OPINION: The Times They Are A Changin’… Because That’s What They Do!

The international retirement of allrounder Jenny Gunn, confirmed this week by the ECB, means that the England squad have now lost two senior players in the past month, after Sarah Taylor announced her retirement two weeks ago.

For different reasons, neither Gunn nor Taylor were automatic selections any more – Taylor having already essentially opted out of overseas tours and tournaments; and Gunn reduced to a “squad player”, winning just one cap in the past 12 months, in the 3rd ODI against the West Indies.

But having been fixtures of the team for so long – Gunn made her debut in 2004; Taylor in 2006 – they will be missed by the squad, both professionally and personally.

Their retirements, combined with new contracts awarded this summer, reduce the average age of the “fully contracted” squad (excluding rookies) by an entire year, from 27½ at the start of the 2019 season to 26½ now.

Retirements are of course natural and expected – a 20-strong squad would normally see one or two a year – but the cycle had recently been put out by the introduction of central contracts, which allowed some to play longer than they might otherwise have done, whilst also pulling up the drawbridge behind them, as the “chasing pack” of amateurs fell back, unable to compete with the full-time athletes for skills and fitness.

Perhaps this is why the loss of two players in the space of a month, plus Dani Hazell earlier in the year, feels disconcerting – though not as disconcerting as it will feel when Katherine Brunt (34 – a year older than Gunn, and 4 years older than Taylor) also decides to join them on the great balcony in the sky… or at least in the great comms box on Sky, which is where most of them seem to be headed!

But one player’s retirement is another’s opportunity, with Georgia Elwiss perhaps set to take over Gunn’s job as the “squad player”, able to step up as either a late-order batsman or a bowler at a moment’s notice, as needs must in the heat of a tournament; and Amy Jones now secure in her role with the gloves, at home as well as away.

So yes, the next England contracted squad in 2020 will feel different – the times they are a changin’… but only really because that’s what they usually do – we just need to get used to it again!

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NEWS: “Inspiring Generations”: The Details – Clare Connor Q & A

After today’s glitzy launch of the ECB’s new “Inspiring Generations” strategy for women’s and girls’ cricket, Clare Connor filled in some of the details. Here’s what she said:

Why are there less than 100 professionals, as the PCA claimed there would be?

“The feedback from lots of county meetings, and from talking to a lot of people and our own staff from a performance perspective, was that it would be better to have a smaller number of full-time pros, who aren’t trying to juggle further education or part time jobs. To have a group of pros underneath the centrally contracted group who are full-time cricketers is more powerful than having another 80 or so who are very part-time.

It’s not an end point – it’s the start point to try to get to somewhere near 100 professionals by the end of the strategy.”

How much are the 40 new contracts worth?

“They are in line with PCA recommendations for young male cricketers.* The PCA have been closely involved in all the conversations. They will be earning not far off what one of the lowest paid England centrally contracted players are paid currently.”

*NB: The PCA’s mandated minimum wage is £27,500.

Who will select the 40 new professionals?

“There will be 5 per region. We [i.e. the ECB] will have a big say in who the 40 players are – it would be crazy not to, because we will know them so much better than the majority of new regional directors of women’s cricket, or new regional head coaches.

Many of them will either be fringe England players, like Sophia Dunkley, or current members of the England Women’s Academy.”

Which counties make up the 8 new regions?

North West: Lancashire, Cheshire, Cumbria

North East: Durham, Yorkshire, Northumberland

West Midlands: Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire

East Midlands: Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Loughborough University

South West and Wales: Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Cornwall, Devon, Wales

South Central: Hampshire, Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire

London & South East: Kent, Surrey

London & East: Essex, Middlesex, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Norfolk, Suffolk

Which county will be the host county in each region?

“The process we are going though right now and which should be concluded by the end of November is currently determining which of the counties will be the regional host in each region.

The whole process within regions is open to any cricket-minded organisation. It might be that within the East Midlands region, Loughborough University are the regional lead for that region. It’s not wedded to the county structure.”

What will the relationship be with the Hundred teams?

“I think that will depend on each region. There will be some alignment of players and staff. In each region, we’re funding an Operations Executive in the women’s game, and they will work across both the Hundred and the regional centres.”

Why are the Hundred salaries for the women lower than the men’s salaries?

