NEWS: Ali Maiden Steps Down; Lisa Keightley’s Coaching Team Takes Shape

The ECB have today announced that Alistair Maiden, the current England Assistant Coach, is stepping down from his current role to take up a post as Head of Talent Pathway at Leicestershire CCC.

Maiden has been part of the England set-up since 2011, initially as Lead Batting Coach, before becoming Assistant Coach in 2017. He played an important role in England’s World Cup win in 2017, and most recently served as Acting Head Coach for England’s whitewash of Pakistan in Malaysia.

Maiden’s sideways move to Leicestershire comes as no surprise: he worked closely with former coach Mark Robinson throughout his tenure as Assistant Coach, and following Robinson’s departure in August this decision was probably inevitable sooner rather than later.

It is also telling that Maiden is being replaced by Tim Macdonald, who has previously served as new Head Coach Lisa Keightley’s deputy at the Perth Scorchers WBBL. MacDonald – who will be in place initially only for the duration of the World T20 – appears to have been handpicked by Keightley to join the England set-up, with (as far as we are aware) no formal appointment process in place for the role.

Keightley and Macdonald’s first assignment will be the tri-series against Australia and India which begins in Canberra on January 31st.

BOOK LAUNCH: “Ladies and Lords: A History of Women’s Cricket in Britain”

On Wednesday 22 January, Raf will be launching her new book – Ladies and Lords: A History of Women’s Cricket in Britain.

The book is the first ever comprehensive history of women’s cricket in Britain, and covers the whole period from the first ever recorded match in 1745 to England’s World Cup triumph at Lord’s in 2017.

The launch is taking place in conjunction with the Cricket Society, and will be held at 7pm at the Union Jack Club in London (opposite Waterloo station). All are welcome to come along (no need to RSVP!)

The CRICKETher 2019 Christmas Quiz

England v Pakistan 3rd T20 – England Spread The Batting Load Around

England once again showed the breadth of batting talent currently available to them in their 26-run win against Pakistan today, with the top 5 all making decent contributions  to complete a tour clean-sweep across both the ODI and T20 formats.

It’s been one of the hallmarks of this tour that it hasn’t been the same batsmen making all the running, with Tammy Beaumont, Danni Wyatt and Nat Sciver all adding to their century tallies, and Amy Jones, Heather Knight and Fran Wilson all falling just short of doing so with scores in the 80s. Wilson, whose place was in some doubt after missing out for much of last summer, has had a particularly good time of it; and shared an important late partnership with Beaumont in today’s game, the pair adding 44 runs across the last 4 overs of the England innings after things had stalled a bit in the middle period.

It looks a fairly safe bet that these 6 – Beaumont, Wyatt, Sciver, Jones, Knight and Wilson – will now make up the core of England’s batting in the forthcoming WWT20, with Lauren Winfield – who did get an outing today but unfortunately for her didn’t actually make it to the middle – looking like she will miss out.

The real question, then, is over the batting order. The thinking seems to be that we should expect the unexpected, with no one player “nailed on” to come in at number 3, even in similar match situations. In the first T20, with England losing their first wicket in over 4, Beaumont did the job; while today, with the first wicket going down in the 5th over, Knight was tasked with the role and Beaumont dropped down to number 5. Remarks on commentary suggest this is a deliberate strategy, designed to ensure maximum flexibility. It’s certainly an interesting approach, though I’m not sure I agree with relegating the best batsman (a title to which Beaumont certainly has a claim) to number 5.

With the ball, Sarah Glenn has enjoyed a memorable first tour in England colours, and continued her honeymoon period by picking up another couple of wickets in today’s game. Of course the real test – Australia in home conditions in February – still awaits her; but Knight has shown good faith in giving her a decent run to start her career, with signs that England might prefer to have a leg spinner in their armoury rather than a second leftie (Kirstie Gordon remaining on the bench for the whole tour).

Ahead of the tour we thought Pakistan had a decent shot at sneaking a win past England, but in truth they never really came close to a winning position in any of the 6 matches – credit to England for never taking their foot off the pedal. Of the Pakistani bowlers, Diana Baig had a good tour, with England struggling to score against her throughout; she finished up with a couple of wickets today, dismissing both Wyatt and Knight with some clever variations in pace. Leggie Syeda Shah, who made her debut in the T20 series, looks like a good bet for the future at just 15 years old. Pakistan’s main concern should be their batting – with Sana Mir MIA, Bismah Maroof was left to score the vast weight of the runs (24%), the rest of the order showing a worrying tendency to crumble around her.

