Thursday, 23 April 2015

Friday, 10 April 2015

Downton Replacement REALLY Matters To Women's Cricket

With the sacking of Paul Downton, there's been a lot of talk in the papers about what this means for English cricket... or rather, for English MEN'S cricket. But what about (ahem...) PROPER cricket?

Women's cricket remains a low priority for the mainstream media; some way behind men's international cricket, which is probably fair given levels of interest and attendance; but also behind men's domestic cricket, which is arguably a much closer-run thing - women's international crowds in England have recently been significantly larger than the average men's county gate.

But Downton's replacement really matters for women's cricket. Whoever it is, we KNOW they will be passionate about men's Test cricket; and we KNOW they will likely be deeply invested in men's domestic cricket, given that all the mooted candidates are ex (men's) pros. 

But will they really care about the women's game? 

When it comes to the difficult financial calls, will they push for additional budgets to be directed at England women... or to the equally-struggling men's counties? 

When they appoint committees, will women's cricket be fairly and equally represented? 

These are the questions that need asking from the perspective of the women's game; but will they be? 

I'm not holding my breath!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

"Jumpers For Goalposts" In UAE

England Academy are now two games into their battle with Australia's Shooting Stars in Dubai; and having seen the first game postponed due to a sandstorm, the England girls were no doubt delighted to take to the field on Friday and Saturday, in contests where the batsmen in particular might reasonably be hoping to be pushing for places in the Women's Ashes squad.

But the reality is that these two games have so far told us very little... not least because THEY HAVEN'T BEEN PROPER "REGULATION" MATCHES!

In the first game, England were bowled out after 44 overs; but batted on "off the scorecard"; and in the second match, England used 13 players; with the Shooting Stars having done similarly.

I can't help but feel that staging matches under these "Jumpers For Goalposts" playing conditions isn't ultimately very helpful; and is certainly scant preparation for the high-pressure cauldron of an ODI or Test innings or spell with The Women's Ashes at stake!

I'm sure the coaching teams "have their reasons" and these matches still have some significance... although probably not the significance captain Tammy Beaumont would hope, with the likes of Elwiss and Wilson perhaps coming into the England reckoning at her expense. But I do hope that this doesn't become the rule for Academy tours in future.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Westbury Set For Headline Headband Deal

Middlesex captain Izzy Westbury looks set to sign an exclusive merchandising deal with leading Welsh kit retailer Brecon and Llandudno Ladies' Sportswear [B.a.L.L.S.] to promote their signature range of sports headbands for women.

Bryn Griffiths, Marketing Director at B.a.L.L.S., told us:

"We are very excited about our new line of B.a.L.L.S. headbands; and as an enthusiastic wearer of headbands herself, Izzy would be a perfect fit for B.a.L.L.S."

He went on to say:

"B.a.L.L.S. come in a variety of team colours, including Middlesex Pink; and we think it would be fantastic to see a player like Izzy wearing pink B.a.L.L.S. on her head!"

Asked if he'd actually spoke to Westbury, Griffiths became cadgy:

"Technically... no... but we'd like to! Actually... do you have her mobile number? We tried to DM her on Twitter, but unfortunately she doesn't follow B.a.L.L.S.."

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Home Advantage Critical in Women's International Championship Cricket?

With 2 rounds now completed in the ICC Women's International Championship, one particular pattern stands out - home advantage appears to be a significant factor in women's international cricket.

We've seen this with the West Indies - winning 3/0 at home; then losing 3/0 away - and New Zealand too - losing 3/0 away; then winning 2/1 at home.

But the anecdotal evidence is also supported by the stats.

Overall, the home side has won over 70% of the 27 ODIs played, while the away side has won just 22%, with a couple of "No Results" making up the numbers.

England will be hoping the model persists this August against the Southern Stars; but if there's one stat that stands out above even home-field advantage, it's this one:

Australia: Played 6; Won 6; Lost 0!

It is going to be an interesting summer!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Southern Stars - A Mottley Crew

Cricket Australia have announced that Matthew Mott will succeed Cathryn Fitzpatrick as Southern Stars coach for this summer's Women's Ashes in England and beyond.

Mott played men's state cricket in Australia as a middle-order batsman, before embarking on a coaching career in men's cricket which saw him spend 3 seasons at the helm of Glamorgan men in the English* county game; and he has also worked internationally with Ireland men.

He now inherits a women's team which is currently on top of the world and likely to stay there; but it will be interesting to see how he adapts from The Other Game, and if he can bring anything new to the smorgasbord of women's cricket.

* / Welsh!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

County Gossip: Berkshire Move Home & Bag Blackwell

After several years at Wokingham, Berkshire are on the move this season - playing their home games at North Maidenhead and Finchamstead, where more of an intimate village atmosphere will prevail. (Finchamstead in particular is a long way from any public transport links, so if anyone attending matches there needs a lift from the nearest station at Wokingham, let me know!)

The big news for Berks though is the return of Alex Blackwell, who played for The Beavers for one summer in the late 00s. In the intervening years, Blackwell has become something of a bona fide superstar, as well as being an outspoken activist for gay rights; so she'll be a huge asset, although obviously only for the first part of the season before she joins up with the Southern Stars for the Women's Ashes.

One final titbit... Isa Guha is apparently once again officially in the squad - she has only played four matches in the past three years; but as I've speculated before, she may be keeping her eye in for a possible return as she is an obvious candidate to "player-manager" a WICL franchise, should that enterprise come to fruition!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Southern Stars Suffer Fitzpatrick Blow

BIG NEWS this morning - Australia's influential Head Coach Cathryn Fitzpatrick has shockingly quit the role just months before the Women's Ashes in England.

Fitzpatrick was a giant of the game as a player; and as a coach is rightly credited with being a massive part of why the Southern Stars currently hold both World Cups - e,g. it was Fitz's fielding strategies, as much as the slow pitch, which strangled England in the last World T20 Final in Bangladesh.

But having announced that Fitzpatrick will not be renewing her contract in May, Australia will have to go into the Women's Ashes with a new and inexperienced coach; while on an individual level, players like Lanning and Cameron will have to face-up to life without their mentor. It will be a bigger challenge for them than they probably realise; and hands England a wildcard advantage in an Ashes Series which is set to be a test of nerve and steel as much as cricketing ability.

EDIT: The last WWT20 was in Bangladesh, not Sri Lanka!

Random Thoughts On The Academy Squad

England have named a 14-strong Academy squad to travel to UAE for 6 matches against their Australian equivalents, the Shooting Stars.

They are: Tammy Beaumont (C), Steph Butler, Jodie Dibble, Georgia Elwiss (VC), Tash Farrant, Alex Hartley, Amy Jones, Eve Jones, Beth Langston, Sophie Luff, Alex MacDonald, Sonia Odedra, Fran Wilson, & Loz Winfield.

  • TB has retained her position as Academy Captain, but I have to say... I'm not quite sure why! She isn't a candidate for the England captaincy in years to come; so I'm not sure it mightn't have made more sense to give the opportunity to someone who actually may be - e.g. Sophie Luff, who has (if I recall correctly???) previously captained England at junior level.
  • Sonia Odedra is still on the radar; and it isn't difficult to conceive a role for her in this summer's Women's Ashes. Odedra isn't as fast as some; but she has a reliable stock delivery and an aggressive quicker ball; so should England suffer injuries to Brunt and Shrubsole (not the most unlikely scenario) she could be the one to step in, especially with the Test happening after the ODIs.
  • As WCB has noted, the omission of Danni Wyatt is interesting. My understanding is that Wyatt was given to believe that she would go on this trip, having had precious-little opportunity in New Zealand; so my guess is that either she is crocked, or the coaches believe that they will get more benefit working with her in the nets at Loughborough. (I can't believe she has dropped out of the picture entirely - that would make no sense at all, with England so short on "Strike Rate" batting.)
  • Amy Jones has to keep wicket on this tour - England need her to be ready to step in in case Taylor is injured this summer. And presumably this is the intention, which is why Carla Rudd has been left at home - the Berkshire keeper has done nothing wrong, but Amy-J needs mitten-time.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Stars To WBBL: Our Team; Our Rules

BBL's Melbourne Stars have issued a shot across the bows of Cricket Australia over who controls the mooted WBBL franchises.

