THE HUNDRED: First Impressions

So, it’s finally upon us – and after all our concerns about accreditation, we were indeed in the press box on Wednesday night for the first ever match of The Hundred.

What did we make of it all? Here’s some initial thoughts…

The crowd

Kate Cross’s post-match with the BBC said it all. “It’s the loudest, biggest crowd that I’ve ever played in front of on home soil – including international cricket”, she told Isa Guha.

It’s important to be historically accurate. Despite a boast by the ground announcer (which was repeated by Sky), 7,395 is NOT a record crowd at a domestic women’s match, in England or otherwise.

In the modern era, 12,901 fans were in attendance at the MCG for a WBBL match on 2 January 2016.

On the other hand, given that we were excited about 1,000 people showing up to the first KSL game, a crowd of almost 7,500 should go down as a BIG win for The Hundred. And it felt pretty amazing to be a part of it.

It’s cricket

When it came down to it, no one really paid any attention to Becky Hill’s “set” between the innings – they were too busy grabbing another ice-cream before play restarted. That tells you something important: they wanted to watch the cricket.

Ultimately, this was a cricket match between two teams of world-class players. If it wasn’t quite our sport at its finest from start to end – there were a few dropped catches that the Originals will want to swiftly forget about – it WAS a thriller, as Dane van Niekerk dragged her side over the line despite the WinViz predictor being very firmly not in her favour for almost the entirety of the run chase.

Say it quietly, but is it possible that the ECB have worried too much about gimmicks, influencers and musical acts… at the expense of offering decent money to the women’s players, who will be the ones who make or break the success of this competition?

The TV coverage

After all the talk about gender parity, it struck a bum note to have two people (Tuffers and Vaughan) doing the vast majority of the BBC TV commentary who clearly had no idea who any of the non-England players were. We’ve got nothing against male commentators reporting on women’s cricket – but when they wouldn’t be able to pick out the players in an ID parade, that’s when you’ve got problems.

The BBC’s misspelling of player names also didn’t help matters. The small things really do matter when you want a tournament to make a statement about gender parity in sport.

The gimmicks

Thumbs Up:

*The at-ground graphics, whereby players introduce themselves over the loudspeaker as they walk out to bat. Useful, and fun.

Thumbs Down:

*Having to look at opposite ends of the TV screen to see runs, wickets and the number of balls left. Seemed to us to make it MORE complicated to understand, not less.

*The umpire white cards, held up at the end of each “five” balls. Budget didn’t seem to stretch to providing proper laminated cards, and it looked a bit odd to have the umpires waving bits of notebook paper in the air.

*The Mady Villiers avatar. Rob Key did his best, but…

The jury’s out

The crowd was amazing, but the “newness factor” needs to be accounted for. The big question is, once the shiny novelty has worn off, will people still care about Oval Invincibles and the rest?

There’s still a way to go to prove that The Hundred is an advance on where we’d now be with the KSL, had it been allowed to continue growing.

There was also little sign of the “united team brands and identities” with the men which we’d been promised. None of the male players showed up at the ground to watch the game – OK, maybe Covid was a factor (?) but could they not at least have tweeted to show their support? (I’ve just checked and I can only find one player from either of the men’s teams who did so – kudos to Sam Billings.)

Overall positivity rating:

7/10. Solid start but still a long way to go.

MATCH REPORT: Surrey Take Pole Position In London Championship Despite Grit From Griffith

On a beautifully sunny day at The Oval, Surrey easily beat London rivals Middlesex by 90 runs despite a run-a-ball 86 – her best score of the season – from Cordelia Griffith.

Surrey secured maximum batting bonus points by scoring 253 for 4 in their 50 overs, in a performance which was testament to the depth of their women’s squad – a rich return on the investment which the club have made in their players over the years.

By contrast Middlesex, who had two of their three Sunrisers professionals available, struggled to maintain momentum in their chase beyond the powerplay, and were eventually bowled out for 163 in the course of 41 overs.

