NEWS: Clare Connor Praises “Pioneering” Chance To Shine Secondary School Girls Programme

ECB Director of Women’s Cricket Clare Connor has labelled Chance to Shine’s Secondary School Girls Programme, an initiative funding cricket coaching and leadership development for girls aged 11-16, as a “pioneering project”, which is “setting a beacon for girls to be able to aspire to [leadership] opportunities”.

Connor was speaking on the day Chance to Shine revealed that the Programme, which so far has reached 1,700 girls across the country, has had a significant impact on the confidence and leadership abilities of those enrolled in the programme.

Research conducted by the Centre for Sport, Physical Education & Activity Research at Canterbury Christ Church University found that by the end of the programme there was a ‘statistically significant’ increase in the number of girls who said they were active every day (from 34% to 39.6%). This was also reflected in changing the girls’ attitudes towards the sport, with just over three quarters (78%) saying that they ‘wanted to play more cricket than before’.

Young Leaders were first trained to take on coaching responsibilities in sessions and then supported to put those skills into practice in after-school clubs and organising and leading primary school cricket festivals. The research showed statistically significant growth in the following key leadership traits:

  • Confidence – ‘I feel confident’ 39% -> 45%
  • Resilience – ‘If I find something difficult, I keep trying until I can do it’ 50% -> 57%
  • Creativity – ‘I come up with new ideas’ 31% -> 39%
  • Adaptability – ‘I try to change activities so that everyone can take part’ 44% -> 56%

“It makes you quite emotional seeing girls thriving playing cricket,” Connor said. “Focusing the attention on girls developing their leadership skills, their self confidence, their ability to communicate and be role models is a really pioneering scheme.”

“This is about the next generation of female leaders. We want women and men to have equal opportunities in the workplace, and this scheme is setting a beacon for girls to be able to aspire to these kind of opportunities.”

“Sport historically has communicated with and catered to men and boys. What Chance to Shine is doing through this programme is redressing the balance.”

The hope is that Chance to Shine can now work alongside the ECB to deliver their new strategy for women’s and girls’ cricket, Inspiring Generations, by supporting as many girls to play the sport in secondary school as possible.

However, the current Secondary School programme is at threat from a significant decrease in fund-raised income due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and may not take place next year.

For more information about how you can help ensure that their work continues, please email

VIDEO: The CRICKETher Weekly Vodcast – Episode 19

Raf & Syd discuss India’s decision not to tour England; why positive COVID-19 tests in South Africa are a good thing; the latest on whether the 2021 World Cup will go ahead next February; and the return of domestic cricket in England.

(And yes… Syd does need a haircut!)

Q&A – The Return of Domestic Cricket

What’s Happening?

Domestic cricket is coming back! While the BCCI wriggle-out of international series, and prevaricate on the Women’s IPL-Lite, the T20 Challenge, the ECB have committed to holding a “proper” women’s domestic tournament in what’s left of 2020.

Is That A Good Thing™?

It is fantastic news, and definitely A Good Thing™!

Which Teams Will Be Involved?

We’re talking about the 8 new regional teams which broadly align geographically with The Hundred sides – so there’s one based around Middlesex, one in the West Country, one in Yorkshire, another in Lancashire, etc. etc..

What Are The Team Names?

Several of the teams have chosen to carry-forward their brands from the KSL – so fans will still be able to watch the Southern Vipers and the Western Storm, as well as new teams like the Sunrisers in Middlesex/ Essex.

What’s The Format?

This will be 50-over cricket, with the teams playing in two regional groups (presumably north and south) followed by a national grand final.

What Will The Competition Be Called?

We don’t know yet, but The Enid Bakewell Trophy would look to be a popular choice!

Which Players Will Be Playing For “My” Team?

Apart from the 20 players who were given regional retainers, even the teams don’t know yet! A handful of players have made informal agreements to play at a particular side, but all the rest of the spots are still up for grabs. Players have been told to treat the “friendly” county matches which are going on at the moment as trials, where they can make a case for themselves!

Will The England Players Be Playing?

Probably not – the England squad are currently strictly “bubbled-up” under government COVID-19 regulations, in preparation for a hectic international series versus South Africa at Derby in September; and England will be reluctant to let anyone out of that bubble because they will then have to re-quarantine (a-la Jofra Archer) before being let back in to the bubble, in the event that they are needed.

