ENGLAND v INDIA TEST: Day 1 – The Professionals

A few weeks ago, having handed back the keys to their Kias, the England squad took delivery of their latest rides, courtesy of new team sponsor Cinch. If I know anything at all about cars (and let’s be clear here… I don’t!) they were Ford Kugas; but perhaps Mark III Ford Capris would have been more appropriate, because this England team are The Professionals.

If one moment today summed this up, it was Tammy Beaumont facing Shikha Pandey. Beaumont came out of her crease looking to drive, but the shot wasn’t there and she was forced to just bunt it back to the bowler on her follow-through. With Beaumont out of her ground, seeing a glimmer of a chance Pandey pounced on the run-out opportunity, gathering the ball to shy at the stumps.

Beaumont’s instinct… anyone’s instinct… would have been to try to get back into her crease; but Beaumont is a wily old cat these days, so the first thing she actually did was subtly reposition herself to make sure her body was between the bowler and the stumps. Only then did she peddle back towards her ground, with Pandey’s throw hitting her “innocently” on the legs as she did so.

More generally, this wasn’t a glamourous day of cricket; but having chosen to bat, England’s top order all did their jobs. Lauren Winfield-Hill and Beaumont showed good control in the first hour, defending the good balls and making hay off the bad ones. It wasn’t risk free – Beaumont wasn’t afraid to play her trademark ramps and Winfield-Hill smashed two cracking sixes over the ropes. Of course, Winfield would have wanted more – losing her concentration for a moment, allowing Taniya Bhatia to take a showcase catch – but you can’t win ’em all, and she shouldn’t feel disgraced at all by “only” making 35.

Similarly, Heather falling within inches of what would have been her second Test hundred might look disappointing on paper… and might feel disappointing in the crowd… not to mention in the press box, where more than one scribbler had already all-but filed a piece with the words “Knight Century” in the headline. But in the scorebook where it really counts, the 95 runs she got were a whole lot more important than the 5 she didn’t; and she’ll absolutely know that.

The only thing I might have approached differently was the final 40-minutes or so. With the last “proper” batter, Georgia Elwiss gone, I might have told Katherine Brunt and Sophia Dunkley that 300-9 at the close was a better position than dropping anchor to 269-6.

But if Brunt and Dunkley can come out tomorrow and take England well past 300, there should still be plenty of time for England to go on to win the match; and they’ve probably ensured already that India will struggle to do so, unless Knight offers a generous second-innings declaration of course.

That would be fun… and sporting… though ironically not particularly “professional” – that’s a moral dilemma for the captain; but right now, it is a moral dilemma for another day.

RHF TROPHY: All To Play For In September

CRICKETher’s computer analysis confirms that there is still everything to play for when the 50-over RHF Trophy resumes in September.

Currently, Vipers sit top on 14 points, with Diamonds and Sparks hot on their heels on 13 points each.

But with 3 rounds of fixtures remaining, all 8 teams can still qualify for the “eliminator” (AKA “semi-final”) by finishing 2nd or 3rd, and everyone except Sunrisers can still theoretically qualify directly for the final by finishing 1st.

CRICKETher has analyzed 250 million possible scenarios, using our predictive modeling software, taking into account all possible outcomes of the 12 remaining matches, with the results shown below.

The ‘Qualification %’ is an indication of the likelihood of achieving at least 3rd place and making the eliminator, with an asterisk indicating that qualification is dependent on other results.

Obviously, qualification remains an outside bet for Storm and Sunrisers. Sunrisers could actually finish 2nd, though that would need a fairly extraordinary series of results, including other fixtures being rained-off; but given that it will be September… and it’s England… that’s certainly not out of the question! Like Storm and Sunrisers, Thunder are dependent on other results, but for the everyone else the maths in their hands – if they win all their remaining matches, with bonus points, they are guaranteed qualification.

