MATCH REPORT: Sussex and Yorkshire Dunked At Mill Hill As Sophia Makes England Case

By Raf Nicholson and Syd Egan

On a sunny day at Mill Hill School, Middlesex fought back from their relegation to Division 2 of the Women’s County Championship last weekend by proving their mettle as a T20 side, with convincing wins against both Sussex and Yorkshire.

The day’s real star was Sophia Dunkley who – with today’s scores of 34* and 57* topping off an incredible run of form this season – looks to be challenging for a spot in the England squad.

Middlesex v Sussex

Sussex started steadily, seeing off the initial overs by Hayley Brennan and Katie Wolfe, and reaching 29 in the first 5 overs; but their attempt to force the pace with quick singles ultimately backfired as Middlesex enacted 2 successive run-outs, including that of captain Georgia Adams (19).

The middle order then fell apart, leaving Sussex 50-5, but the away side were saved from embarrassment by no.7 Freya Davies, who with an unbeaten 27 finished as top-scorer. Aided by some wayward Middlesex bowling – including 17 wides – Sussex managed to reach 107-8.

In reply Middlesex were slow to get going and Sussex kept themselves in the game by removing openers Naomi Dattani (5) with a stonking catch by Paige Scholfield at midwicket, and Tash Miles stumped (21) thanks to a neat piece of glove work from Abi Freeborn.

But that brought Fran Wilson to the crease and she hit a quickfire 42 from 33 balls before Sophia Dunkley (34*) finished the job in the 18th over with three successive boundaries, including a six hit back over the top of Davies’ head.

Sussex v Yorkshire

Sussex fought back in the second game of the day, winning by 5 wickets thanks to a 79-run partnership between Abi Freeborn and Izzy Collis.

Opening bowlers Freya Davies and Linsey Smith put the pressure on early for Sussex, but the Yorkshire openers Jess Watson and Adrianna Darlow didn’t do anything silly and plundered 13 runs, including 3 boundaries, off the 5th over bowled by Paige Scholfield to take them to 24-0.

Watson was out well caught by Georgia Adams running back at mid on off Tara Norris for 17, and Darlow followed soon afterwards for 9, caught at point after getting a thick edge trying to pull Scholfield through midwicket.

After 10 overs Maddie Walsh and Rebecca Newark had taken Yorkshire to 54-2 and they continued to run hard between the wickets to take it to 80-2 after 15.

Walsh was eventually caught on the midwicket boundary by Scholfield for 38 off 34 balls, while Newark was stumped off Davies for 13, as Yorkshire progressed to 103-6 off the 20.

Sussex made a calamitous start to their innings, with left-armer Katie Thompson bowling Georgia Adams for a 2nd ball duck and Paige Scholfield LWB to Abi Glen for 1, leaving them 2-2 after 2!

Collis smashed Georgia Draper’s first ball for 6 over midwicket as things started to get moving for Sussex – Collis and Freeborn taking them to 56-2 after 10 overs.

Thompson returned to the attack in the 14th over to bowl Freeborn for 37 off 34 balls, leaving Sussex needing 23 off 36 balls, which Collis and Chiara Green began to proceed towards, before Collis was caught for 45 playing one leg-side heave-ho too many. Linsey Smith was then dismissed for a golden duck by Glen, who bowled out a wicket maiden to the incoming batsman Freya Davies, giving Yorkshire a glimmer of hope.

With 2 needed off the last over, Glen bowled a wide first ball and Green then stole a single to short extra cover off the second ball for the win with 4 balls to spare.

Middlesex v Yorkshire

In the final game of the day Middlesex made it 2 from 2 in a convincing 6-wicket win against Yorkshire.

Having lost the toss and been put in to bat, Yorkshire raced away to have 41 on the board at the end of the powerplay, helped by some poor fielding by Middlesex who put down a couple of chances in the infield.

Adrianna Darlow was one of those put down and went on to take full advantage, finishing as Yorkshire’s top-scorer with 26 (33 balls)

But the introduction of Bhavika Gajipra to the attack in the 11th over shifted the momentum back in Middlesex’s favour as she had Darlow caught at long on and then also accounted for Anna Nicholls and Hannah Buck, finishing with figures of 3-15.

