KSL: James Piechowski’s Big #KSL17 Preview

James Piechowski takes an in-depth look at the 6 teams competing for the 2017 Kia Super League.

Lancashire Thunder

Thunder look to be significantly stronger than last season and should offer a much bigger challenge for a top 3 finish. This is a good thing, as they finished bottom of the pile last time out. They are one of the more nicely balanced sides now, and have a good mixture of youth and experience.

Top of the billing will be the England wicketkeeper and World Cup winning hero Sarah Taylor, who is something of a specialist in T20 cricket as well. She has an excellent international T20 average of over 30, and will be very welcome back into the Thunder line-up. The top of the batting order will also include internationals Satterthwaite and Jonassen, and the very promising Emma Lamb, with perhaps Eve Jones and then Brown and Miles competing for the remaining spots.

Spin bowling is well catered for, and Thunder have one of the stronger spin attacks, boasting England’s Dani Hazell and Sophie Ecclestone, plus fellow left-armer, Australia’s Jess Jonassen. The pace attack is slightly more limited but will feature New Zealand international quick Lea Tahuhu after a move from Surrey Stars, and England’s Kate Cross. Neither are particularly known for their economy rates, although they can take those all-important early wickets. If Thunder do leak a few too many runs though, their batting is more than capable of making up for it.

It will be interesting to see if Taylor does keep wicket for Thunder or if that job is given to Ellie Threlkeld, who may earn herself a place in the team on her own merit in either case. Thunder kick-off with a tough Roses battle away at Headingley, but then have the relative luxury of 3 home games on the bounce. They will be hoping to already be through to finals day, by the time they face their tricky final league fixture away at Western Storm. But I have a feeling that the final group match could be a crucial battle, as these two sides might be neck and neck challenging for qualification. Thunder will be hoping they can get the upper hand, but home advantage will be with Storm.

Prediction: 4th

Strongest XI: Lamb, Taylor, Satterthwaite, Jonassen, E. Jones, Miles, Hazell, Tahuhu, Threlkeld, Cross, Ecclestone.

Loughborough Lightning

After a solid showing in the first edition of KSL, in which they came third, Lightning ‘s squad for this year shows they remain a strong side, who could at their best put up a challenge for another appearance on finals day. However, they might not make it this time – the squad, whose England players didn’t see much action in the World Cup, hasn’t been improved as much as some other teams.

Last year Lightning’s squad had a glut of all-rounders, so it’s interesting to see that this time they’ve gone for a more specialist overseas trio. It’s all Australian, with world-class all-rounder Ellyse Perry returning, and she brings with her compatriot leg-spinner Kirsten Beams, and destructive hard-hitting batsman Elyse Villani.

Lightning’s England contingent might not have featured in the World Cup winning run, but they are still very good players who are more specialised for T20 cricket. Georgia Elwiss will probably resume her opening role, and expect to see all the internationals and probably Scholfield and Brookes (who both impressed in KSL 2016) with Boyce possibly given an opportunity as well in the middle order. Their batting is powerful, and their bowling has a good mix of pace bowlers. Spin is a bit more limited, with only Beams and Grundy as recognised turners, although they’re both very capable performers who’ll probably max out their overs in each game. Seeing as spin is likely to be such an effective option though, both to contain batsmen and take wickets, this is a potential weakness.

To make things harder still, Lightning face 3 away games this season. They start with a potential stumbling block at Taunton against the Storm, although at least they will be able to rely on what is always a good batting pitch. Things don’t get any easier as they face Vipers next, followed by Diamonds and finishing with another tough trip to the Oval to play Stars. Lightning will have done very well to qualify this year I feel.

Prediction: 6th

Strongest XI: Elwiss, Villani, Perry, Jones, Odedra, Boyce, Brookes, Scholfield, Beams, Langston, Grundy.

Southern Vipers

Vipers are the defending champions and look to be strong contenders again this year. They should be able to reach finals day, but the main concern appears to be the lack of specialist bowlers available if any of the all-rounders start to spray it around. If they do concede more runs though, their spruced-up batting line-up might well be able to make up for it.

Vipers’ middle order will miss the experience of Greenway and McGlashan. They have more dashers this time around in Matthews and Wyatt, so may be able to elevate their totals; but with Edwards, Bates and Du Preez, the latter especially impressing in the World Cup with her improved ability to work the ball around and pick the gaps, they still have plenty of solid runs in the side. That’s not even mentioning former England international Brindle, or promising Senior Academy member Adams. Overall, I have few concerns about the batting, but more about the bowling.

Much of the bowling may fall to Farrant, George and Smith, all relatively inexperienced; with all-rounders Brindle, Bates and Matthews possibly asked to contribute a lot with the ball as well. Like Lightning, they do not appear to have many spin-bowling options available, and may have to even call on Wyatt to put the odd over in (she does so competently for Melbourne Renegades).

Vipers have been given the rub of the green in terms of their fixtures. with the advantage of 3 home games for the second year running. They will know just how to play on an Ageas Bowl pitch which is often quite slow and sticky. Vipers open up against Storm and then play away at Lightning. They finish against Diamonds in a fixture scheduled to be played at the picturesque Arundel.

Prediction: 2nd

Strongest XI: Bates, Matthews, Edwards, Adams, Wyatt, Du Preez, Brindle, Rudd, George, Farrant, Smith.

Surrey Stars

Having just missed out to Lightning in qualification for last year’s finals day, Stars will be looking to go one better this time around, and on paper it certainly appears that they have the squad for it. With some explosive batting and accurate wicket-taking bowling available, Stars will be looking for a much improved performance this year, and should be serious contenders for the title.

