NEWS: KSL 2018 Fixtures Announced

The ECB have announced the fixture list for the new “Super-Sized” Kia Super League, with sides playing each other both home and away in 2018, extending the season to 32 matches, compared with just 17 this year.

The competition begins at the County Ground in Taunton, with the Western Storm playing the Yorkshire Diamonds on Sunday July 22nd; and concludes just over a month later, on Bank Holiday Monday August 27th, at the County Ground in Hove with the now-familiar 3-team Finals Day.

The season will feature 8 double-headers with men’s T20 Blast matches, at venues including Headingly, Old Trafford and (for the first time) Edgbaston, which will host Loughborough Lighting v Western Storm, on same bill as Birmingham Bears v Lancashire Lightning.

The TV schedules on Sky are “TBA” but we’d assume that it will be at least the 8 double-headers, plus the opening fixture and Finals Day.

Double Headers

Friday July 27 @ Headingley – Yorkshire Diamonds v Lancashire Thunder & Yorkshire Vikings v Birmingham Bears

Sunday July 29 @ Taunton – Western Storm v Loughborough Lightning & Somerset v Middlesex

Tuesday July 31 @ The Oval – Surrey Stars v Lancashire Thunder & Surrey v Glamorgan

Friday August 3 @ Old Trafford – Lancashire Thunder v Western Storm & Lancashire Lightning v Leicestershire Foxes

Tuesday August 7 @ Old Trafford – Lancashire Thunder v Surrey Stars & Lancashire Lightning v Durham Jets

Wednesday August 8 @ The Ageas Bowl – Southern Vipers v Yorkshire Diamonds & Hampshire v Somerset

Tuesday August 14 @ Hove – Southern Vipers v Surrey Stars & Sussex Sharks v Glamorgan

Wednesday August 15 @ Edgbaston – Loughborough Lightning v Western Storm & Birmingham Bears v Lancashire Lightning

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WNCL Round-Up – Big-Hitting Breakers Top The Table In Australia

Australia’s 50-over WNCL goes into the WBBL “break” with 17-times champions the New South Wales Breakers atop the table and already looking odds-on to make a 22nd consecutive final.

WNCL Played Won Points
NSW Breakers 4 4 20
Western Fury 4 3 13
Queensland Fire 4 2 11
SA Scorpions 4 2 10
ACT Meteors 4 2 9
Vic Spirit 4 1 4
Tasmania Roar 4 0 0

The Breakers opened their season with a 6-wicket victory over the Queensland Fire, powered by a 93-ball century from Rachel Haynes; and Haynes was in the runs again, top scoring with 83 in a 90-run win over the Vic Spirit.

Following the Women’s Ashes it was Alyssa Healy who led the charge for the Breakers with 99 off 89 balls in a 7-wicket smackdown of the Western Fury; and then it was Ellyse Perry who stood up with 127 in a 97-run thumping of ACT Meteors, despite 4-24 off 10 overs bowled by the Meteors overseas star, South Africa’s Marizanne Kapp.

Second-placed Western Fury were run close in the opening game against the South Australia Scorpions – after the Fury posted 323-4, with centuries from Elyse Villani and Nicole Bolton, it looked to be all over for the Scorpions at 168-5, before a century partnership from Amanda Wellington (116) and Tabatha Saville (53) took the Scorpions close… but not quite close enough, as they were bowled-out in the 49th over, just 21 runs short.

The Fury had a rather more straightforward win over the Tasmania Roar, easily chasing 222 with 11 overs to spare; but were again run close by the ACT Meteors – Kate Cross the hero for the Fury that day, taking 3-22 as the Meteors were bowled out 23 short of a 237 run target.

In third place, the Queensland Fire may have one less win than the Fury, but sit just 2-points adrift of final qualification, after picking up 3 bonus points with big wins against the Roar and the Scorpions – Jemma Barsby taking 4-7 as the Scorpions were bowled out for just 104, chasing 163.

The Scorpions and Meteors, also with 2 wins each, will still believe they have a chance too if they can win both their remaining games and other results go their way; but it is probably game-over for the Vic Spirit already, as it is for the winless Roar.

The competition now takes a break whilst the players go off to their WBBL teams – not resuming until mid-February, when we have the last two rounds, with the final on February 24th.

STATS: Women’s Ashes Bowling Rankings

There is no doubt in our mind as to who should have been Player of the Series in this Women’s Ashes instead of Heather Knight. Not that Knight had a BAD series, of course – she scored four fifties, and played two particularly crucial innings – batting out for the draw in the Test and backing up centurion Danni Wyatt in the remarkable last T20.

But for us, the outstanding performer over the series was Aussie quick Megan Schutt, with 18 wickets – a full third of the “bowling” wickets taken by Australia across the 7 games – in conditions where England’s celebrated pace duopoly of Shrubsole and Brunt could muster just 10 wickets between them.

England’s leading bowler was Sophie Ecclestone, with 9 wickets at an Economy Rate of 4.35. Jenny Gunn took more wickets (11) but was the most expensive front-line bowler on either side over the course of the series – going for 6.37 an over.

Ellyse Perry underlined her status as the world’s leading all-rounder, coming in 3rd in the bowling rankings in addition to her 4th-place in the batting rankings.

The only other player to make both “Top 10s” is Katherine Brunt, who is looking like an increasingly key player in England’s line-up. It is difficult to see Brunt carrying on to the next World Cup, when she’ll be 36, but maybe it is possible if England can manage her more as a batting than a bowling all-rounder going forwards, hints of which emerged when she came on 1st change in the 2nd and 3rd T20s. (She opened in the 1st, but presumably only because Anya Shrubsole wasn’t playing.)

Player Matches Wickets Economy
1. Megan Schutt 7 18 3.6
2. Jess Jonassen 7 10 3.2
3. Ellyse Perry 7 10 3.9
4. Sophie Ecclestone 6 9 4.4
5. Jenny Gunn 6 11 6.4
6. Katherine Brunt 7 7 4.5
7. Tahlia McGrath 4 4 2.9
8. Alex Hartley 4 7 5.3
9. Laura Marsh 2 3 2.8
10. Amanda Wellington 6 3 3.4

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

STATS: Women’s Ashes Batting Rankings

On reading the table below, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that our rankings system doesn’t really work in a mulit-format series. Difficult… but not impossible! The other way of looking at it is that Danni Wyatt and Beth Mooney “hacked the system” with their remarkable innings in that unprecedented final T20, and that is what has landed them at the top of the list. Wyatt and Mooney’s huge Strike Rates in those innings propelled them ahead of both Ellyse Perry – 200 in the Test – and Heather Knight – four 50s in the series – both of whom scored far more runs over the 7 games.

In the battle of the ‘keepers, Alyssa Healy just pips Sarah Taylor – interestingly they ended the series with exactly the same Strike Rate, but the Aussie scored 43 more runs, despite actually batting one less innings.

Another player whose ranking is boosted by maintaining a good Strike Rate is Katherine Brunt. Brunt’s Strike Rate of 97 is by far the highest of any player on either side who played in all 7 games (the next highest is Rachel Haynes’ 84) and means she edges ahead of Nat Sciver in the rankings, as she continues to push her claim for all-rounder status at international as well as domestic level.

Player Matches Runs Strike Rate
1. Danni Wyatt 3 169 155
2. Beth Mooney 4 247 101
3. Ellyse Perry 7 351 63
4. Heather Knight 7 335 62
5. Alyssa Healy 7 238 81
6. Sarah Taylor 7 195 81
7. Rachel Haynes 7 187 84
8. Tammy Beaumont 7 227 53
9. Katherine Brunt 7 113 97
10. Nat Sciver 7 139 72

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

Random Thoughts – Women’s Ashes 3rd T20

Live Wyatt

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote that Danni Wyatt was Mark Robinson’s Biggest Challenge Yet – she had just come off the back of a poor series against Sri Lanka, making scores of 4, 4 and 0 against the weakest of the “top” sides in the women’s international game, and was surely heading (again) for the last-chance saloon.

But just as he did with Tammy Beaumont, Mark Robinson kept believing in her, and today he got his reward. It wasn’t “just” 100 off 57 balls – a Strike Rate of 175 – it was the pressure she did it under: England were 30-3 at the end of the PowerPlay – their own mums wouldn’t have given them a prayer, staring down the barrel of a Required Rate of over 10-an-over at that stage in the game; but what followed was quite literally history, as England recorded the highest ever successful run-chase in a women’s T20 international.

What’s Next To The Mooney

[I think that’s enough AC/DC song title puns now – Ed.]

Spare a thought though for Beth Mooney – she played the innings of her career – the highest women’s international T20 score ever against a “top” side – and in some ways a better “cricket” innings than Wyatt, who took her usual share of risks; but then saw it eclipsed by Wyatt, as (if we are honest) her team mates threw it away with a hat-full of awful-looking dropped catches – yes, the lights were clearly a factor; but at a professional level, that shouldn’t really be an excuse these days.

Powerage?

[Ok… that’s it – you’re grounded – Ed.]

It will be interesting to see if this game, and indeed this T20 series, marks the start of a new dawn for women’s international T20 cricket, where the “power game” comes to the fore? We are going to be watching a lot of T20 cricket in the next year or so, leading up to the World T20 in the West Indies next autumn, with England playing not one but two T20 Tri-Series – v South Africa & New Zealand and v Australia & India; and you can bet some other sides will be playing even more as they ramp-up to WWT20.

Before today, we only had four centuries scored in nearly 400 women’s T20Is – we’ve just added another two to make it six – how many will it be this time next year? My guess is as good as yours; but if it is still six this time next year, I’ll be very surprised!

Random Thoughts: Women’s Ashes 2nd T20

Brunt Bounces Back

Something Mark Robinson’s England have in spades is resilience. To bounce back after throwing away the Ashes in the space of a few overs on Friday can’t have been easy, but the way they came out today, to not just win but wipe out their opponents, made an important statement about the way this side want to play their cricket.

No one epitomised that attitude more than Katherine Brunt. In tears after the loss on Friday, she somehow channelled all her disappointment and frustration into a sparkling innings of 32* – including the only 2 sixes of England’s innings – and then followed it up with a pace bowling T20 masterclass, conceding just 10 runs from her 4 overs. Sarah Taylor’s stumping of Elyse Villani was itself a masterclass, of course, but it was Brunt’s 3 dot balls up top in the over that forced Villani’s hand.

Basically, don’t upset Katherine Brunt. It’ll come back to bite you in the end.

Gunn Earns Her Spot

There have been question marks over Jenny Gunn’s inclusion in this T20 team, given that it’s Georgia Elwiss – the star of Day 4 at North Sydney – who appears to have given way for her. But Gunn’s bowling in T20 is incredibly precious – she is economical AND takes wickets – and today she really did provide the turning point for England, with her direct hit run out of Beth Mooney; plus that little matter of 4 wickets to boot.

Two Differing Approaches

There were times when you felt today that Matthew Mott had sat the Aussies down before their innings and told them they needed to hit all the runs in boundaries – far too many reckless shots were played, with Healy, Gardner and Haynes all caught trying to hit big. England were much more content to rack up singles and twos, leaving them with wickets in the bank for the crucial final 5 overs.

Nonetheless, the attacking approach has served Australia well over the years, and England might want to consider taking a leaf out of their book. The stats that Syd put out on Twitter earlier about Nat Sciver v Alyssa Healy provide a good point of comparison:

It’s not that Sciver isn’t capable of hitting big, more that she hasn’t often done so in a T20 situation for England – something that needs to change.

So England may have won this match, but there is no room for complacency: their batting, and power hitting in particular, has to be a key area of focus ahead of next year’s WWT20.

Wyatt Up Top

It’s still a bit of a mystery why Heather Knight opened in the first T20 of the series given that she has repeatedly said she doesn’t want to open while captaining – perhaps Robinson felt it was the best option, or perhaps it was just an experiment gone wrong. Either way, it was great to see Danni Wyatt rewarded for her 50 on Friday with a boost to the top of the order; and she certainly did the job required of her today, with quick runs up top to get England off to a positive start. She’s opened before in T20 – the last time was in Cardiff against Australia in 2015 – but has never had a sustained run at it, so maybe that time is now.

A Dead Rubber?

Some will argue that Australia took their foot off the gas today, relaxed about the whole endeavour now they have secured the Ashes trophy. If there’s any truth in that, it’s pretty poor – England could still go on and draw the series on points. They could also still win the T20 leg of the series; and a T20 series win in the year before a T20 World Cup is not to be sniffed at. In short, it’s all to play for come Tuesday.

Pink Ball Review: Did England Find Any Answers?

Last week I posed four big questions ahead of the Ashes Test match. Now that Test cricket is – sadly – behind them for another two years, did England find any answers?

1. What is their best Test XI?

Mark Robinson’s big call was to not only select Georgia Elwiss ahead of Jenny Gunn, but to bat her at 4, a position she’s never before occupied in her England career. At a crucial time for England, she came good. Her unbeaten 41 was, in my book, even more impressive than Knight’s own stoic effort – Elwiss was under more pressure (she must have known she was playing for her place in the side), and much rustier, having played no international cricket at all over the past 12 months. It’s perhaps too early to say whether she’s done enough to retain her place for the foreseeable future, but you’d have to conclude that she’s put herself back in strong contention.

Would having Gunn in the side have made any difference to the result? Probably not. Her great talent is bowling for long periods very economically, but that wasn’t really the issue here – England managed to restrict the Australian run rate reasonably successfully. What they really needed was wickets, and it’s difficult on this pitch to see Gunn having been much more successful than her counterparts there.

2. Can anyone “do a Heather Knight”?

Yes – sadly her name is Ellyse Perry, and she plays for the opposition (despite my job share suggestion!)

England lost this match by not batting long enough in the first innings. Though Tammy Beaumont and Heather Knight both passed 50, once again none of the England batting line-up could push on to 3 figures. Last week I said that at least two England players would have to get their heads down and dig in, if they were to have any chance of winning this match – that didn’t happen.

Somehow, with the limited opportunities available for multi-day practice before the next Test comes around, England need to resolve this. If they can’t, they aren’t going to win very many Tests!

3. Can they stop Australia batting them out of the game?

Yes, but it was perhaps more down to luck than judgement! England were fortunate enough to win the toss, which prevented the somewhat nightmare scenario of the follow-on rearing its ugly head. Australia then essentially ran out of time to bowl England out. Had Perry arrived at the crease on day one, who knows what might have happened?

4. Can they avoid a draw?

No. Obviously.

Of course, a draw actually looks like a good result, given what might have happened at the start of day 4! Even better, England have got the Canterbury 2015 monkey off their backs – they didn’t fold, they fought, and there’s no shame at all in the way that they dug in today.

Having said that, I still stick by my belief that it isn’t a good enough result for England. Above all else, it’s going to be very tough mentally for them to go into the T20 leg of the series knowing they have to win all 3 games.

Let’s hope they can prove me wrong!

Random Thoughts: Women’s Ashes Test – Day 4

Knight In Shining Armour

This is the second time in her career that Heather Knight has saved a Test for England, albeit in quite different circumstances. In 2013 at Wormsley, England were staring down the barrel of the follow-on at 113-6, after Australia had posted 330 in the 1st innings; this time the circumstances were perhaps a little less dramatic, but no less perilous – with the Ashes at stake, Knight had to dig in, and her and Georgia Elwiss did what they had to do. It was a “proper cricket” innings from Knight, demanding all her mental and physical steel – the only disappointment being that she didn’t get the chance to put the seal on it by going on to 100. (We’d have liked to see her bat on at the end; but apparently we were alone in that regard!)

The Winner On Points

You’d have to say in one way that this was a clear “points victory” for Australia, having forced England into batting for the draw; but this is also a bit odd, because two of the four days clearly went to England – Day 2, when they had Australia 5-down and still 100 behind; and today, when the Aussies huffed and puffed but couldn’t get anywhere near blowing England’s house down. In fact, ultimately it would perhaps have been Australia who were slightly disappointed – they definitely felt they had the glimmer of victory in their sights with both the openers gone and England still a long way from safety – but in the end they didn’t have the bowling to force the win.

Pitch (Im)Perfect?

Was the pitch to blame for a “boring” end to the game? We don’t think so – it was the same pitch that gave us Ellyse Perry’s double-hundred yesterday, and we don’t remember hearing too many complaints about it then!! Obviously both sides played quite low-risk cricket, with the 10-over run rate averaging around 2.5, and only once climbing above 4 – but if you want to blame anything for that, blame the points system which, even at 4 points for a win, with only a single Test massively punishes defeat. Anyways… it was only boring if you didn’t really care about the outcome – speak for yourselves, we were glued to it!

Another Win For Robinson

Although England were once again outplayed by Australia… or outplayed by Ellyse Perry, at least… there was a difference from Canterbury in 2015 – England didn’t look like amateurs, out of their depth at this level. And lest we forget, this isn’t because they have played a pile of Tests in the meantime – having in fact played no Tests in the intervening two years. It is because they were well-prepared this time, by a coach with 20 years of experience playing and coaching tough, declaration cricket in the (Men’s) County Championship. And you have to chalk this up as another win for Mark Robinson, who has taken basically the same team, with 70% of the same players, and turned them up a notch – they aren’t up at 11 yet, but they are no longer at 2 or 3!

Random Thoughts – Women’s Ashes Test – Day 3

The day England lost the Ashes?

England can’t now win this Test – that much was apparent even before the third session of the day began. Their best hope now is to hang on for the draw, but that means that in order to win the series, they’ll have to go on and win all 3 T20s, which is a big ask.

Given that England “won” day 2, and had set themselves up nicely with some late wickets falling last night, that’s quite a disappointing result.

… or the day Australia won them?

Having said that, did England do a lot wrong today? The ball wasn’t doing much, the pitch wasn’t doing much, and Australia just didn’t give them many chances. That was always the worry – Australia’s batting order is like waiting for a bus – you get one wicket and then two more world-class batsmen come to the crease!

People often seem to forget that at Canterbury in 2015, for example, England actually had Australia 99-5 – then Jess Jonassen walked in… and they ended up racking up 274-9! It was a similar story today.

Syd’s Worms [Ed: he really needs to go to the doctor’s about that] make the point pretty clearly: it wasn’t that Australia were ahead of the eight-ball the whole way through – they just bat longer than England, and in Tests, that’s crucial.

It’s looking more and more, in fact, like England really lost this match during the last session of the first day, with the mini-collapse where they lost those 3 wickets for 13 runs. That stat about 280 being a good 1st innings score in a women’s Test is actually quite an illusive one – the game has come on so much, even since that last Test in 2015, that I always had an inkling that 280 wasn’t going to be enough to put England into a winning position. Once again, for England, it’s the batting that’s been the real issue, not the bowling.

Ellyse Perry

There really isn’t much to say, is there? The craziest stat in cricket is that Ellyse Perry had never made an international century before today. But when Perry gets it right, she is unrivalled. She didn’t offer a single chance in the first 100 runs. There was barely a chance in the second.

It makes it even more poignant, in a way, that she might not get very many more opportunities in her career to bat with that level of depth, concentration and duration. The ICC don’t think Tests matter – they think people don’t care about women’s Test cricket.

The reactions today; the cheering of every dot ball that Megan Schutt faced while Perry was on 199* at the other end; Perry’s response (twice!) to hitting her 200th run – it matters. Please take note, ICC.

Can England survive?

They’ve made a decent start by not losing any wickets before the close, but if they’re going to save the game from here then England need to bat out at least two sessions tomorrow. The best advice Mark Robinson can give to his players is to play their natural game – going into their shells isn’t going to do anyone any favours (it didn’t work at Canterbury!) They definitely have the capability – it’s going to come down to whether they have the mental toughness to see it out.

NEWS: Belinda Clark Confirms ICC Position On Women’s Tests – “I’m not sure that Test cricket holds a place in people’s hearts”

Member of ICC Women’s Committee and leading voice at Cricket Australia Belinda Clark has confirmed that the ICC’s policy going forward is to continue to focus on the shorter formats of the game, with no intention to increase the amount of Test cricket played.

Speaking on commentary during the third day of the Ashes Test at the North Sydney Oval, Clark said:

“If we’re thinking about growth of the international game, the answer to that question is T20.”

“The one-day game also has a place – the World Cup in England shows that.”

The current match has already broken recent records for attendance at a women’s Test in Australia, with over 6000 people present over the first two days, but Clark nonetheless rejected the suggestion that the ICC might seek to encourage the playing of more women’s Tests:

“This game is absolutely critical for these two nations [England and Australia], but beyond that, I’m not sure that Test cricket holds a place in people’s hearts.”

ECB’s director of women’s cricket Clare Connor has previously placed her full support behind the longer-format, stating:

“I would never want to be part of an administration that strikes a line through Test cricket. I would hate that.”

“I will fight to continue to [keep Tests alive].”

Nonetheless Cricket Australia has consistently refused the ECB’s suggestion that the Women’s Ashes might be expanded to incorporate two or even more Test matches.

The statement by Clark today appears to confirm that policy, at least for the immediate future.