The win puts Surrey in pole position to retain the London Championship title which they won in 2020. They need only to beat Essex in their final match (on 12 July), with 3 bonus points, to usurp Kent’s current position at the top of the table.

Surrey had been put in to bat by Middlesex and made hay after opener Chloe Brewer edged through the hands of Iqraa Hussain on 1*. Brewer added 17 more runs to her total before being trapped LBW by Naomi Dattani.

Opening partner Madeleine Blinkhorn-Jones, playing in only her seventh match for Surrey, took on the Middlesex seamers with aplomb as she repeatedly drove down the ground, taking Middlesex to 64 for 1 in the opening 10 overs and bringing up a maiden half-century for her county.

The introduction of spin helped dry up the runs once the powerplay concluded, but when stand-in Surrey captain Kirstie White (35) feather edged behind to Sonali Patel in the 24th over, Alice Capsey (26 from 24) added extra impetus to the Surrey innings, pulling Kate Coppack for a big six over the square leg boundary.

A mini-collapse of 3 wickets for 9 runs between overs 30 and 33 saw off both Blinkhorn-Jones and Capsey. But Surrey showed their depth as both Amy Gordon (39) and Rhianna Southby (30) repeatedly chipped the ball over the heads of the Middlesex infield, adding 73 runs for the sixth wicket and allowing Surrey to push on past 250, the highest total in the (admittedly short) history of the London Championship.

It was always going to be a big ask for Middlesex to chase down the required runs, but they started positively enough, with Cordelia Griffith pulling Beth Kerins twice over midwicket in the opening over. Some wayward bowling from Gordon handed easy runs to Middlesex, who finished the powerplay at 69 for 1.

Once again, it was pace off the ball which did the damage – leg-spinner Danielle Gregory bamboozling Tash Miles into playing onto her own stumps in the 15th, while Dattani swung and missed at a full toss from Claudie Cooper and was bowled in the 18th.

Griffith stroked a single to bring up a 47-ball half-century in the next over, but the run-out of Gayatri Gole shortly afterwards – firmly sent back by Griffith attempting a single that was never there – was the beginning of the end for Middlesex. Gregory and Capsey, bowling leg and off-spin in tandem, helped turn the screw, as did some astute field placement from the experienced White.

Griffith was ultimately left with too much to do, valiantly trying to farm the strike but running out of partners at the other end. Aware that the run rate was pushing up above 7, she was eventually caught by Capsey at extra cover in the 36th over trying to push the score along.

Eva Gray then finished the job, taking the final 3 wickets with full, straight balls which took out the stumps of Sonali Patel, Katie Wolfe and Emily Thorpe.

Though Middlesex’s London Championship hopes are now over, they will take some heart from the fact that Griffith batted with such fluency. The hope is that she will be able to go on and transform her form into the forthcoming matches for Sunrisers in the Lottie Cup and the RHF Trophy.

NEWS: Dulwich CC Become First Club In England To Offer Priority Use Of Their Ground To Women And Girls

The Griffin Sports Ground in Dulwich Village, home to Dulwich CC, is set to become the first club cricket ground in the UK to give priority to women’s and girls’ players and teams.

The ground will be restored as a top-quality community facility for football and cricket, and will be run by a new charity established in partnership between Lambeth Tigers FC and Dulwich CC – the London Youth Sports Trust.

The Griffin will become home to Lambeth Tigers Football Club, which draws many of its players from communities where young people are denied access to good facilities, and to Dulwich Cricket Club’s women’s and girls’ teams, following the agreement of a new 30-year lease for the ground with the Dulwich Estate.

The Trust’s mission is to provide much-needed sports pitches for children and young people deprived of good facilities, for women’s and girls’ cricket and football, and for pupils at local state schools. The Trust will welcome partnerships with other clubs, residents and community groups that share its objectives, and is inviting these groups to suggest ideas for making full use of the ground. 