Stars have 4 full England Internationals, and 3 very capable overseas imports as well. With a dashing top order capable of  taking the game away from any side, Stars have a strong and long batting line-up. Expect more than a runs feast or two from Beaumont, Smith and Lee at the top of the order. Sciver will be a player to look out for as well, although I don’t think we’ve really seen enough of what she can do in T20 cricket yet. Her T20 record so far is not as impressive as that in 50 over games.

Stars’ bowling is very well served, with Kapp and Farrell certain to turn in some impressive figures. There is also the England spin duo of Marsh and Hartley to contend with, who confounded so many in the World Cup with their flight and turn. They work splendidly in tandem. Expect Sciver to also usually put four overs in, although after that the bowling options start to dry up – the next most likely to turn their arm over is probably Sophia Dunkley. Perhaps their main weakness may be a tendency to batting collapse – as one of the younger sides, there isn’t as much experience available in the middle and lower order. I can see them being restricted to a much lower total if they lose early wickets.

It is also worth noting that Surrey Stars do have some of the stronger county players available – the likes of Cranstone, Griffith, Dattani and White perhaps have an edge over some of the squad players available to other sides. Stars could feasibly play any 2 of their county players on top of the 7 Internationals (or in Farrell’s case, former internationals) and 2 England Senior Academy players available – so they have good depth to their squad as well.

Stars have been given the fillip of 3 home games this year, and will play all of them at The Kia Oval. First they take on Diamonds, then they travel up to Manchester to play Thunder at Old Trafford, in what is sure to be a humdinger, as they say. Stars finish their league campaign with another home game against Lightning.

Prediction: 1st

Strongest XI: Smith, Beaumont, Lee, Sciver, Kapp, Dunkley, White, Griffith, Farrell, Marsh, Hartley

Western Storm

After losing out to Vipers in the final last time out, Storm will be looking to make it to finals day once again and go that extra step to the title. Their squad is very capable, with a strong mix of solid and aggressive batsmen and some serious bowling to contend with too. It would be unwise to discount them from the final reckoning.

Storm have strengthened their bowling attack this year with the inclusion of Kiwi quick Holly Huddleston. This is a smart move, as their pace attack (apart from Shrubsole) was too limited last time around. However, as Lee has now moved to the Stars, Storm are stuck with promoting their more inexperienced middle-order players up a position. This may result in Wilson, Luff and Hennessy moving out of their comfort zones a bit.

Pace bowling is now well catered for, with Shrubsole and Huddleston likely to open up, and Davies and Hennessy offering solid changes. Storm will however be concerned about Shrubsole’s injury worries which may see her missing vital matches, in what is after all a very short league. The bulk of spin bowling is likely to be from Knight and Taylor, with Dibble perhaps contributing overs if she makes it into the team.

Storm have only been granted 2 home games this time, and I can see them facing a tough start away to Vipers. They play Lightning at Taunton next, then must travel all the way up to York to face Diamonds. Their final fixture is against Thunder at Bristol. Qualification may be somewhat more challenging than the way they cruised through last time. It could be tight between Storm and Thunder for possibly the third qualification spot – and maybe Shrubsole will be the determining factor for Storm.

Prediction: 3rd

Strongest XI: Priest, Taylor, Knight, Wilson, Luff, Hennessy, Macleod, Shrubsole, Huddleston, Dibble, Davies

Yorkshire Diamonds

After a disappointing first season, there’s hope that Diamonds will be much more competitive this year, and some good reasons to think that they will. Their squad is experienced and more in-form and potent this time out, and if things go really well, they are in with a decent shout of a qualification place.

With Brunt and Gunn two of England’s strongest performers in the World Cup winning side, there is reason for positivity for the Diamonds. Despite the loss of Mooney, Hazell and Blackwell, the signings have been shrewd. Kiwi Sophie Devine is always capable of winning matches with her clean striking, big hitting and also her potential to take wickets. Sune Luus can also perform well with both bat and ball, and the late inclusion of Chamari Attapattu could be a game-changer too. A wild card for sure, the Sri Lankan tends to be unpredictable but she has undeniable quality with the ball and especially with the bat.

Diamonds now have one of the strongest sets of all-rounders in the KSL. Other players like Armitage, Levick and Davidson-Richards are all on an upwards curve, and may be looking to push for further recognition by England. Their batting line-up is suitably experienced and explosive now as well. Both spin and pace bowling are well catered for – the Diamonds have, on paper, done an admirable job at ironing out their main weaknesses. Now it’s all down to how well they perform.

It will be a big early test for the Diamonds as they take on Thunder in the local derby first up. They next travel to Stars and then Lightning, the first 2 of 3 tricky away fixtures which finishes with a real challenge, taking on Vipers on the final day. If the fixtures had fallen kindly for Diamonds I might have given them more of a chance to qualify, but as it stands I think they will do well to push for a top-3 spot.

Prediction: 5th

Strongest XI:  Winfield, Armitage, Devine, Attapattu, Davidson-Richards, Brunt, Gunn, Luus, Graves, Butler, Levick

Kia Super League 2017 Preview

Syd Egan and Raf Nicholson talk to the key players and give an overview of each side’s prospects.

Plus for the in-depth view, check out James Piechowski’s Big #KSL17 Preview!

Lancashire Thunder

Dani Hazell (C), Sarah Taylor, Kate Cross, Amy Satterthwaite, Jess Jonassen, Lea Tahuhu, Sophie Ecclestone, Emma Lamb, Eve Jones, Ellie Threlkeld, Natasha Miles, Natalie Brown, Alice Dyson, Rachel Dickinson, Ella Telford

Last Year: 6th

The Big Signings: Dani Hazell, Sarah Taylor*, Jess Jonassen, Lea Tahuhu, Eve Jones

Dani Hazell Says: “We’ve got a good squad together. Hopefully we can enjoy the fact that it’s Twenty20 cricket, it’s exciting, and the crowd get behind you.”