Ultimately a couple of run outs ensured that Yorkshire only just scraped 100 from their 20 overs.

Naomi Dattani didn’t want to hang around, hitting Katie Thompson’s second ball for six over midwicket. Middlesex did have a couple of wobbles with both Fran Wilson and Beth Morgan dismissed without scoring but Sophia Dunkley was once again imperious, finishing things off in the 16th over with a straight drive to the boundary.

Afterwards Dunkley told CRICKETher that Middlesex were delighted with their start to the T20 Cup: “Especially after [relegation] last week, it was about coming out with a fresh mind and going and having fun.”

“I’ve been working hard on my T20 at the moment and it was nice to go out and bat with some freedom.”

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NEWS: Clare Connor – “My aspiration is for a fully professional domestic structure by 2024”

In an interview on BBC TMS yesterday Clare Connor has stated that the ECB are currently reviewing the women’s domestic structure and that her personal ambition is for a fully professional set-up by 2024.

“I think it’s achievable – we’ll see,” she said.

“We’ve outgrown the current domestic structure underneath the KSL. We’ve been looking for the last 6 or 8 months at what it should look like… We’ve got an internal performance group that is looking at these issues”.

She said that it was important to sustain the success achieved by England in last year’s World Cup, and that a renewed county structure would help to do that.

“Paying players allows them to focus on their training, it allows them to make cricket their priority. And that isn’t paying them 6 or 8 thousand pounds, it’s got to be enough so that they can be a fully fledged cricketer for the majority of the year.”

Asked what the new domestic structure would look like, she said: “We’re not sure what the right number of players looks like yet.”

On The Hundred, she said that the decision to make the women’s game part of the new format was “based on the scale that it can give to the women’s game. It enables us to send a very powerful message that we are putting men and women on the same playing field, in the same teams.”

She praised the KSL and those involved in it, saying that they had “done a phenomenal job in creating a brand new competition from scratch”, but said: “We mustn’t be scared of change. I’ve loved going to all of the [KSL] grounds and seeing people wearing new kit and getting behind their teams in new ways. I would urge those people to trust us.”

She pledged to deliver a new women’s domestic T20 competition that is “equally worthwhile [to the KSL]”.

OPINION: England’s Loss Leaves Robinson Facing Some Tricky Decisions

Lizelle Lee finishing it with a six just about summed things up, didn’t it?

Despite the fact that in the innings break we thought that England still had a fair crack at winning this match, the ease with which South Africa strolled to victory today showed that England really lost this game with the bat, not the ball.

Was this a difficult pitch to bat on? I’m not convinced. England’s batsmen were – with the exception of Tammy Beaumont – either beaten for pace or out playing a silly shot. “It looks like a good pitch,” Heather Knight said at the toss, as she chose to bat. She wasn’t wrong.

South Africa are a bowling side – cf their World Cup match v West Indies last year – so it would be unfair to say England “should” have won today: they lost to a good side and the stat about it being the Saffers first win against England in a home ODI for 15 years is a bit illusory.

But what this result does do is leave Mark Robinson facing some tricky selectorial decisions for the rest of the games.

The key one relates to filling the two opening slots. Today he chose to go with Beaumont and Amy Jones up top, who made 19 and 6 respectively. One could argue that neither did a lot wrong: Jones played positively, looking to attack Shabnim Ismail early on, while Beaumont was done by one of the only balls (from Ayabonga Khaka) that moved significantly all day.

Unfortunately the current squad contains four openers, not two: and therein lies Robinson’s dilemma. Lauren Winfield has been brought back after missing the India tour. She was left behind with instructions from Robinson to work on her game; she has, and after scores of 28, 55, 69 and 45* for Yorkshire in the Women’s County Championship has played her way back into contention. But for someone who has done nothing except open for England in ODIs for the past 3 years, does it make sense for her to come in further down the order?

As for Danni Wyatt, her recent success for England – including both her international centuries – has all come at the top of the order. Arguably what England really needed today up top was a Lizelle Lee: someone who would hit it hard and play positively. Of the 4 candidates it is Wyatt who most fits that bill. What she isn’t, is the kind of player who will feel comfortable coming in at 6 to play a steadying role – it just isn’t her natural game.