Cricket Australia have previously said that they expect to control the WBBL teams and decide who plays where, presumably to mitigate the risk of one or two franchises snapping up all the best players and ruining the tournament as a competitive spectacle.

But reading between the lines of an interview with Jesse Hogan in the Sydney Morning Herald, Stars Chief Exec Clint Cooper has basically told Cricket Australia that if the Women's team are going to share the Stars brand and the Stars uniform, then it will be on the Stars terms, not CA's; and one of those terms is that the Stars handle player recruitment and management themselves.

The path to WBBL was never going to be plain-sailing, but with tensions already coming to the fore, what happens off the field could be as fascinating as what happens on it; and it will be interesting to see how this one plays out!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

County Gossip: Middlesex Move Into New Era With Wilson & Westbury

Middlesex's run to the T20 Finals last year was powered by a team spirit that comes partly from underdog status - with no "pros" or current internationals, little was expected of them. Things will be somewhat different in north London this season.

Izzy Westbury, who joined the county just last season, after finishing uni having being out of the top-level game for a couple of years, has been promoted to the captaincy; and has also joined the Middlesex CCC staff on a "nearly" full-time basis, as a coach working to promote girls' cricket in local schools. This doesn't quite make her a "pro" in the sense that the England players are; but she is now no longer an "am" either, and she'll have expectations to deal with that weren't there before.

Westbury has spent the winter out in Australia, where she has been working hard on her white ball action; and rumours are also rife that sports shops all over Oz have mysteriously sold out of headbands... but we can only speculate as to why...!!!

The Meatballs have also strengthened their batting by bringing in England's Fran Wilson. Wilson doesn't have an England "pro" contract but she's been a member of the squad for a while, and has played a handful of ODIs. She has been one of the most consistent performers in Division 2, playing for Somerset, where she has averaged around 40 the past two seasons; and she'll be hoping to step-up and make a play for a role in England's middle-order, as the selector's thoughts turn towards the Women's World Cup in 2017.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

County Gossip: Sussex Bulk Up Bowling

After a disappointing 5th-placed finish in last year's Women's County Championship, Sussex are looking to put a better spin on the new season, with the signing of Aussie off-spinner Erin Osborne; and the return of England leftie Holly Colvin.

Osborne, who will be with the county for the first half of the season, before joining up with Australia's Women's Ashes party, has over 100 international wickets; and played in both of Australia's recent ODI and T20 World Cup wins.

Colvin, with 174 international wickets to her name, is already a legend; and holds one record - youngest England international - which now we are into a new professional era, will probably never be broken.

Holly took a break from cricket last year, though she played a couple of charity matches; but now she's back, and England fans (and no doubt the selectors too) will be watching carefully! Will she play for her country again? She has modestly told friends that she doesn't know; but she's a competitor, who wants to perform at the very highest level, so as the Americans say... you do the math!!

With Sarah Taylor in imperious form with the bat on England's recent tour of New Zealand, Sussex will be feeling optimistic about the new season; but Taylor will need to play responsibly if Sussex are to challenge Kent for what could be the last ever Women's County Championship title.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Surrey To Host Pemberton Greenish Cup at The Oval

Surrey have announced that the inaugural Pemberton Greenish Cup - an annual T20 contest between Middlesex and Surrey - will be played at The Oval on Monday 18 May.

Surrey came second in last year's Women's County Championship. Their star player is England all-rounder Nat Sciver, who recently hit the winning runs for her country in their ODI series in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Middlesex - finalists in last year's T20 Cup - are led by their new captain Izzy Westbury and also boast the talents of England's Fran Wilson; Cath Dalton, one of the fastest bowlers in women's cricket; and hard-hitting batsman Sophia Dunkley.

Entry will be free; and though the start time is "To Be Confirmed" you'd assume it would be after school, so bring the kids and make a night of it!

Women's Ashes Tickets Still a Bargain

If you want to go to every day of the 2015 Women's Ashes, it will cost the apocryphal family of four £260. That sounds like quite a lot; until you remember that it's 10 days of cricket; and attending just one day of the Men's Ashes will set you back something approaching that!

And... no insult to England's men's team... but the Women's Ashes will probably actually be competitive!

(And you get a men's match thrown in for free on the very last day, which is a double-header; though don't worry, you don't have to stay for it!)

So get your tickets and bring the family. (And if you see me there, say hi!)

Women's Ashes Ticket Links

Tickets are now on sale for the 2015 Women's Ashes - links below:

* Not on sale, at time of writing!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Sciver Delivers

If England's Nat Sciver is looking at her career options after cricket, she should consider pizza... because today she proved that she really can deliver!

England needed 120-odd when Sciver entered the fray in the 25th over; and with 4 wickets down, New Zealand probably felt they had England's tail in sight.

Sarah Taylor... who seems by all accounts back to her nonchalant brilliant best... took England a little closer; but when she fell, that was the key moment for Sciver. England still required over 60. Yes, there were overs in-hand, but the pressure was on - a tail-end collapse would have felt all-too-familiar to England fans; but Sciver stood up and was counted, closing-out the victory on 65 not-out, with a hat-full of overs to spare.

So Aussies beware - Nat's back on track!

Now... bring on the summer, and some games I can actually watch!!

Friday, 27 February 2015

Clark: 2-to-3 Overseas For WBBL

Belinda Clark, the former Australian captain, now a senior administrator at Cricket Australia, has been speaking to the BBC about the Women's Big Bash.

The main take-home is that she expects "2-to-3" overseas players in each of the eight teams - that's... *thinks*... *Googles*... 16-to-24 overseas players; and with Clark also mentioning that she expects them to come from a variety of countries, that's not many, and suggests that some of the England players who (so I'm told) are excitedly hoping to play, might be disappointed.  

Clark was also asked about broadcast rights, and reading between the lines, her answer implies that these would be new rights, not falling under existing BBL broadcast contracts. That's sort of good news, in that it raises the possibility that it could be on free-to-air TV in the UK; but I recommend not holding your breath on that one, because Clark said very clearly that they were talking to pay-TV, which would obviously be where the money to fund the competition in the short term could come from, although thinking long-term, that is a terrible strategy.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

ECB Moot "Fully Pro" Women's Game By 2020

Cricinfo are reporting that the ECB's latest discussion paper includes the proposal (or more likely, the aspiration) for a "fully professional" women's game by 2020.

There are no further details in the Cricinfo report, but a "fully professional" game would surely imply an extension of professionalism to the domestic game; which is currently (England-contracted players aside) more "semi-amateur" than "semi-professional". (No slight on the players - that's just the way it is!)

Needless to say, it is quite an ambition for a domestic game where crowds can generally be counted on the fingers of two hands, if not one!

But if the ECB (or "CEW" [Cricket England & Wales] as the report also suggests they may soon be re-branded) are up for it... then so am I!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

2015 Young Cricketers Announced

The MCC have announced the recipients of their Young Cricketers "scholarships" for 2015. They are:
  • Grace Gibbs
  • Georgia Holmes
  • Georgia Hennessy
  • Steph Butler
  • Lydia Harris
  • Carla Rudd
  • Freya Davies
  • Amara Carr
  • Sophie Luff
The YC's program offers coaching over the winter and matches during the summer, typically against county-level "boys" sides. The YCs receive a small amount of financial help; and in the past have also had the opportunity to earn their keep, for example by working in the Lords Shop during (men's) Test matches.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

5 Things That Need To Happen For WBBL To Be A Success

A Stand-Alone Window

WBBL needs its own spot in the calendar, which doesn't clash with anyone's international commitments. Both Charlotte Edwards and Heather Knight would have missed this year's WNCL final, had their teams qualified. This mustn't happen in WBBL - it isn't fair on the players; and it isn't fair on the fans.

The WORLD'S Best Players

WBBL needs all the top players, from all over the world - the existing MBBL limit of 2 foreign players needs to be raised to at least 3. This makes sense commercially - Indian players generating interest in India, South African ones in South Africa, etc. - and it raises the bar for women's cricket as a sporting spectacle,

Their Own Team Names

The teams can be aligned to the MBBL teams - they can share their colors and their grounds; but they need their own team names, not "The Women's Sydney Sixers" but the Sydney Seventy-Niners! (Or whatever!) This demonstrates that women's cricket is not just an adjunct to the men's game; but something to be valued in its own right.

Global Coverage & Access

WBBL needs visibility to be a success - this means ideally getting it on free-to-air TV, even if this necessitates taking a short-term revenue hit. Likely the temptation will be there to sell WBBL and MBBL as a single package... no doubt to be snapped up by Sky in the UK; but if so, WBBL risks being shunted into the backwaters. This mustn't be allowed to happen; and whoever buys the rights must at the very least be obligated to broadcast all matches.


WBBL might be an overnight sensation; but it probably won't be, and Cricket Australia must be in this for the long-haul. It might take a generation to make this a real success of this commercially; but WBBL has to keep the faith that our sport is amazing and given time it will succeed.

WBBL Hands Destiny Of Women's Cricket To Australia

The official announcement of the Women's Big Bash might well be the final nail in the coffin of the WICL; but if it is a victory for the ECB, who opposed the WICL from the start, it is a pretty pyrrhic one.

To be fair, ECB opposition to the WICL came mostly from the ECB's then-chairman, Giles Clarke. Several other voices within the ECB were far less rabidly hostile; but when Clarke put his foot down, they were left with little choice but to fall into line.

Now we have the WBBL on the horizon. It differs from the WICL in one key regard - it falls under the direct auspices of the ICC; but otherwise it is essentially the WICL in all-but-name - big, brash and ambitious, it looks set to take the world of women's cricket by storm... and it will all be controlled by Cricket Australia.

And this is why Clarke's victory is a pyrrhic one - he has prevented WICL taking-over women's cricket; only to hand its destiny instead to Cricket Australia. It's the IPL all over again... and remind me again how that one ends...???

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Who Is England's Best Bowler?

On this tour, the statistics speak for themselves - only one England bowler has taken wickets and been economical. (Oh... and her 79 in the 3rd ODI is also England's highest score with the bat!)

Shrubsole6 5.51
Everyone ElseDon't EvenGo There

P.S. - Heather, if you're reading this, please can you wire the money directly to my Swiss bank account this time. (The cheques are such a pain - I have to go all the way to Geneva to pay them in!)

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Women's International Championship Standings Clarified

The ECB's Twitter feed states that England are now "joint second" in the ICC Championship; whilst the table on CricInfo shows them in third, behind South Africa on Net Run Rate. What's the truth?

ECB Tweet
ESPN CricInfo
The answer to this question lies in the ICC's Playing Conditions - these state what happens if teams finish the championship equal on points; and the answer is... more complicated than you'd think!

In the event of a tie, it is 'Games Won' which is the first determinant of standing; and then only after that does N.R.R. come into play.

So since England and South Africa have both won 3 games, N.R.R. does come into play and England are third... right?

Well... yes... but... technically, both 'Games Won' and N.R.R. are only applied once all games have been completed; therefore as things stand right now, England and South Africa are indeed "joint second"!

Nat Bat Chat (Or Why Sciver Needs To Deliver!)

When she made her England debut against Pakistan in 2013, Nat Sciver was definitely considered a Bowler Who Can Bat. But increasingly she's playing as a batsman, and on that score she's not performing at the level she should be.

How different it was a year ago! Coming off the last Women's Ashes in Australia, Sciver had the world at her feet, having averaged 34 in that series, and been a critical part of England's success.

But since then, things have gone downhill fast, and in 12 international innings since, she has averaged just 11, with a highest score of 23; the situation reaching its apotheosis today in the 3rd ODI against New Zealand, when she was run out for a duck. 

