NEWS: Western Storm Lives On As New “Centre Of Excellence”

As first mooted by CRICKETher back in October, it has been confirmed that the Kia Super League’s “Western Storm” will live on, becoming the name of the new South West & Wales Centre of Excellence who will field women’s teams in both 50-over and 20-over domestic cricket as of 2021.

The job advert [MS Word] for the South West’s new Regional Director of Women’s Cricket, who will work across Wales, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Devon and Cornwall, states that  the jobholder will be employed by the “Western Storm Board of Directors”, with Western Storm now registered as an official limited company with HMRC.

The web page accompanying the job advert states:

“Following on from four successful years in the Kia Super League, Western Storm has proudly become a household name across the South West. With existing strong links across the region, Western Storm has left an excellent legacy of programmes encouraging participation and support for women’s and girl’s cricket.

Five counties (Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire) in the South West, and Wales have joined forces to lead the way in collaborative working for the greater benefit of performance and recreational cricket across our vast region.

With Western Storm’s existing legacy and the ECB’s new wider game strategy to Transform Women’s and Girls Cricket, this key appointment represents a substantial and exciting opportunity to play your part in both continuing and driving female cricket forward across our region.”

The new Centres of Excellence are due to launch shortly, acting as a replacement for the women’s senior county structure, with CoE sides to play against each other in September in a 50-over competition which replaces the Women’s County Championship. As of 2021, the CoEs will also compete in a 20-over competition. The Centres will serve as the base for the 40 new professionally-contracted domestic players and are a cornerstone of the ECB’s new Women and Girls’ Strategy.

It remains to be seen whether other Centres will follow in Western Storm’s footsteps and also adopt the name of their corresponding Kia Super League side. Nonetheless, if Western Storm can live on in a new guise, there seems no reason why Southern Vipers, Loughborough Lightning and the rest can’t do the same.

NEWS: Ali Maiden Steps Down; Lisa Keightley’s Coaching Team Takes Shape

The ECB have today announced that Alistair Maiden, the current England Assistant Coach, is stepping down from his current role to take up a post as Head of Talent Pathway at Leicestershire CCC.

Maiden has been part of the England set-up since 2011, initially as Lead Batting Coach, before becoming Assistant Coach in 2017. He played an important role in England’s World Cup win in 2017, and most recently served as Acting Head Coach for England’s whitewash of Pakistan in Malaysia.

Maiden’s sideways move to Leicestershire comes as no surprise: he worked closely with former coach Mark Robinson throughout his tenure as Assistant Coach, and following Robinson’s departure in August this decision was probably inevitable sooner rather than later.

It is also telling that Maiden is being replaced by Tim Macdonald, who has previously served as new Head Coach Lisa Keightley’s deputy at the Perth Scorchers WBBL. MacDonald – who will be in place initially only for the duration of the World T20 – appears to have been handpicked by Keightley to join the England set-up, with (as far as we are aware) no formal appointment process in place for the role.

Keightley and Macdonald’s first assignment will be the tri-series against Australia and India which begins in Canberra on January 31st.

BOOK LAUNCH: “Ladies and Lords: A History of Women’s Cricket in Britain”

On Wednesday 22 January, Raf will be launching her new book – Ladies and Lords: A History of Women’s Cricket in Britain.

The book is the first ever comprehensive history of women’s cricket in Britain, and covers the whole period from the first ever recorded match in 1745 to England’s World Cup triumph at Lord’s in 2017.

The launch is taking place in conjunction with the Cricket Society, and will be held at 7pm at the Union Jack Club in London (opposite Waterloo station). All are welcome to come along (no need to RSVP!)

England v Pakistan 3rd T20 – England Spread The Batting Load Around

England once again showed the breadth of batting talent currently available to them in their 26-run win against Pakistan today, with the top 5 all making decent contributions  to complete a tour clean-sweep across both the ODI and T20 formats.

It’s been one of the hallmarks of this tour that it hasn’t been the same batsmen making all the running, with Tammy Beaumont, Danni Wyatt and Nat Sciver all adding to their century tallies, and Amy Jones, Heather Knight and Fran Wilson all falling just short of doing so with scores in the 80s. Wilson, whose place was in some doubt after missing out for much of last summer, has had a particularly good time of it; and shared an important late partnership with Beaumont in today’s game, the pair adding 44 runs across the last 4 overs of the England innings after things had stalled a bit in the middle period.

It looks a fairly safe bet that these 6 – Beaumont, Wyatt, Sciver, Jones, Knight and Wilson – will now make up the core of England’s batting in the forthcoming WWT20, with Lauren Winfield – who did get an outing today but unfortunately for her didn’t actually make it to the middle – looking like she will miss out.

The real question, then, is over the batting order. The thinking seems to be that we should expect the unexpected, with no one player “nailed on” to come in at number 3, even in similar match situations. In the first T20, with England losing their first wicket in over 4, Beaumont did the job; while today, with the first wicket going down in the 5th over, Knight was tasked with the role and Beaumont dropped down to number 5. Remarks on commentary suggest this is a deliberate strategy, designed to ensure maximum flexibility. It’s certainly an interesting approach, though I’m not sure I agree with relegating the best batsman (a title to which Beaumont certainly has a claim) to number 5.

