NEWS: Kent Honour Pioneering Early Players

Kent have announced the first five of 45 past and present stars that will receive County Caps during the club’s 150th anniversary season in 2020, recognising some of the pioneers from the early days of the Women’s Cricket Association.

Kent’s first recorded match took place against a Civil Service Women’s XI in 1935, and the county has provided talent for England representative sides since the inception of Test cricket in 1934.

1: Carol Valentine

England career: 1 Test, 1934; Kent Women career: c.1930-1935

Born in Blackheath in 1906, Carol Valentine was much more than the sister of former Kent captain, Bryan.

Valentine played for Kent and Middlesex in the early 1930s as a prolific right-arm medium pace bowler, also featuring for many Invitational XIs at the request of other pioneering women’s players at the time. She was a dual international, who also represented England at lacrosse, touring the USA with England in 1934.

She was a part of the first ever Test side that sailed to Australia in 1934, receiving England cap number 11 and taking the wicket of Kath Smith in her five overs bowled in the match.

2 & 3: Barbara & Joan Blaker

Barbara Blaker’s Kent Women career: c.1934-1951; Joan Blaker’s Kent Women career, c.1936-1952

Born in Lewisham in 1913, the Blaker twins formed a formidable middle-order partnership during the early years of the Kent team. Their father, Kent Men’s player and later Kent CCC President Richard Blaker, was originally horrified by his daughters’ interest in cricket – “He didn’t think it was a game for girls”, the sisters later recalled – but fortunately they ignored his advice.

Both sisters played for Kent for 15 years, also featuring in Invitational XIs and touring teams across the world. They were both involved in Kent’s match against Australia Women in Gravesend in 1937, where the scorecard notes that Australian opener Peggy Antonio was dismissed “caught Blaker, bowled Blaker” for 53.

4: Betty Archdale

England career: 5 Tests, 1934-1937; Kent Women career: 1937

Born in 1907 to leading suffragette Helen Archdale and goddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, Betty Archdale was the first ever captain of England, leading the side on their tour of Australia in 1934/5.

As England’s first ever Test captain, she therefore has the honour of being cap number one for England Women in Test cricket.

Archdale played one match for Kent in 1937, against a touring Australia national team, top-scoring with 68 runs for the hosts despite Kent’s 84-run defeat.

Her Invitational team, “H.E. Archdale’s XI”, played 30 fixtures between 1934 & 1939, the last match coming just before the outbreak of the Second World War.

During the war, Archdale served as a wireless operator in Singapore. In 1944, she was awarded an OBE for helping nurses escape from the conflict.

After moving to Australia in 1946, she was listed as a ‘National Living Treasure’ by the National Trust of Australia in 1997. In March 1999, Archdale was one of the first ten women to be granted Honorary Life Membership of the MCC.

5: Mary Richards

England career: 3 Tests, 17 matches in total, 1934-1935; Kent Women career: 1937

Marjorie “Mary” Richards was a part of England’s pioneering tour of Australia in 1934/5. She made three Test appearances for England on that tour, and is England Women’s 12th Test cricketer. In 17 matches for England in different formats, Richards took 17 wickets at an average of 8.58, and averaged 33.33 with the bat in Tests.

Though she played most of her matches for the West, she opened the batting for Kent Women against Australia at Gravesend in 1937, and also played one match for H.E. Archdale’s XI in 1936.

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