NEWS: England Women’s Pathway Squads Announced

The ECB have today announced the players who will make up both the England Women’s Senior Academy (EWSA) and the England Women’s Academy (EWA), the two squads that form the pathway towards selection for the full England side.

The EWSA has been reduced in size from 18 players to 14 players this year, with Izzy Cloke, Lauren Bell and Charlie Dean making the step up from the EWA to take up places in the Senior Academy.

Meanwhile a number of senior players who have played a key role in the KSL appear to have lost out in the overhaul, including Georgia Adams, Thea Brookes, Georgia Hennessy, Eve Jones, Sophie Luff and Paige Scholfield.

There has been a bit of a shake-up in terms of personnel, too, with EWA head coach Salliann Briggs stepping down from her role due to “wider work commitments” (presumably not least her role as head coach of the Loughborough Lightning KSL side).

John Stanworth, as head coach of the EWSA, will now also oversee the EWA.

Both groups will be attending a series of camps over the winter and playing a number of competitive matches in the summer to enhance their development and help them become more effective performers.

Full squads:

England Women’s Senior Academy

  • Hollie Armitage (Yorkshire)
  • Ellen Burt (Sussex)
  • Lauren Bell (Berkshire)
  • Georgie Boyce (Nottinghamshire)
  • Izzy Cloke (Kent)
  • Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent)
  • Freya Davies (Sussex)
  • Charlie Dean (Hampshire)
  • Sophie Dunkley (Middlesex)
  • Katie George (Hampshire)
  • Emma Lamb (Lancashire)
  • Bryony Smith (Surrey)
  • Linsey Smith (Sussex)
  • Ellie Threlkeld (Lancashire)

England Women’s Academy

  • Alice Dyson (Derbyshire)
  • Danielle Gibson (Gloucestershire)
  • Sarah Glenn (Derbyshire)
  • Amy Gordon (Surrey)
  • Eva Gray (Surrey)
  • Rhianna Southby (Surrey)
  • Alexandra Travers (Surrey)
  • Katie Wolfe (Middlesex)

THE GREAT DEBATE: Women’s Tests – The Case In Favour

Heather Knight has just won a World Cup. But if you ask her to tell you about her favourite innings for England, she will tell you straight: it was making 157 in the 2013 Ashes Test match at Wormsley. “It was the making of me as a player,” she told me in a recent interview.

There are many reasons not to abandon women’s Test match cricket. I have previously articulated them here. TLDR:

  1. Multi-day cricket provides a tactical and physical challenge different to any other format. When else will female players get the chance to bat for an entire day?
  2. Women’s Tests have been played since 1934 – ODIs have only been played since 1973, T20Is since 2004. History matters in women’s cricket just as much as in the men’s version.
  3. Are you a fan of men’s Tests? If we let women’s Test cricket die, you can bet that men’s Test cricket won’t be far behind. England, Australia and New Zealand Women have all been playing Test cricket far longer than men’s teams from Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

But perhaps the most important reason is the attitude of the players themselves.

Mithali Raj recently captained her team to the final of a World Cup, but even at an event celebrating that very fact, she was quoted as saying the following: “Test matches are the ultimate test for cricketers, whether it is your temperament, skill or endurance… I feel Test matches should be played as frequently as limited over games because they churn out quality players.”

Suzie Bates, one of the most talented female cricketers there has ever been, made her debut back in 2006; she has played in global finals, was Player of the Tournament at the 2013 World Cup, but when she retires there is one thing she will rue, despite everything: “Probably as I’ve got older I feel a bit cheated that I haven’t had the opportunity to play in a Test… Test matches are the pinnacle of cricket.”

If you get the chance, just ask any of the players in the England Ashes squad right now – a squad who have just won a World Cup – what it is that they are most excited about this winter. They will all tell you the same thing: the four-day encounter against the old enemy at the North Sydney Oval. Putting on that white shirt with the three lions. That’s what they will all be hoping they get to do.