So how does Robinson make room in his side for 4 openers?

One other dilemma for Robinson relates to the third ODI of this series v South Africa. The decision to only announce a squad for the first two matches, with room to adjust prior to the third game, may well have been made with the intention of resting key players, in what is going to be an extremely busy summer.

A prime candidate for “resting” is Katherine Brunt, who admitted in the BBC Stumped podcast this week that she found last year’s packed schedule incredibly tough on her prone-to-injury back. As she spoke to the media after close of play today she was clearly pretty stiff.

But if Brunt is going to prop up the team with both bat and ball, as she did today, it’s going to be very difficult to leave her out – especially as these are all Championship ODIs that count towards World Cup qualification.

For England, today’s game poses more questions than it answers – questions that no doubt will rumble on across the summer.

NEWS: General Lee Drives South Africa To Victory At Worcester

England huffed and puffed against South Africa at Worcester today, but a fine innings from Lizelle Lee was ultimately the difference between the two teams – South Africa winning by 7 wickets with 4 overs to spare.

Perhaps the turning point was Katherine Brunt’s disallowed catch, which would have sent Lee back to the pavilion on 68, leaving two new batters at the crease. Brunt certainly thought she’d caught it, telling the media after the game:

“I honestly believe I caught it, but obviously that’s not my decision – when it goes upstairs its their decision and I guess that’s the decision they made and that’s the one I’ve got to stick with.”

But in truth the match was arguably already long lost by that stage, with South Africa having done the hard work in the morning to reduce England to 64-6, with all their “proper” batsmen back in the pavilion.

Brunt’s innings of 72*, and in particular her partnership of 51 with Laura Marsh, did give them something to bowl at; and although Brunt’s innings wasn’t pretty, it was effective. It also came off the back of a half-century against Hampshire in the County Championship:

“That set me up for this game today,” she said. “I had to bat for a long time and the ball was seaming around, so it something that I’ve been doing. I’ve been waiting my whole career to be taken seriously in terms of batting and being a genuine all-rounder, and the more I can go out there and show that I can bat, I’m happy.”

And she believed England had done enough:

“I fancy our squad as a really good bowling side and I thought we could dig ourselves out from anything above 140. Once we got past 140 it was time to get as many as we possibly could and I truly believe coming out that we had enough to defend, because I back our bowlers.”

But that reckoned without Lizelle Lee, who played a quite untypical innings:

“It was a bit unlike her,” said Brunt. “She normally plays a lot more aggressively than that, so she didn’t give us as many opportunities this time. I thought she played quite sensibly and she took her opportunities when they came, but that’s what you can do when you are not chasing as many.”

As for Lee herself, she was typically modest, saying this was “up there” but not her best innings.

Did she think she was out to the Brunt “catch”?

“Honestly I did, but the guys called me from the top and said listen – wait – I think she could have dropped it, so I waited.”

“Then Dane [van Niekerk] started screaming at me: use this chance!”

And use it she did, finishing the match with a thumping 6 to consign England to defeat in their first home match since the World Cup final.

Interestingly, Lee thinks that South Africa are a better side than when England knocked them out in the semi finals on the way to their win at Lords:

“We’ve improved immensely! The World Cup was a great event for us – we batted well, we bowled well, and we didn’t do anything that bad in the semi-final – I think England were just a little bit better.”

“But now there’s 4 years to go until the next World Cup, so we have to go hard and use series like this teach you the confidence you need.”

And if one match can ever be a statement, this was it – South Africa are a serious side, with serious ambitions, and when it comes to the next World Cup they will be up there!

OPINION: England Hope For Triumph of Experience In Busy Summer

Charlotte Edwards will be in the commentary box at Worcester, as England take on South Africa in the 1st of six ICC Championship matches to be played in England this summer.

But the former England captain could be forgiven for a certain sense of deja-vu as she looks out onto the ground at New Road – all bar one of the England’s 14-player squad made their debuts under her or (in two cases) her predecessor Clare Connor. The “average” England debut for this squad was in 2009 – almost 10 years ago.

