T20 CUP: Yorkshire v Debyshire – Harmer Hammers Yorkshire

Katya Witney at Moorlands

Beth Harmer’s explosive innings saw Derbyshire over-power Yorkshire in a 40-run victory at Moorlands CC.

After electing to bat Derbyshire lost Allen early on, bowled by Bethany Slater in her first over.

Harmer and Bryce then teamed up to form a superb partnership, Harmer taking the lead scoring role and finding the boundary with ease, a couple of sixes off her bat ending up in the trees around the boundary edge.

Making the most of the flat surface and a couple of dropped chances, Derbyshire scored at ten an over during the opening five and Yorkshire looked rattled by the pace at which particularly Harmer were scoring.

Harmer raced to fifty off just 24 deliveries, she made the most of the short boundaries depositing the ball over the flags four times on the way to her half century.

As the innings neared the half-way mark, Yorkshire were starting to look ragged. A free hit after a no-ball off Holly Armitage was dispatched to the rope by Harmer and at the end of the tenth over Derbyshire were cruising at 106-1.

Against the flow, however, Harmer tamely chipped a loopy delivery from Armitage straight back to the bowler, ending her assault which saw her hit 70 off 35 deliveries.

Following her dismissal the batters were unable to keep scoring as freely as they had been, Armitage providing good control.

Jess Woolston was also able to dry up runs and was unlucky to be hit for two consecutive fours by Bryce at the end of the 16th over, the latter an edge down to the third man boundary.

After a beautiful shot back over the bowler’s head for four from Darlow, Derbyshire passed the 160 mark going into the final two overs and Bryce brought up her fifty in the 19th over, scoring at more than a run a ball.

Another boundary from Darlow in the final over of the innings set the target for Yorkshire at 183. From where they were at the half-way stage Yorkshire did well to limit them to below 200.

Good and Armitage opened the batting for Yorkshire, Armitage getting into her stride against the spin of Darlow, scoring a four off her first delivery.

Thatcher was the stand-out bowler, dismissing Good in her second over after she top edged to mid-wicket. She almost dismissed Armitage three balls later but the catch was dropped on the boundary edge.

Glen was next to go missing a straight delivery from Darlow and Yorkshire were in trouble at 19 for 2.

Looking to advance the scoring rate, Armitage hit Katie Wolfe for consecutive boundaries before she was dismissed by Thatcher after she had struck a huge six over the pavilion.

Turner fell next trying to smash Thatcher down to long-on and Langstone followed shortly after, edging a Darlow delivery through to the keeper leaving Yorkshire struggling at 100 for 5 with five overs remaining.

A lengthy break in play followed as Tash Allen received treatment for a suspected dislocated shoulder after landing awkwardly trying to save the boundary.

Play resumed but the match was all but decided. Marlow and Woolston batted to the end but Yorkshire fell well short, only reaching 134 for 5 at the end of their innings.

It was never really in doubt for Derbyshire and at no stage in their innings did Yorkshire look like reaching the target. No one managed to score as freely as Harmer had, her innings the stand-out performance of the match.

Follow @KatyaWitney on Twitter

INTERVIEW – Dia Nair: The 13-Year-Old Cricketer Breaking Barriers… And Stumps

Dia Nair is 13 years old and already knows what she wants to do when she finishes school: “I want to play cricket for England.” Judging by the collection of trophies she shows me during our interview, it’s an ambition that could well be within her grasp.

Dia with her trophies

Last year, Dia was named Colt of the Year by her club, Hampstead CC. It means that already, aged 13, she is considered to be the best cricketer under 16 – boy or girl – who plays at Hampstead. For a club which is one of the biggest in London and which, according to Play Cricket, fields 21 junior teams, that is quite some feat. In 156 years of the club’s history, Dia is also the first girl ever to win the award – “I was really proud of that,” she says.

