Things are changing for the better…

I had a reminder midweek about sexism in cricket and it tagged on from a discussion about involving more women who were capable and wanted to in the Saturday teams at Corbridge. The club encouraging and wanting women players to be available for the 2nd’s and 3rd’s.

It was really good to hear that Corbridge were wanting more women to play in their men’s teams, sorry their other teams, their Saturday teams as I was reminded. The reason I use Men’s cricket even though it’s open to both men and women is for one thing habit, secondly because the leagues are predominantly male only teams and also because men can’t play in a women’s league. And in some league women need permission to play, not that a league can afford to refuse on the basis of gender alone, because that would be sexist and they’d fear getting taken to court. However they could refuse on the basis that the player would be playing at a level which they could not manage and could be dangerous for them, then the refusal is on health and safety grounds. This is used for both genders and tends to be with the involvement of juniors in senior teams. That’s a different issue.

Anyway this discussion struck a chord with me because when I first started out playing Saturday cricket more than a decade ago, scary, I used to make up the numbers for Stocksfield’s 3rd team, meaning no bowling and batting at 11. I was there to field basically.

It hit me how much things have changed in terms of attitudes and the opportunities available in a relatively short space of time.

As I put it 10-12 years ago I was there to make up the numbers and I was fine with that then because I was still learning the game and the opportunity it gave me was to play the longer format at a higher standard even if it was as a fielder.

I didn’t really get an opportunity to play men’s properly until I started playing for Stocksfield Mid-week league team and I was allowed to bowl. Allowed probably isn’t the right word, it was more like, here’s a ball, nothing else is working, you can’t do any worse than anyone else (any of the lads) you may as well have a go. And I picked up a few wickets and didn’t get clattered too much so I became more trusted and given more overs.

The more I played, the more the team saw me play the more I was able to get involved.

To make it clear when I started there was a lot of upfront sexism directed at me or within earshot. Some of it was quite nasty, the rest was run of the mill and what I expected. I wasn’t overly bothered by it. It could annoy me a bit, I either kept my mouth shut or I made a joke of it and played despite of it because I wasn’t naïve enough to think that I could change everyone’s minds and if that was their opinion it was up to me to prove them wrong. I may have said a couple of times “well you either have me on the team or you have 10”. For some players at that time they would have rather had 10 and that was up to them. I was still going to play if I was asked because I wanted to play and since I was willing to drop everything to play at half an hours’ notice… That did tend to make selectors and captains remember my number.

Things have changed. Attitudes as a whole have softened. Some of it is down to the much higher profile of the women’s international game. Higher profile players. Recently professionalism. Some of it is down to more girls being involved in age group cricket. I didn’t play age group but a fair few of the women I now play with did and it defiantly filters through into senior years. Men remember that woman/girl who took that wicket, took that catch or made those runs when they were playing together in their formative years.

There’s an awful lot more respect about. That doesn’t mean that there is, or should be a glossing over of the differences between men’s and women’s cricket.

Most differences stem from physical aspects. Men bowl faster than women. The faster men’s bowlers break 90mph consistently, the faster women high 70’s mph, early 80’s mph. Average spinners mph is higher in men than women too. This is not about skill or accuracy or effectiveness just speed / strength.

Men can throw harder and further than women. Not mentioning accuracy at all.

Men can hit the ball harder than women. Again this is not about skill, placement or timing.

There is an match a ball difference… For a men’s match the ball is between 5 ½ & 5 ¾ ounces, circumference between 8 13/16 and 9”. For a women’s match the ball is between 4 15/16 & 5 1/16 ounces, circumference between 8.3 & 8.5”.

Anyway what really brought this up was a game that I played for Corbridge Ratcatchers, midweek XI this week. I played a bit at the back end of last year, this was my first game of the season for them. New league after getting promoted last year, a team we hadn’t played last year when there had often been one, two or three women in the team. Anyway they made a few comments about me, about me coming on to bowl, basically that I wouldn’t be if they weren’t losing already, these were relayed back by our scorer.

I’ve gotten a bit used to playing in the West Tyne Division 1. I’ve been around a while. I’ve played 49 games for Matfen, this is my 4th year and teams have gotten used to me being on the team. Yes early on there were some raised eyebrows and more than a few comments but it’s settled down. There is still a thing about getting out to the woman but it’s not as big of a thing as it used to be, especially since I’ve taken a fair few wickets, it’s not embarrassing to them anymore. I’ve earned some respect.

There are also more women in Division 2, more involved on a Saturday around the North East. It’s becoming more common place so more accepted.

Anyway hearing about what this team had said was a bit irritating, a throwback and it reminded me that there are those attitudes still out there, the “women shouldn’t be on the pitch they should be making the tea” attitude.