Overall, England probably got out of the tour everything they could have hoped for – some decent match time (only one of the matches rain-affected in the end), a chance to expose their younger players to international cricket in a relatively low-stakes series, and the opportunity for their batsmen (still bruised after the heavy loss to Australia) to regain some confidence ahead of the World Cup.

England v Pakistan 2nd T20 – Good… But Could Time In The Eye Gym Help England Do Even Better?

England clocked-up a huge 84-run win against Pakistan in the 2nd T20 today in Kuala Lumpur, after Amy Jones (89) and Danni Wyatt (55) put on 120 for the first wicket in just 11.2 overs.

It was a stupendous start from Jones and Wyatt, and I was just reaching for my laptop to look up whether two hundreds had ever been scored in the same innings before, in men’s or women’s T20 internationals, when Wyatt was dismissed. (The answer appears to be “No”, by the way.)

Following Wyatt’s departure, England’s Run Rate dropped off somewhat, as the worm shows:

Having been going at almost 11-an-over, they dropped back to a little over 7, and a total that had been heading for well over 200 fell back to “just” 185.

It was still plenty enough of course – Pakistan’s highest ever score in a T20 is 177 – that was in Kuala Lumpur too, but versus lowly Malaysia, and against England their top order pretty-much folded in the face of the size of the ask in front of them. Aside from a battling 38 off 35 balls from Iram Javed, the only other positive they could really take is that the tail clung on to “go the distance” as they finished 9 down.

So England will be happy… but could they be happier? Should they have got closer to 210-220?

It is normal of course for players to take a few balls to “get themselves in”, but Sciver and Knight chewed-up 14 balls between them at a Strike Rate of less than 75 – that’s two-and-a-bit overs, which could be crucial in a big semi or final in Australia next year. So how could this be addressed?

The Telegraph’s Women’s Sport section’s list of Women of the Year, published this week, included an interesting name I’d never heard of: Sherylle Calder. Calder has (as far as I can see) never played top-level sport, but she’s on the list because she worked with England’s men’s rugby team at this year’s World Cup in Japan as a “vision specialist” – improving the players’ hand-eye coordination, among other approaches by using a specially developed set of video “games” called EyeGym.

A top player would never dream of going out to bat without warming-up her body, and they might take a few “throw-downs” as well to get the feel of leather on willow, but could the use of something like EyeGym help to get their vision closer to “the zone” before they have to actually face a ball in anger?

It wouldn’t be a cure-all – there’s lots you can’t account for, especially the pitch – but in a game of fine margins, it might be worth a run or two an over; and while that might not have mattered against Pakistan today, against Australia at the MCG next spring, it could be all the difference in the world.

England v Pakistan 1st T20 – England’s World T20 Team Takes Shape

Is today’s XI the team which will take to the field come February 23, England’s first fixture in the 2020 World Twenty20? It seems more than likely. Heather Knight may change things up later in this series, but for now, you’d say that this is the team she believes has the best shot at winning them the world title.

That means Amy Jones back at the top of the order, with Tammy Beaumont dropping down to 3, which is my personal preference, as I tweeted during the second ODI:

Jones certainly looked much more confident today, hitting a 38-ball half-century. It wasn’t a chanceless innings, featuring a couple of inside edges which she was lucky to get away with, but in T20 you need to take risks, especially when your partner at the other end is getting a bit bogged down.

For their part, Pakistan bowled well enough to restrict Tammy Beaumont to only a-run-a-ball. In particular, 15-year-old debutant Syeda Shah dazzled the England batsmen with her leg spin: Jones bowled after failing to read a straight one, while only a fumble by wicketkeeper Sidra Nawaz prevented Shah from also picking up the wicket of Nat Sciver in her next over.

Oddly, when Beaumont was finally dismissed in the 16th, England chose to send in Katherine Brunt at 5. With 4-and-a-bit overs still remaining, you’d think that Knight would back herself ahead of her frontline seamer; or even Fran Wilson, fresh from her unbeaten 85 in the second ODI. Not only is the England captain clearly the superior batsman, I’d also question whether it’s really worth knackering Brunt with the bat in this heat when you also want her to open with the ball? (Her economy rate today – 9 – seemed to suffer accordingly.) I’m not sure it’s a tactic I’d repeat.

