NEWS: Counties – “We Will Continue Playing County Cricket From 2020 Despite ECB Plans”

In response to ECB plans to restructure women’s county cricket from 2020, several of the counties who will be relegated to “feeder county” status are planning on launching their own league in order to keep women’s county cricket alive below the top division.

The ECB’s restructure would see only the top 10 counties fielding senior county women’s sides in the new 1-division Women’s County Championship, with all other counties serving as “feeders”, developing age-group players who will then join their closest full county side.

Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire are the counties currently involved in the plan, which would see a new East of England Competition set up, contested by the 6 counties.

“We are still going to play county cricket,” one Hertfordshire official told CRICKETher. “Removing county cricket doesn’t make any sense when we are trying to grow the women’s game.”

CRICKETher understands that the ECB are aware of the plan and are attempting to limit it to an Under-21 age-group competition, in keeping with the new restructure.

However, the counties feel this would defeat the purpose of the competition, which is to ensure that older players continue to have opportunities to develop their abilities. One senior county executive said that they would play overage players even if an age limit was imposed by the ECB.

“We don’t want to interfere with the ECB’s new structure, and we will schedule our county matches so that they don’t clash with the ECB’s fixtures,” he said. “We aren’t waging war on them – we just want our girls to continue to have the opportunity to represent their county.”

It will be difficult for the ECB to force the issue, given that the new competition will formally be played outside of their direct jurisdiction, and will be independently funded by the counties from sponsorship and fundraising.

Several existing county players have already expressed disquiet about the restructure, which will see them restricted to playing club cricket – seen by many as a backward step. In the East of England, where the club structure is almost non-existent, those involved in county cricket are particularly worried that many players will be forced out of the game altogether come 2020.

“This is being driven by the players themselves,” one official told CRICKETher. “They want to carry on playing county cricket. If there isn’t that step up, they are much more likely to drop out when they turn 18.”

Should the Eastern Counties be successful they may well inspire similar independent county competitions around England in other areas where club cricket is struggling.

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NEWS: County Players And Coaches Feel Proposed Restructure Is “Backward Step”

The ECB’s planned overhaul of women’s county cricket, whereby from 2020 only a top tier of 8 or 10 counties will participate in the County Championship, is sparking concerns among players and coaches that it will stymie the development of the sport.

The proposals would mean the end of the careers of approximately 250 senior county players, who the ECB hope will move into the club structure from 2020.

However, the weakness of the underlying club structure in some regions of the country effectively means that some of these players may be lost to cricket for good.

One player from a Division 3 county said:

“I understand the intent, but can’t help that feel a lot of women like myself will suffer.”

“Some of us are perhaps ahead of the varying standard of women’s club cricket, and were finding our feet in Division 3 and 2. To make these feeders and have a select few ‘elite’ sides, where the net will be cast wider and subsequently, numbers harder to compete with, I fear my hopes of competing at a standard suitable for myself will dwindle.”

“I feel this is a backwards step.”

Another, responding to the proposals on Twitter, labelled the move a “massive shame”: “Been playing county senior cricket for 10 years and to see it end will be pretty rubbish”.

CRICKETher understands that the proposals were presented to those working in the current women’s set-up at four consultation meetings held around the country in 2018.

However, while these meetings presented an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposals, some working in county cricket feel their views have not been taken into account.

One county coach told CRICKETher:

“I think the narrowing of a growing market could do a lot more harm than good. It would strangle the rapid organic growth and increase in quality that we were witnessing at the coal face.”

“There is some wonderful cricket going on in Division 2 and 3. That is a result of hard work and natural growth and evolution of the women’s game that is going to be squashed.”

NEWS: Bidding Process To Decide Which Counties Field Sides In Women’s County Championship From 2020

More details are coming to light regarding the ECB’s proposed restructure of women’s county cricket from 2020.

CRICKETher understands that the top 10 counties will be decided by a bidding process, whereby counties will put forward expressions of interest and the ECB will then grant hosting rights to the strongest proposals.

The top counties will be supported by 10 Academy “hubs”, and will play in a one-division Championship, while the old Division 2 and 3 counties will simply serve as “feeders”, developing age-group players who will then join their closest county side.

