NEWS: Lisa Keightley Calls For England To “Lead The Way” In Playing More Women’s Tests

England coach Lisa Keightley has called for England to “lead the way” in playing more women’s Tests, ahead of her team’s one-off encounter against South Africa next week at Taunton.

Keightley labelled the recent remarks by ICC Chair Greg Barclay – who told BBC TMS earlier this month that he felt women’s Tests would not be “part of the landscape moving forward to any real extent” – as “disappointing”, and said that England would be looking to “challenge” Barclay’s vision in next week’s match.

“The last few Test matches has proven that it’s a format that is quite exciting,” she said. “We actually feel like we want to lead the way. The way to do that is to play more Test matches.”

“Realistically, I don’t think every country can play this format, but I do think we should stretch and challenge and still have the desire to improve women’s cricket and to grow it. There’s a few countries that are putting their hands up to play Test cricket for that purpose. The players want to play it, and the organisations are getting in and around it and behind it.”

She also strongly hinted that the ECB would be looking to include a multi-day component in the regional domestic structure going forwards. “You’ve got to learn the craft of Test cricket,” she said. “The countries that are playing Test matches have a pathway that they could slide along the format in. We’re looking to do that going forward, it’s just a matter of how you could put it in a domestic structure and what that may look like.”

After selecting a squad with five potential Test debutants ahead of next week’s match, Keightley was also keen to emphasise that this summer marked a “new cycle” for the England side, after their disappointing showing against Australia in the recent Ashes and World Cup. Spearheading that new cycle is Emma Lamb, who Keightley as good as confirmed would be opening the batting alongside Tammy Beaumont next week, saying: “It’s her time and it’s her chance to show us what she’s got.”

England’s bowling line-up is less decided, though Keightley talked up Lauren Bell, Freya Davies and Emily Arlott as being “exciting” possibilities to open the bowling: “We’ll see how they go throughout the week, and see who’s looking the best to see who gets the opportunity to play their first Test match.” Issy Wong, included in the squad as a travelling reserve only, will not feature in the longer format due to recent injury niggles; but is being looked at for possible inclusion in the white-ball squads later in the summer.

Keightley also shed some more light onto Katherine Brunt’s decision to retire from Test cricket, suggesting that after her recent bout of Covid and subsequent absence from the majority of the Charlotte Edwards Cup (she bowled just 4 overs in the competition), she had simply not bowled enough overs since the World Cup for the Test to be a realistic possibility.

“We knew after the World Cup we needed everything to go right with her prep and it didn’t. In the end she didn’t have the loads behind her to play in this Test match. It would have been high risk,” Keightley said. “Sitting down with Katherine and talking it through, it was pretty obvious that the Commonwealth Games was the focus and she wasn’t going to get up for this Test match.”

“With those conversations she’s gone away and thought about it, and thought the Ashes was too far next year so if she didn’t play in this one she probably wasn’t going to play a Test. It’s been an emotional few weeks for Katherine, coming to that decision… I think she’s made the smart call.”

INTERVIEW – Dia Nair: The 13-Year-Old Cricketer Breaking Barriers… And Stumps

Dia Nair is 13 years old and already knows what she wants to do when she finishes school: “I want to play cricket for England.” Judging by the collection of trophies she shows me during our interview, it’s an ambition that could well be within her grasp.

Dia with her trophies

Last year, Dia was named Colt of the Year by her club, Hampstead CC. It means that already, aged 13, she is considered to be the best cricketer under 16 – boy or girl – who plays at Hampstead. For a club which is one of the biggest in London and which, according to Play Cricket, fields 21 junior teams, that is quite some feat. In 156 years of the club’s history, Dia is also the first girl ever to win the award – “I was really proud of that,” she says.

Dia is an all-rounder, though she describes pace bowling as her “stronger point”; last season she hit her highest county score to date, 63 not out for Middlesex against Surrey, as well as taking “quite a few five-fors”. She nonchalantly drops into the conversation that: “I swing it both ways” (Anya Shrubsole eat your heart out!) She’s never been clocked on a speed gun, but at the age of 10, she bowled the ball so quickly in a match for Middlesex against Hampshire that she broke a stump clean in half. She still has the two pieces.

