NEWS: ECB Hint At Reduction in Contracted England Players

Emails seen by CRICKETher possibly suggest that the ECB may be planning to reduce the number of contracted England players by almost a quarter, from 20-odd to just 16.

Currently there are officially 21 contracted players (though rumour has it (and you know how we love a rumour) that there are actually 22) which includes 3 players on “rookie” contracts, who are expected to train with the fully contracted players but are not paid a full-time living wage.

But two separate emails seen by CRICKETher suggest that when it comes to The Hundred, coaches will be selecting from a pool of just 16 centrally contracted England players – implying a reduction of five.

If so, this would bring the women more into line with the men, where there are generally around 15 centrally contracted players, though the men’s setup is split between separate red and white ball contracts, with some players holding just one and others both.

A year ago, this would have been very bad news for the five players losing their central deals. Although the players are paid for playing in the Kia Super League, it isn’t enough to support training full time, with the rest of the domestic setup being entirely amateur, and the players let go last year had just a few weeks to find jobs or literally face the dole queue.

However, the forthcoming changes to the setup of domestic cricket allow some scope for the ECB to make this reduction, because The Hundred and the newly aligned elite 20 and 50-over competitions are expected to pay a (small) full time wage, which could mean that the rookie players at least may actually be better off next year as a result; though if any fully contracted players were let go, they would probably have to take a hit, and they would lose their Kia Sportages – the lovely, big, shiny cars they get as part of Kia’s sponsorship deal with the ECB.

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STATS: Women’s Ashes – Bowling Rankings

Player Matches Wickets Economy
1. Sophie Ecclestone 7 13 3.69
2. Ellyse Perry 7 15 4.28
3. Jess Jonassen 7 11 3.4
4. Megan Schutt 7 10 3.36
5. Laura Marsh 6 8 3.92
6. Katherine Brunt 6 8 4.04
7. Delissa Kimmince 6 8 4.76
8. Sophie Molineux 3 5 3.16
9. Ashleigh Gardner 7 5 3.25
10. Anya Shrubsole 6 5 4.66
11. Kirstie Gordon 1 3 3.24
12. Nat Sciver 7 5 5.65
13. Kate Cross 6 4 5.53
14. Heather Knight 7 2 3.72
15. Mady Villiers 1 2 5
16. Georgia Wareham 6 2 5.26
17. Tayla Vlaeminck 2 1 3.53
18. Georgia Elwiss 2 0 4.5

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

If there was one bright spot for England in a pretty miserable series it was the class of Sophie Ecclestone, who topped the bowling rankings taking 13 wickets at an Economy Rate of just 3.69 runs per over. Ecclestone worked harder than anyone else in the series – bowling 92 overs, of which 16 were maidens, and was England’s most consistent performer in a series where Australia were dominant with the bat.

As in the batting rankings, Ellyse Perry topped the headline number – talking more wickets than Ecclestone – but was ranked lower due to Ecclestone’s better Economy Rate. It is also possibly worth pointing out that if we caveated Tammy Beaumont’s batting numbers by pointing out that half her runs were scored in one innings, we should perhaps also do the same with Perry, who took 7 of her 15 wickets in that remarkable performance at Canterbury.

For all the pre-series hype about Australia’s young spinners, Georgia Wareham and Sophie Molineux, neither caused England too many problems. Wareham was expensive without having the wickets to compensate – taking just 2 wickets in 6 matches, and going at over 5 an over; while Molineux only made 3 appearances and was obviously still having problems with her shoulder, as confirmed by her subsequent withdrawal from the KSL.

Instead it was Jess Jonassen who finished the series as Australia’s leading spinner. Jonassen is only 26, but somehow already seems to qualify for the epithet of “veteran” – this was her 4th Women’s Ashes, and as well as taking 11 wickets she also scored more runs (128) than several of England’s top order batsmen, in an impressive allround performance by any normal standards – though those “normal” standards have obviously been somewhat overturned by Ellyse Perry in recent years!

