’s on 26 off 25 balls and has already played the shot of the day, a beautiful cut behind square for four. Kent look to be on top at the moment.

12.47 – WICKET! Maxine Blythin feather edges Kelly Castle behind the stumps. Kent 117-3 in the 29th.

13.01 – WICKET! Scarlett Hughes stumps Kalea Moore and Kent lose their fourth. 131-4 in the 32nd.

13.10 – FIFTY FOR SUSIE ROWE! Rowe brings up her half-century in the 35th over with a boundary – she’s got there off just 51 balls, at a crucial time for Kent. Kirstie Gordon is at the other end now, and crunches a boundary to wrap up the over. Kent 150-4 after 35.

13.25 – WICKET! Rowe skies one to Beth Harmer at point. Harmer has been on fire in the field today – this time, the ball hangs in the air ominously but she takes it successfully. Important to get rid of Rowe, who looked pretty set on 63. Kent now 165-5 with 11 overs remaining of the innings.

13.30 – WICKET! Kent 167-6. Gordon falls cutting lavishly and is caught at backward point. Lissy Macleod has her second victim of the day. Kent falling apart a bit here!

13.35 – WICKET! Megan Belt drives straight to the extra cover fielder and Kent are 168-6.

13.53 – Kent are pushing on here – 194-7 after 46 overs. Essex are getting a bit sloppy in the field – Macleod has just had two relatively straightforward catches put down off her bowling. It looks like Kent will get to 200, which is always an important signifier in this format and (we THINK!) will mean they get maximum batting bonus points.

13.55 – WICKET! Jelfs goes, belting it to deep midwicket. She did well with a handy run-a-ball 19 there. Kent 194-8.

14.00 – WICKET! Kent’s 9th wicket falls with the score on 197. Esmae MacGregor takes out the middle stump!

14.03 – WICKET! Underdogs Essex have bowled Kent out for 203 in the 48th over. That’s a bit of a turn up! MacGregor finishes with 3-for.

15.05 – Play has resumed here at Chigwell! Essex going along nicely – 23-0 after 7 overs, with Macleod and Harmer opening up. We’ve just recorded our weekly vodcast and it will be going up on the site tomorrow, so be sure to keep an eye out for it!

15.10 – THE SUN IS SHINING. THIS IS NOT A DRILL ☀️

15.40 – WICKET(S)! After a good start, Essex have now lost 2 wickets in the space of 2 overs – Macleod LBW to Kalea Moore, and now Jessica Bird disastrously run out trying to scamper a single, but sent back by partner Harmer. Essex 65-2 after 17 overs.

15.54 – WICKET! Oh no – disaster for Essex as ANOTHER player falls to a run out. Beth Harmer pushed the ball out to extra cover, then went for the single but Kelly Castle was having none of it and sent her straight back. Out by a fair way. Kent 85-3.

16:10 – After 25 overs, Essex are 103-3 – ever so slightly ahead of the rate – the game is finely poised.

16:20 – WICKET! Kelly Castle comes down the track to Megan Belt, misses, and is stumped by Sarah Bryce for 27. 108-4 now, after 28.

16:23 – WICKET! Kirstie Gordon comes back and takes a wicket LBW with the first ball of her new spell – gave the appeal 120% and the umpire just couldn’t turn it down. 108-5.

16:27 – WICKET! Rinse and repeat – Gordon has another LBW as Katherine Speed tries to play around her pads and is trapped right in front. 109-6.

16:31 – WICKET! Would you Adam’n’Eve it? Gordon’s got another – Jo Gardner bowled by one that kept low; and Essex are sinking towards defeat.

16:50 – WICKET! Cath Dalton has been leading some resistance for Essex, but she is bowled for 18 by Kalea Moore. 137-8 after 36 overs.

17:00 – WICKET! Play of the day – Hannah Jelfs takes a brilliant diving catch at midwicket to give Kirstie Gordon a 4th wicket. 151-9.

17:05 – And that… as the Americans say… is the ball game – Essex bowled out for 157; so Kent win by 46 runs.