For an all-rounder, this might (just about) be acceptable; but Nat has hardly bowled outside of T20s in 2014/15; and a Batsman Who Can't Bat But Can Bowl Very Occasionally really isn't what England need in their flaky middle-order right now.

I don't think England will, or should, drop Nat for the remaining ODIs or T20s; but if she's to be a part of England's next Ashes triumph in 2015... Sciver needs to Deliver.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

England Missing Brindle

In an attempt to explain England's flaky batting, I've turned to Science™. In the past 3 years, England have played 30 ODIs, of which they've won 21. It's not a bad record, but watching the team it often feels like their middle-order is fragile and lacking authority; notably when Arran Brindle hasn't been playing.

These are England's batting stats, with and without Brindle, since the start of 2012.

Collective AverageR.P.O.
With Brindle
Without Brindle

The difference is crystal-clear: England have been scoring a lot more runs (and scoring them significantly faster) with Brindle than they have without her; especially when you consider that the "With" line includes all 6 recent Ashes ODIs, facing the strongest attack in the world, led by Ellyse Perry!

So perhaps what England need is not the "Big Hitter" we've all been dreaming Nat Sciver or Loz Winfield might turn out to be, but a new Arran Brindle? Ironically, the closest player we have to this is the one we left at home, when even the ever-patient England selectors finally got fed-up with her, long after the fans did - one Tamsin Tilley Beaumont! As "Nice Problems To Have" go... this isn't one!

UPDATE: FWIW, with/ without Nat Sciver:

Collective AverageR.P.O.
With Sciver 
Without Sciver

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Football TV Deal Terrible News For Cricket Fans

Football execs are doubtless celebrating their latest TV deal, but it's bad, bad news for cricket fans.

Word is that Sky have agreed to pay almost TWICE what they were paying before, for LESS football; and the consequences are inevitable: subscriber numbers will fall, and those left will have to pony-up ever-more to watch Sky Sports.

And with no option to "just" watch cricket*, us cricket fans are on the hook for this just as much as football fans, with the added "bonus" that our sport gets none of the proceeds of our subscription hikes - it all goes to line the pockets of the Prima Donnas in the Premier League!

But still... at least we get to watch all the games. Now... when does the England / New Zealand series start again - I'm looking in my Sky planner, and I can't seem to see it anywhere???

* I know there are options to "just" watch SS2, but this isn't quite the same thing - that sub will go up just as much percentage-wise as the other!

Friday, 30 January 2015

Why Knight & Edwards Should Open In T20

On the Women's Cricket Blog Audiocast, Martin Davies argues that Nat Sciver should open the T20 batting for England. I can see the logic - open with your biggest hitters to get off to a flyer - the "pinch hitter" strategy.

The problem is that the numbers really don't support the theory of Sciver in that role. Here are England's T20I Strike Rates for the past two years:

Holly Colvin7140
Anya Shrubsole11138
Arran Brindle8121
Heather Knight12106
Charlotte Edwards20105
Lauren Winfield11102
Sarah Taylor21101
Natasha Farrant7100
Beccy Grundy6100
Lydia Greenway2099
Jenny Gunn2192
Nat Sciver2290
Susie Rowe288
Dani Hazell2284
Danni Wyatt1683
Amy Jones872
Tammy Beaumont1072
Jodie Dibble10

As we can see, ignoring the obvious non-starters, the leading candidates are... Heather Knight and Charlotte Edwards; while Nat Sciver languishes some way down the order, despite having had 22 matches in the past two years to prove herself. 

I believe that, in the absence of a genuine Alyssa Healy-style "bully", England have to open with their best two batsmen; and when those best two batsmen also happen to have the highest strike-rates... then it really is a no-brainer!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Wyatt Still Hopeful Of Bowling

The England selectors have made it pretty clear that Danni Wyatt's seat on the plane to New Zealand next month is as a "batter" (sic.!) and as such it is well-deserved - she scored over 500 county runs last summer, at an average of 42; and she was a crucial part of the Notts team which triumphed in the T20 Cup.