Revenue from the ECB’s new TV deal will be used to enable the top 10 counties to offer professionally staffed set-ups. Players will also be remunerated, though this will likely fall short of fully professional pay, at least initially.

While the bidding process is ostensibly an open one, it seems logistically unlikely that the 8 “Hundred” counties will not feature in the new Championship – not least because this will limit the amount of travelling which the top women’s players will need to do.

CRICKETher understands that Sussex are confident they will be one of the selected counties, given their extensive facilities at the Aldridge Cricket Academy funded by millionaire Sir Rod Aldridge, which leaves just one spot in the top flight remaining.

The traditional prominence of the southern counties in the women’s game means that large areas of England are likely to be unrepresented in the new Women’s County Championship.

Current players who represent the counties which are not successful in the bidding process will be encouraged to play club cricket as an alternative.

NEWS: Heather Knight Says New Women’s Domestic Structure Is “Bittersweet”

Heather Knight has said that the ECB’s plans to restructure women’s domestic cricket from 2020 are “bittersweet”, given that this will likely mean the end of her team Berkshire’s chances of continuing to put out a senior county side.

Knight has represented Berkshire since 2010, moving there from Devon to advance her cricket in the top division of the Women’s County Championship, and took over the captaincy shortly afterwards. She has subsequently remained loyal to Berkshire even in the 2018 season, when they were relegated to Division 2 of the Championship.

Under the ECB’s new plans for an 8 or 10-team top flight women’s domestic set-up, Berkshire will be one of the counties which will serve as a “feeder” but will no longer field a senior women’s county side.

“I guess it’s a bit bittersweet,” said Knight. “It’s got to happen, the Hundred is going to be great for the women’s game, and if they get the set-up right it will create that safety net, because at the moment you’re into the abyss if you lose your contract.”

“I’m sure Berkshire will be involved as some sort of feeder for one of those hubs, whatever it might look like, and be involved in the youth development. It’s what’s needed to move the game forwards in this country.”

Plans for the new set-up are still being finalised but the aim is to bring in a semi-professional structure by 2020, in order to ensure there is some fallback for players like Tash Farrant and Beth Langston when they lose their England contract.

NEWS: Davies In Line To Make International Debut as England Announce Squads For India and Sri Lanka Tours

The ECB have named 3 separate squads for England’s forthcoming winter / spring tours – one for the ODIs in India, one for the T20s in India, and one for their tour of Sri Lanka. Newly-contracted pace bowler Freya Davies has been included in the India T20 and Sri Lanka squads, and is therefore in line to make her international debut next month.

Of the 21 contracted players who were available for selection, only Jenny Gunn, Bryony Smith and Alice Davidson-Richards have missed out entirely. Kirstie Gordon and Katie George have also been omitted but in their case it is due to injury – both are still recovering from stress fractures of the lower back.

Sarah Taylor will be joining the team for the 3 ODIs in India but then flying home, while Katherine Brunt will return from injury for both parts of the India tour, but will not be going to Sri Lanka (presumably to avoid overloading her ahead of this summer’s women’s Ashes series).

Sophia Dunkley and Linsey Smith, who debuted during the World Twenty20 in November, have both retained their places – Dunkley is included in all 3 squads, while Smith features in the India T20 and Sri Lanka squads.

The full squads are below:

ODI Squad v India:

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Sophia Dunkley (Middlesex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Alex Hartley (Lancashire)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
Heather Knight (Berkshire, captain)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Sarah Taylor (Sussex, wicketkeeper)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

T20 Squad v India:

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Freya Davies (Sussex)
Sophia Dunkley (Middlesex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wicketkeeper)
Heather Knight (Berkshire, captain)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Linsey Smith (Sussex)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

Sri Lanka Squad:

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Freya Davies (Sussex)
Sophia Dunkley (Middlesex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wicketkeeper)
Heather Knight (Berkshire, captain)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Linsey Smith (Sussex)
Fran Wilson (Kent)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

ECB Central Contracts for 2019 Announced – Davies Rewarded But Farrant Dropped

The ECB have today confirmed the list of current centrally contracted women players for 2019, with 21 players on the list – 17 with full contracts and 4 “Rookies”.