EXCLUSIVE: England Players To Miss County T20 Cup

The ECB have confirmed to CRICKETher that the contracted England players will miss the first competitive matches of the 2021 season, the County T20 Cup, due to concerns about the lack of Covid-secure measures in the county game.

The Cup begins this Sunday 25 April, and will run for four weekends in April and May. England players including Tammy Beaumont had previously expressed a strong wish to participate, with many having represented their counties for years.

However, an ECB spokesperson told CRICKETher:

“County T20 cricket is classed as Recreational Cricket and therefore is covered by less stringent COVID-19 guidelines, which in turn creates a higher risk due to the lack of daily monitoring, testing and general adherence to protocols.

The risk of playing recreational cricket is that you have more people coming together from a multitude of different environments – without those elite sport protocols in place – and therefore more complex ‘contacts’ with the public.

Regional warm-up fixtures are played with elite protocols in place so England players are able to play in them.”

The ECB are naturally keen to avoid the risk of any of their players coming into contact with anyone who tests positive for COVID, as this would mean the player would have to be placed in “hard isolation”, and render them unable to train for 10 days.

Interestingly, Kirstie Gordon participated in Kent’s warm-up matches against Surrey last weekend, suggesting that she is not expected to train with the England squad ahead of the India series, and may be facing the imminent loss of her central contract.

The withdrawal of England players from the county game also raises questions about its future status in the domestic structure. In a press conference earlier this month, Heather Knight admitted that regional cricket would remain the priority for her and her side, despite her own sentimental commitment to Berkshire, who she has represented since 2010.

“The county stuff has a slightly different role in the full fixture list now,” Knight said. “The main domestic cricket that we play, and the best standard that’s going to prepare us for England, is going to be the Rachael Heyhoe Flint stuff, so that’s going to be the priority. In terms of playing for Berkshire, as a sentimental thing potentially, but the reality is I’ve got to pick and choose the cricket that’s going to help me best perform for England.”

PREVIEW: County T20 Cup – Why County Cricket Still Matters (Plus Full Fixture List)

Across the next four weekends, the first “official” (i.e. ECB-supported) women’s county cricket since 2019 will take place. This year’s County T20 Cup has a different look to previous seasons – it’s being played on a purely regional basis, and there will be no overall winner. The T20 Cup seems destined, for now, to remain in the hands of Warwickshire’s trophy cabinet, after the Bears won it two years ago.

Since the last official county fixtures were played, the ECB has introduced an entirely new level of cricket between the counties and England – the regional “Centres of Excellence”, who competed in the successful Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy last season.

Where does that leave county cricket? We spoke to four figures who are integral to the current domestic structure to find out…

Richard Bedbrook (Regional Director, South East Stars):

“The two counties in our region [Surrey and Kent] are very proud of their women’s teams and the women’s cricket programmes that they can provide. The regional structure still only offers seven games of 50-over cricket and six games of 20-over cricket, with finals on top of that – so county cricket adds to the cricket our senior players get to play.

It’s all part of helping the Academy players too – they need to be playing more cricket. County cricket for them is a really, really big stage for them to move through. For a young academy girl to play with players like Tash [Farrant], ADR, Bryony [Smith], Sophia [Dunkley] and Aylish [Cranstone], there’s big learnings there.

The county games will certainly provide a massive opportunity for us to observe players. They’re going to be hugely significant for every region, to see players playing the game. Depending on the timing, it might influence narrowing down the squad for the start of the season, or it might be broader and help us see how players have progressed through training and help us identify those that we think are ready to to be in the starting Stars XI .”

Laura Macleod (Regional Director, Central Sparks):

“County cricket plays a really important part in the whole pathway. Within the West Midlands we view county cricket as really important, because it gives the players some competition. We’re going to see some of our players being pitted up against one another [for Worcestershire and Warwickshire], so that will be a real test of applying what they’ve been doing over the winter and where they want to get to.

It gives us the opportunity to have a look at them in a competitive environment. And because the club game is not quite perhaps where it is for the men’s game, the county game still plays an important part in the development of a player.”

Dave Hathrill (Kent Women’s Head Coach):

“Our role as Kent Cricket can fit alongside all of the new additions to the pathway. From a county perspective, the changes are really welcome. Myself, Johann Myburgh [SE Stars Head Coach] and Richard Bedbrook are in conversation regularly.

