OPINION: Where Does Alice Capsey Fit Into An England XI?

Having said that I think Surrey South East Stars allrounder Alice Capsey should be in the England XI, it’s not unreasonable to ask exactly where she fits in.

The case for Capsey is twofold. First that she is the best uncapped player in England. With Emma Lamb now ruled out of that particular race, after making her debut at Chelmsford last week, the only other player you might have an argument about is Eve Jones, who has been in sparkling (sorry!) form over the past couple of years.

I like Jones – she has grafted to adapt to the shorter forms of the game, which didn’t come quite so naturally to her; and given the number of first, second (and even third!) chances given to others over the years, Jones absolutely should have been given a opportunity for England when she was younger.

But what Capsey has over and above anyone else is a second thing: potential. She’s one of England’s best players now, at just-turned-17; so what could she be in a few years? Eve Jones herself is the role model here – if Capsey works as hard in the next few years, as Jones has in the past few, she will absolutely be the best player in the world, and that’s what she should be aiming at.

And that’s why it is so important that she gets into the England XI now. You can learn a lot from having a great coaching team around you, which Capsey has at Stars; but there is still no substitute for playing with and against the best in the world. The Hundred showed Capsey can mix with the Marizanne Kapps and the Heather Knights – she needs to be doing it every day, not waiting until next year’s Hundred to go again.

But how could England slot her into their current XI? Here’s the team I think England should have been sending out against New Zealand.

  1. Tammy Beaumont
  2. Lauren Winfield-Hill (ODI) / Danni Wyatt (T20)
  3. Alice Capsey
  4. Nat Sciver
  5. Heather Knight
  6. Sophia Dunkley
  7. Amy Jones
  8. Sophie Ecclestone
  9. Freya Davies
  10. Kirstie Gordon
  11. Lauren Bell

There are a couple of other radical choices in there, so let’s talk about them too!

I think it is time for Lauren Bell – I’ve been saying since she was 14 that she would play for England one day, but that day has come – she is the genuine “strike” bowler that England need to put a bit of fear into the opposition ranks. She’ll go for a few runs, and probably bowl a couple of wides, but that’s a price worth paying, and she’s a good complement for Freya Davies to open the bowling at the other end.

And… Kirstie Gordon? Didn’t she lose her England contract? Yup – but she’s the best attacking spinner in the domestic game, and the numbers back that up. It is true that England would then have two left-armers, but they’ve also now got two right-arm spin options as well – Heather Knight and… who else… Alice Capsey. With Nat Sciver able to also contribute with the ball, baking up the two front-line seamers, that’s absolutely plenty of bowling, in an XI which bats – really, properly bats – down to Amy Jones at 7.

This is definitely a line-up with the future partly in mind – particularly batting Capsey at 3, where she should be long-term, not down at 6 or 7. But it is also an XI for right now – a batting line-up that can hit bags of runs, and an exciting bowling quartet, with Bell and Gordon attacking from one end, while Ecclestone and Davies strangle them from the other. (Ecclestone could, you feel, definitely do with not having to be both England’s main attacking option and their main defensive one, which is what she is too often being asked to be at the moment.)

I’ve championed players in the past – Alex Hartley, once upon a time; and Lauren Bell for many years – though I think this is the first time I’ve said that Bell should be playing “now”, as opposed to some time in the future. And I wrote a piece a couple of years ago saying England should have picked Eve Jones for the 2019 Ashes Test.

But in all my years of watching and writing about this game, I’ve never felt there was quite so clear-cut a case as the one Capsey makes now for making her debut in England’s XI. Her performances in The Hundred are what everyone is talking about, but the final of the Charlotte Edwards Cup arguably told an even more significant story: coming in and ramping her first ball for 4; smashing Katie Levick – lest we forget, the all-time leading wicket taker in the history of the Women’s County Championship – back over her head for 6; then giving a master-class in game-management to see the Stars home, all the while looking like there was never any doubt whatsoever that she’d do so.

Stars captain Bryony Smith afterwards called her a “superstar”.

I’ve heard a lot of players called that by their captains, and it’s usually just hyperbole.

This time though it’s true, and England need to put a shirt on her now.

