Saturday, 22 July 2017

England and India fight it out for World Title

Tomorrow I will be at Lord's with about 26,500 other people to watch the culmination of the best Women's Cricket World Cup there has ever been. It is estimated that around 100 million people will be watching around the world. Whatever the result it will be a great day.

Before the tournament started we all hoped that it was going to be just that. Great cricket played by skillful players on decent wickets. It has turned out to be a batsmen's heaven with the white Kookaburra ball doing little for the seamers or the spinners. The result has been 14 individual hundreds by 13 separate women (only Nat Sciver has two), and 15 team scores over 250 (in 30 games to date).

It has also produced those knocks that will live long in the memory - Chamari Attaptu's 178* against Australia, as she took them on single-handed; and Harmanpreet Kaur's 171* against the same opponents in a World Cup semi-final. Perhaps they were even more important because they were struck by a Sri Lankan and an Indian - two countries who have taken their time to embrace women playing cricket - on a world stage in front of millions of people, and have produced positive headlines for women's cricket across the globe.

In the five years I have been writing this blog women's cricket has changed beyond all recognition, but it s still in it's infancy and it needs to be nurtured. The pool of top talent is still very thin. Despite what coaches and team managers may say there is no real strength in depth for international teams, as Australia have shown in this tournament, where their lack of seam bowlers coming through has been exposed.

England have the same problem in depth. Beyond the current contracted 18 players there are few who are knocking on the door for selection to the squad, let alone a place in an England starting 11.

This then is the challenge for the next five years - create more depth to the women's game - which will only come about if there is a semi-professional level of cricket below the international players. Australia have already taken this step with all WNCL and WBBL players being paid salaries. In England the KSL pays a few players a pittance - about 25 county players will have earned an average of about £500 from the last tournament.

Much more needs to be done, particularly for 50 over cricket in England. If KSL50 is not to happen, as it seems, then a fully-funded County Premiership 50 over competition needs to be established, with far more games played than in the current County Championship (just seven this year). It will have to be funded by the ECB, but it is essential for the development of the game here in England. It needs to be the best 50 over competition in the world, attracting players from around the world - I'd suggest no more than two per team. Inevitably there would be clashes with international duties for both England and overseas players, but that would allow more opportunities for fringe players.

Six premiership teams with professional coaches, players and support staff, working all year round to produce players with the talent to go on and play for England - that would be my hope.

Will it happen? I have no idea, but something must. The challenge to women's cricket administrators in England, and around the world, is to seize the opportunity that this brilliant competition has opened to take the game to the next level....again!


Monday, 10 July 2017

Aussie win a watershed moment

England's heart-stopping win over Australia yesterday has taken them to the top of the WWC17 Standings with each team with just two fixtures left to play this week. It puts them in a great position to qualify for the semi-finals.

People often talk in sport about something being "a watershed moment" - a turning point or a fundamental change in direction or attitude. England's win was just such a moment. It was all the better because it was never really expected, and England won despite not really playing their best cricket.

When new coach Mark Robinson decided it was time to move on from the Lottie Era it was a tremendous statement of trust in the girls who remained in the squad that they could do the job for England, without their former captain and leading run scorer.

Frequently in interviews Robinson would state that the girls really never knew how good they were. What they lacked was confidence in their own abilities. On Sunday they began to show that Robinson's confidence in them was not misplaced and that their confidence in themselves, and as a team, is on the way up.

It was not a faultless performance by any means. Anya Shrubsole and Nat Sciver dropped catches they would normally take in their sleep, and the batsmen will be annoyed that they made good starts, got the pace of the wicket, but did not go on. But whereas such lapses would have led to a collective dropping of heads, this time there was a determination to do better next time. Each batsman who came to the crease knew they could do a job - this time it was left to Katherine Brunt and Jenny Gunn to be the ones to take the England innings from ordinary to enough to give the Aussies something to think about.

In the field Heather Knight's ground fielding was exceptional as she led her team from the front and Nat Sciver held her nerve as she caught Ellyse Perry on the boundary edge at cow corner in the dying embers of the game.

Mark Robinson won't be getting too excited just yet, and there will no doubt be some dark days amongst the good ones, but inside he will be relishing the next few days with the hope of some more signs that this England team have got what it takes.

Here is who plays who in the next five days, with the top four qualifying for the semi-finals :-

England - New Zealand & West Indies
Australia - India & South Africa
India - Australia & New Zealand
New Zealand - England & India
South Africa - Sri Lanka & Australia

And here is how they stand to date...

Friday, 30 June 2017

A deep intake of breath...

