England legend Claire Taylor was at Thame Cricket Club in Oxfordshire this week, to metaphorically “cut the ribbon” at the launch of a new women’s club cricket league.
Clubs from Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire have come together to form the Home Counties Women’s Cricket League, with the 24 clubs involved playing up to 15 fixtures over the season.
The season begins with the Super 8s – a series of triple-header festival days, played under “pairs” rules to ensure maximum participation. The competition then moves to one-day formats, with the clubs divided into local groups across 3 divisions – the Division 1 teams playing nine 35-overs-per-side fixtures through the season.
Sponsorship has come in from Serious Cricket, whose MD Neil Rider was manager and assistant coach of the England Women’s team between 2003 and 2007.
League Chairman Tim Haworth described how much things had changed since he first became involved with women’s cricket:
“I have 3 daughters – the youngest was the one who started playing cricket first, and the older two realised it was fun and joined in. When we started, the number of teams was severely limited, but now we do proper training and there are plenty of teams to play.”
But Haworth realised things could be better still:
“The situation was a little bit piecemeal – each county had an offering of sorts, but it wasn’t very joined up. The need was flagged up that we needed some competitive cricket at various levels in these counties. So what we have tried to do is bring the full spectrum of opportunity to clubs so they can pick and choose what is appropriate to them at their stage of development.”
And Haworth is already looking further than the coming season, to 2020 and beyond:
“We want to have a Premier League and we hope that in 2020 some of the clubs from the Midlands League will come in to bolster the top end for us. Then in future years we’d like to also engage with fledgling clubs just starting out, by offering softball too. So the idea is to have the full range of cricket opportunities for every club.”