Dia is an all-rounder, though she describes pace bowling as her “stronger point”; last season she hit her highest county score to date, 63 not out for Middlesex against Surrey, as well as taking “quite a few five-fors”. She nonchalantly drops into the conversation that: “I swing it both ways” (Anya Shrubsole eat your heart out!) She’s never been clocked on a speed gun, but at the age of 10, she bowled the ball so quickly in a match for Middlesex against Hampshire that she broke a stump clean in half. She still has the two pieces.

Dia with her broken stump

In some ways, Dia’s is a familiar story. She grew up playing cricket with her older brother in the garden at home, encouraged by two supportive parents – her mum also played as a girl growing up in India. Asked to name an inspirational coach, Dia immediately says: “My brother!” At the age of nine, she followed him to the local club (Hampstead); not long afterwards, she was sent to Middlesex trials, and made the Under-13s county side.

Dia and her brother
Dia Nair with her older brother, taken on the day she went to Middlesex trials

As a talented junior, she regularly plays for Hampstead’s boys teams, and just as Charlotte Edwards did three decades ago, she still sometimes encounters surprise when she turns up to open the batting or the bowling against an all-boys opposition. “They are always not expecting me or the other girls in my team to be quite as good as we are!” she says. Has she ever got one of them out? “Yeah, yeah,” she says, casually. “Most games!”

Has anything changed since the 1990s, then? Quite a lot, actually. For starters, there are enough other girls around to mean that Hampstead can turn out entire girls’ sides. The county structures in place for girls like Dia are also unrecognisable – she does a full programme of winter nets for Middlesex, and receives individual feedback every time. And she is benefitting from opportunities to play at school – she attends South Hampstead High School, who reintroduced cricket in 2018, and was recently named as a reserve in the Under-19s Girls’ Day School Trust team – one of the youngest players in the running for the squad.

“When I went to my GDST cricket trials all the girls there were really, really good, and it was a surprise – it was really nice to see,” she says. “And some of the older girls were saying how a couple of years ago when they trialled there were barely any people, and there were about 50 when I went and that was really cool.”

The interest is helped along by the fact that women’s cricket is regularly on TV these days. Dia watched the recent World Cup with her mum, cheering on England, and says she wants to bat like Heather Knight (although she also cites Ben Stokes, MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar as role models).

And of course there is now a regional structure in place – and with it, a real opportunity to go professional in just a few short years. Dia tells me, excitedly, that when she moves up to the Under-15s Middlesex team next year, “they start scouting for professionals, and our performances get recorded, so if we play really well we might get selected for this thing called Sunrisers!”

“I think that would be really cool,” she adds. She’s not wrong. There is not much that is cooler than hearing a girl like Dia talk about her ambitions to play cricket professionally, and knowing that the new domestic structure is providing the opportunities for her to do exactly that.

For now, she’d better keep hold of that broken stump – the pieces might be worth quite a lot of money one day!

Mamma Mia! Rogers Shines As Berkshire Have Fun At Falkland

Berkshire got their season off to a rollicking start with two convincing wins against Shropshire at Falkland CC.

The first match of the day was dominated by Mia Rogers, who made an early-season bid for inclusion in Sunrisers’ starting XI when regionals begin in four weeks time.

Shropshire had chosen to bat first after winning the toss, but Rogers’ sharp keeping allowed Berkshire to confine them to 88 for 7 in their 20 overs. Her contributions included whipping off the bails to assist in the run outs of Amy Griffiths and Alice Dixon, snaffling a skier sent up by Lauren Kenvyn (22) to break a 50-run partnership with Alexandra Hale, and two nifty stumpings to hand debutant Kali-Ann Doherty her first two wickets in senior county cricket.

Opening in conjunction with another of the Berkshire debutants, Abigail Avery (27* off 39), Rogers started in measured fashion but grew in confidence as her innings progressed, eventually smashing Kenvyn for six over deep midwicket.

