Q&A: Jonathan Finch – The RHF Trophy Is “On A Par” With The Hundred

With the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy now well underway, we spoke to ECB Director of Women’s Cricket Jonathan Finch about regional selection policies, the relationship between the ECB and the 8 regions, how the regions fit in with The Hundred (Women’s Competition) when it launches next season, and lots more besides. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: From the ECB’s perspective, what is the purpose and the role of the new regional teams?

A: We look at it from a number of different angles. From a competition perspective, the purpose is to try and get the best players playing against each other at the best possible grounds, on the best possible pitches, with the best possible coaches with the infrastructure to support that. So you’re exposing players to good, hard, competitive cricket. That is one element – exposing players to the various scenarios that they might later come up against in international cricket.

And then obviously, there is a big push to try and increase the number of players that can make a living out of the game, and we hope the number of professional players and the amount they earn continues to increase as we move forward. But if we can start to increase the number of players that are professional and get to focus on their cricket 12 months a year – that’s the most exciting bit for me: getting players exposed to good quality coaching from full time head coaches, over a prolonged period of time.

Q: Would you describe the RHF Trophy and whatever replaces it as a “development competition”?

A: Certainly not. It is our top end domestic competition, that will hopefully be played across 50 and 20 over formats moving forward.

Q: If we were looking at it as a hierarchy, do you see it as sitting on a par with The Hundred?

A: What you get with The Hundred is three overseas players. You get an opportunity then for our current international players and our future international players to learn pro ways and understand how to compete with those players. There is no doubt that in the period of time that The Hundred is taking place, that that would be our premier competition. There is a difference in that the regional structure is in place to support players 12 months of the year whereas The Hundred has a short sharp focus of attention during the season.

But from my position I see them as on a par. They’re both helping us develop cricketers to play for England, and helping us develop a plausible way to increase the number of females that make a living out of playing the game, but also developing the number of roles, coaches and support staff that are involved in the women’s game to help drive what we do forward.

Q: Will there be overseas players in next year’s regional teams?

A: Each region has the opportunity to bring one non-England qualified player in to play, whether that be for the 50-over or the T20 competition. That is very much up to the eight regions – is it going to add value for them? Is it going to add value to their environment and what they do?

Q: If the regions are intended to develop England players, was it a surprise that two Scotland players got regional retainers?

A: That’s a regional decision to make. We do have discussions, and there is that veto from the ECB if we needed to do that. However, one of the key things that we’ve got to develop is a level of collaboration and trust. And trust in those regions that they are making decisions a) based on what we as the ECB want to achieve from the competition, but also b) based on setting up a team in the way they want to set it up, based on seeing something in certain individuals. Some teams may identify key characteristics within individual players that will help develop others within the squad and therefore that player is deemed the right fit for that team.

We don’t want it to be ECB versus the eight regions – it’s about us working together as a team of nine to do what’s better for us. If we start going in and dictating decisions, based around those kinds of regulations, it becomes a bit Big Brother, and we don’t want to do that. We trust Lightning to make that decision for the betterment of English cricket, because that’s what they’ve signed up to do as being one of the regions.

There is no doubt that Kathryn and Sarah Bryce have added a lot to Lightning and the competition as a whole, and that in itself helps develop both their teammates and the opposition who come up against them.

Q: What were the selection criteria given from the ECB to regional directors, when choosing their squads?

A: There were three “steers”:

1. Is this player identified as high potential to go on and play for England?

2. Is there the perception that if this player is exposed to development for 12 months of the year, then they’ve got high potential to go on and play for England?

3. Is this individual going to add real value to the competition? Are they going to perform to a certain level that raises the standard of not only their peers, but the opposition that they play against?

We didn’t put a hierarchy on those three. We asked the regional teams to consider them in their selection.

Q: So there was no age criteria?

A: No, there was no age criteria.

Q: Were those selection criteria perhaps inconsistently applied, given that some players were explicitly not selected based on being “too old”?

A: Each region will have their principles of selection and what they’re trying to do, whether that be put a squad together for the here and now to try and win the competition in the next couple of years, because they think that gives them profile in the local area and then helps them build a brand or connection to that region – or whether someone’s taken a longer term view of, actually we’ll select a team that we think is going to be successful in four or five years.

That decision has to be led by the regions.

Q: What would your advice be to the players who were not selected based on being “too old”?

