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.

KSL: Vipers v Storm – Random Thoughts: Fearless Farrant, Brilliant Bates And Level Luff

Fearless Farrant

For almost the whole of their run chase against Southern Vipers, Western Storm looked to be cruising to their 142-run target. On the two occasions their momentum was disrupted, though, one bowler was responsible: Tash Farrant.

Firstly, coming on to bowl the 11th over, with both Smriti Mandhana and Heather Knight looking set, Farrant outsmarted both – Smriti top-edging her slower ball to short fine leg, before Knight was castled 4 balls later. Then, after Sophie Luff and Fran Wilson had taken Storm to the brink, and with just 8 needed from the last 2 overs, Farrant again intervened: having Luff caught at mid off trying to go over the top, which in turn unsettled Wilson enough to run out her new partner Deepti Sharma.

It wasn’t quite enough for Vipers in the end, but Farrant – who England have, arguably, badly missed this summer after she lost her contract in February – at least gave them a sniff when it looked like the match was dead in the water. Farrant might no longer count as an “international” but she is still one of Vipers’ biggest assets.

Brilliant Bates

Suzie Bates has taken on a different role at the Vipers this summer: having handed the captaincy reins over to Tammy Beaumont, she is now simply the senior pro; and she seems to be quite enjoying it: “I’m a lot more relaxed off the field!” she said at close of play today.

It’s given her time to focus more on her own game, and while her 38-ball 33 was less than fluent today – “I didn’t time it from ball 1, and then tried to overhit” – she was the player trusted by Beaumont to bowl the 20th over, with Storm needing just 2 runs from it. It seemed an impossible task, but Bates breathed life into a game that should have been done and dusted.

How did she approach it? “I’ve watched enough T20 cricket to know that you’ve just got to stay in the game,” she said afterwards. “I thought if I could bowl it full and straight – sometimes you get to that point and to finish the game as a batter is the hardest thing. I thought I had nothing to lose, and if I could hit the stumps I’d be in with a chance.”

First ball she had Wilson LBW: “I fell over with excitement that she’d missed a full and straight one! Then I knew it was going to be nervy for the batters coming in, so I had my back up and wanted to take it as deep as I could.”

Next ball was a dot, that hit incoming batsman Anya Shrubsole on the pad. Her third ball then sent Shrubsole packing, swinging and missing at yet another straight one.

Fortunately for Storm, Sonia Odedra and Naomi Dattani both kept their heads – each scoring singles, to see the visitors over the line with one ball to spare.

Interestingly, Bates has barely featured with the ball of late in T20 cricket. This was the first match in this year’s KSL in which she has been called on to bowl her full allocation. She did not bowl once for New Zealand in their T20 series against Indian in February this year, and in the World T20 in the Caribbean last November she bowled just 2 overs across 4 group stage matches.

Bates, though, wants to change that. “I want to be that bowler for the White Ferns that bowls to the death,” she said today, “so it helps to get those opportunities for the Vipers.”

New Zealand could do a lot worse.

Level Luff

Heather Knight and Fran Wilson have stolen the headlines on both occasions, but in Storm’s two recent run chases – against Thunder yesterday and Vipers today – Sophie Luff, coming in at number 5, has played a key role. Today, her 58-run partnership with Wilson steadied the ship at a crucial stage in the game, the pair running hard between the wickets to ensure the run rate continued to tick over.

Yesterday against Thunder, Wilson’s half-century was made with Knight at the other end: today, with Luff, she was the senior partner, which you’d think would have added more pressure. Not according to Wilson: “I didn’t feel like that really,” she said. “I’d probably say yesterday was harder.”

“I especially like batting with Luffy. She’s really good to bat with – complements our order really well, she can hit the boundaries, but I also don’t know how she gets the singles she gets – she sees the gaps that a lot of us don’t see.”

It helps that the pair have known each other since they were both playing under-12s age-group cricket for Somerset. “A bit of psychic powers there, maybe!” Wilson joked after play. “We’ve always batted well together. We both like to run well. We’re quite different as personalities as well – she keeps me quite level.”

Storm threw away the chance to reach last year’s final after they collapsed in the semi against Surrey Stars: a bit of Level Luff in this year’s competition is just what the doctor ordered.

Women’s Ashes 3rd T20 – England Play The Long Game

Before yesterday’s match, Syd and I discussed how England would approach what was a completely dead rubber. Afterwards, Heather Knight provided the answer:

“We talked after the second game about trying to draw a line in the sand after the series and try and treat today as Day One of us getting back to where we need to be.”

It was an approach that seemed to pay dividends: England bowled better lengths than they had all series, while Lauren Winfield took advantage of a final opportunity to prove to Mark Robinson that she deserves her spot on the plane to Australia next February.

After the match, Australia even looked momentarily downcast, having fallen at the last hurdle in their goal of going unbeaten through the tour. Alyssa Healy actually had to gather the team together and remind them that nothing should be allowed to spoil their celebrations: “There was great leadership from Alyssa Healy at the end there – she brought everyone in together and said ‘lets remember how great this tour’s been’,” Matthew Mott told the media.

