RHF TROPHY: The Race To Be England’s Next Top Wicket Keeper

When Heather Knight and Lisa Keightley sat down this weekend to pick England’s squad for the upcoming series versus India, the second name on the team sheet, after “Knight, H” was probably “Jones, A”. We can talk at length about who the “best” wicket keeper in the world is, but there is little argument that Amy Jones is in the top two, alongside Australia’s Alyssa Healy; and is currently an automatic pick for England.

For so long the Sorcerer’s Apprentice to Sarah Taylor, Jones has blossomed since Taylor’s retirement, and has now amassed over 100 England caps. But she will be 28 next week and while her days certainly aren’t “numbered”, the question now needs to be asked as to who will succeed her in 4-6 years time when she retires?

This dilemma comes about particularly because there is currently no successor in the England squad – should Jones get injured, England would turn to Tammy Beaumont or Lauren Winfield-Hill to fill in. (Interestingly, Winfield-Hill has been keeping her eye in behind the stumps for the Diamonds in the first 3 rounds of the RHF.)

So, who are the key candidates in the RHF “Proving Ground”?

Three can be ruled out instantly: Carla Rudd (Vipers), Amara Carr (Sunrisers) and Gwenan Davies (Sparks) are all in their late 20s – however good they are, they aren’t going to succeed Jones. The remaining hopefuls are therefore: Sarah Bryce (Lightning), Ellie Threlkeld (Thunder), Nat Wraith (Storm), Rhianna Southby (Stars) and Bess Heath (Diamonds).

Below are their stats to date in the RHF, across both seasons.

Player Team Age Dismissals Runs
Sarah Bryce Lightning 21 5 419
Ellie Threlkeld Thunder 22 9 127
Nat Wraith Storm 19 8 140
Rhianna Southby Stars 20 4 42
Bess Heath Diamonds 19 8 37

Though we are talking about wicket keepers, perhaps the key column here is actually not Dismissals but Runs – all the top international sides these days will prefer a competent keeper who can bat over brilliant glove-work – that’s the reason England would turn to Beaumont or Winfield-Hill if Jones was injured.

This suggests that if she can maintain her form with the bat, Sarah Bryce is currently in pole position. Of course, her allegiance is currently with Scotland, but in a joint interview with her sister Kathryn by ESPNCricinfo’s Matt Roller, neither sister ruled out switching to England, which (because they both live in England) would not require a qualification period.

Bryce’s runs are the standard the others need to aspire to in order to get their names in the hat alongside her. Wraith and Threlkeld both have 50s in the bag in the RHF which prove they can bat, but they’ve both got to convert their starts more regularly. With so much regional cricket being played this season, they will have every opportunity to prove themselves and make that case, as will Southby and Heath, the latter of whom has yet to play this season.

Of course, the actual answer to the original question could be “None of the above”. It is not inconceivable that Amy Jones continues for another 8 years, and her eventual successor is someone who isn’t even on the regional radar yet.

Whoever it turns out to be, Amy Jones will inevitably be a hard act to follow, and the England selectors may need to kiss a few frogs before they find their new princess. Just one thing is certain: England need a wicket keeper – you can’t take to the field without one – so it will be fascinating to see who steps up in the RHF over the next couple of years.

PREVIEW: Carlton Plan For A Strong Start As Women’s Premier League Begins

Jake Perry looks ahead to the first round of matches in the Women’s Premier League this weekend. 

As Scotland take to the field for the first of their T20Is against Ireland today, the opening round of the Women’s Premier League will be getting underway back in Edinburgh. Ongoing Level 3 restrictions in Glasgow have forced the postponement of McCrea West of Scotland’s match with Dumfries and Galloway, but the two remaining fixtures are sure to provide an exciting start to the season nonetheless.

At Craiglockhart, Emily Tucker will be looking to continue the prolific form she has shown for the Eastern Knights Under-18s when George Watson’s College take on Royal High Corstorphine. After an innings of 34 against the Western Warriors a fortnight ago, the GWC opener scored a 67-ball 61 in the Knights’ victory over the Caledonian Highlanders last weekend, and her contribution will again be central as both teams look to end the season a place higher than the runners-up spot they shared with Carlton and WoS last time out.

Another player to enjoy a successful Sunday was Hannah Rainey, who continued her comeback from a patella injury with a hat-trick in Carlton’s pre-season win over Edinburgh University. It’s been a difficult few months for the Scotland seamer, but after a long winter of rehabilitation she is delighted to be finally moving in the right direction.

“I’ve been on and off injured for two years, which has been really frustrating, but I started on a new programme of tendon rehab with Sport Scotland about three months ago, and as I’ve been going through that I’ve been increasing what I’ve been doing and it’s been going all right,” she said. “About eight weeks ago I started running again, and over the last four or five weeks I’ve started to bowl, beginning with walk-throughs, then jump-throughs and then eventually on to jog-throughs. I’m now bowling at about seventy percent, I would say.”

“The hat-trick came in my first game back bowling,” she smiled. “I hadn’t bowled in a match for so long and I felt like I didn’t yet have enough overs under my belt, but it came out well and it was nice to be back in rhythm. It was a confidence boost that showed me I’m maybe not as far behind as I thought.”

Hannah’s Carlton team-mates travel to Myreside to face a newly-combined Watsonians/Grange eleven which will be keen to make an early statement against one of the more established names in the women’s game. But the Scottish Cup holders have ambitions of their own to fulfil, as skipper Annette Aitken-Drummond makes clear.