Will The Players Be Paid?

In more good news, the answer is YES – everyone that plays will get a match fee. It won’t be huge, but in the light of the current situation this is great for the players.

Where & When Will The Games Be Played?

This is still TBC – even the regional directors don’t know yet – so expect an announcement in the next couple of weeks.

Will I Be Able To Go And Watch?

That’s partly up to the government, as these matches will count as “Elite Sport”. This means they are covered under completely different COVID-19 regs to club or women’s county cricket, which are “Recreational Sport”, so TLDR… no one can give you a definitive answer on that yet.

Will The Games Be Live-Streamed?

That will likely be up to the teams to organise themselves. (Additionally, there are technically some restrictions on live-streaming when Sky are also showing live cricket, so that may factor-in too if Sky decide to enforce their exclusivity rights.)

What About County?

There will definitely be some county fixtures, but that’s up to the counties themselves to organise – keep a close eye on Twitter, as they’ll probably deliberately be flown slightly under the radar, certainly at the bigger counties, to keep everything COVID-safe.

OPINION: The London Cup – A Surrey State Of Affairs

On paper, you wouldn’t have given Surrey too much of a prayer in last night’s London Cup – I certainly didn’t, telling our YouTube viewers (above) that while there were two teams that could win the match, only one would… and that one wasn’t going to be Surrey!

How wrong was I?

Despite having no “pros” to Middlesex’s three – though you’d think Hannah Jones and maybe Aylish Cranstone will be added to the “pros” list for the Stars when it is expanded to five later this summer – Surrey finally pulled off a win in the London Cup at the sixth time of asking. Surrey Director of Women’s Cricket Ebony Rainford-Brent, whose brainchild the cup was back in 2015, was so delighted with the result that she stood at the gates of The Oval giving everyone, including us, socially distanced high-fives as they left the ground!

Surrey did it against the odds by winning some big moments… and losing one crucial one – the toss! Middlesex opting to bat might have been the right call by the book, but with so much rust in everyone’s gears after the non-season we’ve had so far, it proved to be a big mistake, as they failed to score a run in the first two overs, whilst losing the wicket of captain Naomi Dattani.

The Dattani wicket was a big moment in retrospect, because it set the tone – the ball was leaving her quite sharply, and might even have been called a wide if she’d left it, but she swung at it so vaguely that her bat flew out of her hand in the opposite direction and the edge went through to Rhianna Southby, whose catch was controlled and confident – everything that the shot that preceded it wasn’t!

Of the Middlesex pros, only Cordelia Griffith really looked the part, hitting 30 off 23 balls, including the game’s only maximum. Veteran (though she probably won’t thank me for calling her that!) Tash Miles gave Griffith a bit of support, until she got this…

A Ball of the Season contender in any season from leg-spinner Dani Gregory! There aren’t many who can do that, but Gregory’s challenge is that England don’t pick bowlers – particularly spinners – based on the ability to bowl a magic ball. England value consistency over turn, and that’s what they get from Sarah Glenn. Can Gregory add the consistency, without losing the spin? If she can, she’s going places!

Even having restricted Middlesex to 108, Surrey still had a lot of work to do, and whilst their top order all got starts, none of them pushed on, so by the time Kira Chathli came to the crease, with 5 down and 50-odd still needed, it looked a really big ask.

Then Chathli did this…

I’m a bit of a traditionalist sometimes – scoops belong on Fleet Street, not on a cricket pitch – but you can’t argue with the result, and having faced-down a Required Rate of 8.4 at one stage, Chathli found herself the hero of the hour… of the day… of the season, such as it has been so far, having ensured that the London Cup was, for once, a Surrey state of affairs!


MATCH REPORT: Chat(hli) Show As Surrey Finally Triumph In London Cup

Nervous Newbies

As England discovered in 2014, going pro doesn’t make you better overnight – all it does it place the spotlight firmly on your performances, and my goodness, do you feel it. It’s fair to say that Naomi Dattani’s first outing as a professional cricketer didn’t quite go to plan – caught behind for a four-ball duck as Rhianna Southby dived in one direction while Dattani’s bat went flying in another. Fellow pro Amara Carr also departed cheaply, while even Cordelia Griffith spent a couple of overs poking around before she finally found her mojo to top score for Middlesex. An inauspicious beginning for the new “domestic pro era”, perhaps, but there’ll be more – and better – to come.