Having the girls have the ability to get away and train properly throughout the summer with the new regional centres has actually brought more cricketing opportunities around, which as a county we’re definitely benefiting from. The girls have been excellent, they’ve really embraced the challenge of a full professional winter.

We’re looking forward to seeing how the summer plays out, and the effect that the new structure will have [on county cricket] going forward.”

Aylish Cranstone (Professional Cricketer, South East Stars and Surrey):

“County cricket is massive. I’ve been fortunate enough to work within the county age group programme for the last 5 or 6 years, and it’s always been really tough stopping at under-17s. We lose so many girls at that age group who are really good cricketers but haven’t played enough or haven’t been fortunate enough to reach the senior side. Keeping a senior Surrey side is really important for them because they can keep playing.”

“It keeps that enthusiasm for the club cricketers as well. They’ll still be aiming to look to push into those county sides, and if you can be training in and around county stuff then obviously you will be getting the opportunity to be seen by the regional coaches and it can go from there. If you dropped county cricket, you’re focusing everything on the higher level players but you might not have as many players coming through, because they might just think it’s a bit of a difficult goal to achieve. So it’s important to keep county cricket going.”

“It’s also nice for regional players. The regional stuff is going to be very intense, so it will be nice to go back to our counties at different points in the season, regroup, play with a different team again. It’s got a bit of a different vibe, and different coaches.”

Full T20 Cup Fixtures (all teams to play each other twice, at 11am and 3pm):

Sunday 25th April

North Group: Cumbria v Yorkshire (Arnside CC), North Representative XI v Scotland A (TBC), North East Warriors v Lancashire (Burnopfield CC)

East Midlands Group: Derbyshire v Shropshire (Denby CC), Leicestershire v Lincolnshire (Barkby United CC), Nottinghamshire v Northamptonshire (Worksop College)

West Midlands Group: Berkshire v Worcestershire (Falkland CC), Warwickshire v Wales (Edgbaston Foundation Ground), Staffordshire v Somerset (Fordhouses CC)

East Group: Cambridgeshire v Buckinghamshire (Exning Park), Herfordshire v Norfolk (Harlow CC), Huntingdonshire v Suffolk (TBC)

South East Group: Middlesex v Hampshire (Mill Hill School), Surrey v Kent (Chipstead CC), Sussex v Essex (Sir Rod Aldridge Cricket Centre, Brighton) 

South West Group: Devon v Oxfordshire (Braunton CC), Dorset v Wiltshire (TBC), Gloucestershire v Cornwall (Cheltenham College)

Monday 3rd May

North Group: Cumbria v North Representative XI (tbc), Lancashire v Scotland ‘A’ (Carnforth CC), Yorkshire v North East Warriors (Harrogate CC) 

East Midlands Group: Derbyshire v Leicestershire (Spondon CC), Lincolnshire v Nottinghamshire (Sleaford CC), Shropshire v Northamptonshire (Worfield CC) 

West Midlands Group: Somerset v Wales (Weston-Super-Mare CC), Warwickshire v Berkshire (Edgbaston Foundation Ground), Worcestershire v Staffordshire (Bromsgrove CC) 

East Group: Buckinghamshire v Norfolk (Dinton CC), Huntingdonshire v Hertfordshire (Ramsey CC), Suffolk v Cambridgeshire (Woolpit CC) 

South East Group: Essex v Surrey (Old Southendian & Southchurch CC), Kent v Middlesex (Kent CCC, Beckenham), Sussex v Hampshire (Sir Rod Aldridge Cricket Centre, Brighton) 

South West Group: Cornwall v Dorset (Boconnoc CC), Gloucestershire v Oxfordshire (Cheltenham College), Wiltshire v Devon (Corsham CC)

Sunday 9th May

North Group: Cumbria v Scotland ‘A’ (Lanercost CC), North East Warriors v North Representative XI (tbc), Yorkshire v Lancashire (Harrogate CC) 

East Midlands Group: Leicestershire v Nottinghamshire (Market Overton CC), Lincolnshire v Shropshire (Spalding Town CC), Northamptonshire v Derbyshire (Desborough Town CC) 