“We want to win the league this season,” she said. “We haven’t won it since [the year of its inception as a four-team competition in 2017], so that is our aim, definitely. We’ve been training pretty hard for it, and we can see the improvement in the squad already. [Scotland Assistant Coach] Peter Ross has joined us as Head Coach this year, and having his experience and that level of coaching has really helped us.”

Central to Carlton’s plans is a core of cricketers which blends both youth and experience.

“You could say that we’ve got three sets of players,” said Annette. “There are some really good youngsters like Maisie Maceira and Zaara Dancu, who are in the regional set-up as well. We also have some Wildcats, who we are hoping can play the majority of games this season – Abbi [Aitken-Drummond], Sammy [Haggo], Hannah and Charis [Scott] – which brings some really good experience to the squad.

“Some of the other players have mentioned how much having them around helps them, to see the level they’re at and the things they do that they’d maybe not thought about before.

“And watch out for a couple of the ‘old bats’, as they affectionately call themselves – Sarah Beith and Leanne Farmer, and also Amelia Beattie, who’s been a stalwart of the Carlton side for many years. So we’ve got the young, the old and the Wildcats!” she laughed. “It’s a good mix, and it’s been really good fun at training.”

“We’ve played a few friendly and intra-club matches and then we have another game against Edinburgh Uni this Friday, so we’ll have had a few games to get to know the new players and see what they can do.”

“We’re just excited to finally be able to play our first game of the season.”

Women’s Premier League – 25 May 2021:

West of Scotland v Dumfries and Galloway (at Hamilton Crescent) – Match Postponed 

Watsonians/Grange v Carlton (at Myreside)

George Watson’s College v Royal High Corstorphine (at Craiglockhart)

——

Jake Perry is the author of The Secret Game

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

The Cricket Scotland Podcast will include a round-up of the women’s (and men’s) league action from across the country every Tuesday, with player interviews from featured games. Follow @ScotlandPod on Twitter for all the latest information.

PREVIEW: County T20 Cup – Why County Cricket Still Matters (Plus Full Fixture List)

Across the next four weekends, the first “official” (i.e. ECB-supported) women’s county cricket since 2019 will take place. This year’s County T20 Cup has a different look to previous seasons – it’s being played on a purely regional basis, and there will be no overall winner. The T20 Cup seems destined, for now, to remain in the hands of Warwickshire’s trophy cabinet, after the Bears won it two years ago.

Since the last official county fixtures were played, the ECB has introduced an entirely new level of cricket between the counties and England – the regional “Centres of Excellence”, who competed in the successful Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy last season.

Where does that leave county cricket? We spoke to four figures who are integral to the current domestic structure to find out…

Richard Bedbrook (Regional Director, South East Stars):

“The two counties in our region [Surrey and Kent] are very proud of their women’s teams and the women’s cricket programmes that they can provide. The regional structure still only offers seven games of 50-over cricket and six games of 20-over cricket, with finals on top of that – so county cricket adds to the cricket our senior players get to play.

It’s all part of helping the Academy players too – they need to be playing more cricket. County cricket for them is a really, really big stage for them to move through. For a young academy girl to play with players like Tash [Farrant], ADR, Bryony [Smith], Sophia [Dunkley] and Aylish [Cranstone], there’s big learnings there.

The county games will certainly provide a massive opportunity for us to observe players. They’re going to be hugely significant for every region, to see players playing the game. Depending on the timing, it might influence narrowing down the squad for the start of the season, or it might be broader and help us see how players have progressed through training and help us identify those that we think are ready to to be in the starting Stars XI .”

Laura Macleod (Regional Director, Central Sparks):

“County cricket plays a really important part in the whole pathway. Within the West Midlands we view county cricket as really important, because it gives the players some competition. We’re going to see some of our players being pitted up against one another [for Worcestershire and Warwickshire], so that will be a real test of applying what they’ve been doing over the winter and where they want to get to.

It gives us the opportunity to have a look at them in a competitive environment. And because the club game is not quite perhaps where it is for the men’s game, the county game still plays an important part in the development of a player.”

Dave Hathrill (Kent Women’s Head Coach):

“Our role as Kent Cricket can fit alongside all of the new additions to the pathway. From a county perspective, the changes are really welcome. Myself, Johann Myburgh [SE Stars Head Coach] and Richard Bedbrook are in conversation regularly.

Having the girls have the ability to get away and train properly throughout the summer with the new regional centres has actually brought more cricketing opportunities around, which as a county we’re definitely benefiting from. The girls have been excellent, they’ve really embraced the challenge of a full professional winter.

We’re looking forward to seeing how the summer plays out, and the effect that the new structure will have [on county cricket] going forward.”

Aylish Cranstone (Professional Cricketer, South East Stars and Surrey):

“County cricket is massive. I’ve been fortunate enough to work within the county age group programme for the last 5 or 6 years, and it’s always been really tough stopping at under-17s. We lose so many girls at that age group who are really good cricketers but haven’t played enough or haven’t been fortunate enough to reach the senior side. Keeping a senior Surrey side is really important for them because they can keep playing.”

“It keeps that enthusiasm for the club cricketers as well. They’ll still be aiming to look to push into those county sides, and if you can be training in and around county stuff then obviously you will be getting the opportunity to be seen by the regional coaches and it can go from there. If you dropped county cricket, you’re focusing everything on the higher level players but you might not have as many players coming through, because they might just think it’s a bit of a difficult goal to achieve. So it’s important to keep county cricket going.”

“It’s also nice for regional players. The regional stuff is going to be very intense, so it will be nice to go back to our counties at different points in the season, regroup, play with a different team again. It’s got a bit of a different vibe, and different coaches.”

