SOUTH AFRICA v ENGLAND: Test Day 2 – 2 x 100 = 328

We were 11 overs into the afternoon session, and England were in deep trouble. With England having lost Heather Knight, run out off the first ball after lunch, Sophia Dunkley had looked like she was digging in for the long haul, but when she was dismissed playing an over-expansive drive to Anneke Bosch, quickly followed by Amy Jones for a 6-ball duck, England found themselves at 121-5 – a deficit of 163, with South Africa just one wicket away from getting into England’s long tail.

All the pressure was on Alice Davidson-Richards, walking out on Test debut carrying the full weight of England’s hopes of pulling off a historic Test victory: remember… no team has ever lost a women’s Test having put as many runs on the board in the first innings as South Africa did yesterday.

This was quite literally the moment ADR had been selected for though – to shore-up the batting, in case things went wrong – and gone wrong they most certainly had!

ADR’s first task was simply to stick in there, playing the role that South Africa’s tail had yesterday, supporting the senior batter. The first 25 balls she faced produced just one scoring “shot” – a thick outside edge which went for 4 – but slowly she began to realise that she was equal to this pitch and this situation, and the runs began to come, especially once she passed 50, moving from 50 to 75 in just 22 balls.

As the afternoon wore on for South Africa, they really started to look like they were missing the key players that didn’t make it out onto the field here in Taunton – Dane van Niekerk and Shabnim Ismail could have been the difference they needed to finish England off when they were down in that afternoon session. Having done it all by herself yesterday with the bat, Marizanne Kapp couldn’t repeat those heroics today with the ball, bowling 8 maidens but finishing wicketless for her 16 overs, as England did to her pretty-much what the South Africans had done to Ecclestone on Day 1 – defend and defend until they’d seen her off.

Nat Sciver was the first to pass 100, picking up where she left off in the World Cup Final, dismissing the South African bowling with some imperious swatted pulls through midwicket.  ADR followed shortly afterwards, focussing her fire on the other side of the ‘V’ as she drove through the covers. The fairy-tale ending wasn’t quite to be, with ADR tipping an easy catch to Lizelle Lee off the penultimate ball of the day, but it left England with the match back in their hands as they take a small but significant lead into Day 3 with 328 runs on the board.

With rain likely to make an appearance at some point on Days 3 and 4, England may well find themselves having to weigh up the pros and cons of a positive declaration. (They did of course declare here a couple of years ago, but they did so 150-odd runs behind Australia, who went on to bat out the draw.) Might it be interesting to send Issy Wong out to join Nat Sciver in the morning, and see if she can smash a few boundaries? In cricketing terms (if not political ones) Heather Knight has generally been a very-small-c-conservative England captain, but there have been signs more recently that she’s prepared to be bold, as England were in trying to chase the win in the Ashes Test this winter; and she’ll be desperate to finally win a Test as England captain at the 5th attempt.

SOUTH AFRICA v ENGLAND: Test Day 1 – Kapp Killer

A killer contribution from Marizanne Kapp made it South Africa’s day in the Test at Taunton, despite England ultimately bowling the visitors out having taken the brave decision to insert them after winning the toss.

Having reduced South Africa to 45-4 within the first 20 overs, with both Laura Wolvaardt and Lizelle Lee back in the pavilion, England would have been eyeing up dismissing South Africa cheaply and batting themselves by mid afternoon.

But South Africa, who haven’t played a test for almost a million years, nonetheless clearly understood that in the format they were playing they had time aplenty, as they focussed on rebuilding, and did not panic as the 10-over run-rate fell to just a single run per over in the 10 overs leading up to lunch.

This period gave Kapp time to get the measure of a pitch which clearly remained very battable through the day, and her and Luus came out after lunch looking to play positively, maintaining a run-rate of just over 3-per over for the rest of the day.

They picked their bowlers though – in particular, neutralising the threat of Ecclestone by making little effort to score off her, with a clear strategy through the team of getting a long way forward to her, getting to the pitch of the ball, and playing it with soft hands. Ecclestone went for very few runs but finished with only 1 wicket to show for her 18 overs – it was smart, Test cricket, which meant that England were the ones having to really work for their wickets.

The wickets did come, of course, giving England something to cheer about, but not before 284 runs had been scored – the majority of them by Kapp. 284 might not sound like that many, and the long, mostly-amateur history of women’s Tests is no doubt a poor guide to the professional present – but no one has ever lost a women’s Test having scored this many runs in the 1st innings.

