Sunday, 27 October 2013

Tri-Series Final v West Indies

Random thoughts on England's Tri-Series Final defeat to West Indies:
  • As a fan, I'm disappointed for England; but as a rational human being, you have to say that the best team won. I said from the outset that West Indies were favorites, with England missing key players in both the batting and bowling departments, and so it proved. 
  • At the risk of sounding like a broken record... England needed more batting out there. Dropping Winfield was criminal - you don't need six bowlers in T20, you need runs on the board! The scoreboard suggests England were 20-short, but in reality it was probably even more, with the West Indies batsmen playing well within themselves at the end.
  • Dottin and Stephanie Taylor are on top of the world right now, and the ICC stats that say Sarah Taylor is the world's number one T20 batsman are looking a bit tardy already! (Though to be fair, the numbers at 'time of writing' don't (I assume) include this series!)
  • I've seen it said a few times recently that England don't have a Dottin - a player who can hit the boundary at-will - but Nat Sciver crashed a HUGE six on the last ball of the innings, when she had nothing to lose. Why didn't she do that earlier? She was taking care of her wicket, I guess; which may have been the right decision under the circumstances, but I can tell you one thing for certain: it's not how Dottin would have played that innings - she'd have gotten rich, or died tryin!
  • It's been great to have this series broadcast on-line. (Though next time, please let me have a better quality stream - I'll happily pay for it!) But the commentary was a joke - you need commentators that actually know WOMEN'S cricket. To be fair, the BBC were also guilty of this last summer - with a certain New Zealander admitting on-air that he'd just mugged-up a bit the night before - but at least he tried to be positive and didn't spend half the time telling Isa Guha she looked hot in heels. (The batsman/batswoman/batsperson thing is actually quite a good test of whether someone knows women's cricket - if they need to ask... they don't!)

Friday, 25 October 2013

Tri-Series T20 v West Indies

Confession time: I slept this one out. (Like Lottie, I was resting myself - hoping to be fit for the final!) It was obviously an exciting match; but sometimes the scorecard tells it's own story, quite apart from the one on the pitch:
  • Dottin is the most dangerous player in world cricket. Not the best, necessarily, but the most dangerous, with the capacity to completely change the game in a moment. She has been doing it for some time too: D and I saw her destroy England in a T20 at Arundel Castle a couple of summers ago (it's the background pic for this blog) and she did it again last night... twice!
  • England chose to play both Langston and Cross... which is fine - Paul Shaw said before the tour that he wanted to have a look at them, and you can't do that if they're sat back at the hotel. But you've got to ask questions about dropping Amy Jones, leaving a side consisting of just four recognized batsmen! 
  • And then you get to the Super Over - it's the big one, so who do you send in? Two bowling all-rounders? Where were Taylor, Winfield and Beaumont? And if you didn't trust them, or they were injured... why didn't you bring another batsman on tour? And if there isn't another batsman? Then I'm afraid you need to take a long hard look at the man who has been running women's cricket at the National Performance Centre for the past few years. Now... who was that again?
  • Of course... all will be redeemed if we win the final - we're fans, and that's what we do! But I can't help feeling that it would only be papering over some serious cracks.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Tri-Series T20 v New Zealand

Random thoughts on the T20 v New Zealand:
  • In cricket, we often refer to the bowlers as "the attack"; but England were forced to play a different game here. This was DEFENSIVE cricket at its most aggressive: bowling to the plan and hounding every ball in the field, creating the scoreboard pressure which drew a flurry of wickets at the end, including a hat-trick for Nat Sciver that she will be deservedly dining-out on 'till she's 90!
  • With Charlotte Edwards injured, England had to turn to the spare batsman they'd picked for this tour, who was... er... oh...! If only someone had warned them this might happen!
  • It's a little thing, but in one of the earlier matches Tash Farrant lingered on an LBW appeal so long that a half-chance of a run-out went begging. Someone noticed, and this time when a very similar situation occurred, she was back on the stumps before you can say 'Howzat?' That's good coaching and good cricket from England!
  • England now have a dead-rubber match before the final, but I'll be surprised if either Cross or Langston play - England are too wedded to their 'winning is a habit' mantra.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Tri-Series T20 v West Indies