Of course it’s easier to play good cricket when the series has already been and gone, but last night – likely to be the last international T20 cricket England play until their tri-series ahead of the World T20 in Australia – was important in showcasing that they can at least be competitive in that tournament.

“We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us to try and catch up with the Australians, to go back to where we need to be and where we want to go,” Knight said.

“That World T20 is going to be a big focus for us now over the next 8 months. The performance we put in is a sign of what we can do.”

It was also a chance to showcase that, far from the cupboard in England being bare, there are young talents emerging: 20-year-old Mady Villiers, who only joined the Academy in November, had a game to remember, taking the crucial wickets of Healy and Ash Gardner on debut.

“Mady was outstanding,” Knight said of the newest addition to her team. “You could see from the look in her eyes, she absolutely loved it out there. That’s what you want to see – you want someone desperate to go out and perform well and she really took the opportunity with both hands.”

All the talk over the past few weeks has been about the disparities between the English and Australian domestic set-ups. Even with the ECB’s proposed changes, the worry remains that England will move further behind Australia before they can even begin to think about catching up, as the new system takes time to bed down and only moves slowly towards becoming fully professional.

With that in mind, the question becomes: When might England next win an Ashes series – 2025? 2027?

A depressing thought. But as a great philosopher once said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. England took that step last night.

NEWS: ECB Backtrack On Plans To Abolish Women’s County Cricket

In the ECB’s first public announcement about their planned restructure of women’s domestic cricket from next season, Clare Connor has backtracked on the initial plan to completely abolish women’s county cricket, recognising that the weaknesses of the existing club structure are greater than she had realised.

In a piece published in the match day programme for the men’s England v Ireland Test at Lord’s, Connor says: “There will probably still need to be a place for some county cricket, while the club game develops, and we are reviewing that currently.”

She also officially confirms that the plan is for an eight-team semi-professional competition, with women in the eight teams playing both 50-over and T20 cricket, and with the eight teams set to be closely aligned to the new Women’s Hundred sides (of which there will also be eight).

The full programme piece, authored by Connor, reads as follows:

“Over the past 11 months, we’ve had a rigorous and constructive debate across all 39 counties and Wales, about how to invest the £20m the board at the ECB has approved for 2020 and 2021 to transform the women’s and girls’ game.

It has been reassuring to hear the level of support and commitment across the game for our headline plans to:

  • Develop compelling cricket activities for girls in secondary schools
  • Strengthen the club offer for female players of all abilities
  • Invest in the county talent pathway for girls
  • Build a new eight-team semi-professional competition structure in both 50-over and T20 formats, with each team being underpinned by a year-round Academy
  • Maximise investment through areas of alignment between the new eight-team semi-professional competition structure and The Hundred – Women’s Competition

The area of most debate has been about the future of the women’s county game, which has done an important job for a number of years, thanks to the dedication of volunteers who remain the bedrock of our game.

As the game has grown in popularity, our structure has needed to evolve to suit the growing demand at the recreational level. In many counties, women’s club cricket has not been sustainably developed, meaning county cricket is the only available playing opportunity of any standard or frequency.

Women’s county cricket is therefore being used in many parts of the country as a participation experience, which, everyone agrees, is far from ideal. We will be failing female recreational players if we – the ECB and the counties – do not address hardball club cricket with real commitment.

There will probably still need to be a place for some county cricket, while the club game develops, and we are reviewing that currently.

Collectively we have the opportunity to put in place a pathway that allows all areas of the game to flourish. We’ve had fantastic success with All Stars Cricket and we need to progress in other areas, so that the eight-year-old girl who has been inspired to pick up a bat can see a clear pathway to becoming a semi-pro or professional cricket, should she wish to.

There will be equal emphasis from us on improving both the participation and the performance experience for women and girls.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the women’s and girls’ game – a transformation which is vital to the future of the entire game in this country. I think we are about to start the most exciting period in the history of women’s cricket in this country.”

NEWS: Mady Villiers Called Up To England Squad For Ashes T20s

England have announced their squad for the 3 Ashes T20s which begin at Chelmsford on Friday.

The big news is that they have called up 20-year-old Essex and Surrey Stars bowling all-rounder Mady Villiers to the squad, after she impressed in the recent Academy matches against Australia A, hitting 30 off 15 balls at number 8 in the final T20 match; as well as an unbeaten half-century in the 3-day warm-up at Marlborough College against the full Australian side.

Danni Wyatt also returns to the squad having been dropped for the Test, while Georgia Elwiss retains her spot after earlier missing out on the ODIs.

England can still draw the Ashes series 8-all if they win all 3 matches in the T20 series.

Full squad:

  • Heather Knight (Berkshire)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
  • Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
  • Kate Cross (Lancashire)
  • Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
  • Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
  • Jenny Gunn (Nottinghamshire)
  • Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
  • Laura Marsh (Kent)
  • Nat Sciver (Surrey)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Berkshire)
  • Sarah Taylor (Sussex)
  • Mady Villiers (Essex)
  • Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
  • Danni Wyatt (Sussex)