Wednesday, 27 August 2014

England Women in New Zealand February 2015 Tour Dates

In the next round of the Women's International Championship, England head to New Zealand for 3 WIC matches, two additional ODIs and 3 T20s.

Feb 11 ODI* Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
Feb 13 ODI* Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
Feb 15 ODI* Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
Feb 19 T20 Cobham Oval, Whangarei
Feb 20 T20 Cobham Oval, Whangarei
Feb 24 T20 Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln
Feb 26 ODI Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln
Feb 28 ODI Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln

* = WIC Match

England already have 5 WIC points on the board after their series with India. Meanwhile, New Zealand travel to the West Indies for their first-round of WIC matches this September.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Preview: England Women v South Africa T20s

In their final engagement of the summer, England face South Africa's Women Proteas in 3 T20s, at Chelmsford, Northampton and Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Much of England's team sheet writes itself, but there are still a couple of areas for debate.

I'd like to see Edwards and Knight open the batting, looking to reprise the show they put on in the 1st ODI at Scarborough, where they got England off to a flyer, playing quality cricket shots which delighted the crowd and the scoreboard!

Then I'd call for Wyatt to bat at 3 - she might make runs or she might not, but she has been in fantastic form this year, and as an added bonus you know the one thing she won't do is hang around. (But in reality I suspect Taylor will pull-rank and bat at 3, regardless of anything else!)

Assuming the selectors invoke the 'class is permanent' clause in the case of Lydia Greenway (who has not had a great season) the only other question is Winfield or Beaumont? I think TB scores too slowly to ever be an international T20 player, so "Moose" (Loz Winfield) it is then!

Bowlingwise, England will want to play Brunt and Shrubsole if they can, though if both play all 3 games it will be something of a miracle! The real dilemma is whether to play spinner Danni Hazell, who hasn't been showing the same form she did when she starred in last summer's Women's Ashes, or slow-medium left-armer Natasha Farrant, who could do a very similar job of drying-up the runs. My pick would be Farrant, and I think the selectors will agree with me, partly because England clearly see Farrant as "The Future" and will want to give her some cricket this summer, having sat her out of the Test and ODI squads.

So, here's my 11:
  1. Edwards
  2. Knight
  3. Wyatt
  4. Taylor
  5. Greenway
  6. Winfield
  7. Gunn
  8. Sciver
  9. Brunt
  10. Shrubsole
  11. Farrant
And... if you haven't already done so... please visit Martin Davies' Women's Cricket Blog for an alternative take: Can South Africa upset England in T20s?

Monday, 25 August 2014

England Women v India - The Gunn Show

The England-India series ended today with a wash-out at Lords. I feel especially disappointed for the younger Indian players, who must have been so looking forward to what may be their one chance to play at the Home of Cricket. (Their next opportunity will, one assumes, be the 2017 World Cup Final - and although 3 years is a lifetime in cricket, you'd have to say they are long shots to get there!)

Getty Images for the ECB
At the end-of-series ceremony, Charlotte Edwards was presented with a giant pelican (above) and a Blankety-Blank Cheque Book & Pen* for Player of the Series.

England were (as so often) very reliant on Edwards in this series - she scored a massive 30% of their runs, way ahead of Taylor (18%) and Jenny Gunn (12%).

At the other end of the scorecard, England's leading wicket-takers were (in reverse order) Heather Knight (21%), Kate Cross (24%) and... leading the way... (that name again) Jenny Gunn with 34%!

In other words, England's bowling was even more dependent upon Gunn (34%) than their batting was on Edwards (30%).

So I just wonder if perhaps (maybe?) the Player of the Series judges got the wrong woman? With 34% of their wickets and 12% of their runs, not to mention crucial catches and run-outs in the ODIs, I'll be remembering this series as The Gunn Show.

* Disclaimer - Lottie (probably) did not actually win a Blankety-Blank Cheque Book & Pen... but I'm sure whatever she did win was just as cool!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

England Women v India 2nd ODI

Analysis of England's victory at Scarborough:

* Some centuries are sculpted from marble; others are chiseled out of granite. Charlotte Edwards' record-breaking knock was definitely the latter. A drive through the off side early on set the tone - it reached the boundary and was widely applauded in the stands, but it hadn't quite come off the middle of the bat. But still... a hundred is a hundred - it doesn't matter how you get 'em; and without Edwards, England would have had quite literally nothing to defend.