It will soon be three years since Mark Robinson was appointed England coach, and just over two years since Edwards was metaphorically left alone in a room at Lords with a bottle of Scotch and a loaded revolver. In that time, Robinson has handed out five “proper” debuts, to Alex Hartley, Sophie Ecclestone, Alice Davidson-Richards, Katie George and Bryony Smith, one “re-debut” to Fran Wilson, and awarded a new “rookie” contract to the so-far uncapped Freya Davies; but of these only Ecclestone will take the field today.

Of course, there is plenty more cricket to be played this summer – a fast and furious T20 Tri-Series against South Africa and New Zealand will offer opportunities to bounce back, as England look to rotate with half an eye on the New Zealand ODI series to come.

But it does have to be a worry that while the Australians are bringing on the likes of Beth Mooney and Ash Gardner, the pathway doesn’t appear – Ecclestone aside – to be producing the players they trust to go out there and score runs and take wickets for England.

That being said, this is still a very strong England team – the problem areas are mostly of the “nice problem to have” variety. Do you play Dani Hazell and Laura Marsh? What about Georgia Elwiss, who had a good game against South Africa for the Academy last week? Where do you bat Tammy Beaumont if Amy Jones opens with Danni Wyatt, which England seem to think might be the answer to Jones’ issues (which are clearly 99% in her head)? And of course you’d ideally want to fit in the ever-reliable Jenny Gunn, but where?

My guess is that England might go with:

  1. Wyatt
  2. Jones
  3. Taylor
  4. Sciver
  5. Beaumont
  6. Knight
  7. Brunt
  8. Marsh
  9. Hazell
  10. Shrubsole
  11. Ecclestone

This year will see no repeat of Pakistan 2016 – South Africa will be no pushover – though they will have breathed a sigh of relief that Laura Wolvaardt has decided for the moment to try to juggle cricket and medical school, because their batting can be as brittle as it can sometimes be brilliant without her indefatigability at the top of the order.

New Zealand will similarly push England hard, as you’d expect from a team led by the best player in the world (Suzie Bates) who can afford to drop one of the most destructive batsmen in the world (Rachel Priest) for “reasons” because when you’ve got Amy Satterthwaite and Sophie Devine too, that’s the kind of crazy thing you can do and still pull off the highest ODI score of all time against Ireland!

So… predictions? I think England will win more games than they’ll lose this summer, but they won’t have it all their own way.

The one certainty – for the neutrals, it should be a good one!

NEWS: Pay Rises For England Women as Contract System Extended

In the match day programme for the England v Australia Men’s ODI series, made public today, the ECB have officially confirmed that the current women’s contract system now extends to 22 players – 19 full contracts and 3 Rookie contracts.

Sophie Ecclestone has had a full contract since September 2017 and the 3 “Rookies” are Freya Davies (Sussex), Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent) and Katie George (Hampshire).

The ECB have also announced that from February 2018 10 of the contracted players have seen pay increases of 50% or more and that the overall salary pot is up by 40%. Additionally there is now a bonus pot of money awarded for wins in bilateral series.

While the ECB have never confirmed how much the contracts are worth, the players on the top level of contract – Tier 1 – are likely to now be earning in the region of £50,000.

The Rookie contracts, which will come up for renewal in September, are thought to be worth significantly less, with the current 3 Rookie players remaining reliant on other sources of income or parental support.

The main contracts are renewable in February each year but are now rolling contracts that can be extended for up to 2 years, adding to player security in a system where losing a central contract means going straight from hero to zero with no fallback underneath.

In the piece, ECB Director of Women’s Cricket Clare Connor states that: “Any increase to a player’s salary is judged on performance and potential.”

She highlights that equal pay is not a current goal but emphasises that “we should be bold… and demonstrate a commitment to closing that gap.

“The objective is to get to a situation in 2020 – when the new investment in the game kicks in – whereby the players are paid double what they were paid when they won the World Cup. It’s the direction of travel that’s important.”

