In each of our regular New Bulletins Raf Nicholson writes her observations on promoting women's cricket. You can read the latest edition below.
I am now back in hibernation for the winter, but at least – like many of you, I hope – I now have some happy memories from the cricket season to keep me going through the colder months. September was the ECB’s “Women’s Cricket Month” and it passed in a flurry of fixtures – quite a feat given that Clare Connor had warned us back in April that we might go the whole season with no women’s cricket at all.
I spent a week in a hotel room in Derby (a city which certainly earned the ironic nickname of “Derbados”) for England’s series v West Indies. Entering the “biosecure bubble” was quite an experience – pre-series testing, an electronic “health passport” to carry, a daily temperature check, and a completely separate segment of the ground for the written press. Due to COVID, we also had our match-day meals individually delivered to our desks in a brown paper bag with our names on. I was amused to find that on one occasion my paper bag was labelled “Roy Nicholson” – perhaps a typo somewhere along the way?!
Unlike the BBC and Sky, who took over the indoor media centre, written press were housed in an outdoor marquee which was almost completely open to the elements. I don’t think I have ever felt so cold: it is actually quite an impressive feat to type a 600-word match report when you can’t feel your own fingers. But of course it would be churlish to complain about being one of the few people privileged enough to watch the series live and in-person. The five T20s may not have been the most competitive you’ll ever see – England pulled off a series clean-sweep with relative ease – but the heroic efforts of West Indies to get some cricket up and running at the eleventh hour after both India and South Africa pulled out of a planned tri-series should be wholeheartedly applauded by us all.
Syd and I were also fortunate enough to get accreditation to cover every round of the domestic Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. Women’s domestic cricket has traditionally been played on questionable club pitches, but perhaps the one silver lining of COVID bio-security was the fact this year’s Trophy was entirely based at first-class grounds. The batting generally reflected that. Watching Southern Vipers’ captain Georgia Adams hit 154* at the Ageas Bowl has to be one of the highlights of my journalistic career to date.
Then, of course, there was the final at Edgbaston, dominated by the performance of a 26-year-old “unknown” spinner from Hampshire – Charlotte Taylor. In a spell which utterly baffled the BBC and Sky commentators, who were scarcely aware of her name before the final, Taylor took six wickets for 34 runs across her 10 overs – the best return by any bowler across the entire competition. In a matter of minutes Taylor, who bamboozled the opposition batsmen with her arm-ball, became the unexpected hero of the hour, as Vipers romped home by 38 runs. I’m delighted to say that she was subsequently named as the Cricket Society’s Best Newcomer in the RHF Trophy.
At age 26, Taylor exemplifies what the new women’s regional structure is all about – she won’t be getting an England call-up any time soon; and she won’t ever earn her entire living from cricket. She works for an aerospace company, selling aeroplane parts, and is fortunate enough that her employers allow her the flexibility to have time off to train and play cricket when she needs it. But the opportunity to have access to a professional set-up, and train year-round, is nonetheless a transformative one for her.
At the end of a strange and difficult season, that feels like something to celebrate.