Full T20 Cup Fixtures (all teams to play each other twice, at 11am and 3pm):

Sunday 25th April

North Group: Cumbria v Yorkshire (Arnside CC), North Representative XI v Scotland A (TBC), North East Warriors v Lancashire (Burnopfield CC)

East Midlands Group: Derbyshire v Shropshire (Denby CC), Leicestershire v Lincolnshire (Barkby United CC), Nottinghamshire v Northamptonshire (Worksop College)

West Midlands Group: Berkshire v Worcestershire (Falkland CC), Warwickshire v Wales (Edgbaston Foundation Ground), Staffordshire v Somerset (Fordhouses CC)

East Group: Cambridgeshire v Buckinghamshire (Exning Park), Herfordshire v Norfolk (Harlow CC), Huntingdonshire v Suffolk (TBC)

South East Group: Middlesex v Hampshire (Mill Hill School), Surrey v Kent (Chipstead CC), Sussex v Essex (Sir Rod Aldridge Cricket Centre, Brighton) 

South West Group: Devon v Oxfordshire (Braunton CC), Dorset v Wiltshire (TBC), Gloucestershire v Cornwall (Cheltenham College)

Monday 3rd May

North Group: Cumbria v North Representative XI (tbc), Lancashire v Scotland ‘A’ (Carnforth CC), Yorkshire v North East Warriors (Harrogate CC) 

East Midlands Group: Derbyshire v Leicestershire (Spondon CC), Lincolnshire v Nottinghamshire (Sleaford CC), Shropshire v Northamptonshire (Worfield CC) 

West Midlands Group: Somerset v Wales (Weston-Super-Mare CC), Warwickshire v Berkshire (Edgbaston Foundation Ground), Worcestershire v Staffordshire (Bromsgrove CC) 

East Group: Buckinghamshire v Norfolk (Dinton CC), Huntingdonshire v Hertfordshire (Ramsey CC), Suffolk v Cambridgeshire (Woolpit CC) 

South East Group: Essex v Surrey (Old Southendian & Southchurch CC), Kent v Middlesex (Kent CCC, Beckenham), Sussex v Hampshire (Sir Rod Aldridge Cricket Centre, Brighton) 

South West Group: Cornwall v Dorset (Boconnoc CC), Gloucestershire v Oxfordshire (Cheltenham College), Wiltshire v Devon (Corsham CC)

Sunday 9th May

North Group: Cumbria v Scotland ‘A’ (Lanercost CC), North East Warriors v North Representative XI (tbc), Yorkshire v Lancashire (Harrogate CC) 

East Midlands Group: Leicestershire v Nottinghamshire (Market Overton CC), Lincolnshire v Shropshire (Spalding Town CC), Northamptonshire v Derbyshire (Desborough Town CC) 

West Midlands Group: Somerset v Berkshire (Bath CC), Wales v Staffordshire (Newport CC), Warwickshire v Worcestershire (Edgbaston Foundation Ground) 

East Group: Buckinghamshire v Huntingdonshire (tbc), Norfolk v Cambridgeshire (North Runcton CC), Suffolk v Hertfordshire (Woolpit CC) 

South East Group: Essex v Kent (tbc), Hampshire v Surrey (Totton & Eling CC), Middlesex v Sussex (Mill Hill School) 

South West Group: Devon v Gloucestershire (Sidmouth CC), Dorset v Oxfordshire (Sherborne CC), Wiltshire v Cornwall (Sherston Magna CC)

Sunday 16th May

North Group: Lancashire v Cumbria (Widnes CC), North East Warriors v Scotland ‘A’ (Alnmouth & Lesbury CC), Yorkshire v North Representative XI (Harrogate CC) 

East Midlands Group: Northamptonshire v Lincolnshire (tbc), Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire (Collingham CC), Shropshire v Leicestershire (Whitchurch CC) 

West Midlands Group: Berkshire v Wales (Falkland CC), Staffordshire v Warwickshire (Oulton CC), Worcestershire v Somerset (Bromsgrove CC) 

East Group: Cambridgeshire v Huntingdonshire (Exning Park), Hertfordshire v Buckinghamshire (Boxmoor CC), Norfolk v Suffolk (Cromer CC) 

South East Group: Hampshire v Essex (Totton & Eling CC), Kent v Sussex (The Mote CC), Surrey v Middlesex (Old Whitgiftians CC) 

South West Group: Cornwall v Devon (Launceston CC), Gloucestershire v Dorset (Cheltenham College), Oxfordshire v Wiltshire (Bicester & North Oxford CC).

INTERVIEW: Scotland Coach Mark Coles – “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be playing in the T20 World Cup on a regular basis”

Mark Coles speaks to Jake Perry about his appointment as the first full-time head coach of the national women’s team.  

The new year has brought new beginnings for Scotland with the appointment of Mark Coles as the first full-time head coach of the national women’s team. The New Zealander, who succeeds Steve Knox, arrives with an impressive pedigree which includes two years at the helm in Pakistan.

“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “I’m very humbled and privileged to be given this opportunity.”

“I’ll obviously be doing a lot of listening and observing for the first little while to get an understanding of what’s required and the expectations of the players, and then [we’ll look to] build something around that.”

“I’m just looking forward to getting to Scotland and getting stuck in.”

After high-performance roles with Western Australia, Wellington and Northern Districts – coaching a Wellington Blaze team that included then-Scotland international Leigh Kasperek to the New Zealand Women’s T20 title in 2013 – Mark was given leave from Waikato Valley to join Pakistan in September 2017.

