Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Academy v Shooting Stars - a barometer for England's summer?

England's "Academy" team have arrived for their tour in Dubai, where they will play four ODIs and two T20s against their Australian counterparts, the Shooting Stars, starting on Thursday. The results could be a good barometer of the current strength of these two leading women's cricket nations, whose senior teams are set to battle it out for the Ashes this summer.

I say "Academy" team because England have actually chosen two contracted girls who went out with the full squad to New Zealand - keeper/batsman Amy Jones and batsman Nat Sciver (called in to replace injured Lauren Winfield), plus three more contracted players - Tammy Beaumont, Georgia Elwiss, and Tash Farrant (who all missed out on a trip to New Zealand, but have all played for England). In addition Jodie Dibble, Sonia Odedra, Beth Langston and Fran Wilson are all included. They have all trained with the senior players over the winter and have also all played for the senior side. In total these nine players have 152 appearances for England under their belts.

In contrast the Shooting Stars have just one contracted player on the tour in Elyse Villani. She has played 29 times for her country. The only other capped player is Delissa Kimmince who has made 19 appearances for the Southern Stars. The rest of the Shooting Stars are all under 22 years old (seven of them are teenagers with the youngest just 16).

England's starting line-up is likely to be the nine players above, plus two from Butler, Hartley, Evelyn Jones, Luff and Macdonald (all current Academy players who make up the squad). It will be an experienced team, but can they make that experience count? And can anyone perform well enough to force their way into contention for the Ashes squad for the summer?

From a batting perspective Sciver will certainly be there come what may. Jones will be also there as back-up keeper, but she could push for a batting slot if she can make runs with some style. Beaumont will again try and enhance her claims with the bat, but with 58 games played for England and still no score above 44, she would surely have to bat out of her skin to be back in Ashes' contention. Fran Wilson has been on the periphery of the England squad since she debuted in 2010 against Sri Lanka. She was selected for the following tour to Australia, but two ducks in two T20s brought her England appearances to an abrupt end. She has not played for the senior team since 2011. Georgia Elwiss has batted well for Sussex, but has had little chance to show what she can do for England. She might get the chance on this tour. From the Academy left-hander Evelyn Jones may get a chance to open the batting, but it will be a big step up from the Div 2 county cricket that she has been playing.

With the ball seamers Elwiss and Farrant need to show their value as centrally-contracted England players. Both have had various injury problems over the past year, but now is the time to step up. It will also be interesting to see if Nat Sciver bowls on this tour. She bowled just two overs in New Zealand. Also coming back from injury is Beth Langston. She last played a competitive game in October 2013, so it is difficult to expect too much from her. 26 year old Odedra (the oldest player in the Academy team) made the Test team last year that lost to India and could do with some wickets on this tour to keep her name in the frame.

As for spinners, Jodie Dibble is a former left-arm seamer turned spinner after shoulder issues; Hartley is another left-arm spinner and Butler is a young off-spinner in the Danni Wyatt mould. Each is likely to get a chance and they must be hoping they can grab it with both hands, although there is quite a list of spinners ahead of them - Hazell, Knight, Grundy and Marsh.

The first ODI is on Thursday and as soon as I have a scorecard I will tweet a link to it, although it seems very unlikely there will be any live scorecard. It should be an intriguing tour.


Friday, 27 March 2015

Women's County Championship 2015 Div 1 Squads, Preview & Fixtures

The nine teams in Division 1 for 2015 will be - Berkshire, Kent, Lancashire, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, and Yorkshire. The first games will be played on Sunday 3rd May and the last scheduled weekend is 13th September, although games can be played up until 28th September 2015.

Essex were relegated from Division 1 last year and Lancashire were promoted to Division 1 after finishing top of Division 2. Warwickshire retained their place in Division 1 by beating second in Div 2, Somerset, in the play-off last year.

Each team will play each other just once and the team that finishes top of Division One at the end of the season will be the champions. There will be no Championship Play-Off. The teams that finish 8th and 9th will be automatically relegated to Division 2 for the 2016 season. The teams that finish 1st and 2nd in Division 2 will be automatically promoted to Division 1 for the 2016 season. The full rules are here.

Positions in the league will again be decided on the average number of points a team achieves from completed, but not cancelled or abandoned games (which are ignored). Teams are awarded 10 points for a win and 5 points for a tie. No points are awarded for an abandoned game. An abandoned game cannot be replayed, but a cancelled game can, Up to 4 batting (RR of 4 RPO required) and 4 bowling bonus points (9+ wickets) can be achieved, making a maximum of 18 points per completed game.

Kent won last year's rain-affected championship winning all six games that they played. They failed to play Berkshire and Essex. They were worthy champions though winning most of their games at a canter led by Charlotte Edwards (491 runs) and Tammy Beaumont (417 runs) with the bat and Kiwi import Erin Bermingham (leg-spinner, with 16 wickets) with the ball. With traditional rivals Sussex having a poor season (won three lost three), it was Surrey that finished second, winning five of the seven games they played. Notts won four of the seven they played, but finished fourth behind Berkshire who only managed to play five of their scheduled games (winning three of them).

This season is the first with a white ball, and the first in which county games clash with international fixtures. In fact with the Ashes being played here this summer it is doubtful that any side will see their international players between mid-June and the end of August - this covers four fixture weekends. This will undoubtedly affect some teams more than others, but it effectively throws the County Championship wide open. Kent will be strong when they have their England contingent with them, but do they have players to call on when they are away? Middlesex, on the other hand, will have the same squad available for all their games. The fixtures have fallen nicely for them and they have a real chance of being there or thereabouts come the end of the season. Berks, Notts and Yorkshire will suffer without their England players, but Sussex may have enough strength in depth to weather the shortage. New girls Lancs are also likely to trouble a few teams in their first season back in Div 1. Surrey were last year's surprise package and they will fancy their chances of going one better than last year. With only eight games to be played this could be the most open County Championship for years.

Berkshire (3rd in 2014)
Colours : Black, Green and Gold
Overseas Players : Alex Blackwell/Corrine Hall
England Players : Heather Knight
England Academy Players : Carla Rudd
The addition of Aussie legend Alex Blackwell to the team for the County Championship games on 24th and 25th May will be a brief, but huge, boost to Heather Knight and her team. If they can win those two games then they may well be safe in Div 1 for another year. They will miss Knight when she is on England duty, so it is important that they start the season well.
Squad (with shirt numbers): Heather Knight (5) capt, Alex Rogers (1), Carla Rudd, wkt (2), Georgia Dean (3), Lissy Macleod (4), , Emily Gerke (6), Daisy Gardener (7), Imogen Brown (8), Amanda Potgieter (9), Rachael Hardy (10). Fi Morris (11), Alex Blackwell (12), Sherisa Gumbs (15), Linsey Smith (16), Corrine Hall (17), Isa Guha (19)

Kent (Champions in 2014)
Colours : Blue
Overseas Player : To be announced in April

England Players : Tammy Beaumont, Charlotte Edwards, Tash Farrant, Lydia Greenway, Laura Marsh
England Academy Players : None 

Kent's record in the County Championship cannot be denied, and last year they trounced all teams they played. But without some, or all, of their England players they are likely to find it much harder this year. Last year their batting was dominated by Tammy Beaumont and Charlotte Edwards (900+ runs between them). Their bowling was dominated by New Zealander Erin Bermingham, who it seems is not returning for the 2015 season. An announcement on a new overseas player is due in April it seems. Edwards, at least, is likely to miss several matches. Contracted England players Beaumont and Farrant are likely to be available, but Kent's batting will look a bit thin without possibly Edwards, Greenway and Marsh.
Squad (with shirt numbers): Charlotte Edwards capt (23), Tammy Beaumont (2), Megan Belt (6), Lottie Bryan (19), Deanna Cooper (4), Alice Davidson-Richards (24), Tash Farrant (53), Phoebe Franklin (10), Grace Gibbs (61), Lydia Greenway (20), Lauren Griffiths (14), Jenni Jackson (11), Hannah Jelfs (18), Laura Marsh (7), Charlotte Pape (8), Emily Thompson (17)

Lancashire Thunder (Promoted as Div 2 Champions)
Colours : Red
Overseas player : Meg Phillips
England Players : Kate Cross
England Academy Players : Emma Lamb

Lancashire finally made it into Div 1 as 2014 Div 2 Champions, having missed out in 2013, and having been in Div 3 just four years ago. They are a team on the up, with a very professional attitude to the game and will be a tough team to beat. Emma Lamb had a much quieter season with the bat last year and it will be interesting to see how the England Academy girl goes in the top flight. Kate Cross frequently made useful runs last year, so she will be missed for this as well as her bowling skills when on England duty. Young off-spinner Nalisha Patel however was the team's leading wicket-taker in the league last year. Her technique and confidence will be put to the test this year.
They start their season with away games in May against Notts, Kent and Middlesex. It could be a baptism of fire.
Squad (with shirt numbers) : Jasmine Titmuss (3) capt, Natalie Brown (10), Jessica Couser (9), Kate Cross (16), Rachel Dickinson (17), Bhumika Doshi (14), Sophie Ecclestone (19), Megan Fairclough (4), Georgia Holmes (2), Hannah Jones (7), Emma Lamb (6), Laura Marshall (12), Shachi Pai (18), Nalisha Patel (15), Meg Phillips (1), Eleanor Threlkeld (21)

Middlesex (6th in 2014)
Colours : Blue and Pink
Overseas Player : None
England Players : None
England Academy Players : Alex Hartley, Fran Wilson

Middlesex have a new captain in Izzy Westbury and a new batsman in the shape of Fran Wilson from Somerset. Westbury will still have the help and guidance of the experienced Beth Morgan, who marshalled her side beautifully last year. A young side with some exciting young talent - look out for Sophia Dunkley with both bat and ball, who will not be affected by England call-ups. Expect the unexpected. If they get a decent start and believe in themselves then they could be battling it out at the top of the table come September. Their fixtures against Sussex and Kent are nicely timed.
Squad : Izzy Westbury capt, Natasha Miles, Catherine Dalton, Fran Wilson, Beth Morgan, Anna Nicholls, Sophia Dunkley, India Whitty, Ria Ravel, Alex Hartley, Danni Warren, Millie Pope, Naomi Dattani, Hannah Wakeman, Maia Bouchier 

Nottinghamshire (4th in 2014)
Colours : Green & Gold
Overseas player : Zoe Richards
England Players : Jenny Gunn, Danni Wyatt
England Academy Players : Sonia Odedra

Jenny Gunn has handed over the captaincy to Sonia Odedra for this season and she will be hoping that Danni Wyatt and Gunn have as good a season with the bat as they did last year. Young Georgie Boyce is also a name to look out for with the bat. With the ball Odedra will miss last year's opening partner, Aussie Megan Schutt, and may have to juggle her bowling resources well. Their season could depend on how many of their England players are required on duty for their country. If Wyatt stays with them throughout the season then they are likely to do quite well.
Squad : Sonia Odedra capt, Georgie Boyce, Amy Gauvrit, Jenny Gunn, Abbey Hawkins, Hannah Hughes, Lucy Maxwell, Zoe Richards, Jane Smit, Ruth Sprawson, Esther Stock, Shelby Sutton, Olivia Thornton, Bethany Unwin, Rebecca Widdowson, Danielle Wyatt

Surrey (2nd in 2014)
Colours : Brown
Overseas player : Rachel Candy
England Players : Nat Sciver
England Academy Players : 

Last year veteran leg-spinner Sarah Clarke led the Surrey wicket-takers, and Nat Sciver the run-scorers (courtesy mainly of 154 against Notts). It is difficult to see them repeating last year's heroics and finishing in the top three, but new Director of Women's Cricket, Ebony Rainford-Brent will be keen that her 1st XI have a good season. New Zealander Rachel Candy returns for her second season with the county, and her experience will be invaluable, but she will not be able to do it all on her own. She had an indifferent season in 2014 and may have to contribute more with both bat and ball if Surrey are to feature this year.
Squad - yet to be announced

Sussex (5th in 2014)
Colours : Black 
Overseas player : Erin Osborne
England Players : Georgia Elwiss, Sarah Taylor
England Academy Players : Georgia Adams, Freya Davies, Paige Scholfield

Sussex welcome back former England international Holly Colvin after a year out of the game, and she and overseas off-spinner Erin Osborne, could wreak havoc with the ball in the first few games of the season. Batting may be more of an issue for Sussex, but they bat long and they may well need to once Sarah Taylor, and possibly Georgia Elwiss, are called away on England duties. Last year's campaign was a huge disappointment to a talented squad, but their 2015 campaign could be defined in the first weekend when they meet Surrey and then Kent.
Squad  (with shirt numbers): Sarah Taylor (30) capt, Georgia Adams (13), Flora Bertwhistle (55), Ellen Burt (8), Izy Collis (22), Holly Colvin (10), Freya Davies (3), Georgia Elwiss (34), Abbey Freeborn (29), Chiara Green (14), Anna Harris (77), Megan Janman (5), Izi Noakes (12), Tara Norris (24), Erin Osborne (67), Hannah Phelps (19), Jess Saunders (44), Paige Scholfield (45), Tanya Wake (4), Alexia Walker (7)

Warwickshire (8th in 2014 beat Somerset in play-off to remain in Div 1)
Colours : Blue & Yellow
England Players : , Rebecca Grundy, Amy Jones
England Academy Players : Georgia Hennessy

Warwickshire struggled last season winning just one of their six games that they played and that against bottom of the table Essex (albeit that they won that by 311 runs!). Apart from that game Warwickshire struggled for runs last year. Amy Jones will have had winter experience in New Zealand, Dubai and Sri Lanka, so should hit the ground running with the bat. She may need to. Warwickshire showed a great deal of character to beat Somerset in last year's play-off with a memorable maiden century from Helen Shipman, and great late order batting from Liz Russell and Isabelle Watson. Warwickshire will hope Shipman is fit to play more games this year and that Georgia Hennessy can bat and bowl as she did against Surrey last year in the opening game of the season (84 and 5/38).
Squad : Nadia Bacciochi, Louise Brazier, Jessica Crawley, Laura Crofts, Georgia Davis, Tiarna Paris Gilkes, Kate Green, Becky Grundy, Georgia Hennessy, Miriam Heritage, Amy Jones, Marie Kelly, Sian Kelly, Anisha Patel, Liz Russell, Liz Smart, Isabelle Watson, Mina Zahoor.

Yorkshire (7th in 2014)
Colours : Purple & Black
Overseas player : Beth Mooney
England Players : Katherine Brunt, Dani Hazell, Lauren Winfield
England Academy Players : Hollie Armitage, Alex Macdonald

Came down to earth with a bump in 2014 winning just two games, against Essex and Berkshire, after reaching the Play-Off Final in 2013. Captain Lauren Winfield was the mainstay with the bat, and they will miss her greatly if she is on England duty, or injured (as currently). They will also miss Kathryn Doherty, who is not available this season. Aimee Simms managed 10 wickets last year, but will also miss 2015, which means Bea Firth and Alex Macdonald will need to lead the attack when Brunt and Hazell are unavailable. It could be another tough year for them.
Squad (with shirt numbers): Lauren Winfield (10), Cecilia Allen (12), Katherine Brunt (2), Hannah Buck (5), Ami Campbell (6), Beatrice Firth (7), Elise Good (14), Dani Hazell (4), Katie Levick (3), Alex Macdonald (9), Beth Mooney (16), Kennedy Nuttall (13), Laura Spragg (11), Katie Thompson (8), Maddy Walsh (15), Jess Watson (1)


Sunday 3rd May
Middlesex v Berks at Edmonton CC
Kent v Yorkshire at KCCC Beckenham
Notts v Warwickshire at Welbeck CC
Surrey v Sussex at Reeds School

Monday 4th May
Berks v Surrey at North Maidenhead
Kent v Sussex at KCCC Beckenham
Notts v Lancs at Welbeck CC
Warwickshire v Yorkshire at Moseley CC

Sunday 24th May
Berks v Notts at Finchampstead CC
Kent v Lancs at Spitfire Ground St Lawrence
Surrey v Middx at Reeds School
Sussex v Warwickshire at East Grinstead CC

Monday 25th May
Berks v Yorkshire at Finchampstead CC
Kent v Notts at Spitfire Ground St Lawrence
Middx v Lancs at Edmonton CC
Surrey v Warwickshire at Reeds School

Sunday 21st June
Warwickshire v Kent at Egbaston Foundation Ground
Lancs v Surrey at Urmston CC
Sussex v Notts at Billingshurst CC
Yorkshire v Middx at Harrogate CC

Sunday 19th July
Lancs v Berks at Wigan CC
Surrey v Kent at Kia Oval
Sussex v Middx at the County Ground Hove
Notts v Yorkshire at Welbeck CC

Sunday 30th August
Lancs v Sussex at Wigan CC
Middx v Kent at Merchant Taylor's School
Warwickshire v Berks at Wellesbourne CC
Yorkshire v Surrey at Harrogate CC

Monday 31st August
Berks v Kent at North Maidenhead CC
Lancs v Warwickshire at Urmston CC
Middx v Notts at Edmonton CC
Yorkshire v Sussex at Harrogate CC

Sunday 13th September
Notts v Surrey at Welbeck CC
Sussex v Berkshire at Horsham CC
Warwickshire v Middx at Egbaston Foundation Ground
Yorks v Lancs at Harrogate CC


Thursday, 26 March 2015

WCB to be sponsored by B3 Cricket

I am very pleased to announce that Women's Cricket Blog have agreed a deal with B3 Cricket, who will be the first ever sponsors of the Women's Cricket Blog website.

I have known about B3 for sometime, as they have in the past sponsored some of the girls who play county cricket and above. I first looked them up about 12 months ago and I liked the fact that they make their bats themselves, and that you can fully customize your bat, without breaking the bank. This is particularly important for girls and women, who suffer when they play with bats that are much too heavy for them. Most adult bats are now 2lbs 8oz and above. These are just too heavy for most females. A bat weight of 2lbs 4oz to 2lbs 7oz is much more appropriate for the average adult female. If you are playing junior cricket then it should be even lighter.

If you have not seen their website it is worth a look (click here) - it is refreshingly clean and simple and if you want to get a flavour of what B3 are all about then it is also worth having a look at their online video

There are plenty of bat makers out there for you to choose from, but if you are serious about your cricket we don't think you can get any better than B3 Cricket.

It doesn't matter where you are in the UK or abroad, they can make you a bat and get it sent to you. You even get to choose handle size, shape, and colour and the colour of the stickers on your bat - it won't make it work any better, but you will look the bees knees.

We are very grateful for the support that B3 Cricket are giving WCB and their obvious commitment to ensuring that women and girls get the bats that they need to play cricket to the best of their abilities. The bottom line is they care about what they produce and I like that.


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

New Women's Cricket Super League

There has been a lot of speculation about what might or might not come out of the current review of the structure of women's cricket in England. It seems to be accepted that the current county structure is not "fit for purpose", and that there needs to be something with fewer teams, playing a better standard of cricket, between international cricket and the current county set-up. For want of a better phrase I have called this a "Super League". It also seems to be accepted that this level of cricket needs to be better financed and the players need to be paid for their commitment to it, as they are in state cricket in Australia.

Let's assume, just for a moment, that professional "franchise" cricket is going to be introduced in 2016, or sometime soon after, both for T20 and 50 over cricket. How is this going to be structured and how is it going to work?

The more I think about it the more complicated it gets. It is not just a question of throwing money at a few of the current counties and asking them to run the six or seven new franchise teams, who are going to play in the new Super League. Women's county cricket needs more than that. I hope the ECB will see that and perhaps look to appoint someone to oversee the whole project and make sure that the money that is going to be invested actually produces the results that the ECB are craving - better quality cricket, better players for England and a better product for paying spectators and television companies. Hopefully these are the aims, aren't they?

Currently women's county cricket is run by a handful of overworked and unpaid volunteers. All county cricket boards receive some funding direct from the ECB for women's cricket. But any money that is paid is paid to the county cricket board, who may, or may not, make it available to their women's cricket section. My understanding is that the ECB do pay towards some expenses - pitch hire, accommodation, staging of tournaments, etc. The rest of the expenditure needs to be covered by the county themselves - sponsors, fund-raising and players paying for their own kit, travel etc. The current annual budget for the running of a women's county team is probably less than £10,000.

If professional franchises are going to be introduced they need to be professionally run from the top down - ie they need a proper management structure with competent business/marketing/cricketing people at the helm. People who know women's cricket. It is NOT the same product as men's cricket, and to leave it in the hands of men's county executives and committees would be wrong. Women's franchises need proper coaches giving proper coaching and properly managing players and the games they play in. Women's cricket at the Super League level needs to be taken seriously and the women that play it need to take it seriously too. Izzy Westbury, in an article for the current issue of All Out Cricket, wrote about training in Australia - "Every training session and every match is tackled in the same way - with the same intensity, regardless of whether you are turning out for Australia, your state or your club". This does not happen in county cricket here in England. This attitude has to change and that will not happen if the current structure is not changed too.

Then, of course, the players need to be paid. In Australia each state is given $100,000 for the season (£50,000), from which they have to pay each of their players between $2,500 - $7,500, which would account for about half that sum. In addition CA also cover travel and accommodation expenses for the states. The state cricket associations still have to pay for balls, kit, pitch hire, umpires, scorers, training facilities etc.

The only players paid anything in England at the moment are the 18 contracted England players. There are apparently three different types of contract - tiers 1, 2 and 3 - but no-one knows how much any of the tiers are worth or who is on what tier. Speculation suggests £50,000 for tier 1 and about £20,000 for tier 3. The level below full-England contracts currently includes four players who were in the Winter training squad and 12 players in the England Academy. You would guess that for players at this level their "Super League" contracts might be worth at least £2,000 pa. It does not make them professional, or even semi-professional, but it does help with kit, travelling, physios etc.

So how should the ECB structure the new Super League? I have previously suggested seven regional teams - South East, South, South West, South Midlands, North Midlands, North West and North East, with England players and England Academy players evenly spread between the new franchises - an extended Super 4s structure if you like. The problem will be where do you base these teams for training and games? Will the ECB be able to convince the counties to allow them to use say, Chelmsford, Hove, Taunton, New Road, Grace Road, Old Trafford and Scarborough?