Team Points Best Points Best Position Qualification %
Vipers 14 29 1 82
Diamonds 13 28 1 74
Sparks 13 28 1 73
Lightning 9 24 1 33
Stars 9 24 1 33
Thunder 8 23 1 25*
Storm 4 19 1 4*
Sunrisers 0 15 2 1*

NEWS: Kate Cross A “Big Advocate” For Multi-Day Domestic Cricket

England seamer Kate Cross, speaking in the build-up to the Test against India which begins on Wednesday, has said that she is a “big advocate” of the idea of introducing multi-day cricket as a regular part of the regional domestic calendar, as a way of preparing players for playing Test cricket.

“The longer format is where you learn the real skill of cricket,” she said. “You learn how to defend good bowling; how to bowl for longer periods of time; and be relentless on hitting line and length.”

With England players generally only getting the opportunity to play red ball cricket every two years against Australia, players currently find it difficult to prepare effectively for multi-day matches. However, the introduction of the new semi-professional regional structure in England offers an unprecedented opportunity to establish multi-day domestic cricket – something Cross says she is keen to see in the not too distant future.

“In the next 12 months, it’s really important that we establish what we’ve got now – the 50 over competition, the T20 and The Hundred,” she said.

“But I’m positive about the fact that it could potentially happen – whether that’s two or three-day cricket at domestic level – and I think in the next 5 years we’ll maybe get to the point where we can do that.”

 

RHF TROPHY: Sparks v Thunder – A Big Start Beats A Big Finish

Having won the toss and elected to bat yesterday against the Thunder, Central Sparks skipper Eve Jones walked out to open the batting at New Road with the world at her feet. Sparks were top of the table after 3 rounds, having beaten both last years finalists, Diamonds and Vipers, and the much-fancied Storm – they couldn’t have asked for a better start to 2021.

Five-and-a-bit overs later, things were not looking quite so rosy. Poppy Davies got a good ball first up and was LBW; but Milly Home and Gwenan Davies (no relation) had only themselves to blame – both running themselves out, as Sparks spluttered to 17-3.

Eve Jones rebuilt, in partnership with Steph Butler (25) and Clare Boycott (17), but (rightly, given the situation) all the focus was on staying in rather than scoring runs, and both Butler and Boycott finished with strike rates well under 50. By the 35 over mark, Sparks were alive, but barely – 116-5, and heading towards a total of around 160/170.

It took the nonchalance of youth to inject a bit of life back into the Sparks innings, in the shape of Issy Wong. On paper, 18 off 22 balls – a strike rate of 81 – doesn’t sound like much, but in the context of the game, it suddenly looked like Shafali Verma had sneaked out of quarantine in Southampton and hitched up to Worcester for a knock!

Wong’s innings also seemed to change the way Jones was playing, with Jones’ personal Manhattan showing a distinct up-tick in the last 15 overs.

That paved the way for Sparks to finish on 203 – a 20/30 run bonus, which definitely felt defendable, especially on a dodgy pitch, with Sarah Glenn bowling into the rough left over from a 4-day men’s Championship game.

Sparks opened with pace, and Issy Wong immediately had a very literal impact – hitting Emma Lamb on the lower arm, as a delivery reared up from nowhere out of that rough. Fortunately Lamb was able to continue after treatment; and her and Georgie Boyce set about their business.

After taking a few overs to get a feel for the pitch, Boyce and Lamb really took charge. Overs 6-10 went for 3.8 runs (7.6 per over), by far the most productive period of the game, as the pair used the pace of Wong and Liz Russell to make hay. After 12 overs, Thunder were very-much on top at 66-0; and… in a way… that was the game won.

There was a long way to go, of course – Thunder still needed 138 more runs, but with 10 wickets in hand to get them, the pressure was all on Sparks from that point. Thunder didn’t need 138 runs; Sparks needed 10 wickets – that was the only way Sparks were going to win the game.

The introduction of Glenn and Georgia Davis, who bowled 20 over straight between them, did have the potential to tilt things back towards the home side; and the spinners did their job, taking 5 wickets between them. But with both of them bowled out at 30 overs, all the Thunder’s tail had to do was cling on – and cling on they did!

The epitome of this was Danielle Collins, who came in at 9, and finished 8 not out off 22 balls. That’s a strike rate of “only” 36, but it didn’t matter, because if she stayed there, Thunder were going to win the match, thanks to the platform Boyce and Lamb had set. And that’s exactly what happened – Alex Hartley eventually hitting the winning runs with 2 overs to spare – a big start beating a big finish by 2 wickets.