A: This is high level, high performance sport, and not everyone agrees all the time. After the first year of the competition, Regional Directors and Head Coaches will start looking at different options that are available out there on the market, and you are likely to see a migration of players from different parts of the country into different teams. 

That is exciting – we’ve now got an opportunity where there are retainer contracts and pay-as-you-play contracts, at eight different regions. So my direct advice is, try and continue in county cricket – performances are the currency of selection – and if for whatever reason that isn’t the right region for that individual then there are always seven others.

Q: Will women’s county cricket continue in 2021 and beyond? Will there be a T20 Cup for example?

A: That decision is yet to be made. There’s arguments for and against. Those discussions will be part of a wider end of season review. We will get feedback from the Regional Directors, from the Head Coaches and from the players about the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Competition this year. And that feedback inevitably will involve the role of [senior] county cricket and what that means for the set-up as a whole.

Q: Is it still the plan that the remaining 40 pro domestic contracts will be awarded in October, and if so, how much say does the ECB get in who gets those?

A: Yes, our intention is to do that.

The process will be similar to the process for awarding the current regional retainer contracts. The regions spoke to us about certain players, in order to gain insight into those that are on our pathway or from our scouting in the past. It wasn’t “have a think about this player”, it was, how do we help you create a better picture of that player because you’re going to invest in this player for the next 12 months. It was a general discussion, to help out some of those regional directors that have come from either outside the game or come from different parts of the game.

Q: The amount that players are paid has been set centrally by the ECB. Let’s say the Vipers win the RHF Trophy and they want to give their players a bonus, or pay them more next year, would they be allowed to do that?

A: That will be part of the review. One of the reasons to try and get a uniform approach initially, certainly with a young startup competition, is that you don’t want too many things complicating things early doors. So at least you know that if a player is involved in this, they’re going to get recompense, they’re going to get their expenses, and that’s a good step.

It would be a good step if the regions are able to offer different things that gives that region competitive advantages over others, whether that be salary or something else. What you want is people to start to come up with new ideas, and be quite enterprising in and around that.

Q: Has the RHF got more exposure because of The Hundred not happening, and will there be as much exposure next season? Will we still see live streams next year?

A: It’s a great question that we’ll never know the answer to!

To be able to watch the live streams is amazing. If we can continue to hold the matches at those types of venues, the capability to stream is quite easy because the infrastructure is there. I would love it that we continue to be able to provide that as a service, not only for people following the game, but the intricacies it brings to us as a coaching team centrally, being able to watch the game live and have live conversations about it.

There’s no doubt that if we don’t continue with what we’ve done, it would be a backward step. The coverage on the first weekend, we had the ECB Reporters Network out there reporting on it, we had really good paper coverage and online coverage. And that in itself is a really positive thing for the players playing the game. So it’s important that we try and continue to do that.

Obviously we’ve got The Hundred coming on board next year, but they’re not mutually exclusive in the fact that a thriving domestic competition is going to help The Hundred, and a thriving Hundred is going to help the regional set-up. So I think working hand in hand around that type of stuff is important.

Q: Does the move away from the traditional county identities to new regional brands concern you, in that it makes building a fanbase harder?

A: You’re always going to have a battle between protecting a current brand and trying to build something new. But there’s a very strong argument, performance wise, as to why we’ve gone to eight regions. I think what it does do is bring counties together in that region, to make decisions that are for the betterment of women’s cricket, and the players within the pathway. And you’re pooling resources, insight, knowledge and understanding of the women’s game. That’s a real positive.

NEWS: Player Pay & Contracts To Roll-Over For Women’s Hundred

The ECB have today confirmed that all players offered contracts to play in The Hundred (Women’s Competition) in 2020 can renew their deal on the same terms for next year – same team, same pay.

The decision has been made “to offer maximum security to the players who were denied the opportunity to play in The Hundred this year, after the competition was postponed due to COVID-19”.

Anya Shrubsole has already re-signed for Southern Brave, and many of the other contracted players for 2020 are expected to follow suit over the next few weeks. As of October, teams can begin to replace any players who choose not to roll-over their contracts.

The news is especially welcome given that the ECB announced in June that the salaries in the Men’s Hundred are being cut for 2021 by 20%. With the women’s salaries substantially less than the men’s to begin with, there were concerns that any cuts would have hit the women’s competition particularly hard – but the ECB have clearly recognised that, and have chosen (rightly) to protect the women players.

