England v New Zealand 3rd ODI – New Zealand Remember How To Win

England may not have played a single ODI in the 437 days prior to this series, but New Zealand had suffered an even longer drought: their last win in ODI cricket came over two years ago, on 1 February 2019.

That drought finally ended earlier today, after New Zealand inflicted a seven-wicket defeat on England. Dead rubber it may have been, but this was an important statement by New Zealand: they have not forgotten how to win games of 50-over cricket.

Importantly, too, Amy Satterthwaite has not forgotten how to score big runs. This may have been her seventh ODI hundred, but it is her first since February 2017. It is also her first since an 18-month absence from cricket brought about by pregnancy, childbirth and maternity leave. While Sattherthwaite is following in a long line of female cricketers to return to cricket after pushing babies out of their bodies (Enid Bakewell did it three times in five years), she is the first to do so in the professional era, and we shouldn’t underestimate how important that is.

Amelia Kerr’s unbeaten 72 was important for a different reason. Since her 232* against Ireland in 2017 catapulted her into the headlines, she has barely troubled the scorers in 50-over cricket. Prior to this series, her average in ODIs against all opposition except Ireland was under 10, and her highest score was 28. There comes a time when you have to stop living off past glories and prove you are capable of batting at 5 against the reigning world champions. Offered the chance to do that today, Kerr took it and ran with it.

The successful run chase came after New Zealand had dismissed England for 220 – at least 40 runs short of a par score, as Heather Knight admitted after the match. This was a full-strength England batting line-up, plus bonus Lauren Winfield-Hill (brought in after Katherine Brunt was “rested”), so to bowl them out was an impressive effort from the hosts. In fact it could have been far worse for England. The cricketing gods, particularly the one that controls the DRS ball-tracker, really did seem to smile on them for the duration – giving Knight a life on 26* and Beaumont one on 33*.

Amelia Kerr finished with 4 wickets, but it was her sister Jess Kerr who really bogged England down in the middle overs, forcing repeated errors from both Knight and Beaumont. Kerr senior, who opened the bowling for the first time today, is becoming a formidable threat with ball in hand, showing her ability to swing the ball in a fashion worthy of Anya Shrubsole herself. She could be key in home conditions in next year’s World Cup.

In fact, for the first time in a while it’s possible to look beyond the inevitable retirements of Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu in the next couple of years, and see a chink of light. Devine never came to the party this series (scoring 16, 6 and 15) and Bates wasn’t even INVITED to the party (Ed: How far are you going to extend this terrible metaphor?) but Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen and the Kerr sisters went a long way to making up for it.

There’s something of an unfavourable contrast to be made with England’s selection policy. Even in a dead rubber situation, they failed to give younger batters like Sophia Dunkley an opportunity, presumably on the basis of Lisa Keightley’s belief that “I don’t want to give away caps, I think people need to earn it”. And they still lost the match.

It may be a cliche, but winning IS a habit – and with a year to go until the next World Cup, this dead rubber mattered more than most.

England v New Zealand 2nd ODI – Old Guns (Go For It)

For a few years after the dawn of the professional era, the average age of England’s “Top 6” hovered around 26/27. Then around 2016, something happened.

England under the leadership of Mark Robinson and Heather Knight found a batting formula that worked and won the World Cup with it. Tammy Beaumont was leading run scorer and player of the tournament; Heather Knight and Nat Sciver hit their first ODI hundreds – England were flying.

There’s a saying in computer programming: If it ain’t broke… don’t fix it! And England applied that mantra to their new-found magic batting formula, with one important side effect: their batting line-up began to age. As every year passed, the Top 6 became a year older, hitting 30 in 2020.

Longer term, there has to be a concern about this – England aren’t debuting new batters, and the worry is that in the next two or three years the entire lineup retires without any transition taking place to the next generation, who will be thrown unceremoniously thrown to the wolves  just in time for the 2025 World Cup.

But in the short term, England’s “Old Guns” are absolutely owning the game, particularly in the longer 50-over format.

Last night’s 2nd ODI against the White Ferns was a classic case of older, wiser heads prevailing. Both teams lost early wickets – at 5 overs, New Zealand were 20-2; England were 21-2. It was in the next 5 overs that England won the game.

