Monday, 15 July 2013

Women's County Chanpionship: Berkshire v Nottinghamshire

Heather Knight starred again as Berkshire beat Nottinghamshire in the final game of the championship season.

As a cricketing spectacle, this was very much a game of two halves. Notts batted first, clocking up 215 against some shockingly poor bowling, as Berkshire sent down slow full toss after slow full toss, with a goodly sprinkling of no-balls and wides. Only Heather Knight looked like she belonged in a first division bowling attack; and the fact that Notts didn't score a lot more I can only attribute to shock at just how bad Berks were.

The second half, however, was a different game. With Sonia Odedra opening the bowling as dangerously as anyone I've seen this season, Notts were professional in the field; and looked to be nailed-on for a big win.

But with Heather Knight hanging in there, you never know! The runs kept coming, but the wickets didn't. Danni Wyatt, suffering from a stomach upset, was understandably out-of-sorts; and with Heather Knight on 80-odd, Berkshire must have been thinking maybe... just maybe!

A potential turning-point occurred when Odedra had Knight caught at  square leg, only for it to be called a no-ball. It looked like a huge let-off; but a fired-up Odedra then cleaned-up Knight's middle stump with the next delivery; and the game was Notts' to lose.

But lose they did, as with wickets in hand, Berkshire were free to begin hitting-out, eventually stealing past the target in the final over, with the assistance of a "five-no-balls" from Jenny Gunn.

Monday, 8 July 2013

England Name Ashes Squad

England have named 18 players in their provisional Ashes squad, with the only "surprise" being the inclusion of the currently-injured Katherine Brunt - I'm guessing more in hope than expectation. Apparently, the plan is to whittle this down to 15 at the beginning of August, ready for the Ashes Test on August 11th. (For what it's worth, I've highlighted my Test XI and struck-through those I think will be whittled!)
  • Charlotte Edwards (Kent, capt)
  • Arran Brindle (Sussex)
  • Sarah Taylor (Sussex)
  • Lydia Greenway (Kent)
  • Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
  • Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire)
  • Danielle Wyatt (Nottinghamshire)
  • Jenny Gunn (Nottinghamshire)
  • Heather Knight (Berkshire)
  • Natalie Sciver (Surrey)
  • Holly Colvin (Sussex)
  • Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
  • Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
  • Natasha Farrant (Kent)
  • Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
  • Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
  • Laura Marsh (Kent)
  • Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
(Yes - I wouldn't play Shrubsole in the Test - she has the pedigree; but in a match we really, really, really can't afford to lose, she is too much of an injury-risk.)

The Final Lesson & The Critical Test

There is one more lesson to be taken from the England-Pakistan series; but I wanted to raise it in a separate post because it segues into The Ashes series which begins in a month.

It concerns The Ashes "points" system, which awards 2 points for each of the (six) limited-overs matches, and a whopping 6 points for the (one) Test, which kicks off the series on August 11.

And there is the problem:

If England lose the Test, it would be a disaster, because it would leave them 6-0 down, and needing to win five out of the six remaining (limited-overs) matches to win-back The Ashes.

And on current form (i.e. against Pakistan) there is no way in hell that this England team are going to win 5-of-6 games against that Australia team.

So, it is absolutely critical that England don't lose that Test. They can win it (nice... though Australia could still come back if they did!) and they can draw it; but they really, really, really can't afford to lose it!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Pakistan Deserve To Be At The Top Table

I don't usually comment much on England's opponents - I'm an England fan and this is an England blog.

But... I do feel the need to say something about the Pakistan side we've seen followed on Cricinfo this week.

If there is a "top table" of women's cricket, Pakistan are comfortably the weakest side on it. Some bloggers even went so far as to refer to this series as warm-ups in all but name suggesting that anything less than an England whitewash would be a major upset! [Er - That was you wasn't it? Ed.] (Hmmm... it might have been!)

Well, this week has proved that even if Pakistan remain the weakest side at that top table, it is a top table which they fully deserve to be at! Neither of the ODIs were walk-overs and even in the first T20, where England were very comfortable winners, Pakistan weren't a total embarrassment to themselves - at least batting-out their overs. And then came the final T20! Yes, England weakened themselves by re-jigging the team and leaving-out one of their two world-class players, but that England team still contained over 700 international caps*.

