Thursday, 20 October 2016

England claim series win in West Indies

Well it wasn't very pretty, but sometimes you have to win ugly, and that is exactly what England managed to do in Jamaica.

After a horrible batting collapse allowed the West Indies to take the fourth ODI, and the two ICCWC points with it, England came back with a solid performance to win the final ODI comfortably, winning the series 3-2 and taking four of the six ICCWC points.

It means they only need one more point in Sri Lanka (in November), or for South Africa to lose one of their three ICCWC games against Australia (also November), to be sure of qualifying for the World Cup next year (assuming the Pakistan v India series does not happen in the next 10 days, which looks unlikely). Put it this way I don't think anyone will offer you odds against them getting there.

Make no mistake this was an important series for England. They were tested. Slow pitches, hot conditions, spinning wickets, some top quality players in the opposing side, and lumpy outfields. They lost two games that they probably should have won, but they showed they have some character by winning that final ODI. That will stand them in good stead as they move forward.

It was an excellent series for Alex Hartley, who seems to have stepped into the number 1 spinner slot, ahead of young Sophie Ecclestone, and probably Laura Marsh. Marsh is much more of a containing bowler, whereas Hartley is a wicket-taker. She took 13 in the five games and bowled with great control and accuracy AND she spins the ball. Without Anya Shrubsole a lot fell on the shoulders of Katherine Brunt. At times it looked like the pressure told, but she is a gutsy cricketer and usually came good when she needed to, which is tough for fast bowlers in the heat and on slow pitches. Generally England will have been pleased with all their bowlers, who gave very little away. Both games that England lost were down to their batsmen.

Overall Coach Robinson will have been pleased with his openers - Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield. Winfield had scores of 79 and 51, and Beaumont finished with scores of 57 and 34 after a poor start to the tour. She looked in good touch in games 4 and 5, having adjusted well to the conditions. Both now need to look beyond nice 50s, to big hundreds.

Number three is obviously still an issue. Georgia Elwiss had this slot for the first three games, as she did in the summer against Pakistan (where she had scores of 12, 17, and 77). Here she made 3, 16 and 3 batting at three, and then 9 and 5 coming in at number six. Having failed to grasp her opportunity at the top of the order she may find that she loses out to Fran Wilson in the middle order for the trip to Sri Lanka.

The number three slot was taken by skipper Heather Knight for the last two ODIs. A position she had not occupied in her previous 57 innings. After a golden duck in the first ODI she scored a frustrating 26, 22, 36 and 29. No-one will be more frustrated with those scores than her. She will know that she needs to turn these starts into big scores and get her side over the line in run chases.

Nat Sciver got two scores of 58, the second one not out in the final ODI, which was the sort of mature knock that her coach will have been willing her to make. It is sometimes difficult to remember that she is relatively new to the England team. She has only batted 22 times in ODIs and she has a healthy average of over 40 - the best in the England team. She is yet to record three figures for England, but this will come. She is maturing nicely in the England middle order.

Which brings us to Danni Wyatt and Amy Jones. Wyatt is the cheeky, chirpy, bubbly character from Stoke. She is a good athlete, smart in the field and has a rocket arm, but she has now played in 44 ODIs, and in 35 innings her highest score is just 44, which she scored on this tour in the first game at Trelawny Stadium. She followed this with 7, 17, 0 and 12. She bats for the team, but she seems to find ways to get out. She is an enigma.

As for Jones she kept well in four of the five games, but contributed little with the bat. She has been around quite some time, but has had relatively few opportunities in the middle (just 12 innings in nearly four years). She has the shots in her locker and needs to target spending more time at the crease, as she did in the first ODI with Wyatt. She has had big shoes to fill following on from Sarah Taylor, but given an extended run she could prove herself just as capable.

And finally a word about Heather Knight's captaincy. She looked comfortable making the decisions and used her bowling resources well. There were a few opportunities where she could perhaps have had more attacking fields, but the more she skippers the better she will get. Winning this series in the West Indies without her vice-skipper on the pitch, will be a feather in her cap.