While New Zealand slumped, scoring just 8 runs in overs 5-10, and losing another 2 wickets in the process, Tammy Beaumont and Nat Sciver showed all their experience – shrugging off the match situation, they just played calm, sensible cricket. The result: 23 runs for the loss of no wickets.

And that was the game – Sciver and Beaumont both cruised passed 50, and although Sciver eventually holed-out with a slightly dozy shot, England’s win was never in doubt. Having initially required 3.8 runs per over, they scored steadily at well over 4 runs per over, to win the match inside 40 overs.

Tammy Beaumont’s innings – finishing 72 not out – really deserved to be a century, and had the White Ferns given her a few more runs to play with, she surely would have added to her tally of 8 international hundreds. With apologies to Knight, Sciver, and everyone else, Beaumont for me has been England’s best player through the past 5 years, and is now just 3 centuries away from overtaking Charlotte Edwards as England’s leading century-maker, despite having played just 73 ODIs to Edwards’ 191!

I’d still like to see England think a bit more about the future, and bring in some younger batting talent to ease the transition to the next generation a few years hence; but I have to admit, we’ll miss these Old Guns when they’re gone.

England v New Zealand 1st ODI – Warm-up Wobble? What Warm-up Wobble?

After Syd and I both said on Sunday’s vodcast that we thought this would be a close-fought series, New Zealand seem intent on proving us wrong. This was another disappointing display by them in the 50-over format – bowled out for 178 in 45.1 overs, before England chased down the target with 98 balls to spare.

There really wasn’t a lot wrong with this Hagley Oval pitch. Bar a little bit of swing up top, the England bowlers never got much movement. Wickets fell when they stuck to a middle-stump line, and adjusted their length to account for the fact that the Kiwis were doing all their scoring off the back-foot. Suzie Bates said on commentary that she felt New Zealand should have been aiming for a total of 250+ – after they fell nearly 100 runs short of that “par score”, the result was all but a foregone conclusion.

England firmly dispelled any notion of off-season “rustiness” with a thoroughly convincing showing in the field. But New Zealand’s “big names” largely did for themselves – Amy Satterthwaite and Amelia Kerr in particular falling to irresponsible, half-hearted shots. I wonder whether leaving Satterthwaite, Kerr and Sophie Devine out of the warm-ups (which were effectively contested against a NZ “B” team) was such a good idea?

The Kiwi commentators seemed surprised that the New Zealand batters didn’t push things along a bit more in the middle overs, but the problem with being 94 for 4 is that it leaves you with a lot of rebuilding to do. I’m also wondering whether New Zealand have got into their own heads a bit – they know they have a reputation as “the side that gets bowled out”, and that can’t be a very freeing thought. Of course, Sophie Ecclestone was also brilliant as ever, really piling on the pressure and making sure there were few easy runs to come by.

Despite all this, if I was a New Zealand selector, I might well be feeling pretty smug right now. 25 year old Brooke Halliday appears to be a real “find” (where has she been hiding?!) New Zealand’s big problem these last few years has been a lack of middle-order “backbone” – Halliday might just been the answer. The real question is what on earth she was doing coming in so low down the order, risking her being stranded? More of this GIF in the next few matches please:

I’ll admit that England’s team selection took me by surprise, but it was great seeing Tash Farrant grabbing her opportunity, when it finally came, with both hands. Heather Knight had been pretty clear in the pre-series press conference that she didn’t see a front-line role for Farrant, saying: “She’s there as cover. She’s got a chance in the nets to try and push for selection, and show her skills.” But now Farrant appears to have leapfrogged both Freya Davies and Kate Cross to play the role of Katherine Brunt’s new-ball partner. Clearly, she’s enjoyed some stonking net sessions since the team arrived in New Zealand!

There’s been much said about Farrant’s return being a vindication of the new regional contracts – I’ll add just one thing. To me it shows the value of players being available to play in every single round of the RHF. In doing so, Farrant got far more overs of competitive cricket under her belt than either Davies or Cross did in the England “bubble” at Derby / Loughborough. It’s going to be a real dilemma going forwards for the fringe contracted players, as coaches balance whether to release them to play for their regions or not, weighing up what is best for both the player concerned vs what is best for England as a team.