THE HUNDRED: An Uncapped XI

By Richard Clark

Unsurprisingly, most of the big noises throughout the Hundred have come from established names, the usual suspects either from England or overseas. Most… but not all. And with the group stage complete, now felt like the right time to pick an ‘Uncapped’ Team of the Tournament, those players whose chances may sometimes have been limited but who managed to make their mark all the same.

The criteria? I’ve stuck strictly to the ‘uncapped’ rule, so no place for Abtaha Maqsood (a Scottish international), even though she has undoubtedly made an impact on and off the pitch. Ditto the Bryce sisters, and no spots either for the unrelated Smiths – Lynsey and Bryony – to an extent forgotten faces on the international stage, perhaps, but unarguably ‘capped’ all the same. That apart, I’ve gone on numbers and good old gut feel!

EVE JONES – Birmingham Phoenix (Runs 233, Ave 33.28, SR 118.87)

Third on the run charts, an absolute shoe-in for this team. Historically, not always the quickest of scorers, but invariably gave her side a base over the past three weeks. Her half-century against Fire was somewhat overshadowed by Verma’s fireworks at the other end, but she took centre stage in the winner-takes-all defeat of Superchargers, hitting three sixes in her 64 from 47 balls to set Phoenix on the road to the eliminator, and then took that stunning catch to dismiss Lauren Winfield-Hill just as it looked to be going the Leeds side’s way.

ALICE CAPSEY – Oval Invincibles (Runs 106, Ave 21.2, SR 121.83; W 7, Ave 11.85, RPB 0.87)

Might be a little disappointed that her 59 against Spirit at Lord’s was her only score of real note, but the impact of that innings alone is probably enough to seal her place. Throw in seven wickets at a miserly economy rate and she becomes one of this team’s lynchpins. Her victims with the ball included Laura Woolvaart, Danni Wyatt, Georgia Elwiss, Deandra Dottin, Heather Knight and Sarah Taylor. If any batter thought they might be able to take liberties against the 17-year-old, they will have thought again by now. Her eligibility for this team in 12 months’ time must be in severe doubt!

EMMA LAMB – Manchester Originals (Runs 135, Ave 19.28, SR 125; W 3, Ave 42, Econ 1.32)

Came good after a slow start, with scores of 32 (helping her team become the only side – so far – to beat Brave), 39 and 46 in three of her last four innings as Originals pushed their way up from the lower reaches of the table. Three for 16 against Phoenix were her only wickets, but she rarely got clobbered with the ball and always provides a steady bowling option for her team.

MAIA BOUCHIER – Southern Brave (Runs 85, Ave 42.5, SR 154.54)

85 runs may not seem like a big number, but look at that strike rate! Coming in at no. 5 behind a prolific top four, ‘the Mighty Bouch’ fulfilled her role as finisher to perfection. She may not have faced many balls, but she certainly made the most of them, and four not outs from her six innings – granted a couple were VERY brief – also point to a player with the mental wherewithal to see her job through, whether setting a target or polishing off a chase.

SOPHIE LUFF – Welsh Fire (Runs 79, Ave 13.16, SR 116.17)

Luff will probably be disappointed with her Hundred, but it’s a mark of her consistency at County and KSL level that her bar is set relatively high. Frequently coming in with her team in strife, the pressure to score quickly and not get out often told. 30 off 21 balls in a losing cause against Brave was her top score. But every team needs a skipper, and she brings more experience than most.

(Luff is the one change I’ve allowed myself from the team I original selected on Twitter, replacing Charlie Dean. Dean is a victim of my original pick being spinner-heavy, thanks to the presence of Capsey in particular, and can consider herself unlucky.)

DANI GIBSON – London Spirit (Runs 108, Ave 36, SR 180; W 3, Ave 42.33, RPB 1.33)

With the possible exception of Capsey, no uncapped player had as big a tournament as Gibson. Hard to believe now that she came in at no. 7 or below in the first four games, making a combined 58 from 30 balls across those knocks! Overdue elevation to no. 5 saw her help Dottin finish off the chase against Superchargers, before 34* off 19 balls against Fire hinted at what could have been had Spirit got their batting order right. Not the best return with the ball, perhaps, but her batting alone gets her in this team, and her fielding – notably the catch to dismiss Mignon Du Preez against Originals is an added bonus too.

