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Kirstie Gordon - YouTube

1. Forget The ODIs

England will rightly feel humiliated after that performance at Canterbury – that’s not how they want to be playing their cricket. At some point, they will need to look back through the video footage, do some proper analysis, and try to work out exactly what went wrong. But the time for that isn’t now. “We’ve got to get a bit of calmness, take stock and get a bit of space,” coach Mark Robinson said after the third ODI. Calmness is the right word: England are a good side and the issue isn’t that they don’t know how to bat – it’s all about what’s going on upstairs. With just a few days to readjust before the must-win Test begins on Thursday, they need to look forward, not back, or the problems will only get worse.

2. Bat Like It’s A Test

Obvious, but tricky, given how little multi-format cricket that any of these players get to participate in. With just one 3-day warm-up to adjust, at Millfield School this weekend, England need to work out a way to shift things down a gear in a relatively short space of time. On the other hand they also need to NOT approach things like they did at Canterbury 4 years ago, when they seemed to fold in on themselves completely and see “Test-match batting” as meaning “I don’t need to score any runs”. It’s a tricky balance to strike: the real answer is more women’s Tests, but sadly that doesn’t seem to be about to change any time soon… in the meantime, the Ashes are at stake!

3. Make Some Radical Selections

Mark Robinson has gone down a highly conservative route so far this series, with the same squad of players contesting all 3 ODIs, and none of the newbies getting so much as a sniff at selection. Maybe that made sense at the start, but given England’s lack of success so far, and how inexperienced almost all his players are at the 4-day format, there is no time like the present for a bit of experimenting.

Syd has already suggested that Eve Jones could be worth her weight in gold when it comes to the Test match format. In the past 10 days, she’s hit 125 for club side Porthill Park, which has added fuel to the fire. Another possible contender could be Kirstie Gordon, who took 6-85 against the main Australian side in the Academy match at Marlborough yesterday, including the wickets of Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry. The Test is a must-win – so why not be bold?

4. Find Their Knight In Shining Armour

No one has made a Test century for England since Heather Knight’s mammoth effort at Wormsley in 2013: this would be a good time for one of the top 6 to bring that particular drought to an end. A good contender to do so is Tammy Beaumont, who will almost certainly be opening the batting and will no doubt be keen to add a Test match hundred to her glittering international CV. Whoever it might be, England need someone to shoulder the responsibility and go big on what is likely to be a good batting track at Taunton (the same place where two world record T20 scores were hit on the same day last year).

5. Pray For Brunt

Somehow, you don’t quite realise how irreplaceable Katherine Brunt is until you see England play without her: she just seems to fire up the rest of the team in a way that’s difficult to put your finger on (and her wickets are pretty handy, too!) Having caught sight of her stomping around angrily after England lost the the 3rd ODI – presumably fed up with a) her own self-inflicted ankle injury, and b) the way her teammates capitulated – I reckon it’s even more imperative that she makes it back in time for the Test: no batsman wants to face down an angry Katherine Brunt. In the long term, there’s obviously a worry about what happens when she finally, inevitably, retires: for now, she’ll be raring to go – let’s hope she gets the chance!

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The fallout from England’s ODI Ashes whitewash is still ongoing – there are 30 comments (and counting!) below the line in our postmortem on the 3rd ODI – but England need to put the ODI series behind them and start to think about the Test.

The Ashes series is not actually lost yet – 8 points is the “magic number” for Australia to retain the trophy, and they only have 6 right now; but obviously the odds are stacked against England – they need to win the Test and all 3 T20s.

Being optimistic, England have a team that could win all 3 T20s – they won the T20 series in 2017, and they hold the World Record for the highest score in T20s between the top teams, having made 250-3 against South Africa at Taunton last summer. T20 is probably England’s best format at the moment, with batsmen like Danni Wyatt (one of only two women ever to have scored two international T20 centuries) and Tammy Beaumont ideally suited to the swashbuckling brand of cricket England like to play in the short game.

But the problem is that players – or more particularly, batsmen – ideally suited to T20 are almost by definition not suited to playing Test cricket, where you have to graft for your runs and build a score over hours not minutes. Perhaps more than anything in Test cricket, you have to put a high price on your wicket – something this current England team seem too-often incapable of doing.