The big news is that fast bowler Freya Davies, previously a “Rookie”, has been awarded a full contract, while Tash Farrant and Beth Langston have both been dropped from the list.

Davies graduated from Exeter University in 2017 and has been training with the full England squad ever since, evidently impressing coach Mark Robinson along the way.

Langston last represented England in 2016; the omission of Farrant is perhaps more surprising, given her inclusion in the WT20 squad at the expense of Davies.

Meanwhile Linsey Smith, as announced by CRICKETher last November, is now on a Rookie contract, alongside existing Rookies Bryony Smith, Alice Davidson-Richards and Katie George.

Kirstie Gordon and Sophia Dunkley, who both made their England debut in November at the World Twenty20, are still in full-time education and are therefore understood to be ineligible for a contract.

The full list of contracted players is below:

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Freya Davies (Sussex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)
Alex Hartley (Lancashire)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
Heather Knight (Berkshire)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Sarah Taylor (Sussex)
Fran Wilson (Kent)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)
Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent) (Rookie)
Katie George (Hampshire) (Rookie)
Bryony Smith (Surrey) (Rookie)
Linsey Smith (Sussex) (Rookie)

 

#WT20 – Five Reasons To Be Proud Of England (And Scotland)

So #WT20 2018 is done and dusted and we’re getting ready to fly back home, away from mosquitos and back to winter coats. But, while England couldn’t quite snatch the trophy away from Australia, we’re still proud to support them. Here’s why:

1. They Reached The Final Against All Odds

England did most of their preparation for this tournament in a tent at Loughborough, had their warm-up fixture against Australia rained off, and then spent days cooped up in hotel rooms in St Lucia while the rain came down. The rain even cost them points when their fixture against Sri Lanka was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Despite that they reached their second global final in 15 months.

“We’ve shown some brilliant heart and brilliant fight in this tournament,” Heather Knight said. She was spot on.

2. They Successfully Blooded New Players

In a surprise move, Mark Robinson chose to throw all 3 of his debutants (Linsey Smith, Kirstie Gordon and Sophia Dunkley) in at the deep end in the same match. It was sink or swim: and they all swum.

Dunkley had to wait until her third match to get her first opportunity with the bat, but it was worth the wait as she top-scored against West Indies to take England to a competitive total in a match that they only just lost. Smith bowled well in the powerplay and picked up her first international wicket in only her third over of the tournament.

Meanwhile Kirstie Gordon topped off her meteoric rise into international cricket by finishing as England’s leading wicket-taker. Gordon remains a proud Scot (Scottish readers, please note the title of this piece!) but is equally proud to wear the England colours. It’s been great to see young cricketers making their mark on the side so quickly.

3. They Overcame The Loss Of Sarah Taylor And Katherine Brunt

Taylor’s and Brunt’s were big shoes to fill, two senior players with over 400 caps between them. Cue Amy Jones and Nat Sciver stepping into the breach.

Not having a settled role in the side has made life difficult for Jones in the past but in this tournament she showed a new confidence and maturity with the bat, her innings in the semi-final in tricky conditions a case in point.

Her partner in that run chase, Nat Sciver, has been seen largely as a batsman in recent years, but having remodelled her action just prior to this tournament she showed off just what she can do with the ball, opening the bowling in all but one of England’s matches and taking 3-4 against South Africa.

4. They Showed They Are A Better, Fitter Side Than They Were In 2016

In 2016, in the wake of England’s loss to Australia in the World Twenty20 semi-final, Mark Robinson identified one key issue: fitness. During this tournament England showed that they have taken that critique to heart, working hard over the past 2 years to reach peak physical condition. Their running between the wickets has been lightning quick, creating singles that just wouldn’t have been there in 2016. On pitches where boundaries were hard to find, that was crucial.

5. They Have The Best Fans In The World

Of all the teams bar West Indies, who had the obvious advantage of a home crowd, England were far and away the best supported side in the tournament. Fans came from far and wide, some to their first ever international tournament, having watched the World Cup last year and become smitten with a brilliant team. We know how they feel: we’ve loved every minute of watching this team too.