The weather of last week had in its own way seemed to signal the start of the 2015 cricket season, and we were even able to get out on to the outfield at the Quarters on Friday, an unheard of activity in early April.
Because of the weather it seemed a bit of an anomaly to be heading in to our big weekend climax to a phenomenal indoor season, so it was quietly reassuring to set off to Leicester early on Saturday with the rain falling all around us as if to confirm our indoor focus.
To be setting out for the national finals was of course a combination of winning our own competition in Hampshire and then seeing off three other county champions a few weeks back in Bristol. One of the interesting nuances of women’s indoor cricket nationally is that all counties seem to play with different regulations, a different type of ball and in vastly differing facilities, and so it was that we arrived in Leicester to be faced with a set of new challenges, and a new set of rule adjustments to learn. No matter, there were four strong sides, all ECB Premier clubs, with a sprinkling of international players and our squad arrived in good spirits, especially Sian following her hearty breakfast en route.
The format was a round-robin event so we knew we had three games to play whatever, and having watched Horsham defeat Stoke side JG Meakins we were pitted against northern champions New Farnley. An unusually tentative performance followed and we were beaten by our Yorkshire opponents, although the acquisition of two bonus points was to prove vital.
Next up was Horsham, regularly opponents over English summers, and we now knew that we had to win the two remaining games to have any chance. We started well in the field with Sian bowling a tight first over, and then came a moment that ultimately may just have been the day’s turning point. Timms took a spectacular catch, low and right-handed. A vital wicket but also a visible lift to the whole side, and from there we were suddenly the Hursley Park that is familiar to our supporters, an outfit that knows how to play indoor cricket, and realises it. Sian followed up with another sharp catch, Ellie bounced back with an excellent over, and we were left to chase a ‘gettable’ 97. The early batters set about it well, with two vital boundaries from skipper Jem in the middle overs, but when it came to needing 42 from the last three overs this task may have appeared steep. However we now had the combination of Tayz and Baz at the crease, and I would challenge anyone to suggest a better pair of indoor batsmen in women’s cricket right now. Seemingly without taking undue risk they paced the chase perfectly and saw us home with a ball to spare.
Crucially, a win for JG Meakins on the adjacent court meant that all four teams had won once and lost once, and we were back in the equation. Game on!
So, one last big effort – and by now the girls had their game heads on. Timms and Sian were steady, Jemma and Ellie added a vital acceleration and then Baz and Tayz did their stuff, although Baz’s dismissal put a slight dampener on things. 107 to defend. Sian and Ellie again with crucial overs, great tactical awareness to put in a forward short-leg and watch the catch go straight there to Timms. A direct hit run out by Baz, then a crucially productive over by Tayz, and England’s Danny Wyatt was left to chase down the target on her own. She played well, as would be expected, but finally succumbed to a deflected catch on the back wall, Ellie grabbing it at the second attempt. So we had done our bit, but what about the other court? Horsham won comfortably, too comfortably for our liking, and took maximum bonus points.
As most people are aware, I do pride myself on being au fait with the regulations and scoring systems that we use, and I had mentally calculated that we had finished tied on overall points with Horsham, but I admit I had no idea how that scenario was decided. So a quick enquiry to the ECB
official ensued, to be informed that the decision was then based on the result of the match between the two teams. Never before have I so readily accepted a decision from the ECB and I was able to tell the girls that we had indeed done it because of that crucial victory over Horsham earlier. I am not sure that they were actually convinced until the announcements were made, in reverse order – and only when Horsham were announced as runners-up did the emotion really start to flow.
So – National Indoor Champions! A strange competition in many ways, certainly compared to our usual format, but whatever challenges were thrown at us we ultimately overcame. Our record in indoor cricket, over several years now, is unparalleled and this achievement is very much the icing on the cake. A team, indeed squad game for sure, but the individuals are all worthy of individual mention. Tayz has been outstanding all winter with bat and ball, and continued her form here. Whenever I need to explain how to play indoor cricket to newcomers I tell them to watch Baz, because she has become a top exponent of the indoor batting art. When Tayz and Baz bat together they define how the game should be played. Timms was outstanding in the field, the best fielder on show, and as already mentioned produced the champagne moment, as well as producing vital runs. Sian, the youngest player, and brought in to the side late on, made vital contributions in every game, whether it be runs, wickets or catches. Ellie was in many ways the best story of all. Overcome by nerves in the first game, the team rallied round her, put the proverbial arm round the shoulder, and reminded her of what a good player she is. Over the next couple of games her confidence and contribution grew, culminating in the final trophy-clinching catch. And then there is Jem, tactically astute as always, vital runs in each game and as has been said before – the glue that holds it all together. She has been the common denominator in all our indoor successes and this is incredibly her 29th indoor title. I know how much it meant to her, not as an individual, but as a member of her Hursley family.
So we raised a glass in the Leicester Sports Centre bar (to be fair our 2 new overseas recruits had been raising them all day!), Sian had some more to eat – and then we set off back down south, ready for another day’s indoor cricket on Sunday (but that’s another story)
Hursley Park – National Indoor Women’s Champions , it certainly has a ring to it !!