Dia with her broken stump

In some ways, Dia’s is a familiar story. She grew up playing cricket with her older brother in the garden at home, encouraged by two supportive parents – her mum also played as a girl growing up in India. Asked to name an inspirational coach, Dia immediately says: “My brother!” At the age of nine, she followed him to the local club (Hampstead); not long afterwards, she was sent to Middlesex trials, and made the Under-13s county side.

Dia and her brother
Dia Nair with her older brother, taken on the day she went to Middlesex trials

As a talented junior, she regularly plays for Hampstead’s boys teams, and just as Charlotte Edwards did three decades ago, she still sometimes encounters surprise when she turns up to open the batting or the bowling against an all-boys opposition. “They are always not expecting me or the other girls in my team to be quite as good as we are!” she says. Has she ever got one of them out? “Yeah, yeah,” she says, casually. “Most games!”

Has anything changed since the 1990s, then? Quite a lot, actually. For starters, there are enough other girls around to mean that Hampstead can turn out entire girls’ sides. The county structures in place for girls like Dia are also unrecognisable – she does a full programme of winter nets for Middlesex, and receives individual feedback every time. And she is benefitting from opportunities to play at school – she attends South Hampstead High School, who reintroduced cricket in 2018, and was recently named as a reserve in the Under-19s Girls’ Day School Trust team – one of the youngest players in the running for the squad.

“When I went to my GDST cricket trials all the girls there were really, really good, and it was a surprise – it was really nice to see,” she says. “And some of the older girls were saying how a couple of years ago when they trialled there were barely any people, and there were about 50 when I went and that was really cool.”

The interest is helped along by the fact that women’s cricket is regularly on TV these days. Dia watched the recent World Cup with her mum, cheering on England, and says she wants to bat like Heather Knight (although she also cites Ben Stokes, MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar as role models).

And of course there is now a regional structure in place – and with it, a real opportunity to go professional in just a few short years. Dia tells me, excitedly, that when she moves up to the Under-15s Middlesex team next year, “they start scouting for professionals, and our performances get recorded, so if we play really well we might get selected for this thing called Sunrisers!”

“I think that would be really cool,” she adds. She’s not wrong. There is not much that is cooler than hearing a girl like Dia talk about her ambitions to play cricket professionally, and knowing that the new domestic structure is providing the opportunities for her to do exactly that.

For now, she’d better keep hold of that broken stump – the pieces might be worth quite a lot of money one day!

Mamma Mia! Rogers Shines As Berkshire Have Fun At Falkland

Berkshire got their season off to a rollicking start with two convincing wins against Shropshire at Falkland CC.

The first match of the day was dominated by Mia Rogers, who made an early-season bid for inclusion in Sunrisers’ starting XI when regionals begin in four weeks time.

Shropshire had chosen to bat first after winning the toss, but Rogers’ sharp keeping allowed Berkshire to confine them to 88 for 7 in their 20 overs. Her contributions included whipping off the bails to assist in the run outs of Amy Griffiths and Alice Dixon, snaffling a skier sent up by Lauren Kenvyn (22) to break a 50-run partnership with Alexandra Hale, and two nifty stumpings to hand debutant Kali-Ann Doherty her first two wickets in senior county cricket.

Opening in conjunction with another of the Berkshire debutants, Abigail Avery (27* off 39), Rogers started in measured fashion but grew in confidence as her innings progressed, eventually smashing Kenvyn for six over deep midwicket.

As Berkshire raced along to their total, the only question was whether Rogers would be able to reach her half-century before they ran out of runs needed. It was touch and go but finally, having got back on strike in the 13th over with just a single needed for victory, Rogers pulled confidently for four to finish on 50 not out (from just 35 balls), handing Berkshire a 10-wicket win.

In the second match of the day, with Berkshire batting first this time, Rogers initially picked up where she had left off, but smacked it straight to cover in the fifth over when on 13. Instead Berkshire captain Ashleigh Muttitt did the heavy lifting, driving hard down the ground en route to a run-a-ball 34.