NEWS: Every Single Women’s Hundred Match To Be Live On TV

The ECB have announced the fixtures for The Hundred, with every single women’s match to be broadcast live on TV on either Sky or the BBC.

The Kia Oval will host the opening game of the women’s competition, with the Oval Invincibles taking on the Manchester Originals on 21 July – the day before the men’s competition begins.

The Oval will also host the women’s (and men’s) “eliminator” (AKA the 2nd v 3rd “semi-final”) at the other end of the tournament on 20 August, before the women’s (and men’s) final at Lords on 21 August.

The opening match and the final will both be shown on the BBC, with all other games on Sky. CRICKETher understands that the BBC have the rights to show 6 more matches, but the broadcaster is yet to make a final decision as to whether they will exercise this right and, if so, which matches they will choose.

The coverage represents a significant increase from what was promised for the 2020 women’s competition, where only the 9 double headers and the final were due to be televised. None of the standalone women’s group-stage fixtures would have been shown.

By contrast, in 2021 every match – apart from the opening day – will be a double-header, with the men’s and women’s teams playing the same opponents at the same venue on the same day.

Tickets for both games will be £10 for adults, £5 for under-16s and free for under-5s; with refunds promised if COVID means the games have to be played behind closed doors.

The full women’s schedule is below:

  • 21 July Oval Invincibles v Manchester Originals, Kia Oval
  • 23 July Birmingham Phoenix v London Spirit, Edgbaston
  • 24 July Trent Rockets v Southern Brave, Trent Bridge
  • 24 July Northern Superchargers v Welsh Fire, Emerald Headingley
  • 25 July London Spirit v Oval Invincibles, Lord’s
  • 25 July Manchester Originals v Birmingham Phoenix, Emirates Old Trafford
  • 26 July Trent Rockets v Northern Superchargers, Trent Bridge
  • 27 July Welsh Fire v Southern Brave, Sophia Gardens
  • 28 July Manchester Originals v Northern Superchargers, Emirates Old Trafford
  • 29 July London Spirit v Trent Rockets, Lord’s
  • 30 July Southern Brave v Birmingham Phoenix, Ageas Bowl
  • 31 July Welsh Fire v Manchester Originals, Sophia Gardens
  • 31 July Northern Superchargers v Oval Invincibles, Emerald Headingley
  • 1 August Birmingham Phoenix v Trent Rockets, Edgbaston
  • 1 August London Spirit v Southern Brave, Lord’s
  • 2 August Oval Invincibles v Welsh Fire, Kia Oval
  • 3 August London Spirit v Northern Superchargers, Lord’s
  • 4 August Birmingham Phoenix v Oval Invincibles, Edgbaston
  • 5 August Manchester Originals v Southern Brave, Emirates Old Trafford
  • 6 August Welsh Fire v Trent Rockets, Sophia Gardens
  • 7 August Southern Brave v Northern Superchargers, Ageas Bowl
  • 8 August Oval Invincibles v Trent Rockets, Kia Oval
  • 9 August Birmingham Phoenix v Welsh Fire, Edgbaston
  • 10 August Manchester Originals v London Spirit, Emirates Old Trafford
  • 11 August Southern Brave v Welsh Fire, Ageas Bowl
  • 12 August Northern Superchargers v Manchester Originals, Emerald Headingley
  • 13 August Trent Rockets v Birmingham Phoenix, Trent Bridge
  • 14 August Oval Invincibles v London Spirit, Kia Oval
  • 15 August Trent Rockets v Manchester Originals, Trent Bridge
  • 16 August Southern Brave v Oval Invincibles, Ageas Bowl
  • 17 August Northern Superchargers v Birmingham Phoenix, Emerald Headingley
  • 18 August Welsh Fire v London Spirit, Sophia Gardens
  • 20 August “Eliminator” Match, Kia Oval
  • 21 August Final, Lord’s

Tash Farrant: I’m Excited To Play For Kent Again

England bowler and South East Stars captain Tash Farrant has confirmed that she will be donning a Kent shirt again in 2021, despite what will be (Covid-permitting) a jam-packed summer.

