Saturday, 31 August 2013

Women's Ashes 3rd T20

Random thoughts on the 3rd T20 at Durham:
  • For a whole variety of reasons, this morning felt like a bit of an anticlimax: the early start, combined with the dead-rubber series situation, produced a bit of a forgettable game of cricket, which didn't live up to the series as a whole.
  • Foundations are really important - you don't notice them, but try constructing anything much without them! Katherine Brunt hasn't done anything spectacular in this series; but she has been the foundation of England's success and arguably the only player on either team to have "turned-up" to every game.
  • Heather Knight's injury is a huge blow to Berkshire, who she was due to captain in the up-coming domestic T20 Finals Day. Berkshire have been a bit of a one-woman team this season, and without her I'd say their chances are now pretty close to zero. (But D and I will still be there next Saturday at Preston Nomads to cheer on The Beavers!)

Friday, 30 August 2013

Women's Ashes 2nd T20

Random thoughts on the 2nd T20 at The Rosebowl*:
  • Dani Hazel was outstanding again - maiden overs are like gold-dust in T20, and she's now bowled two in the past two games. She's been by far the most economical bowler of the series, and a big part of why England have been winning these matches.
  • At 9/3 I was ready to get on the bus to Durham. (Only metaphorically, unfortunately!) But The Ashes have been a real team effort by England: this was Lydia Greenway's Chance To Shine, and she took it!
  • It was a real pity that The Ashes were won in a half-empty stadium. (And it was half-empty, whatever Sky's presenters might have been told to pretend.) In the cold light of day, the double-headers aren't working any more, with the real women's cricket fans priced-out of empty seats.
  • And if I felt galled... I can't imagine what it was like for the handful of journalists that have covered the series so far; but had to give up their seats in the press box to "proper cricket" correspondents, whose by-lines are now being read up and down the land in the wake of England's victory.
  • On a personal level, it was lovely for me that my 10-year-old son, who was with me at Wormsley for Day 1 of the Test, arrived back from his holiday in Spain just in time to see Lyd hit the winning runs last night!
* If anyone wants to pay me to call it something else... you know where to find me!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Women's Ashes 1st T20

Random thoughts on the 1st T20 at Chelmsford:
  • What a night at Chelmsford! The (admittedly small) ground was packed and this was the best atmosphere of the series so far. (Caveat: I wasn't at Hove.)
  • The crowd was quite mixed. The guy sitting in front of me with two kids, knew who some of the players were; but the couple sitting next to me didn't... and were surprised to discover that you can get runs even if you don't hit the ball!
  • There were a couple of dropped catches, but it is worth remembering that the England girls play very little white-ball cricket and they never play under lights. (In contrast, Australian women's domestic cricket is all white-ball; and is (I believe - please correct me if I'm wrong) often played under lights.)
  • Anya Shrubsole's injury is a blow - she has been a vital part of our strategy of strangling the power-play. However, Nat Sciver isn't too bad a replacement - she certainly looked to be quite quick from where I was sitting! Honestly, however, I'm amazed that both Shrubsole and Brunt have made it this far injury-wise, so let's just be thankful for what we've had, even if Shrubsole doesn't play again later this week.
  • Danni Wyatt is what my grandmother would have called 'A One'. Brought back in place of Holly Colvin for her batting, which has been quite good in domestic cricket this year, to say she rode her luck is somewhat of an understatement. In about over 8, I was about to tweet that we had 'World Cup Waggy' back; when she pulled out a couple of fantastic shots... bisected by the most appalling slog, that only failed to be caught because it went literally straight up in the air, leaving the fielder running in from the edge of the circle too much to do.
  • Who was the captain out there? Two weeks ago, in the Test at Wormsley, Charlotte Edwards was very visibly in charge, directing the field and always taking the ball between overs. At Chelmsford, it was Sarah Taylor who was marshalling the troops, with the occasional input from Lottie, who was stood back in a very literal sense, at a more-deep-than-usual mid off. There was also just a hint that Lottie's knees are starting to suffer as the series progresses - chasing one drive towards the end, she was off the mark in almost slow-motion. (Perhaps that is why she was fielding so deep?) I know how desperately she wants to still be here for the 2017 World Cup; and she still has "it" with the bat, but... an Ashes victory isn't a bad way to go out, and a new captain needs time before that World Cup, especially given how little cricket the women play.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Marketing The Women's Ashes - One Step Forwards, Two Steps Back

I was talking to my friend Kate on Twitter yesterday about why men are so prejudiced against women's team sports in general, and women's cricket in particular.

She had this to say:
"Some men still find it hard to admit to 'liking women's sport' it's some kind of macho stigma, or won't give it a chance because they aren't 'supposed to like it'."
I think she's right; and I also think that things like this don't help.

In case it is later removed, here's a screen-grab of Essex Cricket's ad for the Women's Ashes T20 match at Chelmsford:

They've used the ECB's fiery marketing pic of KB, Lottie and SJT, which I think it really cool; but they've accompanied it with their own text, and here's where we hit the problem:
"... we bring you 'Girl Power'"
 Sorry? What? Girl Power? With Capital Letters? And 'Finger Quotes'?

Apart from sounding horribly 90s*, it is almost as if they want to turn-off and turn-away anyone with a 'Y' in the chromosome department!

Generally speaking, I think the ECB have done a pretty-fab job at running a gender-neutral marketing campaign for The Ashes. It was a real step forwards. But this, I'm afraid, is two steps back.

* Just a hunch... but I'll bet a penny-or-two that the person responsible for this text is a woman in her late 30s, for whom The Spice Girls were her generation's Beatles!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Women's Ashes 3rd ODI

Random thoughts on the 3rd ODI at Hove Home via Sky's Little Red Corvette Button:
  • This was a quality England performance with the bat - the performance we'd all been waiting for. Australia's total was one they'd have been happy with; but Knight and Taylor took the game away from them in the middle overs. Taylor's was obviously the Man of the Match performance; but Paddy Power can pay out now on the English Player of the Year for 2013: stand up, Heather Knight.
  • Taylor's stunning catch is all over the internet by now, and has done more to promote women's cricket than any amount of tweeting hashtags or flaming photoshoots! Rob Key was saying what a great day Taylor had behind the stumps; but you know what? She actually had a normal day - that's how good she is! (The only difference is that on this occasion she followed it up big-time with the bat.)
  • Martin Davies mention on Twitter that the Australian team looked deflated in the field towards the end. They shouldn't have done - this contest is far-from over, especially bearing in mind that England need to "more-than-draw" the series to reclaim The Ashes.
  • I'm looking forward to Chelmsford on Tuesday - it'll be my last 'live' match of the series, and I can't wait!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Women's Ashes 2nd ODI

Random thoughts on the 2nd ODI at Hove Home via 5-Live:
  • Yay!
  • Woo-hoo!
  • Woop-woop!
  • Listening-in on 5-Live, Ali-Mit is much missed. Iain O'Brien isn't a bad broadcaster, but he basically admitted that he doesn't know a thing about women's cricket. (He gets bonus points for being frank and not bluffing, I guess; but I'd rather have a commentator that actually knows the player's names, and doesn't keep referring to "batswomen"... which is what my ten-year-old son would call a "noob fail"!)
  • Playing Silver Sciver was a gamble. It paid off; but it was a gamble nonetheless, because Sciver is more of a bisher-bosher, in contrast to a "proper" batsman like Loz Winfield. If England had lost Brindle or Greenway earlier, Sciver would have been horribly exposed I suspect. (It might have made more sense if Sciver had bowled, but she didn't... so it didn't!)

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Women's Ashes 1st ODI

Random thoughts on the 1st ODI at Lords:

  • I really don't understand batting Heather Knight at 5, especially given how uncomfortable Aran Brindle looked at the top of the order. Knight is England's in-form player, but she had no time to build an innings coming in so late.
  • Sarah Taylor needs to add some gritty to her pretty. Elegant thirties don't win matches. (Copy out 500 times, Sarah!)
  • England were ahead on Duckworth-Lewis for much of their innings, but they didn't press home this advantage. They played a lot of strokes without finding the gaps and jogged a lot of singles without pushing for the twos. 
  • Holly Colvin may (or may not) be 'yipped' but she sure isn't landing it on her usual, economical sixpence. She wasn't bad... none of the bowlers were... but Holly wasn't quite at her best. (Let's hope she gets back there soon!)
  • Lords was only half open - the stands on the south side being closed entirely - but there was a really good buzz about the place. 
  • It was good to see Danni Wyatt in the crowd, supporting the team with a smile on her face, even though she must feel rubbish on the inside. I've not been her most vociferous fan, but this was big and brave. (Can you imagine seeing Nick Compton in the crowd at The Oval this week?)
  • Overall, I really feel that England lost this match much more than Australia won it. And that is actually good news: Australia are beatable and The Ashes are still winnable... we just need a bit more "oomph" next time.
UPDATE: I've amended this post slightly, after a friend pointed out that it read as if I was primarily blaming Holly Colvin for the loss... which I really, really wasn't!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

T20 Finals - The Secret Cricket Match

The men's T20 finals took place this weekend. It was the biggest day of the domestic season, and drew more than 20,000 people to Edgbaston for a day of thrilling cricket.

The women's equivalent, for which Berkshire, Nottinghamshire, Sussex and Kent have qualified, also promises to be closely fought. Although last year's Sussex-Berkshire final was a bit one-sided; Berkshire are a stronger team this year, with Heather Knight in the form of her (young) life; and any of the four teams would be worthy winners.

However... one thing there won't be is a crowd of 20,000 people!

In fact, if there was a crowd of twenty, it would better Berkshire's biggest "gate" of the season so far. I attended all of Berkshire's home games this year, and (discounting the players' mums, dads and dogs) I reckon the largest "crowd" was about three!

But surely the T20 finals will attract a bit of a turnout, when they take place on September 7th at... er... hang on... actually, where are they taking place?

That's the problem - I know when the finals are taking place, but I don't know where! And nor does anybody else! (Including, to the best of my knowledge, the players themselves!)

It's a secret cricket match, in a secret location.


Is The Queen playing?

Are the ECB afraid someone will creep-into the clubhouse the night before and steal the trophy? (Will it eventually be found, lying under a bush, by a dog called Pickles?)

Or is this just the sad reality of following the women's game?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Women's Ashes Test - Day 4

Random thoughts on the final day:
  • I couldn't be at Wormsley today, so I had the pleasure of following the game via Charles Dagnall, Alison Mitchel & Co. on Test Match Special. And what a pleasure it was! (Once they'd turned-down the "Trump Mic"!!) I'll be at Lords for the first ODI next week; but I look forward to joining "Team TMS" again at Hove for the second and third ODIs.
  • Following up on the Four or Five Day Tests? debate, I'm really not sure that it would have made any difference. Australia would have batted long into the fifth day to make the game safe; and while England might have had to survive two sessions rather than one, I suspect they would still have done so.
  • Heather Knight was rightly Man-of-the-Match, but I hope she shared some of her champagne with Laura Marsh! Heather scored the 150, but without Laura's support, she would have been left high-and-dry on 70-odd Not Out at around-about tea time on day two; and the team would now be 6-0 down in the series.
  • For better or worse, a draw is actually the best result for the fans - the rest of the series could have been a dead rubber by mid-way through next week; but now we've got some big, BIG ODIs to look forward to - BRING IT ON!

Important: Wormsley DID Respond To Inappropriate Banter Directed At Holly Ferling

I mentioned last night, in my 'Random Thoughts' from Day 3 of The Ashes Test, that some of the "banter" directed at Holly Ferling went a bit too far.

Actually... a lot too far.

I now gather that those responsible were brought to the attention of The Powers That Be at Wormsley. They were almost ejected, but pleaded for one more chance and subsequently dialed it down.

So... good for Wormsley for doing something about it at the time; and good for those responsible for (a) realizing that they needed to tone it down and (b) doing so.

(But I still very-much hope that Holly's parents were late to the ground that day - they really didn't need to hear that stuff.)

Sthalekar: Four days not enough!

In her Cricket Australia blog, Lisa Sthalekar asks: are four days enough for The Ashes Test? She brings to bear several arguments, so it is really worth reading; but her basic answer is: no - four days makes it too easy to play for a draw.

One thing we do need to bear in mind is that this is actually a four-and-a-half day Test in "men's" terms, because 100 overs are being bowled each day, rather than ninety. And (I think?) they've actually bowled them all every day, even with the rain yesterday.