Will this England team win the 2017 World Cup? They have the capability to do so, but it is a question of whether they have the self-belief. It is likely to come too early for this developing team, but I wouldn't write them off. If they can get on a roll early in the competition then they will be in with a shout.


Thursday, 6 October 2016

Aussies one step ahead again

The New South Wales Breakers, an Australian state cricket team, have announced that all their players will now earn the minimum wage in Australia of $35,000 (about £21,000) for playing in the Women's National Cricket League (WNCL) - Australia's state 50 over tournament. This appears to cover the entire 2016/2017 season, but that includes just six league games from 13th October until a possible seventh with the final on 3rd December.

The Breakers are the first women's state team to make this step up from being part-time players to being full-time professionals, thanks to increased sponsorship from Lendlease.

Since 2013 domestic players in Australia have been paid something to play for their state by Cricket Australia. Initially this was up to $7,000 out of a $100,000 allocation of funds from CA. In 2015 $7,000 became the minimum, and in 2016 this increased to a minimum of $11,000. With the additional money from Lendlease, NSW can now offer their domestic players the chance to be full-time professionals on a living wage.

In addition domestic players can also earn between $7,000 and $15,000 for playing in the WBBL, while Southern Stars contracted players are paid an additional $40,000 - $65,000. It means that top international players will now be earning over $100,000 from their cricket alone. NSW Breakers players who are not on Southern Stars's contracts, but do play in the WBBL will be earning between $42,000 and $50,000 per season. It seems inconceivable that the other five states and ACT will not follow NSW's example over the coming months, making the WNCL the first all professional women's 50 over league. That may not be this year, but almost certainly in 2017.

Compare this to the current situation in England where 19 players were awarded ECB central contracts at the end of January 2016. Two have subsequently retired from international cricket, Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway, leaving just 17 contracted players. The ECB have never disclosed what these contracts are worth, but somewhere between £25,000 - £50,000 seems to be the general consensus. But beyond this elite group none of the other girls that play the game were paid, until the inaugural Kia Super League this season, when those who actually played a game (about 35 non-contracted players) were paid £150 per game, and, if they made the final, the squad players all shared in the prizemoney. The maximum any player was paid for the KSL was about £2,500. Those who played in all five league games will have received £750.

The ECB have declined to follow the Aussies and have not put sufficient funds into women's county cricket to make this a semi-professional stepping stone to international cricket. There is no semi-professional league where players can hone their skills before being thrust onto the international stage, or back to which, players who lose their central contracts, can fall. It seems that the ECB are pinning their hopes on extending the KSL to 50 over cricket, but, as predicted here in December last year, this will not happen in 2017.

The door is open for the ECB to make some significant investment in the top eight teams who will compete in Division One of the County Championship next year, but it seems they are not inclined to open that door. In fact it looks firmly shut. An extended KSL (home and away games - even this will not happen in 2017) is the right format for T20 cricket, but domestic players need a semi-professional 50 over league, and surely the existing county teams are the way forward with ECB backing, leadership and minimum standards for training and playing facilities? Without this England's talent pool will continue to dwindle and the Aussies will continue to dominate women's cricket.


Sunday, 2 October 2016

SA v NZ & WI v Eng ODI series coming up this week

Two very important ICC Women's Championship series start next Saturday (8th October) - South Africa v New Zealand and West Indies v England.

It is the first time that New Zealand have ever been on tour to South Africa. Indeed the two sides have only met six times in ODIs, with New Zealand winning all six, but four of those were over 15 years ago. South Africa are just one point behind New Zealand in the ICCWC table, but they know that after New Zealand they have to travel to Australia for their last three ICCWC games. New Zealand on the other hand entertain Pakistan and will be banking on taking 6 points from those three games.