Emily Perrin (3 for 18) dented Berkshire’s efforts as they lost three wickets in the 13th and 14th overs with the score on 83, but Freya Johnson successfully defended the hat-trick ball and Berkshire added 23 runs in the final five overs to finish on 116 for 6.

Shropshire made a go of it in the run chase, reaching 37 for 1 in the powerplay as captain Lara Jones (24 off 27) gave off-spinner Hollie Summerfield some punishment.

But Jones was caught pulling Ava Lee to backward square leg in the 9th and Summerfield had the last laugh with a tidy spell at the death that strangled any last hopes of Shropshire getting across the line. Amanda “Steamer” Potgeiter helped things along with a direct-hit run out from mid-on to see off Hale for 0.

In a dramatic final over, with Shropshire needing an improbable 27 for the win, Freya Johnson finished things off in a style for the Beavers by taking four wickets – three of them bowled – as Shropshire were all out for 94 off the final ball of the match.

The double-win puts Berkshire top of Group 2 of the Women’s County T20 competition, ahead of rivals Worcestershire and Staffordshire.

BOOK REVIEW: Fair Game by Alex Blackwell with Megan Maurice

Alex Blackwell’s new book, Fair Game, is not your standard cricket autobiography. Yes, it tells the story of her journey in cricket – from growing up playing in the backyard of her grandparents’ place in Wagga Wagga, to breaking through into the New South Wales team while at university, to her Australian debut in 2003 against England under the great Belinda Clark, to winning multiple World Cups, captaining Australia to glory at the 2010 World Twenty20, and taking home the inaugural WBBL title in 2015/16. It’s also a first-hand insight into the ways in which professionalism transformed the lives of a generation of players overnight. But the most important contribution which this book makes is to lay bare the ways in which cricket has excluded and continues to exclude those who don’t quite fit the mould.

Alex Blackwell batting with Sarah Taylor keeping wicket
Photo courtesy of Don Miles

Blackwell is one such player. An outspoken advocate for increased diversity and equity in cricket, she made history in 2013 as the first international female cricketer ever to publicly come out. Here, it is made clear how much she agonised about that decision – unsurprising when she describes the constant background of casual homophobic remarks which went on, including from Cricket Australia employees and sponsors. “I was not viewed by Cricket Australia to be a good role model for young girls,” she writes. This kind of casualised homophobia did not come as a surprise to me – it is rife within English cricket, too, as my book Ladies and Lords shows – but it is still shocking to read about some of Blackwell’s experiences, and the way in which her experiences in cricket caused deep internal shame about her sexuality, which endured for years.

Relatedly, Blackwell emphasises how CA favoured a particular “image” for female cricketers, which forced gay players permanently into the closet but was equally damaging for non-gay women who did not conform to the favoured “type”. One of the most revealing lines in the book is when Blackwell relays how during her early years playing for Australia, she and her sister Kate toyed with the idea of growing their hair long, in order to market themselves as “the golden twins”. Another damning anecdote relates to the three women chosen by CA in 2013 to receive their first ever “marketing contracts”: Ellyse Perry, Meg Lanning and Holly Ferling – all blonde, attractive and heterosexual. You would have to be blind not to have realised that this was going on – just look at which players were most visible in the marketing of the first WBBL – but Blackwell’s book lays bare the horrendous practice (which, if we’re honest, is still prevalent) of pushing forward players on the basis of their physical attractiveness rather than their cricketing abilities.

Why was Blackwell never chosen to captain Australia on a permanent basis? A convincing public explanation has never been given as to why she was passed over in favour of Lanning in 2014 – a player with no captaincy experience at any level of cricket – nor why Rachael Haynes (then not even an automatic pick in the XI) was handed the reins during the 2017 World Cup, when Lanning was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Blackwell says that she has never been given a reason, other than being told: “Meg had all the attributes they wanted in a captain and I didn’t”. She stops short of saying that those attributes included being heterosexual and taciturn, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the dots.