So where can we turn?

The Women’s County Championship is not held in high esteem by England’s management, which is why they want to abolish it; but if County Championship cricket teaches you one thing, it is to put value on your wicket and grind-out an innings, and one of the more successful county batsmen over the past few years has been Eve Jones, first of Staffordshire and now of Lancashire.

There are other options of course – Sophia Dunkley or Bryony Smith, for instance – but they are both players more of a T20 mould, who have had the power-hitting mindset instilled into them by now.

Jones, however, is from a different era – dropped from the England pathway precisely because she was too “grafty” and wasn’t ever going to hit a T20 hundred off 50 balls – in other words, just what England need for the Test! Even if you were being extremely cynical, you’d have to say she can’t go any worse than most of England’s batting lineup has thus far in this series.

Is Jones One for the Future? Not likely – she is nearly 27 and she’s never going to have an international “career”; but England have got a Test to win now and they need to find a bit of backbone from somewhere – Jones would be a gamble… but at 6-0 down we’re in gambling territory anyway – let’s give her a roll!

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In retrospect, it was Canterbury that was the beginning of the end: a top-order batting collapse led to a convincing Ashes defeat; and within a year, both coach and captain were gone.

The year was 2015, and England were led by coach Paul Shaw and captain Charlotte Edwards – two figures from the amateur era, struggling to keep-pace with Australia in an increasingly professionalised game.

Four years later – another coach; another captain; another Ashes – but the same old city of Canterbury… and the same old problem!

England had hoped that Australia’s thumping victory in last year’s World Twenty20 final was a one-off; but after 3 shell-shocking ODI defeats in the space of a week, culminating in yesterday’s humiliation at Canterbury, it is apparent that it was no aberration.

England were abject.

It started at the toss, which was perhaps a bad one to win, given that Meg Lanning said she’d have bowled too; but in retrospect it is difficult to justify putting Australia in.

With Katherine Brunt out and Sarah Taylor back, England had chosen to make a straight swap, in effect replacing a strike bowler with a batsman, in a situation where they needed to take wickets in order to seize the game by the scruff.

Brunt’s absence, and Heather Knight’s reluctance to bowl herself, meant that Nat Sciver had to bowl almost a full quota of overs, and while they did eventually buy the wickets of Alyssa Healy and Meg Lanning, they came at some cost – Sciver going at well over 6 an over, where Brunt had gone at under 4 in the first two ODIs, as the Aussies took command.

It’s true that Australia didn’t reach the 300-plus total which at one point looked on the cards; but in reality it always felt like 250 could well have been enough anyway, so 269 was 20 better than par… and ultimately 194 better than they actually needed.

Because of course this was Canterbury – where England Ashes collapses seem to come around like pilgrims – every one with a tale to tell!

This time that tale belonged to Ellyse Perry, whose 7-22 were the best figures ever returned by an Australian in a Women’s ODI. With her second Player of the Match performance of the series, Perry ripped England’s top order to pieces, punishing equally lose strokes across the line (Jones and Beaumont) and lazy prods outside off stump (Knight and Taylor) – and from 18-5, with Schutt having also sent Nat Sciver home for a duck, there was no way back from there.

So what’s answer? Force out the coach? Again? Fire the captain? Again?

No, because it won’t make a devil of a difference – it isn’t the coach or the captain – it is that Australian women’s cricket is quite simply operating on a different level right now. With the WBBL going from strength to strength, and professional contracts for an entire cohort of domestic players in the WNCL, the Southern Stars are just the tip of a cricketing iceberg; and while England can cruise past the West Indies as they did this summer, or South Africa and New Zealand as they did the last, when it comes to the Australian iceberg… they are cruising aboard the Titanic!

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Tammy Beaumont blamed herself for England’s 2nd defeat in the space of 3 days at Leicester, telling us in the post-match: “I probably should have got a few more. I felt good but I got out at the wrong time – I should have been the one to manage the back end of that innings and get us up to 230/ 240 and give us a bit more of a chance.”