The temptation will be to award "franchises" to current "successful" county set-ups, but I am not sure that would produce the best results. I would much prefer that the ECB invited organisations to tender for the right to run an ECB franchise. Those who think they can do it would then have to say how they would run a new franchised team - management structure; marketing; grounds; costs; sponsorship. The current county set-ups will be in prime position to win these, but there are others who might want to throw their hat into the ring (universities for example), or perhaps join with existing counties to bring a new dynamic to the women's game. I also think it is important that the Super League teams are given their own, new identity - not Essex Eagles or Lancashire Lionesses, but Tesco Tigers, HSBC Hurricanes, B3 Devils etc.

And what then becomes of County Cricket, below the Super League? This MUST still be funded by the ECB to at least the current level of funding. It should continue in its current format, providing an opportunity for young and old county players to play at a level above club level. It should be seen as an important feeder for the Super League.

I doubt much more will be heard from the ECB until the end of this summer's Ashes series. But if England want to remain at the forefront of women's cricket then changes need to be made pretty soon, particularly with the Aussies getting the Women's Big Bash underway later this year. England Women cannot afford to be left behind as the England Men have been.


Thursday, 12 March 2015

Pressure on England Academy v Shooting Stars

For a variety of reasons the pressure will be on for all 14 players named in the England Women's Academy squad to tour Dubai at the end of March, where they are due to take on the Aussie Shooting Stars ("Australia's top emerging women cricketers").

The 14 named players are :-
Tammy Beaumont, Steph Butler, Jodie Dibble, Georgia Elwiss, Tash Farrant, Alex Hartley, Amy Jones, Evelyn Jones, Beth Langston, Sophie Luff, Alex Macdonald, Sonia Odedra, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield.

Amy Jones and Lauren Winfield have only just returned from the England tour to New Zealand (where they both missed the last few games due to injury - hamstring and thigh) and Beaumont, Elwiss and Farrant are all contracted players, who missed out on that tour. Given that she had little to do in New Zealand one might also have expected Danni Wyatt to have made this tour too, but her name is conspicuously missing from the squad.

Dibble, Langston, Odedra and Wilson were all in the Winter Performance training squad (with the 18 contracted players) and have all played for the full England team at some time during their careers. Dibble and Langston are coming back from surgery and injury respectively.

Which leaves just five players from the current Academy squad - Butler, Hartley, Evelyn Jones, Luff and Macdonald - of whom only Hartley plays in Division 1 of the County Championship with Middlesex (Macdonald has also played in the T20 competition for Yorkshire). This will be a big step up, if they get to play.

Leaving Wyatt to one side, this leaves a core of just 12 England contracted players left here in England - the pressure will therefore be on those just outside this core to show what they can do against some decent opposition. And the Aussies should be decent. They have Ellyse Villani and Delissa Kimmince in their ranks. Villani was short-listed for the prestigious Belinda Clarke award in January (won by Meg Lanning) and Kimmince first played for Australia in 2008 and is keen to work her way back into the main Aussie squad.

Katie Mack is also a player to watch. She is a very dedicated cricketer and her recent move to ACT and a good season at the top of the order with the bat, has led to her Shooting Stars selection. On the bowling front off-spinner Jemma Barsby has been on the Aussie radar for a little while and Nicola Carey holds down her place with both the ball and the bat for top state side NSW. Leg spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington also took 6/25 for Sarah Taylor's South Australia side against Tasmania in the WNCL, so might need some watching.

With the Aussies just around the corner for the England Women, this tour - with 4 ODIs and 2 T20s - is crucial in the build up to that series. England looked fragile against New Zealand in their recent tour, losing the ICC WC games 1-2. The Aussies will be much tougher. England need some of the peripheral players to stand up and be counted on this tour. If they fail to do so then it could be a very long and difficult summer for England.


Thursday, 5 March 2015

Women's County Championship 2015 Information needed

To All Div 1 & Div 2 Counties,

I am in the first stages of putting together the Women’s Cricket Blog 2015 Women’s County Championship Preview and I’d like your help.

As usual I would like your squad names (and numbers if possible), plus key players, new players, overseas player details and any other information you think relevant for the current season. Can you also let me know what colours your county will be playing in. If you can let me have a photo of your new shirts this could also be featured (good exposure for your sponsors!)

All details can be emailed to me at cricket@lawdox.co.uk 

The preview is scheduled for publication in 4 weeks’ time, so please let me have your county’s info as soon as possible.

Full fixture lists will also be published with the preview.

Thanks in advance.

Martin Davies


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Reflections on the NZ Tour

Now back in England it is time to reflect on England's tour of New Zealand before looking forward to the Ashes Series that starts in July.

England will point to the fact that they won the ODI series 3-2 and that they won the T20 series 2-1, but they lost the ICC Women's Championship ODI series 1-2 (the first three ODIs), thereby only picking up two points in their ICCWC campaign. They were disappointing in their first game. Quite simply most of them had had no game time. Of those that had (Edwards, Taylor and Knight) two were run out before they got going with the bat, which left the misfiring middle order horribly exposed. It failed as it was to do again in the third ODI. If there is a lesson to be learnt it must be that more, and better, warm-up games are needed.

By the time the T20s started England looked a more confident side, with Lydia Greenway back to her best in the field with two great catches. New Zealand's batting was dire. In the second T20 England failed to find the boundary outside the powerplay and only managed to post 122/5 thanks to a blistering 30 from Heather Knight at the end of the innings. It was still not enough though as Bates, Priest and Devine combined to level the series.

And so on to the Bert Sutcliffe Oval in Lincoln for the last T20 and two more ODIs - England won them all, comfortably. This is how it should have been all tour as England are a better side than New Zealand. Just as the ECB are looking at the structure of the game here in England, so too are the New Zealanders. They used to be one of the best teams in the world, but they have slipped badly over the last seven or eight years. They may fail to qualify automatically for the 2017 World Cup if they don't pull their metaphorical socks up. As a result I understand a root and branch review of New Zealand women's cricket is on the cards, with the support of Sir Richard Hadlee no less. Watch out for more news during their off-season.

Sarah Taylor batted beautifully in both the final ODIs. She is a dream to watch when she can contain her natural enthusiasm for scoring runs in the early part of her innings. It was also great to see Nat Sciver finally come good. I have always been impressed by the time she has to play the ball. I wonder if this may be her breakthrough innings. I hope so. I know England think very highly of her. She now needs to deliver on a more regular basis. The frustration was that these were the two ODIs which were outside the ICC WC competition. It was a case of what might have been.

Below are my thoughts on the individual performances of all the players on the tour, with a unique WCB player rating score out of 10. It is not scientific in any way, shape or form. Just my view of the player's overall performance.

Katherine Brunt
Has bowled with all the heart and determination we have come to expect of her, but without any great reward. Perhaps erred too short on occasions. Batted well in the first three ODIs and was promoted to 7 above Gunn. Promoted to 6 above Marsh, Jones & Wyatt for the final T20. Fielding has been a bit hit and miss. (7)

Kate Cross
Opening over in the T20 was a poor one and she was lucky to get the chance to come back on and bowl. Not really given much of chance until the 4th ODI, when she grabbed it with both hands (5/24). Her 7 ODI wickets in two games meant she was equal top ODI wicket-taker (with Rebecca Grundy who played four) Bowled with good pace but got little movement.  (7)

Charlotte Edwards
Had a good ODI series (averaged 53.75), but a poor T20 one after the first game. She continues to be the model professional, with bucket-loads of application and concentration and a burning desire to win. Did well not to be hugely distracted by the hoo-ha surrounding her 200th match as captain. (8)

Lydia Greenway
Lydia looked out of sorts at the beginning of the tour and batted without any conviction in the first two ODIs, which lead to her being dropped for the last one. She came back into the side for the T20s and two great catches in the first T20 seemed to invigorate her. She batted more positively and without constantly resorting to the sweep/slog sweep/reverse sweep. Remains an asset in the field. (6)

Rebecca Grundy
Bowled with decent accuracy in the first two ODIs, if without a great deal of penetration. She was injured before the third, and then missed the three T20s, before coming back for the fourth ODI where she claimed a career best 3/36. Still a work in progress and yet to see her really rip a ball, but seems to be trusted by England - she has bowled her full allocation of overs in her first 10 England appearances (7)

Jenny Gunn
After the first three ODIs this was looking like a disastrous tour for Jenny. With her batting looking ropey she dropped down to number 10 in the order, and her bowling not looking much better. She was dropped for the first two T20s and then came in for the third ahead of Kate Cross (perhaps surprisingly). Her first over went for 13, but she came back better & picked up a couple of wickets. In ODI 4 she managed a record-equalling 4 catches - 2 of them excellent. Disaster became disappointing (5)

Dani Hazell
Became England's leading T20 wicket-taker in the 3rd ODI (overtaking Holly Colvin), but has not looked like a wicket-taker in the 50 over game and has had some ragged spells. Scored some useful tail-order runs in the first two ODIs (6)

Amy Jones
Just when she had her chance to shine she pulled a fetlock. Due to bat at number 3 in ODI 4 she injured herself in the field and missed out on a track where Taylor (coming in at 3) scored 89*. Good positive attitude with the bat in ODI 3, but then dropped again for T20s, until T20 2 when she was listed to bat at number 9. (6)