“The Griffin is going to transform the opportunities available in south London to two groups who are among those with most to gain from community sport: young people who growing with the extreme stress of living in high crime neighbourhoods but who deserve the best, and women and girls, who often take second place in sports grounds everywhere”, said Stephen Grey, chair of LYST and a parent at Lambeth Tigers. 

“We are hugely excited to take on this beautiful sports ground, and to develop it as a sporting hub for everyone from all communities and backgrounds. It will have lifelong benefits for the children and young people who play football and cricket there.”

Dulwich Cricket Club, established in 1867, has doubled the size of its women’s and girls’ section to more than 150 in the past 18 months, in line with cricket’s status as one of the fastest-growing female sports. The club currently has 10 girls, aged between 10 and 18, in Surrey’s performance programme.

The Griffin will become the home of the women’s and girls’ teams, who will have priority use of its facilities over men’s and boy’s teams. This is believed to be the first arrangement of its kind for a top-quality cricket ground in the UK.

The Griffin will enable the club to further expand its women’s and girls’ programme, which would otherwise be limited by a lack of access to pitches and practice facilities, and to provide more cricket opportunities to the Black community in South London. 

“Cricket is the fastest-growing sport for girls, and we’re experiencing a surge of interest – we’ve tripled our membership among primary school girls since March,” said Samantha Krafft, membership secretary of Dulwich Cricket Club. 

“We want to give girls exactly the same opportunities as boys to play cricket, and all that’s holding us back is a lack of places to play. There’s a shortage of good quality pitches in London, and many of those have long-standing use arrangements with men’s and boys’ teams. The Griffin will be the first cricket ground where women and girls come first – it’s what we need to achieve our dream.”

Kira Chathli, Dulwich CC’s Head Coach for Women & Girls, who represents South East Stars and Surrey, said: “When I started playing cricket at Dulwich, I was pretty much the only girl in the boys’ team. Now, I’m coaching well over a hundred players in girls-only sessions every week. The Griffin means we can keep growing – it’s going to change the game for women’s and girls’ cricket in South London.”

Lambeth Tigers, with support from Dulwich Cricket Club, is today launching a fundraising appeal to allow it to invest in improving the facilities at the Griffin, which need restoration, and to offer them affordably to its target users. Supporters are encouraged to donate online at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/home4tigers.

Lambeth Tigers was formed in 1995 and re-founded 10 years ago in the Loughborough and Angeltown Estates in Brixton by two youth workers, David Marriott and Jamahl Jarrett. Both turned away from involvement in gangs after David’s brother was murdered, to focus on using football to transform lives.

The club has a proud track record both of developing outstanding football talent, and of providing life-enhancing opportunities for children and young people who might otherwise be vulnerable to the impact of crime or deprivation. Its development has been held back by a lack of access to pitches, and it has never had a permanent ground.

LYST and the Griffin project have been established with substantial help and support from Sport England, the England & Wales Cricket Board, the Surrey Cricket Foundation, the Arts and Culture Foundation, the London FA, Mentivity CIC, and with advice and support from Southwark and Lambeth Councils, Football Beyond Borders, Nike, Unity FC, Nasaa FC, and the London Schools Cricket Association.

Other partners in the initiative, who will use the Griffin’s facilities, include Girls United FA, a women and girls football club, Carnegie Cricket Club, a south London club with origins in the West Indian community, and several local state schools.

Women’s Regional T20 Competition Named Charlotte Edwards Cup

The Women’s Regional T20 Competition has been named the Charlotte Edwards Cup.

The competition, which begins this weekend, sees the eight women’s regional teams go head to head in T20 cricket for the first time.

The move comes after the ECB’s decision to maintain the branding of the 50-over regional competition as the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, following widespread praise at their decision last season to honour one of the greats of the game.

Charlotte Edwards CBE made her international debut in 1996 against New Zealand aged just 16 years old, making her at that point the youngest player ever to represent England. She went on to represent England for two decades, retiring in May 2016. During that time she was a prolific run-scorer; she holds the record for most ODI runs ever scored by an English woman, with 5992 to her name, putting her second on the all-time list in women’s ODIs.