West Midlands Group: Somerset v Berkshire (Bath CC), Wales v Staffordshire (Newport CC), Warwickshire v Worcestershire (Edgbaston Foundation Ground) 

East Group: Buckinghamshire v Huntingdonshire (tbc), Norfolk v Cambridgeshire (North Runcton CC), Suffolk v Hertfordshire (Woolpit CC) 

South East Group: Essex v Kent (tbc), Hampshire v Surrey (Totton & Eling CC), Middlesex v Sussex (Mill Hill School) 

South West Group: Devon v Gloucestershire (Sidmouth CC), Dorset v Oxfordshire (Sherborne CC), Wiltshire v Cornwall (Sherston Magna CC)

Sunday 16th May

North Group: Lancashire v Cumbria (Widnes CC), North East Warriors v Scotland ‘A’ (Alnmouth & Lesbury CC), Yorkshire v North Representative XI (Harrogate CC) 

East Midlands Group: Northamptonshire v Lincolnshire (tbc), Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire (Collingham CC), Shropshire v Leicestershire (Whitchurch CC) 

West Midlands Group: Berkshire v Wales (Falkland CC), Staffordshire v Warwickshire (Oulton CC), Worcestershire v Somerset (Bromsgrove CC) 

East Group: Cambridgeshire v Huntingdonshire (Exning Park), Hertfordshire v Buckinghamshire (Boxmoor CC), Norfolk v Suffolk (Cromer CC) 

South East Group: Hampshire v Essex (Totton & Eling CC), Kent v Sussex (The Mote CC), Surrey v Middlesex (Old Whitgiftians CC) 

South West Group: Cornwall v Devon (Launceston CC), Gloucestershire v Dorset (Cheltenham College), Oxfordshire v Wiltshire (Bicester & North Oxford CC).

NEWS: England To Play 1 Test, 8 ODIs and 6 T20s This Summer

In what will be a jam-packed summer of international cricket, England are set to meet India in June / July for three ODIs and three T20s, while New Zealand will provide a second opposition in September, playing three T20s followed by five ODIs.

The centrepiece of the summer, though, will be the much-trailed Test against India on 16 to 19 June, which will take place at Bristol. It will be the first non-Ashes Test since 2014.

There is no indication that the India series will be played for points, as is the case with the multi-format Women’s Ashes, so the one-off Test will be exactly that – a winner-takes-all occasion.

According to the current government roadmap, spectators will be allowed at Bristol at 50% capacity (approx 3,750 people per day), while the remaining fixtures – which if all goes to schedule will take place in Step 4 of the roadmap – will be allowed to be played in front of full houses.

The full fixtures are below:

INDIA

LV= Insurance Test Series

Wednesday June 16-Saturday June 19: LV= Insurance Test Match. England v India (Bristol County Ground)

Royal London Series (ODIs)

Sunday June 27: 1st match of the Royal London Series. England v India (Bristol County Ground)

Wednesday June 30: 2nd match of the Royal London Series. England v India (The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton)

Sunday July 3: 3rd match of the Royal London Series. England v India (New Road, Worcester)

Vitality IT20 Series

Friday July 9: 1st Vitality IT20. England v India (The County Ground, Northampton)

Sunday July 11: 2nd Vitality IT20: England v India (The 1st Central County Ground, Hove)

Thursday July 15: 3rd Vitality IT20: England v India (The Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford)

NEW ZEALAND

Vitality IT20 Series

Wednesday September 1. 1st Vitality IT20. England v New Zealand (The Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford)

Saturday September 4. 2nd Vitality IT20. England v New Zealand (The 1st Central County Ground, Hove)

Thursday September 9. 3rd Vitality IT20. England v New Zealand (The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton)

Royal London Series (ODIs)

Thursday September 16. 1st match of the Royal London Series. England v New Zealand (Bristol County Ground)

Sunday September 19. 2nd match of the Royal London Series. England v New Zealand (New Road, Worcester)

Tuesday September 21. 3rd match of the Royal London Series. England v New Zealand (The Uptonsteel County Ground, Leicester)

Thursday September 23. 4th match of the Royal London Series. England v New Zealand (The Incora County Ground, Derby)

Sunday September 26. 5th match of the Royal London Series. England v New Zealand (The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Canterbury)

NEWS: Tammy Beaumont Hoping For “Fiery Games” Against Sussex In 2021

Fresh from a somewhat one-sided tour against New Zealand, Tammy Beaumont is looking forward to reviving a much more potent rivalry in the coming weeks – the ongoing feud between Kent and Sussex.