As Berkshire raced along to their total, the only question was whether Rogers would be able to reach her half-century before they ran out of runs needed. It was touch and go but finally, having got back on strike in the 13th over with just a single needed for victory, Rogers pulled confidently for four to finish on 50 not out (from just 35 balls), handing Berkshire a 10-wicket win.

In the second match of the day, with Berkshire batting first this time, Rogers initially picked up where she had left off, but smacked it straight to cover in the fifth over when on 13. Instead Berkshire captain Ashleigh Muttitt did the heavy lifting, driving hard down the ground en route to a run-a-ball 34.

Emily Perrin (3 for 18) dented Berkshire’s efforts as they lost three wickets in the 13th and 14th overs with the score on 83, but Freya Johnson successfully defended the hat-trick ball and Berkshire added 23 runs in the final five overs to finish on 116 for 6.

Shropshire made a go of it in the run chase, reaching 37 for 1 in the powerplay as captain Lara Jones (24 off 27) gave off-spinner Hollie Summerfield some punishment.

But Jones was caught pulling Ava Lee to backward square leg in the 9th and Summerfield had the last laugh with a tidy spell at the death that strangled any last hopes of Shropshire getting across the line. Amanda “Steamer” Potgeiter helped things along with a direct-hit run out from mid-on to see off Hale for 0.

In a dramatic final over, with Shropshire needing an improbable 27 for the win, Freya Johnson finished things off in a style for the Beavers by taking four wickets – three of them bowled – as Shropshire were all out for 94 off the final ball of the match.

The double-win puts Berkshire top of Group 2 of the Women’s County T20 competition, ahead of rivals Worcestershire and Staffordshire.

Anya Shrubsole – Heart & Sole

If you could pick one moment to “cut out and keep” from the career of Anya Shrubsole what would it be? The retrospectives and social media posts which greeted her retirement from international cricket, aged 30, suggest two in particular stand out: the 2017 World Cup final of course, but also Anya with her hand on the shoulder of a distraught Dane van Niekerk at the end of the semi-final against South Africa.

For me, it was neither of those, but a moment in the field playing for Berkshire. I can’t remember exactly when it was, nor who Berkshire were playing. I’m pretty sure it was at North Maidenhead, though I might be wrong about that too. It’s not important though. The batter (who shall remain anonymous because… I don’t remember her either) struck the ball firmly square of the wicket, and Anya went steaming off in pursuit.

I can think of a few international players would would have thought “county game; nobody watching” and if not given up, perhaps turned the dial down a little, but Anya put in a full-on last ditch dive… and, in a moment that could have been scripted by Buster Keaton, face-planted over the boundary into the deck-chairs of a group of fleeing spectators – not just any spectators either, but her own family and friends!

Emerging from the ensuing rubble, Anya herself was the first to see the funny side.

For me, that moment sums up Anya Shrubsole – the commitment… the effort… and the ability despite those things, to nonetheless not take it all too seriously. Without that, none of the “big moments” of her career would have been able to happen.

It’s easy to forget that England only got to Lord’s in 2017 because of Anya Shrubsole. England needed 3 off the final over in their semi-final against South Africa, and that became 2 off 3 balls when Laura Marsh was bowled by Shabnim Ismail. With 8 wickets down, in a home World Cup semi-final, in front of a crowd of thousands at Bristol, and with millions watching on TV, this was totally unchartered territory for players who had debuted in the amateur era.

Out walked Anya – not really a recognised batter, despite having once scored a freakishly fast century for Somerset against Wales in 2013, to face the biggest 3 balls of her life. She needed just one, almost absent-mindedly swashing the ball for 4… and the rest is history. Because of that ability to not take it all too seriously, she’d treated one of the best bowlers in the world, on one of the biggest stages in the world, like it was just a game in the park, and taken England to a World Cup final.