To be honest though, that feels a tad unjust – she wasn’t the one that failed! In fact, there is a fair argument that Beaumont should have been Player of the Match – it might be deeply unfashionable to hand the champagne to someone on the losing side, and taking nothing away from Delissa Kimmince, but Kimmince picked off a slogging tail, while Beaumont did the hard graft against Megan Schutt and Ellyse Perry.

TB got over half of England’s runs, and she ran hard to get them. Of each of her 6 ODI centuries, this contained the highest proportion of “run” runs, at 58%, with just 42% of her runs coming in boundaries. (Her other 5 hundreds average 46% “run” runs, and 54% boundaries.)

“I’m always trying to improve,” she said. “I’ve been working really hard with Ali Maiden on my balance, trying to score off more balls – I think that’s the first time I’ve got 100 in 100 balls.”

She thought right too – although two of her other tons ended with a higher strike rate, this was the only one where she actually passed the 100 mark in less than 100 balls… albeit only just – it was 99! (Maybe someone should buy her a Flake to make up for the lack of champagne?)

So where did England lose this match? Knight’s innings doesn’t look great in the scorebook – 17 off 47 balls at a Strike Rate of 36 – but she was clearly desperate to ensure that England didn’t lose another early wicket and end up reliving Tuesday’s collapse, and that was the right thing to do in the situation. And the tail didn’t wag, but you can’t expect it to every time – that’s why it’s a tail!

Overall then, the feeling has to be that England didn’t really “lose” the match so much as Australia “won” it, by batting sensibly at the end. The key player there was Jess Jonassen, who frustrated England 2 years ago in the Test at Canterbury, and did it again here. 31 off 34 balls doesn’t sound like a particularly decisive contribution, but having come in at a point where it could have been swinging back England’s way with 60 still required, Jonassen made sure that the run rate maintained that bit of impetus it still needed, without taking the risks that had seen England bowled out leaving balls on the pitch.

With the Aussies going 4-0 up, regaining the Ashes is an uphill struggle for England now. The Test isn’t technically a “must win” yet – if England win the 3rd ODI they could theoretically draw it and still claim the spoils if they win all the T20s, but the way things have gone so far, you’d have to say they probably aren’t the hottest favourites to do that unfortunately.

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It was all going so well. Tammy Beaumont had gorgeously clipped the first ball of the innings off her legs, through to the midwicket boundary for 4.

This was the England we had come to see – bold, brash and beautiful.

The hope was becoming expectation.

And then it wasn’t.

It wasn’t even hope any more.

Just existential dread as first Jones… then Beaumont… then Taylor… then Knight all went in the first 6 overs, as Schutt and Perry between them humbled England’s top order. The ball that got Taylor was an absolute “beaut” as the Aussies themselves say; but both Jones and Beaumont got themselves out.

And Knight? Well, the England captain clearly felt hard-done-by in the moment – making the “T” DRS review gesture as she walked back to the pavilion, presumably feeling she’d hit it, as it was clearly dead in front. It was a protest that was DOA, however, as there is no DRS in this series – a decision which came more sharply into focus a few minutes later with Fran Wilson.

Wilson swung at a ball from Perry and got a bottom edge which was taken behind the stumps. “Not Out” said the umpire, and that was that. But if DRS had been in place, there is every likelihood that it would have seen Wilson sent back two overs before she was eventually dismissed, by another controversial decision which set people asking why DRS was not being used, as she was given out “Glove” Before to Jess Jonassen.

The answer, we understand, is financial – full DRS is expensive, with much more kit and caboodle required to meet the minimum standards for player referrals, compared with what is needed for umpire referrals for run-outs and stumpings.

Sky, finding themselves under fire on Twitter as the “host broadcaster”, were quick to point the finger at the host board as the ones who had actually made the decision not to spend the money; but the ECB perhaps can be defended on this one. There is only a limited amount of budget, and the minimum standards required by the ICC for international series mean you can’t just use the “normal” TV pictures, even when the decision is a howler of Molly Weasley proportions! (And if you want to complain about that, complain to the ICC not the ECB.)

