CLUB OF THE MONTH: Spencer Women’s CC

Here at CRICKETher, we’re passionate about women’s cricket at all levels, including club cricket. It’s our mission to offer coverage of women’s (and girls’) club cricket wherever we can! Our ‘Club of the Month’ feature will focus on one women’s or girls’ club every month, giving you the lowdown on their highs, lows, and everything in between.

If you’d like to see your club featured here, get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!

By Tory Clarkson

Our 1st XI play on Fieldview, the main pitch at Spencer Cricket Club in South West London, and our 2nd XI play on the Openview ground, next door. The club has fantastic facilities, with a cheap bar and lovely terrace looking out over the main pitch. 2017 is the first year that the 1st XI have played all our home fixtures on the main club pitch – a recognition of the growing quality, size and stature of the Women’s section within the club.

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Photo credit: Marie-Hélène Briens

Our current captain is Tamara Reeves, who joined the club in 2016. She has 4 ODI caps for South Africa & her quality and top-level experience has shown over the past two seasons. She’s tactically very astute and is a good role model for all members of the club. She has a terrible sense of humour, but we don’t hold that against her.

As well as Tam, quite a few of our team have high-level experience. Deepa Patel (Spencer’s leading runscorer) played professionally in India, for West Zone. Tor Cruickshank, the 2016 captain, played for Sussex and England Development for a time. Angela Bonora joined the club in 2016 and is an Italian international. Gemma Ware is an Italian international, Marie-Hélène Briens is a Hungary international, Natalie Wells used to play for Surrey, and I used to play for Gloucestershire Women before moving to London. Lots and lots of our juniors play age-group county cricket. Maddie Blinkhorn-Jones, an U14 girl playing in our 1st XI, plays for Surrey U17 Women and is one to watch. She scored her first century for the Women’s 1st XI this season.

One thing that really stands out for us is the varied background of our team. Based within easy reach of Central London, we have quite an international squad, as some of those names show. These names are playing alongside young women who grew up just around the corner from the club – it’s great to see. Equally, while quite a few of our team have played representative cricket, some of our 1st XI started playing only a couple of years ago! That sums up the accessibility of women’s cricket as a whole – the ability for newcomers to pick up the game quickly and have the opportunity to play with stars. If we get promoted, we’d get the opportunity to play against Charlotte Edwards, Ellen Burt and a few other international stars. That’s motivated everyone hugely!

We aim to be inclusive, social, and competitive and really take pride in bringing through juniors. We’re developing a pathway to guide our talented juniors (280+ girls) through to the senior sides. It’s important to us that we grow the club sustainably – making sure everyone can get something out of the club, whether they’re looking for good, competitive cricket, or social sport.

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Photo credit: Marie-Hélène Briens

Our current oldest member is in her late 30s and our youngest player in the senior section is 13. We welcome members of all ages, however!

Our lead coach is Mark Costin, a L3 coach. He is supported throughout the year by a number of other coaches, including Alain and Kiyo Jason, as well as volunteers from the ladies section. We have our own training sessions on Wednesdays during the spring and summer, but train and play with the men on Thursdays and Saturdays too. There has been a real drive this year, led by Mark and Jon Speller, the Director of Cricket at Spencer, to get women playing more frequently in men’s matches as well as the ladies’ league. This is a reflection of the rising standards in our section, and the rising ambition for the club.

We don’t have a club mascot at the moment, but Tor Cruickshank’s whites, barely washed from season to season, are a sort of emotional crutch for the team.

Our 1st XI play in the Women’s Cricket Southern League Championship, and are chasing Horsham for the title and promotion. Our 2nd XI play in the Surrey Trust League. The girls section play in various Surrey Boys leagues, where they frequently claim a few big scalps, as well as in girls leagues.

In terms of highlights, one of this year’s performances stands out: a 275-run opening partnership by Maddie Blinkhorn-Jones (who’s only 14!) and leading runscorer Deepa Patel, against Guildford CC. Maddie has come through the ranks of Spencer Juniors and has really made her mark on the team. It’s up there with the 2011 unbeaten season as one of our proudest moments as a club.

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Photo credit: Marie-Hélène Briens

What we’ve found this year is that as we move up through the divisions, we need more and more volunteers to help the club function on match days. Long gone are the days when our Number 11 could score for us or umpire from square leg! We are really grateful to our supporters, families and friends who help the club run on match days. This year, in particular, our supporters have provided in-play PlayCricket updates and ball-by-ball commentary on whatsapp on match days! That takes some dedication! It is also a reflection of how much people love this club that they will read 300+ whatsapp messages on a Sunday to keep up from afar with the score!

There are many, many people who’ve helped get Spencer Women where we are now – too many to name them all! So instead, we’d like to focus on this year’s helpers – Step Parikian, Mark Costin, Kiyo Jason, Alain Jason, Jon Speller, Marie-Helene Briens, Gregg Birrell, Patrick Wells, Martin Blinkhorn, Lis Jones, Brian Hurn, to name a few.

It has been really noticeable how the club has changed over the past five years or so. The juniors section is now massive – we think we might have the biggest girls’ section in the country – and the women’s section has expanded too. It used to be hard to find 11 to play & we would beg friends and parents to help us out, now we have genuine selection decisions each week between a highly talented squad.

To give an example, about five years ago, we were so short of players that one of our former members, then 6 months pregnant, insisted on playing! She fielded very energetically despite her big bump! Thankfully, mother and son were fine!

As often happens with sports clubs, as years pass & generations pass through the club, the history of how it all started has been lost. Anyone with more information about Spencer Women’s Cricket’s origins are invited to come forward!!

What everyone notices, whether they joined one week ago or 5 years ago (like me!), is that the club has a great spirit and culture. We’re good friends and we enjoy laughing and joking together, particularly in the end-of-match wrap.

The club has been really inclusive, but we still joke about a discussion with the men’s section from a few years ago about what to do for end-of-season event. One gentleman said, ‘We could do a dinner at the Oval, but the women do love a party!’ We’re still not quite sure what he meant!

Anyone wishing to join the club should get in touch with Tor Cruickshank on spencerwomenscricket@googlemail.com

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