Richard Clark makes an excellent point: the players know limited overs cricket far better than they know Test match cricket. But the answer isn’t to throw away the oldest – the pinnacle – format. The answer is to play more Tests.

Over to you, ICC.

Women’s Ashes Squad: Reaction and Thoughts

A few brief thoughts:

  • This squad contains all of the 13 players that played in the World Cup, which does make sense – why change a winning formula?
  • Sophie Ecclestone coming into the squad is a no-brainer. A few weeks back we watched her take 6-12 against Warwickshire – she didn’t just deny them the Championship title, but actually bowled Lancashire back into contention (they went on to win it). Then at Chelmsford last week in the warm-up match she set the the pink ball on fire – taking 3 wickets in one over and finishing the first innings with 5-34. If there had been any doubt left in Mark Robinson’s mind, Ecclestone stomped all over it.
  • Having said that, I’m a bit surprised that Beth Langston, Tash Farrant AND Freya Davies are all being left behind. Australia are a much stronger side with the bat right now than they are with the ball (cf: Chamari Atapattu and Harmanpreet Kaur). I’d personally have gone for a bowler-heavy squad – especially given that England have to bowl Australia out twice in order to win the Test match. Essentially you’re relying on Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole to take the strain across four days – and that worries me. Especially because…
  • … do we know how fully recovered Anya Shrubsole is from the side strain that left her sitting out of the first half of the Super League? Given her propensity to not last out for the whole of these long Ashes tours without picking up an injury or two, it seems even more strange to send her out with a pre-existing one, and NOT send back-up.
  • England now have two left-arm spinners at their disposal throughout the tour, which creates an interesting selection dilemma for Robinson. On the one hand you surely don’t drop Alex Hartley, given the way she bowled in England’s World Cup game against Australia? On the other hand Mark Robinson clearly thinks Ecclestone is the future (especially now she’s finished school – something he specifically mentioned in the press release), or she wouldn’t be on the plane at all. Perhaps Robinson might even play both of them in the same match?
  • For the last women’s Ashes in Australia (in Jan/Feb 2014) England got around the 15-player squad restrictions by naming a separate squad for the T20 leg of the series. They haven’t done that this time, for reasons known only to Robinson & co, and I think it could be an error. This is a long old tour – last time around they could barely cobble together 11 fit players by the end of it, and the ECB’s own Beth Barrett-Wild was threatened with having to take the field! Of course they (sort of) have Kate Cross and Amy Jones at their disposal were anything to go wrong – but that’s not quite the same as having an extra player actually in the camp.

NEWS: Kate Cross And Amy Jones Wintering In Australia

Two of England’s contracted players, Kate Cross and Amy Jones, will be spending the winter in Australia, playing for Perth’s Western Fury in the Women’s National Cricket League.

Both will be available for the entire competition, which begins on October 6 and runs until February 2018, with gaps in the middle for the women’s Ashes and the third season of the WBBL.

While England’s Ashes squad is yet to be announced, it is probably therefore safe to assume that neither Cross nor Jones will be included.

However, England coach Mark Robinson has stated that he sees it as an opportunity for Cross and Jones “to test themselves by playing good, competitive cricket” over the winter, and there remains the chance of a last minute mid-series call-up due to injury, should England require their services.

Jan Brittin: The Idol’s Idol

Most people have an idol. For a generation of female cricketers, that idol will be Charlotte Edwards. For Charlotte Edwards, it was always Jan Brittin.

Jan Brittin

Jan Brittin (C) Don Miles

When Edwards’ international call-up came in the summer of 1996, there was one thought that went through her head: “I was an absolute geek of the game,” she told me in an interview. “To know that I was going to open the batting with my hero, Jan Brittin – wow.”

Edwards went on to win two World Cups and five Ashes series during her 20-year career. But ask her to name the highlight of that career and she still cites that 1996 Test at Guildford against New Zealand. “It was four days I’ll never forget.”