EMILY ARLOTT – Birmingham Phoenix (Runs 39, Ave 13, SR 121.87; W 5, Ave 27.8, RPB 1.36)

In short form cricket where “pace can travel”, and in a tournament where spin has often been the way to go, picking a second seamer (see below for the spearhead!) wasn’t easy. Ultimately it came down to Phoenix team-mates Arlott and Issy Wong, whose numbers were spookily similar. Both took five wickets at 1.36 and 1.35 runs per ball respectively, and with the bat each played one significant cameo. Arlott gets the narrowest of nods by dint of her slightly better strike rate with the ball and the fact that her major contribution with the bat (22 off 14) got her team over the line against Rockets – crucially, as it turned out!

CARLA RUDD – Southern Brave (Runs 4, Ave n/a, SR 133.3; C 2, St 8)

In the end it was a 50/50 call between Rudd and Ellie Threlkeld, and I’m happy to take the flak from those who would have gone the other way! Rudd’s ten dismissals, including eight stumpings, ended up winning the tussle against Threlkeld’s seven. The Brave keeper faced only three balls in the entire competition, so squaring them off on their batting hardly seemed fair. For what it’s worth, Threlkeld’s 29 runs off 28 balls might be considered a little under-powered for an experienced batter, but perhaps that’s being harsh. Both were tidy, and it hardly seems fair to pick one over the other, but someone has to!

LAUREN BELL – SOUTHERN BRAVE (W 10, Ave 16.7, RPB 1.15)

The outstanding uncapped quick bowler, and another who walks – nay, strides! – into this team. Her best balls are nigh on unplayable, and her height gives her a point of difference from other bowlers that batters often struggle to get to grips with. Three for 22 against the Invincibles was her best return, but only conceding 16 runs from 20 balls against a Phoenix top four in full flow was probably her best performance. There’s still some rawness to her, and a few too many leg side drifters, but she’s another who may not be eligible for selection in next year’s team.

KATIE LEVICK – Northern Superchargers (W 7, Ave 21.42, RPB 1.15)

Only three uncapped bowlers boasted a better economy rate than Levick, who brought all her years of experience to bear. Consistency was key, never going for more than 24 runs in any game, even if there wasn’t one stand-out display. Two for 23 against Phoenix was a good effort as her team tried to rein in Eve Jones and co, but ultimately the Midlanders pinched that final qualification slot.

HANNAH JONES – Manchester Originals (W 4, Ave 19.75, RPB 1.05)

Competing with Sophie Ecclestone and Alex Hartley as fellow left arm spinners, Jones had her work cut out to make an impact, and only forced her way into the Originals team for the final four games. However, she arguably out-bowled both – a better economy rate than Hartley and only just shy of Ecclestone’s run-a-ball thrift, she bettered the latter’s strike rate by a fair margin. Her three for 17 – including the wickets of Wyatt and Smriti Mandhana – was pivotal in Originals’ win against finalists Brave.

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Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68

OPINION: The Summer Of Shafali

David Windram reflects on the emergence of a young Indian star

A Katherine Brunt send-off is hard to miss. This was no different as she charged down the pitch in celebration, raising her fingers to her lips. This one perhaps had a little extra on it. As Shafali Verma dragged herself off she knew the series was likely lost. On a personal level, Verma has only just begun. Eliciting such an animalistic send off from Brunt proved that she had been doing something right. It was the ultimate veiled compliment. A public service announcement that she had become England’s most desired wicket. Welcome to the summer of Shafali.

Image: Bahnfrend (Wikimedia Commons)

Sometimes, all it needs is a name. The ring of those very specific syllables transporting you back to the summer they defined. Amla in 2012, Bell in 2013, Perry in 2015 or Smith in 2019. Throughout the summer they reveal themselves to be the face of a series. Shafali Verma became that face in 2021.

The road back to Test match cricket for India’s women has been arduous. By playing in just one, Shafali Verma has been involved in a seventh of Tests played during her short time on the planet. She was 10 the last time those particularly crisp whites were buttoned up. Bristol was the venue for the long-desired return; England the opponents.