It is easy to forget that as recently as 10 years ago, Ashes internationals were still being played at club grounds in front of crowds of literally tens! (Okay… the match at Stratford in 2009 wasn’t technically part of “The Ashes” at that point in history, but still…) So while we are not quite flying “First Class”, the fact that we are flying “Business”, with full TV coverage in front of crowds which break 4-figures even on a “school” night, is easy to overlook.

And as we’ve said, it wouldn’t have saved England anyway – Wilson would have been out two overs earlier, and even if she hadn’t been, the damage was already done at 19-4 – that was the ball game, from 6 overs in. The rest? It wasn’t quite a formality – Nat Sciver’s efforts with the bat had insured England had something to bowl at, and bowl at it they did. To come within 2 wickets of victory was a fine effort from them with the ball, but at the end of the day all the Australians needed to do was park the bus just long enough to get away with the loot, and that’s exactly what they did – 2-0 Australia!

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Team Played Won Lost N/R Points
Warwickshire 8 5 3 0 20
Lancashire 8 4 1 3 19
Kent 8 4 2 2 18
Surrey 8 4 3 1 17
Hampshire 8 4 3 1 17
Sussex 8 3 4 1 13
Wales 8 2 4 2 10
Middlesex 8 2 4 2 10
Nottinghamshire 8 1 5 2 6

Warwickshire (AKA Birmingham Bears) have won the T20 Cup with a dramatic victory over Lancashire in the final match of the season.

Despite losing their opening fixture of the day to Sussex, Warwickshire stayed in the hunt due to Hampshire’s defeat to Kent, but they still needed to beat Lancashire and hope that Wales could do them a favour in Hampshire’s final game.

Wales did their part, with Alexandra Griffiths taking 3-12 as Hampshire were bowled out for 73, which Wales chased-down with 4 overs to spare.

Simultaneously at Edgbaston Warwickshire had racked up a massive 150 against Lancashire, largely thanks to 76 off 57 balls from captain Marie Kelly, who had earlier been awarded a special county cap by Warwickshire legend Ian Bell for her hundredth appearance in a Bears shirt.

With nothing to lose, Lancashire gave chase hard, reaching 70-2 after 9 overs, but a collapse to 75-5 was the beginning of the end and Warwickshire completed the job by bowling out Lancashire for 130 – Georgia Davis and Jess Couser taking 3 wickets apiece.

Elsewhere, Bryony Smith was in the runs again, scoring 77 for Surrey as they posted 142 against Middlesex, with Hannah Jones taking a hat-trick to kill off Middlesex’s reply at 87 all out.

Meanwhile Somerset finished top of the tree in Div 2, beating Derbyshire and Worcestershire, with Sophie Luff top-scoring in both matches, as they finished 4 points ahead of Durham, who lost to Scotland and Yorkshire.

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The last time England took to the field against Australia, at the Twenty20 World Cup final in Antigua, there was hope.

True, England’s path to the final hadn’t been entirely  smooth – they had lost to the West Indies in the groups stages, in front of a fiercely partisan local crowd in St Lucia; but then nor had Australia’s – they had been thrashed by India, limping to 119 all out, after Smriti and Harmanpreet had smashed their bowlers for 167.

England certainly didn’t underestimate the Australians in that final, but having beaten India by 8 wickets in the semis, there was hope that they could go all the way.

But it wasn’t to be.

Having won the toss, England chose to bat, but only Danni Wyatt and Heather Knight reached double-figures as they were bowled out for 105 in the final over. In reply, the Aussies took England’s star bowlers to pieces – Kirstie Gordon and Anya Shrubsole went for 10 an over – as the Southern Stars romped home by 8 wickets with 5 overs to spare.

So much for hope.

And yet this week in Leicester, as England and Australia rejoin their rivalry in the 1st ODI of the multi-format Women’s Ashes series, the hope is there again.

England have put together an undefeated run of 14 matches since February, and in that time have whitewashed a T20 series against India, and both ODI and T20 series against Sri Lanka and the West Indies. It is a winning stretch that has become so talismanic for England that they turned down the chance to give some of their newer players – the likes of Sophia Dunkley and Freya Davies – opportunities in the T20 series versus the Windies, leaving them sitting on the sidelines in favour of the tried and trusted old hands who will be on the teamsheet once again in Leicester.