An initial engagement for a single series turned into an extended stay in which he oversaw a dramatic improvement in the culture and fortunes of a side that had been left in disarray after its winless campaign at the 2017 Women’s World Cup. Getting the inside line on the Scottish game will be his first priority, but Mark is also clear about the way in which he sees his new team developing.

“For me it’s about finding a style of cricket that suits Scotland,” he said. “When I first went to Pakistan it was exactly the same. It’s finding what works for Scotland – not trying to emulate Australia or England or New Zealand or whoever, but a style of cricket that suits our players.”

“I’d like to think that that’ll be a positive style of cricket, but I think that’s really important, finding the style that suits the players, that you can have some fun with and be brave with and then look to win games with.”

“Wherever you go in the world, every team is stronger in some aspects than others, so it’s about putting it all together in the melting pot, finding out what suits us and then working really hard with it.”

With the European Qualifier for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup fast approaching, this will be a crucial summer of cricket for a side that, along with many of its peers, has lost more than a year of its development thanks to the global pandemic. But while the immediate task will be to regroup and refocus, the ultimate goal is still plain.

“The success of Thailand is a great example of what can be achieved and of what Scotland should be aiming for,” said Mark. “They found their own style – they were very quick in the outfield, they were quick between the wickets and they bowled accurately. They weren’t the fastest bowlers in the world, they weren’t the biggest spinners of the ball in the world, but they found the style of play that suited them and they just got really good at it.”

“Scotland has produced some absolutely amazing cricketers over the years, and there’s no reason at all why we shouldn’t be playing in the T20 World Cup on a regular basis.”

——

Jake Perry is the author of The Secret Game

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

DEEP DIVE: Women’s County Cricket In 2021

By Richard Clark

Good news arrived late last week with the announcement* of the ECB County T20 Cup fixtures for 2021, as devoted fans of the weekly CRICKETher Vodcast will doubtless have noted.

(* It should not go un-noted that describing it as an “announcement” is over-egging things hugely. The fixtures appeared on Play Cricket, much like Mr Benn’s shopkeeper, ‘as if by magic’, and it is hard to escape the feeling that enthusiasm at ECB Towers for women’s county cricket and the promotion thereof is thin on the ground. Be that as it may, however…)

Having been granted a stay of execution for 2020 and 2021, last summer’s competition was mothballed initially – and ultimately cancelled – as a result of the Covid pandemic, and there had been some concern that impetus for one last fling might be lacking after a two-year gap, so it’s pleasing to see those fears allayed. The virus still holds us in its grip, of course, but let’s be optimistic and assume for now that county cricket will be played – and watched – in 2021!

The schedule looks a little different from the last T20 Cup in 2019 (and the abandoned 2020 campaign), when the format mirrored the 50-over competition in being based on three Divisions, with the lowest level organised into three regions. This time around the structure is wholly regional, based around six Groups of six teams (five in one case), and with no suggestion of a play-off system or similar to decide an overall champion.

The reasons for this are not explicit, but it is probably safe to assume that minimising costs such as travelling and overnight stops is a major factor, whether by edict from the ECB or at the request of the counties themselves. Either way there is some sense behind the change, even if it is not quite ideal in other ways.

Matches will take place over four consecutive weekends – Sunday 25th April, Monday 3rd May, Sunday 9th May, and Sunday 16th May. Once again the format is based almost exclusively around the tried and tested ‘triangular’ fixtures with three counties meeting at a single venue – the home team playing first and last – although one fixture in the North Group each week will be a straight back-to-back double-header with that Group consisting of only five teams.

Whilst the set-up works in allowing as many matches to be played as possible, it does have flaws in being limited to the four-week window.

Not everyone will play everyone else twice. In fact, some counties will not meet others at all. In the South East Group for instance, Surrey play Essex, Kent, Middlesex and Sussex twice each… but won’t cross swords with Hampshire at all. One wonders whether an extra round of fixtures could have been a simple solution to that…?

There are also some geographical anomalies. As Syd noted on the Vodcast, his beloved Berkshire have relocated to the West Midlands. So have Somerset. And Wales. To make the journey from Berkshire to Wales along the M4 one travels south of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, yet those counties are in the South West Group. And Somerset will hike through Gloucestershire to reach parts of the West Midlands. Meanwhile, Shropshire is now in the East Midlands, despite being further West than four of the West Midlands counties.

Again the reasons for this can only be guessed at, but the suspicion must be that it’s an attempt to “level up” the competition. Somerset, for instance, might have proved too strong for a South West Division containing five counties which plied their trade in Division Three last time cricket was played. If you read this and feel tempted to shoot the messenger, by the way, (a) it IS only a guess, and (b) I didn’t compile the Groups!

Some Groups will be stronger than others – if this was a World Cup we would no doubt be talking the South East up as the proverbial “Group of Death”, whereas the East Group comprises traditional Division Three counties only. My advice would be not to let that fool you, however – if it turns out to be anything like 2020’s inaugural East of England Championship then some treats will be in store from those less heralded teams. The 50-over competition there took in six matches, and four of them were settled by one run, one wicket, two wickets and on a super over respectively!

One wonders about the North Group – Yorkshire and Lancashire up against North East Warriors (Durham and Northumberland combined), Cumbria and Scotland ‘A’. At the risk of encouraging more messenger-shooting that doesn’t necessarily look like the most level playing field for one or two teams, particularly if England players are available to the Roses pair.

And that brings us on to another unknown – will England players be involved? The timing of the competition is such that it would seem to provide an ideal warm-up opportunity ahead of the international summer, but the England hierarchy may feel there is more to be gained in ‘intensive’ training camps. We shall see.