As a result, Sparks slip back to third in the table, behind Vipers, who got a bonus point win at Storm, and Diamonds, who Gunned down Stars; but Sparks shouldn’t be too disheartened – the format of the competition means that no one will remember who won the “group” stage – the key is to finish in the top 3 and give yourself a shot at the final, and Sparks remain very-much still in the fight to do that.

RHF TROPHY: Eve Jones Does Her Job For Sparks v Thunder

Last time CRICKETher visited New Road, Worcester – on 5 September 2020, for the third round of the inaugural Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy – Eve Jones helped her team to an 8-wicket win against Thunder. For Jones, there was just one small niggle: she was run out 10 runs short of 3 figures, with her side on the brink of victory.

This time around, facing the first ball of the final over and with Sparks already 9 wickets down, Jones did what she couldn’t quite do 9 months ago – stroked a single to bring up a century (from 148 balls), to a collective sigh of relief from the smattering of spectators around the ground.

Unfortunately for Sparks, the result this time was reversed – Thunder sneaking home by 2 wickets thanks to a not-at-all streaky four (ahem) from no.10 Alex Hartley.

At the close, Jones admitted to having “very mixed feelings” about her innings. “I’d swap it for a win any day,” she said. It adds insult to injury that her one previous century for Sparks was also in a losing cause, against Lightning at Leicester last September.

Overall, her innings was a curious all-or-nothing mixture of imperious drives down the ground and a singular slog-swept six, interspersed with edges through slip. Even the most generous observer could not describe it as chanceless: Hartley shelled a caught and bowled chance when Jones was on 37*; she was dropped similarly by Hannah Jones on 47*; and she survived what looked to be a decent appeal for caught behind when she was on 54*.

But while there might be many prettier innings in her career highlights reel, and while the disappointment over the result will linger, the importance of today’s innings was in showcasing the determination and grit of the Sparks captain.

Comparing it to previous efforts, Jones said that this one came harder than most: “I felt I had to really graft for that one, really knuckle down and work hard for it. It wasn’t easy out there, I wasn’t feeling the ball in the middle of the bat as much as I’d like.”

The “manhattan” of her innings tells the story: 

Between overs 10 and 15, her scoring rate sank to almost 0 – no doubt a response to the ignominious run-outs of Milly Home and Gwenan Davies. On both occasions, Jones was not necessarily at fault – Home was caught ball-watching at the non-strikers end, while Davies called for the run and then seemed to change her mind – but as the senior player, and with her side slumping to 17-3 in the opening 6 overs, both incidents were surely playing on Jones’ mind.

“I knew I had to try and bat as long as I could, to anchor the innings and get us to a decent total,” she said.

Jones also suffered something of a drought between overs 34 and 37, as both Clare Boycott and Sarah Glenn departed and Sparks faced down 19 balls without scoring a run. In the words of Jones: “I just had to grind it out and try and keep building.”

It sounds like a cliche, but that’s professional cricket: some days the runs come easy, some days they come hard. When I spoke to Sparks’ Regional Director Laura MacLeod a few months ago, she was pretty clear about what 2021 would bring: “Not everybody is going to be cut out to be a professional. I’m sure we’ll start to find out who is capable of dealing with it, physically and mentally, and everything that goes with it.”

The very fact that Eve Jones kept on grafting, on a difficult, worn surface – allowing her side to reach a total of over 200 despite having been 17-3 – shows that she is one of those who is undoubtedly “cut out for” professional cricket.

NEWS: Alex Hartley Says Worcester Wicket “Not Good Enough”

Thunder captain Alex Hartley has labelled the pitch used in today’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy match against Central Sparks “not good enough”, after several players from both sides came close to serious injury during the game.

Thunder opener Emma Lamb was fortunate not to sustain any broken bones after an innocuous delivery from Izzy Wong, the first ball bowled in the second innings, reared up from nowhere and hit her in the forearm.

Sparks captain Eve Jones, who hit an unbeaten hundred, had earlier been hit on the upper arm in the very first over of the day.