However, I think that a bigger part of the picture on this occasion is the six points. Although they provide a huge incentive to win, they also provide an even bigger incentive not to lose; and I am quite convinced that if you'd offered either captain a draw at the start of the contest, they'd have taken it; rather than risk going into the one-days having to win five of the six remaining matches.

The irony is that the six points were allocated to try to emphasize the primacy and importance of the Test. All they've done (so far!) is reduce it to a bit of a trundle.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Women's Ashes Test - Day 3

Random thoughts on the third day:
  • Some of the "banter" directed at Holly Ferling by a certain section of the crowd was a bit... er... inappropriate. (And that's putting it mildly.) I dread to think what her parents (who were at the ground) made of it; but if I'd had to hear that about my daughter, I think I might have gone over and thumped someone. Yes, she is an international cricketer... but she is also seventeen guys! Seventeen.
  • Unsurprisingly, people were starting to ask 'How many points for a draw?' Now, I'm not a mathematician, so correct me if I am wrong; but I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter! In a two-team league, it could be one, two, six or sixty points for a draw - it makes no difference, because the other team would gain exactly the same amount of points, so they cancel each other out. (No?)
  • Heather Knight - above, on her way to 157 - was amazing again. She has quite literally saved England's Ashes campaign - if it weren't for her innings, we would surely be staring down the barrel of 6-0. (Because points for a win do matter!)
  • The Southern Stars were encouraging each other with shouts of "Show you're Aussie!" I was hoping this meant they were going to lose all their wickets in the final session... but sadly not!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Women's Ashes Test - Day 2

A few (mostly Anglo-centric) random thoughts on the second day:
  • England set very different fields this morning, with no silly point; and Taylor standing up to the quicks. There is only one possible explanation for this: Lottie reads my blog!
  • Holly Ferling is basically the same bowler she was at the World Cup. Her radar is all over the place (and had the Barmy Army singing a re-working of the Mitchel Johnson song - She bowls to the left... etc.) but when she hits the target: BOOM!
  • Was it just my imagination, or was Lottie distinctly unimpressed at being given out LBW to the upstart Ferling? Her reaction bordered on dissent, and it wasn't pretty.
  • If Laura Marsh was selected over Holly Colvin for her batting... it was a good call!
  • This was obviously Australia's day. Again. But Heather Knight has brought her brilliant county form with her to this series and all is not lost - a draw is still possible; even if a win is probably not.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Women's Ashes Test - Day 1

 A few (very Anglo-centric) random thoughts on the first day:
  • There is "Silly Point" and "Far Too Silly Point". Tammy Beaumont spent much of the day fielding at the latter - far too close to react to anything. Unless the only purpose was to unsettle the batsmen, it was "Really Very Little Point Indeed."
  • Katherine Brunt isn't fit, is she? She managed only 4 overs with the new ball before she gave-way to the decidedly unthreatening Jenny Gunn. I accept that a half-fit KB is probably worth two fully-fit "someone elses" but...
  • Was it my imagination; or was Sarah Taylor standing a fair bit further back to Shrubsole than she was to Brunt? (The pic above is Shrubsole bowling; and Taylor is certainly standing a long way back.) Interestingly enough, there was a speed-gun in the ground... but it was in the kids "Cricket Factory" playground - I'd like to have seen it pointed at England's quicks!
  • I thought the toss was going to be perhaps the most important moment of the entire series, because I was convinced both sides would want to bowl. Australia's decision to bat was obviously vindicated, but I'm still surprised, if only because surely England would have chosen to bowl?
  • Wormsley is nice. Lovely, even. But a proper ground, with proper facilities... and proper toilets... and proper 3G coverage would... also be lovely! (To be fair, my son (on '3') had some mobile internet coverage; but I had none on Vodafone.)

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Where's Our Jonathan Agnew To Ask The Difficult Questions?

Something's up with Hol-Col... but we don't know what!

Holly Colvin - England's most reliable bowler over recent years - was not included in the team for the Ashes Test which begins tomorrow... and nobody seems to know why!