On top of this, of course, we should see ‘unofficial’ 50-over competitions later in the season too. Surrey’s website confirmed the return of the London Championship for a second season at the same time as revealing their T20 fixtures, and the East of England Championship will also be back, with Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire joining Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire & Norfolk from last season in a ringing endorsement of its success.

Hopefully many other counties will look to play friendly matches, or maybe even follow the lead set by others and form their own regional competitions.

And finally – Women’s County Cricket Day will be back! No date set yet, but we can confirm that it will be one of those four ECB T20 days. Look out for further announcements in the New Year!

Full Fixture List here (select required Division from the drop-down menu):

ECB Women’s County Championship (play-cricket.com)

——–

Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68

STATS: The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy… Without The England Players

The opening weekend of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy was dominated by the England players – Katherine Brunt, Nat Sciver, Heather Knight, Sophia Dunkley and Sophie Ecclestone were all among those who put in match-winning shifts for their teams.

So after 2 rounds, Diamonds top the table in the North; while Vipers lead the way down South.

But now the England players go back into “The Bubble” to prepare for the T20 series versus West Indies, and their regional sides will have to make do without them, so how are they likely to do?

To give an idea of how things might pan out, we took the basic stats from the opening weekend – runs and wickets – and removed all the England “bubble” players.

The full “tables” are below, but if you are a Diamonds fan in particular you might want to look away now – they go from top to bottom in the North group, with Lightning the clear favourites going forwards, thanks mainly to the runs and wickets of Scottish duo Sarah and Kathryn Bryce. (There must be something in the porridge up at Loch Loughborough!)

In the South however, Southern Vipers actually retain their position at the top of the tree, thanks to good form with the bat from Georgia Adams and Charlie Dean, who both made 50s this weekend, and great numbers with the ball from Tara Norris and Paige Scholfield.

How scientific is all this? Not very! The non-England players will have the chance to prove themselves now. With everyone playing home and away, we are only a third of the way through the group stages and there’s still plenty of cricket to come. And of course, the final itself will see some of the England “bubble” players return – though not the big superstars, who will be on England duty.

So it’s all to play for, and while the Diamonds in particular might not have come out of this counterfactual so well, at the end of the day they are still the ones with the actual points on the board, which puts them in pole position going into next weekend’s third round of fixtures alongside the Vipers in the South group.

North

Batting

Team Runs
Lightning 245
Central Sparks 171
Thunder 167
Northern Diamonds 104

Bowling

Team Wickets
Lightning 14
Thunder 7
Central Sparks 7
Northern Diamonds 6

South

Batting

Team Runs
Southern Vipers 274
Sunrisers 218
South East Stars 208
Western Storm 154

Bowling

Team Wickets
Southern Vipers 14
Western Storm 11
Sunrisers 10
South East Stars 5

CLUB OF THE MONTH: Mote CC

Here at CRICKETher, we’re passionate about women’s cricket at all levels, including club cricket. It’s our mission to offer coverage of women’s (and girls’) club cricket wherever we can! Our ‘Club of the Month’ feature will focus on one women’s or girls’ club every month, giving you the lowdown on their highs, lows, and everything in between.

If you’d like to see your club featured here, get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!

This month we are featuring Mote Cricket Club in Maidstone, Kent as our Club of the Month, to celebrate the fact that, ahead of the 2020 season, they are launching Mote Girls & Women – a new club section specifically dedicated to growing and promoting girls and women’s cricket.

Four years ago the club numbered only 23 playing members: today they have 170 playing members (both male and female), 19 qualified coaches, and a raft of support and welfare volunteers.

“We are a thriving, growing club, as we should be given that we were once a mainstay of first class cricket, where Colin Cowdrey knocked off his 100th 100!” says Nick Aldrich, who manages Mote’s existing junior section.

Much of that growth has come about as a result of the increased numbers of girls playing, which swells every year. However, there is a a clear need to develop opportunities for these girls further.

Mote CC

“Our cricket teams are always mixed, from U9 and even to U13 we enter into the local leagues mixed teams and this works very well,” says Nick. “However, I am being asked and the need is increasing for us to develop girls teams to offer greater opportunity to our female players.”

“This isn’t as a replacement to mixed teams – as coaches, players and parents feel strongly that having mixed teams works well for us – but as the girls get older we want to be able to offer them competitive girls-only cricket, especially from U13 upwards. For this reason the timing is right to launch a girls section within the colts and then build this into a women’s section over time.”

Working with Anna Tunnicliff at Town & Malling Cricket Club, which has a thriving girls and women’s section, the two clubs will be combining their efforts and resources in launching Mote Girls & Women. Given the large playing space at the Mote, which is still of county standard, the aim is to meet the increased demand for female cricket in Kent’s county town.

Initially, the launch will be focused upon girls cricket, with new female and male coaches slowly building the teams from existing and new players, which the club hope to attract from local schools.

“Having also coached Kent Girls U11 and U13 I have established connections throughout Kent to ensure our new club will receive a warm welcome into the tournaments and festivals currently run by Kent Cricket, and we start with the aim of one U11 and one U13 side for 2020,” says Nick.

The aim is to lay the foundations for an U15 and U17 side to start in the 2021 season, with the hope that these players will transition into a new women’s team, as part of a longer term club commitment to girls and women’s cricket.

If you’d like to know more about Mote Girls & Women, you can contact Nick on nickdaldrich@gmail.com.

Good luck Mote and we wish you all the best with the launch!