* Batting Tammy Beaumont so low down the order is completely pointless - she might as well not be there! Wyatt would score more runs and save more in the outfield too. I think TB probably should be playing on merit though - just coming in at 3!

* When England suggested, prior to the Test, that Heather Knight offered a fill-in spin bowling option, even those of us who had seen her take a five-for for Berkshire a couple of weeks before were raising our eyebrows. But she seems to have the 'taking wickets' thing down to a tee which is great as that was really what was needed today - they were keeping up with the run rate, so we had to bowl them out, and Knight's two wickets were crucial.

* Along with Edwards, Jenny Gunn was the real difference between the teams though - 4 wickets and a brilliant, vital catch right on the boundary to dismiss the dangerous Kaur, who I assume will actually loose her match fee this time, after another clear-cut act of dissent, following on from her reprimand in the Test.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

England Women v India 1st ODI

With 3 wickets and an assured half-century for England's vice-captain, it was starry, starry Knight as England beat India at Scarborough.

The weather played a big part in this game - not just the multiple interruptions (and eventual abandonment) for freezing rain, but the otherwise near-constant drizzle combined with a biting wind, made life difficult for everyone; but especially those more accustomed to sunnier climes - i.e. one team in particular! (I wonder if the ECB cheekily had this in mind when they scheduled the match all the way up here?)

England bowled first, and I didn't think they bowled particularly well actually. Jenny Gunn was businesslike, as we've come to expect; but Danni Hazell wasn't great, sending down a lot of loose full tosses. Hazell was outstanding last summer because she kept things so tight - she didn't look the same bowler at all today.

Heather Knight was somewhat fortunate to come away with the wickets she did, as she benefited from batsmen trying to attack her.

Neither Brunt not Shrubsole finished their overs, which suggests what it suggests - they weren't great; though Brunt looked quicker and more threatening in her foreshortened second spell - definitely hurrying and harrying the batsmen - so perhaps she was being eased back into things after so long out injured?

You can't really fault England's batting at all though. Edwards and Knight were fantastic - playing more shots in the first 20 overs than England managed in the entire Test at Wormsley! 

Taylor rode her luck a bit, but that's how she plays; and between them they put England so far ahead of the game that Messrs Duckworth and Lewis were hardly worth consulting when the final deluge brought about the abandonment of festivities. While it lasted though, it was a joy to watch - I almost (almost!) forgot the cold as I remembered that this is why we love this game!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Thoughts On Women's Cricket Blog's Clare Connor Interview

Martin Davies over at WCB has a fantastic in-depth interview with "The Boss", Clare Connor. Martin is a lawyer by profession, so you'd expect him to ask a lot of good questions; and to be fair The Boss gives some pretty straight answers.

Here are my 'key takes':

On Contracts

Connor basically admits that the "18 Full Time Professionals" thing is a bit of a fiction. The Tier 3 contracts are not a living wage (they "nearly" are) and the Tier 2 contracts aren't worth much more. This fits in with what I'd heard about the T2s - to quote, "I'd earn more working in MacDonnalds"!

I should add at this juncture, that I don't actually have any massive issues with where we are - the fact that there are contracts at all is a huge step up from where we were even a year ago. But I do just wish the ECB would be a bit more honest and not try to spin things to the point where people think that Lottie and Co. are partying in First Class with Broady and Cooky, which (a) could not be further from the truth; and (b) is already coming back to bite them.


Having slammed the door on WICL earlier in the summer, Connor seems to back-track a little, admitting that things might change in 12 or 24 months. If I were to really read between the lines here, I'd say she's hinting that if WICL comes back as a genuine "partnership" with Cricket Australia (i.e. not an independent entity, but falling under the auspices of CA), it could still be a goer as far as the ECB is concerned.

It's no surprise that I'm massively in favour of WICL; and if it is a secret that many of the players are too, it's not a very well kept one; so I think re-opening that door, even if just a chink, is A Good Thing™ and I'm glad Connor has hinted at doing so.

On The County Championship

Two key rumours have been doing the rounds for several months now - that 2015 will see (a) coloured clothing, and (b) home-and-away rounds. Sources close to the ECB had already told me that the former was much more likely than the latter, and Connor basically confirms that here.

