NEWS: “Inspiring Generations”: The Details – Clare Connor Q & A

After today’s glitzy launch of the ECB’s new “Inspiring Generations” strategy for women’s and girls’ cricket, Clare Connor filled in some of the details. Here’s what she said:

Why are there less than 100 professionals, as the PCA claimed there would be?

“The feedback from lots of county meetings, and from talking to a lot of people and our own staff from a performance perspective, was that it would be better to have a smaller number of full-time pros, who aren’t trying to juggle further education or part time jobs. To have a group of pros underneath the centrally contracted group who are full-time cricketers is more powerful than having another 80 or so who are very part-time.

It’s not an end point – it’s the start point to try to get to somewhere near 100 professionals by the end of the strategy.”

How much are the 40 new contracts worth?

“They are in line with PCA recommendations for young male cricketers.* The PCA have been closely involved in all the conversations. They will be earning not far off what one of the lowest paid England centrally contracted players are paid currently.”

*NB: The PCA’s mandated minimum wage is £27,500.

Who will select the 40 new professionals?

“There will be 5 per region. We [i.e. the ECB] will have a big say in who the 40 players are – it would be crazy not to, because we will know them so much better than the majority of new regional directors of women’s cricket, or new regional head coaches.

Many of them will either be fringe England players, like Sophia Dunkley, or current members of the England Women’s Academy.”

Which counties make up the 8 new regions?

North West: Lancashire, Cheshire, Cumbria

North East: Durham, Yorkshire, Northumberland

West Midlands: Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire

East Midlands: Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Loughborough University

South West and Wales: Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Cornwall, Devon, Wales

South Central: Hampshire, Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire

London & South East: Kent, Surrey

London & East: Essex, Middlesex, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Norfolk, Suffolk

Which county will be the host county in each region?

“The process we are going though right now and which should be concluded by the end of November is currently determining which of the counties will be the regional host in each region.

The whole process within regions is open to any cricket-minded organisation. It might be that within the East Midlands region, Loughborough University are the regional lead for that region. It’s not wedded to the county structure.”

What will the relationship be with the Hundred teams?

“I think that will depend on each region. There will be some alignment of players and staff. In each region, we’re funding an Operations Executive in the women’s game, and they will work across both the Hundred and the regional centres.”

Why are the Hundred salaries for the women lower than the men’s salaries?

“We’re really comfortable with where we are with the salary bands. What we must keep striving to do is keep closing the gap – no woman in this country had been paid to play cricket until 5 years ago, and while there’s no one more impatient than me in that area, we have to be realistic about where we are.

We’ve benchmarked the Hundred across lots of other women’s competitions – the FA Women’s Super League, Women’s Big Bash, the direction of travel for the Women’s IPL. And I think it’s a really good start point. There is huge commitment to close that gap as quickly as we can.”

Will the Hundred games be live-streamed?

“The WBBL has proved that the reach from streaming makes it a really good way to go.”

When will players be communicated with about next season?

“We realise that some messages will flow down very accurately from county staff to their players, and in other counties, less well. We’ve met now numerous times in the last year with a range of roles within counties, and in some of our meetings we’ve had a few players come, but there’s been a mixed communication flow.

We have talked about arranging a day in a big school hall where we invite players to tell them ‘we’re at this stage, this is what the schedule will look like, these are the changes’. That might be something we do in December, after the regional director posts have been put in place.”

Will there be an elite 20-over competition next season?

“No. We’re not starting the regional cricket until the end of next summer. Next season, county T20 cricket will run in the early part of the season, New Zealand are touring in the first half of the international summer, then the Hundred, then the new 8-team 50-over comp, and we’re playing India. The 20-over regional competition will begin in 2021.”

What happens to the County T20 Cup after 2021?

“We’ll review it. Our consultation has showed that it’s not a performance competition, and it won’t drive the performances that we need for the international game – it’s more of a participation experience. It’s done a really good job in the absence of competitive club cricket for women.

The investment into women’s club cricket – which is possibly our most important area in terms of really driving sustainable club experiences for women and girls – that in time, and Premier Leagues, and good recreational club cricket, needs to fill that gap.”

How will the £8 million be shared out for club cricket?

“There will be a small grants scheme, and there’ll be bigger projects that clubs through their county boards can bid into. We’ll be looking really strategically where money for club facilities needs to go.