By that point Brittin had been playing international cricket for 17 years, having made her debut in June 1979 at Teddington, in an ODI against West Indies. Her career would last a further two seasons, when in 1998 – shortly after breaking the record for most Test runs during that summer’s women’s Ashes series – she finally hung up her boots.

It was a career that overlapped with those of both the late, great Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, and with the recently retired Edwards. During those years Brittin witnessed a period of great change for the women’s game, epitomised by the shift from skirts to trousers at the start of her penultimate series in England, against South Africa in 1997. Brittin herself was at the forefront of that shift. Always an athletic fielder, renowned for her dives at cover – she retains the record for most World Cup catches, with 19 to her name – it was her sliding stops and badly grazed legs which helped to convince the cricketing sorority that skirts were no longer suitable for international cricket.

Born in Kingston, Surrey, in 1959, she was a naturally talented sportswoman from a young age, representing English schools at athletics; she eventually achieved the rare feat of becoming a triple international, adding indoor hockey and indoor cricket to her mantle. Cricket came relatively late in the day: at 12 years old her grandparents took her to a Steam Engine Fair, where she was attracted to a catching machine. Her catching skills were such that she was recruited on the spot for a local club by the lady operating the machine. County cricket and Junior England soon followed.

Asked once about the greatest influence on her career, Brittin replied: “my family – for their love and support and financial backing”. Her father, Kevin, helped to instil in her a love of sport: he had played junior football for Spurs, and was later a part-time professional at Reading, as well as a keen club cricketer. Her parents ran a sports shop in Surbiton, where Jan sometimes helped out. But as an only child it was the practical support her parents offered that was most crucial. “That helps a lot when, for the privilege of playing for England in a Test match in this country, you have to pay for your own petrol to get there,” she remarked wryly, in a 1984 interview for the Daily Mail.

Playing as an amateur for the whole of her career, at a time when there was very little money at any level of the women’s game, and when every pound of sponsorship had to be fought for, Brittin juggled cricket with firstly her studies at Chelsea PE College, and then with her work as a manager for British Airways.

There was very little media coverage of women’s cricket in the 1980s, but Brittin’s talent was nonetheless an irresistible draw. The breakthrough came over the winter of 1982/3, a season she spent playing in Western Australia. England Men had surrendered the Ashes, but Brittin returned home in February with a season batting average of 110. A classical batsman, she was from that point on termed “the girl with a touch of Gooch”, a label she happily accepted.

When her photograph appeared on the front cover of The Cricketer in October 1984 she became the first female player to be awarded such prominence; when Kwik Cricket was launched in January 1988 as a response to the near death of cricket within state schools during the 1980s, the launch was attended not only by Mike Gatting but by Brittin – very much England Women’s premier batsman of the day.

Despite the fame she remained a quiet and self-effacing person, happy to let her batting do the talking. And talk it did. Her debut Test century came against New Zealand in 1984, followed up with scores in the next two Tests of 96, 63 and 35. She was, unsurprisingly, chosen as Player of the Series. Four more Test hundreds would follow – her highest score coming in 1998, in the penultimate match of her career, as she hit 167 against the Aussies. The runs just never dried up.

Her career highlight, though, was undoubtedly England’s World Cup win at home in 1993. It was during that tournament that she became England’s leading run-scorer, adding two more centuries to her ODI tally, against Denmark and India. More importantly, as far as she was concerned, were her 48 runs in the final at Lord’s against the Kiwis. Fittingly it was Brittin who took the winning catch, out on the hallowed turf. “It was,” she said later, “the stuff of dreams.”

Never one to wallow in plaudits, she was happy to remain largely out of the spotlight after her retirement from cricket in 1998. Nonetheless her place in the record books is secure. No one has yet surpassed her record of 1,935 Test runs.

No one is ever likely to.