It reminded me of what some women have to face to play in some teams and in some leagues and why it can be off putting.

That’s not to say that all women want to play against men. Some don’t and are happy to play their cricket solely against women. That’s fine and their choice. But that doesn’t mean that those who do and are good enough should be denied the opportunity because of their gender.

With that in mind though there are a few things that as a woman I’ve found very useful playing with and against men.

First off a thick skin, comments are going to come.

To be able to bite your tongue and keep your head down, no reaction is sometimes the best reaction.

It should go without saying but the best of your ability, competitiveness, be willing to listen, ask and learn. It is a learning curve playing at a higher level and it can be more frustrating than learning the game in the first place.

A sense of humour, preferably a massive one.

Practically, being prepared to change in toilets or coming to matches in whites, which isn’t really a hardship. Getting used to playing with a bigger ball especially as a bowler.

I get so much out of playing against men. I’ve learned a huge amount with yet more to learn and been forced to develop my game in ways that wouldn’t have been needed if I had only played in the women’s league. I am a far better player for the experience.

With attitudes shifting within clubs, more opportunities arising and more inclusion sexism should be getting less of an issue but I’m not naïve enough to ever think it will disappear completely.

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Northumberland women v Lincolnshire women 24/5/15

There’s no way I can keep escaping writing about the Norfolk match, however much I would love it to be stricken from my memory, but it impacts on this match so here is the grisly tale of Norfolk away 3/5/15.

A really long travel down the M1, staying over in King’s Lynn. Sunday morning it was absolutely bucketing down. We drove out to the ground, 11am start time comes and goes, still raining. A lot of card games and a fair bit of “can we not just call this off and go home, we’re not going to get played” later, 3pm actually. It had faired up enough to get in a 30 over game on a hill. We had Norfolk 24-4, 67-7 they got more than we would have liked given that position with some hard hitting from their number 3 Woodhouse who got 50*, 115-7.

More than gettable… What followed was a horror batting performance.

It started with the run out of Rachael Gillott in the first over. Amy running herself out without facing a ball in the second. Then it was bad shot selection, some trying to hit their way out of trouble, not getting their heads over the ball and a lack of patience was apparent throughout the order.

We collapsed monumentally, in a heap 24 all out.

So we needed to redeem ourselves…

This is the first year Lincolnshire are playing 50 over cricket. We played them last year at the Penrith T20 competition on a dust bowl. Beat them the first day, got beat when we should have won the following day when the pace and bounce in the wicket had all but disappeared

If Summer arrived in Northumberland Saturday, overnight it had gone MIA again. Grey skies, cold wind greeted us at the ground.

400+ runs scored on Saturday on the wicket two over from the one that we had played on Friday. Different strip but another good batting track.

Lincolnshire won the toss and elected to field. Fair enough, Nic wanted to bat anyway.

Change up in the batting order with Nicola and Rachael Gillott to open. They found the Lincs bowling generous as the umpires enforced tight wides. As they both got going and found the pace of the pitch there was some sweet hits on display, the runs were piling on.

At 80-0 both Nic and Rach were in the early 30’s which gives an indication of how many extra’s there had been at that point.

It took a run out just shy of the 100 to break the partnership. Nicola run out for 35. Amy Nic came in with great intentions of a century. She had watched Chris Catnach get one the previous day, she wanted one of her own.

Gillott continued on but departed curtesy of a good reaction catch at cover, she had hit the ball about as hard as she can, the pity was that she was looking in great touch. Her new bat looks to have a good middle on it.

Roshi entered the fray and once she had the pace of the pitch she was timing the ball well. When Amy bottom edged onto her own stumps we were already around the 150 mark.

The drinks break offered Lincs the chance to regroup, settle their bowlers down and it worked because there were far less wides and no balls in the second half of the innings than the first.

Hilary was next in and things were looking good for me not getting a bat until Roshi was caught at cover and off I went to face their opening bowler, fine with me the more pace the better.

I’m in pretty good nick, I’ve not hit my best form but it’s good enough not to worry about at the moment, still the pitch wasn’t as nice as Friday and it was holding up rather than really coming through.

It took a fair while for me to settle. Part of that was the pitch, the other part is I don’t feel comfortable at 6. I don’t have a plan for 6. I have a plan for opening, I have a plan for 3 or 4, I have a well-practiced plan for 7 and below. Proper middle order, not so much.

However once I got a nice feel off a cover drive for 4 I felt like I was set. A nice little late as possible punch cut off a leg spinner, played down and everything. Push on then, there’s a plan…

I’ve never really batted with Hilary, maybe once before this match and it should be a good combination because while she places the ball into gaps, I hit the ball hard it should in theory be a partnership that upsets the bowlers, but in practice it’s not a good combination. I see runs where she doesn’t, she sees runs where I don’t. It was kind of a bit inevitable that a run out would happen. There were a couple of misunderstandings that were causing hesitation.