“I absolutely love Kent,” Farrant said. “I’m still a Kent girl at heart and I’m looking forward to the Kent stuff this season.”

While the regional fixtures were announced yesterday, there remains uncertainty about the extent to which regional players will feature in the County T20 Cup. Farrant confirmed that some regions at least still see an important role for county cricket, even within the new set-up.

“Speaking for South East Stars, we have got a huge squad who are training, which is brilliant,” Farrant said. “Those county games will be where [Director of Cricket] Richard Bedbrook and [Head Coach] Johann Myburgh will be looking to see which girls perform, leading into the regional stuff and picking our XI from that.”

Assuming that government regulations allow, the T20 Cup will take place across four weekends in April and May, meaning that these fixtures will be the first chance for the Regional Directors and Regional Head Coaches to assess the match performances of key players, ahead of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and Women’s Regional T20 which will begin in May / June.

With July and September set aside for internationals, and August devoted to The Hundred, the season could be a very busy one for women cricketers. Nonetheless, Farrant also confirmed that she is keen to participate in the London Championship, the 50-over competition which was set up last summer after the ECB withdrew its support for the Women’s County Championship, and involves Kent, Surrey, Essex and Middlesex.

It was confirmed earlier this week that Sussex will be joining the competition this season, which will enable the revival of the old Kent-Sussex rivalry which was such a marked feature of the Women’s County Championship over many years. However, Farrant joked that there is a new contender for main “grudge match” this season:

“I’m very excited for the Kent v Surrey match, having trained with the Surrey girls who are obviously my teammates now. That will be a really good rivalry. There’s a bit of banter already going on in the team!”

Farrant, who is currently out in New Zealand with the England squad, paid tribute to the set-up at South East Stars in enabling her to break back into the England side, two years on from losing her central contract.

“There was only so much I could do by myself, so getting that regional contract was amazing and getting the support,” she said. “I think a lot of girls will stay in the game for a long time now. Aylish Cranstone at the Stars for example has worked so hard for the last however many years and players like her really deserve the support now.”

“Having the winter training, especially the five contracted players but even the wider squads, means that the performances are going to be a whole different level just with the support that we get throughout the winter now. I think that’s going to be a big change and I think the standard is going to go up so much.”

One thing that will be crucial to that development is the shape of this season, which still depends on the efforts of the UK government to reduce Covid-19 cases enough to ease the stringent lockdown regulations currently in place. However, should all go ahead as planned this is likely to be the busiest season ever for women’s domestic cricket.

“At the moment, lots of stuff is Covid-dependent,” Farrant said. “It’s going to be the first time that there’s a really long season, where you start in April and finish at the end of September. I think that’s really exciting and I think that will show regional teams’ depth in their squads.”

“Before, there hasn’t been enough cricket to be able to show your skills for a long period of time. Now we have a lot of cricket and there will be a lot of opportunities for a lot of different girls to show what they can do. I’m looking forward to a long season with a lot of cricket.”

We couldn’t agree more!

 

 

 

 

NEWS: Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Schedule Announced

The ECB have released the schedule for this summer’s regional competitions, confirming that the 50 over tournament will retain the “Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy” moniker which was so successful in 2020.

The “RHF” will run through the whole summer, beginning on the 29th of May, with a grand final to be held on the 25th of September. Each team will play each other once during the group stages, with the top team proceeding directly to the final, and the second and third placed teams playing off to join them.

Alongside the RHF, a T20 competition will run from late June, with a finals day on the 5th of September. The 8 regional teams will be divided into two seeded groups playing home and away as follows:

Group A

  • Vipers
  • Stars
  • Sparks
  • Lightning

Group B

  • Diamonds
  • Storm
  • Sunrisers
  • Thunder

However… here’s where it gets a tad confusing! The table will effectively be combined across both groups, with the highest placed side going straight to the final, while second and third contest a single semi-final on finals day.

All in all, there will be 56 matches played across both competitions, with each team guaranteed at least 13 games.