It means that South Africa really need all six points against New Zealand, which is going to be a very tall order... but not impossible. In the last eight months South Africa have recorded ODI victories over both England and the West Indies on home soil, so they know they can compete at the top level. Runs tend to be South Africa's problem, but in young Wolvaart they have a steady opener, and then the big guns - du Preez, Kapp, Lee and van Niekerk can accumulate and in Tryon and Luus they have two lusty hitters late on. New Zealand are a team in fine form - Suzie Bates is in fine touch with the bat after a summer in England and Devine, Satterthwaite and Priest will all have benefited from playing here in the summer. New Zealand's weakness is their lack of penetrative bowling and no spinners that really rip the ball. The sides are playing seven ODIs (the first three count towards the ICCWC). It should be a very even contest.

England have arrived in Jamaica in the West Indies just ahead of hurricane Matthew. Hopefully that will pass through the island early in the week and England can get some practice in ahead of their five match ODI series with the T20 World Champions. Here it is the last three games that will count towards the ICCWC standings, so England have a couple of opportunities to get their line-up right before points are won or lost.

It seems unlikely that Head Coach Mark Robinson will stray far from the line-up that beat Pakistan so convincingly over the summer, but with five spinners to choose from (Hazell, Marsh, Hartley, Ecclestone and Knight) he may well ring the changes, or perhaps even play four spinners rather than three. The brunt of the seam bowling will be down to Misses Brunt and Shrubsole, with back-up from Sciver, Elwiss and Gunn, as needed, and with Langston on hand at some time during the tour. Despite having a thumb injury the non-contracted Langston was preferred to the contracted Farrant and Cross. Quite where Danni Wyatt fits into the picture is not really clear. Had Fran Wilson been fit then she may not even have been on the plane? She is the type of player that might benefit from Robinson's nurturing - she has talent with the bat, but not always the application. If she gets a chance then she will need to grab it. She will not been thrown the ball to bowl.

But what then of the Windies? Sure they are T20 World Champions and they will not be slow to remind anyone who asks of that. But this is 50 over cricket. If Wyatt has an application problem, then the West Indians are a team of Wyatts. I generally use the word mercurial about their performances - quite simply you don't really know what you are going to get. Stafanie Taylor proved she is a world-class player in the KSL in England this year, with some outstanding innings, but she cannot carry the West Indian batting on her own in the 50 over format. Great expectations have been placed on the shoulders of young Hayley Matthews, after she burst onto the scene in Australia a couple of years ago, but since that series in which she scored 55, 89, 60 and 37, she has had poor ODI series against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and South Africa - teams she should be filling her boots against. She also had a very poor KSL with the bat here for Lancashire Thunder. Deandra Dottin too has not quite fulfilled her potential with the bat. The West Indies need her to step up now too. In addition Kycia Knight, Shaquana Quintyne, Shemaine Campbelle, Britney Cooper and the returning Shanel Daley will need some runs, if West Indies are to be competitive.

As for bowling the Windies have plenty of choice, but not a great deal of penetration. Shamilia Connell is quite sharp, but is yet to make an impact in any series. It is the spin-bowling of Mohammed, Quintyne, Matthews and Taylor, plus the slinging pace of Dottin, on which the Windies will rely. The West Indies have not beaten England in an ODI since 2009, although they have not actually played England in this format in the last three years. If England can start the series well, then they should be tough to beat and could win all three of the important ICCWC games, which would mean that they will be the second team through to the World Cup next June. With the games being livestreamed by WICB it will be a great series to watch.


Monday, 26 September 2016

Aussies beat Sri Lanka to make World Cup

Here is the ICC's wrap up of the series.....

Australia has qualified for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 after a 3-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka in the ICC Women’s Championship. Australia captain Meg Lanning has lauded her side for the way it adjusted to the conditions to become the first side to book a place at next summer’s event to be held in England.

“We were hoping to win all games that we played. I thought Sri Lanka tested us at certain stages but we stuck to our guns pretty well, certainly in the last two games we set pretty high standards. The conditions have been difficult, I guess, from the batting perspective, very different from back home, but the last couple of games we have adjusted very well, we came with our plans and stuck to them,” Lanning said.

