At the start of the 2020 season, Jenny Gunn picked up the phone for what she thought would be nothing more than a friendly chat with her old friend and ex-England teammate Dani Hazell. Gunn was looking forward to experiencing cricket from the sidelines, having announced her retirement from internationals in October 2019. And yet when Hazell asked if she would consider playing for the new regional side for which she was head coach, Gunn found the offer irresistible.
An inconsequential chitchat suddenly turned into a conversation with the biggest of consequences. Gunn was drafted into the Northern Diamonds side, and finished as their third highest run-scorer, with 149 runs including a half-century against Lightning, digging Diamonds out of a substantial hole to lead them to a 2-wicket win. She also picked up 8 wickets.
Gunn’s un-retirement was meant to last just one season, but after proving so instrumental in Diamond’s progress to the final of the inaugural Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy in September 2020, Hazell had yet another ace up her sleeve: the offer of a regional contract with the Diamonds. It proved enough to lure Gunn into another year playing for them.
Ironically, Gunn was initially intending to come out of retirement for one competition only: The Hundred. As it was, with Covid intervening to push back the tournament by a year, she did not even make it into the Northern Superchargers’ final squad. Instead, she has been able to focus her efforts purely on the regional competitions.
And those efforts have not gone to waste. In the 50-over Heyhoe Flint Trophy she has already hit a half-century, helping Diamonds overhaul Stars’ total of 250 at Leeds back in June. In the Charlotte Edwards Cup she was the key to Diamonds pulling off the squeakiest of narrow squeak wins against Western Storm, hitting a boundary off the final ball to see them home by 1 wicket.
On Sunday at the Ageas Bowl, she propelled Northern Diamonds through to the final of the Charlotte Edwards Cup, hitting 22* from 14 balls against Southern Vipers at the back-end of the innings, after they had been in some strife at 82 for 4 in the 15th over. Gunn wasn’t known for her big-hitting when she wore an England shirt, but no one would have known that watching her thump two sixes off Tara Norris in the final over, over long-on and deep midwicket.
With the ball she then took the key wicket of Georgia Adams, who pulled to short midwicket in the sixth over after looking in good touch for most of the powerplay, and she then returned to bowl two overs at the death and wrap up the Vipers tail. Her action is still distinctive as ever; it has served her well over the years, so why change it?
Adams spoke warmly of her nemesis in the post-match: “It’s brilliant. That’s the other bonus of the regional system…if you want a longer career, it’s there for you if you want it. Hopefully I’ll churn out a few runs when I’m as old as Jenny!”
In the final itself, Gunn followed up with an identical score: 22 not out, this time coming from 16 balls. Her fifty partnership with Diamonds captain Holly Armitage came in 38 balls, in the final 20 minutes of the innings, consisting largely of sprinted singles.
Of course, in the end it wasn’t enough: South East Stars won with a hop, skip and a jump, and nobody – not even Gunn – could stand in the way.
But I decided to write about Jenny Gunn anyway.
Why? Well, you could make a good argument that without Gunn’s contribution Diamonds wouldn’t have been in the final at all. Their eventual margin of victory in the semi was 18 runs: without Gunn’s 22*, Vipers would have progressed at their expense.
But the second and most important reason is that somewhere at home I have a signed Jenny Gunn England Test shirt and it will always be one of my most prized possessions; I still go in to bat for her on Twitter; and I still love watching her bowl.
It remains to be seen what Jenny Gunn’s future looks like, beyond the summer of 2021. In some ways it was surprising that she took up the offer of a regional contract at all, given her protestations that she did not intend to stay playing cricket very long. I don’t know how many more times I’ll get to write a piece about Jenny Gunn, so what the heck, here I am.
What I will say is this: If I was Dani Hazell, whatever Gunn might or might not have said at the start of this season, I’d be making sure I picked up the phone sooner rather than later and, by hook or by crook, ensuring that she was signed on the dotted line for next year.
On the evidence of Finals Day in the inaugural Charlotte Edwards Cup, Jenny Gunn is simply too good to lose.