Shot hit to their weakest fielder I was confident there was a comfortable one there, I was going to the danger end. It’s a single. Hilary said no when I was half was down, I called her through because if she went she still would have been safe because the throw was coming to that end as it was she stood her ground. The ball got to the bowler and I was run out.

Not amused to put it mildly, but then there’s nothing I could do. I had committed to a single that was there. She refused it and stood. It was massively frustrating because I was in and ready to take the bowling on.

Our innings lost momentum. Beth struggled to get the ball away and there were a few too many quiet overs. When Beth looked to make runs she was caught.

Lisa got the most hideous decision. Bottom edge, ball running away down fine leg. Lincs appealed for LBW, which was interesting given that we all heard the bat from the pavilion. The umpire gave her out LBW. Lincs didn’t retract their appeal.

Alice came in and gave the bat a good swing pushing Hilary as hard as she could to get her to run harder and put the fielders under pressure, a nice little cameo came to an end bringing Yves to the crease to see out the rest of our 50 overs.

247-8. Redemption with the bat.

Tea’s are always nice for County matches and Stocksfield spread was no different.

Required rate 4.94

We may be unpredictable with the bat but we are a good bowling unit with plenty of options at Nic’s disposal. Roshi and Amy swing bowlers; Emily and Nic wicket to wicket with a hint of movement bowlers; Yves left arm spinner and me right arm spinner. Others available if required.

I’ve started fielding at 1st slip for County, something I quite enjoy even though I think I’m probably better at gully or backward point but close in is where I like to be. So standing next to Gillott for a fair few overs in Norfolk we had made a bit of our own fun… Elton John song titles, Eric Clapton song titles, 80’s songs, one hit wonders, appalling singing (from me), films… Obviously this is secondary to supporting our bowlers.

And perhaps a few comments about the batting on display may come in every now and again.

Roshi bowled into the wind and had a weird day. She bowled with good pace and swing, created chances, a couple of drops, then wickets, nearly a hattrick, then she had to be taken off for bowling too many above waist height no balls which is very unlike her.

Amy bowled well but had no luck. Emily followed on from Roshi and picked up a couple of wickets.

68-6 when Nic picked up a wicket and the heart ripped out of Lincs batting.

One of their openers was still in and batting well but there wasn’t much support for her. Bring on the most frustrating part of cricket, short of us all losing the plot with the ball, Lincs had lost but we still had to get the last couple of wickets…

On with the spinners for the slow death…

It got a bit boring, very quickly. I bowled a bit quicker than normal, the wind was behind me and I was trying to beat the bat, which I did multiple times only to miss off stump by an inch. Alright then, I asked Nic if I was alright to toss it up and let them have a slog with a couple of catchers moved into position. I kept mixing my pace up inviting the slog, then not. Yves was doing the same. Eventually Lincs’ tail caved.

96 all out.

Northumberland won by 151 runs. 18 points (4 bowing, 4 batting bonus points)

Lincolnshire bonus points 1 batting, 3 bowling.

Next up for Northumberland women a T20 double headed away fixture in Lincolnshire against Cumbria and Shropshire. Another trip down the M1, this time of Stamford which I know well because Burghley Horse Trails are just on the outskirts. Food in The George might be too much to ask, but at least I know how to get there.

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Haltwhistle v Matfen Hall 23/5/15

Beautiful blue sky… Warm… Summer arrived in Northumberland, even in Haltwhistle, one of the most likely to be rained off fixtures along side Allendale away.

Straight along the A69… further than you think past Haydon Bridge but still pretty straight forward…

I was a bit on the late side even though I had left my house in more than good time, the petrol station at Corbridge had a fuel delivery, yeah I really appreciated that, still 10 minuets late wasn’t that bad.

Aaron who had been working in the morning, a bit later, fair enough. Paul Irving. James Ankers.

A bit of looking at the clock because it was now past 1pm and we only had 6 players at the ground…

Matfen won the toss and elected to bat in the meantime.

Great, now where are our top order? Tom and Eddie arrive along with the Kiwi’s bag’s. 8, getting better.

1 car = 3 of our usual top order… Dicey.

As Paul Irving and Pilky walked out to open the batting, we were on the lookout for Max’s car… There he is, he’s slowing, he’s slowing, that’s still a bit fast, he’s past the entrance to the ground and out of sight… Cue chorus of laughing from us lot. All was well though, he turned around and pulled in at the second asking.

Turns out that he had followed Eddie and Tom along the Military which isn’t as straight forward as the A69, got stuck behind some traffic while Eddie managed to get past it in the process lost Max. At least it was a nice day to see the sights up on the tops. Stressful start to Max’s day though.

