PREVIEW: England v Pakistan – New Faces Knocking On The Door For England

ICC Championship Played Won Lost Tied Points Max*
Australia 18 17 1 0 34 40
England 18 12 6 0 24 30
India 18 10 8 0 20 26
South Africa 15 7 6 1 16 28
Pakistan 15 7 7 1 15 27
New Zealand 15 7 8 0 14 26
West Indies 21 6 14 0 13 13
Sri Lanka 18 1 17 0 2 8

* Max = maximum possible points achievable.

England travel to Kuala Lumpur for their final round of matches against Pakistan in the ICC Women’s Championship, with automatic qualification for the World Cup in New Zealand next spring already in the bag. (Four teams qualify automatically, along with hosts New Zealand; and while India, South Africa and Pakistan can all theoretically overhaul England, India and Pakistan, who play each other in their final rounds, can’t both do it.)

Whether England had this in mind when they selected their squad is an open question, but with four “newer” faces in the 15, with just a handful of caps between them, England do have the chance to roll the dice a bit against a Pakistan side who are probably better than when England thrashed them at home in the lead-up to the 2017 World Cup… but not that much better.

Pakistan will also be without their greatest ever player – Sana Mir – who taking a break from the game, which can only make England’s task easier.

What it won’t be, however, is “easy”. Kuala Lumpur is bloomin’ hot this time of year – the mercury will be hitting 31-33 degrees all week – and there is also a fair chance of thunder and rain having a say in proceedings.

England’s only uncapped selection for this tour is Sarah Glenn, a specialist leg-spinner who had an impressive KSL for Loughborough Lightning this summer. Former Head Coach Mark Robinson was always on the lookout for a leggie, and England might just have found a good one in Glenn, who doesn’t turn the ball as much as Amelia Kerr, but is a very tidy bowler who won’t give much away. Personally, if I had to choose one or the other, I’d play her in the ODIs rather than the T20s, but England’s inclination is usually to do the opposite and use the T20s to blood new caps, so we’ll see!

Mady Villiers got her first cap in England’s last international – the final T20 of the Women’s Ashes – and the T20s is probably where we’ll see her run out, hopefully with a chance to get a bat as well as a bowl.

Freya Davies meanwhile is turning into something of a South East Asian specialist. Having won all 3 of her previous caps against Sri Lanka in Colombo, she looks likely to add to that here – Heather Knight is a big fan, having played with her at Western Storm; and Knight was also no doubt influential in ensuring she grabbed her for the London Spirit in next summer’s Hundred. Barring an injury to one of the Brunt-Shrubsole axis, she probably won’t get a game in the ODIs, but the T20s are another matter, and with the T20 World Cup coming up next, there is an opportunity for her to stake a claim as an economical opening option for Australia.

Kirstie Gordon has yet to win an ODI cap, but has a good chance of collecting the final one of the set, having made her Test and T20 debuts already. With England playing 3 ODIs in the space of a week, picking all three current first-choice quicks (Brunt, Shrubsole and Cross) in that heat and humidity feels like cruel and unusual punishment – so expect to see “Commissioner” Gordon at some point teaming up with Sophie Ecclestone – they may both be orthodox lefties, but they offer something quite different, balancing each other with attack from Gordon and a little more defence from Ecclestone.

The batting line-up is much more settled, though England are likely to change the order up a bit: Danni Wyatt, coming off a pretty encouraging showing in WBBL, is likely to open in the T20s, but not in the ODIs. The only real area of debate is the duel between Lauren Winfield and Fran Wilson for the final spot in the late middle-order, with Wilson probably edging it, thanks in part to her exceptional fielding which often adds 10-20 runs to whatever she gets with the bat.

Overall, England really ought to be targeting a whitewash, certainly in the more predictable ODI format. However, there are some worries that the players who went to WBBL are tired, after racing round Australia at a million miles an hour for six weeks, while those who didn’t have been stuck indoors at Loughborough for three months and may be rusty, so don’t under-price Pakistan pulling off an upset in the 1st ODI. Even if they do, expect normal service to be resumed pretty sharply, with England winning the ODIs 2-1 and the T20s 3-0.

Fans in England will, we understand, be able to watch the action on something I believe the kids call “The You Tubes”, but a good supply of coffee will be essential, as the ODIs start at 1:30am on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, with the T20 series following the week after with 2am starts!

Women’s County Cricket Day 2020 – Setting A Day?

By Richard Clark

With the 2020 Women’s County T20 fixtures now out there for human consumption, thoughts have been turning in this parish to next summer’s Women’s County Cricket Day.