The irony of all this is that CA’s treatment of Blackwell may well have ultimately cost Australia their chance of winning the 2016 and 2017 World Cups. Blackwell’s most damning critique of an individual comes in the chapters which deal with these two tournaments, in which she describes how Australia’s coach Matthew Mott stuck to a limited, basic tactical approach – “bowl at the stumps” – leaving the players without any Plan B in the 2016 WT20 final against Hayley Matthews and Stafanie Taylor, and more famously against Harmanpreet Kaur at Derby in the 2017 semi-final. Blackwell relays how, as vice-captain, she continually tried to raise concerns; but others simply parroted the party line. It’s a brilliant example of why diversity is needed within organisations: somebody needs to tell you the thing you don’t want to hear, or it becomes all about group-think.

Meanwhile, Blackwell’s alternative views about tactics were “shut down” and she was publicly criticised by Mott in meetings, to the extent that she was left in tears. “That tournament was one of the toughest periods of my cricket career,” Blackwell writes. “Throughout every day of it I felt undervalued and insignificant.” It’s rare to read anything critical of Mott, but this is one of the worst examples of player mismanagement I’ve ever come across. Let’s hope things have changed behind the scenes since then.

It’s rare that we get this kind of book in women’s cricket – an honest, wide-ranging critique – and Blackwell should be awarded for her bravery in writing it (credit too to Megan Maurice, who has done a brilliant job of making this book very readable). The timing is perhaps explained by Blackwell’s recent decision to draw a line under her involvement in elite cricket in Australia:

“Maybe I would feel more inclined to keep holding on and continue volunteering in cricket if I was confident that we were setting a high standard and being bold with our ambitions around female representation, inclusion strategies and the environment. Instead I still feel like raising these issues makes a lot of people uncomfortable.”

This is worrying not just as an indictment of the current culture of cricket in Australia. Part of the problem has always been that those IN the game right now don’t feel they can be open about the ways in which things are going wrong – there is a culture of secrecy, whereby those on the inside close ranks.

It’s important that we remember that this isn’t a book about a dark and distant past – as Blackwell writes, “there are still some barriers to inclusion and equal opportunity that remain unconquered”. Her book is a great first step to exposing some of those issues. The next step is for those within CA (and the ECB, and the other boards around the world) to listen, acknowledge, and act as a result – but will they? That would be the best legacy of this brave and revealing book.

Buy the book.

WOMEN’S ASHES: 2ND ODI – England Up The Junction

Australia stomped all over England at the Junction Oval in Melbourne on Sunday, winning the match with 88 balls to spare after bowling England out for 129 in 45.2 overs.

England had talked up the remaining two matches of the Ashes with the suggestion that their aim was to repeat their 2017/18 comeback, and draw the series on points. Perhaps it was for that reason that they chose to stick with an almost-identical XI to the first ODI (Katherine Brunt was rested with a “niggle”), refusing to hand match-practice to Lauren Bell or Freya Davies ahead of the World Cup, or tinker with their batting line-up. It seems pretty certain that England will be sticking with Lauren Winfield-Hill at the top of the order for the World Cup, come what may.

England reached 40 for 1 after 10 overs but it was downhill from there, as Ellyse Perry (3 for 12) pulled out the kind of disciplined bowling performance which leaves England fans waking up in a cold sweat with flashbacks of July 2019. There were two phenomenal catches from Australia – Alyssa Healy diving to her right behind the stumps to see off Tammy Beaumont, before Meg Lanning topped it with a screamer taken full-stretch to HER right at first slip.

They fought hard with the ball – Kate Cross once again dispelling the bizarrely persistent claims that she is a “red ball specialist” with a brilliant couple of spells – but as so often in this series, the bowlers couldn’t make up for the fact that the batters let England down – badly.

Watching the top-order today, you’d be hard-pressed to find any evidence of England’s pre-series “fighting fire with fire” strategy. Too often, they got stuck in the crease when they needed to be attacking the ball – five wickets fell LBW. England also, once again, used their DRS reviews poorly. Sophia Dunkley’s reluctance to make the “T” signal told a thousand stories; she really should have stood up to Amy Jones, who appeared to have talked her into the review. It probably didn’t make much difference in the end today – although Cross could have saved herself, with replays showing the LBW decision against her was actually missing leg-stump – but on another occasion (a World Cup semi-final, say) it could be crucial. England get far more practice with DRS than most other sides in the world, and need to get better at using it to their advantage.