“We’re really comfortable with where we are with the salary bands. What we must keep striving to do is keep closing the gap – no woman in this country had been paid to play cricket until 5 years ago, and while there’s no one more impatient than me in that area, we have to be realistic about where we are.

We’ve benchmarked the Hundred across lots of other women’s competitions – the FA Women’s Super League, Women’s Big Bash, the direction of travel for the Women’s IPL. And I think it’s a really good start point. There is huge commitment to close that gap as quickly as we can.”

Will the Hundred games be live-streamed?

“The WBBL has proved that the reach from streaming makes it a really good way to go.”

When will players be communicated with about next season?

“We realise that some messages will flow down very accurately from county staff to their players, and in other counties, less well. We’ve met now numerous times in the last year with a range of roles within counties, and in some of our meetings we’ve had a few players come, but there’s been a mixed communication flow.

We have talked about arranging a day in a big school hall where we invite players to tell them ‘we’re at this stage, this is what the schedule will look like, these are the changes’. That might be something we do in December, after the regional director posts have been put in place.”

Will there be an elite 20-over competition next season?

“No. We’re not starting the regional cricket until the end of next summer. Next season, county T20 cricket will run in the early part of the season, New Zealand are touring in the first half of the international summer, then the Hundred, then the new 8-team 50-over comp, and we’re playing India. The 20-over regional competition will begin in 2021.”

What happens to the County T20 Cup after 2021?

“We’ll review it. Our consultation has showed that it’s not a performance competition, and it won’t drive the performances that we need for the international game – it’s more of a participation experience. It’s done a really good job in the absence of competitive club cricket for women.

The investment into women’s club cricket – which is possibly our most important area in terms of really driving sustainable club experiences for women and girls – that in time, and Premier Leagues, and good recreational club cricket, needs to fill that gap.”

How will the £8 million be shared out for club cricket?

“There will be a small grants scheme, and there’ll be bigger projects that clubs through their county boards can bid into. We’ll be looking really strategically where money for club facilities needs to go.

We’ll be spending roughly £1m a year on a new workforce of club development officers. This year we are piloting, what are the success factors within clubland to make women’s and girls’ club cricket sustainable? We’ve just appointed Lauren Crozier as our Head of Female Participation, and she’ll be looking at what are those success factors, and how can we deploy an army of club development officers to support our ambitions around sustainable women’s club cricket?”

What about age group cricket?

“We are bringing in an England Under 19s programme next year, because from 2021 the ICC are introducing an ICC Under 19 Women’s T20 World Cup. So we need to make sure that we’re giving enough focus in that area.”

NEWS: 40 New Full-Time Domestic Professionals in England

As part of their “Inspiring Generations” strategy, the ECB have today announced that they will fund 40 new full-time domestic professionals, in addition to the 21 England contracted players, bringing the total number of full time pros playing in England up to around 60 – a 200% increase.

The ECB’s action plan dedicates £10 million per year over the next 5 years to grow the women’s game – focusing not just the new professionals but also the elite “pathway” – the England players of tomorrow, between U11 and U17 – and the recreational game; with the ultimate aim of making cricket a “gender-balanced sport”.

The action plan’s ten points are split into five main areas:

Participation:

  • 1. Create cricket offers that inspire girls to say ‘cricket is a game for me’
  • 2. Bring cricket to more primary and secondary schools
  • 3. Build a strong, sustainable, and inclusive club network

Pathway:

  • 4. Raise standards in girls’ County Age Group cricket to provide consistency and excellence

Performance:

  • 5. Launch a new regional elite domestic structure for women’s cricket
  • 6. Introduce 40 new full-time professional contracts

Profile:

  • 7. Drive engagement with The Hundred – Women’s Competition
  • 8. Increase the profile of elite women’s cricketers and connect them to a new generation of fans

People:

  • 9. Increase the representation of women in the cricket workforce
  • 10. Support more women to take on leadership roles in cricket

Speaking at the launch, the ECB’s Managing Director of Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, hailed the integrated approach of the plan:

“To truly transform women’s and girls’ cricket, we must now move from targeted standalone programmes to addressing the whole pathway as one,” she said.

NEWS: Beaumont Unsigned As England Players Announced For The Hundred

The ECB have announced the first round of “draft” picks for The Hundred – the 100-ball tournament which will replace the Kia Super League next summer.