With the ball, though, it has been a different story. As a bowler, Wyatt has had a rough couple of years, following back problems which came to a head in 2013, culminating in a wicketless tour of the Caribbean, which seemed to seal her fate as an international spinner.

But she still harbours hopes of adding to her 70-odd international wickets, and having remodelled her bowling action, she has told the Nottingham Post that she still believes she has something to offer.

"It's been hard work remodelling my action, but I'm looking forward to testing it out in New Zealand."

With Marsh and Grundy coming back - not to mention Hazel and Knight in the mix too - England suddenly have a lot of spin options going for them... and that's even before A Certain Someone makes her come-back next summer... but Wyatt is nothing if not a fighter, so it will be interesting to see!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

2015 Champions League Final - Match Report

(Warning - the following may be a figment of my sleep-deprived imagination!)

Australia's New South Wales Breakers have won the inaugural 2015 Women's Champions' League in style, after convincingly beating England's Kent in the final at Lords.

As we know, the Breakers cruised into this final, thrashing New Zealand's Auckland Hearts by 9 wickets; while Kent scraped through against India's Railways, winning a rain-affected match by 3 runs on Duckworth Lewis.

Having won the toss, Kent captain Charlotte Edwards chose to bat, and her and Tammy Beaumont made a solid defensive start, reaching the 10-over mark without loss, but with just 17 runs on the board. When Beaumont eventually fell in the 16th over, LBW to Sarah Jane Coyte for a painstaking 7, it brought Lydia Greenway to the crease. Greenway upped the rate a bit, putting up a stand of 93 with Edwards; but it was the returning Elyse Perry who eventually made the breakthrough, with Greenway caught at deep fine leg, getting a top edge attempting to sweep the Aussie quick one too many times. Edwards reached her hundred in the 39th over, but was run-out shortly afterwards attempting to up the rate; and Kent eventually closed on 203/9, with Perry the pick of the bowlers, ending with 4 wickets for 19.

Chasing 204 to win, the Breakers got off to a flyer, with Haynes and Healy both racing to quick-fire half-centuries within 15 overs. When Healy finally holed-out on the long-on boundary for 64, it brought captain Alex Blackwell to the crease. With no scoreboard pressure, Blackwell and Haynes could sit back and pick off the not-infrequent bad balls, and by the time Haynes was unluckily given out for 89 - LBW to fellow leftie Tash Farrant - a delivery which replays clearly showed was missing by a mile - the Breakers needed just 22 more; and fittingly it was Man-of-the-Match Elyse Perry who hit the winning runs; as the Breakers brought it home with 14 overs to spare,

It was a sobering lesson for English cricket fans, who were forced to accept that they just can't compete with Australia for the quality of their domestic game. With the best English players spread out across twenty-odd counties in the two top divisions, the talent is just too thinly distributed; and unless things radically change, this wonderful new "Connor-Clarke" trophy is destined to remain elsewhere for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

New CRICKETher Podcast - England Squad For New Zealand

Raf Nicholson & Syd Egan look forward to England's tour to New Zealand in the new CRICKETher podcast.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Softball? No Thanks!

Over at The Telegraph, Scyld Berry thinks we should be making some changes to women's cricket:

[The ECB should] devise a semi-hard ball for girls and women so they can participate in mass numbers and ensure the sport’s future in Britain... Cricket in Britain needs females to play in mass numbers if the sport is not going to become a middle-class niche, as it seems otherwise destined to be.

I'm all for tweaking the game to make it more appealing for players and spectators, but this is going to far! A semi-hard ball? Relay throws? Basically... he wants to turn women's cricket into softball!

The implication here is that women and girls are put off playing because of the hard ball; but here's the thing: recent tragedy aside, cricket is one of the safest things you can do!

If you want danger, ride a horse...

... or play netball! (Yes, really!)

... or cross a road!

... or cross me by suggesting stupid changes to our game... because then I'll show you exactly where you can stick your semi-hard ball!!