“We’ve got a few of the Academy girls in – we’ve got Emma Lamb, Eve Jones, Ellie Threlkeld – some really good youngsters coming through. This is a really good chance for them to put their name out there – you never know when you’ll suddenly get called into an England squad, so it’s good for them to play under the pressure of being on Sky, on the radio, in front of crowds.”

Raf Says: Thunder struggled last year, especially losing Sarah Taylor in the run-up to the tournament, but the World Cup proved that the world’s best wicketkeeper is back, and in form to boot. Lancashire have also just been crowned County T20 champions, and this is a squad which includes many of those same players – now is their time to shine in KSL too.

Prediction: Runners-Up

Loughborough Lightning

Georgia Elwiss (C), Amy Jones, Beth Langston, Ellyse Perry, Kristen Beams, Elyse Villani, Paige Scholfield, Thea Brookes, Georgia Boyce, Becky Grundy, Sonia Odedra, Marie Kelly, Sarah Glenn, Lucy Higham, Abi Freeborn

Last Year: 3rd

The Big Signings: Kristen Beams, Elyse Villani, Marie Kelly

Amy Jones Says: “Our squad’s been together a lot recently, and our pre-season started a bit earlier than some of the other teams, which hopefully can stand us in good stead. We just missed out on the final last year – I think the occasion maybe got to us a bit. We didn’t play as we had going in. We’ve been working a lot on treating each game as it comes, playing with freedom, knowing our strengths and sticking to those really.”

“Georgie Boyce was in our team last year, but didn’t get a go – I’d like to see her in the team this year because she’s such a talented batter and she hits the ball very hard. And Marie Kelly, my Warwickshire captain, is in the team for the first time this year, which is very good to see – she’s a really good all-rounder, and a good person to have around.”

Syd Says: I think they are going to struggle with the bat – they’ve lost Dane van Niekerk, Sophie Devine and Eve Jones this season, who between them accounted for 40% of their runs last year – whilst van Niekerk was probably also their best bowler – which leaves an awful lot resting on the (tired?) shoulders of Ellyse Perry.

Prediction: Group Stages

Southern Vipers

Charlotte Edwards (C), Tash Farrant, Danni Wyatt, Arran Brindle, Suzie Bates, Mignon du Preez (Replaces Dane van Niekerk), Hayley Matthews, Georgia Adams, Katie George, Linsey Smith, Ellen Burt, Tara Norris, Izzy Collis, Carla Rudd, Charlie Dean

Last Year: Winners

The Big Signings: Danni Wyatt, Mignon du Preez, Hayley Matthews

Tash Farrant Says: “One of our sponsors is Southampton Uni and we stay in accommodation there. That really helped us – we really gelled as a unit. Team dinners, Come Dine With Me nights. Hopefully this year will be the same.”

“We’ve got a really good young bowling side – Linsey Smith, who did so well last year; and Katie George as well – they’ll want to hit the ground running like Linsey did last year.”

Raf Says: This looks very similar to the side who won the inaugural trophy last season, and in such a short competition, a side who have already gelled together is always going to be at an advantage. With Charlotte Edwards, Suzie Bates and Arran Brindle there’s also a huge amount of wisdom in this side – the issue might be that, compared with other sides in the competition, most of their “big names” haven’t spent all that much time in the middle lately.

Prediction: 3rd

Surrey Stars

Nat Sciver (C), Tammy Beaumont, Laura Marsh, Alex Hartley, Marizanne Kapp, Lizelle Lee (Replaces Harmanpreet Kaur), Rene Farrell, Bryony Smith, Sophia Dunkley, Grace Gibbs, Aylish Cranstone, Cordelia Griffith, Hannah Jones, Naomi Dattani, Kirstie White

Last Year: 4th

The Big Signings: Lizelle Lee, Kirstie White*

Tammy Beaumont Says: “There were so many performances where we’d go alright with the bat and then not so good with the ball, like in the Storm game where we got 160 and then didn’t defend it, and then at the Vipers game we only ended up getting 90 but we actually bowled pretty well. It’s a case of trying to put both things together. To finish 4th in the end was a good effort, but we’re hoping to go a bit better this year.”

“We’ve got a couple of new faces in the squad. Hannah Jones is one to watch – she’s certainly developed well with her batting and her bowling, and she’s a bit of a gun fielder – hopefully she’ll go well. Sophia Dunkley missed out last year with concussion, but she’s a decent leg spinner and a very aggressive batter. Bryony Smith went really well last year opening the batting with me, some really great cameos – and she’s been on the England Academy programme this winter.”

Syd Says: Tammy Beaumont and Alex Hartley were, of course, two of the stars of England’s World Cup win; whilst Marizanne Kapp is probably the best fast bowler in the world right now; but it is the quality of the Stars lesser-known players that might just end up making the difference this season – the experienced Kirstie White, the smart Aylish Cranstone, and (alas!!) the young Surrey duo of Smith & Jones.