Australia had arrived in Sri Lanka needing just one win to qualify for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017. And Lanning’s side achieved it in style when it wrapped up the first match in Dambulla last Tuesday by 78 runs. It then won the two Colombo ODIs by nine wickets and 137 runs.

Australia now sits pretty on 30 points from 18 games, 10 points more than its nearest rival the West Indies, which, like the remaining six sides in the competition, has played three less matches. England is third with 19 points, followed by New Zealand (16), South Africa (15), India (13), Pakistan (eight) and Sri Lanka (five). The top four sides from the ICC Women’s Championship will automatically qualify for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 while the bottom four sides will get a final chance of qualification through the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier in February 2017.

Lanning said the team was preparing for the different challenges in England next year.
“We are going to every game trying to improve and be better and we want to win every game. We have got a World Cup in July that we need to be ready for and play really good cricket, so it’s important we play every game the way we want to and also try on work on things to get better.
The conditions will be different in England. The key is in being aggressive and to take the game on as much as we can. Wickets are very important in ODI cricket. I think we are in a really good spot but have areas to improve,” Lanning said.

Sri Lanka captain Chamari Atapattu said they had been hoping to do better but hoped to learn from the series.

“We are not satisfied with our performances in this series. We couldn’t complete our tasks individually and were unable to follow our plans. This is a big experience - playing a series against Australia - and we hope to learn from it.

“The Australia players applied themselves very well and came up with good individual performances. As for our team, we had some satisfaction in taking several wickets in the first match but we seemed to lose focus in the remaining matches,” Atapattu said.

Australia’s dominance in the series saw some gains for both its batsmen and bowlers.
Left-hander batter Nicole Bolton, who was the pick of the batters with 212 runs and finished as the only centurion of the IWC series with scores of 64, 35 and 113,  moved up three slots to 18th position in the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Women’s Player rankings.

Bolton’s opening partner Elyse Villani’s 115 runs in the three matches enabled her to re-enter the rankings at 52nd position while top-ranked Lanning, fourth-ranked Ellyse Perry and sixth-ranked Alex Blackwell retained their positions with reasonably good showings.

Leg-spinner Kristen Beams, who was the most successful bowler in the series with 10 wickets and conceded just 61 runs in three matches, moved up 16 places to 28th rank in the rankings for bowlers. Beams had hauls of 4-15 in the first match and 4-26 in the third.

Left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen’s four wickets took her up two places to seventh position while pace bowler Holly Ferling’s seven wickets helped her move up 10 places to 52nd rank.

For Sri Lanka, opener Prasadani Weerakkody moved up four slots to 26th position while captain Chamara Atapattu made up for her lack of big contributions with the bat by taking five wickets with her medium-pace bowling that helped her move up 17 ranks to 76th position.

Upcoming ICC Women’s Championship matches:

8-13 October – South Africa v New Zealand in South Africa
14-19 October – West Indies v England in West Indies

  ICC Women’s Championship 2014-16

West Indies
New Zealand
South Africa
Sri Lanka

Note – two points for a win, no point for a loss and one point for a no-result

MRF Tyres ICC Women’s Player Rankings (as of 26 September 2016, after the Sri Lanka-Australia ODI series)

Batters (top 10)

Rank     (+/-)       Player                  Team     Pts        Avge      Highest Rating
   1         ( - )        Meg Lanning       Aus        820       49.57     834 v NZ at Bay Oval 2016
   2         ( - )        Suzie Bates          NZ         775!      40.50     775 v Aus at Bay Oval 2016
   3         ( - )        Mithali Raj          Ind         722       49.54     839 v Aus at Baroda Vadodar 2004
   4         ( - )        Ellyse Perry         Aus        693       42.83     725 v NZ at Bay Oval 2016
   5         ( - )        Stafanie Taylor    WI         690       45.63     765 v Ind at St Kitts (WP) 2012
   6         ( - )        Alex Blackwell    Aus        650       35.00     683 v Ind at Canberra 2008
   7         ( - )        Sarah Taylor        Eng        640       39.76     803 v Aus at Chelmsford 2009
   8         ( - )        H. Kaur                Ind         630       35.57     679 v SA at Bangalore 2014
   9         ( - )        Deandra Dottin    WI         583       28.28     650 v NZ at Kingston 2013
  10        ( - )        A. Satterthwaite  NZ         577       29.07     653 v Aus at Sydney 2012