Haltwhistle missing a couple of players we were expecting. No Dan Kirkup, no Barber for example but still plenty of talent there.

Anyway, the return to the responsibility and required patience of opening for Pilky. First ball from Mark Rowell, chest height no ball guided off the face for 4 easy as you like. Now if only Rowell will play fair and start the game of short, shorter, shorter again bowling this could be more than fun. Alas he didn’t but that didn’t stop Pilky sending him into the fence at the road end for 6. Careful and restrained obviously. Yep, always entertaining when Pilki opens. However there were leaves involved. It wasn’t all hard hitting.

Paul was far more watchful. The partnership lasted through the crucial 10 over mark with the scoreboard rolling on nicely. The pitch was looking a bit two paced, some holding up, some rushing on…

More good hits from Pilki before he lost his off stump, if he had connected the ball would have gone an awfully long way as it was his stump and the bails were the ones travelling.

Hamish Kennett to the crease, he took his time to play himself in as we expect but he wasn’t looking as fluent as he usually does, with Rowell spelled for an awkward Foxcroft and Sconer on from the other end the scoring slowed a little.

Paul Irving was run out brought about by an excellent stop at gully, bringing Eddie Scott to the crease, batting promotion. He stuck around a few overs restraining himself and trying to get the timing of the pitch. The first ball when he had decided to push the button and take on the bowling saw him out LBW playing a mow. It wasn’t a good shot and if he hadn’t been given for actually being LBW I’m pretty sure he’d have been given out for the shot alone.

A quick blast of temper in the changing room, poor James D’Arcy to keep his head firmly down as he had the misfortune of needing to pad up, Tom shutting the door so neither could escape… But less than 30 seconds later out Eddie came with a smile and a greeting and James survived.

Max found his timing fairly quickly and dispatched a fair few balls to kick the scoreboard on again. He was batting with good power which complimented Hamish’s patience well. It was already looking like we would get a good score. With Max out, Tom came in at a time when we were looking to push on, he looked to take on the bowling, the bowler won.

James D’Arcy in at 7, 12 or so overs left to push the score to up 200. With his family present we were introduced to a different version of D’Arcy’s batting. Sensible, restrained, playing himself in… Until Mark Rowell came back on and tested out his playing of the short ball, yep he likes that. Keep it coming.

There were only a couple of overs left when D’Arcy was out looking for that 200 score. Aaron was given the opportunity on the basis of the players left, he can hit the ball the hardest and if he came off then he could score runs quickly. It didn’t work but at the stage it was worth a try. James Ankers went in the aim to get Hamish back on strike, problem he hit the ball too well.

Matfen 191-7 (Hamish another 50-odd*, his batting average is sky high and if not for being given bat before at Wylam then he wouldn’t have been out yet)

Haltwhistle were very good in the field, their in fielding was excellent, they stopped a lot of good shots getting runs.

Good tea, although the tea itself cold as no one had turned the boiler on for hot water.

Aaron to open from the road end, right hand, left hand combination at the crease.

Haltwhistle went off hard, using the pace on the ball to their advantage, punishing anything off line and good length. James D’Arcy spelled Aaron but again with pace on the ball the opening pair were comfortable. James Ankers spelled Hamish, the scoring continued.

Tom Scott spelled D’Arcy and produced the first clean cut chance of the innings which was shelled by Max at mid wicket.

We weren’t at our best in the field. My hands firmly up as having a ‘mare at mid-on. If looks could kill I’d be dead via Tom Scott’s death glare for an awful miss-field when trying to pick up and throw in fast and clean I missed the ball, it went through my legs and a quick 1 turned into a comfortable 2. Fine’s box was having a good day, I was not the only guilty party.

After having a week of struggling for rhythm in the women’s game I wasn’t at my most confident as I was given the chance to bowl as a complete change up but the ball was coming out well and the batsmen didn’t seem to like the slower pace. There wasn’t a massive amount of turn but there was enough.

At drinks, 21 overs Haltwhistle were well on their way, past 110-0.

With Max asked to bowl spin from the other end we managed to slow them down and put on some pressure.

Finally we got a break through. A mix up with one batsmen looking to push a quick single that had gone straight to the fielder left both at the same end. I missed collecting the throw into bowlers end stumps, thankfully Hamish backing me up got hold of the ball, he had time to run in and take the bails off. A bit of a mess, but still a wicket.

Pilki following on from Max found his usual bit of swing and got an LBW which had the batsmen walking before the finger had even gone up. Back foot in front of middle stump.

1 brings 2, 2 brings 3 and all that. Haltwhistle slowed and there was a lull in scoring with the fall of wickets but with Dan Parker still at the crease they were still favourites to see it through which they did, it took them more overs than it looked like it would.