Question one on the agenda – will there be one? The abolition (there really is no other word for it) of the 50-over Championship has reduced the County calendar to just four days of cricket. Slim pickings, by any yardstick, but still County cricket, and, as Syd was quick to emphasise, while there is Women’s County Cricket there should be a Women’s County Cricket Day. He is right, of course.

So we’ve had the calendars out and we’ve been poring over Google Maps trying to assess the best of the four days to choose. And the thing is, it’s not easy, because there isn’t an ideal date. And for that reason, I thought it was worth letting everyone in on the factors that come into play here.

For those who don’t know, there are four rounds of fixtures, across five Divisions, scheduled on Friday 8th May, Monday 25th May (both Bank Holidays) and Sundays 7th and 21st June. Thirty-four “Counties” are, as with previous seasons, split into National Divisions 1 and 2 and a regionalised Division 3 – very roughly speaking split into South West, Eastern Counties, and Midlands/North.

Some maths to begin with – whatever date we choose, there will only be eleven “fixtures”. Or, to put it more accurately, 34 matches but only eleven venues where cricket is being played. The triangular nature of the T20 competition – whilst an excellent format – means that only a third of counties, rather than half of them, are “at home”. That’s not ideal when you want to spread the net as wide as possible. Still, nothing we can do about it…

It’s also worth pointing out that no venues are known yet, so we can only think in terms of Counties rather than specific grounds at this stage.

With the benefit of last year’s campaign, I had a “wish list” of factors in mind that would make up a perfect reprise. I didn’t expect it all to fall into place, but honestly, I’m not sure there could conceivably have been a less favourable combination of fixtures over the four dates!

Some desirables remained unchanged from last year – for example, it would ideally be fairly early in the season, before international duties deprived us of the star attractions, and a day where there were minimal clashes with men’s county cricket so that we weren’t overshadowed or seen to be in conflict with “The Other Game” at all.

But two other things mattered to me. WCCD 2019 was very South-centric, as several in Yorkshire and Lancashire in particular were swift to mention. We didn’t plan it that way, it just happened that the optimum date fell when most of the Northern and Midlands counties were down South. But it did mean that the first thing I looked for this year were the days when there was a good deal of cricket north of Watford!

Friends, let me tell you, both Yorkshire and Lancashire have just ONE home fixture. In both cases it’s the final day of the season – Sunday 21st June – which you might think would make it a front runner for WCCD.

(Incidentally, if you’re wondering about a mouth-watering “Roses” clash, the teams are in different Divisions, so there isn’t one…)

Be that as it may, there are problems with 21st June. Firstly, whilst the international fixtures haven’t been announced yet, it’s highly likely to be in the midst of England’s series against New Zealand, meaning no England players on show.

It’s also a date when Division 3C has no scheduled fixtures at present. Now I strongly suspect, based on what happened last summer (which would take too much explaining to bore you with right now), that that will change, but I’m reluctant to gamble on it, and it doesn’t sit right with me to potentially exclude four of the less-heralded counties from WCCD altogether.

On top of that, Sunday 21st June sees seven matches in the men’s T20 Blast – just the sort of clash with the men’s game that we really want to avoid if at all possible.

And while we’re on that subject, Sunday 7th June (round three of fixtures) also suffers from a likely clash with the New Zealand series – or, at the very least, pre-series training camps – as well as coming up against another packed day of T20 Blast action.

The other “wish list” item was to have as many counties as possible who were away on WCCD 2019 playing at home on WCCD 2020, for what I hope would be obvious reasons. I won’t numb you with the numbers, but take it from me that the two June dates work out worst on this score as well.

So what about the brace of Bank Holidays in May?

I like the feel of a Bank Holiday, if I’m honest. It always strikes me as being a “spare” day. People often have their Saturday and Sunday routines planned out, but a Bank Holiday is a bonus, a day you can fill with something a little out of the ordinary, a day you can turn into an “occasion”.

Monday 25th May has distinct advantages. There are men’s County Championship matches scheduled that day – in fact all 18 Counties are down to play – but here’s the thing. It’s day four! Some, maybe many, perhaps even most, will be done and dusted. Others will be in the death throes. It feels like a day when the men’s game will be off the radar to an extent – in fact, there might be county supporters looking for matches to watch as their hoped-for fare has finished early!

But there’s also a snag. The furthest women’s cricket ventures North that day is Staffordshire. There is cricket to be seen elsewhere in the Midlands – Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Shropshire all host games – but nothing beyond that cluster. It’s almost exactly the situation I wanted to avoid!