While it was Kapp’s day, a lot of credit has to go to the other South African batters who gave her the support the needed to move past 100 and press on to 150. Sune Luus played nicely and Anneke Bosch added a useful 30; but it was Nadine de Klerk, Sinalo Jafta and Tumi Sekhukhune who were really key in just staying there, whilst Kapp scored the runs at the other end. de Klerk, Jafta and Sekhukhune collectively scored 22 runs but they stayed put for 87 balls, during which time Kapp moved from 59 to 150 and… so history suggests… put the game beyond England.

England won’t feel that way, naturally – they will reckon they can pile on the runs on an innocuous pitch tomorrow, and reseize the initiative. And you certainly wouldn’t put it past them – they have the batting to go at 4-an-over, and perhaps finish the day with a lead of 80; but they will then still need to bowl very well in the second innings to have a chance of winning the game.

Luckily from that perspective, they picked an attacking bowling unit, giving debuts to Lauren Bell and Issy Wong, both of whom picked up their maiden international wickets on the first morning. Bell in particular looked very threatening early on, getting the Dukes ball to swing wickedly with a bit of assistance from the nasty, chilly breeze that was blowing across the ground during the first session. Bell was unlucky not to pick up a wicket in that opening spell, and generally looked the more controlled of the debutantes; though typically it will be Wong that makes the show-reels with a lovely delivery to snatch the key wicket of Laura Wolvaardt, and then a nice grab at cover to get rid of Jafta.

But it was Bell that really impressed. 2,611 days ago, I saw Heather Knight hand the 14-year-old her first county cap; and I said that day that she would go on to play for England. Looking back now though, I can see that it wasn’t inevitable – it took a hell of a lot of hard work in the nets and the gym – listening to her coaches, learning and building her game. The raw pace that she had as a tearaway teenage quick, has become intelligent and controlled. An England career is a journey, and the evidence of today suggests that Bell’s will be a long one.

NEWS: Lisa Keightley Calls For England To “Lead The Way” In Playing More Women’s Tests

England coach Lisa Keightley has called for England to “lead the way” in playing more women’s Tests, ahead of her team’s one-off encounter against South Africa next week at Taunton.

Keightley labelled the recent remarks by ICC Chair Greg Barclay – who told BBC TMS earlier this month that he felt women’s Tests would not be “part of the landscape moving forward to any real extent” – as “disappointing”, and said that England would be looking to “challenge” Barclay’s vision in next week’s match.

“The last few Test matches has proven that it’s a format that is quite exciting,” she said. “We actually feel like we want to lead the way. The way to do that is to play more Test matches.”

“Realistically, I don’t think every country can play this format, but I do think we should stretch and challenge and still have the desire to improve women’s cricket and to grow it. There’s a few countries that are putting their hands up to play Test cricket for that purpose. The players want to play it, and the organisations are getting in and around it and behind it.”

She also strongly hinted that the ECB would be looking to include a multi-day component in the regional domestic structure going forwards. “You’ve got to learn the craft of Test cricket,” she said. “The countries that are playing Test matches have a pathway that they could slide along the format in. We’re looking to do that going forward, it’s just a matter of how you could put it in a domestic structure and what that may look like.”

After selecting a squad with five potential Test debutants ahead of next week’s match, Keightley was also keen to emphasise that this summer marked a “new cycle” for the England side, after their disappointing showing against Australia in the recent Ashes and World Cup. Spearheading that new cycle is Emma Lamb, who Keightley as good as confirmed would be opening the batting alongside Tammy Beaumont next week, saying: “It’s her time and it’s her chance to show us what she’s got.”

England’s bowling line-up is less decided, though Keightley talked up Lauren Bell, Freya Davies and Emily Arlott as being “exciting” possibilities to open the bowling: “We’ll see how they go throughout the week, and see who’s looking the best to see who gets the opportunity to play their first Test match.” Issy Wong, included in the squad as a travelling reserve only, will not feature in the longer format due to recent injury niggles; but is being looked at for possible inclusion in the white-ball squads later in the summer.

Keightley also shed some more light onto Katherine Brunt’s decision to retire from Test cricket, suggesting that after her recent bout of Covid and subsequent absence from the majority of the Charlotte Edwards Cup (she bowled just 4 overs in the competition), she had simply not bowled enough overs since the World Cup for the Test to be a realistic possibility.