Prediction: Winners

Western Storm

Heather Knight (C), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Holly Huddleston, Stafanie Taylor, Rachel Priest, Georgia Hennessy, Sophie Luff, Freya Davies, Danielle Gibson, Claire Thomas, Lauren Parfitt, Jodie Dibble, Amara Carr, Lissy Macleod

Last Year: Runners-Up

The Big Signings: Holly Huddleston, Lissy Macleod

Heather Knight Says: “We’ve added to our squad – we’ve got Lissy Macleod, a very talented cricketer who plays for Berkshire, hopefully we can get the best out of her. We’ve got a few Welsh girls too, Claire Thomas and Lauren Parfitt. We were probably a little bit batting heavy last year – Sophie Luff and Fran Wilson both coming in too far down the order – so that’s why with the overseas we’ve gone for Holly Huddleston: a bit more firepower and bowling at the death.”

“Freya Davies learned a lot from last year. She’s improved her skill level a lot. She came along to quite a few of the net sessions during the World Cup and seeing her bowl, it’s quite exciting to see how she’ll go. She’s developed her slower ball even more and is a lot more tactically astute than she was last year. Georgia Hennessy as well is a player that you never quite know what’s going to happen, but you know something is going to happen! She’s got that X factor, she’s a brilliant character – she bats, she bowls and she’s quite fiery as well!”

Raf Says: Lissy Macleod is a great addition to this side – she’s held many an innings together for Berkshire, and her county captain Heather Knight will know by now how to get the best out of her. But Storm relied heavily last year on some great performances from Stafanie Taylor, and she’s surely going to be severely demoralised after her team’s World Cup performance, so I think they could struggle.

Prediction: Group Stages

Yorkshire Diamonds

Lauren Winfield (C), Katherine Brunt, Jenny Gunn, Chamari Atapattu (Replaces Beth Mooney), Sune Luus, Sophie Devine, Hollie Armitage, Alice Davidson-Richards, Anna Nicholls, Katie Levick, Katie Thompson, Steph Butler, Laura Crofts, Teresa Graves, Maddie Walsh

Last Year: 5th

The Big Signings: Chamari Atapattu, Sune Luus, Sophie Devine, Laura Crofts

Lauren Winfield Says: “This year we’ve got more depth in our batting than we had last year, which will hopefully come in useful.”

“In terms of young players, we’ve got a number of players who could make a name for themselves this tournament and it’s hard to choose just one; but look out for Alice Davidson-Richards, Hollie Armitage and Laura Crofts.”

Syd Says: The Diamonds have some top, top players – I’m a huge fan of Sune Luus and Sophie Devine is a big signing for them – but despite their Yorkshire county core, they still feel like a team who somehow won’t quite be as strong as the sum of their parts.

Prediction: Group Stages

————————-

* Back from injury

INTERVIEW: Captain Megan Fairclough On How Lancashire Bounced Back To Become T20 Champions

Back in May 2015, a bright dawn of optimism broke over women’s cricket in Lancashire. Newly promoted to Div 1 of the Women’s County Championship, the Lancashire Thunder – as they were known before that moniker was later taken over by the Super League team – promised great things. There was shiny new kit, a joint media day at Old Trafford with the men’s team, and a heap of press coverage, including an interview with then-captain Jas Titmuss in All Out Cricket.

Then the cricket started… and it all came crashing down.

Lancashire Thunder lost all 8 of their games in the County Championship that year, their season going from bad to worse as they were bowled out for 86 and 113 in their last two matches. They ended the season in last place on just 23 points. Notts – who finished just one place above them, and were also relegated – had 68.

Fast-forward two-and-a-bit years, however, and we are tweeting this:

Lancashire – now back in Div 1 in both formats – have won the T20 Cup, and are currently 3rd in the County Championship.

And they’ve done it with basically the same team – 9 of the players who played the last round of the T20 Cup, played in the disastrous 2015 season!

So what has changed, we asked captain Megan Fairclough:

“We are experienced playing together now,” she says. “After the difficulty of a couple of years ago, when we went back down to Div 2, we showed great character – we bounced back and came back up.”

And there is an element of success breeding success:

“The girls playing so well together constantly – playing such great games at the moment – is great motivation for everybody as well.”

With Lancashire now just back to being “Lancashire”, the “Thunder” name has been taken up by the KSL side, and the resources which have been ploughed into building that team, with a full winter training program, have also made a big difference:

“It is a good thing for us that we’ve got so many players playing for the Kia Super League – 8 of the squad is playing at Lancs Thunder, so they’ve trained together, and having the Thunder girls together constantly is kind of an advantage.”

And whilst Fairclough is clearly not intentionally having a dig at players at other counties who only play county, she does stress the importance for all players of just PLAYING – county, club, or whatever:

“People are playing cricket outside of county as well, so they are getting games under their belts and constantly developing their skills.”

One advantage Lancashire have had this season is that whilst other teams have been decimated by international call-ups, for Lancashire key players such as Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone have not been selected for England, and so have been available throughout; but whilst acknowledging this, Fairclough argues that there’s more to it than that:

“It can be seen as an advantage, but it’s not just those two [Cross and Ecclestone] who have won us the games – it has been a team effort. There has been different people shining through – everyone has worked well and we’ve worked well as a team.”

And looking at the numbers this is borne out: 3 players have scored over 250 runs – Emma Lamb (300), Eve Jones (292) and Natalie Brown (252) – and whilst Ecclestone is the season’s leading wicket-taker by a country mile with 25, others have chipped in, including Rachel Dickinson (16), Natalie Brown (13) and Fairclough herself (12).

Now with just two rounds of the Women’s County Championship, can Lancashire pull-off the ultimate comeback and do The Double? They will be depending on other results to do so, but it is possible that their final fixture against current leaders Warwickshire will be a decider. Fairclough though is taking each match as it comes:

“We’ve still got a chance but we don’t want to play the last two games under pressure so we’re just going to take it a game at a time and play like we have done all season – not overthink anything, just do our basics well – we’ll go out there and play our normal game and have fun.”