STATS: Women’s Ashes – Batting Rankings

Player Matches Runs Strike Rate
1. Meg Lanning 7 359 85.27
2. Alyssa Healy 7 266 90.78
3. Ellyse Perry 7 378 60.09
4. Tammy Beaumont 7 190 98.44
5. Beth Mooney 7 228 81.72
6. Nat Sciver 7 208 59.94
7. Jess Jonassen 7 128 67.36
8. Lauren Winfield 3 71 118.33
9. Ashleigh Gardner 7 89 86.4
10. Rachel Haynes 7 148 40.77
11. Laura Marsh 6 101 57.71
12. Katherine Brunt 6 106 53.53
13. Danni Wyatt 5 55 90.16
14. Heather Knight 7 93 51.09
15. Sophie Ecclestone 7 59 76.62
16. Amy Jones 7 88 48.61
17. Sophie Molineux 3 62 61.38
18. Megan Schutt 7 8 400
19. Delissa Kimmince 6 32 76.19
20. Fran Wilson 3 40 49.38
21. Anya Shrubsole 6 36 31.57
22. Georgia Elwiss 2 14 31.11
23. Nicole Bolton 4 13 24.07
24. Kate Cross 6 9 22.5
25. Sarah Taylor 3 6 27.27
26. Georgia Wareham 6 0 0

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

Unsurprisingly, given they won the series 12-4, the 2019 Women’s Ashes Batting Rankings are dominated by Australians, who make up 7 of the top 10. Overall, Australia’s batsmen scored 1,711 runs in the series, compared with England’s 1,076.

Although Player of the Series Ellyse Perry scored the most runs, she is ranked lower than team-mates Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy due to their superior Strike Rates.

England’s highest-ranked player was Tammy Beaumont, although Nat Sciver scored more runs and was a bit more consistent – over half of Beaumont’s runs came in one innings – her century in the 2nd ODI at Leicester.

England’s batting woes are exemplified as much by who didn’t score runs as who did. Heather Knight and Amy Jones both made less than 100 runs in the entire series, despite playing every match; whilst Danni Wyatt totalled just 55 in 5 innings.

Lauren Winfield on the other hand, who came into the T20s off the back of some decidedly scratchy form in the county season, made the most of her window of opportunity to possibly even save her England career with a couple of good knocks down the order – not the easiest place to bat in T20.

Meanwhile Australia will fly home delighted with the form of Beth Mooney (228 runs in the series) who maybe hadn’t quite 100% cemented her place in the line-up as a pure batsman until now; but perhaps slightly concerned that the jury is still out on Ashleigh Gardner, who is yet to stamp her authority on the international game with the panache she has shown in WBBL; though to be fair, as with Winfield, you have to account for her not batting in the easiest position in the order to make really big runs in the shorter formats of the game.

Women’s Ashes 3rd T20 – England Play The Long Game

Before yesterday’s match, Syd and I discussed how England would approach what was a completely dead rubber. Afterwards, Heather Knight provided the answer:

“We talked after the second game about trying to draw a line in the sand after the series and try and treat today as Day One of us getting back to where we need to be.”

It was an approach that seemed to pay dividends: England bowled better lengths than they had all series, while Lauren Winfield took advantage of a final opportunity to prove to Mark Robinson that she deserves her spot on the plane to Australia next February.

After the match, Australia even looked momentarily downcast, having fallen at the last hurdle in their goal of going unbeaten through the tour. Alyssa Healy actually had to gather the team together and remind them that nothing should be allowed to spoil their celebrations: “There was great leadership from Alyssa Healy at the end there – she brought everyone in together and said ‘lets remember how great this tour’s been’,” Matthew Mott told the media.

Of course it’s easier to play good cricket when the series has already been and gone, but last night – likely to be the last international T20 cricket England play until their tri-series ahead of the World T20 in Australia – was important in showcasing that they can at least be competitive in that tournament.

“We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us to try and catch up with the Australians, to go back to where we need to be and where we want to go,” Knight said.

“That World T20 is going to be a big focus for us now over the next 8 months. The performance we put in is a sign of what we can do.”

It was also a chance to showcase that, far from the cupboard in England being bare, there are young talents emerging: 20-year-old Mady Villiers, who only joined the Academy in November, had a game to remember, taking the crucial wickets of Healy and Ash Gardner on debut.

“Mady was outstanding,” Knight said of the newest addition to her team. “You could see from the look in her eyes, she absolutely loved it out there. That’s what you want to see – you want someone desperate to go out and perform well and she really took the opportunity with both hands.”

All the talk over the past few weeks has been about the disparities between the English and Australian domestic set-ups. Even with the ECB’s proposed changes, the worry remains that England will move further behind Australia before they can even begin to think about catching up, as the new system takes time to bed down and only moves slowly towards becoming fully professional.

With that in mind, the question becomes: When might England next win an Ashes series – 2025? 2027?

A depressing thought. But as a great philosopher once said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. England took that step last night.

OPINION: Cricket Australia Have Broken The WNCL

The announcement of the expansion of the WNCL – the elite domestic 50-over competition in Australia – has been greeted with largely positive headlines… because it is a positive headline.

The WNCL – Women’s National Cricket League – has been running in more-or-less its current format since 1996-97, starting as a home and away league, with a 3-match final series.