“We knew after the World Cup we needed everything to go right with her prep and it didn’t. In the end she didn’t have the loads behind her to play in this Test match. It would have been high risk,” Keightley said. “Sitting down with Katherine and talking it through, it was pretty obvious that the Commonwealth Games was the focus and she wasn’t going to get up for this Test match.”

“With those conversations she’s gone away and thought about it, and thought the Ashes was too far next year so if she didn’t play in this one she probably wasn’t going to play a Test. It’s been an emotional few weeks for Katherine, coming to that decision… I think she’s made the smart call.”

NEWS: Five Possible Debutants as England Name Squad for South Africa Test

Fast bowlers Lauren Bell and Emily Arlott have been named alongside Emma Lamb in the squad for the one-off Test against South Africa next week in Taunton.

With neither Danni Wyatt nor Lauren Winfield-Hill in the squad, Lamb looks almost certain to make her Test debut opening the batting; while other potential debutants include Freya Davies, Alice Davidson-Richards, Lauren Bell and Emily Arlott.

With Katherine Brunt having announced her retirement from Tests, and Anya Shrubsole hers from all forms of international cricket, debuts for two of Davies, Bell and Arlott look likely, with a possible lineup of:

1. Lamb
2. Beaumont
3. Knight (c)
4. Sciver (vc)
5. Dunkley
6. Jones (wk)
7. Dean
8. Cross
9. Ecclestone
10. Davies
11. Bell

Issy Wong will also accompany the squad, officially as a “travelling reserve”, possibly due to her value as a net bowler due to her similarity to key South African threat Shabnim Ismail.

Full Squad

Heather Knight (Western Storm, cap)
Emily Arlott (Central Sparks)
Tammy Beaumont (Lightning)
Lauren Bell (Southern Vipers)
Kate Cross (Thunder)
Alice Davidson-Richards (South East Stars)
Freya Davies (South East Stars)
Charlie Dean (Southern Vipers)
Sophia Dunkley (South East Stars)
Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder)
Amy Jones (Central Sparks)
Emma Lamb (Thunder)
Nat Sciver (Northern Diamonds, vice captain)

Travelling Reserve

Issy Wong (Central Sparks)

PREVIEW: RHC looking to build on an impressive first win in Scotland’s Women’s Premier League

By Jake Perry

Northern Lights are out on their own at the top of the Women’s Premier League after the fourth round of matches was completed last Sunday. Despite the abandonment of their game at Hamilton Crescent, Carlton’s victory over Stewart’s Melville leaves the league leaders as its only unbeaten side as they prepare for their meeting with the champions this coming weekend.

Elsewhere, though, there were celebrations at Barnton, where Royal High Corstorphine claimed their first win of the campaign with a 68-run triumph over Watsonians. It has been a difficult season for the Edinburgh side so far, but women’s rep Clara Sablitzky is encouraged by the positive signs it showed.

“I would obviously have liked to see us in a better position at this point in the season than we currently are, but there is so much potential within this squad,” she said. “We just need to find our rhythm, and I hope that this win over Watsonians will help us to do that.”

“I don’t think we expected to beat Northern Lights, but we didn’t expect to lose in the way we did against Dumfries & Galloway [by nine wickets] and then Stew-Mel [by seven]. We have worked on things since our defeat in Dumfries, but there is still a lot of room for us to improve.”

It is a time of transition for RHC. Ailsa Lister and Abbie Hogg were among those who turned out for the side last year, but with both now at Northern Lights and Ikra Farooq relocated down south, a lack of firepower with the bat left their innings average in double figures going into last Sunday’s game. A club record partnership of 233 between Bronwyn Sumption and Louise Nichols changed all that, however, with Pretoria-born Sumption hitting a 93-ball 142 and Nichols a run-a-ball 79: the form of the big-hitting South African is going to be particularly important in RHC’s bid to climb further up the table.

“It’s been great to have Bronwyn join us this year,” said Clara. “Since losing a couple of good batters we’ve had to reconfigure the top order and it’s been so good to have someone who has fitted into that so well.”

“In our first couple of games she struggled a little bit with the Scottish deck: I think she was expecting South African pace and she got Scottish green-tops, but as she’s got used to the conditions she has really come in to her own and is now playing how she feels she is supposed to be playing. I know she was disappointed after her first game down in Dumfries, but as we saw from last weekend at Barnton, she can really hit the ball.”

