NEWS: Amanda-Jade Wellington Set To Be Omitted From Australia’s Ashes Squad

In a bizarre move, Cricket Australia are set to announce a squad for the forthcoming Women’s Ashes series which does not include Amanda-Jade Wellington, despite the leg-spinner finishing as the leading wicket-taker in the 2021/22 WBBL.

According to reports in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, Wellington has been edged out by Alana King, who has received her premier call-up to the national side. She will be included in the Australia A side which will be in action against the England A side during the main Ashes series, but there is unlikely to be a chance of “promotion” to the main side as the two squads are being kept separate for Covid biosecurity purposes.

Wellington last played for Australia in 2018 and since then has been consistently and inexplicably snubbed by the Australian selectors, despite consistently being a top performer in domestic and franchise cricket. She was the top-ranked bowler in our Women’s Hundred rankings and a key factor in Southern Brave’s progression to the final.

Other notable inclusions in the squad, which will be announced officially tomorrow, are Adelaide Strikers captain Tahlia McGrath, who enjoyed success in Australia’s recent series against India, and teenage pacer Darcie Brown.

The squad looks set to be as follows:

  • Meg Lanning (c)
  • Rachael Haynes
  • Darcie Brown
  • Nicola Carey
  • Alyssa Healy
  • Ashleigh Gardner
  • Jess Jonassen
  • Alana King
  • Tahlia McGrath
  • Beth Mooney
  • Ellyse Perry
  • Megan Schutt
  • Molly Strano Hannah Darlington*
  • Annabel Sutherland
  • Tayla Vlaeminck

[Amended 12 Jan 2022.]

NEWS: Heather Knight Promises “Bold” Approach As England & England ‘A’ Squads Named For Australia

England have announced two squads, totalling 29 players, who will travel to Australia in January, with the main team contesting the multi-format Women’s Ashes series, and an ‘A’ team set to play 3 T20 and 3 One Day matches against Australia ‘A’.

There are no surprises in the main squad, which is just the contracted players, plus last summer’s two debutantes – Maia Bouchier and Charlie Dean – minus the injured Katie George and Georgia Elwiss, who is relegated to the ‘A’ squad.

However while the personnel might be largely familiar, Heather Knight has indicated that the approach to the Ashes series will not be, with a promise that the team would be “bold” – a word she used 5 times during her press conference – as they take on the Aussies for the first time since their 12-4 humiliation at home in 2019.

“We’re going to have to play very well,” Knight said. “We’re going to have to play out of our skin. We’re going to have to be bold, and we’re going to have to stand up to the Australians.”

“We’ve got to meet fire with fire – we’ve got to make sure we’re trying to punch first and be aggressive towards them.”

With regards to the ‘A’ squad, England have chosen to mostly play it very safe. The squad has an average age of 24, and includes only two teenagers – Alice Capsey and Issy Wong. It means they are more likely to win what are certain to be very competitive matches; but it also means no spot for Grace Scrivens for example, who (Capsey aside) is the most talented of the up-coming generation, and would arguably have really benefitted from the experience.

With just 12 players named in the ‘A’ squad, it also seems highly likely that the ‘A’ team will be bolstered by players from the main squad left out of the concurrent Ashes games. So for instance, with the ‘A’ T20s scheduled at the same time as the Ashes Test, there’s a chance that England could play Danni Wyatt in the ‘A’ T20s, in preparation for the Ashes T20s which are scheduled for the week after.

But according to Knight there will also be the opportunity for players to go the other way, and step up to the main squad if they play really well.

“If those ‘A’ girls have a really good series and impress in those Australia a games, they’ve got the chance to make it into the full squad.”

However, Knight did (again!) admonish the media for getting over-excited about Alice Capsey, saying:

“She’s definitely one for the future; but I do think we need to be careful not to over-egg our players. Her time will come I’m sure, whether that’s at some point in the Ashes, in the World Cup, or down the line in a few years.”