Random thoughts on the T20 v West Indies:
  • Although England will be disappointed with the loss, after making such a strong start to their reply, this was a match which went to form. The West Indies are a strong batting side, and they put-up enough runs to create constant scoreboard pressure - exemplified by the dismissal of Danni Wyatt, who played the shot of a woman who knew she had to hit every ball for runs-plural!
  • Loz Winfield had her best match in an England shirt, and helped get the innings off to a very solid start. Martin Davies was touting her for the opening role last summer and she did him proud here. Like Tammy Beaumont, Winfield is probably already on the plane to Australia, but fighting for a place in the XI; and that competition is hotting up a bit - maybe not for the test (when I'm sure Brindle will play) but for the shorter-form games.
  • Tash Farrant has now played four matches for England, has a batting Strike Rate of 100 and has NEVER been dismissed from the crease. Admittedly, she has only faced one ball, against Pakistan last summer; but... still... it's quite a record!
(PS: Sarah Taylor - when we said we wanted to see even more stumpings... that wasn't quite what we meant!)

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Tri-Series T20 v New Zealand

Random thoughts on the T20 v New Zealand:
  • Tammy Beaumont didn't have a great Ashes, by her own admission; but she played a punchy little innings for Kent in the domestic T20 final and she's brought that form with her to the West Indies. She was probably going to Australia whatever, but she is definitely fighting for a place on the team-sheet and if she keeps this up, she'll be in that XI!
  • Nat Sciver's first over looks worse on the scorecard than it actually was - the two opening wides were both of the "One Day" variety, just down the leg side. She then took the crucial wicket of Bates, albeit with a shocking full toss that should have been called a No Ball; and bowled a tight final over.
  • Lottie made a good 40, but it should have been more - the runs were there, but her legs are clearly made of two lollypop sticks held together with double-sided sticky-tape these days. How she's going to cope with playing 8 matches in 3 weeks, I'm not sure?
  • Taylor didn't have a great game, either side of the stumps; but I guess if she is going to have one of her spells of poor form, now is probably a good time to get it out of the way!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Australia Best-Placed, Long-Term

Kathryn Wicks has an article in the Sydney Morning Herald asking why women's sport is "friendless".

Ms Wicks was kind enough to indulge me in a Twitter conversation on the subject; and my conclusion is that things might not be great in Australia... but they sure are much better than they are here!

Some of Australia's domestic (women's) T20 is played as double-headers, which obviously gets good crowds; but I was more interested in the stand-alone games, which are a better indication of the health of women's cricket as a spectator-sport.

In England, at the T20 Finals, I counted a "crowd" (trying to discount players and coaches) of around fifty; but this was by-far the largest number I've seen this season - at Berkshire (a Division 1 team, lest we forget) it was usually closer to five!

In contrast, the stand-alone games in the T20 tournament in Australia are getting crowds which actually merit the word "crowd". (Ms Wicks didn't have exact numbers, but reckoned it was much, much more than 50!)

To me, this suggests that Australian (women's) cricket is much better-placed long-term than it is in England; and this has to be a worry.

Interestingly, Ms Wicks suggested that one factor might be that the premier women's competition is state-based - i.e. a level above "grade" cricket, where the crowds are more like we see in county cricket here. I think she might be right about this, which is one reason I've pushed for the reinstatement of a proper Super 4s competition, with games played in the cities and not in (e.g.) Wokingham - however convenient that might be for me!

One thing is for sure - England need to up their game domestically or risk falling behind internationally.

England Set For Competitive Tri-Series, But Who Will Play?

England begin their T20 Tri-Series campaign tonight in the West Indies, with a match against New Zealand. It starts at midnight, and is being broadcast via the ECB's web site - so get the coffee on and charge-up the laptop!

Although New Zealand have traditionally been regarded as one of the "Top 4" (along with Australia, England and India) they are definitely the tournament's underdogs, with World Cup runners-up the West Indies probably narrow favorites.

The T20 cliche is "anything can happen"; and it is a cliche for a reason: anything can happen, especially with England missing several key players - Knight, Brunt, Shrubsole and Marsh; all of whom would be in their ideal XI.

When the squads were announced, I predicted a starting XI of:
  1. Edwards
  2. Beaumont
  3. Taylor
  4. Greenway
  5. Winfield
  6. Sciver
  7. Wyatt
  8. Gunn
  9. Farrant
  10. Hazell
  11. Colvin
I still think this is the likely team - it's perhaps a bit batting-light; but there is a long middle-order from Sciver through Gunn.