I think coloured clothing is great news, and I'm going to post on it separately, but just while we are on the subject: Clare, if you are reading this, please, please, please can we have names on shirts too?

One other interesting point - actually, I think the most interesting - is the admission that the top flight needs to be "more top-flight". We have to concentrate all the England players in Division 1 - it is ridiculous that none of the England batsmen playing in the County Championship this year faced either of our two fastest bowlers (Cross & Shrubsole) because they were both playing in Division 2! (And we wonder why they crumbled when faced with Goswami and Niranjana?)

On Test Cricket

Connor essentially admits that Test cricket isn't commercially viable by itself. Back-of-an-envelope calculations I made last year, with the help of someone who has good day-to-day knowledge of how much events like this cost to run, suggested that Wormsley probably made a loss - and if last year probably did, this year certainly did, with (I reckon) less than half the number of paying spectators!

The key question then is, is it worth carrying on with a format that we are going to see at most once or twice a year going forwards? Connor seems to suggest not, saying that it is "really hard to justify". That must have been tough to admit; but maybe it is the reality that we all (administrators, players and fans) have to face?

Professionals Beaten By Amateurs Line Unfair

Amusing as it is to see the ECB hoist by their own petard, after pushing the "we're all pros now" line so vigorously over the past few months, the angle taken by most of the press this morning on India's win is unfair on the players - this was not a case of 'Pros Beaten By Ams' but more like 'Semi-Pros Beaten by Semi-Ams'.

Most of the England players are not 'full time professionals' in the sense we would generally understand it.

For starters, one of them (Sonia Odedra) is not a pro at all - she is not centrally contracted, and has a proper job.

The rest are centrally contracted, but many of them continue to work two days a week for Chance To Shine. This means that either they haven't had a weekend off for the past 4 months, or they are not training professionally 'full time' - which by any normal definition means '5 days a week'.

Overall, my understanding is that of the players who took the field on Saturday, just two are genuinely 'full time professionals' - able to fully and independently support themselves over the medium-to-long-term playing cricket; and not dependent upon shared housing, secondary sources of income or 'The Bank of Mum and Dad'. (Though to be fair, a couple of others are quite close and will be genuine full-time pros this time next year most likely.)

But what about India? Are they really 'amateurs'? Well, they are certainly not 'full time professionals' but most of them aren't quite amateurs either. For example, those who work for Indian Railways are employed partly as cricketers, not the "full-time ticket collectors" depicted by the press. In reality, Indian Railways is effectively acting as a sponsor of women's cricket, in the same way Chance To Shine did in England up until four months ago. It isn't an ideal situation, and many think the BCCI (which isn't exactly short of a few bob) should be doing this job; but genuine 'full time amateurs' the players are not.

So it isn't like England were beaten by a team of girls who hadn't picked up a ball for six months, because they'd been picking up tickets instead! They were beaten by a team of players who train several times a week, in decent facilities, with proper (albeit not 'full time') coaching/ medical support and so on - basically, the same situation that England were in not too long ago.

I guess none of this really matters - the press need An Angle and they found one. (As someone once said, the press always seen to write with accuracy and authority... except when they write about something I know about!) And one little post on one little blog probably isn't going to set the record straight, especially as it slightly contradicts the 'party line' from the ECB. But I do feel sorry for the players on this one - it is almost like the press are saying that they were expected to win this Test just because they are 'full time pros' and India are 'amateurs' - which would be unfair, even if they actually all were.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

England Women v India Day 4

So... that's that as far as Test cricket goes for another year. India looked delighted with their win, and certainly they deserved it. The calm assurance of Mithali and Pandy at the crease this morning could not have contrasted more sharply with the gulp-inducing nervousness of Tammy Beaumont and Loz Winfield on Day 1; and although Charlotte Edwards said afterwards that the pitch had flattened-out I can't help wondering if the difference was as much mental as environmental.

Perhaps the toss was the key - had England won it and bowled themselves, it would have been India under that pressure on the first morning, and things might have been very different.

Clare Connor said afterwards that it had been a great Test match. I have to say I can't honestly agree... and I've a funny feeling in her heart-of-hearts she wouldn't really agree either. Unlike last summer's Ashes Test, there were no battling big innings or thrilling bowling spells - Jenny Gunn's Man of the Match performance was workmanlike but little more. (Sorry Raf!) Overall, the run rates limped along (well under 2/over in the 4th innings) and there were few "shots" played. Even the wickets were dull LBWs rather than the splattered stumps or daring diving catches of which cricketing memories are made.

And so to Scarborough and Lords for the ODIs. You'd have to say England remain favourites; but with India's victory here will come a renewed confidence, so it is going to be a close series, especially with the added impetus of International Women's Championship points at stake. Let's hope the weather is kind and gives us a series to remember; because I'm afraid this Test kind-of wasn't.

Friday, 15 August 2014

England Women v India Day 3

Brief random thoughts from Wormsley:

* Although Jenny Gunn's battling 50 made a game of it, this has been India's day, with their bowlers doing a job to finish England off before they got out of sight; and their batsmen looking VERY comfortable - more so, in fact, than the 2/over run rate would suggest.

* The Indian's approach has been pretty low risk - hence the anaemic run rate - but I guess if it wins them the game tomorrow, then all's fair in cricket, as in love and war. But... it hasn't been the most pulsating day in living memory.

* Although Heather Knight (eventually) got a wicket, her early introduction smacked of desperation at a point where England didn't (yet) need to be desperate. Also... is it a tacit admission that they should have played Hazell?

* Can England still win this Test? If they can get Mithali out early, yes - but the way she is playing, you'd have to say India have the edge. It could still be close though - bring on the final day!

England CAN Bat, So Why Have't They? Some Thoughts...

England's batting has been pretty woeful at Wormsley; but why?

Players? Are these the right 6 batsmen to be facing the Indians in this Test? You'd have to largely say yes! You can argue the merits of picking Danni Wyatt for the T20s... and indeed I have! And there is perhaps a case for finding a place for Amy Jones, maybe batting at 6 if you shuffled Edwards back to the top of the order? But overall, these players are the best we have; and they perform week in week out in the county championship, so what else is different?

Pace? There isn't a speed gun at Wormsley; and there certainly aren't any in the county championship; but even to the naked eye it is clear that Goswami and Niranjana are a couple of degrees faster than anyone playing in Division 1 of the County Championship*. So I wonder if England are getting out to shots that would have worked fine for them in domestic cricket? After all, the ball only has to come on a fraction of an inch faster to turn a leg glance into a leg-before.

Pitch? It is possible the pitch may also be contributing here - the Women's County Championship is mostly played on club grounds, with part-time ground staff, who with the best will in the world aren't going to produce the kind of track that the Getty billions buy you at Wormsley. Combined with the fact that the curators were explicitly asked by the ECB to manufacture a pitch with more in it for the bowlers than last year's bore-draw Ashes road, and this is perhaps the result? (Again, the ball only has to come on that little bit quicker to make a big difference!)

Pressure? As we all know, women's Tests don't come along very often - the next one is basically a year away! That creates the kind of mental stress which can fold even the coolest bastman - "It's my one chance: don't blow it; don't blow it!" (Doubtless the players will tell you they weren't thinking that, but...) Having a big crowd willing you on can also add to the sense of responsibility I'm sure, and while some feed on it, maybe in other cases the only thing it feeds is their anxiety?

Umpires? Are these top-flight umpires more likely to confidently call marginal LBW decisions than those in the county championship? I've really no evidence for this whatsoever; but there have been a lot of LBs, and I wonder if the benefit of the doubt just swings a different way with the amateur / semi-professional umpires we get in domestic cricket?

At the end of the day, if England make even another 30 today - putting the pressure on India this time, with Cross and Shrubsole steaming in to win the match for the home side - all this will be forgotten. So... here's hoping it will be!