“Amongst our other players, one to keep an eye on is Emily Rose,” Clara continued. “She’ll be away down south for the rest of our season, but she played in our first few games. Emily had only ever played garden cricket with her family before she started to take the game more seriously during lockdown, and she’s come in and, wow, she can hit a ball. It’s been so impressive to see somebody who is basically self-taught make it on the indoor squad for the Uni, then the first eleven outdoor women’s team and then open the bowling for RHC with Phoebe [Beal].”

“She’s a seriously competitive player and has only just turned nineteen: she’s certainly one to watch and I hope we keep her through her time at Uni and hopefully beyond that as well.”

As far as the remainder of this season goes, though, RHC have their sights set on finding the consistency that has so far eluded them.

“I’m not going to put too much pressure on the girls, but as long as everyone plays to their potential we can be confident. Our strength is in our bowling, I would say, even though it hasn’t necessarily come across in some of our games so far because we’ve bowled against some pretty strong batters, but as long as we can find our stride again, recapture the confidence we showed last weekend, things are going to continue to move in the right direction.”

Women’s Premier League – 19 June 2022

Grange v RH Corstorphine (at Royal High School)
Dumfries CC/Galloway CC v Stewart’s Melville (at Nunholm)
Watsonians v McCrea FS West of Scotland (at Myreside)
Northern Lights v Carlton (at Mannofield)

Follow Jake Perry on Twitter

ANALYSIS: CE Cup Final – Deeply Dotty

Southern Vipers win in the Charlotte Edwards Cup Final was not unexpected – they’ve looked the strongest side in the competition, and were the only team to go unbeaten in the group stages.

But the ease of victory perhaps was a surprise: they won with a massive 25 balls to spare, despite Charlie Dean (absolutely rightly) playing total “percentage cricket” at the end, scoring 7 off 17 balls (a strike rate of just 41) because the only risk by the time she came in was losing wickets – the runs (and consequently the strike rate) no longer mattered – if they stayed in, they’d win!

This was partly because of the flying start Danni Wyatt had given Vipers in the chase, with her 20 off 10 balls (a strike rate of… gets calculator out… fires up Excel… yes… 200!) but also because Sparks had set them a distinctly sub-par total of just 109.

How do we know this was “sub-par”? Well Vipers were on their way to a total of around 140, despite the slow-down at the end, so that’s suggestive that there were a lot more runs out there than 109.

But hadn’t the semi-final shown that it was hard to score runs on this pitch? No! From a Stars perspective, all the semi-final had shown was that you’re always going to struggle if you lose your top order for next-to nothing and finish the powerplay 25-5!

And from a Sparks point of view, the semi-final had shown a hint of what was to come – a lot of dots!

The numbers suggest that Sparks have been the strongest batting side in the competition.

In particular, Sparks batters let a dot go by just once every 2.9 balls – that’s a dot-ball percentage of 34%.

In contrast, in the semi-final, they played out 61 dots off 115 balls – a dot ball percentage of 53%.

In the final, batting first, they should have been piling on the runs, but possibly spooked by their middle-order collapse in the first game, their numbers 4, 5 and 6 chewed up balls like they were Wrigley’s Spearmint, and despite a death-rally they ended up with a dot ball percentage of (again) 53%.

In other words, Sparks ended up 20 runs short of where we’d expect them to be on this season’s form; and they were 20 crucial runs which would have made the game much more interesting.

Of course, cricket matches are won and lost in a hundred different ways – it’s one of the things that makes it such a fascinating game – and others have pointed to the number of wides conceded by the Sparks bowlers.

In the group stages, Sparks actually had the best numbers across the 8 teams on wides – conceding a wide every 34 balls – a wide percentage of 3%. In contrast, in the final, they bowled 11 wides (conceding 16 runs) at a percentage of 12%; so that certainly didn’t help!

But then again, if they’d been defending a bigger total, perhaps they wouldn’t have felt like their only route to victory was blasting Vipers out, and the bowling would have been more controlled?

And that comes back to those dots.

MATCH REPORT: CE Cup Finals Day – McCaughan & Dean Carry Vipers Home

Katya Witney at Northampton

The Southern Vipers were crowned the winners of the Charlotte Edwards Cup in Northampton on Saturday as they swept aside qualifiers the Central Sparks on their way to the trophy.

An exciting finals day got underway with the County Ground bathed in sunshine and the Sparks taking on the South East Stars in a thrilling low-scoring contest for a place in the final.