So… what next? There are obvious parallels with the misery of the Canterbury ODI in July 2019, when Perry ran through England’s batters, finishing with 7 for 22, and effectively sealed England’s fate in the series. The media were unforgiving; and when England coach Mark Robinson was hastily dispatched at the end of the series, it seemed the blame for the humiliation of Canterbury was being laid square on his shoulders.

I think, ultimately, this defeat won’t “land” in quite the same way that one did. For one, England had already surrendered the Ashes this time around. For another, the fact that their World Cup defence will commence in a matter of weeks means that there is another immediate goal to focus on. There is no sense in beginning any post-mortems at this point.

But… that could simply be delaying the inevitable. Because if England play like they did today in New Zealand next month, their title is going to slip away quicker than you can say “Ellyse Perry”; and if there is one thing worse than losing the Ashes to Australia, it is losing the Ashes AND a World Cup crown to Australia in the space of two months.

WOMEN’S ASHES: TEST DAY FOUR – Lanning And Knight Lead The Test Revival

Well, it’s a fair cop. I called it wrong yesterday.

Sorry Meg.

In fact, the eventual declaration from Lanning set up the most exciting session of Test cricket I’ve ever seen “live” (edging aside TOG’s* Edgbaston 2005). In fact, it’s surely got to go down as one of the most exciting sessions there has EVER been in women’s cricket. There’s a certain amount of irony that all the talk before this Test was about the problematic lack of results in recent women’s Test matches; yet this one showed us how breathtaking a draw can actually be.

Initially, all the talk was that Lanning’s “carrot” – asking England to chase 257 in 48 overs at a RRR of 5.35 – was of microscopic size. But as England gradually ate away at the target, the tone of the commentary shifted. Could England actually do this? With 8 wickets in hand, needing 104 runs going into the final hour of play and with Nat Sciver and Heather Knight both set, Australia looked distinctly nervous… and Syd and I dared to hope.

Lanning freely admitted in the post-match presser that her early plan was the wrong one: “We were too wide and full with our bowling early on.” So they changed tack – or, as Lanning described it, “flipped our thinking” – and began to attack the stumps. After Sciver pulled Annabel Sutherland to square leg with 39 runs still needed, it quickly unravelled for England… until finally the roles reversed, and English supporters everywhere were breathing a sigh of relief that Kate Cross had managed to cling on for the draw. The whole session is a good example of the way in which Lanning’s captaincy has evolved since that World Cup semi-final in 2017, when Australia’s bowlers were Harmanpreet-ed and there was, seemingly, no Plan B.

It seems to me that the result in this Test is unlikely to have any eventual bearing on the Ashes series as a whole. England won’t now win all of the three ODIs, but even if they HAD won today, my money would still have been on Australia to come good and win two of the three 50-over matches, thus retaining the Ashes anyway.

Nonetheless, I’d argue that the result is still potentially very significant, for two reasons.

One, it will have dealt a severe psychological blow to England’s confidence. You have to feel for Heather Knight. She could hardly have given more, and she must be utterly shattered right now, after spending almost the entire four days of the Test on the field. Sciver also looked desperately disappointed during the post-match, admitting: “I feel more sad [at not winning] than I do happy [at not losing] at the minute.” In a few weeks time, England are facing a period of strict isolation in quarantine in New Zealand, followed by attempting to defend their World Cup title. It’s important to move on from this “defeat” (yes I know it was a draw, but it will feel like a loss) as quickly as possible.