We’ll be spending roughly £1m a year on a new workforce of club development officers. This year we are piloting, what are the success factors within clubland to make women’s and girls’ club cricket sustainable? We’ve just appointed Lauren Crozier as our Head of Female Participation, and she’ll be looking at what are those success factors, and how can we deploy an army of club development officers to support our ambitions around sustainable women’s club cricket?”

What about age group cricket?

“We are bringing in an England Under 19s programme next year, because from 2021 the ICC are introducing an ICC Under 19 Women’s T20 World Cup. So we need to make sure that we’re giving enough focus in that area.”

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OPINION: The Hundred – The Case For Equal Pay

Since the salary bands for The Hundred were announced recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the huge disparities between the money on offer for the women – which will range between £3,600 and £15,000 – and those for the men – minimum £30,000; maximum £125,000.

As a result, debates over “equal pay” have reared their head yet again, with some prominent voices reiterating their opposition to the concept.

This, though, is not about whether Heather Knight should be paid the same as Joe Root in her role as England captain. The Hundred is a different kettle of fish altogether – and there’s an excellent case to be made that this is a missed opportunity for the ECB to pay players in their new competition exactly the same. Here’s why:

1. The Hundred as a competition is predicated on equality between male and female cricketers. We’ve been told the whole way along that the reason to get behind it is that it is women’s cricket’s big opportunity to be seen as on a par with men’s cricket. “It enables us to send a very powerful message that we are putting men and women on the same playing field, in the same teams,” Clare Connor has said. Heather Knight, at the launch last week, said that: “Kids growing up will look at The Hundred and see men and women [on] level-pegging.” But what message does it send out to kids when they see that the women’s players are being paid 10 times less than the men’s players? Surely that defeats the whole purpose of the competition?

2. The launch of The Hundred is unique: from the outset, men and women are playing under the same brand names, with the same team names, kit, and sponsors. As we’ve been very pointedly told by the ECB, it’s “The Hundred”, not “the Men’s Hundred” and “the Women’s Hundred”. Surely, on that basis, everyone playing in the competition should have the opportunity to earn the same amount of money, whether they be male or female. Can you imagine the outcry, for example, if we learned that the mixed doubles champions at Wimbledon had to split the prize money on offer, with 90% going to the male player and 10% to the female player? It just wouldn’t make sense. These salary bands don’t either.

3. The normal argument against equal pay – that women don’t sell out stadiums in the way that men do – doesn’t apply here. We’ve no idea at this stage how many people will turn up to watch the men’s or women’s matches. For all we know, the women could attract bigger crowds – as it stands, it’s completely up in the air. (And given how much opposition there is to The Hundred from existing cricket fans, it’s surely not out of the question?!)

4. Another argument often used against equal pay is that men’s sport attracts more money from sponsors and more money from TV deals. Again, in this instance, that argument doesn’t apply. As the main sponsor, KP have paid for a package deal, to have their branding on the shirts of both the men and the women. Ditto the BBC, who have signed a broadcasting deal to cover the men’s and the women’s competitions. Given that the competition is being funded largely from these two sources, why should the men be able to automatically claim the lion’s share of the money?

5. Given that the squads will be made up of 15 players, at least one of the men in each team will probably end up not playing in any of the matches, but will still get paid £30,000 for the privilege. Incredibly, this means that some of the male players in the competition will be paid more to sit on their bums and do nothing for a month, than the women on the top salary bands – say someone like Ellyse Perry, who is likely to command the top women’s salary of £15,000 – will be paid to play in every match. Doesn’t sound massively fair when you put it like that, does it?

You don’t have to support equal pay in sport per se to see that The Hundred is an unusual case. On that basis, it does seem like this has been a missed opportunity for the ECB to demonstrate that their commitment to parity between the men’s and women’s Hundred teams is more than just rhetoric.

MATCH REPORT: Hursley Park Triumphant On Inaugural Kia Summer Smash Finals Day

On a sunny September afternoon at the Oval, the four winners of the regional Kia Summer Smash Festivals – Hursley Park (South), Sessay (North), Plympton (West) and Berkswell (Midlands) – gathered for the competition’s inaugural Finals Day.

In the first semi-final of the day, Plympton reached 83-2 in their 10 overs having won the toss and chosen to bat. Hursley Park looked to be easily on course, reaching 69 without loss, but eventually made it through with just 3 balls to spare – captain Emily Windsor finishing unbeaten on 43.

In the second semi-final, Sessay faced down Berkswell in the highest scoring encounter of the day, with Sessay accumulating 99 runs in their 10 overs thanks to an unbeaten half-century from Yorkshire’s Jess Watson. In reply, Berkswell could only reach 68, Bethan Ellis finishing not out on 39.

With the two losing semi-finalists now able to sit back and enjoy the copious Pimms on offer in the pavilion, it was time for the final – Hursley Park v Sessay.

Having won the toss, Hursley Park chose to field, and disaster struck early for Sessay as their star batsman Jess Watson was caught at point off the third ball of the innings, handing Hampshire’s Charlotte Taylor her first wicket of the match.

By the time Taylor struck again to have Jess Woolston bowled off the last ball of the 10 overs, Sessay were 6 down, with Hursley Park confident of being able to chase down the target of 83.

That confidence was dented somewhat after they lost 2 wickets in the very first over courtesy of Abi Glen. While Windsor and Taylor then came together for a 50 partnership, when Taylor was dismissed by Daisy Stokoe in the 7th over Hursley Park still required 29 from 18 balls. Stokoe struck again in her next over, meaning the equation was 11 runs off the final over with 6 wickets in hand.

However, a streaky edge through backward point from Rebecca Blake, some scrambled runs between Blake and Windsor and finally a fifth-ball wide eventually sealed the deal for Hursley Park with just 1 ball to spare – Windsor finishing on 42 not out.

Heather Knight was on hand to present the trophy to captain Emily Windsor, as “the carrots” celebrated their victory.

“It was a fantastic team performance all the way through the competition. We were Southern Premier League champions last week, and now to finish the season with the Kia Summer Smash title, it’s exactly what we came here for,” Windsor said afterwards.

She labelled the opportunity to play at the Oval as “incredible”: “I’d play here every week if I could! It’s not often you get to play on a track like this and an outfield like this. I wanted to spend as long as I could out there, and luckily I did that in both games.”

At a time when women’s club cricket is often said to be struggling, it was great to see Kia and The Cricketer lending their support to it – long may the competition continue!

NEWS: Venues And Player Selection Process Announced For Women’s Hundred

The ECB have this morning confirmed that the Women’s Hundred teams will be based at different venues to their male counterparts, in an effort to further grow the game outside of the 8 stadia where the men will be playing.

The women’s teams will play one double-header per season alongside the men but otherwise will play at smaller grounds, as follows:

MEN’S VENUE PAIRED WOMEN’S VENUE(S)
Sophia Gardens The Bristol County Ground
The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton
Edgbaston Blackfinch New Road, Worcester
Emerald Headingley York CC
South Northumberland CC
Lord’s The Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford
The County Ground, Northampton
Kia Oval The County Ground, Beckenham
Emirates Old Trafford TBC
Trent Bridge The Pattonair County Cricket Ground, Derby
The Fischer County Ground, Leicester
Ageas Bowl The 1st Central County Ground, Hove

This makes sense in the context of the ECB’s strategy of playing England matches at smaller grounds like Chelmsford and Hove which are more likely to fill up. It is also good news for counties like Somerset and Kent, who both lost out in the “bidding” process to run a Hundred franchise, but will this way be represented in the competition by virtue of hosting a women’s side.

However, some of the grounds on the list do not have the capacity to host broadcast facilities, thus confirming that at least some of the matches in the Women’s Hundred will not be televised.

In addition, the ECB have also confirmed that there will NOT be a draft for the women’s competition, but that players will be selected in a two-phase process.

Initially, between September 1 and September 30, each team will sign two centrally contracted England players. Then, between October 1 and May 30, teams will sign their remaining 13 players from across three different player pools – the remaining England Women’s centrally contracted players, overseas players and domestic players.

Each team can sign a maximum of 3 overseas players.

The player selection process is therefore already underway: CRICKETher understands that several England players have already been approached with offers. The first signings should be announced in the next few weeks.

KSL: Vipers v Lightning – Jones Lack Of Jitters Wins The Day For Lightning

In a precursor to Sunday’s semi-final, it was Loughborough Lightning who finished on top in the last ever KSL match to be played at the “Snake Pit” (aka the Ageas Bowl), by 36 runs.

Lightning’s win came largely thanks to the platform laid down by Amy Jones and Chamari Atapattu, the pair reaching 74 without loss in the first 9 overs before Atapattu was clean bowled by Suzie Bates for 35.

Up to that point Jones had been content to let her more fiery partner do most of the big-hitting, but having settled into her stride she was able to push on, slogging away through the leg side and hitting a couple of maximums down the ground.