England

Heather Knight (Western Storm, captain)
Tammy Beaumont (Lightning)
Maia Bouchier (Southern Vipers)
Katherine Brunt (Northern Diamonds)
Kate Cross (Thunder)
Freya Davies (South East Stars)
Charlie Dean (Southern Vipers)
Sophia Dunkley (South East Stars)
Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder)
Tash Farrant (South East Stars)
Sarah Glenn (Central Sparks)
Amy Jones (Central Sparks)
Nat Sciver (Northern Diamonds, vice-captain)
Anya Shrubsole (Western Storm)
Mady Villiers (Sunrisers)
Lauren Winfield-Hill (Northern Diamonds)
Danni Wyatt (Southern Vipers)

England ‘A’

Emily Arlott (Central Sparks)
Lauren Bell (Southern Vipers)
Alice Capsey (South East Stars)
Alice Davidson-Richards (South East Stars)
Georgia Elwiss (Southern Vipers)
Kirstie Gordon (Lightning)
Eve Jones (Central Sparks)
Beth Langston (Northern Diamonds)
Emma Lamb (Thunder)
Bryony Smith (South East Stars)
Ellie Threlkeld (Thunder)
Issy Wong (Central Sparks)

NEWS: Scotland Look To Qualify For Commonwealth Games As Costs Spiral For Competitors

Countries who wish to take part in the Qualifying Tournament for the 2022 Commonwealth Games will be required to pay their own hotel and travel costs, CRICKETher understands.

The Qualifier, which is due to take place in Malaysia in January 2022, will decide who takes the final, eighth spot in the women’s cricket event at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July, alongside hosts England and the six highest ranked T20 sides – Australia, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa and Barbados (representing West Indies).

All Commonwealth countries featuring in the current global T20 rankings were invited by the ICC to participate in the Qualifier. Scotland have already confirmed their participation, alongside hosts Malaysia, but with a substantial travel and accommodation price tag now attached to participation it looks less and less likely that other teams will be able to join them.

Northern Ireland have already confirmed that they will not be participating, due to the fact that the majority of players in the Ireland national team originate from the Republic of Ireland, rendering them ineligible according to current CWG criteria.

With the new Omicron variant wreaking havoc with global travel (and leading to the abandonment of the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifiers in November), there is also a risk that any qualifier may be derailed and teams hit with a possible quarantine bill on return home. This may well serve to deter other possible entrants.

For Scotland, this set of circumstances represents a real opportunity to qualify for participation in the Commonwealth Games – an exciting prospect for a team who have never yet featured in a World Cup tournament.

But for other countries, the reluctance of the ICC to provide adequate resources to facilitate participation in the Qualifying Tournament will be a severe blow. The ICC have previously labelled the CWG “a huge opportunity to turbo-charge the growth of the game”; unfortunately, it appears that this “turbo-charging” does not extend to countries outside of the elite few.

NEWS: Kirstie Gordon Included In England Pre-Ashes Training Camp

Left-arm spinner Kirstie Gordon has been included in an 18-strong pre-Ashes training squad which has escaped the Loughborough winter and is headed to Oman for a two-week warm-weather camp.

Gordon, who last played for England in the Ashes Test at Taunton in 2019, was stepped back down to a regional contract last season, but finished 2021 as the top-ranked bowler in the 50-over RHF Trophy, and could now be in line for an England comeback this winter.

Gordon joins Maia Bouchier and Charlie Dean, both of whom made their debuts last summer, at the Oman camp, which also includes all the contracted players except Sophie Ecclestone, who is resting, and Katie George, who continues to make her way back from injury.

Linsey Smith, recently returned from her stint with Melbourne Stars at WBBL, would also have been included, but is unfortunately injured as well, having suffered a dislocated finger over in Australia, which scans later showed to be broken.

Although the COVID situation continues to evolve, England remain hopeful that both the Ashes tour and the concurrent “A” tour will still go ahead as planned, with both squads likely to be announced in December.

 

OPINION: ICC’s Rankings Farce Shows Women’s Cricket Needs Its Own Governance

The ICC has come under fire after the cancellation of the World Cup qualifiers meant Thailand missed out on a place in the next cycle of the ICC Championship – the “Future Tours Programme” for women’s cricket, which ensures that everyone plays everyone else over the cycle leading up to the World Cup, with the top sides getting direct qualification to the next tournament in 2025.

While is it is possible that Thailand might not have gone on to qualify for the for the ICC Championship, they were top of their group with 6 points from 3 wins when the tournament was abandoned, so they were in a very strong position; but with the cancellation the ICC fell back on ODI rankings, ignoring the most obvious problem with this – Thailand don’t have an ODI ranking, essentially because their men’s side aren’t good enough to merit full membership of the ICC. So it was crushing disappointment for Thailand, while Ireland celebrated joining the ICC Championship as the 9th-ranked ODI team.