Birmingham Phoenix

Amy Jones, Kirstie Gordon

London Spirit

Heather Knight, Freya Davies

Manchester Originals

Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone

Northern Superchargers

Lauren Winfield, Linsey Smith

Oval Invincibles

Laura Marsh, Fran Wilson

Southern Brave

Anya Shrubsole, Danni Wyatt

Trent Rockets

Nat Sciver, Katherine Brunt

Welsh Fire

Katie George, Bryony Smith

The 16 players were selected through a negotiated process, rather than a classic “draft”, which meant players were free to accept, or importantly reject, any offer they received.

Significantly, it looks like Tammy Beaumont has done the latter – she is the highest profile player not selected, and it looks like she may be holding-out to be a second-round pick for a more attractive team.

Also unsigned from the current contracted squad are (former) Loughborough Lightning captain Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley and Alice Davidson-Richards.

Today’s announcement also confirms the team names – “Welsh” winning-out over “Western” for the Fire, who will play in the traditional Welsh heartlands of… er… Taunton – and the kits, which are basically advertising hoardings for salty snacks.

Mmmmm…. snaaaaaaacks…

NEWS: WNCL – Western Australia Bolt-On Ahead

Team Played Won Lost Points
1. Western Australia 2 2 0 8
2. ACT Meteors 2 2 0 8
3. Queensland Fire 2 1 1 5
4. Victoria 2 1 1 4
5. NSW Breakers 2 1 1 4
6. SA Scorpions 2 0 2 0
7. Tasmania 2 0 2 0

With the Southern Stars on international duty, the first two rounds of Australia’s 50-over WNCL presented the opportunity for others to make their cases – none more so than Western Australia’s Nicole Bolton. After struggling to find her form over the England’s summer during the Women’s Ashes, Bolton struck gold with two consecutive Player of the Match performances to put her side top of the table.

Against Queensland, Bolton hit 77 in a 150-run stand with captain Chloe Piparo (76) as Western Australia successfully chased 189; and she then top-scored again with 63 versus Tasmania, before following-up with the best bowling figures of 2-26 as the Tassies were bowled out 16 runs short of Western Australia’s 194.

ACT Meteors also made it two-from-two, with wins versus South Australia and Victoria. Against South Australia,  20-year-old Amy Yates took a career-best 6-33 as SA were bowled out for 203, with Katie Mack then hitting 83 as ACT won by 3 wickets. Mack was then in the runs again against Victoria, making 63 as ACT posted 168-6 in a rain-reduced game, with Victoria falling 18 short in the chase.

In the other matches, Makinley Blows hit a century for Victoria as they beat the Breakers by 7 wickets; Georgie Prestwidge took 4-41 to help Queensland beat Tasmania; and Tahlia Wilson made 95* for the Breakers in their 6 wicket win v the Scorpions.

The WNCL now goes into hibernation until January, as attention turns to WBBL which stars on Friday 18 October with the Sixers v Thunder Sydney derby.

MATCH REPORT: Hursley Park Triumphant On Inaugural Kia Summer Smash Finals Day

On a sunny September afternoon at the Oval, the four winners of the regional Kia Summer Smash Festivals – Hursley Park (South), Sessay (North), Plympton (West) and Berkswell (Midlands) – gathered for the competition’s inaugural Finals Day.

In the first semi-final of the day, Plympton reached 83-2 in their 10 overs having won the toss and chosen to bat. Hursley Park looked to be easily on course, reaching 69 without loss, but eventually made it through with just 3 balls to spare – captain Emily Windsor finishing unbeaten on 43.

In the second semi-final, Sessay faced down Berkswell in the highest scoring encounter of the day, with Sessay accumulating 99 runs in their 10 overs thanks to an unbeaten half-century from Yorkshire’s Jess Watson. In reply, Berkswell could only reach 68, Bethan Ellis finishing not out on 39.

With the two losing semi-finalists now able to sit back and enjoy the copious Pimms on offer in the pavilion, it was time for the final – Hursley Park v Sessay.

Having won the toss, Hursley Park chose to field, and disaster struck early for Sessay as their star batsman Jess Watson was caught at point off the third ball of the innings, handing Hampshire’s Charlotte Taylor her first wicket of the match.

By the time Taylor struck again to have Jess Woolston bowled off the last ball of the 10 overs, Sessay were 6 down, with Hursley Park confident of being able to chase down the target of 83.