* England's fastest bowlers - Cross and Shrubsole both play in Division 2.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

England Women v India Day 2

Random thoughts on Day 2:
  • There is an annual festival held at Wormsley called Words & Wickets, which seeks to celebrate cricket and literature. This year's event took place a month or so ago; and it is becoming increasingly apparent that they didn't tidy-up properly afterwards - they took the "Words" home with them, but they left a couple of "Wickets" behind, and now they've bred out of control. Like Rampant Rabbits at an Ann Summers party, they're popping up everywhere and no one seems to know quite what to do with them - 26 in 2 days is crazy; and you wouldn't bet against the other 14 falling tomorrow!
  • To be fair though, my main memory of today will be not wickets but RAIN! It was so heavy at one point that I had to wonder if we were all part of some elaborate ECB marketing tie-up to promote Russell Crowe's new Noah movie!
  • Unfortunately for England however, the ground staff did a bang-up job, and play restarted all too soon, with those naughty wickets rabidly resurfacing to do for Edwards, who was actually looking in pretty good nick before the break, and Greenway, who really will want to forget this Test (8 + 1) almost as much as Heather Knight (1 + 0)!
  • However, all will be forgotten if Gunn and Taylor can put on even another 30-odd tomorrow to give the seamers something to bowl at - 120 will be a fair old target in the context of this game, and both sides will have everything to play for.

England Women v India Day 1

Random thoughts on where it all went wrong at Wormsley -

  • Prior to the Test, all the talk was of whether England would pick one spinner or two. In the end they went with 'Plan C' - no spinners - which was certainly a surprise; but I think it actually made sense. Word behind the scenes was that once England decided to play six batsmen, it came down to a straight toss-up between Odedra and Hazell; and they just concluded that the former was more likely to take wickets in conditions which were certainly not unfriendly to a bit of swing and seam.
  • Where England got it all wrong however was the batting order. You obviously don't open with your two best batsmen; but not opening with your two best openers is all kinds of crazy, and they paid for it big-time. It was a bad toss to lose, in the only Test of the summer, so the pressure was on and England needed level heads to deal with that. In other words, what they needed was Edwards' experience at the top of the order. What they got was Winfield and Beaumont batting together far too early in the day - feeding off each others nerves and discomfort, and inducing a collective wobble that saw the team get bowled out for a score they'd have been ashamed of in a T20!
  • I felt really sorry for Sonia Odedra, because while she can bat a bit-and-a-half at county level, she wasn't picked as a batsman here, and having to make her international d├ębut walking out at 79/8 was not ideal to say the least! That she hung around for half an hour and made "a" run was actually a massive positive then - it showed the world the character and fight which some of us have long know she has! When it came to her bowling, I thought she looked pretty solid, and although she didn't take a wicket, I'm sure there's one coming - hopefully first thing tomorrow!
  • A couple of other minor points:
    • Three slips (plus gully) was one slip too many for England. Third slip never looked like taking anything, and with runs at a premium the man would have been better-off deployed in the outfield, where Winfield and co were having to run their socks off. (To be honest, it looked a bit over-premeditated: "This is our plan, and we're sticking to it no matter what!")
    • Jenny Gunn was obviously England's hero; but I thought she bowled maybe two overs too many towards the end. With Goswami and Niranjana looking reasonably comfortable, obviously playing for the close, England should have changed things up a little sooner and given Nat Sciver more than 3 overs.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Grundy Injury Opens Doors For Odedra & Wyatt

An injury to Beccy Grundy has given Paul Shaw the opportunity he needed to frantically back-pedal over the ridiculous omission of Danni Wyatt from England's T20 squad.

Grundy has suffered a "femoral stress reaction"! No - I've no idea either! But it means she's out for the rest of the summer; opening up a gap in all 3 squads - Test, ODI and T20.

Steph Buttler comes into the Test squad, but unless Hazell gets hit by at least 3 buses, I can't see Butler playing; which means Odedra is now a dead-cert! (Yay!) (Although it would mean, disappointingly, that she would no longer be my official "favourite player never to have played for England"!)

Odedra will also stay in the camp for the ODIs, with Wyatt then coming back into the squad for the T20s - which is exactly where she should have been all along, having scored pots and pots of runs in this years county championships, bowling or no bowling!

As Raf Nicholson put it on Twitter: "Sense prevails!!"


Royal London Women's One Day County Championship Cup Review

It's hard to believe that the RLWODCCC is over already - not half way through August! I guess this new calendar makes sense, in that it allows the England players to participate in the entire caboodle; but it is still a private disappointment that I have to wait until NEXT YEAR to see another county match!

I've come to love watching the domestic game from up-close on the boundary. Earlier in the summer I attended a day of the men's Test v Sri Lanka at Lords, and while the view from yeigh-high in the stands was fantastic, the whole experience was also slightly disorienting. Where I really wanted to be was up by the rope, somewhere around deep backward point, sitting on my deck-chair with the grass under my feet!

