THE HUNDRED: An Uncapped XI

By Richard Clark

Unsurprisingly, most of the big noises throughout the Hundred have come from established names, the usual suspects either from England or overseas. Most… but not all. And with the group stage complete, now felt like the right time to pick an ‘Uncapped’ Team of the Tournament, those players whose chances may sometimes have been limited but who managed to make their mark all the same.

The criteria? I’ve stuck strictly to the ‘uncapped’ rule, so no place for Abtaha Maqsood (a Scottish international), even though she has undoubtedly made an impact on and off the pitch. Ditto the Bryce sisters, and no spots either for the unrelated Smiths – Lynsey and Bryony – to an extent forgotten faces on the international stage, perhaps, but unarguably ‘capped’ all the same. That apart, I’ve gone on numbers and good old gut feel!

EVE JONES – Birmingham Phoenix (Runs 233, Ave 33.28, SR 118.87)

Third on the run charts, an absolute shoe-in for this team. Historically, not always the quickest of scorers, but invariably gave her side a base over the past three weeks. Her half-century against Fire was somewhat overshadowed by Verma’s fireworks at the other end, but she took centre stage in the winner-takes-all defeat of Superchargers, hitting three sixes in her 64 from 47 balls to set Phoenix on the road to the eliminator, and then took that stunning catch to dismiss Lauren Winfield-Hill just as it looked to be going the Leeds side’s way.

ALICE CAPSEY – Oval Invincibles (Runs 106, Ave 21.2, SR 121.83; W 7, Ave 11.85, RPB 0.87)

Might be a little disappointed that her 59 against Spirit at Lord’s was her only score of real note, but the impact of that innings alone is probably enough to seal her place. Throw in seven wickets at a miserly economy rate and she becomes one of this team’s lynchpins. Her victims with the ball included Laura Woolvaart, Danni Wyatt, Georgia Elwiss, Deandra Dottin, Heather Knight and Sarah Taylor. If any batter thought they might be able to take liberties against the 17-year-old, they will have thought again by now. Her eligibility for this team in 12 months’ time must be in severe doubt!

EMMA LAMB – Manchester Originals (Runs 135, Ave 19.28, SR 125; W 3, Ave 42, Econ 1.32)

Came good after a slow start, with scores of 32 (helping her team become the only side – so far – to beat Brave), 39 and 46 in three of her last four innings as Originals pushed their way up from the lower reaches of the table. Three for 16 against Phoenix were her only wickets, but she rarely got clobbered with the ball and always provides a steady bowling option for her team.

MAIA BOUCHIER – Southern Brave (Runs 85, Ave 42.5, SR 154.54)

85 runs may not seem like a big number, but look at that strike rate! Coming in at no. 5 behind a prolific top four, ‘the Mighty Bouch’ fulfilled her role as finisher to perfection. She may not have faced many balls, but she certainly made the most of them, and four not outs from her six innings – granted a couple were VERY brief – also point to a player with the mental wherewithal to see her job through, whether setting a target or polishing off a chase.

SOPHIE LUFF – Welsh Fire (Runs 79, Ave 13.16, SR 116.17)

Luff will probably be disappointed with her Hundred, but it’s a mark of her consistency at County and KSL level that her bar is set relatively high. Frequently coming in with her team in strife, the pressure to score quickly and not get out often told. 30 off 21 balls in a losing cause against Brave was her top score. But every team needs a skipper, and she brings more experience than most.

(Luff is the one change I’ve allowed myself from the team I original selected on Twitter, replacing Charlie Dean. Dean is a victim of my original pick being spinner-heavy, thanks to the presence of Capsey in particular, and can consider herself unlucky.)

DANI GIBSON – London Spirit (Runs 108, Ave 36, SR 180; W 3, Ave 42.33, RPB 1.33)

With the possible exception of Capsey, no uncapped player had as big a tournament as Gibson. Hard to believe now that she came in at no. 7 or below in the first four games, making a combined 58 from 30 balls across those knocks! Overdue elevation to no. 5 saw her help Dottin finish off the chase against Superchargers, before 34* off 19 balls against Fire hinted at what could have been had Spirit got their batting order right. Not the best return with the ball, perhaps, but her batting alone gets her in this team, and her fielding – notably the catch to dismiss Mignon Du Preez against Originals is an added bonus too.