It has been a hectic few days, following the start of the Women's World Cup last Saturday. I have had trips to Taunton and Bristol and seen the Aussies win both of their games - one against a West Indies side that looked devoid of any energy, cohesion or game plan, and the second against a team who should have had no chance, but were inspired by a stunning innings by Chamari Atapattu.

We are eight games into this tournament now, and have a couple of days to catch our breath, before all the teams take to the field again on Sunday. I'd like to be the first to say that this will be "a pivotal day" in the tournament. In truth it will be one of many pivotal days. There are certainly some intriguing match-ups - England play Atapattu, sorry, Sri Lanka; South Africa play West Indies; India play Pakistan and Australia play New Zealand. But once these games are done we will still only be 12 games into a 28 game league programme. There will still be plenty of time for a few more twists and turns.

There have already been seven centuries in the tournament, all of them very classy, from some of the top batsmen in the women's game - Atapattu, Lanning, Sciver, Bolton, Bates, Mandhana and Knight. Top class batsmen take advantage of good pitches and just one white Kookaburra ball, which has barely deviated off the straight for any of the seamers, and, with a small seam, has spun very little. As the tournament goes on things may get harder for the batsmen as they play on more used pitches. For the time being they are enjoying the conditions and teams are racking up scores which would have been unthinkable five years ago.

Australia look to have the strongest batting line up with their top five all having got runs already, but their bowling looks innocuous with part-timers, Elyse Villani and Nicole Bolton, being thrown the ball, almost on the basis that no-one will have done any research on them, so they might get away with a few overs. The Aussies back themselves to chase down any target they are set, but against better bowling attacks than they have faced so far, and better fielding sides than the Windies and Sri Lanka, they will find it more of a challenge. Sunday's game with New Zealand could set a benchmark, but I'm not quite sure for who?

India have been the surprise package so far, defeating England in their opening game and following up with a decisive victory over West Indies, who have presumably already cancelled any hotel booking they may have had for semi-final week. India should beat Pakistan comfortably on Sunday, and then Sri Lanka the following Wednesday, which will give them four out of four and a great chance of making the semi-finals.

New Zealand will be disappointed that their game with South Africa was washed out. It would have been a much sterner test than their win over Sri Lanka, and it means they come into Sunday's clash with the Aussies rather cold.

England picked themselves up well after the India defeat. The encouraging thing about that game is that they had a chance to win it with ten overs to go, chasing a mammoth 282 target. Indeed they will be annoyed that they did not get over the line. Their demolition of Pakistan was brutal, but professional. They need to do the same to Sri Lanka on Sunday.

South Africa very nearly slipped up against Pakistan, which could have ended their tournament before it had even begun, but a win over the Windies on Sunday looks likely, which will make England's game against South Africa the following Wednesday a must-win for both teams.

It has been a great competition to date, despite the lack of mainstream press coverage and the awkward streaming coverage, which is sometimes behind a required Sky Sport subscription.

Along with Syd, Raf and Snehal we will continue to try and provide full coverage of every game in the WWC17 on the WWC17 Blog.


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Women's County T20 Update

The first week of County T20 action took place 10 days ago with Warwickshire and Lancashire the big winners in Div 1.

Warwickshire romped home against Somerset by nine wickets, chasing just 69 to win, and then put 168/5 (Kathryn Bryce 73* off 49 balls) on the board against Surrey, who could only manage 117/7 in reply.
Lancashire pulverised Kent, bowling them out for 71, as they chased Lancs 143/4. Spinners Emma Lamb (4/15) and Sophie Ecclestone (3/6), the main destroyers. They then comfortably beat Berkshire by 28 runs, although Berkshire kept them down to 130/9 in their 20 overs.

At the other end of the table Kent made it two losses out of two as they were bowled out by Berkshire for just 84. Berkshire cut it fine, but got home with two balls to spare.
Surrey also start the second round of fixtures with no points as they fell 15 runs short of Somerset's 146/3, in their second game of the opening weekend, having been 109/1.

Middlesex, Yorkshire, Berkshire, Sussex and Somerset all managed to win one game and lose one game, so the table looks like this

This Sunday sees some intriguing match ups

Warwickshire take on Berkshire and Yorkshire.
Lancashire have Somerset and Middlesex in their sights.
And bottom two Surrey and Kent are entertained at Sussex. 

In Div 2 Notts, Hampshire and Worcestershire lead the way with two wins out of two, followed by Scotland, Staffs and Wales, who managed one win, and then Essex, Durham and Derbyshire are yet to get off the mark. 
But it will be all change after Sunday as the top three all play each other in Worcestershire. Scotland and Staffs play Durham; and Wales and Essex are hosted at Derbyshire.