And who could argue that that is not what cricket is all about?

INTERVIEW: Cecily Scutt – Surrey Skipper On Life In Div 2… And Getting Back To Div 1

2016 was a tough season for Surrey. After 5 years in Division 1 of the Women’s County Championship, including a second-placed finish in 2014, they were relegated to Division 2 having lost 7 of their 8 games.

But for long-standing county captain Cecily Scutt – now in her 9th season with the club, and with 91 wickets to her name, closing in on the big 100-wicket milestone – this wasn’t the time to cut and run:

“Relegation was hard because I felt a lot of responsibility personally; but I don’t think that is the time for a captain to leave, when their team gets relegated. We have a very young side, so if I were to leave at that point it would have left a lot of people on their own – Bryony Smith who is pushing to play for England; Alex Travers, Amy Gordon, and Rhianna Southby, who are all trying to develop their games – if I can take the pressure off them with the captaincy, then we’ll give them the best platform we can.”

Two particularly exciting prospects are 18-year-old Hannah Jones and Aylish Cranstone, who has moved to Surrey after 5 years at Devon, to try to push her career forwards after being selected in the Surrey Stars KSL squad last season:

“Hannah has been bowling really well and taking lots of wickets – she sticks to her line and length, and plays really positively with the bat – she is starting to enjoy it a lot I think, which is good to see; and Aylish adds a lot of energy – she is really busy – working it into the gaps and running really well between the wickets, so she is a real asset for us.”

Reflecting on life in Div 2, the word that Scutt uses is “different”:

“It is a different game, but it’s been alright actually – it has been different but it has been positive. Everyone has found out more about the way that they play and had the opportunity to score a lot of runs, so we’ve gained a lot of confidence which has been nice and a lot of the younger girls are doing really well, which is good to see.”

One player who made the most of her opportunities in Div 2 was England’s Nat Sciver, who smashed back-to-back not-out centuries against Hampshire and Staffs:

“It was good for Nat going into the World Cup off the back of a couple of hundreds – her success is so deserved – she has worked really, really hard, and it is amazing – we love it!”

Now with 2 rounds remaining of the 2017 County Championship, it could hardly be closer at the top of Div 2, with Somerset, Hampshire, Surrey and Devon all on 4 wins from 5, and Surrey currently sitting 3rd on bonus points in the battle for one of the two promotion spots back to Div 1, with fixtures against Somerset and Devon to come:

“The last 2 games will be quite tough – Somerset will be a hard game – they are playing pretty well. We played them in the T20 and they beat us, but it was close; so we’ll try and win and give ourselves the best chance we can to get promoted.”

“We want to be playing Div 1 cricket – that’s our aim. There is a difference between the divisions and while I think it has been good for us – we’ve had a chance to regroup and everyone has learned a lot – we would like to be playing Div 1 cricket!”

CLUB OF THE MONTH: Chester Boughton Hall

Chester Boughton Hall Ladies Cricket Team plays its cricket in the Cheshire Women’s Cricket League, playing Division 1 40-over league cricket, and plays T20 cricket under the name of Chester Deemons (after the river Dee that runs through Chester!)

IMG_20170615_093334

Chester Boughton Hall Academy

 

CBH are one of the most successful clubs in Chester. 2016 saw them going unbeaten in the Cheshire League, winning the league and also winning the T20 competition. Losing 1 game all season saw them knocked out of the Knockout Cup which stopped their pursuit of the treble, which they successfully won in 2014.

CBH are only the 2nd club in the Cheshire league to introduce a 2nd XI into Division 3 of the Cheshire League.  This is due to the excellent work done through their Academy set up by Jo Herbertson, who works tirelessly with the All-Stars cricket and grassroots cricket side of the club.  The future is definitely bright thanks to Jo’s work!

With the introduction of the 2nd team/Academy set up, CBHLCC can cater for all ages and abilities. Current ages range from their 5-8 year old All-Stars, through to the older Academy girls (8-15), then onto the senior players who are aged from 15 to mid 60s. They cater for anyone at Chester!

IMG_20170615_093351

Chester Boughton Hall 1st XI

 

England players Lauren Griffiths and Sophie Ecclestone both started playing their cricket at Chester and both still have close links to the club, with Sophie still putting in the odd appearance with the first XI.

Chester currently have 6 (7 if you count Sophie Ecclestone!) senior county players on their books, 5 playing for Cheshire and 1 playing for Shropshire, 2 U17 Cheshire county players and 2 U15 Cheshire county players.

All-Stars training is on a Tuesday evening, 5-15-6.15pm, Academy training then follows on, with the 1st team training 6.15-8ish, again on a Tuesday evening.

This season has seen local solicitor firm Cullimore Dutton enter into a 2 year sponsorship deal for Women and Girls Cricket, which the club is immensely thankful for.

If anyone is interested in playing cricket at Chester Boughton Hall, please contact Ali Cutler on alicut73@gmail.com or Jo Herbertson on Jo_herbertson@hotmail.co.uk

NEWS: Sarah Taylor Speaks Out Ahead Of World Cup Return

In her first interview since taking a break from cricket a year ago, Sarah Taylor has given the strongest indication yet that she will be back in England colours come the opening World Cup game on 24 June.

“To be back in time for the World Cup has been a hard journey but very worth it,” she said, in a video recorded by the ECB.

“It’s been a tough 12 months and lots has been learned in that time. In terms of where I am with my cricket, I’m incredibly comfortable to be back playing and the girls have been absolutely brilliant. It’s just nice to be back around them and the fact that the World Cup is at home as well makes it extra special.”