That confidence was dented somewhat after they lost 2 wickets in the very first over courtesy of Abi Glen. While Windsor and Taylor then came together for a 50 partnership, when Taylor was dismissed by Daisy Stokoe in the 7th over Hursley Park still required 29 from 18 balls. Stokoe struck again in her next over, meaning the equation was 11 runs off the final over with 6 wickets in hand.

However, a streaky edge through backward point from Rebecca Blake, some scrambled runs between Blake and Windsor and finally a fifth-ball wide eventually sealed the deal for Hursley Park with just 1 ball to spare – Windsor finishing on 42 not out.

Heather Knight was on hand to present the trophy to captain Emily Windsor, as “the carrots” celebrated their victory.

“It was a fantastic team performance all the way through the competition. We were Southern Premier League champions last week, and now to finish the season with the Kia Summer Smash title, it’s exactly what we came here for,” Windsor said afterwards.

She labelled the opportunity to play at the Oval as “incredible”: “I’d play here every week if I could! It’s not often you get to play on a track like this and an outfield like this. I wanted to spend as long as I could out there, and luckily I did that in both games.”

At a time when women’s club cricket is often said to be struggling, it was great to see Kia and The Cricketer lending their support to it – long may the competition continue!

STATS: KSL 2019 Bowling Rankings

As we’ve seen in previous years, because two-thirds of overseas picks are batsmen, the field is a little more open for English players to shine as bowlers in the Kia Super League.

Top of the tree this season was Freya Davies, who broke the record for a KSL season with 19 wickets. Although Davies narrowly missed out on the Player of the Tournament award after getting slightly tonked by Danni Wyatt and Suzie Bates in the final, she has made a strong case for inclusion in England’s plans for the winter leading up to the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia next February.

Another player who will be hoping to make an appearance in Australia is leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington, who lost her Southern Stars central contract earlier this year after falling behind Georgia Wareham in the pecking order. Wellington wasn’t even an original pick for the Vipers – coming in as a late replacement for Sophie Molineux – but she made a real impact to rank second with 15 wickets at 6.85.

Like Wellington, No. 3 ranked Tash Farrant also lost her central contract this year; but since then has won the County Championship with Kent and has had her best KSL season yet for the Vipers, taking 14 wickets at 6.62. There probably isn’t a way back into England colours for Farrant in the short term, but her signature must now surely be one of the most hotly contested amongst the non-international players for The Hundred next season.

Sophie Ecclestone, ranked No. 4, of course needs no introduction; but the name at No. 5 might: Sarah Glenn is a young leg-spinner who doesn’t turn it a mile, but bowls intelligently – adjusting her length and flight to keep the batsmen on their toes. Glenn finished the season with 11 wickets at 6.05 – the joint-second best Economy Rate in KSL 2019, behind only Marizanne Kapp (at 5.34) for bowlers who delivered more than 5 overs – and it will be interesting to see if she can push on next season, with England looking to add some variety to their bowling attack, which is currently heavy on right-arm seamers and left-arm orthodox spinners.

Player Matches Wickets Economy
1. Freya Davies (Western Storm) 11 19 6.43
2. Amanda-Jade Wellington (Southern Vipers) 11 15 6.85
3. Tash Farrant (Southern Vipers) 10 14 6.62
4. Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire Thunder) 10 12 6.43
5. Sarah Glenn (Loughborough Lightning) 11 11 6.05
6. Kirstie Gordon (Loughborough Lightning) 10 11 6.05
7. Dane van Niekerk (Surrey Stars) 8 12 6.95
8. Claire Nicholas (Western Storm) 10 12 7.02
9. Anya Shrubsole (Western Storm) 10 13 7.93
10. Jenny Gunn (Loughborough Lightning) 11 10 6.71
11. Hayley Matthews (Loughborough Lightning) 9 9 6.14
12. Deepti Sharma (Western Storm) 11 9 6.62
13. Leigh Kasperek (Yorkshire Diamonds) 10 10 7.46
14. Katie Levick (Yorkshire Diamonds) 10 8 6.19
15. Kate Cross (Lancashire Thunder) 10 11 8.57
16. Stafanie Taylor (Southern Vipers) 6 8 6.26
17. Laura Marsh (Surrey Stars) 8 10 8.22
18. Katherine Bryce (Loughborough Lightning) 9 8 6.58
19. Emma Lamb (Lancashire Thunder) 10 10 8.32
20. Alice Davidson-Richards (Yorkshire Diamonds) 10 10 9.54

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy