Monday, 16 January 2017

WBBL02 - The fight for a Top Four slot

There are just eight fixtures left in the regular season of WBBL02, and seven of the eight teams are still in with a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals.

The last weekend sees each of the teams involved in two games against the same opposition.

In Sydney the Sixers have two games against the Renegades
In Perth the Scorchers have two fixtures against the Thunder
At the Gabba the Heat take on the Strikers in two games
And in Hobart the Hurricanes entertain the Stars in their final two games of WBBL02

Here is how the table looks at the moment :-

As things stand the Sydney Sixers have definitely made the last four, and the Adelaide Strikers cannot make the last four, which leaves six teams scrapping for the other three places in the semi-finals.

In prime position to take the second slot in the semis are the Perth Scorchers. Even if they win neither of their last two games against the Thunder then they will finish, at worst, equal fourth in the league. With a current good NRR that should be enough, provided they are not flayed by the Thunder in those last two games. Obviously just one win, or even a washout, will see them safely through without any NRR drama.

So, realistically, the fight is actually for the third and fourth slots in the semis. If the Hobart Hurricanes can win just one of their games against the Stars, then they will have the third slot. If the Melbourne Stars can win both of their games with the Canes then the third slot will be theirs. If the Stars can only win one game then they could still get through, but it will depend on other results, and probably NRR.

Over on the east coast the Brisbane Heat need at least one win to be in with a shout of the fourth semi slot. If they can win both games against the despondent Strikers, then it would definitely be theirs. One win and it depends on other results and possibly NRR.

As for the Sydney Thunder and the Melbourne Renegades all they can do is win their last two games and hope that those above them trip up, but it looks like WBBL02 will have a new champion on 28th January.


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

WBBL02 - The Final Run-In

Just four games left for each team now in WBBL02 and the current league table looks like this

The Sixers look like they are just one win away from booking their place in the semi-finals after six victories on the bounce, but which three teams will join them? The Renegades looked dead and buried, but three wins in their last three matches, including two wins over the Stars, means even they are still in with a shout of a semi-final slot.

Here is who the teams still have left to play :-

Sixers - Canes, Thunder and Renegades x2

Canes - Sixes,  Thunder and Stars x2

Stars - Strikers, Scorcher and Canes x2

Scorchers - Strikers, Stars and Thunder x2

Heat - Renegades x2 and Strikers x2

Thunder - Sixes,  Canes and Scorchers x2

Strikers - Stars, Scorchers  and Heat x2

Renegades - Heat x2 and Sixers x2

The Sixers could make life much harder for both the Canes and the Thunder if they were to beat them both in their next two games, but if they slip up they will be confident they can pick up the points they need in two games against the Renegades.

The Canes probably need to pick up two wins in their last four games to be certain of progressing. Their match-up with the Sixers will be a tough one to win, but they will hope to win two out of three against the Thunder and Stars.

The Stars, Scorchers and Heat all know that their destiny lies in their own hands. Only once will their paths' cross in these last few games of the season, when the Stars take on the Scorchers on 15th January, but that could well be a pivotal game for both sides.

Of the three teams on 10 points the Stars probably have the tougher looking run-in with two games against the Canes to finish their season. In contrast the Heat look to have the easier final few games with dual fixtures against the Renegades  and Strikers.

Just two points behind these three are last year's winners the Thunder, and the Strikers. The Thunder have been tanked by the Heat and the Canes in their last two games and will need to pick themselves up quickly if they want to defend their WBBL01 title. But their next game is against the high-flying Sixers which could add to their woes. The Strikers have found runs very hard to come by, and have lost their last four games, three times failing to get into triple figures. Their tournament looks shot, but I said that about the Renegades a couple of weeks ago and they have refused to throw in the towel.

The Renegades' chances of qualifying are still thin, but with two games against the Heat to come next up, they could make or break the Heat's chances of making the semis. If the Renegades could conjure up two wins for themselves they could still cling on to some hope. The only thing standing in their way then would be two games against the Sixers!

But the way this WBBL is going, who knows what might happen?


Monday, 2 January 2017

Half term report on WBBL02

We are now 29 games into the 56 league games that will make up the league phase of WBBL02, so just over half-way through, and time for a quick review and a few predictions. Remember all of the eight teams are aiming for a top four slot that will see them into the semi-finals (on 23rd & 24th Jan) and a chance to make the final on 28th Jan.

Well before the season kicked off I made a few rash predictions (take a look here if you want to see them all). At that stage I suggested that the top four would be :-

Sydney Thunder, Sydney Sixers, Hobart Hurricanes and Adelaide Strikers

This is how they currently stand
It is tight. Very tight! So what happens from here? Here is my half-term report on each team and their prospects for the rest of WBBL02.

Sydney Thunder - The Thunder may be top of the league but they have been anything but convincing, with losses to the Stars, Sixers and Strikers, and only just clinging on in their latest game against the Heat. But with probably only three wins needed from their last six games, which include two against the Hurricanes and the Scorchers, they should make their way to the finals. A second win against the Heat tomorrow would be very handy.
Their top order batting has been steady, without being flashy. Led impeccably by Alex Blackwell they have all contributed - Stafanie Taylor, Rachel Haynes, and Harmanpreet Kaur. It seems their bowling is their weakness. Ten different bowlers have been thrown the ball to date and young left-armer Sam Bates is handling the responsibility of opening the bowling with some aplomb (8 wickets and going at 4.5 per over).
They should squeeze into the top 4.

Melbourne Stars  -  The Stars may have been lucky to pick up back-to-back wins against the Sixers early in this competition, because, Meg Lanning and Emma Inglis aside, their batting looks thinner than a cat-walk model. True Jess Cameron and Katie Mack have shown flashes and they have missed the injured Nat Sciver, but they contrived to lose to the Heat chasing 129, having been 100/1 in the 15th over. They also lost their last game to bottom of the table Renegades (albeit with some assistance from the rain).
If their batting looks thin then their bowling is positively emaciated. Their best bowler by far has been Danni Hazell, who is now heading back to chilly England. Kristen Beams is now fit and will retake her place in the squad. They desperately need her to hit the ground running.
Their next game is against the resurgent Scorchers in three days. I can see them struggling there, no matter how many runs Lanning gets.
I think they will struggle to stay in the top four, but may just cling on.

Perth Scorchers - The Scorchers have arguably the toughest run-in with double fixtures against Thunder, Stars and Sixers still to come, but they have looked fired up in their last couple of games, particularly with the ball in hand, with Katherine Brunt proving a handful, and youngsters Emma King and Heather Graham doing a decent job. They also have eight games still to come.
So far their batting has failed to fire, with Suzie Bates in particular struggling. Elyse Villani has a couple of decent scores under her belt, but no-one else has made 50. Nicole Bolton adds stability in the middle-order and pinch-hitter Brunt may come into her own in one or two games to come.
I think they will finish in the top four.

Sydney Sixers - With a top order of Healy, Perry, Gardner, McGlashan, van Niekerk and Kapp - all of who have looked in good touch - this is going to be a tough team to beat. Once again they made a poor start to the competition, as they did last year, but this time they stopped the rot early and have won their last three games at a canter. Despite Perry losing her bite with the ball, they have control through Kapp, Aley and Gardner, and if they can keep putting the runs on the board then the bowlers' job becomes a lot easier.
I cannot see them not making the top four.

Adelaide Strikers - Sophie Devine put in the batting performance of the tournament with her 103* off 48 balls against the Hurricanes, but she has been ploughing a rather lone furrow, until Tammy Beaumont (57) finally got some runs in a losing cause against the Sixers. Their batting line-up always looked rather meagre and injury to Charlotte Edwards has not helped in any way.
The Strikers' bowling is workmanlike, but no-one has really grabbed a game with the ball. Their last two games are against the Heat, but by then it may be too late for either team to make the top four.
I can see them being in a tussle with Stars and Hurricanes for fourth slot - perhaps just missing out on NRR.

Hobart Hurricanes  - The Hurricanes have lost games against the Scorchers and the Strikers, which they really needed to win and have the delight of dual match-ups against the Stars, Thunder and Sixers still to come. If they can pick up two wins over the Heat on 8th and 9th Jan, then they will still be in with a shout, but it looks a tough ask.
Heather Knight and Hayley Matthews have struggled to make an impression with the bat, but Matthews does have nine wickets with the ball. They missed Amy Satterthwaite in their last game, but hopefully she will return from New Zealand before they take on the Thunder in three days time.
They could still scrape into the top four/five, but it will be a struggle and could well lose out on NRR.

Brisbane Heat - If you are a Heat supporter then it has been a complete roller coaster of a ride so far and I cannot see that changing in the run-in to the semi-finals. Their cause has not been helped by the injury suffered by Deandra Dottin when she clashed heads with her own team-mate on the boundary. The Heat are looking to replace her, but there are not many very attractive international options out there. Even before Dottin's departure the Heat had been struggling for consistency. They had won and lost against the Stars, Sixers and Scorchers. Their saving grace is that they still have two games to play against the Renegades. Win both of those in mid January and they might still be in with a shout when they play their last two games against the Strikers, but it's a long shot.
Destined to finish in the bottom two.

Melbourne Renegades - They recently picked up a surprise 9 wicket win against the Stars in a rain affected match, but have generally looked off the pace of the other teams in the league. While their internationals have floundered somewhat, local youngsters Molly Strano and Sophie Molineux have seized their chances with both bat and ball, which could well see them in contention for a place in the national side pretty soon. Every cloud...
I think they will struggle to pick up another win. 

So on that basis my top four finishers would now be :- 

Sydney Sixers, Sydney Thunder, Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Stars

but it looks like it is going to be another nail-biting finish to the season!


Monday, 19 December 2016

WBBL02 - 8 more games, 10 more facts

So we are 16 games in to the 56 game WBBL02 league schedule and it is the Melbourne Stars and the Hobart Hurricanes, who head the table with three wins out of four games. But there is still a long way to go.

The girls can take a rest now until Boxing Day, but after that it is full on until 9th January, with 24 games in 14 days. With teams needing to win probably eight games to be sure of making the top four, things could be a lot clearer by the four day break in early 2017, by which time most of the teams will have played 10 of their 14 games.

But here are a few facts to keep you going until the next instalment hits our computer screens...

Fact 1
The WBBL has had it's first Super Over. It came in the Hurricanes v Renegades game as the Renegades failed to score the two runs they needed off the last two balls of the game. In the Super Over the Renegades hit 12 runs, but with two needed off the last ball Erin Burns smashed the ball to the midwicket boundary for a Canes' win. (full scorecard including Super Over is here)

Fact 2
Neither Meg Lanning nor Jess Cameron for the Melbourne Stars appear to be able to throw overarm at the present time! But have the opposition noticed? Quick singles ladies?

Fact 3
In the Heat v Scorchers second clash the Heat only managed to put 101/9 on the board off their 20 overs and 15 of those were wides - the most so far in WBBL02! Misses Brunt, Bates and Grundy to the naughty step.

Fact 4
On the flip side congratulations and a thumping pat on the back to the Stars, who gave away just 1 extra run (a Morna Nielsen wide), in their second game against the Sixers - the Stars went on to chase down 111/8 with just three wickets down.

Fact 5
The top two run scorers in WBBL02 are both Kiwis!!
Sophie Devine has 127 and Amy Satterthwaite 122. 
I suppose I ought to mention that someone called Meg Lanning has 122 runs too. I'm sure she'll go far in the game!

Fact 6
Last year's finalists, the Sydney Thunder and the Sydney Sixers, are currently languishing in sixth and eighth in the league, having both won just one game out of four. It is a better start than the Sixers had last year though (they lost their first six games then!)

Fact 7
It wasn't Ellyse Perry's weekend as she scored 0 and 4 for the Sixers against the Stars. Having been caught behind off Emma Kearney in Game 1, she had a Groundhog Day moment the next day (or was in the same day...again?)...
Fact 8
After a "quiet start" to the tournament Heat's Beth Mooney suddenly found her mojo in their second game against the Scorchers. Not content with a record equalling four stumpings, Mooney then went on to smash 67* out of 95/2 to win the game.

Fact 9
And on the subject of wicketkeepers, Perth Scorchers' Meg Banting has stood behind the stumps for 80 overs and is yet to claim a catch or a stumping!

Fact 10 
And finally...if you win the toss then it looks like you are better off opting to bat second. Sides batting second have won 10 of the 16 games to date. Sides batting first have won only four (one game cancelled and one tied)....
That is unless you are the Renegades, who won the toss against the Strikers and batted second and lost, and then won the toss twice against the Canes, batted second both times, and went on to lose both those matches too (the second in a Super Over)!


Friday, 16 December 2016

England announce new two year central contracts

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have today announced that 18 players have been awarded new England women’s central contracts.

Alongside an increase in the value of the contracts, which will come into effect from 1st February 2017, the next wave of England women’s contracts will also, for the first time, include the introduction of two-year contracts, plus a new level of “rookie” contract.

“The awarding of two-year contracts represents another significant step forward in the professionalisation of the women’s game in this country,” explained ECB’s Director of England Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor.

“The global women’s game is evolving rapidly, and in order to ensure that professional cricket continues to be an attractive career option for talented female athletes, it’s important that we continue to properly invest in our players.

“The ECB is fully committed to the goal of supporting the England women’s team to become the world’s number one team.  The pay increase and introduction of two-year contracts will give our players greater financial security and ensure they can be fully focused on the challenges that lie ahead: the ICC Women’s World Cup on home soil next summer, the Women’s Ashes in Australia and the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 in the Caribbean in 2018”.

Following an impressive introduction to international cricket in 2017, which saw her return a record 13 wickets in the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series against the West Indies in October, Middlesex and Surrey Stars left-arm spinner, Alex Hartley, is one of two players to be awarded their first ECB contract.  She is joined by Beth Langston (Yorkshire and Loughborough Lightning) who made her ODI debut against Sri Lanka in Colombo last month, and who is the first recipient of a new level of “rookie” contract.

Three players have not had their central contracts renewed: former England women’s captain, Charlotte Edwards, and middle-order batsman Lydia Greenway, after they announced their retirement from international cricket earlier this year, and left-arm spinner, Rebecca Grundy.

England Women’s Head Coach, Mark Robinson, added:

“The women’s game is growing at a real pace, but still doesn’t have the financial security that the men’s county game offers a player from the England men’s team in the event that they lose their ECB central contract.  We have a big couple of years coming up with two global events and a Women’s Ashes series in Australia, and it’s important that the players can look forward with some degree of certainty to focus on performing in those competitions. 

“That said, we do still have space and freedom to grow – we have to be able to reward players at the right time – so we will continue to assess the central contracts list on an annual basis.  The new level of “rookie” contract also gives us greater flexibility in this respect, allowing us to financially support players who sit just above the England Women’s Senior Academy squad, but who have not quite hit the level required to win a full central contract.     

“Congratulations to Alex Hartley and Beth Langston on being awarded ECB contracts for the first time.  Alex has been given a full central contract: her performances against the West Indies in the Caribbean were outstanding and testament to the hard work that she put in over the last 18 months.

“Beth is our first recipient of a new “rookie” contract, and she really showed during the tour to Sri Lanka last month that she has the attitude, commitment and skill to be successful at an international level.  She has been unlucky with injuries in the past, so hopefully she can now stay fit for a period of time and we will get to see how she can develop into a key bowler for us.

“I’m also happy to confirm that we have offered Sarah Taylor a new contract.  Sarah is doing really well with her return to cricket plan after taking some time away from the game for health reasons.  Her aim has always been to be back playing and available for selection for the World Cup next summer, and we’ll continue to offer her the support she needs to achieve that goal.

“Unfortunately professional sport sometimes necessitates tough decisions, and Rebecca Grundy has not had her central contract renewed.  I’m sure she will aspire to play international cricket again.”

The 18 contracted players are :-

Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Georgia Elwiss, Tash Farrant, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Dani Hazell, Amy Jones, Heather Knight, Beth Langston, Laura Marsh, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danni Wyatt


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

WBBL02 - Rounds 3 & 4 Preview

The second instalment of WBBL02 starts this Friday with games 9-16 being played over three days. As in the first two rounds these are effectively double-headers against the same opposition on consecutive days. Rounds 3 and 4 will be :-

Sydney Thunder v Adelaide Strikers (Friday and Saturday)
Perth Scorchers v Brisbane Heat (Saturday and Sunday)
Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Stars (Saturday and Sunday)
Melbourne Renegades v Hobart Hurricanes (Saturday and Sunday)

The cream of the crop looks like being the Sixers v Stars clashes at Casey Fields in Cranbourne. It is rumoured that Saffer Dane van Niekerk may make her first appearance for the Sixers, alongside Perry, Healy, Kapp and McGlashan, which looks like some serious batting for the Stars to cope with, particularly if they are without England's Nat Sciver. Have to say it looks like 4 points for the Sixers, unless Meg Lanning goes mad with the bat.

Over at the WACA in Perth the Scorchers take on the Heat. Beth Mooney is due a few runs for the Heat, but with Suzie Bates and a motivated Elyse Villani in the Scorchers line up things could really get hot for the Heat. I reckon this will be another 1-1 draw.

In Sydney the Thunder entertain the Strikers. The Thunder's batting line-up looks strong with Stafanie Taylor and Harmanpreet Kaur looking in ominous form. The Strikers could be chasing plenty to try and get any points from these two encounters. Sophie Devine has been their star with the bat to date, but some of the other batsmen really need to come to the party if they are going to get anything out of these games. I'm going 2-0 to the Thunder.

And finally the Hurricanes travel to Bendigo in Victoria for their clashes with the Renegades. These are two games the Canes must look to win if they are to have any hope of a top four finish. Hayley Matthews and Georgia Redmayne looked to be striking the ball nicely and if Amy Satterthwaite and Heather Knight can get into gear then there are plenty of runs available to the Canes. The Renagades' Mols - Molly Strano and Sophie Molineux - will look to keep up their good form with the ball. On the bowling front the Canes generally look to suffocate the opposition. But again Molineux has looked in good touch, plus the Renegades have Rachel Priest, Danni Wyatt and Grace Harris all waiting to explode. Tight games are likely, but Canes to win 2-0.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

WBBL02 - 10 facts after 8 games

The first tranche of eight WBBL games have been played, and unlike last year all the teams have played two games each. But to be honest we are not much the wiser as to who will fill the top four spots, as each team has won one game and lost one game. So what have we learnt from the first few games...

Fact 1
Meg Lanning is not invincible. In her two knocks to date she has scored 33 and 14.

Fact 2
Harmanpreet Kaur might just be though! Invincible that is. She has taken to the WBBL like a duck to water, with two very classy knocks of 47* and 30* against the Stars and then she added 4/27 with her slightly slingy off-breaks. Her 6 over extra cover was the shot of the tournament so far.

Fact 3
Ellyse Perry cannot stop scoring runs. She is the top WBBL02 run-scorer to date with 87 runs accumulated against the Heat. Deandra Dottin took a bit of a liking to her bowling in the first game, but with bat in hand she looks awesome.

Fact 4
Deandra Dottin is an enigma! In game one she flayed the Sixers to all parts to hit 60* off 44 balls and win the game for the Heat. In game two, she had just lofted Sarah Aley for a towering 6 over mid-on. Mid-on was dropped to long on and promptly caught Dottin two balls later as she tried the same thing. Doh!

Fact 5
18 year old Sophie Molineux at the Renegades looks like one to watch. She almost beat the Strikers single-handedly in their second meeting. First she took 4/18 (best bowling figures in the tournament to date) with her slow left arm spin, plus she took a catch and then she ran out Charlotte Edwards with a direct hit with one stump to aim at. She then came in to bat at 5 and smashed 28 off 18 balls to ensure the Renegades secured their first points of WBBL02. She won't have many better days on a cricket pitch!

Fact 6
Charlotte Edwards has been run out both times in her first two innings.

Fact 7 
The highest team score to date is the Stars' 147/8 against the Thunder.

Fact 8
The lowest team score to date is 83/9 by the Heat against the Sixers.

Fact 9
The bowler with the best economy rate to date is Sarah Aley for the Sydney Sixers at 3.87 runs per over from her eight overs so far. She also has four wickets, which makes her the equal highest wicket taker, along with Molly Strano, Molineux and Kaur.

Fact 10 
Emma Inglis pronounces her surname "Ingles", "as in Pringles" she tells me!