Heather Knight
Seems the vice-captaincy has allowed her to grow in confidence. Now asked to open the bowling in the T20 games and even the odd ODI. She doesn't bowl many bad balls, but you felt that by the last couple of ODIs the Kiwis were getting the measure of her bowling and beginning to hit her over the top. Struggled with the bat in the ODI series with exception of ODI 3, but looked extremely positive in the T20 series - her 30 off 15 balls in T20 2 was a revelation. Now needs to be regarded as a serious T20 batsmen and useful bowler. Named T20 Player of the Series due to three consistent performances (8)

Laura Marsh
Good to see Laura back and apparently fit. Batted well in ODI 3 with Katherine Brunt. Stayed there but kept the run rate up with good running. Bowled three decent spells in the T20s, but now seems to be fourth in line in the current spin-bowling pecking order behind Knight, Hazell and Grundy. (7)

Nat Sciver
Perhaps one of the major disappointments of the tour until the last ODI. Had talked up her own batting in the press prior to departure but failed to deliver until her best ODI score of 65* in ODI 5. Always looks quite comfortable, but seems to find ways to get out. Run out at the bowler's end in T20 3 was the most unfortunate. Only bowled two overs on the tour. Apparently her action is being remodelled - you'd guess due to some form of injury caused by her current action. (6)

Anya Shrubsole
Looked to be struggling in ODI 1 and again in her first over of ODI 2, which went for 12. She was withdrawn immediately, but was brought back with the Kiwis in trouble at 59/3. Two wickets in two balls in her comeback over led to two more later, including a beautiful inswinging yorker to remove Devine and she finished with 4/36. She mopped up the tail in T20 1 to have figures of 3/6, but did not play after T20 2 due to sickness and an injury problem. Batted well in the first ODI (7)

Sarah Taylor
Showed in ODIs 4 and 5 exactly what she is capable of, if she has her head in the right place. Ran out Edwards in ODI 1; wandered across her stumps 6th ball in ODI 3 to paddle sweep and was bowled; tried to reverse sweep in T20 2 but edged through to the keeper. Incredible onslaught to finish ODI 4 - 4,4,4,4,1,4,4,.,4,1 - 30 in 10 balls. It can't happen every time she goes out to bat, but you can't help feeling it should happen more often. Named ODI Player of the Series (8)

Lauren Winfield
Looked scratchy in the first three ODIs and despite 48 off 59 balls in the 2nd T20 was not very convincing in the number 3 slot, in either format. Injured in T20 2 and therefore took no further part in the tour. (6)

Danni Wyatt
Seems to have been brought along just to make up the numbers. Listed to bat at 8, 7 and 8 in the three T20 she was selected for and asked to bowl just 1 over. Made selection for the last ODI and asked to bat at 4. Missed her chance by only scoring 7. (6)

And so it will soon be time to think about the Ashes series. Before that the England Academy are due to tour in Dubai in April where they will take on the Australian Shooting Stars (Aussie Academy). The Academy tour party is due to be announced shortly and those in the Winter Training Squad, that missed the New Zealand tour, are likely to get a chance to prove their worth. Will anyone be able to prove they should be considered for the Ashes squad? More on that tour as and when it happens.


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

County Cricket in 2016

There has been some speculation about the shape of women's "domestic" cricket in England over the last few days, following the recent CRICKETher tweets and blog. People have been asking what I know about the situation.

This is where I think we are currently at.

It was apparent during the 2014 season that the ECB realised that the current county cricket structure was too cumbersome (with 37 county teams in four leagues) and too poor to be the second tier of women's cricket (below international level). Clare Connor, the Head of Women's Cricket in England, announced to me in an interview at the Test Match at Worsmley in August that white ball cricket would be introduced in 2015 and that she "envisaged more significant changes in 2016". She also announced that the ECB was proposing to consult with the counties.

I understand that that consultation has now taken place. It took in the views of 20 counties and also involved conversations with other women's sports - eg netball and women's football. It also involved consultation with current players. It has now been concluded, but at this point in time no definitive recommendation has been made to the ECB Board. I also understand that the new ECB Chairman, Colin Graves, and Chief Exec, Tom Harrison, have yet to be consulted, so any proposals are still very much in the formative stages.

I suggested in a piece I wrote last September (click here) that I thought the ECB would try and follow the current Australian state cricket model in some form, with fewer teams, possibly in some form of franchise structure, rather than in a county structure. It seems that may be one idea on the table.

Certainly it seems that nothing has yet been decided, but it does seem that change is in the air for women's domestic cricket in England, probably from the 2016 season onwards.