In terms of making this particular decision, the ICC were in a tough spot, albeit one of their own making – they had to do something, and short of drawing lots they didn’t have a lot of options; but the decision to use the ODI rankings was particularly bonkers, given that they have T20 rankings, which do include Thailand.

Whilst the decision to use ODI rankings was manifestly unfair, it is worth pointing out firstly that this isn’t Ireland’s fault – the ICC made this decision, and Ireland have a right to be delighted. More pertinently, had the ICC made the more rational decision to use the T20 rankings, Ireland (ranked 10th) would still have qualified ahead of Thailand (11th).

Thailand aren’t the only ones to have suffered –  Sri Lanka also have a right to be unhappy, because regardless of who is (and is not) in it, the ODI ranking system is broken anyway. Sri Lanka are currently ranked 10th, based on the last 5 matches they’ve played, which were against England and Australia. Bangladesh meanwhile are ranked 5th, above New Zealand (6th) on the basis of the last 5 games they’ve played, versus Zimbabwe and Pakistan. So Bangladesh are off to the World Cup, whilst Sri Lanka are not.

This is obviously crazy, but it is what happens when you take a ranking system designed for men’s cricket and impose it on the women’s game; and that’s the real moral of this story. When men’s cricket took over the women’s game 20 years ago, the women were often given nice new kit. But the problem was that it was just small-sized men’s kit, which didn’t really fit. Eventually, everyone accepted that the women needed kit designed for women, and we now have shirts and trousers that fit properly.

The same is true of governance. Interestingly, one of the ICC’s current stated aims is to promote women’s cricket globally, with the USA being singled out as a particular target for growth; but what happens if women’s cricket does explode in the States but finds itself excluded from tournaments and governance structures because the men’s team hasn’t enjoyed the same trajectory? It is clearly an untenable situation.

We are where we are, and there is no going back to the days of the IWCC; but the ICC need to start accepting that men’s governance doesn’t fit women’s cricket any more than men’s shirts do.

NEWS: Women’s County Cricket To Continue In 2022

The news yesterday that Tash Farrant has regained her England contract after nearly three years in the wilderness was accompanied by a statement from Kent CCC which confirms that senior women’s county cricket is set to continue.

Kent Women’s coach Dave Hathrill was quoted as saying: “[Farrant] is a leading figure for Kent Women and we’re looking forward to seeing her progress further whilst also wearing the White Horse.”

Other counties have also made it public that they are continuing with their women’s winter training programmes – including Middlesex.

Play Cricket now contains a page showing County T20 groupings for the 2022 season, with groups once again formed on a regional basis. CRICKETher also understands that the ECB have issued a fixture calendar to the counties, showing four dates for a Women’s County T20 competition at the start of the season in April / May (though this has not yet been released publicly).

Interestingly, yesterday’s Kent press release suggests that they expect England players (including Farrant) to be made available to play for their counties in the 2022 season and beyond – thus answering a question we raised in a recent episode of The CRICKETher Weekly.

So it seems that – while the ECB are apparently reluctant to shout about their U-turn – women’s county cricket lives to see another day!

NEWS: Kent’s Tash Farrant Regains England Contract

Almost three years after she was discarded by England, Tash Farrant has regained her central contract.

Farrant was recalled to the England squad by coach Lisa Keightley for the tour of New Zealand earlier this year, and was selected in all of the England squads this summer, so this is no surprise. Her left-arm seam will be seen as a key point of difference ahead of the forthcoming Women’s Ashes, as well as England’s World Cup title defence in New Zealand in 2022.

It’s unclear what this might mean for the future of fellow left-arm seamer Katie George, who has not played an international since July 2018.

On the other hand, Farrant’s re-elevation to the England team will offer hope that there is a “way back” for formerly contracted players such as Alex Hartley and Beth Langston, thanks to the new regional deals on offer.

Interestingly, it was coach Mark Robinson who originally identified the need for such a system when he dropped Farrant from his squad – telling CRICKETher:

“For Beth [Langston] and Tash their decision now is: do I play KSL and county cricket, then the year after, when hopefully semi-professionalism comes in, they do that; or do they go on to a different career? [But] Tash might re-invent herself – she could be a major player.”

It is a statement that has proved prescient – Farrant did indeed begin a new career, spending a year as head of girls’ cricket at Trent College in Nottingham – but she found a way back via a South East Stars pro contract awarded in October 2020.