It was carnage from the first over as Issy Wong dismissed Bryony Smith with her third delivery. This started an almighty top-order collapse which saw Wong and Potts combine to leave the Stars reeling at 25 for 5 after the powerplay. There was some brilliant fast bowling from the pair, combined with some poor shot selection from the Stars’ top order.

Kalea Moore and Alice Davidson-Richards were tasked with rebuilding for the Stars in the middle overs and they managed to lift their side to 83 for 5 going into the final five.

Just as they may have been starting to think about a half-decent score, Sarah Glenn broke the partnership, dismissing Davidson-Richards in her final over for a well-batted 29.

The Stars managed to cobble their way to a total of 104 for 8 by the end of their innings, Wong finishing with impressive figures of 2 for 8 off her four overs. Despite the recovery, it looked to be a straightforward chase for the Sparks.

Indeed, Wong and Eve Jones made an explosive start, smashing boundaries to take their side to 34 for 0 off three overs. Sparks looked to be cruising towards their target when they suffered a rapid collapse. After losing Wong they lost three wickets for just one run to leave them 60 for 4 in the ninth over.

Tensions rapidly heightened as wickets continued to fall, Smith bowling beautifully taking 4 wickets for 14.

After Sarah Glenn was dismissed trying to smash a four square of the wicket, there looked to be another twist in the tale with the Sparks still needing seven and Grace Potts now at the crease.

It took the calm head of Emily Arlott to guide the Sparks to their target, farming the strike beautifully to knock the runs off. As Arlott smashed the first ball of the final over for four and leapt triumphantly in the air, the Sparks’ place in the final was secured. The Stars had put in an admirable defence of a small total, but their chance of back-to-back titles was always going to be tough after their first-innings collapse.

All eyes now turned to see whether the so-far unbeaten Southern Vipers could claim the trophy or whether the Sparks could spring a surprise on the favourites.

Fresh from their nervy early afternoon chase, the Sparks elected to bat again with an unchanged side.

After a tidy first over from Lauren Bell, Charlie Dean struck immediately, bowling Eve Jones as she looked to relieve the pressure with a big shot. Kemp replaced Dean from the Wantage Road End and produced another breakthrough as Wong mistimed a powerful drive and was brilliantly caught by Maia Bouchier at mid-on. Sparks were 15 for 2 in the fourth over.

Amy Jones looked in dangerous form and was finding the boundary with ease, an aerial shot from the right-hander flew straight through the hands of Georgia Adams at mid-off and down to the boundary. The drop didn’t prove too costly, however, as two overs later Jones mistimed another shot down the ground and Bouchier took a second excellent catch.

The Vipers bowled excellently and built the pressure well in the middle overs. It paid off as Abi Freeborn danced down the pitch to Elwiss, Rudd completing an easy stumping. With Campbell run out in the following over, Sparks were faltering at 62 for 5.

Glenn came in and looked to advance the scoring in the final five, picking up boundaries behind square to Dean. She was dismissed by Adams in her final over, the right-armer taking a smart catch off her own bowling. Adams took a second wicket in the same over, fielding off her own bowling again to run out Arlott at the non-striker’s end.

As the Sparks’ innings meandered to a close it was reminiscent of their earlier innings, a promising start stifled by the fall of quick wickets. Perrin was run-out in the last over pushing for a second and they finished on 109 for 8. Tight bowling from the Vipers had produced the rewards, forcing the errors from the Spark’s batters and derailing their innings.

The Sparks needed early wickets if they were to produce a repeat of this morning’s thriller. Wong delivered in the first over, taking the wicket of Adams for a duck, brilliantly caught by Eve Jones low to the ground.

A big opportunity was missed by Glenn to dismiss Danni Wyatt for just five in the second over, a simple catch put down at mid-on. Wyatt looked in the mood to capitalise as she raced to 20 off 10 but another opportunity to dismiss her at mid-on was taken in the fourth over, Potts safely snaffling the catch.

The damage looked done however and as the powerplay ended with Vipers 50 for 2, Elwiss and Bouchier looked content to knock around the singles and pick the boundaries off bad balls. Elwiss was given out LBW to Glenn in the seventh over but Bouchier was hitting her stride at 26 off 16 in the 7th over.

It was looking very easy for the Vipers and the Sparks were struggling to build any pressure before a full and straight delivery from Arlott shattered Bouchier’s middle stump. As Dean came to the crease it was very much the last throw of the dice for the Sparks.