Monday, 5 June 2017

Coverage of the Women's World Cup 2017

In less than three weeks the Women’s Cricket World Cup will take place in England. There are several days on which two, three or even four games are being played simultaneously.

Therefore, four dedicated followers and reporters on women’s cricket have decided to get together to provide guaranteed 100% coverage of the entire tournament. We will have someone at each and every game. We have also teamed up with a top women's cricket photographer to capture all the action in pictures too. 

You will find our work on a dedicated Women's World Cup Blog. Complete coverage of the whole tournament. 

We call it The WWC17 Blog and it is here.

Here's who we are...

Raf Nicholson - ESPNCricinfo’s go-to voice for women’s cricket. Covered the 2013/14 women’s Ashes tour in Australia. Has spent the past decade researching women’s cricket and recently completed a PhD in the history of the women’s game in England. Has written on the women’s game for The Guardian, Wisden and All Out Cricket magazine.

Martin Davies – the man behind the highly-respected Women’s Cricket Blog, he has followed women’s cricket for almost 15 years, including in New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Australia, as well as England. He writes on the women’s game for Wisden and The Cricketer.

Syd Egan - Has written on women’s cricket for many years and has unparalleled knowledge of the domestic game in England. Now Staff Writer for Has also written for ESPNCricinfo and All Out Cricket magazine.

Snehal Predhan - Ex-Indian international turned cricket writer. Has written for Wisden India, ESPNCricinfo’s The Cricket Monthly, Cricbuzz, and the sports pages of An expert on subcontinental women’s cricket.

Don Miles - The doyen of women's cricket photography. After more than 20 years of covering the women's game through the lens of his camera, he knows what he is about. Author of the Women's Cricket website, the first women's cricket site on the Net.

The blog is a collaborative effort by these four writers, plus it features the photos of one of the best photographers of women's cricket.

Our aim is simply to provide complete coverage of the entire WWC17. Check out the blog for all you need to know about the WWC17.


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Warwickshire & Somerset head Divs 1 & 2

Division One

Warwickshire could not have hoped for a better weekend of results, as they not only trounced Berkshire and then demolished Middlesex, but saw closest rivals, Yorkshire, slip up against Sussex, before they resumed normal service with a comprehensive win over Kent, to keep them on four wins out of five. It means that Warwickshire remain the only unbeaten team with just two games to go - they have Yorkshire and Lancashire to play at the end of August.

Sussex also dented Lancashire's Championship hopes, clocking up their second win of the weekend, and of the season, to ease their relegation worries slightly.

Surprise package Notts have joined Lancs on three wins out of five games, as they downed both Middlesex and Berkshire this weekend.

The second loss of the weekend for Berkshire means they will almost certainly be playing in Div 2 next year. The question is who will join them? At the moment it looks like Middlesex, who only have one win to their name and have Kent and Sussex left to play, but both of those teams have only two wins under their belts, so are not out of the woods. It looks like Middlesex will have to win both games to give themselves a chance, and, even then, other results may go against them. Four teams could all finish on three wins each, so bonus points could prove crucial in the final relegation battle.

Div 1 Results

Berkshire 73 all out lost to Warwickshire 74/1
Lancashire 198/9 beat Kent 114 all out
Notts 252/9 beat Middlesex 151 all out
Sussex 182 all out beat Yorkshire 151 all out

Berkshire 105 all out lost to Notts 106/5
Yorkshire 241/4 beat Kent 121 all out
Warwickshire 329/7 beat Middlesex 125 all out
Sussex 199/9 beat Lancashire 135/7

This is how we think the table looks with all results included up to this weekend.

Division Two

Somerset won the only game they could get through in a nail-biter with Wales, Wales coming up just six runs short, chasing down Somerset's 210/9. Gabby Basketter's 107* for Wales was in vain, as they ran out of overs.

Behind Somerset at the top of the table are a gaggle of teams on four out of five wins - Hampshire, Surrey and Devon. They all won both their games this weekend to keep the pressure up on Somerset.

At the bottom of the table Staffs and Worcestershire remain winless, and it looks to be between the two of them and Derbyshire, who have just one win to their name, for the relegation slots. Worcestershire have both Staffs and Derbyshire to play in the last set of fixtures, so their destiny could lie in their own hands. Two wins could be enough to save them, with Derbyshire having Wales to play as their other game.

