Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Royal London Cup - Whither The Cancelled Games?

So... Kent have been declared County Champions. They were awarded the cup on Sunday, and the ECB have made it official on their web site!

But... what about the cancelled games?

According to the competition rules (I read them so you don't have to!) teams are strongly encouraged to reschedule cancelled games - the home side are expected to arrange this, but should they not do so, the away side may step in and reschedule it themselves.

In Kent's case, they have two games which could theoretically be rescheduled; and were they to be replayed later in August, Kent would presumably be without their England players - in other words, there is every chance they would lose both games, and have to hand over the cup to Surrey!

However, there is a caveat/ get-out. Rescheduled games have to be personally approved by Clare Connor (she is explicitly named in the rules) so presumably if anyone did try to force replays, she would just not approve them.

I don't have a massive issue with any of this - as far as I am concerned, cancelled games are part of cricket, and they should probably just be voided there and then.

But I do think it is symptomatic of the way cricket tends to be run at ECB Towers - making rules which are then ignored when it isn't convenient! And that, I do have a bit of a problem with!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Royal London Cup: Berkshire v Warwickshire

England's Heather Knight scored a century and took five wickets as Berkshire beat Warwickshire by 67 runs at Wokingham Cricket Club.

Berkshire won the toss, and electing to bat looked like a great decision as Knight and Alex Rodgers took them rapidly to 49 before Rodgers was bowled by Georgia Hennessey. Knight looked back to her brilliant best in this match, driving beautifully; but Berkshire otherwise did not have their best day, with nobody else making more than 20, and three batsmen bagging ducks, as Isabelle Watson and Georgia Davies took 3 wickets each.

Knight reached her century; but was then the last man out in just the 43rd over, stumped coming down the wicket as she tried to hit out. (Hitting out really isn't her style and it showed!)

Chasing 199, Warwickshire seemed to be ahead on points after 20 overs, at 53/2 with Berkshire's bowling looking a bit toothless.

But then Knight brought herself on, bowling the most "medium" of medium-pacers off a very short run-up. Even her biggest fan would have to concede that she didn't look particularly threatening... and I do concede it...  but one wicket fell, and then another and another; and before anyone knew it she had a fifer, as Warwickshire collapsed to 123 all out, with Hennessey top-scoring with 48.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

International Women's Championship Ups The Ante

The ICC Women's Championship really is a bit of a "game-changer" for international women's cricket.

Not only does it act as a 'Future Tours Program' for women's cricket, ensuring that everybody plays everybody else over a two-and-a-bit year cycle; but it also adds an extra competitive edge by acting as a qualifying tournament for the 2017 World Cup in England.

Just four of the eight teams involved in the Women's Championship will qualify directly for the World Cup; though there are two caveats here:
  1. The "bottom" sides get a BIG second-chance, via a qualifying tournament with the "minor" nations; and given the disparities between the "major" and "minor" nations, you've got to think that in all likelihood they would still qualify anyway.
  2. You also have to wonder what would really happen in practice if England (as hosts) or India actually failed to qualify? Surely TV/ sponsor pressure would be overwhelming to include them regardless?
Nevertheless, direct qualification is still a major incentive; and it is clear we are seeing the impact of this in the news coming out of New Zealand.

First, the board have (for the time-being) sorted-out their stand-off with the players over contracts. You may recall that in April 2013, four leading players were offered coaching jobs; but a year later, captain Suzie Bates quit, saying that the demands of the role were too onerous, leaving no room for training or recuperation.

The situation has been resolved by granting 10 players an annual stipend in addition to their match fees and expenses. It isn't a huge amount of money; but it is an improvement on the previous situation; and leaves the 10 leading players in a much healthier situation.

Second, New Zealand cricket have reacted to the challenge of the Women's Championship by appointing two big names - Jacob Oram and Matthew Bell - to the women's coaching staff for the period leading up to their crucial tour to the West Indies this September. With those automatic qualification spots up for grabs, this series matters to New Zealand like never before, and West Indies are one of their key competitors in the fight.

Oram and Bell bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the New Zealand women's setup - and they are going to need it, because the competition is getting fierce as England, Australia, India, West Indies, New Zealand and South Africa all scrap it out; with Pakistan and Sri Lanka also in the mix with the potential to cause an upset at any time.

It's going to be an exciting couple of years for international women's cricket!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Tickets Please! (Please!) (Pretty Please!)

England Women are playing India in two ODIs at Scarborough in North Yorkshire next month; and even though Scarborough is a Fair old trek from Wokingham, I'm going - I've booked my Scarborough hotel room and paid my Scarborough train Fair!

(Although at the price I paid, perhaps it should be called a Scarborough train Unfair!)

(But I digress!)

(And... no more Scarborough Fair puns!)


Anyways... having paid almost £300 for travel and accommodation, I was keen to get my tickets for the games. I know women's ODIs don't sell out very often, but when you've paid that much, you don't take your chances... right?

So I toddled off to the web site advertised on the poster, only to see the following:

"Tickets are not available online."

Yes, you read that right - it's 2014, and tickets are not available online!

But at least (the web site tells me) there is a "Ticket Hotline" open during "normal office hours".

So I called the ticket hotline today, only to be told that tickets are not available over the phone either. "You can buy them on the gate!" I was helpfully informed.


Have I landed in the middle of an episode of Fool Britannia?

We're having a cricket match - would you like some tickets?

Yes please!


I officially despair.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Berks/ Middlesex/ Sussex T20s

Random thoughts on a top two days at Wokingham:

  • The new style competition worked really well. Final qualification went down to the wire, with Sussex needing to restrict Berkshire to 93 in the last game, having made 130 themselves. In the end, Berkshire did just enough, putting Middlesex through to the finals.
  • It was great to see Middlesex - one of the few all-amateur teams left - have such a good couple of days. (Although Sussex will argue that it was more that they (Sussex) just had a really bad day "at the office" on the Tuesday.)
  • Talking of "at the office"... it is a pity that the tournament couldn't be scheduled for a weekend. There were a handful of fans there (more than at a regular county fixture) but there would have been even more if it hadn't been a "school" day.
  • I didn't see all the games (see above!) but my Player of the Tournament was Georgia "G" Adams - she batted quickly and classily - like a mash-up between stylish Sarah Taylor and zippy Danni Wyatt. If England were to look beyond the contracted players for this summer's T20s against South Africa... which they almost certainly won't... they wouldn't have to look far to find an opening batsman who can get them off to a smart start.
  • Also worth a mention in dispatches is Beth Morgan - Middlesex would not be where they are without her, in her capacity as player, captain, coach, psychologist and everything else in-between! (And all for the love of the game - no shiny new central contract (or shiny new Kia Sportage) for her!)

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Kia Deal a Huge Baby-Step

Let's not kid ourselves - the Kia deal announced by England women yesterday is a baby-step - it is worth a small six-figure sum, much of which is "in kind" via the loan of 20-odd (admittedly gorgeous) cars. The players are understandably chuffed about their new rides, but I hope they don't become white elephants, particularly for the Tier 3 players who will still be shopping in Aldi tomorrow, even if they'll be driving there in a car you'd more expect to see parked outside Waitrose!

So this is a baby step... but as baby steps go, it is also HUGE!

It proves that there are companies out there who are prepared to sponsor women's sport. It shows that women's cricket is a viable commercial proposition. It hints at a new future for our sport - one where we sign our own deals and build our own partnerships. Women's cricket needs to embrace the possibilities - today our own sponsor; tomorrow our own TV deal; one day... maybe sooner than you think... our own independent sport.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Bookmark: England Women Future Tours Program

With the ICC Women's Championship effectively acting as a 'Future Tours Program' for women's cricket, we now know pretty-much exactly when and where England Women will be playing over the next couple of years.

Summer 2014 India (H)
South Africa (H*)
Winter 2014/15 New Zealand (A)
Summer 2015 Australia (H)
Winter 2015/16 South Africa (A)
Summer 2016 Pakistan (H)
Autumn 2016 West Indies (A)
Sri Lanka (A)

Home fixtures in bold.

* Not part of the ICC Women's Championship. 

Hopefully this isn't the only cricket we will see between now and 2017; but even if it is, it still means we have a lot to look forward to!

Friday, 4 July 2014

England-India ODIs To Be Live Streamed

The ECB have announced that this summer's 3 ODIs between England and India will be live-streamed over something which I believe the kids call "the intertubes".

This is fantastic news for fans who can't get to the games, which take place at the end of August, at Scarborough Cricket Club and Lords.

The implications of this are particularly interesting, as they build on the precedent set by the streaming of last summer's Lords ODI. Technically speaking, SKY TV own the 100% exclusive broadcast rights to all cricket played in England - from men's tests right down to village! But with SKY not interested in screening these ODIs, a deal has been done allowing the ECB to grab them back.

I'm usually the first person to criticise the ECB for their (many) inadequacies; so on this occasion let me be the one to sing their praises - the fans have been calling for it, and the ECB have made it happen - THANK YOU ECB!