RHF TROPHY: Batting Long Is Batting Strong

In our vodcast today, we posed the question: how successful has the RHF Trophy been so far? “Very”, was our general conclusion, but there was one important aspect which we omitted to mention.

Sophie Luff summed it up in our post-match interview, after Storm – chasing 289 – ended up losing to Vipers by 32 runs.

“I love the fact that this is a 50-over competition because it genuinely shows people’s skills, and you have to do your skills over a long period of time,” the Storm captain said.

“With the bat, you have to take responsibility and you’re allowed to score big scores. The fact that Georgia Adams scored 150 today shows that – you wouldn’t get those scores in a T20.”

“It’s the right format, particularly given the opportunity for the young girls in the squad.”

It would have been easy for the ECB, given the constraints of this summer, to rejig the original plan and announce that the regions would actually play 20-over cricket this season.

It would have been cheaper, logistically easier and generally less of a strain on precious resources.

But ultimately it would have robbed us of one of the greatest domestic games we’ve ever seen live – when’s the last time a county side got within 30-odd of a 289-run target? – as well as one of the all-time great domestic innings – Georgia Adams finishing unbeaten on 154*.

It would have robbed us of seeing Nat Wraith, age 18, battling away to score 68 in 75 balls – the kind of innings that the England Training Squad player simply wouldn’t have the chance to accumulate in a 20-over match.

And it would have robbed us of seeing Sophie Luff playing her natural game, in her first ever season as a full professional. Luffy might be best known to most people as a key element of Western Storm’s double-win in the 20-over KSL, but she’s also been a prolific run-scorer for Somerset in the Women’s County Championship over the years; and if she had to pick a format, it’s pretty obvious which one she’s better suited to.* (Which explains why she’s currently second on the list of leading run-scorers in this competition, with 336, second only to [who else?] Georgia Adams, who has 379.)

Not making the KSL a 50-over competition, as was Clare Connor’s original intention back when it was launched in 2015, was a mistake – domestic players were never exposed to the high-profile of the KSL over the longer format, and our system fell further behind Australia’s in the meantime. So, credit to the ECB for not repeating that mistake this time around, and pushing ahead with their original plan for the regions to play in a 50-over competition this season, even in spite of COVID.

*Ed: She’d probably actually pick multi-day cricket, but let’s not try to run before we can walk.

RHF TROPHY: The Last Ten Wins It For Vipers

Southern Vipers maintained their 100% record in the RHF Trophy at the Ageas Bowl today, beating Sunrisers by 49 runs. They now look strong favourites to go on and win the South group, with 19 points on the board (5 more than nearest contenders Western Storm).

What has been the secret to their success? Well, just like in the KSL, a strong middle order seems to be key – and Charlotte Edwards knows how to pick ’em. Vipers’ batting line-up in the RHF Trophy includes England Academy duo 21-year-old Maia Bouchier and 19-year-old Charlie Dean; “seasoned pro” Paige Scholfield, who has been propping up the Sussex middle order since 2012; and Carla Rudd, who has kept wicket for Vipers since Day One and has always been a safe pair of gloves. It may be a cliche, but that mix of youth and experience is crucial: between them, these 4 have so far scored 345 runs in the competition – a substantial proportion of Vipers’ cumulative total of 910.

Running alongside this goes the ability to “finish big” – on the 3 occasions where Vipers have batted first (out of 4 games so far played in the RHF Trophy), they’ve amassed substantial runs in the final 10 overs of their allotted 50. Against Western Storm, they hit 58 runs off the last 10; against Stars, it was 50 runs; today, it was 48.

As it turned out, that 10 overs was the most crucial period of the entire game. At 184-7 with 10 overs to come, many sides at this level would have rolled over and lost their last 3 wickets with a whimper – it’s the kind of limp finish we often see in county cricket. Vipers, though, were able to consistently go at nearly 5 an over for the last 10, bowled out with just 1 ball going unused in their innings. Carla Rudd was particularly impressive, cleverly marshalling the tail and playing a few decent shots of her own, including a textbook reverse sweep for four.

As for those 48 runs added between overs 40 and 50? They were, quite literally, the difference between victory and defeat.

Carry on like this, and Vipers might just ensure that the KSL Trophy (which is being repurposed for the RHF) comes back home to Hampshire after all.

NEWS: Two Lightning Players In Self-Isolation After Breaching Covid Regulations

Two Lightning players are currently in a mandatory two-week isolation period, after breaching COVID regulations, CRICKETher has learned.