PREVIEW: Kia Super League 2019 – KSL Goes Forth

By Raf Nicholson & Syd Egan

So here it is: the fourth and final season of the Kia Super League gets started on Tuesday, with Thunder v Vipers, Lightning v Storm and Diamonds v Stars – the latter live on Sky Sports at 7pm prime-time, which fans should make the most of, with Sky scheduled* to broadcast just six regular season matches this year.

Once again, the KSL promises to be a great competition, with some of the best players in the world, including Australia’s Alyssa Healy and India’s Jemimah Rodrigues [pro tip: it’s pronounced “rod-reeks”] making their Super League debuts.

Unlike the fourth season of Blackadder, no one will have to stick a pencil up their nose or wear their underpants on their heads… but sadly just like when Blackadder went forth, one thing is guaranteed: everybody will die in the end.

Lancashire Thunder

Last Season: 4th

Kate Cross (c), Georgie Boyce, Natalie Brown, Danielle Collins, Sophia Dunkley, Alice Dyson, Sophie Ecclestone, Ria Fackrell, Alex Hartley, Eve Jones, Harmanpreet Kaur, Emma Lamb, Sune Luus, Tahlia McGrath, Ellie Threlkeld

The Thunder have always been the team that have most consistently given good opportunities to their local players; and having missed out on Finals Day by a whisker last year, they have kept faith with their core of Lancashire county “pros” – the likes of Eve Jones, Emma Lamb and Ellie Threlkeld, who if you cut them would all bleed red.

They will be accompanied on the field this year by an “interesting” overseas contingent – Harmanpreet Kaur played arguably the greatest innings in history in that World Cup semi-final against Australia in 2017, but there is a reason her name is so often accompanied by the word “mercurial”; while Tahlia McGrath has never been more than a fringe player for Australia; and Sune Luus, despite standing in as captain recently while Dane van Niekerk was injured, is still struggling to really find a role for South Africa as more of a batting allrounder, since she started to struggle with her bowling radar a couple of years back.

The signing of Sophia Dunkley, who was the leading run-scorer in the Women’s County Championship, is a good move for both parties – Dunkley will get an opportunity to bat higher up the order than she had at Surrey Stars, with a view to making a case to England coach Mark Robinson ahead of selections for a winter which includes the T20 World Cup in Australia; while Lancashire could use her power hitting in a batting lineup that has perhaps at times looked a little too classical for the shortest form of the game. [SE]

Loughborough Lightning

Last Season: 2nd

Georgia Elwiss (c), Amy Jones, Abi Freeborn, Kathryn Bryce, Jenny Gunn, Jo Gardner, Tara Norris, Kirstie Gordon, Alice Monaghan, Georgia Adams, Lucy Higham, Sarah Glenn, Hayley Matthews, Chamari Atapattu, Mignon du Preez

The Lightning won the league stage of the competition last season, but flopped in the final as their overseas batting stars failed to fire. None of those overseas return, though in Sophie Devine’s case this was through injury rather than by choice; but the Lightning have taken advantage of a change in the regulations on overseas from non-ODI status nations to recruit four overseas this season – Scotland captain Katherine Bryce, who is a student at Loughborough University; T20 World Cup winner Hayley Matthews; Sri Lanka’s Chamari Atapattu; and the massively underrated former South Africa captain Mignon du Preez – expect the hard-running du Preez to shore up the middle order, allowing Matthews and Atapattu the freedom to play their shots around her.

Of their England players, Amy Jones will be desperate to put a disastrous Ashes campaign behind her and score some runs in the relatively lower-profile environment of KSL; Kirstie Gordon will be keen to lay down a marker that her 2018 season, when she led the list of wicket-takers, was not just a one-off; and Georgia Elwiss will be keen to catch Mark Robinson’s eye for the “Jenny Gunn” role for England this winter; while… talking of whom… Jenny Gunn herself will want to go out on a high, if indeed (as rumoured [Edit: and denied]) this proves to be her last season before retirement.

If all of them play to their potential, Loughborough have every chance of making finals day again; but it is a big if, and if not, it might just put too much pressure on what is a slightly inexperienced second-string to really challenge in 2019. [SE]

Southern Vipers

Last Season: 6th

Tammy Beaumont (c), Danni Wyatt, Tash Farrant, Suzie Bates, Stafanie Taylor, Amanda-Jade Wellington, Charlie Dean, Maia Bouchier, Lauren Bell, Carla Rudd, Paige Scholfield, Thea Brookes, Marie Kelly, Issy Wong, Fi Morris

CRICKETher tipped the Vipers to win the Super League last year, which wasn’t quite a prediction they lived up to – after a good opening-day win against Surrey Stars, the wheels came off and what we’d thought was a sleek sports coupe finished the season looking more like a clown car.

For 2019, all-but half of last season’s 1st XI have been shipped out, or retired in the case of England veteran Arran Brindle; with England prospects Lauren Bell and Maia Bouchier coming into more front-line roles as a result. Bouchier opened the batting and the bowling for Hampshire in this season’s County Championship, and looked to be thriving on the responsibility; while Bell will be looking to build on the solid start she made to her professional career last season, coming into the starting XI as a replacement for the injured Katie George, which included bowling an unplayable first-over maiden to a bemused Lizelle Lee against the Surrey Stars at Hove.