Friday 8th May appeals more on that score. We may be out of luck with the Houses of York and Lancaster, but there are home fixtures for Durham (where Lancashire are one of the visiting teams), Cheshire and Nottinghamshire as well as Staffordshire. Looking at the “dots” on my maps it’s by far the best geographical spread of the four days. And only three counties are at home having been at home last year – it’s the best of the four possible days in that regard too.

However, it’s a Friday, and somehow a Friday doesn’t really seem like a Bank Holiday as much as a Monday does, especially this one, which is a new innovation (I wasn’t aware of it myself until I went looking for reasons why the ECB had been so utterly bonkers as to schedule women’s county cricket on a bog-standard Friday!). Might the unexpected and away-from-the-norm nature of the day work against us?

It’s also early May, and – let’s not beat about the bush – this is England. It could well be the proverbial scorcher, but equally I spent much of last summer’s WCCD (6th May, in case you’d forgotten) huddled against a chilly breeze at North Maidenhead, and with the T20 days timetabled to finish as late as 7.30 pm similar weather this year wouldn’t be appealing.

(Oh, and it’s my wife’s birthday… but I won’t tell her if you don’t!)

So there you have it. Not straight-forward at all. At this stage no decision has been made, and won’t be until the international dates are known at the very least, just to be certain of covering all the bases.

In the meantime, all comments and thoughts from the CRICKETher family are welcome and will be thrown into the mix – it’s not my day, it’s not Raf and Syd’s day, it belongs to all of us, so we’d love your input. You might come up with a compelling factor that none of us had considered!

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Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68

NEWS: Sarah Glenn Called Up To England Squad For Matches Against Pakistan

England have today announced their squad for their matches in Malaysia in December against Pakistan, with the big news a first-time international call-up for 20-year-old leg spinner Sarah Glenn.

Glenn, who represented Loughborough Lightning in the last 2 editions of the KSL, was called up to the England Training Squad on the back of a strong 2018 season, and ranked as the fifth best bowler in our 2019 KSL analysis with 11 wickets at 6.05 – the joint-second best Economy Rate in KSL 2019, behind only Marizanne Kapp.

Fast bowler Freya Davies makes a return after missing out over the summer, having finished as leading wicket-taker in KSL 2019, while Mady Villiers – who made her debut against Australia at Bristol in July and looks set to be handed a central contract in January – also makes the cut.

However, Glenn’s fellow leg-spinner Sophia Dunkley misses out, as do senior pros Georgia Elwiss and Laura Marsh.

While the appointment of England’s new coach Lisa Keightley was announced recently, Keightley remains in Australia with the Perth Scorchers for now, with this squad presumably selected on the basis of recommendations from acting head coach Ali Maiden and captain Heather Knight.

However, Keightley will no doubt be keeping a close eye on proceedings in what will be one of the last opportunities for these players to make a case for themselves ahead of the WWT20 in February.

The full squad is as follows:

  • Heather Knight (Berkshire)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
  • Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
  • Kate Cross (Lancashire)
  • Freya Davies (Sussex)
  • Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
  • Sarah Glenn (Worcestershire)
  • Kirstie Gordon (Nottinghamshire)
  • Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
  • Nat Sciver (Surrey)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Berkshire)
  • Mady Villiers (Essex)
  • Fran Wilson (Kent)
  • Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
  • Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

England will be playing 3 ODIs (with 6 available points on offer in the ICC Women’s Championship), and 3 T20s against Pakistan. The ECB have confirmed today that all 6 matches will be live-streamed and available to watch in the UK.

  • December 9: First ODI, Pakistan v England, Kinrara Oval, 1.30am GMT
  • December 12: Second ODI, Pakistan v England, Kinrara Oval, 1.30am GMT
  • December 14: Third ODI, Pakistan v England, Kinrara Oval, 1.30am GMT
  • December 17: First IT20, Pakistan v England, Kinrara Oval, 2am GMT
  • December 19: Second IT20, Pakistan v England, Kinrara Oval, 2am GMT
  • December 20: Third IT20, Pakistan v England, Kinrara Oval, 2am GMT

NEWS: England Academy Squad Hints At England Contracts For Dunkley & Villiers

Recent debutantes Sophia Dunkley and Mady Villiers appear to have been parachuted into the full England squad, having been left off the list of players selected for the 2019/20 Academy squad.

The new Academy squad includes promotions for Hampshire’s promising allrounder Maia Bouchier; and Sarah Glenn, who had an outstanding KSL for Loughborough Lightning, placing 5th in our KSL Bowling Rankings.

Also new in the Academy squad are Vipers fast bowler Issy Wong, Hampshire keeper Lucia Kendall, Surrey’s Alice Capsey and Sussex’s Freya Kemp.

Missing out from last year’s Academy are Hollie Armitage, Georgie Boyce, Emma Lamb and Ellie Mitchell – though Mitchell is included in a separate “Spin Bowling Group”. However, all of these might expect to actually be better off next year nonetheless, with the strong chance they will be near the top of the lists for one of the 40 new full-time domestic contracts being brought in next season.

England Women’s 2019/20 Academy

  • Lauren Bell (Berkshire)
  • Maia Bouchier (Hampshire)
  • Alice Capsey (Surrey)
  • Charlie Dean (Hampshire)
  • Sarah Glenn (Worcestershire)
  • Danielle Gibson (Wales)
  • Amy Gordon (Surrey)
  • Freya Kemp (Sussex)
  • Lucia Kendall (Hampshire)
  • Ella McCaughan (Sussex)
  • Issy Wong (Warwickshire)

Training Squad

  • Alex Avoth (Hampshire)
  • Grace Ballinger (Warwickshire)
  • Chloe Brewer (Surrey)
  • Ria Fackrell (Warwickshire)
  • Lauren Filer (Somerset)
  • Alex Griffiths (Wales)
  • Sophie Munro (Nottinghamshire)
  • Sonali Patel (Middlesex)
  • Grace Scrivens (Kent)
  • Deeksha Sharma (Surrey)
  • Olivia Thomas (Lancashire)
  • Natasha Wraith (Somerset)

Spin Bowling Group

  • Hannah Baker (Worcestershire)
  • Helen Fenby (Durham)
  • Bethan Miles (Buckinghamshire)
  • Ellie Mitchell (Somerset)
  • Ilenia Sims (Staffordshire)
  • Sophia Smale (Wales)

NEWS: Lisa Keightley Appointed England Coach

The ECB have announced that Australian Lisa Keightley will be Mark Robinson’s replacement as the new Head Coach of England Women.

Keightley, 48, is currently the Head Coach of Western Australia in the WNCL and Perth Scorchers in the WBBL.

The former Australian international previously served as Head Coach of the England Women’s Academy between 2011 and 2015.

Keightley, already absorbing the official lingo, said she was “massively” excited about her new role. “It’s a huge opportunity. It’s a team full of world-class players and to be given the chance to work with some of the players who I worked with a few years ago is really exciting. I can’t wait to get started and see where we can get to.”

“England are the current 50-over World Champions and they made it to the final of the last ICC Women’s T20 World Cup. They’re a very competitive side and they wouldn’t be in big matches like that if they didn’t have a really strong group of players who can perform on the big stage. I’m really looking forward to getting underway and helping the team progress.”

Managing Director of Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, said: “Lisa was the stand-out candidate from a varied and highly talented group of applicants.”

The interview panel, which consisted of Jonathan Finch, Clare Connor, John Neal and Tom Harrison, were impressed by Keightley’s demonstration of her suitability for the role, her impressive knowledge of the game and her passion for coaching and developing players.

“She outlined clear plans as to how she believes she can take the team and this group of players forward,” said Connor.

Keightley will begin the role formally in January, following the end of the 2019 WBBL tournament, with Interim Head Coach Alastair Maiden continuing to lead the team until that time.

Keightley will be stepping down as Women’s Head Coach of London Spirit in The Hundred, and her replacement in that role will be announced in due course.

OPINION: Will The Centres Of Excellence Be The Kia Super League Mark Two?

One of the major disappointments surrounding the launch of The Hundred (Women’s Competition) has been the simultaneous end to the highly successful Kia Super League.

In a relatively short space of time (four years), the KSL developed a strong fanbase – as evidenced by the sea of orange / green / purple / etc shirts sported by supporters at matches – and was able to attract good sized crowds, including two sell-out Finals Days at Hove. In one fell swoop the ECB appeared to have abolished the whole concept and all the accompanying teams in favour of their glitzy new format.

Or had they?

We now know that the 8 new Centres of Excellence will operate in the following areas: North West (incorporating Lancashire), North East (incorporating Yorkshire), West Midlands, East Midlands (incorporating Loughborough University), South West & Wales (incorporating Somerset / Gloucestershire), South Central (incorporating Hampshire), London & South East (incorporating Surrey), and London & East.