For Verma, unfamiliarity did not breed uncertainty. Red, white, or pink, a cricket ball is a cricket ball after all. Still, this wasn’t a simple pressure-free introduction to the toughest form of the game. England had piled on runs before declaring and were in peak predatory mode, unashamedly hunting twenty wickets without the need to bat again. Verma shrugged and got on with it.

Accompanied by Smriti Mandhana, she blunted, drove and caressed her way to 96 runs in a partnership of 167. The disappointment in missing out on a debut ton testament to the expectations which now attach to her, all 1.3 billion of them. But the highest score on Test debut for an Indian woman was quite the expectation satisfier. Not that Verma seemed to care. Simply another day in the life of the kid from Rohtak.

T20 debut at 15. Followed by discarding you know who as India’s youngest half centurion for India; the little master in waiting. At 16, officially the world’s best T20I batter. Now 17, and India’s youngest cricketer to play all three formats. A next-generation cricketer, in the most literal sense.

It should have been job done at Bristol. A weather affected four-day test leaving minimal time for a result. But Verma’s teammates wanted more, and who can blame them? The remaining nine wickets falling promptly following the debutant’s demise.

Back for more to face a similarly ravenous, now reinvigorated, bowling line up, who were sniffing an unlikely victory. That prospect was quickly extinguished. Verma again frustrated the English bowlers, while still managing to show impressive attacking intent. A further 63 runs ensured a draw for her team and the Player of the Match award. An imperious and classy debut. Global eyes were now open.

Verma is a multi-format cricketer in the purest sense; she simply has to be. Format switching is the cricketer’s Rubik’s cube. The modern career is spent constantly tweaking and fiddling hoping that it clicks in time for the impending format. This elasticity is increasingly vital for the female cricketer, where multi-format series are now the norm. These series provide an extreme examination of patience, technique, skill and imagination; only the truly elite can thrive.

Luckily for India, Verma is elite. Her range of shots appears limitless. Come straight at her and she will blunt you; pitch it up and she will drive you; bang it in short and you’re swatted to the boundary. She will walk across her stumps to clip you away to leg, or give herself room and smash through the off side. The variety with which deliveries are dealt with is bold and brash. Pre-summer there remained an unanswered question. Was the temperament transferable to longer formats? The answer has been emphatic.

Verma made contributions in at least one game of every single format, including an epic 48 runs off 38 balls in the second T20I to keep India’s series hopes alive. If Brunt didn’t get her early, she made runs. This is the beauty of the multi-format series. It allows these mini battles to develop. Verma v Brunt became captivating viewing.

Yet, there remains a dichotomy at the heart of Verma’s success. Indian cricket has a generational talent on its hands – yes, another one. Her cricket is exciting, high quality and intensely enjoyable to watch. But without the requisite backing from her cricket board, it almost feels like it doesn’t matter what she does. She can be as good as she wants, but unless something changes, she will only be given a tokenistic glance.

Verma received a “Grade B” contract from the BCCI. It pays her approximately £29,000 to be one of the best in the world. Her male equivalents are paid around £485,000, with the lowest centrally contracted male player receiving roughly £97,000. There is also the well-documented caper in which the BCCI withheld prize money from the women’s inspirational run to the World Cup final in 2020. These “life-changing amounts” were only paid to the players once they had raised invoices and when the story was diligently reported in the mainstream press. The money had been paid to the BCCI fourteen months previously.

There appears a reluctance to conjure up a legitimate female equivalent of the IPL. The current tournament, The T20 Challenge, in which three teams play two games each is merely a box-ticking exercise. As the male tournament becomes unnecessarily bloated with repetitive game after repetitive game, the women’s competition couldn’t be trimmed any further. As sad as it is, money makes the game go round. The BCCI have copious amounts to throw at whatever they feel is worthy. At the moment there is a clear rejection of the women’s game.

It leaves Shafali Verma hunting for game time, o the extent that she spent time training with Haryana’s men’s team and facing Mohit Sharma in nets. She is reliant on the WBBL and The Hundred. For all the follies of The Hundred, and they are pretty much endless, the female version has become vital for the players. The salaries peak at £15,000 – the lowest male players being paid nearly double the highest women – but it is as much about game time. Opportunities remain scarce and need to be grabbed when available, regardless of what they look like. Sometimes it is simply about survival.

