With the England players all syphoned off to prepare for the West Indies visit, the RHF Trophy games took on a new perspective. This was where the lesser lights could really make their mark.
First the Results:
Southern Vipers 209-8 beat South East Stars 98 by 111 runs
Northern Diamonds 229-8 beat Lightning 226 by 2 wickets
Western Storm 265-6 beat Sunrisers 179 by 86 runs
Central Sparks 167-2 beat Thunder 166-8 by 2 wickets
Diamonds won a thrilling game at Grace Road, coming back from a dire 119-7 to add a further 110 runs for the loss of a single wicket. Who but the ex-Lightning star, Jenny Gunn, should lead the way (50*), well supported by Beth Langston (37) and Phoebe Graham (15*).
This tail-end performance was in stark contrast to Stars’ showing against Vipers at Hove. None of the batters could get on top of persistently accurate bowling from Tara Norris, skipper Georgia Adams, Paige Scolfield, Charlotte Taylor and Providence Cowdrill (both on debut). They started slowly, 5 runs off 3 overs, then for the latter part of the innings the only answer to this attack seemed to be placing the bat in line with the ball and stopping it.
Sunrisers will be tolerably pleased with their performance against the high riders, Storm. But their fate is very different from the other newly established franchise, Sparks, who are making a real challenge for top places. They made short work of Thunder at New Road. Eve Jones (90) made the highest score of the day against the side she might well have been leading, had she not moved south.
Northern Diamonds 13
Central Sparks 9
Southern Vipers 14
Western Storm 10
South East Stars 5
How Things stand
This is a well constructed tournament. Only Sunrisers might have been offered a few more leading players from elsewhere. It is an admirable halfway house between traditional county cricket and national level. Every player knows she is there because she deserves to be. The back-up is extensive. Each franchise must have an academy; the back-room staffing is all-embracing, with S&C, medical care, analysts and so on.
All the players are buoyed by being selected at this level. After many months of doubting whether a single ball would be bowled this season, they can play on first-class grounds with everything laid on bar spectators.
This third round served its special purpose, removing the known stars. This left players of all ages and breadths of experience in positions of greater responsibility. The senior members could still show the way. The Hove game offered two fine examples of captaincy from Georgia Adams and Tash Farrant. Fields were expertly set, bowling changes competently handled and they performed with bat and ball – Adams 44 and 8-1-23-0, Farrant 10-1-28-2.
But no doubt the youngsters on show caught the selectors’ eyes. The 17-year-old Ella McCaughan’s half century at the start of Vipers’ line-up was an object lesson in constructing an innings and keeping the scoreboard ticking over. Her first error was her last, the moment after she reached that milestone. No doubt Charlotte Edwards, her Director of Cricket, will be reminding her that 50 is merely the first step. Take a new guard and add another 50, then another. Let’s hope she will be one of several teenagers who can profit from the RHF tournament and their academies to stake a claim for England recognition in the near future.
Sarah Bryce was another batter to go big. She hit her third fifty out of three opening for Lightning: 51 to follow up 52 and 57 last weekend. Kent will feel very clever that they signed her up. She’s a keeper, but with these stats she looks good enough to be picked on her batting alone. The pity is that she may well succumb to siren calls from England, as another deserving Scot, Kirstie Gordon has done. This is another black mark against the way cricket has been allowed to develop in the British Isles. The Celtic countries haven’t been supported well enough by the MCC at Lord’s over the last century and more.
There was a lot of quality off-spin on view at Hove, not least from Charlotte Taylor, a late call-up on debut (7-2-13-2). Too many batters aimed to cut the off-spin and failed. Once warned…
It was Fi Morris who produced the only 5-fer in a wonderful spell of off-spin bowling for Storm. They showed they hardly needed Heather Knight’s presence to ensure a winning performance. The skipper Sophie Luff led the way with a commanding 85.
There were two events of unusual interest at Hove. First a gull acted as twelfth man throughout both innings, fielding almost inanimately at fine leg/mid-off. It should have won the Player of the Match award for persistence.
Second, far more dramatic, a minor tornado blew three advertising boards in the air. One of them disappeared over a floodlight pylon and finished on the beach half a mile away. At least that was Adam Carty’s story, and he’s Vipers’ head coach.
Plans for Next Year
The current hope is to offer three tournaments in sequence next year: first T20, then 50-overs, then the 100, which had to be put in cold storage for this year. It was a relief to hear Charlotte Edwards say she was all in favour of the longer form of cricket match. Last year she expressed her delight at the introduction of the 100, which is still the object of intense scrutiny and doubt.
Eve Jones 90
Sophie Luff 85
Joanne Gardner 54
Sarah Bryce 51
Ella McGaughan 50
Fi Morris 10-3-26-5
Clare Boycott 10-0-40-4
The Remaining Round-robin Fixtures:
Thursday 10 September
Thunder v Northern Diamonds
Friday 11 September
Western Storm v South East Stars
Southern Vipers v Sunrisers
Central Sparks v Lightning
Sunday 13 September
Southern Vipers v Western Storm
Sunrisers v South East Stars
Thunder v Lightning
Northern Diamonds v Central Sparks