This has slowly evolved over the years to the current setup, with 7 teams playing each other once in the league, followed by a one-off final between the top two.

One constant throughout has been New South Wales, who have never failed to reach the final, and have won the tournament 19 times. The only other teams to have won it are Victoria (twice) and South Australia (once).

As with the Women’s County Championship in England, the WNCL has for most of its history been an amateur affair; but the professionalisation of domestic cricket in Australia has now created an opportunity to expand the competition – something the top players have been demanding for a while.

However, instead of going the full distance, and expanding the WNCL (back) to a full “home and away” league, Cricket Australia have chosen the most bizarre compromise – adding just two more matches for each side, so some teams will play each other twice, and others only once.

Although there is a precedent for this in the (Men’s) BBL, where “extra” matches have been scheduled to double-up the number of highly profitable “derbies”, it is still a terrible idea, because it means two teams (ACT and Queensland this coming season) have to play perennial champions New South Wales twice, making a mockery of the balance of the tournament.

Admittedly, this is hardly the end of the world – outside of the women’s cricket bubble, few care about the WNCL, with matches typically attended by only a handful of spectators. But surely the opportunity here was to change that? Instead, Cricket Australia have bottled it and broken the tournament as a genuine sporting contest.

Cricket Australia have led the way in taking the women’s game to remarkable new heights in the past 10 years; but they’ve called this one wrong… and we shouldn’t be afraid to say so!

Women’s Ashes 2nd T20 – The Rise of the Machines

There was a point where England were technically ahead in this 2nd T20 at Hove.

With 37 balls bowled, where England had been 36-2, Australia found themselves 35-3.

“Trouble?” asked the blogger doing ball-by-ball on Cricinfo.

Yup – big trouble… for England!

Because that 3rd wicket brought together Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry who, an hour or so later, closed out the innings on 43 and 47 not out respectively, to give the Southern Stars victory by 7 wickets with 13 balls remaining.

But where Perry had torn through England in the 3rd ODI with one of the great bowling performances of all time; and Lanning had torn not just through England, but also through her own world record book, at Chelmsford in the 1st T20; this was a more clinical… even cynical… affair.

Australia simply didn’t need to tear through anything – they just needed to score 6 runs per over, and that was all.

They didn’t even do that initially – Perry played out 3 dots to Laura Marsh, as the Aussies took just 3 off the 8th over; whilst through the 11th and 12th overs they failed to find the boundary at all.

Yet there was no panic – instead, Lanning and Perry found the gaps and ran hard, closing England down, slowly but surely.

Then the boundaries began to come too – not in a flurry, but relentlessly nonetheless – one 4 off the 13th over; one off the 14th; two off the 15th; and then a 4 and a 6 off the 16th. It was about as exciting as watching grass grow, but it was mighty effective.

England have faced bowling machines aplenty in the nets at Loughborough, but at Hove Lanning and Perry were batting machines – terminators, sent from the future to eliminate all of England’s hopes and dreams.

Listen and understand, as Reese says to Sarah Connor in The Terminator.

Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry are out there.

They can’t be bargained with.

They can’t be reasoned with.

They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear.

And they absolutely will not stop.

Ever.

Until England are dead.

NEWS: New Pro Franchises To Be “Paired” With Women’s Hundred Teams, With Two Marquee England Players Per Side

The ECB has told stakeholders that the new “professional” franchises, or Regional CoEs (“Centres of Excellence”) as they are currently being termed, which will replace elite county cricket from next season, will be directly aligned with the corresponding Women’s Hundred teams.

As part of the ECB’s new £20m investment in women’s and girls’ cricket, the eight new CoEs are expected to be set up by the end of October at the latest, and “paired” with a local Hundred side.

A Director of Women’s Cricket in each CoE will be ultimately responsible for overseeing the operation in each region, and will take post as soon as possible after October.

Permanent coaching and support staff will then be hired by the CoEs and it is anticipated that the paired Hundred franchise will sub-contract these same personnel to provide “year-round” continuity.

However, due to the imperative to have coaches for the Hundred in place by the end of August to facilitate player allocation, interim appointments are likely to be made before then, in order for them to take part in the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not A Draft” process, which will see two marquee England players assigned to each side.

In the draft timetable for next season, the Women’s Hundred will run from 17 July to 14 August; and the CoEs will then participate in a 50-over competition in late August and September. Interestingly, the ECB are also anticipating England playing some international matches in September, which may (or may not) impact player availability for the CoEs.

Related: County Cricket Saved Until At Least 2021 As ECB Promise T20 Cup Funding