The pair – who were unavailable for selection in yesterday’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy fixture against Northern Diamonds – were found to be in breach of the UK government’s Stage Three guidelines relating to elite sport.

The ECB have confirmed that the players are now “self-isolating for a two week period following Public Health England advice”.

They will miss the next two rounds of Trophy fixtures before they can join back up with the rest of the Lightning squad.

The Stage Three guidelines, which all players were informed of before the competition got underway, have to be strictly enforced to ensure that the health of all players and officials is not put at risk.

RHF TROPHY: Thunder Crash But Dyson Hoovers Up The Runs

With Thunder 123-7 against Sparks in today’s RHF Trophy encounter, the result of the match looked like being a foregone conclusion. Doing commentary on the live stream at the time, I suggested – based on long experience of county cricket – that it would be very unlikely that Thunder would from there go on to reach 150.

My calculation did not account for the swashbuckling heroics of 20-year-old Alice Dyson, who – batting at 9, and having not even been selected for the opening encounters of the competition last weekend – smashed 21 off 24 balls, at a strike rate of 87.5 – the highest of the match*.

It was exactly the impetus that the Thunder innings needed, and it saved the game from being even more one-sided than it ultimately was – Sparks winning by 8 wickets.

“I did have a little bit of a point to prove,” Dyson said afterwards. “But I wanted to go out there and do what was best for the team in that situation – it’s not a selfish sport.”

“I tried to go at at least a run a ball and if there was a bad ball there, get it away. I tried to keep it simple and play to my strengths, straight down the ground.”

“I just wanted to rotate the strike at the end and see if we could push [the total] up.”

140 miles away, down in Chelmsford, Alex Griffiths (batting at number 6) was creating similar fireworks for Western Storm – hitting 43 off 34 balls at a strike rate of 126 against the Sunrisers, and leading the Storm’s recovery from 109-4 to 189-5, to post a final total of 265-6.

How impressive are these kind of performances? To put this in context, let’s have a look at the leading strike rates so far across the first 3 rounds of the Trophy (excluding players who have faced less than 15 balls):

Player Strike Rate
1. Alex Griffiths 115.00
2. Linsey Smith 104.54
3. Lauren Winfield 97.33
4. Ami Campbell 93.47
5. Nat Sciver 92.30
6. Sophie Ecclestone 90.24
7. Danni Wyatt 89.47
8. Tara Norris 89.47
9. Fran Wilson 88.88
10. Heather Knight 88.26
11. Alice Dyson 87.50
12. Tash Farrant 85.22
13. Beth Langston 83.33
14. Sophia Dunkley 82.92
15. Rhianna Southby 82.35

You’ll notice a strong theme here – the England players tend, almost exclusively, to populate this kind of list. Years spent on professional contracts, with proper year-round coaching and S&C training, have put them head and shoulders above domestic players when it comes to hitting beyond the infield.

But there, topping the table, sits Alex Griffiths as one of only 2 players in the competition to currently have a strike rate of over 100.

And there at number 11 sits Alice Dyson, who (lest we forget) is in the Thunder squad as a specialist bowler.

One of the biggest differences between men’s and women’s domestic cricket is that when women’s county teams have lost 4 wickets, they have a tendency to collapse horribly, because their batting orders are very top-heavy. Dan Norcross has remarked that this was his key takeaway from commentating on the Surrey v Lancashire game at Guildford on Women’s County Cricket Day last season (when Surrey collapsed from 136-0 to lose by 1 run chasing Lancashire’s 242).

The strike rates of Dyson and Griffiths, batting at 9 and 6 respectively, are therefore particularly remarkable.

Last weekend we noted that the RHF Trophy looked to be producing the same kind of attritional cricket which we are used to seeing in the county game. And so it is, in many cases. But we should also celebrate the exceptions to that rule; and acknowledge that women’s domestic cricket needs more Alice Dysons.

And maybe this same table of leading strike rates might look a little bit different in 5 years time – when (we hope) domestic players will have the same opportunities as their England counterparts to access high-quality, year-round coaching, and bosh it around with the best of them.

*Discounting Alex Hartley’s strike rate of 166.66 (she only faced 3 balls).

RHF TROPHY: A New Dawn?