NEWS: Aboriginal Women’s XI Bring The Spirit of ’68 To Surrey

It was back in ’68 – 1868, to be precise – that a group of Aboriginal cricketers from Australia embarked upon the first ever cricket tour of England by an overseas side. It was a tough tour, by all accounts – one man, King Coal, died of tuberculosis and two others had to return to Australia due to ill-health. In all, the Aboriginals played 47 games, at grounds across the length and breadth of England, including The Oval – winning 14 matches, losing 14 and drawing the rest.

150 years later, two new Aboriginal XIs – men’s and women’s – have returned to follow in their footsteps – the men playing in shirts bearing the names of those original pioneers.

We caught up with Sally Moylan – formerly of Aussie state side ACT – who scored 24 runs against Surrey Women at The Oval.

“It’s a moment that I will cherish for ever,” she says.

“It means a lot coming to such an iconic ground as The Oval – it is where a lot of Test matches and famous cricket has been played, including the 1868 tour, which we hold dear to our hearts.”

“It is important, coming over here and reconnecting to that story and learning more about what took place here all those years ago – we went to Lords the other day and saw all the cases from that tour and the gifts that were brought with them.”

“So this tour has been 150 years in the making for us, speaking on behalf of the team. It is such a phenomenal moment and a moment that will live with us for ever – to come all that way to play here and to go on our own journey and start our own legacy, like those men did 150 years ago.”

“Hopefully in many years to come we will have more Aboriginal women playing the game and coming back here; and maybe in a hundred years I won’t be around, but we’ll see someone playing with Gardner on the back of their shirts.”

The Aboriginal Women’s XI were in the end well-beaten by a Surrey side which included England’s Bryony Smith, who hit 50 as Surrey posted 149-6 off their 20 overs, with Ashleigh Gardner talking 2-28.

Smith then went on to take a wicket with the first ball of the Aboriginal XI’s innings – Sara Darney caught by Priya Chatterji at cover – but it was captain Hannah Jones who was to steal the show with the ball, taking 5 wickets for 18 as the Aboriginal XI were bowled out for 113.

For Jones it was a nice warm-up prior to the County T20 Cup starting on Sunday:

“It was a good way to start our T20 season – we really enjoy playing at The Oval – and now we are looking forward to Worcestershire and Warwickshire on Sunday. Bryony Smith is in great form – nothing phases her and she continues to get runs, so we don’t mind her on our side!”

STATS: Women’s County Championship – Batting Rankings

Although Suzie Bates was arguably a bit less important to Hampshire this season than last – scoring 34% of their runs this year, compared with 38% in 2017 – she was still The Big Gear in the machine that clinched the County Championship last weekend. She was also the only player in Div 1 to score a century… and she scored two of them! Unsurprisingly, then, she tops our batting rankings.

At No. 2, Emma Lamb had another good season for Lancashire, opening the batting with Eve Jones who also makes the top 10. Lancashire’s problem is that they don’t have much else below them – between the two of them they scored almost half the county’s runs this season.

Middlesex’s Maia Bouchier had a breakthrough season – she spent last winter working hard in New Zealand, and seems to have come back with a little something extra about her – England really should be looking at her when they review the Academy squads this winter.

In Div 2, Kirstie White was the leading run scorer, but just pipped in the rankings by Nat Sciver after the England all-rounder’s crazy 180 off 98 balls against Derbyshire – doubtless not the most challenging bowling she’ll face this summer, but you can only play what they put in front of you, as the saying goes!

Div 1

Player Played Runs H/S S/R
1. Suzie Bates (Hampshire) 6 358 148 86.06
2. Emma Lamb (Lancashire) 7 339 91 81.69
3. Tammy Beaumont (Kent) 4 261 98 73.94
4. Amy Jones (Warwickshire) 5 193 68 99.48
5. Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire) 4 197 69 90.78
6. Maia Bouchier (Middlesex) 6 172 76 75.44
7. Alice Davidson-Richards (Kent) 7 223 61* 58.07
8. Leigh Kasperek (Yorkshire) 6 179 68 69.65
9. Thea Brookes (Warwickshire) 6 168 70* 66.93
10. Eve Jones (Lancashire) 7 193 61* 55.78