KSL SEMI-FINAL – Stars v Storm: Talking Points

The Toss

Heather Knight described it as “a good toss to lose”, no doubt aware that – as Hypocaust pointed out before play began – Storm have only batted first twice in all KSL games, and both times they lost. It was a scrabble, but they retained that record today. Stars, who seem to be reasonably confident both chasing and setting a total, might therefore have been better off putting their opponents in.

Claire Nicholas

Stars might be able to rip through their opponents with an all-international bowling attack, but this tournament is also about discovering new talent, and there’s only one non-international who has opened the bowling for her side every single match this tournament: Claire Nicholas.* Today her captain, Heather Knight, showed the ultimate faith in giving her 4 straight powerplay overs, which went for just 14 runs. The Huddleston Experiment might not have worked – the Nicholas one certainly has.

Stafanie Taylor

Taylor had a miserable World Cup and that’s been followed by a fairly miserable Super League. Nonetheless, when her side needed her the most she did finally deliver, hitting 37* to take them over the line when at one stage they absolutely did look dead in the water. Even more impressively Taylor played in a way that isn’t her natural T20 game – acting as anchorwoman rather than bish bash boshing it around. Before today she had scores of 8, 34, 4 and 0 in the group games – all is now forgiven!

Batting Breadth

What we’ve seen in Super League is actually similar in some ways to what we see in the Women’s County Championship: once a side is 3 or 4 wickets down, they tend to struggle with the bat. That was true of both sides today, with the “big” stars dismissed early on – for Stars none of Tammy Beaumont, Lizelle Lee, Marizanne Kapp or Nat Sciver went on to make a big score; and Storm then found themselves 17-4 in the 4th over. It was just fortunate for Storm that Georgia Hennessy kept a calm head on her shoulders. Basically what this match proves is that a side that can – genuinely – bat deep will win most of their games, most of the time.

* To be fair to her, Linsey Smith did open the bowling for Vipers in 4 out of 5 group games, but missed the last match due to illness.

MATCH REPORT: An Ecc Of A Game For Lancashire As They Do The Double

On a sunny bank holiday Monday at Edgbaston Foundation Ground, Lancashire finished their 2017 County Championship season on a high, winning by 5 wickets after Sophie Ecclestone ripped through the Warwickshire batting line-up, taking 6-12.

In doing so they not only denied Warwickshire the chance at County Championship glory, but unexpectedly propelled themselves into the lead after Yorkshire lost to Nottinghamshire, ultimately seizing the Division 1 County Championship crown at the 11th hour.

Having won the toss and chosen to bat, Kathryn Bryce had got Warwickshire off to a solid start with successive boundaries off Kate Cross, but Ecclestone quickly spoiled the party, removing Mina Zahoor (LBW) and Bryce (bowled) in her third over of the day.

She then took a good catch at mid on to see off danger woman Sophie Devine, giving team mate Kate Cross her first wicket of the day, and followed that up in turn with a double wicket maiden, slipping a ball under Marie Kelly’s bat to bowl her and then trapping Bethan Ellis LBW with her very next delivery.

5 Warwickshire wickets had gone down for 27 runs and Ecclestone had been part of them all.

A mini recovery ensued by Warwickshire as Sian Kelly took on the senior role, successfully defending Ecclestone’s hat-trick ball, and putting on 22 runs with Ria Fackrell for the 7th wicket – Warwickshire’s highest partnership of the day.

But Natalie Brown eventually had Fackrell caught at cover and, reintroduced to the attack in the 27th over, Ecclestone went on to claim two further wickets, though it was Cross (3-33) who eventually seized the scalp of Sian Kelly, stumped by Ellie Threlkeld for 21.

Hers was the last wicket to fall, as Warwickshire were all out for 88 in 33.1 overs.

Lancashire stumbled a little in their reply, as Sophie Devine ensured that both Emma Lamb and Natalie Brown were sent back without scoring.