A possibility is that one of the spinners drops-out to make room for another seamer (probably Katie Cross, who is a bit more experienced than Langston) but this presents another dilemma - England would dearly love to bowl Holly Colvin back into form for The Ashes; but they also desperately need Wyatt's batting to bolster that middle-order. It's a tough one!

The other question is who opens with Edwards? I think everyone agrees now that opening with Wyatt at the World Cup was a mistake, so I've gone for Tammy B, but Loz Winfield is another candidate; and it is also possible that Amy Jones will be brought in to fulfill that role; though at whose expense, I'm not sure? (Colvin, again? That would still leave five "proper" bowlers; and the longer batting line-up might be worth it; but at the expense of some flexibility?)

Thursday, 10 October 2013

More Info On South African Contracts

While we're on the subject of contracts... more info has emerged regarding the contracts issued to six of the leading South African players, including team captain Mignon du Preez.

The bottom line is that they are not full-time "playing" contracts - instead (like the New Zealand contracts) they are coaching jobs with time built-in for training and playing.

However, I am assured that Cricket South Africa see this as just the start - an opportunity for these players to focus on cricket while the structures are evolving to support a more fully professional game at some point in the future.

We all know that South Africa are committed to the future of women's cricket - they are currently hosting the England U19s; and I'm starting to believe that some of those players have a fully professional future within their grasp.

UPDATE: Actually... Most of the England Team ARE Now Contracted

In response to my previous post - Again... There Are NO England Players On Central Contracts - I was Tweeted by The Boss herself:

So... I stand corrected: 18 of the 21 members of the Performance (i.e. Full England) Squad are now contracted.

Exactly what the terms of these contracts are, we are yet to find out (I am told there will be a press release soon) but I'm guessing Danni Wyatt won't be going out to buy that Porsche just yet!

Nevertheless, credit where credit is due: we are getting there.

And while we are on the subject, I want to say something about The Boss:

Clare Connor gets some stick from people like me; but I also know for a fact that she is working very hard behind the scenes to improve the lot of our England players. She might not be going as far or as fast as I would like, but she has to deal with reality and politics and all that stuff; while bloggers like me just sit on the sidelines and criticize the one person who has achieved more for women's cricket in England than anyone else ever.

What we have now isn't perfect - Clare Connor doesn't need me to tell her that! But she's working on it, and we might be there sooner than we think!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Again... There Are NO England Players On Central Contracts

An article on Cricinfo, about contracts awarded to some South African players, again repeats the myth that some of the England players are on central contracts:
... the move sees South Africa join England, Australia, West Indies and Pakistan in centrally contracting some women's internationals.
Unless I've missed a major announcement somewhere along the line, this just isn't true; and I think it is important to raise it (again!), because it gives the ECB credit where I'm afraid it is not due.

The confusion arises because some England players are contracted to the MCC, via the Young Cricketers program, which pays them a student-grant-level stipend (and little more) to focus on cricket during the season; while others are employed by Chance To Shine - a charity which promotes cricket. C2S is better paid than the YCs, but it is important to note that those players employed by C2S are not paid to play cricket - they are employed (mostly) as coaches, and have to work jolly hard too - trekking up and down the country, living out of their suitcases.

So in both cases, the claim that these are "central contracts" is stretching it mightily; and for the sake of the players - who are increasingly competing against those like the Australians who are on genuine central contracts - we need to call this out.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Tri-Series Squad A Batsman Short?

England have announced their squad for the Tri-Series in the West Indies, and I have to admit, I'm a bit confused - basically, it looks a batsman short.

There are 14 players touring, with a possible starting '11' of:
  1. Edwards
  2. Beaumont
  3. Taylor
  4. Greenway
  5. Winfield
  6. Sciver
  7. Wyatt
  8. Gunn
  9. Farrant
  10. Hazell
  11. Colvin
The other three players named are Beth Langston and Katie Cross (both bowlers) and Amy Jones, who can bat, but is likely only included as wicket-keeping cover for Sarah Taylor, with England seeming to have decided that Tammy Beaumont is not international class in that department.

Of course, England might argue that Sciver, Wyatt and Gunn can all wield a blade respectably; and perhaps Nat Sciver is actually seen primarily as a batsman by the selectors these days, though she initially came to England's attention as a bowler.

Obviously, this series is pretty-low on England's list of priorities at the moment, which probably reads: (1) The Ashes in Australia; (2) The Ashes in Australia; and (3) The Ashes in Australia; but still, an unbalanced squad is an unbalanced squad... and to my eyes, this squad looks a tad unbalanced?