There is someone playing in the WBBL finals this weekend who has been player of the match in a World T20 final and a World Cup final. Someone who has reached the highest level of two sports and still plays both concurrently at the domestic level.
The Melbourne Renegades captain Jess Duffin is one of the form players of the tournament making 500 runs at an average of 71.72 with five half-centuries including three in a row leading into the finals weekend. But Duffin can’t quite work out where her form has come from.
“It’s a good question,” Duffin told ESPNcricinfo. “I haven’t really thought about it too much to be honest. I went into the season the same way I have every other year but as I explained to other people in the past, it’s T20 cricket, anything can happen, it’s a bit up and down.”
Duffin’s sporting resume is quite remarkable. In an era where female cricketers are becoming national icons, Duffin appears, at times, to be persona non grata. In part, it is because her international cricket career came to a sudden halt four years ago and it came under a different name.
Jess Cameron, as she was known prior to getting married, had a stellar international career for Australia. She has played in three World T20 triumphs for Australia and was player of the match in the 2012 final against England scoring 45 off 34 balls.
Her ODI record was even better. She made 75 from 76 balls in the 2013 final against West Indies.
But she hasn’t played for Australia since 2015, stepping away from international level by choice at just 26. While still playing domestic cricket in the WBBL, she has instead been playing Australian Rules Football, starring in the AFLW for North Melbourne, earning a place in the All Australian team, the league’s team of the season, earlier this year.
Duffin has made the WBBL team of the year this season as captain after leading the Renegades to another semi-final. Of the eight players to have made 400 runs or more, she has the highest strike-rate, 140.05, by some margin and is the only player who doesn’t currently play international cricket.
After years of worrying about her own form and her own performance she has discovered that the captaincy, which was thrust upon her due to Amy Satterthwaite’s pregnancy, might be the secret to success.
“In the past couple of years I probably haven’t really backed myself in terms of trying to get the team over the line,” Duffin said. “But this year with the captaincy…I don’t get time to think about myself because I’m trying to help them in the situation we have in front of us. So it’s probably been a good thing not focussing on myself too much.
“I think it’s just more about understanding the game of T20 cricket. I haven’t really had to think about it in the past because we’ve had other captains do all that sort of thinking for us. So I’ve had to do a lot of work behind the scenes in terms of looking at footage and watching other people play.”
Studying vision of opposition to gain a competitive advantage has helped Duffin guide her young middle order through some tricky chases. She admitted it was something she didn’t do enough of in her six-year international career.
“We used to do it as a group when we were sitting in batting and bowling meetings and stuff like that but I didn’t go the extra mile and have a look myself,” she said. “So that’s probably one area I’ve probably been a bit better at, just in terms of my research. But I think that’s because I’m captain and I kind of need to know what these players are doing. I’ve tended to watch a bit more than normal.”
Duffin’s form has now raised questions about a recall to the Australia side for the T20 World Cup next February. But her availability is complicated. She declined the opportunity to play for Australia A against India A in an upcoming series and the 2020 AFLW season clashes with the T20 World Cup in March.
Complicating matters further, Duffin doesn’t even know what she would like to do.
“Not really,” Duffin said. “I haven’t really thought about it to be honest. I know there’s been a lot of talk about my selection and stuff and I haven’t had any contact with the selectors at all and you look at that [Australian] line-up and think ‘well, where am I sitting?’. There’s some really good players in there at the moment and my sole focus this weekend is to make sure we come out on top on Sunday.”
For now, Australia, North Melbourne, her personal training work, her husband and her dogs all run a distant second to leading the Renegades to victory and atoning for last year’s heartbreaking semi-final loss against the Sydney Sixers in a super over.
The Renegades have been shorn of their two England stars Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont, but they have gained Chamari Atapattu who made a century against Australia in October in Brisbane.
“Hopefully she can do what she did the Australians a couple of months ago and dominate on Saturday,” Duffin said. “With the ball, we’ve obviously got Lea Tahuhu upfront and Molly Strano has been doing a really good job for us throughout the middle so we can throw the ball to anyone at any time and anyone can step up.