“I’ve been in the Kent-Sussex rivalry for 15 years, and I love it,” she said. “Some of the most competitive and best games I can remember have been Kent-Sussex games. I absolutely love that it’s back, and I hope there’s a few fiery games because I think they’re fun!”

The rivalry, which reached its peak in 2015 when Kent lodged an official appeal with the ECB after their match against Sussex was declared a tie, stems from the fact that between 2003 and 2014 the two sides won every single Women’s County Championship title between them.

Kent and Sussex are due to meet in the T20 County Cup (South East Group) on Sunday 16 May. Sussex’s decision to join the 50-over London Championship this season means that they will also face off on Tuesday 1 June, for the first time since Kent took home the last ever Women’s County Championship trophy back in 2019.

Beaumont’s Kent teammate Tash Farrant said that she was “stoked” that Sussex had joined the London Championship, and added a warning to anyone who might be listening from the Sussex side of the border: “We’re looking for a trophy this season!”

With the international schedule still TBC, and government regulations surrounding the T20 County Cup unclear, it has not yet been officially confirmed that the contracted England players will be able to participate in the competition, which will kickstart the domestic season across four weekends in April and May.

However Beaumont, who has represented Kent since 2007 but was unable to don her county shirt last season due to being kept in the England biosecure bubble, says she is very hopeful that she and her England teammates will get the chance to participate.

“I’m hopeful that it’s early enough in the season that we can play some county games,” she said. “I can’t remember the last time I played a county T20, so I’d love to be part of that – I’m desperate to play!”

OPINION: Women’s County Cricket – The Format That Refused To Say Die

Two and a half years ago, in the wake of the 2018 season, key figures at the ECB sat down and pondered the future of women’s domestic cricket. Clare Connor’s plan for a 50-over version of the Kia Super League had fallen by the wayside ahead of the 2017 World Cup. Australia’s domestic competitions, the WNCL and WBBL, were now both fully professional, and the ECB desperately needed to find a way to catch up. They looked on enviously at the state system, which gave Cricket Australia 7 obvious team units to focus on – a much easier (and cheaper) ask than attempting to professionalise the 38 counties of England. And they hatched a plan to abolish the county system as we knew it.

We first reported the ECB’s plans in January 2019, when they came to light publicly. Back then, we were led to believe that the plan was for a radical restructuring of county cricket whereby the Women’s County Championship would continue, but with a top tier of 8 professional counties, with no relegation or promotion. The other counties would sit beneath this, as “feeders” for the professional counties.

But the plan, as it turned out, was even more radical than we had envisaged. As the 2019 season progressed and more details of the plans came to light, it gradually became clear that the ECB’s plan was for an eight-team semi-professional competition structurewhich mirrored that of the The Hundred – with team identities separate to county identities. Surrey would not be permitted to continue to host the Surrey Stars, and Lancashire would have to become North West Thunder.

The ECB wanted women’s domestic cricket to move away from the county model altogether. Women’s county cricket would become defunct; it would disappear. And because the new structure would be semi-professional and would involve a huge amount more investment than the Women’s County Championship ever received, nobody would really mind.

By the end of the (truncated) 2020 season, the first without the Women’s County Championship, it was already clear that this was a colossal misjudgement on behalf of the ECB. But, slowly but surely, something else has also become apparent: the ECB’s plan to abolish women’s county cricket has failed.

It has failed literally. This season (Covid-permitting), the T20 County Cup will be played across four weekends in April and May, as a kickstarter to the 2021 women’s season. The ECB had granted the T20 Cup a two-season stay of execution back in 2019, but given that the 2020 version had to be canned due to the pandemic, it would have been easy enough to axe it in 2021. But it is very much still with us.