Thunder’s wicketkeeper Ellie Threlkeld was almost hit in the face twice standing back from the stumps, with the ball behaving unpredictably due to pre-existing footholes.

The pitch had already been used for a four-day Worcestershire CCC Championship game, and continued to deteriorate as the match progressed.

The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy was widely praised last year due to being played on quality, first-class pitches. The resulting uptick in batting performances allowed Southern Vipers’ Georgia Adams to amass 500 runs in the inaugural competition, and the hope was that this trend would continue in the competition’s second year.

“It was a very old wicket,” Hartley said. “It’s not the standard of wicket we want at this competition.”

“We had a few flying out of the footholes for four and it’s just not good enough.”

PREVIEW: West of Scotland Adds An X Factor As The WPL Reaches Its Halfway Stage

Jake Perry previews Round Four of the Women’s Premier League

Week Four of the Cricket Scotland Women’s Premier League sees the last of its seven teams make their entrance. And having watched the first three rounds unfold from the sidelines, West of Scotland is delighted to finally be able to do so. 

“We are incredibly excited,” said co-captain Charlotte Dalton-Howells. “It’s been hard knowing that others have been able to get their games in, but it’s stirred up that ‘cricket fever’ amongst the group even more. We’ve seen the results and we know that people have been putting in good performances, so there’s plenty of motivation around. 

“It’s been really difficult to get training and intra-club fixtures organised because of the Level 3 restrictions, which prevented a lot of our players from travelling into Glasgow,” she continued. “But the training sessions we have had have been good – a combination of skills work to dust off the cobwebs and some middle practice as well.” 

And despite all the obstacles, Charlotte is hopeful that her team can find its feet again after an impressive debut season in 2019 which brought four league wins in all. 

“We have a really nice blend of experience and young talent,” she said. “We have Abtaha Maqsood and Ellen Watson as our Scotland contingent, and then there are younger up-and-coming players who are involved in the Western Warriors and Scotland Under-17s like Faatima Gardee, Sophie Trickett, Neyma Shaikh and Maryam Faisal. We’ve also got a couple of other really talented players who will be making their debuts, like Anne Sturgess. 

“But above all we’re just really excited to be getting out on the pitch again. It doesn’t really matter who our first opponent is – we’re just looking forward to seeing other people from outwith our club, putting a good game in and enjoying the experience.” 

WoS play a Royal High Corstorphine side keen to get back to winning ways after its chastening defeat last weekend at Nunholm. Emily Oliver’s 4 for 15 and an unbeaten 49 from Ikra Farooq was not enough to prevent a six-wicket loss to Dumfries & Galloway, but with Megan Taylor and Caitlin Ormiston returning to bolster the Edinburgh team’s all-round capability, the West may well be facing a somewhat different beast on Sunday afternoon. 

Equally fascinating will be the encounter at Gatehouse of Fleet, where Dumfries & Galloway will be looking for a repeat of the fine display they put in last weekend. A first-wicket partnership of 95 between Lorna Jack (53) and Niamh Muir (33) did most of the heavy lifting with the bat, Muir having already taken 2 for 16 with the ball, but the performance of the day came from Fiona Ramsay, whose 4 for 10 in 3.2 overs helped restrict the visitors to 132, a target that was quickly overhauled with more than eleven overs to spare. 

Leaders Carlton travel to Galloway fresh from a 107-run win over George Watson’s College, Abbi Aitken-Drummond scoring a half-century and Charis Scott taking 3 for 17 as the Grange Loan side put the previous week’s loss to Stewart’s Melville well and truly behind them. GWC move on to Inverleith to play a Stew-Mel team determined to get its own ambitions back on track after defeat to Watsonians/Grange last Sunday. 

So many contenders, so many possibilities. And with West of Scotland now adding an extra factor to the competition as it reaches its halfway point, there is still everything to play for. 

Women’s Premier League – 13 June 2021 

Dumfries & Galloway v Carlton (at Gatehouse) 

McCrea West of Scotland v Royal High Corstorphine (at New Williamfield) 

Stewart’s Melville v George Watson’s College (at Inverleith)

——

Jake Perry is the author of The Secret Game

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

The Cricket Scotland Podcast will include a round-up of the women’s (and men’s) league action from across the country every Tuesday, with player interviews from featured games. Follow @ScotlandPod on Twitter for all the latest information.