Don’t take that to mean she didn’t care though. Back in the days of the old Women’s County Championship, promotion and relegation between Div 1 and Div 2 was decided via a play-off between the bottom placed team in Div 1 (Warwickshire, that year) and the winner of Div 2 – Anya’s Somerset. Warwickshire were, I’m sure they’d be the first to admit, a bit of a shambles that year, while Somerset were at their peak with Anya, Sophie Luff and Fran Wilson, who all made scores as Somerset posted 220.

Warwickshire’s reply was held together by Helen Shipman, but when she was dismissed for 124 (with one Anya Shrubsole running the length of the field to shake her hand as she walked off) the game looked to be Somerset’s to lose, with Isabelle Watson and Liz Russell (Warwickshire’s 8 and 9)  ending up needing 15 to win off the final over, bowled by… you’ve guessed it… Anya Shrubsole.

As I wrote at the time:

To screams of delight from the pavilion, Shrubsole’s first two balls were dispatched for four, and suddenly it was on! A single followed, then another BIG heave for four and it was down to two-from-two – a single from the penultimate ball brought the scores level (which (I believe???) meant that Warwickshire had actually already survived) but they made sure of it with another single off the final ball.

Somerset had lost and Anya left the field in tears – she cared, and the only thing she didn’t care about was who knew it.

How much she cared about Somerset in particular – her “home” in every sense – was emphasised shortly afterwards when a directive came down from the ECB that all England players were to move to Div 1 counties, to try to keep the top flight as strong as possible. I’m sure Anya didn’t actually put it quite this way, but her response essentially consisted of two words, the second of which was “off”.

One of the photos doing the rounds on social media these past couple of days was taken by a journalist late into the after-party following the World Cup win at Lords. The truth behind that photo is that Anya wasn’t really enjoying that evening – it was a fuss, and she didn’t much like a fuss, especially when she was in the middle of it. She wasn’t there for the glory, or the gold watch she got for being Player of the Match. She might have been a professional cricketer, but at her heart she remained an amateur of the best kind – she was there to have a game of cricket with her mates and help them win – that’s the heart (and sole!) of Anya Shrubsole.

Here Comes the Sun! – County Cricket in 2022

With the World Cup but a fading memory, thoughts inexorably turn to the coming summer.  And not before time, as the opening round of fixtures in this season’s ECB County T20 is now less than two weeks away!

The fixtures have been out for some time, and details of all but one venue have now been confirmed (as always, check Play Cricket for info, plus of course @WomensCricDay on Twitter!).  The East of England Championship fixtures were also released a while back, and more recently we have had confirmation of two more Regional 50-over competitions based – loosely – around the Sparks and Vipers regions.

So what have we got on the horizon?

The ECB County T20 will take place over four consecutive weekends in April and May, with matches taking place on 18th April (Easter Monday), Sunday 24th April and Monday 2nd May, with a ‘Finals day’ for each group on Sunday 8th May, with a format broadly similar to last season.

There has, however, been some ‘tidying up’ as you might describe it, to iron out some of the less desirable aspects of last summer’s format.

There will be eight groups this time around, broadly organised on a regional basis again, but this time numbered from 1 to 8, rather than given regional titles – thus avoiding “Since when has Somerset been in the West Midlands” type queries.

Seven of the groups (Group 1 being the exception, which we will leave to one side for now) will consist of four teams, and each will play the other three in double-header fixtures over the first three dates, followed by a Finals Day with semi-finals and a final for each group.

Unlike last season, therefore, when some counties in each group didn’t meet, there will be integrity to the final tables, and also a bona fide group winner in each case.  It means an element of genuine competition compared to what felt very much like a bunch of ‘glorified friendlies’ last time round.