So is the hope justified this time?

Perhaps, yes.

England are a better team than they looked in that final last November, where they collapsed with exhaustion after an intense 3 weeks of sweltering tournament cricket, on pitches that didn’t really help a side who like to play their shots.

And while the Australians may have already built the strong domestic structures that England can currently only aspire to, at the top level the current cohort of contracted players are just as fit and just as well-drilled as the Aussies.

The returns of Katherine Brunt and Sarah Taylor, who both missed the World T20, will also make a difference. Taylor might not be the run machine she once was, but even as she has slightly struggled to adapt her batting game to the “Bish Bash Bosh ” era we all now live in, she has taken her wicket keeping to another level, and you can’t underestimate the extent to which her presence standing up to the stumps closes down the batsmans options and niggles at their confidence.

Katherine Brunt is arguably even more important, bowling with economy in all formats, even when she doesn’t take wickets; and while her batting can’t 100% be relied on – she still fails more often than not – she can be a match-winner with the bat too, coming in at 6 or 7, to halt a collapse or to give them that extra push over the cliff that turns a “10” innings up to “11”.

England’s settled batting line-up – Jones, Beaumont, Taylor, Sciver and Knight – all assured of their places for the entire series, will be full of confidence, playing on familiar pitches that will give them “value for their shots”, as Mark Robinson likes to say.

It is important to acknowledge that this is hope, not expectation – Australia are the better side, albeit probably not “win every game” better, as Alyssa Healy didn’t quite actually say.

But still, it really is hope.

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England have announced a 14-player squad for the 1st Women’s Ashes ODI against Australia.

The squad contains no surprises, and is identical to the squad selected for the first two matches of the West Indies ODI series, save for the omission of Alex Hartley, who was “let go” during that series.

Heather Knight, who was due to miss the washed-out T20 at Derby last Tuesday as a precautionary measure, having twanged her hamstring in the game at Northampton, is included and is expected to lead the team out as usual.

With the England Academy playing games against Australia A during the week, England have the option to bring in other players later in the series, which might provide an opening for Bryony Smith, who impressed in her ODI debut versus the Windies and also hit a half century in the warm-ups against Australia last week.

The multi-format series begins next week with a pair of day-night ODIs at Leicester on Tuesday 2nd and Thursday 4th July, followed by the final ODI at Canterbury on Sunday 7th July. The teams then have 10 days preparation before the only Test, which begins in Taunton on Thursday 18th July.

Full Squad

Heather Knight (Berkshire)
Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Jenny Gunn (Nottinghamshire)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Nat Sciver (Surrey)
Anya Shrubsole (Berkshire)
Sarah Taylor (Sussex)
Fran Wilson (Kent)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

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The Professional Cricketers Association has agreed with the ECB to represent an additional 100 female players participating in The Hundred from next season.

The Professional Cricketers Association [PCA] acts as a Trade Union for players, looking after their legal interests and their ongoing welfare both during their playing careers and post-retirement. Each player pays a small subscription, but the PCA is largely funded by the ECB.

In a Press Release, the PCA promised that “every male and female professional player” [emphasis ours] would benefit from the new agreement reached with the ECB and the 18 First Class counties.

One of the problems with the current setup is that although the Kia Super League players are “semi-professional” they have no formal representation within the system, because only the full time contracted England players are members of the PCA.

Bringing The Hundred players, whose interests do not necessarily align with those of the England contracted elite, into the PCA is therefore a huge step forwards.

The agreement also mandates a new minimum wage of £27,500 for full time professionals. It is unclear how (or even whether) this applies to The Hundred players, who will not be “full time”; however, this may mean a pay boost for those on the lowest tier of England contract.

There also remains potentially a gap for those players who play in the new “pro county” competition but not in The Hundred – though the suggestion that 100 additional players will be represented does actually imply that they might also be covered, because only about 80 “domestic” players are expected to be contracted for The Hundred, with the rest of the squads being made up by England and overseas players.

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