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.”

DEEP DIVE: Women’s County Cricket In 2021

By Richard Clark

Good news arrived late last week with the announcement* of the ECB County T20 Cup fixtures for 2021, as devoted fans of the weekly CRICKETher Vodcast will doubtless have noted.

(* It should not go un-noted that describing it as an “announcement” is over-egging things hugely. The fixtures appeared on Play Cricket, much like Mr Benn’s shopkeeper, ‘as if by magic’, and it is hard to escape the feeling that enthusiasm at ECB Towers for women’s county cricket and the promotion thereof is thin on the ground. Be that as it may, however…)

Having been granted a stay of execution for 2020 and 2021, last summer’s competition was mothballed initially – and ultimately cancelled – as a result of the Covid pandemic, and there had been some concern that impetus for one last fling might be lacking after a two-year gap, so it’s pleasing to see those fears allayed. The virus still holds us in its grip, of course, but let’s be optimistic and assume for now that county cricket will be played – and watched – in 2021!

The schedule looks a little different from the last T20 Cup in 2019 (and the abandoned 2020 campaign), when the format mirrored the 50-over competition in being based on three Divisions, with the lowest level organised into three regions. This time around the structure is wholly regional, based around six Groups of six teams (five in one case), and with no suggestion of a play-off system or similar to decide an overall champion.

The reasons for this are not explicit, but it is probably safe to assume that minimising costs such as travelling and overnight stops is a major factor, whether by edict from the ECB or at the request of the counties themselves. Either way there is some sense behind the change, even if it is not quite ideal in other ways.

Matches will take place over four consecutive weekends – Sunday 25th April, Monday 3rd May, Sunday 9th May, and Sunday 16th May. Once again the format is based almost exclusively around the tried and tested ‘triangular’ fixtures with three counties meeting at a single venue – the home team playing first and last – although one fixture in the North Group each week will be a straight back-to-back double-header with that Group consisting of only five teams.

Whilst the set-up works in allowing as many matches to be played as possible, it does have flaws in being limited to the four-week window.

Not everyone will play everyone else twice. In fact, some counties will not meet others at all. In the South East Group for instance, Surrey play Essex, Kent, Middlesex and Sussex twice each… but won’t cross swords with Hampshire at all. One wonders whether an extra round of fixtures could have been a simple solution to that…?

There are also some geographical anomalies. As Syd noted on the Vodcast, his beloved Berkshire have relocated to the West Midlands. So have Somerset. And Wales. To make the journey from Berkshire to Wales along the M4 one travels south of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, yet those counties are in the South West Group. And Somerset will hike through Gloucestershire to reach parts of the West Midlands. Meanwhile, Shropshire is now in the East Midlands, despite being further West than four of the West Midlands counties.

Again the reasons for this can only be guessed at, but the suspicion must be that it’s an attempt to “level up” the competition. Somerset, for instance, might have proved too strong for a South West Division containing five counties which plied their trade in Division Three last time cricket was played. If you read this and feel tempted to shoot the messenger, by the way, (a) it IS only a guess, and (b) I didn’t compile the Groups!

Some Groups will be stronger than others – if this was a World Cup we would no doubt be talking the South East up as the proverbial “Group of Death”, whereas the East Group comprises traditional Division Three counties only. My advice would be not to let that fool you, however – if it turns out to be anything like 2020’s inaugural East of England Championship then some treats will be in store from those less heralded teams. The 50-over competition there took in six matches, and four of them were settled by one run, one wicket, two wickets and on a super over respectively!

One wonders about the North Group – Yorkshire and Lancashire up against North East Warriors (Durham and Northumberland combined), Cumbria and Scotland ‘A’. At the risk of encouraging more messenger-shooting that doesn’t necessarily look like the most level playing field for one or two teams, particularly if England players are available to the Roses pair.

And that brings us on to another unknown – will England players be involved? The timing of the competition is such that it would seem to provide an ideal warm-up opportunity ahead of the international summer, but the England hierarchy may feel there is more to be gained in ‘intensive’ training camps. We shall see.

On top of this, of course, we should see ‘unofficial’ 50-over competitions later in the season too. Surrey’s website confirmed the return of the London Championship for a second season at the same time as revealing their T20 fixtures, and the East of England Championship will also be back, with Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire joining Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire & Norfolk from last season in a ringing endorsement of its success.

Hopefully many other counties will look to play friendly matches, or maybe even follow the lead set by others and form their own regional competitions.

And finally – Women’s County Cricket Day will be back! No date set yet, but we can confirm that it will be one of those four ECB T20 days. Look out for further announcements in the New Year!

Full Fixture List here (select required Division from the drop-down menu):

ECB Women’s County Championship (play-cricket.com)

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Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68

OPINION: The Rich Get Richer; The Poor Get The Picture

“The rich get richer; the poor get the picture” sang Pete Garrett on Midnight Oil’s 1982 hit Read About It.

One of the saddest realisations of the past decade has been the way that technology, far from being the democratising force we had all once hoped, has mainly been used to enhance and entrench the riches of the richest. Jeff Bezos buys another private island, while his minimum-waged delivery drivers struggle to pay their rent; Bill Gates pockets another billion, while his software subjects office workers to unprecedented levels of semi-covert surveillance.

The benefits of economic growth over the past 10 years have been disproportionately channelled to those who need it least, as the iron laws of the market have asserted themselves with a ferocity not seen since the early stages of the industrial revolution.

For a long time sport resisted these laws. The greatest footballer of my lifetime – Diego Maradona, who died a couple of weeks ago – grew up in a a third-world slum. In our own sport, England’s greatest allrounder, Enid Bakewell, was born in a mining village in Nottinghamshire. If you could hold a bat, or kick a ball, it didn’t matter where you were from.

Of course, this was only ever true in microcosm, especially in cricket. On an individual level, you were always more likely to succeed if you came from a wealthy family or went to a good school.

Zoom out further, to a national level, and the picture becomes starker still – money talks… loudly and incessantly. No one doubts the talent of players like Ellyse Perry and Meg Lanning; but the unprecedented levels of “investment” (which, after all, is just a polite way of saying “money”) that have been poured in by Cricket Australia have undoubtedly been a factor in their success.

Thus far, however, that investment has mostly been systemic – it’s investment in the clubs; the training facilities; and the coaches – and the human factor has remained the key wildcard. You can have all the “investment” in the world, but 18 year old Hayley Matthews can still walk into a World Cup final and rough you up, with talent that no money can buy… right?

Yes… but also… no.

A recent piece by Brittany Carter – How women’s cricket is being influenced by Major League Baseball – describes the use of a something called a “Blast Motion Sensor”. This is a high-tech gizmo which attaches to the bottom of the bat during training, and syncs up with an app to analyse the player’s bat swing, providing them with feedback which allows them to pinpoint areas of improvement to increase the power of their swing.

Human coaches have always done something like this, but this technology automates and enhances the degree of analysis and feedback possible from a human coach, allowing the player to fine-tune their game beyond the Nth degree.

This tech is being used today in domestic cricket in Australia, to augment the skills of the next generation; and it is undoubtedly amazing.

What it isn’t, however, is cheap; and that’s the grit, because like all tech, this stuff costs money – real money, that the 1% have and the 99% don’t; money that will buy an edge for the next generation… but only for those who can afford it. No girl in Moga, India (where Harmanpreet is from) or Barbados, West Indies (where Hayley Matthews grew up) will have access to these wonders.

And so in cricket, as in life, the 1% will pull away, using technology to fortify and magnify all the advantages they already have, leaving the rest – the 99%, also known as “us” – standing at the side of the road, peering in awe at their increasingly distant tail-lights.