EMILY ARLOTT – Birmingham Phoenix (Runs 39, Ave 13, SR 121.87; W 5, Ave 27.8, RPB 1.36)

In short form cricket where “pace can travel”, and in a tournament where spin has often been the way to go, picking a second seamer (see below for the spearhead!) wasn’t easy. Ultimately it came down to Phoenix team-mates Arlott and Issy Wong, whose numbers were spookily similar. Both took five wickets at 1.36 and 1.35 runs per ball respectively, and with the bat each played one significant cameo. Arlott gets the narrowest of nods by dint of her slightly better strike rate with the ball and the fact that her major contribution with the bat (22 off 14) got her team over the line against Rockets – crucially, as it turned out!

CARLA RUDD – Southern Brave (Runs 4, Ave n/a, SR 133.3; C 2, St 8)

In the end it was a 50/50 call between Rudd and Ellie Threlkeld, and I’m happy to take the flak from those who would have gone the other way! Rudd’s ten dismissals, including eight stumpings, ended up winning the tussle against Threlkeld’s seven. The Brave keeper faced only three balls in the entire competition, so squaring them off on their batting hardly seemed fair. For what it’s worth, Threlkeld’s 29 runs off 28 balls might be considered a little under-powered for an experienced batter, but perhaps that’s being harsh. Both were tidy, and it hardly seems fair to pick one over the other, but someone has to!

LAUREN BELL – SOUTHERN BRAVE (W 10, Ave 16.7, RPB 1.15)

The outstanding uncapped quick bowler, and another who walks – nay, strides! – into this team. Her best balls are nigh on unplayable, and her height gives her a point of difference from other bowlers that batters often struggle to get to grips with. Three for 22 against the Invincibles was her best return, but only conceding 16 runs from 20 balls against a Phoenix top four in full flow was probably her best performance. There’s still some rawness to her, and a few too many leg side drifters, but she’s another who may not be eligible for selection in next year’s team.

KATIE LEVICK – Northern Superchargers (W 7, Ave 21.42, RPB 1.15)

Only three uncapped bowlers boasted a better economy rate than Levick, who brought all her years of experience to bear. Consistency was key, never going for more than 24 runs in any game, even if there wasn’t one stand-out display. Two for 23 against Phoenix was a good effort as her team tried to rein in Eve Jones and co, but ultimately the Midlanders pinched that final qualification slot.

HANNAH JONES – Manchester Originals (W 4, Ave 19.75, RPB 1.05)

Competing with Sophie Ecclestone and Alex Hartley as fellow left arm spinners, Jones had her work cut out to make an impact, and only forced her way into the Originals team for the final four games. However, she arguably out-bowled both – a better economy rate than Hartley and only just shy of Ecclestone’s run-a-ball thrift, she bettered the latter’s strike rate by a fair margin. Her three for 17 – including the wickets of Wyatt and Smriti Mandhana – was pivotal in Originals’ win against finalists Brave.

——–

Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68

OPINION: The Summer Of Shafali

David Windram reflects on the emergence of a young Indian star

A Katherine Brunt send-off is hard to miss. This was no different as she charged down the pitch in celebration, raising her fingers to her lips. This one perhaps had a little extra on it. As Shafali Verma dragged herself off she knew the series was likely lost. On a personal level, Verma has only just begun. Eliciting such an animalistic send off from Brunt proved that she had been doing something right. It was the ultimate veiled compliment. A public service announcement that she had become England’s most desired wicket. Welcome to the summer of Shafali.

Image: Bahnfrend (Wikimedia Commons)

Sometimes, all it needs is a name. The ring of those very specific syllables transporting you back to the summer they defined. Amla in 2012, Bell in 2013, Perry in 2015 or Smith in 2019. Throughout the summer they reveal themselves to be the face of a series. Shafali Verma became that face in 2021.

The road back to Test match cricket for India’s women has been arduous. By playing in just one, Shafali Verma has been involved in a seventh of Tests played during her short time on the planet. She was 10 the last time those particularly crisp whites were buttoned up. Bristol was the venue for the long-desired return; England the opponents.

For Verma, unfamiliarity did not breed uncertainty. Red, white, or pink, a cricket ball is a cricket ball after all. Still, this wasn’t a simple pressure-free introduction to the toughest form of the game. England had piled on runs before declaring and were in peak predatory mode, unashamedly hunting twenty wickets without the need to bat again. Verma shrugged and got on with it.

Accompanied by Smriti Mandhana, she blunted, drove and caressed her way to 96 runs in a partnership of 167. The disappointment in missing out on a debut ton testament to the expectations which now attach to her, all 1.3 billion of them. But the highest score on Test debut for an Indian woman was quite the expectation satisfier. Not that Verma seemed to care. Simply another day in the life of the kid from Rohtak.