Group 1 (the ‘North’ Group), however, consists of seven teams, including North East Warriors (Durham and Northumberland combined, for the uninitiated), and the Northern ‘Rep’ XI (essentially Lancs and Yorks combined ‘Reserves’).  It’s not ideal, but unavoidable given an uneven number of teams.  I can’t help but wonder whether Cheshire might have been persuaded to re-enter, allowing that group to be split in two and create a perfect structure of ten groups.  Ah well… 

It also means that group will have one standard ‘triangular’ fixture each weekend, and one ‘quadrangular’ where four teams meet and play two fixtures each.  Depending on the layout of the venue, it offers the chance to watch two games at once! 

One final point on the fixtures, incidentally.   It’s worth noting that whilst almost all fixtures are scheduled to be played at club or village grounds, there is one very notable exception on Sunday 24th April when – assuming Play Cricket is correct – Somerset will entertain Warwickshire at the County Ground, Taunton.  A nod to all at Somerset for this one!

Elsewhere, I’m yet to see a formal announcement of the London Championship for this summer… but the fixtures are on Play Cricket so one assumes it is happening!  The same five counties are taking part – there had been a little conjecture over Sussex given their involvement in the new ‘Vipers’ Regional competition, but that appears to have been unfounded.

Incidentally, Surrey’s website also confirms a date of Thursday 23rd June for the annual London Cup T20 Challenge match against Middlesex, this year at the Kia Oval.

The East of England Championship has expanded again, from six teams to seven.  Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Suffolk have joined the party, whilst Buckinghamshire have departed ‘on good terms’ to join the ‘Vipers’ regional competition, and Cambridgeshire have withdrawn, hopefully to return at some later stage.

Fixtures are spread nicely through the season, from mid-May to mid-September, which I have to say I really like.  With seven teams competing it feels like the East of England has a real narrative thread through the entire summer.

And finally we have the two new Regional 50-over competitions – The South Central Regional Cup and the West Midlands Regional Cup.

The former will include Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Sussex, and whilst that may look a somewhat unbalanced group, the expectation is that Hampshire and Sussex in particular will use it as a ‘Development’ exercise alongside their London Championship commitments and the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy & Charlotte Edwards Cup.   Fixtures will all be played in midweek, on five days beginning on Monday 30th May and ending on Thursday 11th August.

The West Midlands Regional Cup is something of a misnomer, given that Wales will be competing alongside Staffordshire, Warwickshire & Worcestershire, but that’s a minor quibble.  Again, it will be a round robin, with fixtures on Sundays 17th July and 14th & 28th August.

With other counties likely to arrange friendly fixtures it adds up to a very busy summer, and a very positive one for the future of the county game.  With the demise of the Championship in 2019, and the successful introduction of the Regional structure, it was easy at that stage to foresee a bleak future with county cricket fading away.  In the event the reality has proved to be very different, thanks to the hard work of many at local levels up and down the country.

The addition of new competitions this season is yet more evidence of a growing realisation that the county system – alongside the regional academies – is an essential rung on the ladder between club and regional cricket.  Long may that be the case.

You may have seen the recent Twitter announcement that there will be no Women’s County Cricket Day this summer.  Life is such that over the past few months I haven’t had the capacity to take on a campaign ahead of the 2022 season, with all that entails.  However, @WomensCricDay will still be promoting county fixtures throughout the season, and we’re taking the view that EVERY DAY is Women’s County Cricket Day!  Choose your own WCCD, find a venue near to you – or not so near to you!  Have a day out, enjoy some cricket!

Play Cricket Links

ECB County T20 – https://ecbwcountychampionship.play-cricket.com/home

London Championship – https://womenslondonchampionship.play-cricket.com/home

East of England Championship – https://eastofenglandwcc.play-cricket.com/

South Central Regional Cup – https://scrcup.play-cricket.com/home

West Midlands Regional Cup – https://westmidlandsregionalcup.play-cricket.com/home

 

OPINION: Throw The Kids Into The Commonwealths – It’s The Tournament We’ve Prepared Them For

In the aftermath of England’s World Cup final defeat, I provoked a fair bit of debate by arguing that England now face a difficult choice between prioritising the up-coming Commonwealth Games or the next World Cup in 2025.