Haltwhistle won by 7 wickets. (Dan Parker 100+*)

Haltwhistle 10 points. Matfen Hall 5 points.

A game which it was thought could potentially be a bit feisty was actually played in good spirit and decent humour.

Big thank you to Claire for scoring both innings.

Next up a midweek T20 cup match against Medomsley. Next weekend Allendale who haven’t had the best results so far, but they have recently acquired a Kiwi batsmen of their very own who helped them end Haltwhistle’s unbeaten run last week.

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Stocksfield 2nd’s v Corbridge 1st 22/5/15

Away at Stocksfield 2nd’s, must be on the back pitch… Nope, we’re on the top pitch, the best pitch. Not often that happens.

I really like the top pitch, it’s usually lovely to bat on, maybe a touch on the low bounce side but once you’ve got a feel for the pace it’s not likely to misbehave. And it may be big but the outfield is so short that the ball runs on, giving proper value for shots. It was set out as the full boundary however as it was an 8 aside match and the boundary up the hill takes some running up it was agreed to shorten it 5 metres or so. Still a long way but more manageable.

Corbridge won the toss and elected to bowl.

Ellie and myself to open, it’s a combination that’s working well at the moment. Left arm pace, right arm off spin.

“Which end do you want?” Spinner concedes first pick to pace bowler as per the unwritten law.

“I dunno, which end do you want?” Pace bowler tries to concede to senior player.

“You’re the pace bowler, you demand your end and I get the one you don’t want.” It’s more about me wanting Ellie to have the end she wants, the one she’s most comfortable with, that’ll help her bowl well and take wickets because she’s young, talented and learning her trade.

Selina and Katherine Dixon to open. Get Selina out was the name of the game. She is a very unorthodox player, with a great eye for the ball who hits hard. She is particularly vulnerable early on to LBW. Not LBW, caught at midoff mistiming off my frankly rank first delivery by Jen who had to wait a while for the ball to come down but took it cleanly.

I wasn’t bowling as well as I can but they weren’t scoring from it which was a plus. Ellie was keeping the pressure on at the other end.

Little bit of controversy early on… Beth Veal is a good bat but her backing up leaves a lot to be desired. She was a good two yards out of the crease before I had bowled. As someone who “steps” rather than runs to the wicket it was very easy for me to issue a warning to her. She’s a former county age group captain she knows better.

Ralf their umpire asked if I would run her out. I said I would, I felt that it was completely justified to do so. There’s backing up then there’s taking unfair advantage aka “taking the piss”, her’s was in the latter category and I said as much to him. He said that the ECB have changed their rules on “Mankad-ing” and that if she persisted he would give her a warning rather than me knocking the bails off. Fair enough, I’ll bow to the umpire. She stopped doing it at my end but she kept doing it at the other end and when I finished my spell she continued to do it. He didn’t warn her.

Beth probably a little unsettled hadn’t shown any of her usual stroke play. At the 10 over mark they were 22-1. They had no choice but to start making some runs. Katherine had been in a long time and hadn’t really shown much in the way of aggression. She was batting lovely and straight but she wasn’t making many runs.

Jen and Lisa had spelled myself and Ellie as Stocksfield looked to push on and make a score. Our ideal was to keep them to a minimum, there was no real need to take wickets at that stage especially since Jade Makarski was sitting on the side lines.

The league rules have changed this year regarding 1st team players playing in the 2nd team. The 5 strongest players / senior county players have to be “starred” and although they can make up the numbers if a 2nd team is struggling to field a side they are unable to bowl and they can’t bat above 7. It’s a very good way of making sure that a 2nd team can field a side but controlling the influence a 1st team player can have on a game… Although there could be a situation where a starred player or 2 starred players put on a good stand for the last wicket but that hasn’t come up yet.

Anyway, Dixon and Veal started playing their shots and the scoreboard started to look healthier for them until Dixon was run out. Rhianna arrived in time to spell Lisa and had a hard time trying to find her rhythm, some unforgiving umpiring didn’t help matters, she did pick up a wicket as Jenny stumped a youngster who wondered from her crease. Jenny gave her plenty of time to get back but in the end took the bails.

I came back on at the other end and warned Beth yet again for her backing up. However much I wanted to take the bails off there was no real need. It wasn’t worth starting an argument at that stage of the innings, but it got me nicely wound up for batting.

It is a big pitch but we fielded well. Karen made a number of good stops at cover, Sandra had a fair few runs to do up the hill when Beth and Katherine started driving with conviction. Lisa had to deal with being a ball magnet. She was at backward square leg and had done a fair amount of chasing the previous over, I asked if she wanted to swap out with me at point since it had been pretty quiet, so we swapped and the very next ball went in front of point down the hill, there you go Lisa have some more running….