As it turned out, when Knight did finally make it to the crease in the final over, she bludgeoned three consecutive boundaries. Of course England won easily – never in doubt? hmmm – but you’d hope they might be scoring upwards of 175 batting first against Pakistan, who are clearly a much weaker side.

One player who must surely have cemented her place in the WT20 squad after today’s game is Freya Davies. With Davies entrusted with opening the bowling for England, it seems that Knight has more faith in her Western Storm (and soon to be London Spirit) teammate than former coach Mark Robinson; faith that was repaid handsomely today. Bowling quickly and getting a touch of swing, Davies made as experienced a batsman as Javeria Khan look ridiculous – the opener totally exposing her stumps, swinging and missing completely as the ball clattered into off-stump. Davies’ ability to bowl dot balls in the powerplay – she managed 9 today – is also invaluable.

If this IS Knight’s first-choice XI, you’d expect England to go into the 2nd T20 unchanged, to give them another outing together ahead of their Australian odyssey. Mady Villiers and Kirstie Gordon might therefore have to wait a bit longer to get their first opportunity of the tour.

England v Pakistan 3rd ODI – Glenn Spinning In The Rain

ICC Championship Played Won Lost Tied / N/R Points Max*
Australia 18 17 1 0 34 40
England 21 14 6 1 29 29
India 18 10 8 0 20 26
Pakistan 18 7 9 2 16 22
South Africa 15 7 6 2 16 28
New Zealand 15 7 8 0 14 26
West Indies 21 6 14 1 13 13
Sri Lanka 18 1 17 0 2 8

* Max = maximum possible points achievable.

England will finish in 2nd place in the Women’s International Championship after rain washed out the final match of their ODI series with Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur, with none of the side below them able to get more than their 29 points.

As we stand, India now also appear all-but certain to automatically qualify for the World Cup, with the latest gossip from ICC Towers suggesting that the points are looking likely to be shared between them and Pakistan for their unplayed series. (Last time around, the ICC awarded all the points to Pakistan, but the rules have been tweaked since then, with the BCCI now able to argue that it was outside their control, because it was the Indian government (not the BCCI) that prevented the series going ahead.)

Finally, this also means that South Africa need just two more wins from their 6 remaining matches against New Zealand and Australia to join the automatic qualification party, so you’d think it will probably (but by no means certainly, yet) be Pakistan who will join Sri Lanka and the Windies at the qualifiers.

But I digress…

England won the toss again, for the third time in the series, and opted to bowl this time. Perhaps they were just bored with batting? Or perhaps they had seen the forecast and wanted to chase in a potential Duckworth-Lewis situation?

Pakistan got off to a good start – Nahida and Javeria trotting along at 6 an over, until the introduction of Freya Davies, making her ODI debut, in the 9th over. Davies began by bowling a maiden to Javeria, keeping it full on middle / middle-and-leg stumps; and went on to concede just 7 runs in her first spell – bowling just one bad ball in 4 overs. A second spell saw her finish with 0-19 off 7 overs – an Economy Rate of just 2.71, having made a really impressive start to her ODI career.

The one thing Davies didn’t get was a wicket in reward for her efforts – they were all going into Sarah Glenn’s bag, as she picked up a 4fer in her 3rd ODI. If she’s honest… and I’m sure she will be, because the best players generally are… Glenn will likely admit that this was actually not the best she has bowled in the series – there were a few loose deliveries, and she was a tad fortunate to end up with an Economy Rate even lower than Davies at 2.25 – better batsmen would have punished her in the runs column. However, you can’t argue with the wickets – the last in particular was a beauty which turned just enough to pass the bat and clip off stump.

Anya Shrubsole also grabbed 3 wickets, including two-in-two, and was looking dangerous for more with her inswingers before the rain came down with Pakistan 145-8. Shrubsole’s assured place in the side is actually under a bit of pressure for the first time in several years, with Brunt still doing what she does, Cross bowling sharply, and now Davies making a case too; but Shrubsole is a big game player and England will want that in Australia, so it was a good time for her to find some form.

We now move on to the T20s next week – Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Perhaps expect Glenn to be given a rest and Kirstie Gordon to get the chance to have a crack at the Pakistani batsmen for the first time on this tour, as England play their final matches before selection for the T20 World Cup. (They will play a tri-series v Australia and India prior to the World Cup, but the squad will be the same.)