T20 debut at 15. Followed by discarding you know who as India’s youngest half centurion for India; the little master in waiting. At 16, officially the world’s best T20I batter. Now 17, and India’s youngest cricketer to play all three formats. A next-generation cricketer, in the most literal sense.

It should have been job done at Bristol. A weather affected four-day test leaving minimal time for a result. But Verma’s teammates wanted more, and who can blame them? The remaining nine wickets falling promptly following the debutant’s demise.

Back for more to face a similarly ravenous, now reinvigorated, bowling line up, who were sniffing an unlikely victory. That prospect was quickly extinguished. Verma again frustrated the English bowlers, while still managing to show impressive attacking intent. A further 63 runs ensured a draw for her team and the Player of the Match award. An imperious and classy debut. Global eyes were now open.

Verma is a multi-format cricketer in the purest sense; she simply has to be. Format switching is the cricketer’s Rubik’s cube. The modern career is spent constantly tweaking and fiddling hoping that it clicks in time for the impending format. This elasticity is increasingly vital for the female cricketer, where multi-format series are now the norm. These series provide an extreme examination of patience, technique, skill and imagination; only the truly elite can thrive.

Luckily for India, Verma is elite. Her range of shots appears limitless. Come straight at her and she will blunt you; pitch it up and she will drive you; bang it in short and you’re swatted to the boundary. She will walk across her stumps to clip you away to leg, or give herself room and smash through the off side. The variety with which deliveries are dealt with is bold and brash. Pre-summer there remained an unanswered question. Was the temperament transferable to longer formats? The answer has been emphatic.

Verma made contributions in at least one game of every single format, including an epic 48 runs off 38 balls in the second T20I to keep India’s series hopes alive. If Brunt didn’t get her early, she made runs. This is the beauty of the multi-format series. It allows these mini battles to develop. Verma v Brunt became captivating viewing.

Yet, there remains a dichotomy at the heart of Verma’s success. Indian cricket has a generational talent on its hands – yes, another one. Her cricket is exciting, high quality and intensely enjoyable to watch. But without the requisite backing from her cricket board, it almost feels like it doesn’t matter what she does. She can be as good as she wants, but unless something changes, she will only be given a tokenistic glance.

Verma received a “Grade B” contract from the BCCI. It pays her approximately £29,000 to be one of the best in the world. Her male equivalents are paid around £485,000, with the lowest centrally contracted male player receiving roughly £97,000. There is also the well-documented caper in which the BCCI withheld prize money from the women’s inspirational run to the World Cup final in 2020. These “life-changing amounts” were only paid to the players once they had raised invoices and when the story was diligently reported in the mainstream press. The money had been paid to the BCCI fourteen months previously.

There appears a reluctance to conjure up a legitimate female equivalent of the IPL. The current tournament, The T20 Challenge, in which three teams play two games each is merely a box-ticking exercise. As the male tournament becomes unnecessarily bloated with repetitive game after repetitive game, the women’s competition couldn’t be trimmed any further. As sad as it is, money makes the game go round. The BCCI have copious amounts to throw at whatever they feel is worthy. At the moment there is a clear rejection of the women’s game.

It leaves Shafali Verma hunting for game time, o the extent that she spent time training with Haryana’s men’s team and facing Mohit Sharma in nets. She is reliant on the WBBL and The Hundred. For all the follies of The Hundred, and they are pretty much endless, the female version has become vital for the players. The salaries peak at £15,000 – the lowest male players being paid nearly double the highest women – but it is as much about game time. Opportunities remain scarce and need to be grabbed when available, regardless of what they look like. Sometimes it is simply about survival.

India was eventually in win or go home territory with two T20s to play. On ball twenty of the must-win match, Verma unleashed. Inevitably, it was Brunt on the receiving end. With a violent swipe of her bat, the ball was catapulted to the boundary. Next ball, same result, as Verma stepped away and launched back over Brunt’s head. Ball three was hung outside off, this time a feather- like touch clipped the ball past point to the rope. Two slightly more agricultural swipes, led to two more boundaries, off the final two balls of the over. It was carnage. Brunt was stunned; England were stunned. Five fours off five balls and India’s recovery was on.

It demonstrated every aspect in confirming she is destined for stardom. The temerity to rip apart a world-class bowler. The ability to play whatever shot the delivery required. Sometimes it wasn’t perhaps the perfect shot selection, yet she made whatever shot she played work. The concept of the 360-degree cricketer has become a cliche; for Verma, it is nothing less than reality.

Ultimately, Brunt would have the last laugh with her final match send-off, but Shafali Verma has arrived. Now the headliner of the coming generation, let’s make sure she is given the proper platform. Your move BCCI.

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.”

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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)

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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

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