Stocksfield 81-3 (20 overs, B. Veal 33*)

Required rate 4.05 an over.

Lisa and myself to open with a very clear plan. Get through 10 overs, see off Emily Ward in the process then kick on.

Katherine Dixon opened the school end bowling that wide outside of off stump is a really bad idea to me especially in T20 because I’m not going to resist going after them and although in the first couple of overs I was cover driving straight Selina and not getting any runs, when I found the middle of my bat it was “please keep bowling there”.

Lisa continued her excellent timing with some crunching blows and we started to build the innings.

Emily was bowling very straight as she always does but she was also cutting the ball, it was hard to get away and genuine patience was required but we managed to get enough runs from her bowling that we were more than on track. Taking advantage of some lax fielding and poor throwing arms we pushed the running. I even chose to run a 3. After that we agreed we are the un-fittest opening pair in the league and resorted to boundaries and singles, the occasional 2 may have creeped in every so often when it had to be done.

At 10 overs we were around the 50 mark with their best bowler bowled out. In control and ready to push on.

Sarah Moore got a caning as we looked to wrap things up in quick time. Slow and loopy she brought out my only clear slog of the night, hop forward out of my crease, pretty much all bottom hand through midwicket up the hill 4. It was help yourself bowling and we both did.

Beth Veal’s spin was a mixed bag of good, alright and dreadful. I like Beth’s action, she’s keeps tall with a high release, more revs she’d get really good drift, with practice she could make a good spinner. I did some work with her in my last season at Stocksfield to teach her however she is also a wicket keeper so match practice could be an issue… Still time is on her side.

The scoreboard rattled on… 81, scores level, pull, 4, job done. The rest of the team robbed of any batting.

Corbridge 1st 85-0 (14.2 overs Lisa Scott 42*, me 38* (the 30’s trend continues)) 15 points beat Stocksfield 2nd’s (2 batting points) to take us top of the league.

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Corbridge 1st v Benwell Hill 20/5/15

Benwell Hill’s run of wins came to a halt at Kirkley on Friday but after beating South North, Tillside and Gateshead they weren’t to be taken lightly.

Benwell Hill won the toss and elected to bowl.

Back to the usual pair as myself and Lisa opened. Back to 8 aside. Back to gaps in the field. We took advantage of a field that started too far back and some erratic bowling. The ball was pinging off the bat and even with the boundaries a fair way back, 4’s were coming easily. With Lisa was timing the ball beautifully and me was indulging in some “how hard can I hit the ball?” fun we were motoring and even four overs in a big team score was on the cards. I was starting to think 150+ as a total. Bit early to be thinking that big but that was the way it felt.

When Lisa thumped back and double bouncer with too much bottom hand the bowler took a great reaction catch, an inch either side and she’d have been fine as it was it was straight back. This brought Yves to the crease and she made me run far harder than I usually do. She even made me run 3 much to the delight of my team mates. 1, 2 or 4. 3’s are the punishment for not hitting the ball hard enough as far as I’m concerned.

With the bowling not offering a huge threat I was being more than a bit “village”, there was slogging going on. However looking to run a ball into the leg side, missing, the ball which was down leg side hit the inside of my thigh and rolled onto the stumps, bails off. Fun over. I was kicking myself for getting out when there was a big score begging, it was worse when I saw the score book. 33. Out in the thirties again. There’s a habit forming and I don’t like it.

Ellie came in and had a tough time as she couldn’t get her shots on the off side going. Yves however kept the scoreboard moving with a full array from tip and run to full blooded strokes. It was great to see her batting with confidence.

100 was the must. Chasing 5 an over is a psychological blow. Anything over is a plus.

When Ellie was out Jenny only had a couple of overs to bat but she made the most of them with a quick fire 20*.

129-3 (Yves Benfold 41*)

Ellie and myself to open the bowling. Ellie struck first ball, LBW. It set the tone for an excellent spell of pace. I struggled to find any rhythm or my run up, I wasn’t getting hit but it was uncomfortable and a struggle.

Benwell weren’t going anywhere. Their young players struggling to get the ball away and losing wickets. Sally Anderson offered good resistance and Annie Anderson looks a real player for the future. Yves continued her excellent form with the ball picking up 2 wickets for only 1 run. Yves is very tricky to face even as an experienced batsmen, left arm spin with difficult to pick pace variation it’s not easy to set up to.

Jen bowled with good flight and was unlucky not to get any wickets. She picked up some unfair stick from me in the field. When I’m bowling badly, or not even badly but when I’m not bowling the way I expect of myself frustration kicks in and I get narky. Fielders cop it. I try not to because it’s nobody’s fault but my own but sometimes I can’t help it.