There is also the small matter of the two “rebel” 50-over County Championships which will be played in 2021, outside the auspices of the ECB: the London Championship, and the East of England County Championship. After a nervous start in 2020, these competitions look to be here to stay. Importantly, Clare Connor’s alma mater Sussex have recently announced their intention to join the London Championship. The addition of another former “powerhouse” of the County Championship can only give the competition more kudos. It could well signal the beginning of other counties also following suit and choosing to continue with 50-over cricket.

As this suggests, the ECB’s plan to abolish county cricket has also failed philosophically. It turns out that telling players who currently represent their counties that they should simply “go off and play club cricket” doesn’t actually work – county cricket is the zenith, and club cricket (especially in some areas of the country) is too weak to offer a decent substitute. When South East Stars captain Tash Farrant is telling us in an England press conference that she is counting down the days until she can don her Kent shirt again, you realise the significance of county cricket to the players who participate in it. Regional cricket cannot hope to replace deeply-held county loyalties for the foreseeable future, if it ever does.

And the ECB’s plan has also failed structurally. Yes, we have a brilliant new regional system in place, with 41 domestic contracts, and full-time Directors of Cricket, coaching teams, and support staff now being paid to support those players (huge credit to the ECB for all this). But many of the Directors of Cricket view the county game as a significant part of the new regional structure. South East Stars is one example. “Those county games will be where [Director of Cricket] Richard Bedbrook and [Head Coach] Johann Myburgh will be looking to see which girls perform, leading into the regional stuff and picking our XI from that,” Tash Farrant said recently. We are aware of a number of other Directors who feel similarly.

As this season progresses, and the county game acts explicitly as a feeder into these new regional teams, it’s going to become harder and harder for the ECB to argue that county cricket doesn’t have a place in the regional era. Also, the ECB explicitly discussed the role of county cricket in their post-Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy review. The fact that the T20 Cup is still going ahead, and that the Regional Directors are apparently not being discouraged from shouting about the importance of the county game, suggests to me that the ECB are fully aware that their plan to decouple women’s domestic cricket from the county structure has not succeeded, and have quietly taken it on the chin and backed down.

There is really nothing to be ashamed of in this U-turn. The ECB got it wrong; they have realised this, and are no longer ploughing ahead regardless. But it is an important reminder that county cricket remains valuable, to the system and the players. Even as we praise the new regional structures, let’s remember they were built on the solid foundations of county cricket: the format that refuses to say die.

England v New Zealand 2nd T20 – Davies Seizes The Day

No player ever celebrates when their teammate has to sit out a game with an injury, or in this case misses out because they are precautionary-isolating with a head cold, but the absence of Katherine Brunt from the second T20 was the best thing that could have happened to Freya Davies.

Davies did play in the first T20 (it was Tash Farrant who was the like-for-like replacement brought in for Brunt today), but with England’s conglomerate of bowling options, she only had the chance to bowl one over. Today, she was handed her full allocation of four – and she certainly made the most of them.

In her first over, she had Hayley Jensen caught in the deep trying to cut – a perfectly executed plan, directly following a chat to captain Heather Knight and a swift rearranging of the field, to tempt Jensen into her favoured shot.

Then, 10 overs later and with New Zealand eyeing up a total of 150, Davies took the key wicket of Amy Satterthwaite on 49*, coming round the wicket and shaping the ball back into the left-hander to have her bowled. Three balls later she also saw off Maddy Green – this time, moving the ball into the right-hander, who got an inside edge which was well snaffled by Amy Jones behind the stumps. It was the perfect demonstration of why Davies at her best is so dangerous: the ability to move the ball both ways, very late, leaving the opposition batters in a state of desperate uncertainty.

In her final over it was a fuller, straight ball which did for Kate Ebrahim, handing Davies her first ever four-fer in international cricket. New Zealand’s eventual total of 123-9 was never going to be enough.

Davies made her name in the Kia Super League for Western Storm, as a crucial part of the team which twice won the competition. In the final year of the KSL (2019), she finished as leading wicket-taker, ahead of a raft of the world’s best bowlers. The key to her success was that she knew her role, and could therefore do it with confidence: the senior seam bowler, who always opened, and usually also bowled an over or two at the death.