“It is definitely crucial to build that platform. At times I feel like “I’m going too slow”, but luckily Attu hits the ball so hard and gets off pretty quickly. That definitely helps. Sticking in and knowing you can catch up later is key,” Jones said.

“I feel like I’m starting a bit slower, but it’s not really been a problem as long as I keep my head and don’t throw it away. That’s been one of the key learnings from the Ashes is you have time – it’s amazing what a bit of pressure can do to you, all of a sudden you feel like third ball you have to play a big shot. I feel a lot more in control and confident to build an innings throughout.”

Despite the loss of Georgia Elwiss and Mignon du Preez in successive balls in the 17th over, the fact that Lightning still had a “set” batsman at the crease made all the difference – Jones adding 37 runs across the final 3 overs of the innings. 

In so doing she helped her side rack up the highest ever KSL total at the Ageas Bowl, while she herself reached her highest score in the competition, finishing unbeaten on 74* (53 balls).

The contrast with the way Southern Vipers approached their chase was marked – the loss of their “big three” inside the powerplay overs (Bates, Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont) – with Wyatt in particular doing herself in by plopping the first ball she faced straight into the hands of point – effectively ended any chances they had of reaching their target. Fi Morris batted bravely towards the denouement, her nifty 36 showcasing just how much her batting has improved in the past 12 months, but she was left with far too much to do.

Ahead of Finals Day on Sunday, Jones said that the win was crucial:

“I think it’s big. Everyone talks about momentum in competitions, especially going into finals. It will definitely give us a lift. Everyone in the changing room is up, and pretty excited, so it will definitely help.”

What is perhaps more significant is the fact that Lightning were able to achieve the victory without two of their key players, with both Hayley Matthews (West Indies) and Kathryn Bryce (Scotland) now recalled to their national sides.

“That’s another reason why this game was so important to us,” Jones added. “It shows the depth that we’ve got. That definitely adds to the win today.”

Vipers and Lightning have been on very different trajectories this tournament – Lightning lost 3 out of their 4 opening games but have now won 6 on the trot; while Vipers won their first two matches but have ended up on the wrong side in 3 of their 4 final encounters – so it is going to be fascinating to see who steals the last glory in the semi-final come Sunday.

KSL: Vipers v Lightning – Vipers Turn To New Paige In Tight Win

After a profitable powerplay in which Danni Wyatt successfully hogged much of the strike, plundering three sixes and six fours, Southern Vipers looked to have set a good platform for themselves against Yorkshire Diamonds – reaching 62 without the loss of a wicket.

However, the next few overs swung things hugely back in the Diamonds’ favour – the dismissal of Suzie Bates the cue for a top-order collapse, courtesy of another brilliant spell by leg-spinner Katie Levick, who finished with 2-17 from her 4 overs – only marginally more expensive than her 2-13 at Guildford on Tuesday.

By the time Paige Scholfield reached the crease, in the 14th over, Vipers were 90-5 and badly feeling the absence of their usual big-hitting middle-order batsman, Stafanie Taylor (sitting out with an injury niggle). “It was a lot of pressure”, the 23-year-old admitted after the game. “We do train for those situations, but it’s never nice to go into that.”

Scholfield did not tee off straight away, but focused instead on running hard between the wickets with partner Thea Brookes – the pair added 17 runs across the next 3-and-a-bit overs, all in singles.

“As soon as I came in I said to Thea we’ve got to put pressure back on Yorkshire because I thought they were on top of us at this point,” Scholfield said. “And I said if we run hard between the wickets and set ourselves a nice little platform for the last remaining overs, then it takes a lot of pressure off us and we can play a lot more freely.”

It meant that Scholfield was still there in the penultimate over, when Diamonds reintroduced Beth Langston – at which point she pounced, stroking two boundaries through the leg side before pelting up and down the pitch for successive twos. The pressure got to Diamonds so much that even the impeccable Alyssa Healy fumbled a straightforward run out opportunity behind the stumps.

“I said anything off my legs I’m going to go at, because I like to play off my legs. Put it in the pockets and hit the gaps. It paid off today,” Schofield said.

“And then with Langers I do prefer pace on the ball, so I said anything that misses my pads is going.”

It still looked to be an under-par total – “I felt like I should have been there to the end, and I was hoping in that last over to put another 6 or 8 runs on the board”, Scholfield admitted, having been brilliantly caught by Jemimah Rodrigues at cover off the second ball of the 20th over – but at the very least you felt like it was one that Vipers COULD defend, if they bowled well.