Becky Grundy also got in on the action, having Amy Sattherthwaite out caught behind for 11 and Ellie Threlkeld stumped for 15. By the time lunch was taken, 16 overs into their innings, Lancashire were 59-4.

Crucially, though, in the last match of what has been a brilliant first season for her wearing the Red Rose, Eve Jones remained unbeaten, eventually racking up 35*. Both of Lancashire’s stars with the ball then chimed in with the bat, too, to see their side safely over the line: Kate Cross hitting a speedy 19 (including the only six of the day, over long on) and Ecclestone (8*) contributing two boundaries of her own, including the winning runs in the 21st over.

Both might be said to have made a case for inclusion in the Ashes squad which will fly out to Australia in October.

For Lancashire, though, more immediate celebrations await as they celebrate their maiden County Championship title, adding to the T20 Cup which they won back in July.

MATCH REPORT: Sussex Have Fun In The Sun At Hove

On a hot, sunny day at Hove, an all-round display from England’s Danni Wyatt, who took 3-17 and scored 48, eased Sussex to a 7-wicket win over Berkshire.

The Beavers were bowled out for 121, with Wyatt and team mate Ellen Burt the main beneficiaries, finishing with 3 wickets apiece.

An 84-run partnership between Wyatt and new recruit Mignon du Preez (47*) then enabled Sussex to easily chase down the required runs.

Having won the toss and chosen to bat on a good pitch, Berkshire had started their innings positively, with Tara Norris’s first over going for 21 runs, including a maximum from Rachel Priest.

Priest reached 21 in 16 balls before holing out to Ciara Green at mid-off, but Lissy Macleod then took on her mantle, hitting both Norris and Burt for a series of boundaries before launching Wyatt straight down the pitch. 5 balls later, though, Wyatt got her revenge as the umpire judged that Macleod had gloved the ball to Abi Freeborn behind the stumps when on 38.

Macleod departed at the end of the 13th over, with the score 80-3 and the run rate a healthy 6.15. Unfortunately Berkshire’s lower order could not follow through on the early Priest-Macleod onslaught. The next 7 wickets fell for 41 runs as the Beavers collapsed to 121 all out – assisted on their way by a spectacular catch from du Preez, diving forward at midwicket to see off Carla Rudd (15).

It did not seem a particularly imposing total, but there was a glimmer of hope for Berkshire early on in Sussex’s chase, as Ashleigh Muttitt struck in her first over to have Georgia Adams caught at mid off by Lauren Bell for a duck.

Bell followed it up with her own scalp in the next over as Izzy Collis was adjudged LBW, leaving Sussex on 8-2.

Had Priest managed to cling on at backward point when du Preez – then on 14* – sent a catch her way, things might have got interesting. As it was, the South African proceeded – in conjunction with Wyatt – to take the attack to the Berkshire bowlers, blitzing a total of 14 boundaries between them.

Amelia Humphrey successfully removed Wyatt in the 15th over, as she holed out to midwicket two runs short of her half-century with 30 still required; but ultimately du Preez safely saw Sussex over the line, hitting the winning runs in the 18th over.

Afterwards Wyatt – who last year hit 120* for her side at the same ground – told CRICKETher that she enjoys batting at Hove:

“They always produce a nice wicket. I love batting here. When I play for Sussex I seem to get a few runs here.”

She also relished the opportunity to contribute with the ball:

“I’ve not bowled much in games recently, so it was nice to actually bowl a few overs today. I’m more of a net bowler these days, but I’m still a bowling option which is good.

I still love bowling, and I’m just going to keep bowling and keep taking wickets, hopefully, when I get the chance.”

KSL Stars v Lightning: Talking Points

The Two El(l)yses

Ellyse Perry’s innings today was one of two halves: during the first 10 overs she managed 10 off 21 balls at a strike rate of 48; across the second 10 overs she hit 58 off 32 balls, at a strike rate of 181. As her captain Georgia Elwiss explained after play, “We always know that she’ll start a little bit slower than others… but we also know that she can catch up when she gets in.”