Other selected rankings

Rank     (+/-)       Player                  Team     Pts        Avge     Highest Rating
 18         (+3)       Nicole Bolton      Aus        495*!    44.09    495 v SL at Colombo (RPS) 2016
26         (+4)       P.Weerakkody     SL          408*!    18.53    408 v Aus at Colombo (RPS) 2016

Bowlers (top 10)

Rank     (+/-)       Player                  Team     Pts        Avge     Eco       Highest Rating
   1         ( - )        Jhulan Goswami  Ind         730       21.78    3.18      796 v Eng at Chennai 2007
   2         ( - )        Katherine Brunt   Eng        658       22.59    3.36      796 v Ind at Mumbai 2013
   3         ( - )        A. Mohammed    WI         638       17.99    3.26      704 v Aus at Sydney 2014
   4         (+1)       Stafanie Taylor    WI         606       18.72    3.10      768 v NZ at Kingston 2013
   5         (-1)        Ellyse Perry         Aus        588       24.24    4.28      698 v Ind at Mumbai 2012
   6         ( - )        Shibnam Ismail   SA         567       19.27    3.53      641 v Eng at Johannesburg 2016
   7         (+2)       Jess Jonassen       Aus        546*!    20.80    4.10      546 v SL at Colombo (RPS) 2016
   8         (-1)        Jenny Gunn          Eng        543        27.80    3.78      693 v Ind at Scarborough 2014
   9         (-1)        Anya Shrubsole   Eng        539*!    25.64    4.14      539 v Pak at Taunton 2016
  10        ( - )        Morna Nielsen     NZ         532*     26.88    3.68      546 v Ind at Bangalore 2015

Other selected rankings

Rank     (+/-)       Player                 Team     Pts        Avge      Eco        Highest Rating
28          (+16)     Kristen Beams     Aus        413*!    19.60    3.45      413 v SL at Colombo (RPS) 2016
40          (+10)     I. Ranaweera        SL          341*     27.62    4.35      349 v Aus at Colombo (RPS) 2016
46          (+3)       E. Kaushalya       SL          323*     28.20    4.19      377 v WI at Dambulla 2013
52          (+10)     Holly Ferling       Aus        311*!    20.87    4.36      311 v SL at Colombo (RPS) 2016

All-rounders (top five)

Rank     (+/-)       Player                  Team     Pts        Highest Rating
   1         (+1)       Stafanie Taylor    WI         418       559 v NZ at Kingston 2013
   2         (-1)        Ellyse Perry         Aus        407       446 v NZ at Bay Oval 2016
   3         ( - )        Suzie Bates          NZ         336!      336 v Aus at Bay Oval 2016
   4         ( - )        Jhulan Goswami  Ind         288       308 v Aus at Canberra 2016

   5         ( - )        Sophie Devine     NZ         245!      245 v Aus at Bay Oval 2016


Monday, 12 September 2016

Intense period of ODIs starts soon

With the Women's World Cup looming on the horizon (June/July 2017 in England) all of the eight teams in the ICC Women's Championship are involved in their last two series of ODI games before the end of 2017, with the aim of making the top four and automatic qualification for the tournament.

The current table looks like this

And here are the series to be played :-

Sri Lanka v Australia starts 18th September
West Indies v England starts 8th October
South Africa v New Zealand starts 8th October
Pakistan v India - dates to be announced

Australia v South Africa starts 18th November
Sri Lanka v England starts 12th November
New Zealand v Pakistan starts 8th November
India v West Indies - dates to be announced

Most of the teams are playing as many ODIs as they can cram in to the series, although only the designated three games will count towards the ICCWC table.