Rusty Running

The theme of the day was, unsurprisingly given that most of these players have barely touched a cricket ball in anger in 10 months, rustiness. That largely manifested itself in some poorly-judged running between the wickets – including not seizing the day when runs were there for the taking. There was also a frankly bizarre turn of events whereby Middlesex’s Ollie Rae started to walk off the pitch, thinking she’d been caught out of her ground by Southby, but had to be summoned back after the umpire informed her that the bails had actually been dislodged by a rogue glove instead of the ball. Ah, cricket, how we’ve missed you.

Lower Order’s Time to Shine

Asked in the Zoom press conference about the most satisfying moment of today’s match, Surrey captain Hannah Jones pointed to the dismissal of Griffith in the ninth over.  “It’s been a long time [in lockdown] to think about setting fields, and to think about hypothetical situations,” she said. “So when it went down Amy Gordon’s throat at deep midwicket it was very nice for a plan to finally come together, not just be drawn on a whiteboard.”

If Surrey thought they’d done the hard yards by dismissing Griffith, though, they were in for a shock: it was number 6 Gayatri Gole who stole the show, finishing with a quick-fire 28* (24 balls) and taking the 15th and 19th overs for 13 and 11 runs respectively – you can see the impact in the innings “worm”.

Similarly, it was Surrey’s number 7 Kira Chathli (28* off 23) who rescued Surrey’s own worm, after the home side were left 60-5 in the 13th needing 8.5 runs an over for victory. To ramp Dattani over your head for four not once but twice in blasé fashion is one way of showing the big guns at the top of the order how it’s done. “Those are my shots. I’m pretty confident playing them. They didn’t change the field so it’s going straight in the same place!” Chathli told us after the match.

In our match preview video we speculated that Surrey would sorely miss their “big name” players – Nat Sciver, Bryony Smith and Sophia Dunkley – who are all elsewhere training in the “England bubble”. Apparently not!

We’re Back, Baby

Two years ago, on a sunny May evening at Guildford, Syd and I were pretty much the only non-parent spectators present at that year’s London Cup fixture. This time around the match may have been played “behind closed doors” but, incredibly, the Facebook and Surrey CCC live streams attracted over 1000 viewers. Kudos to Surrey, who not only made this match happen but also invested in a multi-camera streaming set-up which will have made a huge difference to the quality of the experience for those watching at home.

Women’s cricket is back, and we couldn’t be happier!

VIDEO: The CRICKETher Weekly Vodcast – Episode 18

Raf & Syd discuss WBBL fixtures and transfers, Cricket Australia’s appointment of a mental health overseer, a new brand for the London & East Regional Hub here in England, and the appointment of Trevor Griffin as London & East coach.

No live cricket in the background this week due to the English weather (boooo), but we do have new credits to reflect the fact that we’re no longer in Social Isolation (yay!)

INTERVIEW: South East Regional Director Richard Bedbrook – “We’ve got to make this domestic structure as good as it possibly can be”

So far, Richard Bedbrook’s new job hasn’t exactly gone to plan. Appointed as Regional Director of Women’s Cricket for the new London & the South East Region back in March, he had been in role less than a month before full lockdown was imposed across the UK. By now he should have been overseeing a full squad of players, and a full complement of coaching & support staff on top of that.

Instead, recruitment is on hold, and much uncertainty lies ahead for the 8 new Regions, which had been due to supersede women’s county cricket as the pinnacle of the domestic player pathway in England from 2020 onwards. No one knows for sure whether the September inter-regional fixtures will go ahead as planned, or what the route back to training and squad selection looks like from here.

Nonetheless, for Bedbrook – who has been head coach of Surrey’s county side since 2017, and seen first-hand the struggles which county players face when trying to juggle cricket with work and study – the overwhelming feeling remains one of excitement in being involved in a new era for the women’s game in England.

“The level of the game’s got to be taken forwards,” he says. “We don’t want that jump for players from domestic cricket into the internationals to be still too far apart. We’ve got to make this domestic structure as good as it possibly can be.”

Despite the delay to the 40 full-time professional domestic contracts, which were originally due to begin in April, there has been one important development: the ECB last week confirmed the allocation of 20 place-holder “retainer” contracts, split between the 8 regions. These represent the first step towards domestic professionalism in England. Representing London & the South East in the list are Tash Farrant, Alice Davidson-Richards, Sophia Dunkley and Bryony Smith (the latter three are all current holders of England “Rookie” contracts).