Speaking about her recent return to playing with her teammates in the UAE, she said: “In the UAE it felt like I was wearing that shirt for the first time. I’m almost looking back at my career and seeing this as a bit of a blank canvas.”

The real test for Taylor will come when she walks out in front of several thousand fans at Derby; she is confident, though, that she is ready for that:

“I feel like I’m probably mentally strong enough to deal with those pressures. I’m back and I’m ready to face the World Cup and the scrutiny that professional sport brings.”

She admits that she still suffers from social anxiety on a day to day basis, but says that she is “most comfortable out in the middle: batting, wicket-keeping and being around the girls.”

“Batting’s more fun now than it was back then! Once you eliminate all the things that are going on inside your head you’re able to just purely enjoy the game.”

Overall, she is cautiously optimistic about both her own comeback and England’s World Cup chances. “I’m proud that I’ve even put myself out there to do it,” she says. “I want to win as much as the next person – and I’m hoping that there’ll be success with my own mental health and we can see a trophy at the same time.”

INTERVIEW: Alex Hartley – “I Owe Middlesex My Career”

There aren’t many cricketers who have had a better year than England’s Alex Hartley. 12 months ago few people knew her name. Then she was called up to the England squad against Pakistan, went on to take 8 wickets in the inaugural KSL, and ended the year by breaking the record for the most number of wickets by any England player in a bilateral series (13 against the West Indies).

To what does she attribute her recent international success? She is pretty unequivocal about it: “I owe Middlesex my career.”

Until 2013, Hartley was based at her home county, Lancashire; but her resurgence, she feels, revolved around the difficult decision she made back then to commute from her home in Clitheroe down to London to represent Middlesex. Hartley had been selected for the England Academy aged 15, then dropped soon afterwards, but still harboured dreams of playing for England. At that point, back in 2013, Middlesex were in Division 1 and Lancashire were not. A move south seemed to be her best hope of reviving her international chances.

It turned out, though, that it was not just about the quality of cricket on offer at Middlesex. “It gave me a fresh start,” Hartley says. “I was always that person at Lancs that couldn’t bat, couldn’t field, but could bowl. Went down to Middlesex, didn’t tell them anything about me. They’d never seen me play before, and it just really kickstarted my career from there on in.”

“They gave me so much. They put me on the Academy, I was having one-to-ones with [former England coach] Mark Lane. It was just what I needed really.”

Slowly she clawed her way back into England contention – selected for the 2015 Academy tour to the UAE and then finally, under new coach Mark Robinson, given the chance to prove herself at international level. The support of Middlesex was key throughout.

Did that make it difficult, then, to come to the decision ahead of this season to head back to her home county, Lancashire, leaving North London behind?

“It was actually really heartbreaking. I didn’t want to leave. But the travelling, it’s just too far. Living back in Manchester it just made so much sense to move back to Lancashire.”

It doesn’t stop her feeling a certain sense of divided loyalty – even turning up to watch the London Cup match last week dressed in Middlesex colours. “I was like ‘come on girls!’ I felt like I was still part of that team. They’re just like family.”

Hartley is now firmly ensconced in the England set-up, awarded a central contract last December and having recently returned from Abu Dhabi on a training camp with the rest of the squad. She says that she has been working hard on her batting and fielding – as well as her bowling, of course. “It has been an intense six months. But hopefully I’ll peak at the right time and it will be worth it.”

It seems likely she will feature heavily in Robinson’s plans for the World Cup. Certainly when we sit down with her at Lords she has selection in the starting XI against India come June 24 firmly in her sights – and it is her success at county level on English pitches which has made it possible. “I’ve bowled well for a few years now, so knowing that I can bowl well on English wickets and knowing that I can take wickets on English wickets is a real confidence booster ahead of the World Cup,” she says.

So as someone who owes so much to county cricket, how does Hartley feel about the fact that she and her England teammates will be missing out on the vast majority of the county season this year?

“It’s hard, but we know it’s probably for the best. We want to be playing cricket, that’s what we do, it’s our job to play cricket. But the coaches assess our workload carefully and it’s important for us to get rest, which sometimes means missing matches.”

“It can get too much and you do need your time away. It is set up right, but it’s a shame our county season’s not any longer.”

The last point is a good one. This year’s county season is a mere 7 games long and the majority of those will have been played by the end of May. Indeed, with the introduction of the Super League, one does sometimes get the feeling that county cricket is considered somewhat of an irrelevance by those at the top.

But if the example of Alex Hartley is anything to go by, it seems pretty apparent that county cricket still has a vital role to play in nurturing the international stars of the future.

CLUB OF THE MONTH: Quatt 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!

Quatt Cricket Club’s (QCC) women’s team is currently in its fifteenth year and was formed in 2002. The women are an active part of QCC, a village club located in South Shropshire which was established in 1908.

The women’s section of the club was formed by Kelly Evans and Beth Evans in 2002. Kelly and Beth were the girlfriends of Quatt Men’s 1st XI players and brothers Adam and Ade Evans and were keen to not only play the game they loved watching but also grow participation in a sport that had no foothold in Shropshire at the time.

IMG_0421

Quatt CC, back in the day!

The women’s team played its inaugural game against Colwyn Bay in 2002, with future QCC captain Vicki Bale scoring a run-a-ball hundred on debut! In 2003 they joined the Women’s Midlands League, representing Quatt, and with it Shropshire, in Division 1.

QCC has been a mainstay club in the Midlands League ever since, taking the small Shropshire village to the heady heights of the Midlands Premier League in 2013. They currently play in Women’s Midlands Division 2 and the Shropshire Active Women’s League – a T20 development format played on weeknights to encourage new members and youngsters into the senior side.