Final fixtures at the top of the table see some big clashes with both Somerset and Devon due to play both Surrey and Hampshire. There could be some cracking games amongst that little lot!

Div 2 Results

Worcestershire 117 all out lost to Devon 120/0
Derbyshire 109 all out lost to Hampshire 110/1
Somerset 210/9 beat Wales 204/6
Surrey 302/4 beat Staffs 68/8

Wales 142/9 lost to Devon 144/7
Hampshire 188 all out beat Staffs 73 all out
Somerset 52/1 v Worcestershire - match abandoned
Surrey 193 all out beat Derbyshire 137 all out


Friday, 26 May 2017

Women's County Champs Double Header

It's another double header weekend of Women's County Championship action, which will see teams in both Division One and Two complete five of the seven games that make up the County Championship "season".

In Division One unbeaten Warwickshire travel away for the first time to take on winless Berkshire and then Middlesex, who only just scraped through against Berkshire last week for their only win of the season. Warwickshire could make it five out of five, leaving Yorkshire and Lancashire left to play at the end of August.

Yorkshire themselves could still be unbeaten when they meet Warwickshire later in the season, but they will have to overcome Sussex and Kent this weekend. They have already accounted for Berkshire, Middlesex and Lancashire, but this weekend could be a tougher challenge. As predicted leg-spinner Katie Levick has been reeking havoc with the ball, with 13 wickets to her name already.

The other two teams realistically challenging for a top two or three finish are Kent and Lancashire. As well as their fixtures against Yorkshire and Sussex respectively, the two meet at the Spitfire Ground on Sunday, with the winner keeping themselves in a position to challenge. Lancs will have to pick themselves up after a recent drubbing by local rivals Yorkshire, and Kent should come out on top.

Desperately clinging to the side of the lifeboat at the bottom of the table are Berkshire, Sussex, Middlesex and Notts. It seems unlikely that Berkshire will get much out of their Warwickshire game, but they must target a win against fellow strugglers Notts on Monday. Notts, on the other hand, will know that if they can beat either Middlesex or Berkshire this weekend then they will be in much better shape than some of their rivals (two wins). Middlesex may well prove too strong for the Midlanders (which would give them two wins too), but the game at North Maidenhead CC against Berkshire on Monday has all the hallmarks of being a low-scoring scrap to the death.

Sussex's batting has been woeful so far this season with a highest score of just 100 in their three matches to date. Someone needs to bat long against either, or both, Yorkshire and Lancs if they are to have any chance of not being nought from five. Sussex must win at least one game this weekend or they will be staring at the prospect of life in Div 2 next year.

Division 1
Berkshire v Warwickshire at North Maidenhead CC
Kent v Lancs at Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence
Middlesex v Notts at Mill Hill School
Sussex v Yorkshire at the Saffrons, Eastbourne

Berkshire v Notts at North Maidenhead CC
Kent v Yorkshire at Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence
Middlesex v Warwickshire at Teddington CC
Sussex v Lancs at the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy Ground

In Division Two Somerset are currently the only unbeaten team and I'd be very surprised if they slipped up this weekend against Worcs, but Wales, who sit in joint second, with Hampshire, with two wins out of three games played, could be a tougher nut to crack. If Somerset could beat them too, then they would have fancied Surrey and Hampshire to play in the last weekend's fixtures, which could be an intriguing finish to the season.

Win or lose to Somerset Wales will hope to keep their promotion hopes alive with a win over inconsistent Devon on Monday. Devon were bowled out for just 45 by Somerset in their last outing, after having opened their campaign with wins over Staffs and Derbyshire. Wales are favourites for the win, although Devon may well have won the previous day against winless Worcestershire.

Hampshire, with Kiwi Suzie Bates and former England skipper Charlotte Edwards, in their ranks, should prove far too strong for Derbyshire and Staffs. I would be very surprised if Bates does not make at least one more hundred, before reuniting with her Kiwi team mates ahead of the Women's World Cup starting at the end of June.

Surrey have the same two opponents as Hampshire, which could make it a miserable weekend for the Northern teams. Surrey, with Nat Sciver, at their core, will be hoping to keep their promotion dreams intact with two more wins, to take them to four from five too.

Division 2

Devon v Worcs at Bovey Tracey CC
Hants v Derbyshire at Basingstoke & North Hants CC
Somerset v Wales at Nailsea CC
Surrey v Staffs at Whitgift School

Devon v Wales at North Devon CC
Hants v Staffs at Cove CC
Somerset v Worcs at Nailsea CC
Surrey v Derbyshire at Reed's School