“We do match up well against [the Brisbane Heat]. I think it’s about going in with a pretty clear plan and obviously we know they like to score big so it’s just trying to restrict that. They’ve got Beth Mooney and Jess Jonassen up the top who are in some really good form so it’s just having the right plans for them and just obviously going out and executing.”
The Heat will need their own plans for the unassuming Duffin, who has reminded everyone this year just how good she is.
Faf du Plessis under scrutiny after Jos Buttler ‘barge’
Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s captain, could be in trouble with the match referee after appearing to make physical contact with Jos Buttler on the fourth afternoon in Johannesburg.
With du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen batting together for more than 30 overs on a brutally hot day, England appeared to be growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of movement they were generating from the ball and, it seemed, du Plessis’ habit of picking the ball up after playing a stroke and returning it to the fielders.
At one stage, du Plessis was hit on the pads by a throw from Sam Curran, who was fielding at mid-on. That appeared to lead to an exchange of words between du Plessis and several of the fielding side. As the players converged, du Plessis appeared to deliberately walk into Buttler before continuing his verbal altercation with Stuart Broad.
After the game, with South Africa beaten by 191 runs, du Plessis played down the incident, saying he was just trying to show fight and did not realise he had come into contact with Buttler.
“It’s part of my character,” he said. “I am always involved in a little bit of something somewhere in the game. Trying to show that fight as the leader the team, that you don’t stand back. It’s not like I am looking for it. It just happens. He said something to me and I said something back.
“I don’t think we knew we touched each other. It was just myself and Broady having a go. He [Buttler] was just trying to get between myself and him. There was no malicious thing. He was trying to diffuse the situation. He didn’t do anything wrong there. It was just words from Broady.”
While the contact was far from violent, the ICC’s code of conduct states that “any form of inappropriate physical contact is prohibited in cricket. Without limitation, players will breach this regulation if they deliberately, recklessly and/or negligently walk or run into or shoulder another player or umpire.”
Such an incident is considered either a Level 1 or Level 2 offence and carries a maximum penalty of four demerit points, which would also bring an automatic suspension. It may not help du Plessis’ case that he is an experienced player and his side’s captain. As such, the match referee may expect him to set an example.
England’s captain, Joe Root, was sympathetic, however, describing it as a moment of “handbags”.
“I thought Faf was trying to use it as an opportunity to get himself going and get himself in the contest and my worry was that it was going to work in his favour,” he said. “There was absolutely nothing. It was handbags. Given what’s happened in this series, it may become a big thing but it was absolutely nothing.”
Moments after the incident, du Plessis’ miserable series was ended when a delivery from Ben Stokes kept horribly low and ricocheted into the stumps of a bottom edge. It meant du Plessis had failed to reach 40 in the entire series and took his side close to a 3-1 home defeat. Speculation is rife that this will be du Plessis’ final Test as captain and possibly his final Test as a player.
“It happens, that’s not me outside my bubble,” du Plessis added. “It just got a bit heated. That’s not out of my character. If you say something towards me, I will say something back. It doesn’t cause me to concentrate less. They got a ball to stay low.”
Buttler attracted the ire of the South Africa players for abusing Vernon Philander earlier in the series. Buttler was fined 15% of his match fee and received one demerit point for the episode. Philander, Stokes and Kagiso Rabada have also been punished for disciplinary issues during the Tests.
‘Nice to see things falling into place’ – Joe Root encouraged by Test team’s progress
Joe Root believes England have found a template that can help them win the 2021-22 Ashes in Australia. While delighted by the 3-1 victory over South Africa, Root was also encouraged that his team had found a method that could serve them well in future challenges.
In particular, England’s captain was thrilled by the prospect of taking two fast bowlers to Australia and the progress his side had made in adopting to a new approach to Test cricket. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood both claimed five-wicket hauls during the series to help the England attack bowl South Africa out twice in all four Tests – something they have historically struggled to do with the Kookaburra ball – while England’s batsmen, embracing a more cautious approach, posted totals of 400 or more in successive innings for the first time since March 2013. They also recorded three individual centuries, while South Africa’s batsmen didn’t make any.