So here's to Pakistan! We look forward to welcoming you again soon - if not before, then in 2017 for the World Cup.

(PS - If you haven't already, watch this video of the 2nd T20. The joy on the faces of the Pakistan team at the end is just lovely to behold - that's what cricket is all about!)

* 722, to be precise!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

England vs Pakistan Series Review

England's quick-fire series against Pakistan ended yesterday with honours shared in the T20s. (Though it is worth noting that Pakistan's win - widely lauded across the web as "historic" - came against a deliberately experimental England team, with Sarah Taylor rested, to give Amy Jones mitten-time, and Lottie Edwards batting down the order.)

The entire series was always destined to be a light entree for the Ashes feast to come; and with the new management team seemingly (correctly, in my view) sticking mostly to Mark Lane's template, there were unlikely to be any huge revelations; and I think this was largely borne-out.

Nevertheless, here are my thoughts:
  1. Without Lottie anchoring the batting, we are pretty second-rate in that department. She topped the series batting averages by a country-mile; and it is no coincidence that the game we lost was the one where she stepped aside from her usual opening spot.
  2. Danni Wyatt is not an international opening batsman. We knew that two games into the World Cup; and after yesterday we still know it. (Yes, she can hit one in county cricket; but...)
  3. Anya Shrubsole isn't right - she took one wicket in 3 games, and that in an over in which she also conceded 7 wides. I'm guessing she isn't genuinely fit; and that is a concern for the Ashes.
  4. Natalie Sciver is a keeper. (As in... we'll keep her!) (HT Raf Nicholson!) Although Holly Colvin was back in light training this week, I've given up hope that Katherine Brunt will play any part in the Ashes; so we'll be looking to Sciver big-time in August. (No pressure Nat!)

Friday, 5 July 2013

If You Market It...

Earlier this week, Martin Davies asked what we had learned from the first ODI between England and Pakistan, and concluded "not very much"!

Actually... I think there is something! (Although I am being very unfair to Martin, because he was talking in pure cricketing terms!)

We have learned that, as Kevin Costner didn't quite say:
If you market it, they will come!
The ODI in question was held during term-time... on a weekday... in Louth - a village in the middle of nowhere, with no railway station!

By any stretch, this should have been a recipe for commercial disaster - a one-man-and-his-dog show, played in a graveyard at midnight!

And yet... a crowd of 2,000 people turned up! On a weekday! In term-time! In the middle of nowhere!

[Er... that's enough exclamation marks, thanks - Ed.]

And the reason 2,000 people turned up was because Louth CC marketed the hell out of it.

(In contrast, the second ODI was played on a university sports field at Loughborough, with no marketing effort whatsoever, and the crowd was around 70*!)

So what we have learned from that first ODI at Louth is this:

If you market the heck out of a women's cricket match, there are people who will pay to see it. It doesn't happen by magic - it is hard work. But if you market it, they will come!

* HT Raf Nicholson... who was one of the 70!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

England Taking A Long-Term Gamble on Lottie's Knees?

Charlotte Edwards has said that she expects to be around a while yet, telling the BBC:
"Who knows how long I've got left? But hopefully a few more years at least."
And on current form, with two fifties so far this week against Pakistan, who could disagree?

With the recent confirmation from the ICC that the next World Cup will be held in England in 2017, Edwards wouldn't be human if she wasn't eying-up one last swan-song - leading the team out for that dream final at Lords!

But I do wonder if this isn't an ask too far? Edwards will be 37 in 2017, and while Graham Gooch was still captaining England at the age of 93, I fear those days are long gone.

(Also bearing in mind that Gooch had the assistance of his fabulous mustache - an advantage not available to Lottie, as it mustaches have subsequently been outlawed under recent ICC playing regulations.)

My real worry though is that Edwards attempts to continue until 2017, but realizes in (say) 2016 that her already-dodgy knees can't take any more, effectively bowing-out just before the World Cup, leaving the new captain very little international playing-time to bed-in.

One of the unique things about cricket is the need to balance short and long-term strategy. In the short-term, England need Edwards; but if the priority is that next World Cup in England, then we appear to be taking one heck of a gamble on those knees.