In 2006 she became England captain, and she went on to lead England to two World Cup wins in the space of 12 months in 2009, and three Ashes wins, including back-to-back series wins in 2013 and 2014.

She played in the first-ever international T20 match, against New Zealand at Hove in 2004, and is England Women’s leading run-scorer in IT20 cricket.

Edwards is of course also the current coach of Southern Vipers, which raises the amusing prospect of it being Charlotte Edwards who raises the inaugural Charlotte Edwards Trophy come September!

ECB Managing Director of Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, said: “It’s powerful to be able to connect the women’s regional game with such iconic figures in women’s cricket. Last year we named the 50 over competition after Rachael Heyhoe Flint, and now this.”

“There are numerous individuals who have served English cricket with distinction who we could have chosen, but we felt with Lottie’s relevance to the T20 game and her excellence as a player in the international T20 format, it was most fitting for the competition to take her name.

Charlotte Edwards said: “It’s a huge honour to have my name attached to the competition. The regional players who’ll take part in the competition are at the beginning of such an exciting journey, and the pathway has progressed and developed so far since I was in their position.”

“I hope, like we saw with the Rachael Heyhoe Flint, that players from across the eight teams can continue to impress at regional level and push hard for international selection. The new domestic set-up is a real game-changer for women’s cricket in this country and I’m really proud to be a part of it.”

MATCH REPORT: Datts The Way I Like It As Middlesex Reclaim London Cup

On a sunny evening at Radlett, Middlesex regained their London Cup crown, beating Surrey by 8 wickets with 10 balls to spare thanks to a half-century from Naomi Dattani.

Three years ago Dattani blasted her side to a win in that summer’s London Cup at Guildford, in what we described on CRICKETher as “an innings of sheer dominance, played with a level of aggression and confidence rarely seen at this level of the game”. There were shades of that innings at Radlett, as Dattani made a difficult run chase of 125 look easy, with a raft of sweep shots and and one hefty pull for six taking her to a half-century from 44 balls, brought up in the 13th over.

Three balls after bringing up her fifty, she holed out to Hannah Jones at mid-on, but Amara Carr (29*) and Tash Miles (24*) finished the job with ease – Miles’ game awareness and ball placement allowing Middlesex to steal runs aplenty.

Earlier, Surrey had looked in some trouble after losing 3 wickets in the powerplay, including the dangerous-looking Alice Capsey – caught at extra cover for a run-a-ball 19, after executing the perfect ramp shot for four against speedster Katie Wolfe.

Amara Carr then enacted a tidy stumping to see off Chloe Brewer for a three-ball duck, leaving Surrey 35-4 in the seventh.

Hannah Jones, though, played a battling captain’s innings as, having been dropped by Cordelia Griffith at extra cover on 12*, she made Middlesex pay for their error, reaching 42 from 40 balls including some well-placed boundaries. Kirstie White (26 from 28) provided able support as the pair rotated the strike well.

Though Jones was dismissed in the 19th over, miscuing Holly Thorpe to long-off, Eva Gray (15* from 9) ensured that Surrey finished their innings strongly, with two fours in the 20th over including an audacious ramp shot against Kate Coppack.

Given that last year’s total of 108 was only just overhauled by Surrey, 124 looked like it should be a winning total, but that reckoned without the determination of Dattani.

Sunrisers have endured a difficult start to the 2021 season, with zero wins from four matches so far in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. The decision to allow the three Middlesex “pros” – Dattani, Carr and Griffith – to play in this match looks to have been a good one, as Dattani in particular will look to translate her form into the forthcoming regional T20s which begin this weekend.

NEWS: Danni Wyatt Omitted From England ODI Squad v India

The ECB has confirmed that, as CRICKETher announced on Twitter earlier today, Danni Wyatt has been omitted from England’s ODI squad against India.

Wyatt’s response was to score 70 not out for Southern Vipers in their win against Western Storm in today’s regional T20 warm-up.