“We’ve got a great template to work around and it’s nice to see it falling into place,” Root said. “We put things in place this winter about the way we want to play. It has taken time and it will continue to take time for us to stay consistent and adapt to different conditions but we are learning quickly.
“It would have made a big difference to have Jofra and Woody in Australia last time, I do believe that. It’s something you feel that you need in those conditions.
“One of our big learnings as a team is that we have taken 20 wickets in every game. That is something we have struggled with in the past when abroad with a Kookaburra ball.
“There’s still a huge amount of Test cricket to be played before the Ashes. But this does give us confidence and it also gives us knowledge about how to perform on wickets that might be similar.”
Most of all, though, Root was proud of how his side reacted to the adversity they experienced in the opening weeks of the tour and the manner in which young players had come into the side and “taken their chance”. England lost four players who could reasonably be described as first choice – James Anderson, Jack Leach, Rory Burns and Archer – to illness and injury for most of the tour, while their performance in the first Test was hindered by the sickness bug that swept through the camp. But Dom Sibley and Ollie Pope scored maiden Test centuries, while Dom Bess claimed a maiden five-wicket haul. All three are aged 24 or younger.
“It has been a huge effort by the players, the support staff and the management,” Root said. “We have had to dig deep collectively. It would have been very easy for us to go off the rails after that first game but we stuck tight together. Even losing Burnsy and Jimmy we made sure it was not going to change how we went about things and it gave opportunities for young guys to take their chance.
“I’m really pleased not only that the young guys have stood up on this tour, but that the senior players have created an environment that allows that to happen. Young guys are coming into a very good environment and succeeding. The senior players are providing that environment and delivering as well. I am really proud of everyone.
“The last afternoon in Cape Town was probably the turning point of the series. For us to finish off that game was fabulous. We caught very well and we took our opportunities with time running out through just sheer hard work and determination. I think that gave us a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence.
“A big part of our three teams is our three pillars: courage, respect and unity. We have shown those in abundance throughout this trip and it has made a massive difference to our performances on the field.”
Despite his joy, Root accepted England had a long way to go before they could considered themselves the finished article.
“We’ve done extremely well in the last three games but in the last three years we’ve not been consistent enough,” Root said. “We’re very open about that.
“We go to Sri Lanka next and then we have three big games at home against West Indies. So it’s a great opportunity to string a number of good performances together. We’ve got to keep looking to get better and keep developing.”
Glamorgan appoint Chris Cooke, David Lloyd captains for 2020
Glamorgan will be led by Chris Cooke and David Lloyd next season after a captaincy reshuffles. Cooke continues as Championship captain while also taking charge of the T20 side, while Lloyd will step up for the Royal London Cup, when Cook will be absent at the Hundred.
Cook, 33, oversaw Glamorgan’s best Championship campaign since 2015, as the club kept alive promotion hopes until the final weeks before finishing fourth. He adds the Blast captaincy for 2020, with Colin Ingram relinquishing the role.
“It was an honour to lead the club last year and I’m delighted to continue in the role,” Cooke said. “We saw a lot of improvement in our County Championship performances last season and it’s something we want to take into the Vitality Blast.
“It’s going to be an exciting season and we can’t wait to get started and hit the ground running in April.”
Allrounder Lloyd, 27, has been a regular member of the List A side since 2014 and took charge in one Royal London Cup game last season.
“I thoroughly enjoyed stepping in as captain and it’s a really proud moment to be asked to lead the side in the Royal London Cup,” Lloyd said. “We have a great bunch of lads at the club and a lot of talent in the squad, so there is no reason why we can’t build on last season’s improvement and reach the knockout stages of the competition.”
Cooke will be absent with Birmingham Phoenix during the Hundred, which will also feature Ingram, who was signed as a ‘local icon’ by Welsh Fire.
Glamorgan’s director of cricket, Mark Wallace, said: “Chris did a fantastic job in his first season in charge and led the side with a great deal of enthusiasm and skill. He commands a lot of respect in the dressing room and deserves the opportunity to carry on his good work from last year and take the club forward.
“It’s also great news for Glamorgan that David is taking over the 50-over captaincy. He showed many leadership qualities last year and did a good job under tough circumstances when he deputised for Chris.”
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