The Stars won that game at Hove with 3 balls to spare, as they scrapped their way to Finals Day, but when the two teams met again in a warm-up last week, the tables were turned as the Vipers posted 130-7 before bowling the Stars out for 83, which could be a good omen for the season ahead. Much though will depend on the form of Suzie Bates. Bates has stepped down from the captaincy in favour of Tammy Beaumont, but she remains the Vipers keystone player – if she has a good season, the chances are they will. [SE]

Surrey Stars

Last Season: Winners

Nat Sciver (c), Aylish Cranstone, Gwenan Davies, Grace Gibbs, Amy Gordon, Eva Gray, Hannah Jones, Marizanne Kapp, Lizelle Lee, Laura Marsh, Bryony Smith, Rhianna Southby, Sarah Taylor, Dane van Niekerk, Mady Villiers

After scraping through to Finals Day by the skin of their teeth last season, Stars surprised everyone by going on to win the final against the previously dominant Loughborough Lightning. That victory came courtesy of a brilliant century from Lizelle Lee, who was probably re-signed on the spot for the 2019 season, having proved herself capable of pulling a big innings out of the bag when it mattered most.

In fact all of the the South African triumvirate of Lee, Dane van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp are back at the Stars this year – a good move from the club, who maintain the services of the best death bowler in global T20 cricket.

Losing Sophia Dunkley to Lancashire Thunder will have been a blow (and not a decision that Surrey were happy with, by all accounts), but the move may give some of their other young batsmen a chance to take on the lower-order big-hitting role, with Mady Villiers in particular looking to prove that her England selection was more than just a flash-in-the-pan. Surrey have also signed Gwenan Davies, the Warwickshire keeper, on the back of a strong showing in Warwickshire’s triumphant T20 Cup campaign. That probably suggests that they are not expecting Sarah Taylor (who played all but 1 match last season) to feature this time around.

Overall this is a strong squad who will do well, but I think they might find themselves pipped to the post when it comes to reaching Finals Day. [RN]

Western Storm

Last Season: 3rd

Heather Knight (c), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Freya Davies, Smriti Mandhana, Rachel Priest, Deepti Sharma, Danielle Gibson, Ellie Mitchell, Claire Nicholas, Sophie Luff, Naomi Dattani, Amara Carr, Sonia Odedra, Alex Griffiths

Storm are the only team who have been present at all 3 Finals Days, and they are likely to maintain that 100% record this time around. With last year’s breathtaking display of dominance from Smriti Mandhana, the only thing that stopped Storm retaining their title was her enforced absence from Finals Day: this time around, she is expected to be present for the whole competition.

Rachel Priest will once again open the batting with Smriti, while their third overseas is a new signing, Smriti’s India teammate Deepti Sharma, who replaces Stafanie Taylor after she underperformed with the bat last season (admittedly given less opportunity to do so in the face of The Smriti Show). Despite not being the most well-known player, Deepti is currently ranked second in the ICC’s ODI all-rounder rankings (behind only, yes you’ve guessed it, Ellyse Perry), and could prove a genius signing by the Storm.

They also have some exciting new domestic players joining their ranks, including 17-year-old leg-spinner Ellie Mitchell – who joined the England Academy in November – as well as jobbing county pro Sonia Odedra, who continues to shine for Nottinghamshire and will add all-round strength to their squad.

Meanwhile opening bowler Freya Davies, having at last been rewarded for her consistency in the KSL with a full England contract, will be looking to send a strong signal to Mark Robinson that she deserves more opportunities at international level. Anyone who’d bet against Storm reaching Finals Day probably hasn’t been paying enough attention. [RN]

Yorkshire Diamonds

Last Season: 5th

Lauren Winfield (c), Katherine Brunt, Alice Davidson-Richards, Katie George, Linsey Smith, Hollie Armitage, Alyssa Healy, Jemimah Rodrigues, Leigh Kasperek, Helen Fenby, Katie Levick, Bess Heath, Beth Langston, Cordelia Griffith, Georgia Davis

Diamonds have traditionally been the underdogs in the KSL, finishing in fifth place in all three of the previous editions of the competition, but somehow they seem to have pulled it out of the bag in the final season with some top-notch overseas signings. That includes Aussie wicket-keeper Alyssa Healy, who has a claim to being the best T20 batsman in the world right now after winning the Player of the Tournament award in November’s World Twenty20.

Alongside Healy the Indian 18-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues will be making her KSL debut, having launched her international career to great fanfare only 18 months ago. Leigh Kasperek, meanwhile, comes in as their third overseas, a last-minute replacement for Chloe Tryon. The off-spinning all-rounder will feel right at home, having represented Yorkshire in the Women’s County Championship for the last two seasons.

Mark Robinson clearly retains belief in Katie George, who was recently bumped up to a full England contract; it will be interesting to see how she gets on “up north” after sitting out of much of last season for Southern Vipers, as well as the first half of this, with recurrent injuries. However, with home-grown talents Katherine Brunt, Katie Levick and Beth Langston ready to do their thing, perhaps she won’t be needed.

One other exciting signing is Cordelia Griffith, who joins the Diamonds after a great premier 50-over domestic season for Middlesex which included a century against Somerset. Griffith missed out on selection in 2018 after representing Stars in the first two seasons of the tournament, but now has a great opportunity to make her case for a contract in next year’s new semi-pro set-up.

I love a good underdog success story, so maybe I’m being sentimental here, but I reckon that this could just be the Yorkshire Diamonds’ year. [RN]

Predictions

Raf:

  1. Yorkshire Diamonds
  2. Western Storm
  3. Southern Vipers

Syd:

  1. Southern Vipers
  2. Western Storm
  3. Surrey Stars

——————–

* At time of writing, Sky’s cricket schedule shows just 6 KSL matches through August.

FEATURE: Brixworth Ladies Cricket Club – A Women’s Softball Cricket Success Story

Sometimes, journeys into women’s cricket start with the smallest of steps.