However, they couldn’t stop Vipers marching on towards their target. McCaughan and Dean built a solid partnership to see their side home with 25 balls remaining.

As McCaughan heaved the winning runs through the leg side for a boundary, the Vipers had completed a dominant T20 campaign. McCaughan and Dean were swamped by their teammates running onto the field in celebration. Their near clinical performance had proved too much for the Sparks who couldn’t build on their victory earlier in the afternoon.

Speaking after her team had lifted the trophy, Southern Vipers head coach Charlotte Edwards said:

“I couldn’t be prouder this week to go unbeaten in seven and to win in that fashion and to improve every game like we have done at the moment.”

“They’ll enjoy tonight. They deserve it. It’s been a great, great few weeks. It’s been tiring, but topped off well here at Northampton today.”

“I said to the team before they went out there that they’ve played brilliantly, but six out of six won’t mean as much if we don’t get the seventh. But the message wasn’t to do anything different than what we’ve been doing and this is what’s so great about this group. They’re used to finals and they’re used to having pressure.”

“Going into this T20 competition, we didn’t play as well as we should have last year and that disappointed us. Our goal is to win the double. We’ve done one bit of that – now we’ve got a massive part of the season to come in the 50 over comp.”

“We want to win, and I think that’s the kind of culture we’ve created down at the Vipers and we don’t want to be second place. I couldn’t be more pleased today really and to do it here again with the Rachael Heyhoe Flint win here last year as well is brilliant.”

“We’ve got Rachael and Charlotte now, that’s what the girls keep saying. They’ve been so desperate to bring Charlotte back to the Ageas and to do that today, under the pressure they’ve been under coming in as favourites, I’m really chuffed.”

“I think what we’ve created here (at the Vipers) is competition for places. I’ve had some really tough selections over the last few weeks and I think that means so much for us today. We just keep producing players that will go on and play for the Vipers and for England, which is again another part of our job. We seem to be doing both at the moment and I’m really, really proud.”

Central Sparks captain Eve Jones said:

“Obviously disappointed today. We thought we’d learn things once scores were on the board in the final. Things didn’t quite go to plan in the first game but we managed to scrape through. Obviously we didn’t quite reach our potential today.”

“Amy (Jones) has been unbelievable for us this season, both with the bat and the gloves so it’s great to have her around. Hopefully we might have her around a bit longer with the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy next up to give us a bit of confidence for that.”

“I think we’ve had a really good winter of training, and I think from that as time goes on, it’ll be good to see how we go in the longer format. Hopefully it gets us to the final and we can go one better.”

Follow @KatyaWitney on Twitter

STATS: CE Cup Bowling Rankings – Levick Leads The Old Names; Marlow The New Ones

With strike rates climbing to unprecedented heights, who’d be a bowler in 2022? Only 3 players bowled 10+ overs and finished the season with an economy rate of under 5 (Georgia Adams, Kalea Moore and Emma Marlow) and some top players had their numbers hammered, as the likes of Bess Heath and Marie Kelly went on the kind of powerplay onslaughts which members of the Bowlers’ Union might think should be illegal under the Geneva Convention!

Back in top spot this time is the one and only Katie Levick. Commentators tend to throw the term “legend” around like plates at a Greek wedding, but if any domestic player ever deserved it, it’s Levick, who finished the tournament with 15 wickets, including a 5fer against Vipers.

Levick isn’t ever going to play for England though – no matter how much fans call for it – and a big part of the reason for that is the emergence of Charlie Dean, who comes in at No. 2 with 10 wickets and exactly 5.0 – the (joint) 4th best economy rate in the competition. In less than a year, Dean has gone from amateur to England star, and it will be a huge surprise if she isn’t selected for the Test against South Africa in a couple of weeks time.

One of two brand-new names to break into the Top 10 is Emma Marlow – the 18-year-old offie from Yorkshire, who made her debut this season. Her first game against Lightning included the wickets of both Tammy Beaumont, bowled middle stump by a quicker delivery that almost swung in the air, and then dipped sharply as the England opener tried to sweep; and Kathryn Bryce, also bowled but by a completely different ball that was given enough air to tempt the batter into a big swing, and then died off the pitch to take out off stump.

