The Women’s County Championship was instituted in 1997 to replace the old Area Championship, which was played over a long weekend at Cambridge.
It’s a 4-division domestic competition, run on a similar basis to the men’s county championship. There are, though, some key differences:
The matches are all 50-over games. There is no multi-day domestic women’s cricket in England.
It isn’t professional, or even semi-professional. All players (outside of the contracted 18 England squad) play simply for the love of the game. In most cases they are actually paying to play, because they have to fund kit and travel costs themselves.
Thought Berkshire were a Minor County? Think again! In the women’s championship they play in Division 1. The men’s and women’s games developed separately historically; therefore counties don’t necessarily play at the same level in both games.
It’s played over six weekends between May and September. The full schedule is here.
Division 1 – Berkshire, Kent, Lancashire, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Yorkshire.
Division 2 – Devon, Durham, Essex, Ireland, Scotland, Somerset, Staffordshire, Wales, Worcestershire.
Division 3 – Cheshire, Derbyshire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, Netherlands, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Suffolk.
Division 4 South & West – Buckinghamshire, Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Wiltshire.
Division 4 North & East – Cambridgeshire, Cumbria, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northumberland.
Women’s county matches are rarely played at the men’s county grounds (though Kent, Sussex and Surrey are all playing at least once at their men’s grounds this season, as are many of the division 3 counties, including Northants, Derbyshire and Hampshire). They can sometimes be held in fairly obscure places, but the pitches are generally of good quality – and you can still watch right from the boundary edge.
Again, you can find full details on the full schedule, here.
Women’s county matches are usually free to attend (though Kent are charging £5 entry this season for home games). The players will be paying more to play than you would to attend!
You’d think it would be the team with the most points, right? Not necessarily. There are a maximum of 18 points available per match (10 points for a win, and up to 8 bonus points). Then, at the end of the season, the number of points a team finishes with is averaged out, based on the number of games they have completed. (Matches are often cancelled and it can be difficult to rearrange them.) The winner is the team with the highest average.
This means that it is possible for a team to finish the season with a higher number of points but not top their division. For example, in 2014 Lancashire gained 109 points and Somerset gained 113 points in total. However, Lancashire topped Division 2 and were promoted because one of their matches was cancelled and they therefore finished with a higher average.
WHAT DO THEY WIN?
WHO GETS RELEGATED?
Last season, there were play-off matches. This year the bottom two teams in Divisions 1 and 2 will be automatically relegated, and the top two teams in Divisions 2 and 3 promoted.
TEAMS TO WATCH?
Kent and Sussex have traditionally been the “Big Two” – no other team has won the championship since 2002. Kent have 5 contracted England players in their squad, and were last year’s winners.
WHAT ABOUT TWENTY20?
There is a separate women’s Twenty20 competition which is based on round-robin leagues.
The Twenty20 winners also get a cup. A different cup, though.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2015?
This is the first year that teams will be playing with a white ball and coloured clothing, despite the fact that the women’s county championship has always been a one-day competition.
WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION?
Some of the men’s county websites have information on their women’s sides, though this is a bit hit and miss! Your best bet is to follow CRICKETher throughout the season, as we will feature news and match reports. Both Martin Davies and Don Miles also cover women’s county cricket on their blogs, so do check those out as well.