Two, and more importantly, is what this match will have done for the future of the Test format as a whole. It may not be fair, but it is certainly true that whenever a (rare) women’s Test is played, the players are tasked with making the case that women’s Test cricket remains relevant and exciting. In recent times, we’ve witnessed the Taunton Test in 2019 labelled “the most boring game imaginable” by journalists, while prior to that, England’s final-day collapse at Canterbury in 2015 led The Guardian’s then-cricket correspondent to call for women’s Test cricket to be abolished altogether. Compare that with this tweet today from The Telegraph’s Scyld Berry:

There have been other exciting women’s Tests – Perth 2014; Hyderabad 1995; the list goes on – but the important point is that none of them were ever televised. I’d love to see viewing figures for the last two sessions of this match! It seems to me that its denouement will have done more in four hours to convince the administrators we should have more women’s Test cricket, than I have in four (+++) years of banging the drum. England will be hurting right now, but once the dust has settled, that is certainly something to celebrate.

Kudos to Lanning and Knight for their respective roles in setting it up.

*TOG = The Other Game (Men’s Cricket)

WOMEN’S ASHES: TEST DAY ONE – Australia Take Command

This might be controversial, but I’ll call it as I see it: already, at the end of Day One, England are in a position where it will be almost impossible for them to win this Test.

At the toss, we finally got a glimpse of Heather Knight and Lisa Keightley’s Masterplan: bowl first, chuck in your most experienced quick bowlers (Katherine Brunt, Anya Shrubsole and Kate Cross), and hope for the best. With Brunt and, in particular, Shrubsole moving it around up top, it looked like it might just have been a genius move: Australia were 4 for 2 before I’d had time to boil the kettle.

When Ellyse Perry miscued a Nat Sciver bouncer to Amy Jones, who took an excellent running, diving catch (to add to her two smart grabs behind the stumps to see off Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney), England were ecstatic.

But their celebrations proved to be premature, especially in the face of Australia’s insanely long batting line-up. Slowly, that early momentum slipped through England’s fingers – literally slipped through them, in the case of Knight and Sciver, who between them cost England 121 runs after they put down Meg Lanning and Rachael Haynes at first and second slip respectively. Australia finished the day on 327 for 7. As Syd pointed out on Twitter, no one has ever won a women’s Test where the other team have scored over 300 on first innings.

So was England’s strategy the wrong one? Selection-wise, it’s hard to know if Lauren Bell would have outbowled Brunt, Shrubsole or Cross – although I would have liked to have seen her given the chance. But I am a bit baffled by the decision to bowl first.

This isn’t just about “the benefit of hindsight”. I’ve long argued that it’s extremely difficult to win a four-day women’s Test if you don’t bat first, and today’s events are merely a case in point. After two sessions, during which Australia scored 199 runs and lost just 3 wickets, England’s window of opportunity to control the game had all-but-closed. If they’d opted to bat, that window would (bar a horrendous collapse) have lasted a lot longer – they could have forced the pace when they chose; dug in if they’d lost a few quick wickets; and assuming they’d batted out the day, it would have been in their hands whether they came back out to bat again tomorrow.

Instead, all those decisions – including whether England’s tired bowlers have to come back out and do it all again on Day Two – are now in Lanning’s hands.

The decision to bowl first is even odder given that all the “noise” coming out of the England camp before the Test was about how challenging it is to take wickets in women’s Tests – variously blamed on pitches that are too long, batter-friendly wickets, and / or the inability to use a Dukes ball.

And so we face the first test of Australia’s own “going for the win” approach: how long will they keep batting? The truly aggressive move would, frankly, have been to have declared half an hour before the close once they’d reached 300, and given England a horrible period to negotiate. But given that they didn’t do that, they surely now have to declare overnight? 327 runs is already a VERY formidable first-innings total in the context of women’s Test cricket, and with the forecast as it is, declaring now is the only way to guarantee that they will have the time to take 20 English wickets. Plus, the pressure will all be on England, who have a big runs-deficit to overhaul before they can even think about doing anything else. (See what I mean about no longer dictating the game?)

Australia have talked a good talk over the last three Tests they’ve played about wanting to avoid yet another draw. Now’s the time for them to walk the walk as well… the question is, will they?

NEWS: Amanda-Jade Wellington Set To Be Omitted From Australia’s Ashes Squad

In a bizarre move, Cricket Australia are set to announce a squad for the forthcoming Women’s Ashes series which does not include Amanda-Jade Wellington, despite the leg-spinner finishing as the leading wicket-taker in the 2021/22 WBBL.