Bedbrook, who was in charge of the selection process, describes them as “the standout four players from our region”:

“Tash [Farrant] is a Kent girl at heart. When we initially chatted and there was a desire for her to come back this way,” (she has lived in Loughborough for the past 5 years), “it was a no brainer then that she’d be part of that group.”

“Alice [Davidson-Richards] and Bryony [Smith], being home grown girls from their respective two counties and on the rookie scheme at the moment, those players were nailed on as first choice because of that reason. They’ve both got ambitions to progress out of that Rookie system into the England setup.”

“There’s been a relationship between Surrey and Sophia [Dunkley] for a couple of years through the KSL. We’ve got to know each other as coach and player, and then when she joined Surrey this year, it was a fairly obvious question to ask, would she be interested in coming to this region? Again, it’s another player in the Rookie system who’s got big England ambitions.”

While the official line from the ECB was that retainers should be allocated on the basis of future potential to play for England, the Regional Directors have clearly been given the scope to mould the core of their new squads according to their own preference. Bedbrook is clear how he sees his role:

“We’re having to work through that right from the outset, what is the aim of this regional programme? And I think probably one of the bigger drivers is the player development aspect. The winning of the competition is actually probably a secondary aim behind that.”

One of the difficulties going forward will be juggling the needs of the professionals in the squad with those of their teammates, who will remain largely amateur, though they will have the capacity to earn match fees of circa £200 for each regional fixture they are selected for. Bedbrook acknowledges this will be a challenge, but argues that the new professional domestic contracts will play a positive role in increasing the drive and motivation of players to showcase their skills in the domestic set-up.

“The players who aren’t professionals are going to want one of those [paid] spots,” he says. “Offering them the ability to train as much as they can, within the programmes that we can set up, will clearly show those that are massively keen to make the next step, out of that amateur status into semi professional / professional.”

“Those players are going to have to really, really take a step forwards with their outlook to cricket, their outlook to their own training. Because when you’ve got players such as these four [Farrant, ADR, Smith and Dunkley] who have got high standards, who have got ambition to be better, they don’t want to be held back by others.”

He is also keen to emphasise that the 5 professional contracts per region are only the first step on a path to full domestic professionalism: “I think we’re going to be a little bit led by by how the programme itself can develop in time – i.e. how long are we only going to have five professionals within each region? When potentially is the stage when it can increase?”

He emphasises, too, that in this new era for the women’s game, his role is not only to support those with England ambitions. “It’s really important for us to set our stall out – we want to help players make the next step up, realise the ambitions that they might have, which might be to play for England, but equally it might be to be a professional cricketer for as long as they can.”

Last week the London & South East Region announced that their team name would be the “South East Stars”, a clear carry-over from the KSL, confirming CRICKETher’s theory that the regional sides represent the KSL Mark Two. The decision, says Bedbrook (who coached Surrey Stars in all 4 seasons of the KSL), was made back in January by a joint Surrey-Kent Working Group, who felt it was right to “keep that brand going”.

“I think there’s elements to it clearly that are going to have been ear marked in the KSL,” he adds. “But I think the biggest link from the visibility of the KSL will be to The Hundred – that’s going to be a game changer for women’s cricket.”

Is the main marketing focus going to be on The Hundred, rather than promoting the regional Centres of Excellence, in that case? “Primarily at the moment the marketing is being pushed into The Hundred. But we clearly want to have people coming to watch [the regional competition], and we clearly want to make it visible where we can”, says Bedbrook.

“Ultimately, there is still that strap line of, ‘you need to see it to be it’. And that’s hugely relevant for the women’s game at this point still. We’ve obviously seen some massive strides taken over the last few years, not just with our domestic competition, but obviously the KSL. And then clearly, we’ve just had the Women’s World Cup, which put it into a new realm. And that’s why it’s so disappointing that this pandemic’s come at the worst possible time, I think.”

“But that’s not to say that that momentum will be lost – that momentum’s just paused. And we’ve got to make sure that we do make these players on the call now visible to young girls in the region and nationally. We want to make these four, but all the other players involved, as visible to as many people as possible.”

Now all they need is the chance to get out there on the field and play some cricket.