Retired Southern Star Lisa Sthalekar, blogging for Cricket Australia, hints at a possible explanation:
There has been a suggestion that [Colvin] may be suffering from the ‘yips’...
But the truth is that we don't know... and we are probably not going to find out any time soon!

This segues into something that has been bugging me since the World Cup in India: that while there are reporters covering women's cricket, 99% of them are too close to the team to ask any difficult questions - they see their role as supporting the game and the England team; and acting as cheerleaders, rather than quizzical "journalists".

Women's cricket lacks a Jonathan Agnew - an authoritative figure who can't be ignored (unlike us bloggers) and who is not afraid to prod and probe around-about off-stump, moving the ball one way and then the other, asking tough questions and then following them up intelligently.

(And the brilliant thing about Agnew is that he does this so cleverly and subtly, that a lot of people assume he is a bit of a soft-touch buffoon - when in reality he is nothing of the sort - and he ends up getting the answers no one else can!)

Women's cricket is at a bit of a junction; and it does need an element of cheerleading in the press to drum-up support for the team and the game.

But sometimes I just wish they'd ask the odd difficult question too!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

England Women On Twitter

With Lydia Greenway having "caved into the peer pressure" (her words!) all 18 of the England Women's Ashes squad are now on Twitter! So, here they all are, mostly supporting their brand-new "#RISE" promo pics:
As you'd expect, some tweet more than others - it goes in phases, with Charlotte Edwards, Sarah Taylor and Danni Wyatt tending to be the most prolific. 99% of their tweets are "Safe For School"; and though a couple of the girls do "push the envelope" occasionally, it tends to be more on the risque side than anything more concerning for parents of younger kids.

Women's Ashes Match To Be Broadcast On-Line

The ECB have announced that one of the Ashes ODIs (Lords) will be broadcast on-line.

This isn't a first for women's cricket - the West Indies have shown matches this way in the past. And neither is it a first for English cricket - the recent men's Ashes series has been broadcast on-line in "non cricket" countries by YouTube.

But it is significant nonetheless.

The ECBs contract with SKY gives the pay-TV giant exclusive rights to all cricket played in the UK; so the broadcasting of this match must have been done with SKY's permission... meaning that SKY have accepted the principle that if they don't want to broadcast it, someone else can.

Hopefully then, this is a precursor to fuller coverage of women's cricket being made available in future. (And ECB, if you're listening... which I'm sure you're not... I'd be happy to pay for it!)

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Women's Ashes - The Pessimist v The Optimist?

The Women's Ashes begins in less than a week; and you can get the full lowdown over at

As an England fan, I'm excited... but also nervous; and in the past few weeks I've veered between optimism and pessimism.

The Pessimist

England's early-summer wins against Pakistan were a little close for comfort. Pakistan are the weakest of the "top 8" sides; and if England are going to beat Australia, you'd expect them to totally put Pakistan to the sword... but they didn't. (Which, I might add, is great news for international women's cricket in general though!)

Several of England's top bowlers have had problematic years. Four of our go-tos - Brunt, Shrubsole, Colvin and Marsh - have had serious injury problems and been out for significant periods; and if Brunt and Shrubsole both make it through 10 days of hard cricket, it will be a miracle.

Then there is Sarah Taylor; who had a dreadful World Cup; and while she has found some form this season, she no longer looks quite like the best player in the world that she did a year ago.

The Optimist

The Test is the key - if England can take the 6 points there, it is a long way back for Australia; and Lottie Edwards could be be the difference between the teams at Wormsley. If England bat first, and Edwards posts a big hundred, then England will be well on their way. And when England bowl, they'll have the most experienced captain in world cricket running the show.

Our leading bowlers may have had injury problems; but they'll be fired-up and ready to go. If England gamble on Brunt and Shrubsole for The Test, they could take a lot of wickets between them; while Holly Colvin* Laura Marsh keeps it tight at the other end. And if Brunt and Shrubsole can bring back those points from Wormsley... maybe it doesn't matter if they don't play all the limited-overs games?

Then there is Sarah Taylor! As the old adage goes, form is temporary but class is permanent;and she is due some big performances on some big occasions.


Who is it going to be? I don't know! If I were a gambling man, I have to say that I might be putting my money on Australia... but my heart will always say England!

* UPDATE: Colvin has been left out of the Test squad.