They are coached by Louise Pugh, who has been a player and coach at Quatt since the mid-2000’s. “Pughy” is an ECB-qualified Level 3 coach and runs the Shropshire County Girls U11 side as well as supporting and playing in QCC Active Women’s and Midlands League fixtures.

QCC play at the Quatt Oval, a ground that has changed much since 2002 when the first women’s training session took place. Located on land owned by the National Trust’s Dudmaston Estate in the village of Quatt, QCC had a traditional village cricket feel about it until 2011 when the wooden and highly dilapidated cricket pavilion, complete with two small changing rooms, no electricity and no hot running water, was demolished and replaced with a state of the art cricket pavilion, delivered through a significant club fundraising effort alongside a package of grant funding from the ECB, Sport England, Shropshire Council, local charitable trusts and the parish council.

QCC now boasts some of the finest facilities in the county, having secured additional funding from Sport England and SITA Trust in 2014 to develop a second ground, two further changing rooms and new car parking provision adjacent to its existing pitch and main pavilion.

IMG_0417

The new pavilion

As the first Shropshire cricket club to form a women’s league team, Quatt has fielded many county representatives over the years, with its most famous member being Eve Jones, who has just returned from a tour to UAE with the full England Women’s team, having been part of the England Academy since 2014.

The club has a thriving junior section with over 120 members – not bad for a village with no feeder school and a population of only 219! Quatt juniors run mixed teams in U9, U10, U11, U13 and U15’s age groups. The club’s girls membership currently stands at 38.

The club has enjoyed welcoming a number of England women’s stars on domestic duty to its ground over the years including Amy Jones, Jenny Gunn, Danielle Wyatt and Georgia Elwiss. The highlight to date for Quatt, though, was reaching the Women’s Midlands Premier League in 2012 – an outstanding achievement for a small village club. For many of the girls, pulling up at Sheffield on a late summer’s day in 2012 a few days after England Women had won the Ashes to see half the Sheffield team being interviewed by Sky Sports in their England tracksuits was a daunting and intimidating highlight. Katherine Brunt, Lauren Winfield and Natalie Sciver were all in the Sheffield team that played Quatt that day and their wickets fell for 18, 11 and 14 respectively to Quatt’s Clare Pym (a serious career highlight!) This didn’t stop Sheffield racking up a massive score that Quatt failed to make a dent in, even if the fabulously gracious Katherine Brunt declared at tea that she wouldn’t be bowling at full pace and would bowl spin (collective sigh of relief all around from the Quatt girls to that announcement!)

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 12.42.43

This year Quatt are looking forward to welcoming back a number of women into the team who have been absent over the last few years due to injury and pregnancy. Their aim for this season will be to finish in the top half of the league table. Overall they want to see Quatt continue to shine in the women’s game and be a beacon of all that is good about playing women’s and girls cricket.

Anyone interested in getting involved at Quatt, whether as player or in any other role, should contact captain Jenny Cotham on jcotham11@gmail.com.

INTERVIEW: Ashley Giles On His Vision For Warwickshire Women’s Cricket – “We’re All One Club”

You don’t see many county cricket directors in attendance at women’s county matches, but Ashley Giles isn’t just talking the talk when it comes to women’s cricket – in his new role at Warwickshire CCC as Sport Director, he’s walking the walk too. We meet him at the Edgbaston Foundation Ground, where he has turned up to watch Warwickshire’s first match of the Women’s County Championship, against reigning champions Kent.

“If we’re serious about women’s cricket – and we are – then I need to have an input, I need to come and watch, and see what’s going on,” he says. It’s great to see such commitment to the women’s game from someone so senior. What’s more, this isn’t just a one-off. “I was here the other day for one of the women’s pre-season days,” he tells us, “and presented to them my philosophies and my beliefs and explained what we’re doing at the top end. I need to be there to support [Warwickshire Women coach] Darren Franklin and his team and all the girls.”

What is his vision for Warwickshire women’s cricket? “Women’s cricket is in my job description, and that shouldn’t be a token gesture,” he says. “We need to be joined up – we’re all one club. I’d expect the behaviours and the culture to be similar, as similar as it can be, to what we do with the men. In Warwickshire these girls [the county team] are our ambassadors. They’ve got a big role to play.”

“We need to try and offer as much support as we can to our teams. And keep trying to improve the standard. If we can do that, it becomes a better spectacle, which becomes more marketable, which ultimately brings more money in.”

Giles freely admits that women’s cricket is “still very much the poor relation to the men”, but is already working to change that. This season he has overseen the introduction of meal money and travel expenses for the Warwickshire women’s side, something he says is long overdue. “It’s right. These girls are wearing the Bear. They’re playing for Warwickshire.”

He also highlights the importance of the provision of top-quality facilities, including new grass nets at Edgbaston and the new Foundation Ground at Portland Road, opened in 2015, where most of the women’s 1st XI home matches are now played. He makes clear that he wants to shore up the support on offer for coach Franklin and his team: “hopefully my experience as a player and a coach can be of benefit. And if we can in some way get other coaching support, or even some of our men’s players coming down from the first and second team, to support the ladies, then great.”

The benefits of the joined-up approach are already apparent: Warwickshire captain Marie Kelly sung Giles’ praises in a recent interview with CRICKETher. “We feel really part of the club,” she told us. “It is nice to be involved in the club and to know that we are fully supported.”