The full fixture list can be downloaded here:

https://www.ecb.co.uk/about-us/media-room#/documents/2021-womens-domestic-fixtures-104017

NEWS: Tash Farrant Recalled To England Squad For New Zealand Tour As Injured Shrubsole Misses Out

South East Stars left-arm seamer Tash Farrant is back in the England squad, almost two years after losing her central contract, for the tour to New Zealand next month.

Farrant, who was let go by Mark Robinson in February 2019, has played previously under current England coach Lisa Keightley for the Western Fury in Australia’s WNCL, and was one of the beneficiaries of the ECB’s new domestic contracts in 2020. Appointed captain of the South East Stars, the Kent-based player performed strongly in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, placing 4th in our Bowling Rankings for the season.

As expected, Farrant’s fellow Star Sophia Dunkley is also included in the squad, having played the last two matches against West Indies in the summer, as is Freya Davies. Issy Wong will also travel to New Zealand with the team, but (oddly) not as part of the official squad – though she will presumably play if circumstances require.

There is also a return for Georgia Elwiss, whose injury woes meant she missed out against the West Indies.

There is disappointing news, however, about England vice-captain Anya Shrubsole, who has picked up a knee injury over the winter. She will remain at home for rehabilitation, along with Katie George, who is suffering from a recurrence of the stress fracture to her back. In Shrubsole’s absence, Nat Sciver has been named vice-captain for the tour.

England will fly out to New Zealand at the end of January to undertake a New Zealand government-mandated 14 day quarantine period, during which they will be able to train together as a squad, before playing in 3 ODIs and 3 T20s. Unfortunately, hopes of including Australia in a tri-series have fallen by the wayside due to the logistics of accommodating multiple teams in quarantine simultaneously.

England fans will be able to watch the matches on BT Sport, but may wish to stock up on coffee, as they face the dilemma of either a very late night or a very early morning for several of the fixtures!

ODI Series

Tuesday February 23: 1st ODI, New Zealand v England (Hagley Oval, 1am GMT)

Friday February 26: 2nd ODI, New Zealand v England (University of Otago Oval, 10pm GMT)

Sunday February 28: 3rd ODI, New Zealand v England (University of Otago Oval, 10pm GMT)

IT20 Series

Wednesday March 3: 1st IT20, New Zealand v England (Wellington Sky Stadium, 2am GMT)

Friday March 5: 2nd IT20, New Zealand v England (Eden Park, 2am GMT)

Sunday March 7: 3rd IT20, New Zealand v England (Bay Oval, 11pm GMT)

Full Squad

  • Heather Knight (Western Storm)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Lightning)
  • Katherine Brunt (Northern Diamonds)
  • Kate Cross (Thunder)
  • Freya Davies (South East Stars)
  • Sophia Dunkley (South East Stars)
  • Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder)
  • Georgia Elwiss (Southern Vipers)
  • Tash Farrant (South East Stars)
  • Sarah Glenn (Central Sparks)
  • Amy Jones (Central Sparks)
  • Nat Sciver (Northern Diamonds)
  • Mady Villiers (Sunrisers)
  • Fran Wilson (Sunrisers)
  • Lauren Winfield-Hill (Northern Diamonds)
  • Danni Wyatt (Southern Vipers)

NEWS: England To Tour Pakistan In October

The ECB have announced that England will make a historic visit to Pakistan, alongside the men’s team, in October 2021 for two T20 Internationals and three ODIs.

This will be the first ever visit by England to Pakistan, with Pakistan having played almost all their “home” cricket at neutral venues in recent years, due to security concerns regarding the political situation there. Meanwhile for the men’s team, it is their first tour to the country since 2005.

England will play two “Double-Header” T20s with the men in Karachi on the 14th and 15th of October; and will then stay on in Karachi for the three ODIs on the 18th, 20th and 22nd of October.

The ECB’s Managing Director of Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, highlighted the importance of this tour beyond the field of play:

“Not only will this be a cricket tour that provides valuable competitive opportunity to both teams, it should also serve as another powerful and positive message as we drive forward our equality ambitions for more women and girls to derive empowerment through the sport.”

The PCB’s Chief Executive, Wasim Khan, stressed his hopes that England’s visit would lead the way for other countries to follow:

“I am confident the women’s tour will open up opportunities for future tours that will further contribute in promoting women’s cricket in Pakistan.”