Sophia Dunkley, who hit an unbeaten 74* in England’s first innings of the Test, has (as expected) retained her place and looks set to make her ODI debut on Sunday at Bristol.

Another possible debutant is pace bowler Emily Arlott, who has been retained in the squad, despite missing out on selection for the final Test XI.

Georgia Elwiss, who was included in the Test XI as a “specialist batter”, has also been left out of the ODI squad. However, Freya Davies and Sarah Glenn have both been recalled and will be expected to play a major role in England’s plans in the 50-over matches.

After the Test was drawn, with two points going to each side, there are six possible points available in the ODIs (two in each of the three matches), before the T20 leg begins next month.

The full squad is as follows:

Heather Knight (Western Storm, captain)

Emily Arlott (Central Sparks)

Tammy Beaumont (Lightning)

Katherine Brunt (Northern Diamonds)

Kate Cross (Thunder)

Freya Davies (South East Stars)

Sophia Dunkley (South East Stars)

Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder)

Tash Farrant (South East Stars)

Sarah Glenn (Central Sparks)

Amy Jones (Central Sparks)

Nat Sciver (Northern Diamonds, vice captain)

Anya Shrubsole (Western Storm)

Mady Villiers (Sunrisers)

Fran Wilson (Sunrisers)

Lauren Winfield-Hill (Northern Diamonds)

NEWS: Kate Cross A “Big Advocate” For Multi-Day Domestic Cricket

England seamer Kate Cross, speaking in the build-up to the Test against India which begins on Wednesday, has said that she is a “big advocate” of the idea of introducing multi-day cricket as a regular part of the regional domestic calendar, as a way of preparing players for playing Test cricket.

“The longer format is where you learn the real skill of cricket,” she said. “You learn how to defend good bowling; how to bowl for longer periods of time; and be relentless on hitting line and length.”

With England players generally only getting the opportunity to play red ball cricket every two years against Australia, players currently find it difficult to prepare effectively for multi-day matches. However, the introduction of the new semi-professional regional structure in England offers an unprecedented opportunity to establish multi-day domestic cricket – something Cross says she is keen to see in the not too distant future.

“In the next 12 months, it’s really important that we establish what we’ve got now – the 50 over competition, the T20 and The Hundred,” she said.

“But I’m positive about the fact that it could potentially happen – whether that’s two or three-day cricket at domestic level – and I think in the next 5 years we’ll maybe get to the point where we can do that.”

 

RHF TROPHY: Eve Jones Does Her Job For Sparks v Thunder

Last time CRICKETher visited New Road, Worcester – on 5 September 2020, for the third round of the inaugural Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy – Eve Jones helped her team to an 8-wicket win against Thunder. For Jones, there was just one small niggle: she was run out 10 runs short of 3 figures, with her side on the brink of victory.

This time around, facing the first ball of the final over and with Sparks already 9 wickets down, Jones did what she couldn’t quite do 9 months ago – stroked a single to bring up a century (from 148 balls), to a collective sigh of relief from the smattering of spectators around the ground.

Unfortunately for Sparks, the result this time was reversed – Thunder sneaking home by 2 wickets thanks to a not-at-all streaky four (ahem) from no.10 Alex Hartley.

At the close, Jones admitted to having “very mixed feelings” about her innings. “I’d swap it for a win any day,” she said. It adds insult to injury that her one previous century for Sparks was also in a losing cause, against Lightning at Leicester last September.

Overall, her innings was a curious all-or-nothing mixture of imperious drives down the ground and a singular slog-swept six, interspersed with edges through slip. Even the most generous observer could not describe it as chanceless: Hartley shelled a caught and bowled chance when Jones was on 37*; she was dropped similarly by Hannah Jones on 47*; and she survived what looked to be a decent appeal for caught behind when she was on 54*.

But while there might be many prettier innings in her career highlights reel, and while the disappointment over the result will linger, the importance of today’s innings was in showcasing the determination and grit of the Sparks captain.