With the ball, Sarah Glenn has enjoyed a memorable first tour in England colours, and continued her honeymoon period by picking up another couple of wickets in today’s game. Of course the real test – Australia in home conditions in February – still awaits her; but Knight has shown good faith in giving her a decent run to start her career, with signs that England might prefer to have a leg spinner in their armoury rather than a second leftie (Kirstie Gordon remaining on the bench for the whole tour).

Ahead of the tour we thought Pakistan had a decent shot at sneaking a win past England, but in truth they never really came close to a winning position in any of the 6 matches – credit to England for never taking their foot off the pedal. Of the Pakistani bowlers, Diana Baig had a good tour, with England struggling to score against her throughout; she finished up with a couple of wickets today, dismissing both Wyatt and Knight with some clever variations in pace. Leggie Syeda Shah, who made her debut in the T20 series, looks like a good bet for the future at just 15 years old. Pakistan’s main concern should be their batting – with Sana Mir MIA, Bismah Maroof was left to score the vast weight of the runs (24%), the rest of the order showing a worrying tendency to crumble around her.

Overall, England probably got out of the tour everything they could have hoped for – some decent match time (only one of the matches rain-affected in the end), a chance to expose their younger players to international cricket in a relatively low-stakes series, and the opportunity for their batsmen (still bruised after the heavy loss to Australia) to regain some confidence ahead of the World Cup.

England v Pakistan 1st T20 – England’s World T20 Team Takes Shape

Is today’s XI the team which will take to the field come February 23, England’s first fixture in the 2020 World Twenty20? It seems more than likely. Heather Knight may change things up later in this series, but for now, you’d say that this is the team she believes has the best shot at winning them the world title.

That means Amy Jones back at the top of the order, with Tammy Beaumont dropping down to 3, which is my personal preference, as I tweeted during the second ODI:

Jones certainly looked much more confident today, hitting a 38-ball half-century. It wasn’t a chanceless innings, featuring a couple of inside edges which she was lucky to get away with, but in T20 you need to take risks, especially when your partner at the other end is getting a bit bogged down.

For their part, Pakistan bowled well enough to restrict Tammy Beaumont to only a-run-a-ball. In particular, 15-year-old debutant Syeda Shah dazzled the England batsmen with her leg spin: Jones bowled after failing to read a straight one, while only a fumble by wicketkeeper Sidra Nawaz prevented Shah from also picking up the wicket of Nat Sciver in her next over.

Oddly, when Beaumont was finally dismissed in the 16th, England chose to send in Katherine Brunt at 5. With 4-and-a-bit overs still remaining, you’d think that Knight would back herself ahead of her frontline seamer; or even Fran Wilson, fresh from her unbeaten 85 in the second ODI. Not only is the England captain clearly the superior batsman, I’d also question whether it’s really worth knackering Brunt with the bat in this heat when you also want her to open with the ball? (Her economy rate today – 9 – seemed to suffer accordingly.) I’m not sure it’s a tactic I’d repeat.

As it turned out, when Knight did finally make it to the crease in the final over, she bludgeoned three consecutive boundaries. Of course England won easily – never in doubt? hmmm – but you’d hope they might be scoring upwards of 175 batting first against Pakistan, who are clearly a much weaker side.

One player who must surely have cemented her place in the WT20 squad after today’s game is Freya Davies. With Davies entrusted with opening the bowling for England, it seems that Knight has more faith in her Western Storm (and soon to be London Spirit) teammate than former coach Mark Robinson; faith that was repaid handsomely today. Bowling quickly and getting a touch of swing, Davies made as experienced a batsman as Javeria Khan look ridiculous – the opener totally exposing her stumps, swinging and missing completely as the ball clattered into off-stump. Davies’ ability to bowl dot balls in the powerplay – she managed 9 today – is also invaluable.

If this IS Knight’s first-choice XI, you’d expect England to go into the 2nd T20 unchanged, to give them another outing together ahead of their Australian odyssey. Mady Villiers and Kirstie Gordon might therefore have to wait a bit longer to get their first opportunity of the tour.

England v Pakistan 2nd ODI – Frantastic!

In what was a more convincing win than Monday’s “business-like” affair, England absolutely walloped Pakistan – Heather Knight laying the foundations for a strong total, while Nat Sciver (who hit her third ODI hundred) and Fran Wilson (who achieved her highest score for England) then delivered the knockout blows at the back end of the England innings.

England’s 300+ total was all the more impressive coming as it did after both centurions from match one fell cheaply today. As so often in Danni Wyatt’s career, famine followed feast, as her century in the last match was followed up by a limp dismissal in only the second over of this one – Wyatt plonking it straight into the hands of extra cover. Tammy Beaumont was also largely responsible for her own downfall, repeatedly swiping at wide balls outside off stump until at last she edged one out to backward point in the 14th over.