India was eventually in win or go home territory with two T20s to play. On ball twenty of the must-win match, Verma unleashed. Inevitably, it was Brunt on the receiving end. With a violent swipe of her bat, the ball was catapulted to the boundary. Next ball, same result, as Verma stepped away and launched back over Brunt’s head. Ball three was hung outside off, this time a feather- like touch clipped the ball past point to the rope. Two slightly more agricultural swipes, led to two more boundaries, off the final two balls of the over. It was carnage. Brunt was stunned; England were stunned. Five fours off five balls and India’s recovery was on.

It demonstrated every aspect in confirming she is destined for stardom. The temerity to rip apart a world-class bowler. The ability to play whatever shot the delivery required. Sometimes it wasn’t perhaps the perfect shot selection, yet she made whatever shot she played work. The concept of the 360-degree cricketer has become a cliche; for Verma, it is nothing less than reality.

Ultimately, Brunt would have the last laugh with her final match send-off, but Shafali Verma has arrived. Now the headliner of the coming generation, let’s make sure she is given the proper platform. Your move BCCI.

OPINION: The Wisden Five – An Alternative View

By Richard Clark

Syd’s piece yesterday on the non-selection of a woman among Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year for 2021 raised some interesting points. However, I’m not entirely sure I agree with him.

It’s true that 2020 was a summer like no other, and that editor Lawrence Booth’s choices could quite reasonably have followed some ‘left-field’ thinking. In fact, even in normal circumstances, the selection of Georgia Adams (maybe less so Stafanie Taylor) might have been justifiable given her outstanding batting and leadership for Southern Vipers. Equally, though, I feel her non-selection can also be justified.

Like many, I’m sure, I felt that little pang of disappointment on Wednesday night, but this is not about Adams or Taylor. It’s about the wider question Syd asked yesterday – is the women’s game on a par with the men’s… or not?

The timeline of ‘The Five’ and Women’s cricket is an interesting one. No woman was chosen until 2009 (Claire Taylor) despite England having won World Cups in both 1973 and 1993. One wonders how long and hard the respective editors of the time pondered selections from those winning teams – I reckon I know exactly how long!

Bizarrely, from our vantage point now, even our 2009 Double World Champions saw nobody honoured – Taylor had been selected for her achievements in 2008.

Prior to the 2018 Almanack (that’s just three years ago!) only two women had EVER been chosen. Think about that for a moment – TWO! 2017 changed all that, of course.

The selection criteria have always been unique – influence on or excellence in the previous English summer, the fact that you can only be chosen once, and that it is in the editor’s gift. There is no other award in cricket – possibly in any sport – quite like it. Its mystique is precisely therein – as a Worcestershire supporter (apologies for digressing into ‘The Other Game’ briefly!), my fascination with ‘The Five’ was cemented by the selection of Alan Richardson in 2012, but you can’t tell me he was quantifiably one of the five best players in England the previous year.

Richardson’s selection is interesting, though, in the context that it was purely related to domestic cricket. Jamie Porter, Simon Harmer, and now Darren Stevens, have been picked on similar grounds more recently. Women’s domestic cricket in this country, contrastingly, had virtually no public profile until the advent of the KSL in 2016, less than five years ago.

In that context, the suggestion of someone like Georgia Adams even as a potential recipient is a sign of huge strides. In the longer term I hope that more players from the domestic game can force their way into the conversation, and onto the final list. Is this to say we should be grateful for what we get? No, but it is to emphasise the huge differences in profile historically between the men’s and women’s games. And although Wisden has been a very positive influence in shifting those sands, the differences – whilst shrinking – undoubtedly remain.

Despite the selection of women becoming a regular occurrence in recent years, I’m not so sure that this sets – or should set – an unbreakable precedent. The notion that there has to be a woman each year feels awkward. What if nobody genuinely merits the accolade, and the editor is left scrambling around for a name – any name – to fill the blank space?

Similarly, how would we have felt had Booth only been ‘allowed’ to pick one woman from England’s 2017 World Cup winning team? Three felt right, of course it did – anybody reading this probably wouldn’t have quibbled at all five – but being limited to just one?

Nor am I convinced by the idea of a separate ‘Women’s Five’. My own personal view is that anyone being chosen now is up there at the peak of the game, rather than being dismissed or ignored by many as a level (or more) below because they were ‘only’ on the women’s list. Let the dinosaurs rage, let the debate rumble, but at least let’s have that debate and use it as a tool to keep pushing.