Lisa turned her arm over for a spell. 4 overs for 9 runs. Sandra Tiffin picked up a great caught and bowled.

We got a bit of stick from the side lines for not treating this game more as a friendly and not being indecently kind to their young players (umpire asking the bat if they had hit it, no, oh sorry that’s LBW). These are county youngsters who will be playing the likes of Durham, Lancashire, Cumbria who will give no quarter, they shouldn’t be wanting teams to be bending over to help them. The fact is that it was a league match, not a friendly and however hard it is the watch a young team, young players struggling, we were not looking to humiliate them or play too hard but we could only play the team in front of us and we wanted to win.

And if they had won, they wouldn’t have let us forget it. We were the better team, their time will come.

Corbridge 1st beat Benwell Hill by 75 runs.

Corbridge 1st 15 points. Benwell Hill 2 points. (1 batting, 1 bowling)

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Corbridge / Kirkley v Gateshead Fell / South North / Newcastle 17/5/15

Corkley v Newcastle United, as dubbed by the players.

35 over women’s Knock out cup match, 1.30pm at Corbridge.

With the 11 aside premier league gone the 35 over games have turned into a knock out cup format with teams able to combine to field sides in the competition. Although 35 overs isn’t everyone cup of tea, it is good to be able to play a longer format of women’s cricket outside of county fixtures.

United won the toss and elected to bowl.

It was looking a little dicey at 1.15 with only 5 of our players on the ground however by start time (maybe a little later than 1.30) we were all present and accounted for, thankfully because having asked not to open (or bat at 3), it was looking like I might not get my wish as one of our openers was MIA finally Rachael “not the night” Gillott arrived on site, padded up and opened with Lisa.

With 11 fielders it was a very different feel and challenge from our 8 aside games, gaps in the field were filled and scoring wasn’t as easy. Gillott was looking in good touch though, timing the ball well and looking set for a big one.

As Lisa struggled to get going she started searching for runs, frustration got the better of her and she had a pull across the line to a straight one. Rhianna fresh from her good innings midweek looked to get herself settled in and get going but was cut short again playing across the line.

I found myself in far earlier than I would have liked although I was quite happy to play myself in taking on the bad ball and let Rach take on the scoring but when she was caught, it forced a change in mind set.

United were on top. We’d lost too many wickets too quickly and with an age still to bat it was time to grind it out for a while and make sure we batted all our overs. With Jen as company and continuing her good foam, we settled things down.

Some erratic bowling helped our cause but it was hard work and for me it was a case of batting long and sensibly. With a bit of swing around especially for Hilary, a point and a gully stationed, I put away the drive even though there was a lovely gap at mid off begging to thump the ball back down the ground, the fear was however that I would go at it too hard, with too much bottom hand and get caught as is fairly common, I preferred to wait until she went off line for the pull and picking up singles.

When Jen departed there were still plenty of overs left but we had succeeded in getting our innings back on an even keel. We now had wickets in hand, their best bowlers taken off so they could come back for the final 4 overs. The stage was set to push on, Jenny was the perfect batsman for the job and when she relaxed as the nerves quelled (Hilary coming off helped) she started to hit the ball hard and far, racking up the runs.

Around the 28 over mark the aim was for 130 the hope was closer to 150 and we started to put fielders under pressure taking on singles that I hadn’t been taking before (I didn’t want a run out when we were rebuilding and I openly admit to being a lazy runner anyway). I started taking on shots I had been stopping myself playing and just when I felt set to really go after the bowling I got a pitch and roll. I was looking to play to the legside, as soon as it pitched and died I knew I was done for, there was no way to get my bat down to defend it.

Jenny kept scoring, Rachel Foreman had a bash, Ellie Tiffin continuing her good form with the bat and timed the ball sweetly, Yves pushed the running between the wicket as she always does, turning 1’s into 2’s, and hitting some nice shots as well, the momentum was with us and we reached a creditable 144-7. Just over 4 an over is a decent scoring rate.

No ducks as everyone who batted contributed. I top scored with 36 (another 20+ overs for a score in the 30’s, unamused with myself) Jenny Wilkes’ 34 had a far better strike rate and was much more entertaining.

A great spread for tea. I find it really weird having tea mid match in a women’s game, years of weeknight match conditioning have taken their toll.

A good tactical discussion thwarted a little when the players we thought would be opening the batting weren’t but there was a plan and we stuck to it.

Rachael Douse to open from the rugby end started very well, bowling with good control. I opened the river end as we went with the pace from one end, spin from the other which had worked well at Gateshead midweek. As we picked up wickets and got into the middle order United were rocking. Hilary and Rachael Stillwell steadied them as we thought they would.