NEWS: England Squad Trimmed To 15 Ahead Of Test

The 17-strong squad announced by England on Wednesday has been trimmed to 15 ahead of their Test against India which starts at Bristol next week.

The remaining players have now moved from Loughborough to a biosecure environment at Bristol ahead of the match.

The final XI will be chosen from the following 15 players:

  • Heather Knight (Western Storm, captain)
  • Emily Arlott (Central Sparks)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Lightning)
  • Katherine Brunt (Northern Diamonds)
  • Kate Cross (Thunder)
  • Sophia Dunkley (South East Stars)
  • Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder)
  • Georgia Elwiss (Southern Vipers)
  • Tash Farrant (South East Stars)
  • Amy Jones (Central Sparks)
  • Nat Sciver (Northern Diamonds, vice captain)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Western Storm)
  • Mady Villiers (Sunrisers)
  • Fran Wilson (Sunrisers)
  • Lauren Winfield-Hill (Northern Diamonds)

Sarah Glenn (Central Sparks) and Freya Davies (South East Stars) have been released, and will now be able to play for their regions in tomorrow’s fourth round of matches in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.

PREVIEW: England’s International Summer… And Beyond

Sasha Putt reports

With one more round of matches to go before the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy takes a break for the summer, our eyes turn to the packed summer of international cricket ahead. England face an intriguing trio of India, New Zealand and Pakistan throughout the summer and into October.

England begin with their strongest opposition – India, in a points-based format akin to the Women’s Ashes, with 1 Test, 3 ODIs and 3 T20 games. Although they both ended in a draw, England were dominated by Australia in their last two tests, failing to bowl them out in any innings. Their last non-Ashes Test saw a similarly poor performance, losing to India after being bowled out for 92 in the first innings. Heather Knight’s side will need to perform much better in the match at Bristol to turn this run of form around.

While the squad for the series was announced on Wednesday, a spot in the final XI for the Test is still up for grabs. Whilst key bowlers Katherine Brunt, Anya Shrubsole and Sophie Ecclestone and a top order of Lauren Winfield-Hill, Tammy Beaumont, Heather Knight and all-rounder Nat Sciver are likely to feature, there are a variety of options for the remaining places.

Strong performances from Sophia Dunkley in the RHF Trophy definitely merits her inclusion in the squad, but it remains to be seen if she can sneak into the Test team to strengthen England’s middle-order.

Likewise, the last few bowling slots will be hotly contested with Freya Davies, Tash Farrant and Kate Cross, continuing their fine runs of form in the RHF Trophy, both on the peripheries of the playing XI – and now youngster Emily Arlott hot in their heels after her surprise inclusion in the squad.

Regardless of the team, England need to use this one-off match to establish how they aim to play Test cricket, and the best approach to translate their white-ball success into the longer format of the game.

For the limited overs series against India the goal is much simpler: get players into form against top opposition and iron out a side for the rest of the summer. With so many promising names bursting on the scene as a result of the RHF Trophy, squad rotation will likely play a part in selection, but England will also want to finish these games with a fairly concrete idea of what their best side looks like in a multi-format series. India will be the toughest opponent England face this summer, and so it is unlikely there will be significant experimenting with the side here.

The New Zealand series presents a much better chance for giving younger prospects the opportunity to play. With The Hundred dominating late July and August, the New Zealand series has been packed into September, with matches coming quickly one after the other. Giving those fringe players the experience of international cricket would be perfect for their development, against a side England comfortably managed to beat earlier this year.

England’s last series against Pakistan should see a mix of the two, with any players showing exceptional form mixing with established stars for what should be another comfortable white-ball series that should confirm the full side which travels to Australia in the new year.

It is this upcoming Ashes series which underpins all of England’s planning for their summer of cricket. Having last held the trophy in 2014, Heather Knight’s side will see the 2022 instalment of the format as the perfect opportunity for an upset against a dominant Australia. For now though, the summer ahead should give plenty of exciting action as England’s women look to find their groove against a trio of eager opponents.

A full list of fixtures can be found here.