Meanwhile down at the opposite end of the country, another teenager – 17-year-old quick Freya Kemp – has been tearing it up for Vipers, opening the bowling for the south coast side. Given the hidings handed out to bowlers during the powerplays in this tournament, her numbers are particularly impressive – 8 wickets at an economy rate of 6.3. Kemp hasn’t yet got the pace of Lauren Bell, or that lethal “killer ball” which Bell has, but she has been very consistent for a young quick, and is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Player Played Wickets Economy
1. Katie Levick (Northern Diamonds) 6 15 6.8
2. Charlie Dean (Southern Vipers) 4 10 5.0
3. Sarah Glenn (Central Sparks) 6 8 5.1
4. Hannah Jones (Thunder) 6 9 6.2
5. Linsey Smith (Northern Diamonds) 6 8 5.6
6. Emma Marlow (Northern Diamonds) 5 7 4.9
7. Georgia Elwiss (Southern Vipers) 5 7 5.4
8. Freya Kemp (Southern Vipers) 6 8 6.3
9. Kalea Moore (South East Stars) 6 6 4.8
10. Kelly Castle (Sunrisers) 6 7 5.7
11. Hannah Baker (Central Sparks) 6 7 5.9
12. Claire Nicholas (Western Storm) 5 6 5.3
13. Grace Potts (Central Sparks) 5 9 8.1
14. Alex Hartley (Thunder) 6 6 5.8
15. Piepa Cleary (Lightning) 5 7 6.9
16. Bryony Smith (South East Stars) 6 7 6.9
17. Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder) 2 5 5.0
18. Grace Scrivens (Sunrisers) 6 7 7.6
19. Emily Arlott (Central Sparks) 6 6 6.9
20. Anya Shrubsole (Southern Vipers) 5 4 5.0

STATS: CE Cup Batting Rankings – Cranstone & Co. Closing The Gap

The key statistical facet of the 2022 CE Cup was a substantial step up in run rates from 2021, with first-innings run rates climbing by more than half a run per over from 6.41 to 7.13.

Year 1st Innings RRs 2nd Innings RRs
2021 6.41 6.76
2022 7.13 6.91

This was partly due to the increased availability of England players – Amy Jones didn’t play at all in 2021, and Danni Wyatt only played two games – but definitely not exclusively. Aylish Cranstone’s Strike Rate improved from 109 to 118; Marie Kelly’s from 128 to 152; and Grace Scrivens’ from 77 to 119, to pull out a few examples.

Amy Jones sits at the top of the tree in 2022 – the leading run-scorer, with 245 runs at a strike rate of over 140. What can we say about Amy Jones that we haven’t said before? Very little! It feels like we’ve read a hundred articles over the years, saying this is the season she finally consistently brings her sparkling domestic form to the international arena… and maybe this time, it is? A Commonwealth Games in her home city* would certainly be the time to do it! (*Yes – I know – Solihull isn’t technically “Birmingham”!)

Aylish Cranstone has been the outstanding domestic player this season – if you want to understand some of the reasons why, it’s worth checking out this brilliant interview with her on the Noughtie Child Podcast, where she talks about her nightmare winter, and how that actually freed her from the shackles of expectation. And the numbers add up – she was the 2nd highest run scorer in the group stages (with finals day still to come) with three 50s, all not out, finishing with an average of 78. She’s one of a number of domestic pros who are starting to close the gap with the internationally contracted players, as the system starts to reap the benefits of professionalisation at the next level down.

Looking at future England prospects, keeper-batter Bess Heath has had a good season with the willow, making a couple of 50s, including one against the comp’s strongest bowling attack, Vipers at Chester-le-Street; but she was, I believe the polite term is “inconsistent” with the gloves. I think England’s next keeper will (rightly) be a batter who can keep competently, rather than the best out-and-out keeper; so Heath remains in pole position for me, but she needs to make sure that she maintains a balance in her development going forwards. I’d really like to see her get a proper opportunity in The Hundred too, but with Alyssa Healy on the Superchargers roster, that’s unlikely I guess, which is… a massive pity from England’s player development point of view.

Another player who really needs to play every match in The Hundred is Grace Scrivens. The teenager has utterly carried Sunrisers with bat and ball this term. The ECB massively dropped the ball by not sending someone down to Sunrisers HQ to tell them to make her captain this season. (I’ve nothing against the player who was given the job… but she isn’t going to captain England one day – Scrivens is!) But the ECB have got the chance to make up for their mistake by sending a strongly worded “suggestion” to Spirit that she plays every game batting at 3 or 4. (And don’t tell me they “can’t” do this – it’s their competition at the end of the day – they absolutely can, and they absolutely should!)

Player Played Runs Strike Rate
1. Amy Jones (Central Sparks) 6 245 142
2. Danni Wyatt (Southern Vipers) 5 201 149
3. Aylish Cranstone (South East Stars) 6 235 118
4. Emma Lamb (Thunder) 6 191 110
5. Bryony Smith (South East Stars) 6 149 123
6. Sophie Luff (Western Storm) 6 158 115
7. Eve Jones (Central Sparks) 6 178 101
8. Georgie Boyce (Thunder) 6 172 103
9. Tammy Beaumont (Lightning) 4 136 126
10. Naomi Dattani (Sunrisers) 6 157 109
11. Bess Heath (Northern Diamonds) 5 146 117
12. Marie Kelly (Lightning) 6 111 152
13. Maia Bouchier (Southern Vipers) 6 144 117
14. Grace Scrivens (Sunrisers) 6 141 119
15. Lauren Winfield-Hill (Northern Diamonds) 2 96 175
16. Georgia Adams (Southern Vipers) 6 145 110
17. Georgia Hennessy (Western Storm) 6 158 93
18. Holly Armitage (Northern Diamonds) 6 151 96
19. Abi Freeborn (Central Sparks) 6 136 105
20. Danni Gibson (Western Storm) 6 96 143

MATCH REPORT: Sparks v Storm – Georgia On My Mind

A well-composed innings from Georgia Hennessy proved to be crucial at New Road on Saturday as Western Storm produced a minor upset of sorts against Central Sparks.

Hennessy struck four boundaries in her 47 from 45 balls to guide her side to the finishing line, whilst Dani Gibson’s 14-ball cameo ensured there would be no late twist as she hit 24 not out, as Storm chased down the 135 they needed with seven balls to spare.

There was a time when that sort of chase might have proved too stiff four times out of five in domestic T20 cricket. These days it will probably be knocked off four times out of five, and Hennessy’s patient innings was ample evidence of why as she martialled the pursuit at just the right pace, choosing the right balls to hit, the right balls to nudge and nurdle, the right balls to defend.

Earlier Amy Jones’s 63 had threatened to put Sparks in a commanding position, but although it took the England wicketkeeper just 46 balls it was an innings that felt as though it lacked some of the effortless fluency that oozes from Jones at her best, with too many seemingly well-hit shots finding fielders in the ring. And with no other Sparks batter able to go at quicker than a run-a-ball save for Abby Freeborn – and then only just – the home side’s innings never quite got into its stride.

Hennessy played second fiddle to Fi Morris’s early belligerence as Storm set about the chase, although Sparks will rue a moment of carelessness that might well have turned the course of the contest.

13 had come off Grace Potts’s opening over, but Issy Wong’s first ball from the opposite end rivalled Jenny Gunn’s famous “whiff” for its deceptive lack of pace and bowled Morris comprehensively as she swung way too early. First blood, it seemed, but Morris was evidently wise to the situation, remonstrating immediately, and umpire Naeem Ashraf agreed. Sparks had their field wrong, and an outstretched arm thwarted the celebrations.

Potts and Wong did manage to drag things back though, and after Morris picked out Gwen Davies at point, and then Emily Arlott found Sophie Luff’s edge for Amy Jones to take the catch, the match looked in the balance at 45 for two.

Fran Wilson’s experience in such a situation was the glue that Storm needed, and with Hennessy settled the pair added 57 for the third wicket at a perfect tempo, leaving Gibson to apply the fatal blows with two inventive fours and a mammoth six over deep midwicket.

There was little doubting Storm’s superiority on the day, with Sparks looking somewhat subdued both in the field and with that bat. Wong’s early departure for just two stifled much prospect of an early charge, and whilst the habitually-prolific Joneses batted well enough in their 65-run partnership there was always the sense that runs were being left out there somewhere.

Freeborn couldn’t get going – aside from one towering six over long off – nor could Ami Campbell, nor Davies, in the limited time they were afforded at the crease, and Sparks’ innings neither got bogged down nor took off, meandering along at six-ish an over pretty much throughout, and having lost only four wickets the inability to accelerate on a pitch that didn’t look perfect but didn’t appear to misbehave noticeably either was ultimately a big factor in their defeat.

They will go into Finals Day next Sunday needing to find some ‘oomph’ in their game if they are to get the better of Stars in the semi-final, let alone Vipers after that. They undoubtedly have the players on their day. One way or another, this wasn’t their day.