Rhianna found good, almost booming swing, combined with her pace it made her a real handful. Ellie, they again found hard to face, bowling a good line and length. 4 overs for only 6 runs certainly pushed their required rate up.

When Hilary was forced to retire hurt having fallen hard, tripping as she slid her bat on a tight run United’s chances were fading fast. The introduction of Yves firmly hammered down the nails in the coffin as their tail collapsed.

63-9 (27.1 overs). Corkley won by 81 runs.

It was an excellent team performance all round. Batting, bowling and we were good in the field. Glynnis Foreman had great reactions and football at short fine leg and Lisa made some great stops at leg slip too.

It was a good match, a really good win with some quality cricket played by both sides.

Next round for “Corkly” is verses Stocksfield who didn’t have to play as Penrith conceded.

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Matfen Hall v Prudhoe 16/5/15

Last week while I was away with work the entire of the division one matches were washed out robbing the team of playing at Newton, one of the nicest grounds in our division.

So it was back to Saturday cricket after a break to welcome a struggling Prudhoe team, the talent is there, but they’re struggling to get a team out. The loss of players that played regularly for them to Stocksfield and Corbridge have ravaged their side leaving them very thin on the ground. It’s a sad state of affairs for a club with a long history, my Grandad Captained when they were known as West Wylam.

On flip side for Matfen it was a really good to see 7 of our team were under 19’s, although it makes the rest of us feel old. There are enough players in the squad to allow for rotation and although we’ll still have weeks when we’re having to look around a bit, it’s far healthier than a couple of years ago when it could be a real headache.

Matfen won the toss and elected to bat on a fresh green wicket. With the boundaries brought in to offer more value for shots 150-180 was the guestimate on a good score.

Hamish Kennett and Tom Scott to open, they went about building a good opening stand against the Prudhoe seamers. Hamish playing himself in and finding fluency early. Tom finding it harder to get going, he ran hard and saw the shine off before he was given out LBW which looked a little high.

Hamish relished the switch to spin with some big hits out towards the road, one over the hedge, ball to be found in the field over. He said he liked facing spin and didn’t disappoint. As he continued to build his innings (and count every run he had scored) wicket were falling at the other end. Max run out backing up. James D’Arcy a quick fire 11. Louis Charlton on debut stuck around longer than most as a Matfen collapse struck. 130-4 to 154 all out.

I got my first duck of the season, and I think it was also the first duck for a Matfen player this season. At least it wasn’t first ball. A bit of nip away, genuine edge, caught backward point. At least I wasn’t alone in the duck fines as Aaron followed and unfortunately for Prudhoe it fired him up for bowling.

The innings held together by Hamish who carried his bat for a brilliant 106*.

After a nicely balanced tea and a bit of a breather for Hamish, not for too long though. Aaron opened the bowling, fully fired up and hostile, he was steaming in with Hamish at the village end the pair made life very difficult for Prudhoe and did damage. With both having to be spelled for age restrictions the attack rotated with Tom Scott, Ross Colesky and a pacey and accurate James D’Arcy taking up the challenge.

Prudhoe staged a recovery through Coulson and Ryan Chamberlain, the former hard hitting and the latter batting sensibly they took the game to us.

I had a bit of an interesting solitary over, Coulson dispatching me for 12 including a big 6 towards the pavilion. I dropped a caught and bowled, he fair hammered it back and it would have been a good catch but instead I ended up with a bruised hand.

With the scoreboard rattling on it took the return of a seriously fired up Aaron to restore order and take the match away from Prudhoe. His first spell was good. His second was brilliant. Serious pace, great control he cleaned up Coulson and ripped out 2 others, it could have easily been more as he tormented the batsmen. It was an excellent spell and something we’ve always known he was more than capable of and want to see more of.

12 overs 4 maidens 21 runs 5 wickets. His first 5for for Matfen, first of many.

Matfen won by 43 runs. 12 points. Prudhoe 5 points.

Prudhoe were already talking about having to concede next week because of football commitments. No one wants to see them fold and there are players who are determined that it won’t happen but if they do concede next week they will be docked 12 points as they had already conceded to Haltwhistle their chances of remaining in the first division look slim.

The fines box had a lot of donations not least from myself, duck, dropped catch, falling over when throwing the ball in, it was a very expensive match. Current total in the box £66.13 and there’s money owing. Maybe I should start charging interest.

Big thank you to Eddie for wicket / ground prep, Claire for scoring and everyone for a good game.

Next up for Matfen a trip to Haltwhistle, a generally hostile team with a lot of talented players it will be a challenge and likely a very interesting match.

The league has already had some unexpected results. Newton, Haltwhistle and Wylam are all going well however it’s Stocksfield 3rd’s quietly ticking away who are the only unbeaten side left.

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