Minor League Cricket has major sponsor
One of the consistent features of cricket in the USA - other than terrible administration - has been a failure to engage those parts of the population not from a cricketing culture. Nothing has shown this more than sponsors that have been involved.
The usual sponsors of cricket in the US are TV Channels aimed at the subcontinental immigrant community, companies for sending money to Indian the like.
So it is refreshing to see that the upcoming inaugural Minor League Cricket season is sponsored by major brands that will be familiar to everyone in America - Toyota and Sling TV. They were announced as the title sponsors at a recent press conference to launch the 27 team league which begins at the end of this month.
Over 200 matches are scheduled from 31 July to 19 September with a finals weekend set for early October.
The choice of Toyota and Sling TV is perhaps a sign that USA Cricket is serious about making the sport more visible to the communities that don't traditionally follow the sport. Not all is perfect though - one of the Atlanta teams is named after an Indian military honour.
The Maltese Fracas
It's an unfortunate truth that associate cricket often breaks through into the mainstream cricket media when something bad happens, be it a team losing heavily, comical administration or, as was the case in Malta last week, ill-discipline.
An otherwise uninteresting five match T20I series between Malta and Belgium made headlines in The Cricketer, Wisden and elsewhere after a result was overturned when Malta were belatedly awarded five penalty runs. The exact details of what happened are still something of a mystery as no ICC statement has been made. All we know is that Belgian captain Shaheryar Butt abused/threatened an umpire during the innings break, with the decision to allocate penalty runs not happening until the end of the Malta run chase, by which time the home team had been bowled out three runs short of the Belgian total.
Associate member bilaterals are played under slightly relaxed playing conditions, such as allowing non-turf pitches and not having an ICC match referee, which may have caused the issue with the late award of penalty runs. Instead, an referee is appointed only if needed and even then only remotely. This appears to have been the case here.
One thing that associate cricket definitely doesn't need is any controversy linked to these relaxed playing conditions. They are certainly needed in order to allow more teams to play without onerous financial outlays, but incidents such as this may give the ICC second thoughts on some of them.
Germany on record chasing run
Germany's women's team completed a five match sweep of their French counterparts in a T20I series last week, extending their winning run to 14. The run started in Oman in February 2020 and has also seen them sweep a series against Austria last year.
It is the third longest winning run in women's T20Is, equal with the also ongoing 14 match winning run by Zimbabwe - who haven't played a T20I since May 2019 and a run of 14 wins by England from October 2011 to September 2012.
Next in Germany's sights will be the 16 match winning run by Australia and then the current record of 17 wins in a row by Thailand from July 2018 to August 2019.
Unless any extra predatory series are announced though, it will be a tough ask for Germany to equal - never mind surpass - the record. Their next scheduled cricket is the European qualifier for the 2022 T20 World Cup next month. Whilst they will be backing themselves against France and Turkey, picking up wins against regional heavyweights Ireland, Netherlands and Scotland will be a much tougher proposition.
Germany are improving though and are putting a lot of resources into women's cricket. The series against France was the first played at their new national cricket centre in Krefeld. Several associates are seeing women's cricket as the route to global success, notably Brazil who have already given their women's team central contracts ahead of their men's team. Can Germany do what Thailand did and make it all the way to the T20 World Cup?