I want any woman chosen to be there for absolutely the right reasons, rather than having the ‘token woman’ asterisk beside her name. And to repeat, this is not about Georgia Adams, Stafanie Taylor, or anybody else from the 2020 season.

If that means there isn’t one then so be it, and conversely should it mean all five are women, so be that too. 2022 – Ecclestone, Goswami, Jones, Levick & Raj – you read it here first!

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Follow Richard Clark on Twitter @glassboy68

OPINION: The Under-19 World Cup Should Not Be An Under-19 World Cup

The ICC have reaffirmed their commitment to holding an Under-19 Women’s World Cup, with the tournament now rescheduled from its original window at the tail-end of 2021, to January 2023.

As is always the case, you can argue that it should have been done sooner – the first men’s edition was held in 1988, and it has been a biennial feature of the calendar since 1998 – but we are where we are, and the important thing now is that it is being done!

With a firm(ish) date now agreed, thoughts immediately turned to who might play, with Indian journalist Snehal Pradhan tweeting:

Having Shafali on the team would clearly put India among the favourites to reach the final, alongside Australia, who will be able to field a squad full of seasoned WBBL pros, who will obviously be odds-on to win the tournament.

But we also need to remember that this is supposed to be a “development” competition. By January 2023, Shafali will likely have 50 caps, and be as automatic a pick in India’s full ODI team as she is currently in the T20 format, whence all of her 22 caps to date have come. She doesn’t need “developing” now… let alone in 18 months time!

The tournament regulations have yet to be firmed up, but in my view the “Under-19” label should be just that – a label,  not a law. The tournament should exclude anyone who has a full international cap regardless of age, and also allow space for a limited number of players over the age of 19, with perhaps one wildcard pick up to 21 and another up to 23.

It could then play out similarly to last year’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy in England, where the unavailability of the England players for most of the tournament actually created the most exciting and competitive domestic season in recent memory.

If the Under-19 World Cup is serious about being a “development” competition, then that is what it needs to be… even if that makes it not technically an “Under 19” World Cup.

REVIEW: The Record – History Written By The Winners

The Record – a two-part documentary mini-series, now available on Amazon Prime – tells the story of the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup from inside the Australian camp.

In terms of the level of access the filmmakers got, The Record isn’t quite unprecedented – the team which made Beyond the Boundary about the 2019 Women’s Ashes tour got a similar inside track into the locker room, and in some ways made better use of it. The Record is relentlessly positive – it’s all team songs and patriotic pep-talks; and there’s no equivalent of the eye-opening footage from Beyond the Boundary of Meg Lanning metaphorically throwing her toys around the Loughborough dressing room after being bowled by Freya Davies in a warm-up!

Where The Record wins out though is in the use of a series of startlingly honest post-tournament interviews with some of the key figures involved, including Mathew Mott, Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy. Not only are these totally uncensored, with enough f-bombs to make an NWA album blush; but they border in several cases on ‘saying the quiet part out loud’ in a way which is not entirely flattering.

Healy for example admits to having “blatantly lied” to the press about the pressure the team were under; whilst Lanning and Mott both acknowledge their attempt to lean on the match referee as he was making his decision as to whether Australia’s crucial rain-affected semi-final would go ahead, with Australia set to be knocked out if the game had been abandoned.

Whilst The Record to a certain extent treats all this as larks, the filmmakers must also have been well aware of the other sides of these coins – journalists will watch this, as will ICC match referees, and they might not go so easy on the Aussies in future, knowing what they do now. Mott and Healy et al may find they have become the footballer who goes down too easily, and then sees the referee shrugging when she really is fouled right in front of the goal!

Perhaps the oddest part of the whole film is the way it ultimately falls flat having to admit that the tournament technically failed to break the eponymous ‘record’ for attendance at a women’s sporting event, coming in a few thousand short of the 90,000 who attended the 1999 women’s football World Cup final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, USA. While we’d actually agree with Nick Hockley, who closes the show arguing that it didn’t really matter in the greater scheme of things, the program has just spent the last 2 hours telling us it did, including footage of the very same Mr Hockley on the day of the final checking the numbers on his phone every 15 minutes.

