WNCL expands for 2019-20 to boost women's game
Two extra games per state for the women's premier 50-over competition will further strengthen depth of talent, says national stars
Laura Jolly in Bristol
30 July 2019, 08:00 AM AEST
An extended Women's National Cricket League season is a step in the right direction for the women's domestic 50-over competition that will only continue to increase Australia's depth, NSW captain Alyssa Healy believes.
The revamped schedule, released by Cricket Australia this morning, will see each of the seven teams play eight one-day domestic games this summer, up from the six they've played across each of the past nine seasons.
"It's something the players have been pushing for, for a period of time since the number of games decreased a little while ago," Healy told cricket.com.au.
"It's one of our biggest domestic competitions and we want to make sure if remains really strong, so the addition of a couple of extra games will give a lot of the younger players throughout our country a good opportunity to play good quality cricket.
"I'd love to see it get back to (a full home-and-away season), some of my best memories of when I first started playing for the Breakers was that very thing."
The 2019-20 edition of the WNCL will kick off on September 21, with four days of matches to be played in Brisbane and Adelaide, with each team playing twice.
The remainder of the season will be played throughout January and February, after the completion of the first standalone season of the Rebel WBBL and before the pre-T20 World Cup tri-series between Australia, England and India.
The squeeze on scheduling with Australia's women in the midst of their busiest-ever year means the national's top players will likely miss that opening round as they make their way back their tour of the West Indies running from late August to mid-September, but they'll be available for the main block of matches in early 2020.
The final will be played on February 16, with the teams finishing first and second on the table to meet at the home venue of the minor premiers.
"It's the best place for our younger players, and older players as well, to learn about their games and develop so we need to make sure that competition stays strong," Healy said.
"Playing as many games as we can get in there will do that."
The next edition of the 50-over World Cup will be held in New Zealand in early 2021 and Healy believes adding more one-day cricket into the schedule will benefit not only Australia's current crop, but the next generation of up-and-coming talent.
"The way the international schedule is going at the moment, we're available less for WNCL which creates opportunities for young players to put their hands up for selection for Australia," Healy said.
"It's going to create depth for our Australian team. We're not too far out from a one-day World Cup and there's a lot of young players who are desperate for opportunities to show what they can do."
The strength of Australia's domestic competitions, and the depth it's created at the top level, has been highlighted by both current and former players – from both sides of the fence – as one of the differences between Australia and England in the ongoing women's Ashes series.
With just one T20I remaining in the seven-game, multi-format series, Australia have yet to be defeated. They swept the three ODIs, drew the Test and have won the two T20Is played to date.
If they win Wednesday's final match in Bristol, they'll be the first team to make it through a multi-format Ashes without tasting defeat since the introduction of the points-based system in 2013 – a feat that would be a remarkable achievement over the world's second-ranked team.
While both Australia and England's top tier of players are fully professional, only Australia boast a semi-professional domestic set-up, with 14 players contracted at each of the seven State sides alongside the 14 who hold Cricket Australia contracts.
"England are a phenomenal side and have been dominant over the last five or six years and they're world champions in the ODI format, so to be in the position that we are with one game to go it does surprise me a little bit," Australia allrounder Ellyse Perry said on Sunday.
"But I guess it speaks volumes for how much our team has developed over the last six months and also how important our professional set-up is back home.
"It's not just the 15 girls here, there's also the other 13 players (who were on the Australia A tour) and the domestic players back home who are literally training all year round now.
"That's been the case for a couple of years and I think it's starting to really show up and pay dividends."
The England and Wales Cricket Board currently hand out 21 full-time international contracts each year, but women's county cricket remains an amateur competition – something the ECB is addressing in a shake-up of the competition next year, which will see the introduction of eight 'professional counties' or Centres of Excellence.
"You see how Australia have gone about their things, the number of players that are coming into their squad, (they've got) 20-year-old superstars," England batter Tammy Beaumont said on Sunday.
"But it will take time, it's not a quick fix by any means."
CommBank Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Nicole Bolton, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham
England T20 squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Amy Jones, Laura Marsh, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danni Wyatt
Australia lead England 12-2
First ODI: Australia won by two wickets
Second ODI: Australia won by four wickets
Third ODI: Australia won by 194 runs
Only Test: Match Drawn
First T20: Australia won by 93 runs
July 28: Australia won by seven wickets