That left Heather Knight, England’s new number 3, playing the aggressor role. Knight’s strength is that she is more than capable of adjusting her game to the match situation at hand – a quality which is much-needed for the batsman coming in at first-drop – and this match was no different, the England captain timing the ball perfectly through the gaps to rack up a 49-ball half-century.

Unfortunately she got bogged down in the 80s – possibly with the thought of that impending century somewhere at the back of her mind? Or maybe it was just the crazy heat. Either way, with the run rate dropping below 5 an over thanks to a tight spell of bowling from captain Bismah Maroof, she decided to chance the arm of Sidra Amin at mid on, thus denying herself the chance to reach 3 figures.

That honour instead fell to Nat Sciver, who – to the delight of her teammates – achieved the milestone on the penultimate ball of the innings with a scrambled single (though oddly didn’t secure her the Player of the Match award, which went to Knight).

Despite that, the real star of the day (in my view) was Fran Wilson. Wilson has had a difficult time of late – playing no official role in England’s Test or T20 teams against Australia last summer, but still expected to be on hand in case they needed a “gun” substitute fielder – so to see her succeeding at international level is particularly pleasing. Her arrival at the crease today seemed to reinvigorate a slightly-flagging Sciver; and her strike rate (173) was far and away the highest of the match.

It was the Sciver-Wilson partnership which helped England finish with a bang instead of a whimper – on Monday they hit just 61 runs across the last 10 overs of the innings, while today they added 107 in the same period.

Pakistan’s problems are two-fold, judging by these first two matches. Firstly, their spin-heavy bowling attack has been unable to generate wicket-taking opportunities on pitches which don’t offer much turn. They are left with the option of trying to bowl tightly, restrict runs and hope that England make mistakes – as a strategy, it worked for a short time today and did generate a couple of wickets, but they couldn’t sustain it long enough to put them in a match-winning position.

Secondly, they just can’t bat at anything like the required rate, which means that even though they ostensibly had a good start today – losing just the 1 wicket in the first powerplay – you never quite felt like they were in with a chance of chasing down the total.

For England, the big question ahead of the 3rd ODI is whether, now that they have safely won the series, they will change things up selection-wise. Bringing in Freya Davies and Mady Villiers for the final match would make perfect sense – nothing to lose, everything to gain in terms of international match experience – but England’s selection policies of late have been notoriously conservative, so who knows?

NEWS: Sarah Glenn Called Up To England Squad For Matches Against Pakistan

England have today announced their squad for their matches in Malaysia in December against Pakistan, with the big news a first-time international call-up for 20-year-old leg spinner Sarah Glenn.

Glenn, who represented Loughborough Lightning in the last 2 editions of the KSL, was called up to the England Training Squad on the back of a strong 2018 season, and ranked as the fifth best bowler in our 2019 KSL analysis with 11 wickets at 6.05 – the joint-second best Economy Rate in KSL 2019, behind only Marizanne Kapp.

Fast bowler Freya Davies makes a return after missing out over the summer, having finished as leading wicket-taker in KSL 2019, while Mady Villiers – who made her debut against Australia at Bristol in July and looks set to be handed a central contract in January – also makes the cut.

However, Glenn’s fellow leg-spinner Sophia Dunkley misses out, as do senior pros Georgia Elwiss and Laura Marsh.

While the appointment of England’s new coach Lisa Keightley was announced recently, Keightley remains in Australia with the Perth Scorchers for now, with this squad presumably selected on the basis of recommendations from acting head coach Ali Maiden and captain Heather Knight.

However, Keightley will no doubt be keeping a close eye on proceedings in what will be one of the last opportunities for these players to make a case for themselves ahead of the WWT20 in February.

The full squad is as follows:

  • Heather Knight (Berkshire)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
  • Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
  • Kate Cross (Lancashire)
  • Freya Davies (Sussex)
  • Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
  • Sarah Glenn (Worcestershire)
  • Kirstie Gordon (Nottinghamshire)
  • Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
  • Nat Sciver (Surrey)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Berkshire)
  • Mady Villiers (Essex)
  • Fran Wilson (Kent)
  • Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
  • Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

England will be playing 3 ODIs (with 6 available points on offer in the ICC Women’s Championship), and 3 T20s against Pakistan. The ECB have confirmed today that all 6 matches will be live-streamed and available to watch in the UK.

  • December 9: First ODI, Pakistan v England, Kinrara Oval, 1.30am GMT
  • December 12: Second ODI, Pakistan v England, Kinrara Oval, 1.30am GMT
  • December 14: Third ODI, Pakistan v England, Kinrara Oval, 1.30am GMT
  • December 17: First IT20, Pakistan v England, Kinrara Oval, 2am GMT
  • December 19: Second IT20, Pakistan v England, Kinrara Oval, 2am GMT
  • December 20: Third IT20, Pakistan v England, Kinrara Oval, 2am GMT