While we don’t yet know who the host counties will be for each region, there was a STRONG hint from Clare Connor at the launch that Loughborough might well end up as the host for the East Midlands region – “The whole process within regions is open to any cricket-minded organisation,” she said. “It might be that within the East Midlands region, Loughborough University are the regional lead for that region. It’s not wedded to the county structure.”

When you put it like that, it becomes apparent that 6 of these Regional Centres have something important in common: they represent the old KSL franchises – with bonus extra teams in London & East and in the West Midlands.

It really is the KSL Mark Two – only this time, the teams will also be playing 50-over cricket (as was originally the intention for the KSL).

There is an added aspect to this. The “Centres of Excellence” are as yet unnamed, but they will need a rebrand ahead of their launch in 2020 – “Regional Centre” isn’t exactly the catchiest title!

The strength of the KSL was that each of the 6 teams was founded on strong, solid branding – see for example the Ageas Bowl (home of the Vipers) becoming known as the “Snake Pit”, or Western Storm adopting a song about combine harvesters as their team ditty.

So… why not use what you’ve already got? The South West & Wales region can be the “Western Storm” CoE. The South Central region can be the “Southern Vipers” CoE. Assuming the ECB have no objection to the use of county names, the London & South East region could even be the “Surrey Stars” CoE. Etc, etc, etc.

This would not only save a whole lot of time and effort, it would save the Regional Centres having to reinvent the wheel and come up with shiny new branding, when they’ve already got quite enough to be getting on with (we’re only about 6 months away from the start of the new season and there are a LOT of logistics to sort out before then, not to mention player recruitment!)

In fact arguably, in order for the Regional Centres to be any more successful than the Women’s County Championship at attracting spectators, they NEED to focus on branding, and not simply consider themselves to be running a slightly more updated version of Super Fours – i.e. a development competition only. This will, after all, be the premier 50-over competition (and possibly after 2021 the premier 20-over competition) being played in England. As I see it, it’s a no-brainer: use the brands you’ve already got to market these new teams.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’ve a sneaking suspicion (having looked at the layout of the new regions) that this might even be what the ECB had in mind all along. Maybe it was never about getting rid of the KSL altogether – maybe it was always about ensuring that the Women’s Hundred and the KSL (Mark Two) would be able to happily co-exist?

THE HUNDRED: Why Was There No Women’s Draft?

During the men’s draft for The Hundred last night, quite a few people were questioning when the women’s draft was happening, and were subsequently surprised to learn that there wasn’t going to be one, asking if this was another case of “All cricketers are equal… but the men are more equal than the women”?

Sources at the ECB have told us that they did consider holding a women’s draft, but decided against it; and we think that this was actually the correct decision.

The main stated reason for this is that the average age of the women is much lower than the men – there were going to be a lot of teenagers involved, and you simply can’t just pack a seventeen year old girl off to the other end of the country, to live and play for six weeks with people she doesn’t really know, and expect that to not end up with problems somewhere along the line – at best homesickness; at worst, a life-changing mental health crisis.

Of course, the ECB could have excluded teenagers from the competition, or found a way for them to “dodge” the draft, but excluding them completely would defeat the entire object, and allowing them to dodge the draft would have made the process ridiculously complicated and/ or unfair.

There were also no doubt a couple of other considerations at the back of peoples’ minds at the ECB.

One was the issue of players who come as a “package” – you get both, or you get neither. Arguably, you could say “That’s their problem!” but then don’t be surprised if several of the world’s best players decide to say “Thanks… but no thanks!”

There are also… inevitably… a few instances of players who absolutely will NOT play together any more, for similar reasons, and again this would be very complicated to handle in a draft. You could have given players an “Objection” but then someone would inevitably ask “Why?” and then… well… as the kids say… awks!

It was also the case that the England players didn’t want a draft. After their experience of being shifted around in the KSL – a much more contentious (and occasionally fraught) process behind the scenes than people ever let on – they wanted to be in control of their own careers and destinies, which was especially important given that The Hundred isn’t really just six weeks for the women, because the franchises are likely to be strongly tied to the Centres of Excellence. So the ECB listened to what the players had to say, and acted on it.

Therefore they opted instead to have an “open market” system, where players could accept or reject offers – so if people wanted to play with (or not play with) a particular coach or other player, or in a particular city a long way from home, they could ensure that.

It might not have had the excitement and media impact of a draft, but it by-passed a lot of potential problems – the ECB don’t get everything right, and we’ve been very critical of The Hundred at times; but in this case they made the right call for the right reasons.