Many of the responses suggested that we didn’t have to choose – we could give the old stalwarts a swansong at the Commonwealth Games and then look to the future going forwards from the India series in September. I understand the emotional pull here – it is a unique tournament, on home turf, which the players are desperate to be part of.

But the key issue for me is that if you choose do this, you really are still choosing: you are prioritising the Commonwealth Games over the next World Cup. There are 3 English summers remaining before the World Cup – if we want to be in with the best chance of winning that World Cup with a younger team, we can’t afford to throw most of one of those summers away.

More than that though, the Commonwealth Games is an opportunity to bring the youngsters into exactly the kind of tournament we’ve prepared them for via the Hundred – a high-profile, intense tournament, in a short, sharp format, played on a familiar, English pitches. (Well… “a” familiar English pitch, as it is all played at Edgbaston.)

I’m not suggesting that we debut 11 players at the Commonwealths though!

The South Africa series which kicks off the summer will be a long one, including a Test, and gives us the opportunity to build somewhat incrementally, if more rapidly than might be ideal. Importantly, the ODIs are not part of the ICC Championship, so there are no World Cup qualification points on the line.

One thing we don’t want however, is a repeat of what happened to Emma Lamb – given just one game to prove herself at the end of the Ashes series. If we give someone a shot in either the ODIs or the T20s against South Africa, it must be for all 3 games of that series.

None of this is an exact science, but an approach against South Africa could be to “re-debut” Freya Davies (as a proper opening bowler) and Emma Lamb (opening) in the Test, add Lauren Bell and Bess Heath (a bit of a wildcard, but we need to start thinking about cover for Amy Jones) for the ODIs, and then Alice Capsey, Bryony Smith and maybe Dani Gibson in the T20s.

This then gives you a bit of a platform to select an explicitly younger side for the Commonwealths, including up to 5 or 6 players who were not in the 2022 World Cup XI, but could be part of things in 2025.

Would this be our “best” side right now, to win the Commonwealth Games?

No, no, and thrice no! It’s not ideal, but we’ve got ourselves into a less than ideal situation by a total lack of succession planning with the batting and fast bowling.

So given where we are, would taking this opportunity give us a better chance to prepare players to win the next World Cup?

In the immortal words of Churchill: Oh yes!

OPINION: England Must Choose – The Commonwealth Games Or The Next World Cup

From an England perspective, how you see the outcome of the 2022 World Cup will very-much depend on whether you are a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person.

On the half-full face of the coin, England came second… but on the half-empty side, they lost half their games, and were trounced by a rampant Australia in the final. Bake-in a humiliating Ashes defeat, where their only points came from washouts, and the glass starts to look rather dry indeed.

So, where to now?

There will obviously be reviews, and the one that Australia conducted after their disappointment in 2017 is being held up as a model, but I’m unconvinced this is the right approach. Australia were already on an upward trajectory at that point, and only the greatest individual performance of all time stopped them winning that year anyway (unpopular opinion: they would have trounced England in the final).

England are an ageing team in need of some kind of a rebuild, but before they can embark on that, they need to answer one very important question – what do they want to win: the Commonwealth Games, or the next World Cup? Because it is one or the other – they can’t win both.

If they decide to prioritise the Commonwealth Games, they’ll stick with the current generation this summer – it definitely gives them their best chance of a gold medal, albeit Australia remain rampant favourites.

But by then it will be too late for the next World Cup, which will only be a couple of years away (remember, because of the postponement of this tournament, there is only a 3 year gap this time) and that won’t be time for the next generation to have built up the experience they need to be ready for 2025 – they’ll be half-baked at best.

If the decision is to stick with the current generation, that’s fine – it is a decision! But you have to acknowledge that by doing that, you are sacrificing the opportunity to win the World Cup next time around. If you want to rebuild for 2025 you have to start now, or it is too late.