In some ways today’s RHF Trophy opener – Stars v Storm – felt like a typical women’s county match: it was held at Beckenham; we brought our own picnic; and as the first ball was bowled, we were the only written press at the match. It was freezing cold and I spent the day in a winter coat and woolly hat. Heather Knight trampled all over the opposition bowling, with Storm winning by 6 wickets. If it was the dawn of a new era, it didn’t feel much like one.

On the other hand, we were both temperature-checked and had to fill in health questionnaires on arrival. (Thanks, COVID.) There was a press tent and Wifi (glorious riches!) and we could hear the buzz of Mark Church doing commentary for the live stream in the next door tent. County cricket never had it so good.

The amount of investment which has gone into this year’s regional competition is impressive. The ECB are funding salaries for both the Regional Directors and Coaches (UK Sport have an advert up at the moment which suggests the annual salary for those head coaches will be £60,000.) The players are all being paid to participate, and by October, 40 of them will be professionals (albeit likely not earning the PCA’s mandated minimum wage).

And of course there is the fact that – as Sunrisers coach Trevor Griffin put it when I spoke to him a couple of weeks ago – “If we go back to March, there was real concern that we wouldn’t see any cricket at all. It’s a real bonus.” Getting this competition off the ground is an impressive achievement in the middle of a global pandemic.

On the other hand, there remains some confusion as to what exactly – aside from a lot of money – is the difference between this and last year’s 8-team Division 1 County Championship. The Stars today batted at a run rate of just over 3 for much of their innings. Rowe aside, they displayed the kind of attritional cricket which we are well used to seeing in the women’s county game.

That is not unexpected – these are players who have grown up playing county, and all the money in the world will not enable them to dispense with old habits overnight. The new set-up is part of a long-term strategy to professionalise the women’s game, which is very welcome. On the other hand, today’s showing does rather beg the question: in exchange for ditching the commercial advantage which comes with being able to align teams with existing men’s county brands, what has women’s cricket gained?

There’s another question, too, which I don’t think anyone has quite figured out the answer to yet. With the England players catapulted in at the last minute, but with rumours also circulating that some players were not selected for the RHF Trophy because they are considered “too old” to fit the bill, what exactly is the purpose of this competition? Is it purely a development competition – designed for 16-year-olds like Alice Capsey to strut her stuff – or is it about pitting the best against the best, to create the kind of high-level cricket which both looks good on live streams and which will provide the stiff competition which the England players need, in order to thrive at international level?

The ECB’s answer to this, I am sure, would be that in non-COVID years it is The Hundred which will be the high-profile competition, the one with all the glitz and the one where players really hone their skills. Perhaps, going forward, the England players will play only a minor role in regionals. Except… do you win a World Cup if at domestic level you are only playing at a high level in a non-World Cup format? Can we really afford for regionals to become “just a development competition”, and dismissed as unimportant accordingly?

At Beckenham today it was Stars’ top-scorer Susie Rowe (38 off 44 balls) who exemplified the development-vs-elite dilemma. At 33 years old, the former England player is unlikely to want one of the new domestic contracts, even if one were offered to her: she has a very good, very secure teaching job where she oversees both hockey and cricket; jacking it in to accept a short-term, not very well-paid regional cricket contract is (you’d think) an unattractive option. She hardly has a place in a “development competition”.

Nonetheless, she lit up today’s match – and you can bet she is a great person to have around when you’re 16 years old, lacking in big-match experience, and need a word in your ear or a clap on your shoulder. In any case, why on earth should players like Rowe be excluded on the basis of age, denied the chance to carry on playing at the highest level they can for as long as they want to do so?

It’s a dilemma that was never quite resolved in the KSL – are we trying to develop the next generation of England players, or are we trying to put on the best display possible? – but with no overseas players in regionals, it seems all the more acute now. As the matches in the RHF unfold over the next few weeks, it will be interesting to see what answers – if any – emerge.

NEWS: West Indies In Talks To Replace South Africa For September Tour

As is being reported by the BBC, England’s series against South Africa next month is now in serious doubt, with the ECB currently in talks with the West Indies Cricket Board in an attempt to arrange a replacement tour at short notice.

CRICKETher understands that the final, revised fixtures against South Africa were just days away from being formally announced, with all arrangements already in place, when Cricket South Africa communicated to the ECB that they were unlikely to be able to fulfil the fixtures.

The decision by CSA to pull out of the tour is reportedly due to “coronavirus restrictions in South Africa”, but may also be linked to the ICC’s decision – announced last Friday – to postpone the 2021 World Cup by a year, meaning there is more time for sides to organise fixtures ahead of the tournament.

