A Viper's Tale
When looking back at the year 2020, the first thought that comes to a lot of people’s mind is the pandemic. It’s the thought of being stuck indoors, desperate to get back to normal, and for most of us, desperate to get back out playing cricket. However, for 3 of our players, the year 2020 represents a lot more. Ariana Dowse, Charlotte Taylor and Emily Windsor, did themselves and Hursley Park proud by being selected for the Southern Vipers squad that went on to win the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
Charlotte Taylor was the first of the three to join Hursley back in 2009. Here’s what Charlotte had to say about her transition to Hursley: “My love of cricket stemmed from my family. Both my dad and uncle have played high levels of cricket & my grandad was a great lover of the sport. My mum & sister have both scored over the years as well, so it was always a huge family affair. I began playing aged 7/8 for the under 11 boys’ team at New Milton CC (there were no girls teams back then). I played boys cricket until I turned 14 when I got selected for Hampshire Under 15 girls. From my involvement there, I met some of the girls that played women’s cricket at Hursley and wanted to move my focus from boys to women’s cricket. I joined Hursley and haven’t looked back since.”. Charlotte has had a massive impact on the club both on and off the pitch. And it is without any surprise, due to her ability and hardworking ethic, she represents Hampshire and now, the Southern Vipers.
Emily Windsor was the next of the three to join Hursley in 2012, with a cricket journey she says she will never forget: “Hursley Park has played a massive part in this journey. Some highlights along the way with Hursley were playing regular cricket all year round with my favourite indoor cricket, becoming Ladies 1st XI captain, winning the Kia Summer Smash and scoring my first ever 100. The support, the friends and the lessons every game has taught me in the mighty green has been incredible. I have had so much fun and have enjoyed playing cricket which for me is the most important part to my success”, Emily continued with some words of wisdom “stop putting pressure on myself and enjoy playing the game we all love”. This is something she learnt first-hand in the 2019 season, “I put too much pressure on myself to perform for Hampshire to get a place in the Kia Super League, I started not to enjoy cricket. I then came away after the Hampshire season and played for Hursley Park for the rest of the summer. There I enjoyed my cricket and put no pressure on myself and I suddenly remembered how to bat again…all that changed was my mindset. I learnt a lot from this and took this into the strange 2020 season.”
Ariana was the last to join us in 2019, “I joined Hampshire Ladies 1st XI when I was 16 years old as the main wicketkeeper for the women’s county team. In my first season with Hampshire, we won the Royal London 50 over cup and received the trophy at the House of Lords. Previously I had played my cricket in Sussex - captaining my age group teams and playing for the Sussex Ladies 1st XI. Signing for Hampshire led to many changes in my cricket pathway such as the Vipers, Solent University and Hursley Park. I am currently in the second year of my Accountancy degree at Solent University in Southampton. Solent offers superb support for my academic and cricket goals through their exceptional HPA programme. Basing my University and County cricket at the Ageas Bowl - it was logical for my club cricket to follow. I joined Hursley Park for the 2020 season. A lot of the Hampshire Women play for the club, so I knew a lot of the players before making the move. Hursley Park offered a higher level of cricket then I imagined possible for club cricket, and I immediately felt part of such a warm and welcoming community.”
Their journey to professional cricket wasn’t always easy. As with any sport, injuries are inevitable, something Emily and Charlotte know all too well. In 2016, Charlotte suffered an ACL tear in her left knee which kept her out of the game for 2 years, “the rehab was a long process and having played a season in Hobart, Tasmania, I eventually returned to the field in late 2018”. However, this did not stop her ambitions to succeed and perform at a high level: “I had always seen myself as an all-rounder, but I knew that to get back into the newly revamped Hampshire Women’s side, I had to bring something that the team did not yet have. I decided to place focus on my bowling for the first time in my career so far”.
The current level of professionalism in the Women’s game is something all the girls have thoroughly enjoyed. “When I started cricket aged 9, did I ever think I would play professional cricket? No, I didn’t, is the honest answer. How the women’s and girls’ game of cricket has developed in all these years.” Emily recalls. This sentiment is also reflected in Ariana’s comments, “These are such exciting times - to be in a professional cricket environment each week is simply incredible. I am immensely grateful for the support and ongoing training I receive from the Vipers - Lottie Edwards, Adam Carty and all the back room staff are amazing. Also thankful to Gray-Nicolls who have continually supported me on my cricketing journey”. This new level of professionalism in the women’s game has allowed a lot of girls and women to thrive. According to Charlotte “The professionalism is something I have never experienced and the tournament itself was a huge challenge but was optimised by lifting that Trophy on September 27th 2020.”
All three ladies have had different experiences with their selection in the Viper’s squad. “I have been in the Junior Vipers team since its inception and was so proud to be selected for the Vipers Ladies team for the inaugural year of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint competition”, says Ariana. For Emily it was the trials games that got her the spot on the team, “I performed and managed to secure my place in the squad as well as the playing 11. I wanted to take my opportunity when it came and back to the Kia Oval where HP played the Kia Summer Smash, I stepped onto the Oval with confidence due to my happy memories there the previous year and I took my opportunity to bat and showed Vipers coaching staff what I could do and more importantly showed myself that I could play at this level and I was good enough”. For Charlotte, it was her hard work that paid off when in July 2020 she got a call from Charlotte Edwards including her in the Southern Vipers squad for the upcoming Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
The final at Edgbaston against the Northern Diamonds was a day to remember! Not only was the game streamed live on Sky Sports, but one of our other club members was also heavily involved. Jemma Green was a commentator on Radio Solent. Although two different platforms, it was possible to silence Sky (sorry Sky), and crank up Radio Solent, which was definitely worth it. It was a very proud moment for Hursley to be able to watch both Emily Windsor and Charlotte Taylor at the crease together, putting on a 29 runs partnership. Emily Windsor recalls that “Going into the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy final I was full of confidence and belief that I could do it. I came in at a difficult time and played ok with the bat…spending a lot of my innings with HP legend Charlotte Taylor at the other end bred confidence as we knew each other’s game, as we had spent many years playing together”. Emily made a crucial 37 runs. The Southern Vipers posted a total of 231 and won the match by 38 runs.
Whilst Jemma was imparting some very inspired knowledge, Charlotte was producing her career best bowling figures. “My performance in that final & across the competition was something I am so proud to say I have accomplished. I wanted to prove that I could play at that level and taking 6 wickets in that final proved to myself more than anyone that I can”. Charlotte finished with 6 wickets for 34, bestowing her with the well-deserved player of the match award. In true Charlotte fashion, she credits a lot of her success to HP: “The support of my HP family was paramount in this success and over the years I have been in an extremely fortunate position that I can play at the highest level of club cricket in the county. This level of competition allows me to constantly test myself and improve my game.”
It is without a doubt that we have not yet seen the end of their careers, “Lifting the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy and playing live on Sky Sports is certainly my cricketing highlight and one I will never forget. I can’t wait to continue to progress and get better and see where my cricketing journey takes me in a very exciting time for women’s sport”, states Emily.
We truly look forward to following their careers and the successes they will undoubtably accomplish both on and off the pitch.