Div 2

Player Played Runs H/S S/R
1. Nat Sciver (Surrey) 4 273 180* 156
2. Kirstie White (Surrey) 7 331 94 70.28
3. Bryony Smith (Surrey) 7 256 119* 86.49
4. Gabby Basketter (Wales) 6 269 78 74.1
5. Sarah Taylor (Sussex) 3 200 88 93.46
6. Heather Knight (Berkshire) 3 190 105 89.62
7. Bess Heath (Derbyshire) 7 210 108 77.78
8. Georgia Adams (Sussex) 6 207 106 74.19
9. Rachel Priest (Wales) 6 174 88 86.57
10. Georgia Hennessy (Devon) 6 174 58 66.16

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

STATS: Women’s County Championship – Bowling Rankings

Far and away the leading bowler in Division 1 of the County Championship was Notts’ Kirstie Gordon. In her 3rd season for Notts, since moving down from Scotland, she took 23 wickets, with a best of 5-18 against Warwickshire, which included Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the Warwickshire batting lineup.

The next highest wicket taker in Div 1 was Fi Morris, with 15. The former Berkshire player returned to county cricket with Hampshire after taking a break last summer, and her contributions with ball and bat were an important part of why Hampshire won the County Championship.

After ranking 2nd in 2016, but missing most of last season, Katie Thompson came back with 11 wickets at a very economical 1.7 for Yorkshire.

Meanwhile in Div 2, the standout performers were Devon’s Hazelle Garton with 22 wickets, and Sussex and England Academy’s Freya Davies, whose 6-10 to bowl Derbyshire out for 65 was the leading return in the County Championship this season.

Div 1

Player Played Wickets Best Economy
1. Kirstie Gordon (Nottinghamshire) 7 23 5-18 2.63
2. Katie Thompson (Yorkshire) 6 11 5-14 1.7
3. Anya Shrubsole (Somerset) 4 9 5-15 1.58
4. Fi Morris (Hampshire) 7 15 4-12 3
5. Leigh Kasperek (Yorkshire) 6 12 3-19 2.79
6. Katie George (Hampshire) 7 11 4-13 2.61
7. Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire) 5 9 4-16 2.35
8. Suzie Bates (Hampshire) 6 10 3-24 2.95
9. Megan Belt (Kent) 7 11 3-15 3.39
10. Laura Marsh (Kent) 5 11 3-18 3.41

Div 2

Player Played Wickets Best Economy
1. Hazelle Garton (Devon) 7 22 5-18 1.98
2. Freya Davies (Sussex) 6 13 6-10 1.85
3. Georgia Elwiss (Sussex) 4 10 4-22 1.79
4. Bryony Smith (Surrey) 7 14 5-33 2.6
5. Steph Hutchins (Devon) 7 13 4-35 2.5
6. Tara Norris (Sussex) 6 10 3-17 2.18
7. Emma Walker (Berkshire) 6 10 3-16 2.33
8. Linsey Smith (Sussex) 5 7 3-28 1.75
9. Gabby Basketter (Wales) 6 11 3-13 3.05
10. Eva Gray (Surrey) 7 11 2-8 3.06

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

NEWS: England Name Squad For South Africa ODIs

With just 5 days to go until the start of the summer internationals, England have named a 14-player squad for the first two ODIs against South Africa.

Lauren Winfield has been recalled after missing out on the ODI and T20 series’ in India, while Alex Hartley and Fran Wilson have both been omitted. Katherine Brunt and Sarah Taylor both return to the squad after being rested for the India tour.

Interestingly, the ECB’s press release indicates that this squad is only for the first two ODIs of the summer, leaving Mark Robinson’s options open for the third ODI against South Africa and the ensuing T20 tri-series.

The full squad is as follows:

  • Heather Knight (captain, Berkshire)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
  • Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
  • Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
  • Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
  • Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)
  • Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire)
  • Amy Jones (wicketkeeper, Warwickshire)
  • Laura Marsh (Kent)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
  • Nat Sciver (Surrey)
  • Sarah Taylor (wicketkeeper, Sussex)
  • Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
  • Danni Wyatt (Sussex)