Despite Perry’s late brilliance, it’s worth bearing in mind that her approach relies on being surrounded by team mates who can ensure that the scoreboard continues to tick along even when she herself is finding her feet. Basically, for every Perry you need a Villani or two; and though Perry might take home the plaudits most of the time, it was Elyse Villani’s 39-ball 71 that was probably the more important of the two innings today.

A Dead Rubber?

There was a bit of a feeling around that Stars flopped today partly because they were already through to Finals Day, whereas Lightning’s qualification depended on a win. But I’m not sure they (or any of their fans!) can use that as a “get out clause”. Let’s not forget that Stars also had a chance of automatic qualification for Friday’s final, which they threw away. Not great given that they now have to face last year’s finalists Storm in the semi.

Stars Batting

As Syd’s piece on the contribution of non-internationals shows, Surrey Stars have hugely relied on their superstar players this season – before today the non-internationals had faced only 9 overs. It meant that their middle and lower-order was rather exposed when push came to shove; by the time they were 3 wickets down in the 6th over, the match was already halfway to being lost, with Nat Sciver their last real hope of chasing down such a high total. You could tell by the way she slammed her bat on the ground after being bowled that Sciver thought so, too.

Lightning Only Strikes Twice

Reflecting on the season after close of play, Elwiss was fairly philosophical, but she did highlight an important point: “We’ve only just started to play our best cricket. Unfortunately we didn’t get into our stride quickly enough over the tournament, and that’s what’s cost us.” After 3 losses Loughborough finished strongly, with 2 big wins, and while they played brilliantly today, it only makes it more disappointing to think that we won’t be seeing them again as a unit for another 12 months. It shows exactly why it’s such a positive move for the competition to expand into a 10-game contest next season.

KSL Storm v Stars: Talking Points

Lizelle Lee

Once again Lizelle Lee (with 77 off 44 balls, including six 6s) formed the mainstay of the Stars innings – Surrey can certainly thank their lucky… er… Stars (!!) that her delayed visa did, eventually, come through. You’d have to say, though, that Storm’s bowlers only made it worse for themselves: of the 64 runs Lee hit in boundaries, at least 60% were hit in the region between square leg and long leg. Give her enough room on the leg side and she will punish you.

Marizanne Kapp

Lee may have been Player of the Match today, but after close of play she was full of praise for one person: fellow countrywoman Marizanne Kapp. “In the beginning when Kappie batted with me I struggled a little bit… She knows sometimes I can get a little bit frustrated with myself and she helped me stay calm. That helped me a lot.” The pair’s 103-run partnership was the second highest in KSL history.

It might be an exaggeration to claim, as Lee did, that Kapp is “one of the best batters in the world”, but she is quickly proving her worth as a crucial anchor for her side, today coming in at 0-1 and remaining at the crease right until the first ball of the 20th over. Combined with her wicket-taking abilities – she was just a smidgeon away from a hat-trick today – she has certainly been a key factor in the Stars’ solid journey to qualification for Finals Day.

Storm’s Batting

Heather Knight aptly summed up her team’s performances with the bat in this year’s KSL after close of play: “We seem to all have a bad day as a batting unit or all have a good day. We’ve been really inconsistent.” Whether they are being bowled out for 70 or thumping Diamonds by 10 wickets, Storm are very much an all-or-nothing side with the bat. Today, with 4 wickets falling in the powerplay overs, it was a reasonably foregone conclusion that Stars had the match sewn up early on, however much Georgia Hennessy and Lissy Macleod railed valiantly against that conclusion.

Fran Wilson

Conceding 169 today was far from ideal for the Storm, but it could have been far worse without the efforts of Fran Wilson in the field. She’s the best backward point in the business, and though she couldn’t quite pull off what would have been a spectacular catch at midwicket to dismiss Lee off the bowling of Stafanie Taylor, nobody else would have even got close.