Back in May 2015, a bright dawn of optimism broke over women’s cricket in Lancashire. Newly promoted to Div 1 of the Women’s County Championship, the Lancashire Thunder – as they were known before that moniker was later taken over by the Super League team – promised great things. There was shiny new kit, a joint media day at Old Trafford with the men’s team, and a heap of press coverage, including an interview with then-captain Jas Titmuss in All Out Cricket.
Then the cricket started… and it all came crashing down.
Lancashire Thunder lost all 8 of their games in the County Championship that year, their season going from bad to worse as they were bowled out for 86 and 113 in their last two matches. They ended the season in last place on just 23 points. Notts – who finished just one place above them, and were also relegated – had 68.
Fast-forward two-and-a-bit years, however, and we are tweeting this:
Lancashire – now back in Div 1 in both formats – have won the T20 Cup, and are currently 3rd in the County Championship.
And they’ve done it with basically the same team – 9 of the players who played the last round of the T20 Cup, played in the disastrous 2015 season!
So what has changed, we asked captain Megan Fairclough:
“We are experienced playing together now,” she says. “After the difficulty of a couple of years ago, when we went back down to Div 2, we showed great character – we bounced back and came back up.”
And there is an element of success breeding success:
“The girls playing so well together constantly – playing such great games at the moment – is great motivation for everybody as well.”
With Lancashire now just back to being “Lancashire”, the “Thunder” name has been taken up by the KSL side, and the resources which have been ploughed into building that team, with a full winter training program, have also made a big difference:
“It is a good thing for us that we’ve got so many players playing for the Kia Super League – 8 of the squad is playing at Lancs Thunder, so they’ve trained together, and having the Thunder girls together constantly is kind of an advantage.”
And whilst Fairclough is clearly not intentionally having a dig at players at other counties who only play county, she does stress the importance for all players of just PLAYING – county, club, or whatever:
“People are playing cricket outside of county as well, so they are getting games under their belts and constantly developing their skills.”
One advantage Lancashire have had this season is that whilst other teams have been decimated by international call-ups, for Lancashire key players such as Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone have not been selected for England, and so have been available throughout; but whilst acknowledging this, Fairclough argues that there’s more to it than that:
“It can be seen as an advantage, but it’s not just those two [Cross and Ecclestone] who have won us the games – it has been a team effort. There has been different people shining through – everyone has worked well and we’ve worked well as a team.”
And looking at the numbers this is borne out: 3 players have scored over 250 runs – Emma Lamb (300), Eve Jones (292) and Natalie Brown (252) – and whilst Ecclestone is the season’s leading wicket-taker by a country mile with 25, others have chipped in, including Rachel Dickinson (16), Natalie Brown (13) and Fairclough herself (12).
Now with just two rounds of the Women’s County Championship, can Lancashire pull-off the ultimate comeback and do The Double? They will be depending on other results to do so, but it is possible that their final fixture against current leaders Warwickshire will be a decider. Fairclough though is taking each match as it comes:
“We’ve still got a chance but we don’t want to play the last two games under pressure so we’re just going to take it a game at a time and play like we have done all season – not overthink anything, just do our basics well – we’ll go out there and play our normal game and have fun.”
And who could argue that that is not what cricket is all about?