They started well – Diamonds hitting just 29 from the powerplay overs and losing Healy along the way, run out by Wyatt having made only a very half-hearted effort to make her ground at the non-striker’s end.

Holly Armitage should have gone early – TV reviews showing she was plumb LBW to Lauren Bell when still in single figures – but ended up sticking around until the 14th over, making a 38-ball 34. By that time Diamonds were 83-3 and needing simply to bat sensibly at a run a ball to make the target.

“The last 4 overs we were all just very nervous,” Scholfield admitted. “But I think the girls held it really well together. We all said heads in the game, don’t let anything get to us. Tammy captained really well, making sure the girls were still in the game, and no one gave up, which is a big thing in T20 because it does always come down to the last ball.”

And so it did on this occasion – Katie George facing off against Suzie Bates, needing to hit six from the final ball, after Bates had earlier taken the crucial wicket of the in-batsman Rodrigues as the 18-year-old tried to finish things in style and was bowled.

It was tense – up on the Vipers balcony, Charlotte Edwards could barely bring herself to watch – but Bates hit a good length and George managed just the single, handing Vipers the win by 3 runs.

Move over Marizanne Kapp: there’s a new death bowler in town, and her name is Suzie Bates.

KSL: Vipers v Stars – Danni Wyatt’s Effortless Ton Puts Vipers In Firm Contention

12 months ago, at Arundel, Southern Vipers suffered a 9-wicket defeat to Western Storm, having been bowled out for 91. Afterwards, Vipers looked in disarray: an exhausted group of players with no real sense of togetherness. It was without doubt the lowest ebb for a side who had gone unbeaten in the first year of the competition, and only just missed out on retaining their crown second time around.

Today, at that same ground – Arundel – it was Vipers handing out the thrashing: beating Surrey Stars by almost 100 runs. After the win they immediately, as one, withdrew to the pavilion to sing their team song – “WE ARE SOUTH-ERN VIPERS” to the tune of Queen’s We Will Rock You. The contrast with last year could hardly have been greater.

The shake-up in the Vipers squad – with 5 of last year’s first XI no longer featuring – appears to have done the trick. “Everyone’s enjoying themselves, great vibe, everyone’s really close which is nice,” Danni Wyatt said afterwards. “Everyone’s playing with a smile on their face.”

Wyatt was clearly the star of the show today, hitting a 56-ball century – the first ever by an English player in the Super League. It was an innings made all the more impressive by the fact that it was hit on a difficult, spongy pitch (following rain earlier in the day). In fact, Wyatt and fellow opener Bates hit just 29 runs in the powerplay.

“It was a tricky wicket,” Wyatt said. “Me and Suzie [Bates] struggled a bit in the first few overs. It was one of those wickets where you have to just back yourself and slog it really. I came off the pitch thinking ‘wow, how did I manage that?!’”

Stars, though, had gambled everything on bowling out Marizanne Kapp with 4 successive overs up top; but although she gave away just 11 runs, as soon as she went off Wyatt seemed to actively decide to go up a gear – dispatching the first ball of Laura Marsh’s over midwicket for the first six of the innings, and going onwards and upwards from there.

“Once I was in, I wasn’t thinking and just wanted to hit boundaries. Anything up there and full I tried to get my hands through,” she said. The amazing thing was that she made it look so effortless – the six that brought up her half-century, which sailed over the deep midwicket boundary, barely made a noise, despite being struck with the full face of the bat.

Vipers then backed up her effort with a convincing display in the field – Tash Farrant and Fi Morris demolishing the Stars top order between them, and Paige Scholfield claiming two good catches in the deep, before Stafanie Taylor chipped in with 3 wickets to wrap things up. That included a comedy stumping from Tammy Beaumont – taking the gloves after Carla Rudd was omitted from today’s XI – in which Beaumont fell over twice but still managed to remove the bails to see off Sarah Taylor, who presumably will have been making a mental note not to emulate her England teammate in that particular department.

For Wyatt, as she herself acknowledged, today was important in showing that – after a difficult summer – she is still England’s best T20 batsman: “I’ve not hit a 100 for about 15 months so it’s nice to get another one!”

For Vipers meanwhile, previously neck and neck with Stars but now out clear in second place by 5 points, it sent out a clear statement that they have every intention – after missing out last year – of being present at the last ever KSL Finals Day in a fortnight’s time.