One of the difficulties for Davies has been finding her feet in a similar way for England. With Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole the automatic new-ball bowlers, and the England management seemingly reluctant to “experiment” between World Cups, chances to showcase her skills have been few and far between. You sense that even when chances have come her way it’s been hard for her to understand her role in the team – there’s never been certainty about when, or if, she will bowl her overs. 

Katherine Brunt is one of England’s great players, and no one wants to see her career end before it’s her time. But Tammy Beaumont only came into her own as an England batter when the heavyweight Charlotte Edwards retired from the fray. Is it a leap to suggest that the absence of Brunt from today’s game had a similar psychological effect on Davies?

This might be speculation, but it could be important. It seems unlikely that Brunt will be able to go through a jam-packed 2022 schedule without needing to be rested on some of the big occasions, and in any case, she herself acknowledges that she isn’t going to be around forever. England need someone to be ready to step up and take on Brunt’s role whenever the need arises. Davies made a very good case today why that someone could… should… be her. Had Brunt been playing, she might never have been given that chance.

Sometimes a head cold really can be a blessing in disguise.

England v New Zealand 3rd ODI – New Zealand Remember How To Win

England may not have played a single ODI in the 437 days prior to this series, but New Zealand had suffered an even longer drought: their last win in ODI cricket came over two years ago, on 1 February 2019.

That drought finally ended earlier today, after New Zealand inflicted a seven-wicket defeat on England. Dead rubber it may have been, but this was an important statement by New Zealand: they have not forgotten how to win games of 50-over cricket.

Importantly, too, Amy Satterthwaite has not forgotten how to score big runs. This may have been her seventh ODI hundred, but it is her first since February 2017. It is also her first since an 18-month absence from cricket brought about by pregnancy, childbirth and maternity leave. While Sattherthwaite is following in a long line of female cricketers to return to cricket after pushing babies out of their bodies (Enid Bakewell did it three times in five years), she is the first to do so in the professional era, and we shouldn’t underestimate how important that is.

Amelia Kerr’s unbeaten 72 was important for a different reason. Since her 232* against Ireland in 2017 catapulted her into the headlines, she has barely troubled the scorers in 50-over cricket. Prior to this series, her average in ODIs against all opposition except Ireland was under 10, and her highest score was 28. There comes a time when you have to stop living off past glories and prove you are capable of batting at 5 against the reigning world champions. Offered the chance to do that today, Kerr took it and ran with it.

The successful run chase came after New Zealand had dismissed England for 220 – at least 40 runs short of a par score, as Heather Knight admitted after the match. This was a full-strength England batting line-up, plus bonus Lauren Winfield-Hill (brought in after Katherine Brunt was “rested”), so to bowl them out was an impressive effort from the hosts. In fact it could have been far worse for England. The cricketing gods, particularly the one that controls the DRS ball-tracker, really did seem to smile on them for the duration – giving Knight a life on 26* and Beaumont one on 33*.

Amelia Kerr finished with 4 wickets, but it was her sister Jess Kerr who really bogged England down in the middle overs, forcing repeated errors from both Knight and Beaumont. Kerr senior, who opened the bowling for the first time today, is becoming a formidable threat with ball in hand, showing her ability to swing the ball in a fashion worthy of Anya Shrubsole herself. She could be key in home conditions in next year’s World Cup.

In fact, for the first time in a while it’s possible to look beyond the inevitable retirements of Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu in the next couple of years, and see a chink of light. Devine never came to the party this series (scoring 16, 6 and 15) and Bates wasn’t even INVITED to the party (Ed: How far are you going to extend this terrible metaphor?) but Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen and the Kerr sisters went a long way to making up for it.

There’s something of an unfavourable contrast to be made with England’s selection policy. Even in a dead rubber situation, they failed to give younger batters like Sophia Dunkley an opportunity, presumably on the basis of Lisa Keightley’s belief that “I don’t want to give away caps, I think people need to earn it”. And they still lost the match.

It may be a cliche, but winning IS a habit – and with a year to go until the next World Cup, this dead rubber mattered more than most.