And here are the current WCB ODI Team Rankings to the beginning of September. Australia are still top, but England have closed the gap to second. West Indies are closing in in third, and India have jumped over New Zealand into fourth, but in the next few months there could be many changes as teams battle it out.

ODI Team Rankings as at 1st September 2016


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Lamb in line for England call up?

Lancashire's 18 year old Emma Lamb could be in line for a call up to the England squad for the tour to the West Indies at the beginning of October, which is due to be announced next week.

With one eye firmly on the World Cup in England next June and July, England are playing five ODIs in the Windies and no T20s. With the retirement of Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway, England Head Coach Mark Robinson needs to strengthen the squad's batting line-up and Lamb looks to be best placed to make the step up into the squad, if not into the starting 11.

After returning from a successful tour to Sri Lanka with the England Academy in April, Lamb has not had a stellar season with Lancashire in Division Two of the County Championship, scoring just 187 runs at an average of 37.2. But she had a decent KSL series with the Lancashire Thunder, opening the batting in each of their five games and making scores of 25, 26, 34, 27 and 10 and looking at home at the crease, ahead of more exalted company - Matthews, Dottin and Wyatt.

In addition it seems likely that 17 year old Sophie Ecclestone will also be part of the squad - assuming she can get time off school. The left-arm spinner looked comfortable making her debut for England in the summer against Pakistan, and England need her left-arm variation in their attack.

If these two non-contracted players are included in the squad, then current contracted players will have to make way. It could be that Becky Grundy, Jenny Gunn and Danni Wyatt miss the trip as England look to build towards the World Cup and beyond.

Possible squad - Knight (capt), Shrubsole (vice capt), Beaumont, Brunt, Cross, Ecclestone, Elwiss, Farrant, Hazell, Jones, Lamb, Marsh, Sciver, Wilson, Winfield


Monday, 5 September 2016

Final County Champs Round Up

So another, perhaps the last proper, county season has come to an end (well Sussex have still to play Surrey, but it makes no odds as far as the championship or relegation are concerned).

In Division One neither of the bottom two sides playing could pull off the win that might have saved their Div 1 bacon. Staffs lost by seven wickets to Middlesex; and Somerset lost by 87 runs to Warwickshire. That win took Warwickshire up to second in the table, as Sussex, for the second year in succession, made the 600 mile round trip to Harrogate in north Yorkshire, for the game to be called off without a ball being bowled. At the top Kent, already champions, completed a nervy victory over Berkshire, having been bowled out for 165, they then bowled Berkshire out for 139 to win by 26 runs.
Division One

In Division Two it will be Lancashire and Notts that come straight back into Div 1 for the 2017 season, having both been relegated last year. Notts made it with ease beating Worcestershire by 61 runs, having put 239/9 on the board. Lancs however had more of a struggle. First they had to wait for the rain to clear and the pitch to dry, and then, having bowled Wales out for just 79, in a match reduced to 35 overs, they plunged to 23/6 in reply. But Sophie Ecclestone rose to the occasion with 42* batting at 7, to take Lancs over the line seven down, and keep Hants in Div 2 for a second year. Hants had done what they could by beating relegated Essex by 50 runs, and Essex will be joined in Div 3 by Leicestershire, promoted last year from Div 3, but returning straight back as they lost their last game to Devon by 137 runs. 
Division Two 

Quite what 2017 holds for county cricket is unclear. The ECB have announced that the KSL will be extended to the 50 over format in games to be played before the World Cup in England in June. It is difficult to see many KSL players playing county cricket as well as 50 over KSL, and none of the potential England squad are likely to be available until after the World Cup finishes. The KSL T20 competition will then again be run in August. County cricket looks like it will be squeezed out of the equation. We shall see!