If an agreement with West Indies cannot be reached, it will comes as a bitter disappointment to the England players, who have already spent two weeks in a biosecure training bubble in Derby, unable to participate in county or club fixtures or to leave their hotel when not training.

The likelihood is that should no internationals go ahead, the 24 England squad players will all be released to play for their new regions (yet to be allocated) in the forthcoming Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. It will come as scant consolation but will at least ensure they have the opportunity to participate in some competitive cricket before the season is over.

MATCH REPORT: Sussex Hold The Front Paige In “El Classicoast” Against Hampshire

The second leg of the Sussex-Hampshire “El Classicoast” friendlies concluded under sunny skies at Falmer with a straightforward Sussex win, making it 2 from 2 for the host side.

Newly-appointed Southern Vipers professional Paige Scholfield, batting at 4, set up Sussex’s total of 237 with a measured 55 (from 73 balls); and emphasised her all-round talents with figures of 3-33 from 8 overs in the Hampshire reply.

Sussex eventually bowled Hampshire out for 196 in 45.5 overs, racking up a 41-run win despite a gutsy half-century from stand-in captain Emily Windsor, who was left stranded on 57*.

The home team had lost captain Georgia Adams early on in proceedings, trapped LBW to debutant seamer Gemma Lane; while last week’s top-scorer Ella McCaughan also departed early, falling LBW to Charlie Dean.

From 54-2, Scholfield guided Sussex to 129-4, offering up a couple of chances along the way, including a tricky catch to a diving Windsor at midwicket. Scholfield then added insult to injury by taking Windsor for 16 runs from the very next over, the first of Windsor’s spell.

Windsor eventually wrought some measure of revenge, having Scholfield bowled in the 32nd as she attempted one cut shot too many and dragged the ball onto her own stumps. The all-round effort from 23-year-old Windsor will no doubt have been noted by Vipers head coach Charlotte Edwards and represents a clear case for her selection in the forthcoming Regional Competition.

Sussex fought back courtesy of a feisty late flourish from Nancy “Harmanpreet” Harman, whose 42 came off just 22 balls, including a couple of huge sixes down the ground – an innings which ultimately represented the difference between the sides.

In reply, Sussex kept Hampshire quiet for the first 10 overs, eventually frustrating Ariana Dowse into sending the ball down the throat of Mary Taylor at midwicket to leave her side 29-1 at the 12-over “sanitisation break”.

With Hampshire’s regular captain and number 3 Maia Bouchier absent from proceedings, Ella Chandler attempted to hold things together but fell victim to a rare spell with the ball from Georgia Adams, who took a smart catch off her own bowling to see off Chandler in the 26th over.

From there Hampshire fell further behind the required rate, with the result looking to be a foregone conclusion until Windsor came to the party, assisted by a flurry of boundaries in the 42nd over from number 9 Providence Cowdrill (14 from 9 balls).

With Hampshire needing 71 off the final 7 overs, Scholfield ended Hampshire hopes by having Cowdrill bowled as she swung at one too many, and then removing Alex Avoth in the following over, caught in the deep.

Players from both sides will now wait nervously to hear the final Southern Vipers squad selection, due to be announced in the next couple of weeks.

NEWS: England Warm-Up Fixtures To Be Live-Streamed

With the England players now all together in their biosecure “training bubble” at Derby, the ECB have confirmed that the inter-squad warm-up fixtures which will begin on Thursday will be live-streamed on ecb.co.uk.

In a welcome move to acknowledge the long history of women’s cricket, the inter-squad teams will be named after two greats of the sport, Rachael Heyhoe Flint (1939-2017) and Janette Brittin (1959-2017).

Heyhoe Flint captained England for 10 years between 1966 and 1976 without losing a Test, later leading the charge for female membership of the MCC; while Brittin represented her country between 1979 and 1998, amassing 1,935 Test runs – still a record today.

The 24 England squad players currently at Derby will be aiming to emulate the feats of the pair over the coming days, as they seek to make a case for themselves in the forthcoming series against South Africa (fixtures TBC). The inter-squad match on Thursday will be the first time any of the squad have played since the Twenty20 World Cup back in March.

The ECB have also today confirmed that Tim Macdonald has been appointed as the new Senior Assistant Coach after taking the role on an interim basis earlier in the year.