Last August, I participated in one of the ECB’s Softball Cricket Festivals, held at Loughborough University ahead of Lightning’s KSL match against Southern Vipers. Alongside me were Jules and Kate – both in their 50s. They have followed the England team for a number of years, but had rarely had the opportunity to play the sport themselves.

On the day of that festival, I interviewed Jules about why she had gone along that day. “To have a really good time,” she said, “and to get back into cricket, because I’ve not played for about 25 years.”

“I’d love to get back into it – if anybody wants me! It’s been really good fun.”

When I left Loughborough that day, I wondered: would she get her wish?

Unbeknown to me at the time, a year earlier – in August 2017 – a hockey player named Claire had sat at her club, Brixworth CC in Northampton, watching her son play cricket; and pondering how the girls playing alongside him at the club would fare as they grew up and encountered a lack of adult female role models.

“I felt they needed female coaches,” Claire tells me. “And the chap that I was saying this to, little did I know he was actually a committee member. So then he said, ‘well are you prepared to put your money where your mouth is and start coaching?’ So I had to. I became the club’s first lady coach.”

Three weeks later, the club chairman approached Claire at a Friday night training session and asked about the possibility of starting a ladies’ section at the club. By 10 o’clock that night, Claire had recruited 20 women – work colleagues, neighbours, teammates from her hockey club – who were interested in playing. Their first step was to enter a local Women’s Softball Festival.

“That was the last festival of the summer,” Claire says. “We entered that, one of our teams came second, and then we played a couple of indoor softball games through the winter. Then we played every softball festival going last summer – and we went from strength to strength. It gave us confidence to do the basics without getting hurt.”

Fellow club member Jane, aged 55, concurs: “It’s a good introduction into cricket, getting people involved, especially the mums. They’ve realised that actually it doesn’t hurt that much, I can do this, I can play cricket. It’s a good stepping stone into other cricket.”

The club now have 40 adult women playing regularly, as well as 30+ girls in a new, dedicated girls section. They are the biggest women’s club in Northamptonshire, and they have secured grants from the county that have helped fund women’s-specific kit – provided by SM Cricket.

This season, they have started playing Last (Wo)man Stands – a modified version of T20 cricket designed to be quick, exciting and less time-consuming than the real thing – in the first ever female version of the competition anywhere in the country.

“We were all terrified the first game,” laughs Jane, “but we’ve done alright! We’ve even won a match!”

So where do Jules and Kate come in?

I meet them again at Northampton to watch England play the West Indies. They are accompanied by Claire, Jane and Claire’s 10-year-old daughter, Poppy. And all are proudly sporting Brixworth women’s jumpers.

Brixworth Ladies Cricket Club

After I met Jules and Kate, they carried on playing in softball competitions; and at one of those competitions, they encountered Claire and Jane, who invited them along to play at Brixworth. Being local to Northampton, they decided to do just that. The rest, as they say, is history.

A few weeks ago the pair of them played in a men’s 4th XI fixture, and Jules took a wicket – removing the opposition captain after he had scored 86.

“I’m 54, and some people have said, ‘bit old to be playing cricket, isn’t she?’” Jules says. “Well, my ambitions of playing for England might have gone down the toilet a bit – although I’m still waiting for the call from Robbo – but if I’m fit and able, and if I can be the best that I can be, then why not?”

“We’re just generally a fun bunch of ladies who all get on,” Claire says. “None of us are too precious to laugh at ourselves. None of us are head and shoulders above the others. None of us are awful either. We just have a laugh basically and encourage each other.”

As Jane puts it: “We’ve all been involved in cricket – I scored for my son, did the teas and watched him for many years – but not many of us have played before. But I’ve always wanted to have a go. So that’s what we’re doing.”

And it all started with one Softball Cricket festival.

Brixworth Ladies Cricket Club

SPONSORED FEATURE: SM Cricket UK Launch Expanded Women’s Range – Designed By Women For Women

SM Cricket UK have launched a range of new women’s cricket equipment as part of their signature Heather Knight Collection, including pads, gloves, bats, wicket-keeping gear, bags, balls and teamwear all designed specifically for women’s and girls’ bodies.

It makes them the only company in the country to offer a full range of kit that is designed especially for women and girls.

SM Kit

The range has been launched after extensive feedback from female cricketers spanning a whole range of abilities. As a result SM Cricket have produced a lighter, brighter, and more comfortable range of cricket equipment with zero compromise to the quality of their products.

The range is already in use by England players Heather Knight and Kirstie Gordon, as well as former Scotland captain Abbie Aitken and Academy players Danielle Gibson and Ria Fackrell.

SM Heather Knight

SM Cricket UK pride themselves on offering top quality kit that is made to last, be comfortable and have a great fit for girls and women who might otherwise struggle to find appropriate sized kit for them. Their women’s bats, for example, come as light as 2lb 6oz with a super shock absorbent handle and extra thick edges to enhance the sweet spot.

SM Bat

In addition to playing equipment, SM Cricket UK also offers a fantastic range of teamwear, again appropriately sized for women and girls’ bodies, with a variety of custom designs in as well as to the opportunity to create bespoke teamwear. They are also offering free delivery for the whole month of April, using the code FREEDELIVERY on all orders over £30.

The full range is available here.

Women’s and girls’ clubs can also sign up for SM’s Club Cash Builder Scheme, which is a great way to raise money for your club. Clubs can sign up for free to earn back 20% of all sales generated by club members on SM branded goods. You can find out more here.

The aim is to expand the Heather Knight Collection next season based on a survey of female cricketers in the UK, which will be launched in the coming months – look out for a link to this on the CRICKETher Twitter.

The Heather Knight Collection: Designed By Women, For Women.