For Giles, a focus on the women’s game is important not just from a competitive point of view, but from a participation angle: “We want more girls playing cricket,” he says. He has personal experience of the difficulties involved in expanding opportunities: “My daughter played cricket at school, and went for Worcester trials. But I remember her going to a club to join in at nets and because she hadn’t realised there was practice on and she’d gone straight from school, she didn’t have her kit. She turned up in jeans and gets told to sit down, she can’t participate, because she’s not got the right kit.”

“Now that for me is just totally blocking playing cricket. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing – just play cricket! I hope most clubs aren’t like that, but we need to make sure that girls are getting opportunities.”

One important point he does highlight is the need to make women’s cricket more available to watch – “that’s the way you get interested in something: by saying ‘I want to be more like them’.” It follows, then, that a key part of Giles’ joined-up vision for the club is double-headers: the Bears hosted two county T20 double headers at Edgbaston last season and will be doing so again this year (on 16 July). He is also hopeful that Warwickshire – who were disappointed to miss out on being awarded one of the six Super League franchises – will have a major role to play in the new men’s city franchise competition, which will start in 2020, and that this can provide more double header opportunities for the club.

Ultimately, for Giles, it’s about working towards a level playing field in women’s cricket. When I ask if that will, at some stage, involve contracts for Marie Kelly and co., he is cautious but optimistic. “That would be a great end game if we could get to that point. That’s going to take a lot more investment, but it would be brilliant if, by the time I finish this role, we’d got contracted female cricketers at Warwickshire.” Until then? “It’s all about those small steps.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be revolution,” he concludes. “But evolution? Certainly.”

INTERVIEW: Warwickshire Captain Marie Kelly

We caught up with the Warwickshire skipper – batsman Marie Kelly – following her match-winning half-century against Kent last weekend.

When Marie Kelly first captained Warwickshire, standing-in for Becky Grundy in 2015, the club’s status as a “Div 1” county looked precarious at best – they had survived the previous season by the skin of their teeth, thanks to an unlikely last-gasp play-off victory against Somerset; and the start of the 2015 season saw them lose their first 3 matches to leave them bottom of the Championship.

In retrospect the 4th match of the 2015 season – a nail-biting 5-run victory against Surrey – represented something of a turning point. The Bears pulled off a further two wins to avoid relegation; and by the start of the 2016 season, big changes were afoot. Warwickshire CCC took the decision to get serious about women’s cricket, and appointed Kelly as captain to take the Bears into the new era.

2016 began brightly, with the Bears topping both the 50-over and T20 tables after a string of victories; until they finally ran into the Suzie Bates-driven Kent juggernaut in both competitions, finally finishing 2nd in the T20 Cup and 3rd in the County Championship.

Ultimately, then, 2016 ended in disappointment; but looking back now, Kelly isn’t too downhearted:

“We’ve had a lot of reflection on last season – we were happy with how we played and this season we are looking to do exactly the same again if we can.”

A cancellation against Staffs, and then the long international / Super League break, meant that Warwickshire unbelievably went almost three months in 2016 with no 50-over cricket, between their initial run of victories in May and their loss to Kent at the end of August; and Kelly admits they didn’t handle it as well as they might have done:

“We just expected it to pick up from where we left off – expecting it all to just fall back in place – but we found it hard getting the momentum back.”

It is something they will try to avoid this time around, with a similar schedule in this year’s County Championship:

“Rather than having a month break without seeing each other, we’ll try and get a few friendly matches in; and then it is just about training – even if it is just bowling a few balls; hitting a few balls – doing something to keep the momentum going ready for our next games.”

For Kelly, one of the big advantages Warwickshire now have thanks to their closer relationship with the men’s club is a proper “home” at the Edgbaston Foundation Ground – a professionally curated facility they share with the men’s 2nd XI:

“We love having a home ground – somewhere we can come to and know how the pitch is going to play. It is always difficult going from ground to ground – you never know what you are going to get – whereas coming here we know exactly what we are going to get; we know exactly how it is going to play so there shouldn’t be any excuses!”

Does it give them an edge over other teams? Kelly believes so:

“100 percent it is an advantage – just to have the same changing room and the same environment – it settles you and that is one less thing to think about – you just get on with the job in hand.”

Additionally, this season Warwickshire are also providing travelling expenses and some kit upgrades:

“That’s really important – it shows that we’ve got their support – Ashley Giles, our Sporting Director, and Neil Snowball [Warwickshire CEO] are fully on board with everything, so we feel really part of the club and they are backing us.”

“We always go to the Chairman’s Lunch and we had a double-header at Edgbaston last year, and we’ve got it again this year, so it is just nice to be involved in the club like that and to know that we are fully supported.”

Having russelled-up (sic!!) a second victory against Sussex the day after our chat last weekend, Kelly’s side are repaying that support, sitting second in the Women’s County Championship table, just half a point behind the early pace-setters, Lancashire. There’s a long season ahead of course, and Warwickshire aren’t a side full of international, or even Super League, stars; but for Kelly, this is actually the point:

“At Warwickshire we’ve always been a “team” – we don’t just rely on a few people to score all the runs or take all the wickets – the team comes first. It’s a team game, and it is all about a team win, so we are just going to try and play as a team and use all of our players.”

It’s the kind of thing you’ll hear a lot of captains say, but on Sunday it was tested, as leg-spinner Nish Patel struggled with her length early-on. A different captain would have taken her off – bowled herself perhaps, to stay on the safe side – but Kelly persisted. Patel bowled out her 10 overs, but the real reward came the following day, as Patel took 3-19 to clean-up the Sussex tail and earn the win against one of their big Championship rivals.

That’s leadership; and if Warwickshire do indeed go all the way this season, Kelly’s leadership will have been a big part of why.