The lack of budget also starts to become apparent in the closing sections – they obviously only licensed a certain amount of footage of actual play, leading to over-use of Ken Burns-affected still photos to illustrate key moments in the final; and Katy Perry’s performance is overdubbed with “generic bombastic pop”, even as the Aussies are reminiscing about singing Firework on stage with the superstar, presumably because they couldn’t afford a license for the actual song!

If this is “history” it is definitely history written by the winners – Australia’s distinguished victories are accompanied with stirring classical symphonics; their tragic losses with sad piano melodies. Australia’s annihilation of Bangladesh is shown entirely without the context of it being a match played between the number 1 side in the world and a team of million-to-one-shot outsiders – it is a glorious win, and that’s that!

So unsurprisingly the degree to which you actually “enjoy” The Record may be strongly correlated with the degree to which you hold an Australian passport! Nonetheless, if you’ve got Amazon Prime it’s still probably the best thing you can do with a couple of hours this weekend, while you wait for the real cricket to start up again soon.

OPINION: Bouchier Ban Is A Failure Of The System

The news that Maia Bouchier has been suspended from bowling for an illegal action is a devastating blow for a player who opened the batting and the bowling for Hampshire in the final season of the County Championship last summer. Although she didn’t bowl much in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, and had a good season coming in at 3 for the Southern Vipers, scoring 214 runs at an average of 31, her future England claims were considerably bolstered by her allrounder status, which now looks to be in jeopardy unless she can make a substantial correction to her action.

The ECB’s official press release accompanying the announcement reads somewhat sternly:

“The 21-year-old has been advised to undergo remedial work on her bowing action before requesting a re-assessment. Bouchier will remain ineligible to bowl in ECB competitions until she is able to pass an independent re-assessment of her bowling action.”

This puts all the responsibility on the player, but the truth is more concerning. This hasn’t come out of nowhere – Bouchier didn’t wander in to a dressing room in 2020 having spent 21 years in the desert! She’s been on the county scene since she was 14, and has been part of the England Academy setup for over five years, so the real question is how on earth did things get to this stage?

Were her coaches not aware that there was an issue? Did it not occur to someone in the Academy at Loughborough, with all that money and technology at their disposal, that there was potentially a problem which needed fixing years ago?

What’s the point in investing tens of thousands of pounds in a player’s future, as England’s Academy programme has in Bouchier over the years, if they can’t spot and remediate a technical issue like this well before it gets anywhere near an independent assessment panel?

In the space of less than a month, Maia Bouchier has seen the highs and lows of being a professional athlete – from seeing her name in lights in the RHF Trophy, to seeing her name in headlines that read like a rap sheet.

But Maia Bouchier hasn’t failed – the system has failed her, and it needs to take a long hard look at itself while it undergoes remedial work before requesting reassessment.

OPINION: Connor & Morgan Firsts Must Not Be Lasts

In the words of our old friend Mike Selvey, it’s “been a good couple of days for women at Lord’s.” First Clare Connor was named as the next president of the MCC – the first woman in the club’s 200-year history to be so venerated; and then Beth Morgan became the first woman in 150 years to be voted an Honorary Life Vice-President of Middlesex County Cricket Club.

Both selections are welcome and deserved – Clare Connor, former England captain, now Managing Director of Women’s Cricket at the ECB; and Beth Morgan – World Cup winner and the only player (Middlesex or otherwise) to have featured in every season of the Women’s County Championship.

But following these appointments, what’s important now is that these firsts are not also lasts. It would be right for a man to follow Connor as president of the MCC, but after that the club must not then use Connor’s term as an excuse to say: “You’ve had your turn – now back to the men for the next 223 years!” There are plenty of deserving women out there  – let’s make sure the next next MCC president is a Claire or a Mel… not another Colin!

It’s going to be harder for Middlesex though, because the best female players won’t be playing for them any more – they will be playing for the London Somethings or the Eastern Somethingelses – teams that there are no guarantees will still exist in 20 years time, let alone going-on 200.

And sure, the players for the Somethings and the Somethingelses will get paid – probably more in a season than Beth Morgan did in her entire career – but they won’t have that history behind them, or the pride to wear a shirt that generations have before.