Comparing it to previous efforts, Jones said that this one came harder than most: “I felt I had to really graft for that one, really knuckle down and work hard for it. It wasn’t easy out there, I wasn’t feeling the ball in the middle of the bat as much as I’d like.”

The “manhattan” of her innings tells the story: 

Between overs 10 and 15, her scoring rate sank to almost 0 – no doubt a response to the ignominious run-outs of Milly Home and Gwenan Davies. On both occasions, Jones was not necessarily at fault – Home was caught ball-watching at the non-strikers end, while Davies called for the run and then seemed to change her mind – but as the senior player, and with her side slumping to 17-3 in the opening 6 overs, both incidents were surely playing on Jones’ mind.

“I knew I had to try and bat as long as I could, to anchor the innings and get us to a decent total,” she said.

Jones also suffered something of a drought between overs 34 and 37, as both Clare Boycott and Sarah Glenn departed and Sparks faced down 19 balls without scoring a run. In the words of Jones: “I just had to grind it out and try and keep building.”

It sounds like a cliche, but that’s professional cricket: some days the runs come easy, some days they come hard. When I spoke to Sparks’ Regional Director Laura MacLeod a few months ago, she was pretty clear about what 2021 would bring: “Not everybody is going to be cut out to be a professional. I’m sure we’ll start to find out who is capable of dealing with it, physically and mentally, and everything that goes with it.”

The very fact that Eve Jones kept on grafting, on a difficult, worn surface – allowing her side to reach a total of over 200 despite having been 17-3 – shows that she is one of those who is undoubtedly “cut out for” professional cricket.

NEWS: Alex Hartley Says Worcester Wicket “Not Good Enough”

Thunder captain Alex Hartley has labelled the pitch used in today’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy match against Central Sparks “not good enough”, after several players from both sides came close to serious injury during the game.

Thunder opener Emma Lamb was fortunate not to sustain any broken bones after an innocuous delivery from Izzy Wong, the first ball bowled in the second innings, reared up from nowhere and hit her in the forearm.

Sparks captain Eve Jones, who hit an unbeaten hundred, had earlier been hit on the upper arm in the very first over of the day.

Thunder’s wicketkeeper Ellie Threlkeld was almost hit in the face twice standing back from the stumps, with the ball behaving unpredictably due to pre-existing footholes.

The pitch had already been used for a four-day Worcestershire CCC Championship game, and continued to deteriorate as the match progressed.

The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy was widely praised last year due to being played on quality, first-class pitches. The resulting uptick in batting performances allowed Southern Vipers’ Georgia Adams to amass 500 runs in the inaugural competition, and the hope was that this trend would continue in the competition’s second year.

“It was a very old wicket,” Hartley said. “It’s not the standard of wicket we want at this competition.”

“We had a few flying out of the footholes for four and it’s just not good enough.”

NEWS: England Squad Trimmed To 15 Ahead Of Test

The 17-strong squad announced by England on Wednesday has been trimmed to 15 ahead of their Test against India which starts at Bristol next week.

The remaining players have now moved from Loughborough to a biosecure environment at Bristol ahead of the match.

The final XI will be chosen from the following 15 players:

  • Heather Knight (Western Storm, captain)
  • Emily Arlott (Central Sparks)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Lightning)
  • Katherine Brunt (Northern Diamonds)
  • Kate Cross (Thunder)
  • Sophia Dunkley (South East Stars)
  • Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder)
  • Georgia Elwiss (Southern Vipers)
  • Tash Farrant (South East Stars)
  • Amy Jones (Central Sparks)
  • Nat Sciver (Northern Diamonds, vice captain)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Western Storm)
  • Mady Villiers (Sunrisers)
  • Fran Wilson (Sunrisers)
  • Lauren Winfield-Hill (Northern Diamonds)

Sarah Glenn (Central Sparks) and Freya Davies (South East Stars) have been released, and will now be able to play for their regions in tomorrow’s fourth round of matches in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.