Meanwhile, South East Stars will be identifying a sixth player to progress to a professional contract, taking the total number of female “professionals” in England to 68. (The status of Fran Wilson, who announced her retirement from international cricket last month, remains unclear.)

WBBL: Bowling Rankings – Jess’tice League

Heat skipper Jess Jonassen was one of three players to join Molly Strano in the 100-wicket club in WBBL this year, marking her out as one of the most consistent performers across the seasons. Bowling mostly towards the end of the powerplay and in the early middle overs, Jonassen took 21 wickets at the respectable economy rate of 6.5 to top the season’s bowling rankings. Despite a long career and a cabinet full of medals, including two WBBL titles, Jonassen has always slipped slightly below the headlines – she was Player of the Match in a Test better remembered for Anya Shrubsole’s 47-ball duck; and she took 3 wickets in the T20 World Cup final at the MCG, but the only spinner on the back pages the next morning was Molly Strano, dancing with Katy Perry. But maybe this is the year “Jess’tice” will finally be served?

Should Jonassen not add a third WBBL winners medal to her shelf, Alana King will have been a big part of the reason why. Having moved to the Scorchers this year after 6 slightly glass-half-empty seasons at Melbourne Stars, the 26-year-old has blossomed. Bowling mainly in the middle overs, she was one of a cluster of players taking 15/16 wickets in the group stages, but beat them all out with a superior economy rate to rank second on the list. It’s a textbook example of what having the courage to move clubs can do for your career, especially if you’ve been a long time in one place – working with different coaches in a new environment can be the spark that relights the fire!

King was one of 3 Scorchers bowlers to make the top 10, alongside Young Gun candidate Lilly Mills and Heather Graham, who will play her hundredth WBBL match in the final next weekend, and also quietly passed the hundred wicket mark this year – as did another Scorchers player, Marizanne Kapp, who was slightly down the wickets column this season, but did post the best Economy Rate for the 5th time in 7 WBBL seasons.

The top-ranked overseas player… albeit only ‘technically’ overseas these days, was Irish woman Kim Garth. (Having lived in Australia for several years, Garth will qualify as a domestic player from next season.) Watching Garth this season has been a rollercoaster ride – she bowled three consecutive maidens (with 3 wickets) against Sydney Sixers; but also got tonked for 21 in a single over by Rachel Priest and Naomi Stalenberg against the Hurricanes; while unplayable wicket balls were sandwiched between rank half-trackers and long-hops that looked like they belonged on a breakfast buffet. But you know what? That’s ok – it’s in the script for a “strike” bowler, and if she can continue to excel in that quite specific role, and stay injury-free (which is looking like it is going to be the current Aussie incumbent Tayla Vlaeminck’s problem), there may yet be further international honours waiting for Garth in green… just this time with a little gold mixed in.

Player Played Wickets Economy
1. Jess Jonassen (Heat) 13 21 6.5
2. Alana King (Scorchers) 13 16 5.8
3. Heather Graham (Scorchers) 13 16 6.3
4. Hannah Darlington (Thunder) 13 16 6.4
5. Kim Garth (Stars) 12 15 6.2
6. Lilly Mills (Scorchers) 13 16 6.8
7. Darcie Brown (Strikers) 12 15 6.4
8. Amanda-Jade Wellington (Strikers) 14 16 7.1
9. Annabel Sutherland (Stars) 12 14 6.4
10. Sarah Coyte (Strikers) 14 15 7.0
11. Tayla Vlaeminck (Hurricanes) 14 13 6.1
12. Ruth Johnston (Hurricanes) 13 13 6.1
13. Marizanne Kapp (Scorchers) 13 11 5.2
14. Sam Bates (Thunder) 13 12 5.8
15. Molly Strano (Hurricanes) 14 15 7.3
16. Harmanpreet Kaur (Renegades) 12 15 7.5
17. Nicola Carey (Hurricanes) 14 13 6.9
18. Megan Schutt (Strikers) 10 10 5.3
19. Nicola Hancock (Heat) 11 13 6.9
20. Lauren Cheatle (Sixers) 8 10 5.4
21. Courtney Sippel (Heat) 8 12 6.5
22. Deepti Sharma (Thunder) 13 13 7.2
23. Sophie Molineux (Renegades) 12 10 5.6
24. Poonam Yadav (Heat) 12 9 6.7
25. Tahlia McGrath (Strikers) 14 10 7.5

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy