NEWS: Heather Knight Says New Women’s Domestic Structure Is “Bittersweet”

Heather Knight has said that the ECB’s plans to restructure women’s domestic cricket from 2020 are “bittersweet”, given that this will likely mean the end of her team Berkshire’s chances of continuing to put out a senior county side.

Knight has represented Berkshire since 2010, moving there from Devon to advance her cricket in the top division of the Women’s County Championship, and took over the captaincy shortly afterwards. She has subsequently remained loyal to Berkshire even in the 2018 season, when they were relegated to Division 2 of the Championship.

Under the ECB’s new plans for an 8 or 10-team top flight women’s domestic set-up, Berkshire will be one of the counties which will serve as a “feeder” but will no longer field a senior women’s county side.

“I guess it’s a bit bittersweet,” said Knight. “It’s got to happen, the Hundred is going to be great for the women’s game, and if they get the set-up right it will create that safety net, because at the moment you’re into the abyss if you lose your contract.”

“I’m sure Berkshire will be involved as some sort of feeder for one of those hubs, whatever it might look like, and be involved in the youth development. It’s what’s needed to move the game forwards in this country.”

Plans for the new set-up are still being finalised but the aim is to bring in a semi-professional structure by 2020, in order to ensure there is some fallback for players like Tash Farrant and Beth Langston when they lose their England contract.

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Mark Robinson: Dropping Farrant & Langston “Cruel To Be Kind”

England coach Mark Robinson has spoken about the decision to drop Tash Farrant and Beth Langston from the England squad, admitting it was tough on the players, who unlike the men have no professional county game to fall back on.

Acknowledging it wasn’t an easy decision, Robinson described Farrant as a “model pro [who] does everything right and gives herself every opportunity”, and he admitted that the decision was partly an economic as well as a cricketing one:

“You’ve got to create financial room for other players and room for opportunity on the pitch for Freya Davies and others.”

Going forwards, along with the support they get from the Professional Cricketers’ Association, Farrant and Langston will get 3 months of full support from England, including their salary package and medical insurance, but after that things get tough.

“That is the sad bit,” admitted Robinson. “It is the same as a [male] county cricketer being released – if he doesn’t get another job or doesn’t get another county that’s it. That is the unfortunate place we are in.”

However, Robinson’s take is that sometimes you have to be “cruel to be kind” to players on the fringes.

“With young players, you don’t want to string people on – it’s difficult – you have to be fair to them as well – you don’t want to release them at 26 and you’ve messed up their whole life.”

“I think at some point you’ve got to say ‘we can’t actually see you coming through’.”

But Robinson stresses that there is potentially a way back.

“Tash might re-invent herself – she could be a major player.”

“So for Beth 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?”

That, indeed, is the question…!!

NEWS: Davies In Line To Make International Debut as England Announce Squads For India and Sri Lanka Tours

The ECB have named 3 separate squads for England’s forthcoming winter / spring tours – one for the ODIs in India, one for the T20s in India, and one for their tour of Sri Lanka. Newly-contracted pace bowler Freya Davies has been included in the India T20 and Sri Lanka squads, and is therefore in line to make her international debut next month.

Of the 21 contracted players who were available for selection, only Jenny Gunn, Bryony Smith and Alice Davidson-Richards have missed out entirely. Kirstie Gordon and Katie George have also been omitted but in their case it is due to injury – both are still recovering from stress fractures of the lower back.

Sarah Taylor will be joining the team for the 3 ODIs in India but then flying home, while Katherine Brunt will return from injury for both parts of the India tour, but will not be going to Sri Lanka (presumably to avoid overloading her ahead of this summer’s women’s Ashes series).

Sophia Dunkley and Linsey Smith, who debuted during the World Twenty20 in November, have both retained their places – Dunkley is included in all 3 squads, while Smith features in the India T20 and Sri Lanka squads.

The full squads are below:

ODI Squad v India:

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Sophia Dunkley (Middlesex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Alex Hartley (Lancashire)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
Heather Knight (Berkshire, captain)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Sarah Taylor (Sussex, wicketkeeper)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

T20 Squad v India:

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Freya Davies (Sussex)
Sophia Dunkley (Middlesex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wicketkeeper)
Heather Knight (Berkshire, captain)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Linsey Smith (Sussex)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

Sri Lanka Squad:

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Freya Davies (Sussex)
Sophia Dunkley (Middlesex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wicketkeeper)
Heather Knight (Berkshire, captain)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Linsey Smith (Sussex)
Fran Wilson (Kent)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

ECB Central Contracts for 2019 Announced – Davies Rewarded But Farrant Dropped

The ECB have today confirmed the list of current centrally contracted women players for 2019, with 21 players on the list – 17 with full contracts and 4 “Rookies”.

The big news is that fast bowler Freya Davies, previously a “Rookie”, has been awarded a full contract, while Tash Farrant and Beth Langston have both been dropped from the list.

Davies graduated from Exeter University in 2017 and has been training with the full England squad ever since, evidently impressing coach Mark Robinson along the way.

Langston last represented England in 2016; the omission of Farrant is perhaps more surprising, given her inclusion in the WT20 squad at the expense of Davies.

Meanwhile Linsey Smith, as announced by CRICKETher last November, is now on a Rookie contract, alongside existing Rookies Bryony Smith, Alice Davidson-Richards and Katie George.

Kirstie Gordon and Sophia Dunkley, who both made their England debut in November at the World Twenty20, are still in full-time education and are therefore understood to be ineligible for a contract.

The full list of contracted players is below:

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Freya Davies (Sussex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)
Alex Hartley (Lancashire)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
Heather Knight (Berkshire)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Sarah Taylor (Sussex)
Fran Wilson (Kent)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)
Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent) (Rookie)
Katie George (Hampshire) (Rookie)
Bryony Smith (Surrey) (Rookie)
Linsey Smith (Sussex) (Rookie)

 

MATCH REPORT: Pakistan v West Indies 3rd T20I – The girls in green strike back!

S.M. Hussain in Karachi

On a beautiful sunny day, the ‘DJ’ was playing songs to entertain the crowd and in spite of the weekly holiday, school girls clad in their uniforms were cheerful as usual. Amid this festive Sunday atmosphere Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat.

Javeria Khan didn’t stay for too long in the middle and got out to a spectacular one-handed effort by Afy Fletcher. The captain, Bismah Maroof, continued with her good form and made 19 off 16 balls; but it was Omaima Sohail’s innings (28) which gave momentum to Pakistan’s innings.

Omaima looked lacklustre in the first two matches, but the management persevered with her, which paid dividends today. In the beginning she was a bit jittery but then she played some lusty strokes to gain her confidence – so much so that she came down the wicket and heaved a huge six to the mid-on boundary.

But it was a 67-run partnership between Nida Dar (53) and Aliya Riaz (24*) which enabled the Pakistan team to post a winning total – 150 on the board. Dar was flamboyant – in the 19th over she bisected the gap between cover and mid-off not once but twice to hit two 4s in that over. Her innings came to an end when she attempted an impossible second run and was run out.

In reply West Indies had to face an early blow – Kycia Knight (0) was stumped by the agile Pakistan wicket-keeper, Sidra Nawaz, off the bowling of left-arm spinner Anum Amin. Deandra Dottin mostly deals in boundaries and today wasn’t an exception – she hit four 6s and three 4s in her quickfire knock – one of her sixes going straight into the hands of Pakistan men’s team captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who was sitting in the VIP enclosure. (One wonders, how often this can happen – perhaps one in a million? And people in the stadium watched the spectacle in utter astonishment!)

Dottin (46) tried to hit out one too many times and mistimed a pull shot to be caught at deep square-leg by Nida Dar. Nida took one more catch to dismiss Natasha McLean (26) at long-on and celebrated with her signatory ‘Afridi’ celebration.

In the penultimate over Sana Mir took the vital wicket of Chinelle Henry. Henry came down the wicket but missed the ball completely and wicket-keeper Sidra Nawaz dislodged the bails to complete an outstanding performance behind the stumps, stumping three West Indies batters.

At the end of the 20th over the visitors fell short of the target by 12 runs. Although the hosts – Pakistan – lost the series 2-1, for them victory in the last match on a festive Sunday afternoon was a fitting end to the series.

More importantly, the message has been sent again to the world that it’s safe to play cricket in Pakistan. Thank you, West Indies, for providing the opportunity to Pakistan’s young generation to watch a live international cricket match in the stadium.

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S.M. Hussain is a freelance cricket writer and journalist based in Pakistan. He tweets from @CaughtAtPoint.

WNCL: New South Wales Breakers & Queensland Fire Through To Final On Bonus Points

Team Played Won Points
1. New South Wales Breakers 6 4 22
2. Queensland Fire 6 4 19
3. Tasmania 6 4 18
4. ACT Meteors 6 3 12
5. Victoria 6 2 9
6. Western Fury 6 2 8
7. South Australian Scorpions 6 2 7

New South Wales Breakers and Queensland Fire will contest next weekend’s 50-over WNCL final, after both won in the final round of matches to seal the top two spots in the group ladder.

New South Wales beat ACT Meteors by 5 wickets to top the table and secure home advantage for the final. Lauren Cheatle took 4-42 as the Meteors were bowled out for 195, which the Breakers then chased-down in 30 overs, thanks to fifties from Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry.

Queensland Fire went into the final weekend needing a bonus-point win to have any hope of qualification, but that is exactly what they got against Western Fury. The Fury were bowled out for 100, with Jemma Barsby taking 4-11, which the Fire overhauled in exactly 16 overs, Beth Mooney finishing on 44*.

It would all have been in vain though if Tasmania had won their final match against Victoria. However, a century from Meg Lanning was the difference as Victoria posted 260-7, and despite some late heroics from Ronnie Pike (53 off 45 balls, coming in at 7) Tasmania ended up 14 short, bowled out for 246.

That meant Tasmania unluckily missed out on the final despite finishing level on wins with the top two, with the run rate-based bonus points system* making the difference – Tasmania scoring just 2 bonus points in the season, compared to the Fire’s 3 and the Breakers’ 6.

————

* 1 bonus point for a run rate 1.25x the opposition; 2 for a run rate 2x – unlike in the Women’s County Championship, there are no bonus points in WNCL for taking wickets, and it isn’t possible to secure any bonus points if you don’t win!

MATCH REPORT: Pakistan v West Indies 2nd T20I – Thriller at the Southend Club Karachi

S.M. Hussain in Karachi
Super Over! It cannot get more exciting than this. When the fate of a cricket match is decided by one over each, the crowd goes haywire. And that’s exactly what happened at the Southend Club in Karachi in the 2nd T20 match between Pakistan Women and West Indies Women.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat on a sunny but cold and windy Karachi morning. Pakistan opener Umaima Sohail was dismissed for nought on the sixth ball of the first over. Her partner, Javeria Khan, managed to build the innings with her captain Bismah Maroof. Their 59-run partnership gave a decent foundation for the other batters.

There was an immense improvement in Pakistan’s running between the wickets today which enabled them to post a decent total on the board. Unlike yesterday, the girls in green batted with purpose. Perhaps coach Mark Coles, who looked extremely disappointed after the first match, played a role in this remarkable change.

Nida Dar made 25 runs off 24 balls and gave the requisite impetus at an important juncture of the innings. Iram Javed chipped in with 18 runs, but it was the late flourish of Aliya Riaz (23 off 13 balls) which paved the way for her team’s final total of 132 runs. Sloppy West Indies fielding was also a major factor in Pakistan’s batting ‘resurrection’ today.

The target of 132 runs seemed respectable, but not a daunting one for the strong West Indies batting line-up. Openers Kycia Knight (32) and Deandra Dottin (22) got off to a formidable start. Batting one down, Shemaine Campbelle (41) was taking the game away from Pakistan, but Aiman Anwer struck in the nineteenth over and got the prized wicket of Campbelle.

Not only that, Aiman conceded just three runs in this crucial over and brought Pakistan back into the game. West Indies required 13 runs from the last over, but only managed to score 12, to tie the match and play the Super Over.

It was again the sheer power of Deandra Dottin which made all the difference in the end. She is such a powerful hitter of the ball that when she hits it for six, she can clear the boundary rope of any ground in the world.

Pakistan’s captain Bismah Maroof perhaps made her worst decision of the match when she asked off-spinner Sana Mir to bowl the Super Over. Pacer Aiman Anwer would have been the best choice.

Dottin’s eyes must have lit up at the sight of Mir getting ready to bowl the most important six balls of the match. Out of six balls, she hit three (one 4 and two 6) to the boundary rope – she made eighteen runs off the over. It was game, set, and match. The rest was just a mere formality.

West Indies Women lead the three match series 2-0.

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S.M. Hussain is a freelance cricket writer and journalist based in Pakistan. He tweets from @CaughtAtPoint.

MATCH REPORT: Pakistan v West Indies 1st T20I – The Caribbean Queens in Karachi

S.M. Hussain in Karachi

The last time West Indies Women visited Pakistan in 2004, they had a long itinerary – one Test and seven ODIs; this time around they’re here for three T20s only. The rest of the games – three ODIs – will be played in Pakistan’s adopted home, the UAE.

For a cricket-mad nation which is taking baby steps towards reviving international cricket in the country, the significance of West Indies Women’s visit is far greater than a mere few T20 games. No wonder the visitors are being treated like Caribbean queens.

It was a rare gloomy January morning in Karachi, but an hour before the start of play, to the delight of many cheering college and school girls present at the stadium, the sun broke through. West Indies won the toss and elected to bat at the South End Club, which happens to be the second Test centre of the city.

Deandra Dottin and Kycia Knight opened the innings. When Knight was on 8, she scooped a ‘dolly’ to square leg off the bowling of Nashra, but Dottin was savage from the word go.

Dottin was dropped on 24 and this folly proved a costly one for Pakistan. Apart from that mis-hit, Dottin looked a million dollars; though she batted right-handed, her sixes were reminiscent of Chris Gayle’s. She reached her fifty in style by hitting a huge six over the mid-on boundary.

Chedean Nation wasn’t too far behind – her 50 runs came off just 35 balls. From 51/2 the West Indies team finished with 160/2 at the end of their allotted overs. The unbeaten partnership of 109 runs between Dottin (90) and Nation (50) almost sealed the match. Except for the left-arm spin of Nashra Sandhu, none of the Pakistan bowlers were able to restrict the visitors.

The target of 160 in twenty overs would pose a great challenge to any team, let alone to Pakistan, who are hardly known for their six-hitting.

Both openers – Sidra Ameen and Javeria Khan – were back in the hutch in the first six overs. The southpaw Bismah Maroof plays with a high back-lift and when she times the ball right, it reaches the boundary rope in no time. She looked busy and confident; she played scoop shots and reverse sweeps with ease.

Amid all the flippant batting strokes played from the other end, the captain Bismah was the lone warrior in this unsuccessful run chase. Except for Bismah (38) and Javeria (19) none of the Pakistan batters were able to reach double figures. The home side were eventually bundled out for 89 runs in the eighteenth over.

On a slow pitch the twin pair of Afy Fletcher and Anisa Mohammed made things extremely difficult for the Pakistan batters; both bowlers conceded just 17 runs each in their allotted four overs, with an economy rate of 4.25.

In the post-match interaction with the media the Pakistan coach, Mark Coles, looked quite disappointed with his team’s performance, saying: “We have a very disappointed group out there, and they should be.” Regarding the upcoming matches he added: “We just have to stick to our plans and we need to take some responsibility.”

So, the series has started with a thumping win by 71 runs for the visitors. Perhaps the victory margin also suggests the shape of things to come.

———-

S.M. Hussain is a freelance cricket writer and journalist based in Pakistan. He tweets from @CaughtAtPoint.

NEWS: Women’s County Cricket Set To Move To Pro / Feeder Structure in 2020

As reported by Lizzy Ammon in today’s Times (ECB plans to cut teams in women’s game [£]) the ECB are planning a radical restructuring of women’s county cricket in 2020, creating a number of “professional” counties and relegating the others to permanent Minor Counties-style feeder status.

CRICKETher understands that new setup would preserve the Women’s County Championship as a “thing” but with a top tier of 8 (or possibly 10, depending on who you talk to) professional counties, with no relegation or promotion.

As well as the County Championship, these counties would also play a T20 competition, addressing concerns about the lack of domestic T20 when The Hundred is introduced.

As for all the other counties, they would become feeders for the pro teams – so for example, Berkshire would officially feed into Middlesex, creating an official pathway for any junior girls in Berkshire. CRICKETher understands that these structures are already being put into place, so expect to see more tie-ups such as yesterday’s announcement that Berkshire’s Lauren Bell will play for Middlesex in the T20 Cup this season.

The key advantage of this is it allows the pro counties to invest in the women’s game, without having to worry about promotion or relegation, creating a more stable system for the top players. (It has long been a concern for the England management that England players playing below Div 1 in the County Championship is (at best) unhelpful.)

It would also allow a degree of player payment to be brought in more easily, with the “pro” counties offering match fees and stipends, though this is likely initially to continue to fall some way short of full professionalism.

NEWS: 2020 Twenty20 Groups & Fixtures Announced

The groups and full fixture list for the 2020 Twenty20 (try saying that out loud!) have been announced, more than a year in advance… which is a big improvement on the last World T20, which felt very last-minute for those of us trying to book flights and hotels – so well done ICC/ Cricket Australia!

England have been drawn with South Africa, Pakistan and the West Indies, plus a qualifier to be confirmed; while in the other group, Australia will play New Zealand, Sri Lanka and India, plus qualifier. (So it looks a lot like the 2018 groups – with just Sri Lanka and Pakistan swapped-over!)

There will be a bit of travelling for everyone – England start off in Perth against South Africa, before heading to Canberra for fixtures against Pakistan and Qualifier 2, then to Sydney for their last group game against the West Indies.

21 February, 2020
Australia v India, Spotless Stadium, Sydney (7.00pm)

22 February, 2020
W. Indies v Qualifier 2, WACA, Perth (2.00pm)
New Zealand v Sri Lanka, WACA, Perth (7.00pm)

23 February, 2020
England v South Africa, WACA Perth (7.00pm)

24 February, 2020
Australia v Sri Lanka, WACA Perth (2.00pm)
India v Qualifier 1, WACA Perth (7.00pm)

26 February, 2020
England v Qualifier 2, Manuka Oval, Canberra (2.00pm)
W. Indies v Pakistan, Manuka Oval, Canberra (7.00pm)

27 February, 2020
India v New Zealand, Junction Oval, Melbourne (2.00pm)
Australia v Qualifier 1, Manuka Oval, Canberra (7.00pm)

28 February, 2020
South Africa v Qualifier 2, Manuka Oval, Canberra (2.00pm)
England v Pakistan, Manuka Oval, Canberra (7.00pm)

29 February, 2020
India v Sri Lanka, Junction Oval, Melbourne (2.00pm)
South Africa v Pakistan, Spotless Stadium, Sydney (7.00pm)

1 March, 2020
South Africa v Pakistan, Spotless Stadium, Sydney (2.00pm)
England v W. Indies, Spotless Stadium, Sydney (7.00pm)

2 March, 2020
Sri Lanka v Qualifier 1, Junction Oval, Melbourne (2.00pm)
Australia v New Zealand, Junction Oval, Melbourne (7.00pm)

3 March, 2020
Pakistan v Qualifier 2, Spotless Stadium, Sydney (2.00pm)
W. Indies v South Africa, Spotless Stadium, Sydney (7.00pm)

5 March, 2020
Semifinal 1, SCG, Sydney (2.00pm)
Semifinal 2, SCG, Sydney (7.00pm)

8 March, 2020
Final, MCG, Melbourne (7.00pm)