It was fantastic to be proved completely wrong (at least for the moment) about the Spanish Footballisation of women's county cricket! (I predicted that one impact of professionalism would be a two-horse, Barca/Madrid style race for the championship between Kent and Sussex; with everyone else fighting it out for third.)  However, it does have to be said that the failure of my prediction was mostly because it was more of a one-horse race this year, as Kent swept all before them in the 50-over competition.

Sussex's implosion in the final third of the championship was certainly unexpected, but in retrospect not entirely inexplicable - retirements, injuries and ECB directives for contracted players not to bowl/ bat/ keep - all took their toll. But they'll be back; and I certainly wouldn't rule out my Spanish Footballisation prediction over the longer term, with the fantastic support that Sussex get from their "brother" club down on the south coast, including the most professional coaching setup in the women's domestic game.

At the nether-end of the table, Essex were relegated, and Warwickshire look likely to join them. I saw Warwickshire play Berkshire in the final round... or more accurately, Warwickshire play Heather Knight, who scored a century and took a fifer... and it wasn't pretty - with players standing disinterested in the outfield; and in one case completely ignoring a fielding opportunity because the girl in question was too busy grouching to her (boy?)friend on the boundary that she hadn't had a bowl yet!

My local team, Berkshire, ended up a creditable third - though partly because two of their most difficult games (Sussex and Kent) were cancelled; and I feel compelled to admit that the T20s (where they scraped through the relegation play-offs) are perhaps a fairer reflection of where they stand.

Finally, my 'Team of the Year' would have to be Middlesex - one of only two all-amateur outfits in the championship - who proved what you can achieve by being "A TEAM" - rather than a collection of individuals who happen to turn up at the same ground on the same day! Much credit for this must go to Beth Morgan, their Captain Fantastic, for building a team spirit that is clearly unmatched elsewhere; and I can't wait to see how they build on this next year - I'm looking forward to it already!

Friday, 8 August 2014

England's Batting Order Dilemma

England go into next week's Test against India with a strong batting line-up: Edwards, Taylor, Greenway and Knight would all walk into any team in the world. And although controversies persist about the omission of Wyatt from the T20 squad, I think the (assumed) selection of Beaumont for the Test makes sense, especially as she offers a back-up wicket-keeping option.

But dilemmas aplenty remain, in particular regarding the batting order.

In last summer's Ashes Test, Edwards came in at 4, England lining-up as follows:
  1. Knight
  2. Brindle
  3. Taylor
  4. Edwards
  5. Greenway
But by January, Edwards was back in her more customary opening role for the Test at the WACA:
  1. Edwards
  2. Knight
  3. Taylor
  4. Greenway
  5. Brindle
(Edwards came in later in the second innings, but only because she had to, having been off the field with an injury.)

So, which order will England go with this time?

A straight swap of Beaumont for Brindle, with Beaumont coming in at 5? Anyone who has ever seen Beaumont play will know that this makes no sense - she is a defensive accumulator. When I saw her open with Edwards for Kent against Middlesex this year, she had made just 4 when Edwards was run out for 44. And yet she still went on to make 53 - the top score of the innings. So, Beaumont needs TIME... and she likely won't get that coming in at 5.

But equally, batting Edwards down the order seems like a waste, especially given that she appears to be in better form than ever; while relegating Knight would seem a particularly retrograde step for England's new vice-captain and captain-elect.

I wonder if the answer for the Test (not the ODIs and certainly not the T20s!) is for Beaumont to come in at 3 and for Taylor to drop-down?

Taylor has generally occupied the Number 3 slot in the mould of David Gower - all class and flowing elegance. Beaumont would have to draw a very different interpretation of the role, being more of a Jonathan Trott-like brick wall. But I think that's something she could do, and it makes the most of her talents, which England will need to do if they are to prevail.

So, here's the batting line-up that I'd go with:
  1. Edwards
  2. Knight
  3. Beamont
  4. Taylor
  5. Greenway

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Lifting The Veil Of The Knight

As anybody who was at Wormsley for last summer's Women's Ashes knows, England's new vice-captain Heather Knight, can bat long. Her 157 was one of the great innings of women's Test cricket, especially given the match situation, with England truly in the deep stuff at 113/6.

Even back then though, innings like this were becoming the rule rather than the exception. She had already scored over 800 runs for Berkshire that summer, topping the domestic averages with two centuries and five fifties.

This season has been a little quieter, but her final innings of the Women's County Championship - 72 not-out against Middlesex and 101 versus Warwickshire - suggested a player coming back to her best at the perfect time for the start of the international season. The latter innings was particularly impressive, as she drove beautifully, keeping her head amid the chaos of what was otherwise a typical Berkshire collapse!

Now Knight has been named England vice-captain; and although no one has quite used the words "succession plan" the thinking in the England camp is clearly that she will succeed Charlotte Edwards when the current skipper retires, which she is expected to do after the World Cup in England in 2017.

So the question is... why Knight? She certainly wasn't the "obvious" choice - that would have been wicket-keeper-batsman Sarah Taylor. Chippy in the field and good with the media, Taylor is the closest thing England have to an Ellyse Perry-style "superstar". In contrast, Knight is quiet, reserved and modest; and clearly less-than-comfortable in front of a camera lens - which is (let's face it) part of the job of England captain.

One reason may be that Knight is two years younger than Taylor; and though that might not seem a lot, it does mean she will be 27 when she succeeds, not 29. Taylor also has long-term fitness concerns - wicket-keepers are particularly prone to "niggles" and Taylor is no exception. So, if you were to ask which of the two is absolutely guaranteed to still be playing in 2018, you'd have to say Knight.

However, I think there are also some deeper considerations.

As a cricketer, Sarah Taylor is pretty-much the finished article by now; whereas Knight is more malleable - Taylor would be the captain she is; whereas England can make Knight the captain they want her to be.

This goes for media profile too; and one does wonder if the letters "K" and "P" came up in discussions? (England have long-tolerated Charlotte Edwards occasional tendency to go off-message - but they would rather have someone who they can be sure won't!)

Knight is also a very different kind of captain to Taylor. Taylor's brilliance on the field can translate to a certain brashness off it with fellow players, especially those that haven't lived-up to the very high standards she sets herself... and the problem is that that is often everyone else on the pitch! In contrast, Knight will be a bit more 'pastoral' - and that is going to be an important part of the captaincy going forwards, as England tour more in the professional era.

Will Knight be a success? It is going to be a tough job living up to the legend that is Charlotte Edwards, especially in an era which is going to become increasingly competitive, as the other international sides improve and professionalise. While World Cup finals have never been child's play; the groups and semis sometimes have been. But now, with the emergence of West Indies and South Africa to challenge to traditional "Big 4", that will be less and less the case. So it isn't going to be easy for Knight - she will need to 'bat long'. But as everyone knows... that's one thing she really can do!

Monday, 4 August 2014

England Squad - Thoughts On Odedra, Knight & Wyatt

Nice Surprise Of The Day

Notts' Sonia Odedra is what I believe the men call a 'Journeyman Pro' - good enough to have had a long and successful career at the top of the domestic game, but never quite getting her opportunity at international level. But that could all change at Wormsley. With fitness doubts persisting around at least two other bowlers, this could be Odedra's big chance; and no one deserves it more.

Least Surprising Surprise Of The Day

Heather Knight has superseded Jenny Gunn as vice-captain, and (barring "events") will succeed to the helm when Charlotte Edwards retires in 2017.

Genuine Disappointment Of The Day

I know everyone... including the player herself... thinks I've got it in for Danni Wyatt; but I honestly haven't and I'm genuinely shocked and disappointed for her that she hasn't been included in at least the T20 squad, despite having had a storming domestic season with the bat, including a starring role in yesterday's T20 finals victory for Notts!

You have to ask, is TB really going to score more runs more quickly than Wag in the shortest format? Yes, TB has some strong numbers this year, but she has accumulated her runs - starting slowly (sometimes very slowly e.g. v Middlesex) and building big(ish). All the evidence suggests TB is not the player we need coming in at 5 in a T20; and it does leave you wondering how much county cricket the selectors have actually watched recently?

(Having said this, TB is absolutely (and correctly) nailed-on to play in the Test though.)

My Test Team

Edwards, Knight, Taylor, Greenway, Beaumont, Sciver, Gunn, Odedra, Hazell, Cross, Shrubsole

So... yes, I think Odedra will play! (But Martin Davies thinks not!)