According to reports in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, Wellington has been edged out by Alana King, who has received her premier call-up to the national side. She will be included in the Australia A side which will be in action against the England A side during the main Ashes series, but there is unlikely to be a chance of “promotion” to the main side as the two squads are being kept separate for Covid biosecurity purposes.

Wellington last played for Australia in 2018 and since then has been consistently and inexplicably snubbed by the Australian selectors, despite consistently being a top performer in domestic and franchise cricket. She was the top-ranked bowler in our Women’s Hundred rankings and a key factor in Southern Brave’s progression to the final.

Other notable inclusions in the squad, which will be announced officially tomorrow, are Adelaide Strikers captain Tahlia McGrath, who enjoyed success in Australia’s recent series against India, and teenage pacer Darcie Brown.

The squad looks set to be as follows:

  • Meg Lanning (c)
  • Rachael Haynes
  • Darcie Brown
  • Nicola Carey
  • Alyssa Healy
  • Ashleigh Gardner
  • Jess Jonassen
  • Alana King
  • Tahlia McGrath
  • Beth Mooney
  • Ellyse Perry
  • Megan Schutt
  • Molly Strano Hannah Darlington*
  • Annabel Sutherland
  • Tayla Vlaeminck

[Amended 12 Jan 2022.]

NEWS: Scotland Look To Qualify For Commonwealth Games As Costs Spiral For Competitors

Countries who wish to take part in the Qualifying Tournament for the 2022 Commonwealth Games will be required to pay their own hotel and travel costs, CRICKETher understands.

The Qualifier, which is due to take place in Malaysia in January 2022, will decide who takes the final, eighth spot in the women’s cricket event at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July, alongside hosts England and the six highest ranked T20 sides – Australia, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa and Barbados (representing West Indies).

All Commonwealth countries featuring in the current global T20 rankings were invited by the ICC to participate in the Qualifier. Scotland have already confirmed their participation, alongside hosts Malaysia, but with a substantial travel and accommodation price tag now attached to participation it looks less and less likely that other teams will be able to join them.

Northern Ireland have already confirmed that they will not be participating, due to the fact that the majority of players in the Ireland national team originate from the Republic of Ireland, rendering them ineligible according to current CWG criteria.

With the new Omicron variant wreaking havoc with global travel (and leading to the abandonment of the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifiers in November), there is also a risk that any qualifier may be derailed and teams hit with a possible quarantine bill on return home. This may well serve to deter other possible entrants.

For Scotland, this set of circumstances represents a real opportunity to qualify for participation in the Commonwealth Games – an exciting prospect for a team who have never yet featured in a World Cup tournament.

But for other countries, the reluctance of the ICC to provide adequate resources to facilitate participation in the Qualifying Tournament will be a severe blow. The ICC have previously labelled the CWG “a huge opportunity to turbo-charge the growth of the game”; unfortunately, it appears that this “turbo-charging” does not extend to countries outside of the elite few.

NEWS: Women’s County Cricket To Continue In 2022

The news yesterday that Tash Farrant has regained her England contract after nearly three years in the wilderness was accompanied by a statement from Kent CCC which confirms that senior women’s county cricket is set to continue.

Kent Women’s coach Dave Hathrill was quoted as saying: “[Farrant] is a leading figure for Kent Women and we’re looking forward to seeing her progress further whilst also wearing the White Horse.”

Other counties have also made it public that they are continuing with their women’s winter training programmes – including Middlesex.

Play Cricket now contains a page showing County T20 groupings for the 2022 season, with groups once again formed on a regional basis. CRICKETher also understands that the ECB have issued a fixture calendar to the counties, showing four dates for a Women’s County T20 competition at the start of the season in April / May (though this has not yet been released publicly).

Interestingly, yesterday’s Kent press release suggests that they expect England players (including Farrant) to be made available to play for their counties in the 2022 season and beyond – thus answering a question we raised in a recent episode of The CRICKETher Weekly.

So it seems that – while the ECB are apparently reluctant to shout about their U-turn – women’s county cricket lives to see another day!