The recognition of Morgan and Connor, as well as Surrey and Kent’s recent efforts to acknowledge the histories of their great women players of the past by handing out belated, and in some cases even posthumous, county caps, should feel like the start of something.

It’s important to make sure it’s not the end too.

OPINION: Multi-Day Domestic Cricket In England? Yes We Can!

After Lisa Sthalekar raised the possibility of bringing multi-day cricket back to the Australian domestic calendar, there has been some chat on social media about whether we could do the same in England, via the new Centres of Excellence which are hopefully set to take off later this summer… the “C” word permitting!

Unfortunately, it’s probably not realistic for the CoEs to play multi-day cricket – for the foreseeable future they will continue to be dependent on semi-professionals, who will make up 2/3 of their squads and who will need to maintain day jobs for the 10 months a year they aren’t playing in The Hundred.

But over the 8 CoE “franchises” we will nonetheless have 40 full-time professionals who won’t be playing for England, and for whom there would be time in the calendar to play multi-day cricket during the weeks of May, June and September.

We’ve got the players… we’ve got the time… we just haven’t got the teams!

So how about we make the teams, by bringing the 8 franchises together into two blocks for a North v South showdown, playing a series of three three-day matches, with full First Class status, across the summer?

It would help prepare the domestic players for playing Test cricket – it is completely ridiculous that new caps go into an Ashes Test having never played a “proper” First Class game (ie. not a “jumpers for goalposts” warm-up) in their lives.

It would also give those players who will never quite play for England something to aspire to be part of – a selection and representation opportunity below international level; and you never know – it might just uncover the odd diamond in the rough too.

It needn’t even cost much – we are already paying the players, and it doesn’t have to be played at Lords. [Although… now you mention it… Ed.]

If we want to make this happen, we can!

ECB… over to you.

OPINION: Women’s Cricket Risks Being Forgotten As Men’s Game Fights For Survival

Over on ESPNCricinfo, Senior correspondent George Dobell yesterday laid out the dilemmas facing the ECB board as they meet today with cricket facing an unprecedented crisis due to Coronavirus.

There are question marks over all aspects of the men’s game – Tests, ODIs, the County Championship, The Hundred, The Blast… the list goes on! Men’s cricket is in desperate, desperate trouble. Although it has emerged that the ECB has some insurance against the impact of a global pandemic, this is limited and unlikely to pay out for months, if at all – with the insurance industry itself staring down the barrel of a smoking volcano.

The men’s counties meanwhile are… to put it politely… absolutely stuffed. Most of them live year-to-year with few reserves, and none of them are in any position to meet their obligations without the ongoing income from a combination of TV, gate receipts and hospitality. If the season were to be totally cancelled, several would likely go bust, with the ECB looking on helplessly from the sidelines.

Given this situation, it is understandable that the priorities at the forefront of people’s minds are to try to get some men’s cricket – any men’s cricket – played this summer, with talk of “biosecure” internationals and domestic cricket being live-streamed from behind closed doors.

But while the men desperately debate science-fiction solutions, the women’s game risks being totally forgotten.

Yes, technically, The Hundred is women’s cricket; but while all the talk has been about male players potentially losing their lucrative big-money contracts, no one seems to have quite clocked that for the majority of female players, The Hundred was going to be their only source of cricketing income this year – without it, they will be back to their pre-KSL status – 100% amateur.

The problem is magnified when you remember that the Centres of Excellence, which were supposed to offer full-time professional domestic contracts to an additional 40 non-England players, have essentially been put “on hold”. Although no contracts had been signed, several players were led to believe they would be getting one of these deals, and so not unreasonably put off other life decisions on that understanding. While the long-term investment is secure, as far as the players are concerned they now look set to get a big, fat cheque for absolutely nothing until next year at least.

Even what remains of national level women’s county cricket – the T20 Cup – has been pretty much ignored. We assume it counts as “recreational” and has therefore been effectively cancelled on that basis, but as far as we are aware no one has officially come out on the record and said so, and the fixtures are still listed on Play Cricket, the competition’s official web site.

In the fight to keep the men’s game alive, the women’s game is clearly not the main priority for many of those who have any influence on this situation. But nonetheless we’re still here – we still exist, we still matter… and we won’t be forgotten.