Success of the England women's cricket team inspires girls to take up game in record numbers

Richard Garner reports on a grass-roots revolution

All eyes in the cricket world this week are on Alistair Cook's new-look England team and how they will fare in the Test series against India, which began yesterday.

Behind the scenes, though, there is a revolution going on at school grass-roots level, which is creating a massive upsurge of interest in promoting girls' cricket. Part of it, in all probability, is down to the success of the England Women's cricket team, which not only won the Ashes against Australia last summer but retained them Down Under in the winter.

But the rest of it, though, according to Elizabeth McLaren, team manager of the girls' cricket team at Felsted school in Essex, is that the sport is "just plain fun".

Felsted has seen a major boost to girls' cricket in the past couple of years. Then, it was down to a handful of exceptionally talented girls who played in the boys' first XI. The rest played rounders. "Now, though," says McLaren, "we've concentrated on cricket. We decided that rounders was a sport that you couldn't do at university, so we've abolished it and replaced it with cricket instead. It's cricket or tennis in the summer here now – and it has just taken off as a sport."

Rounders, she says, does not offer the girls the chance that cricket does to continue to improve and hone their skills once they have mastered the game.

Next year, too, cricket will be strengthened as the school takes on its first women's cricket coach – former pupil Lucy Stuchfield, who has just won an Oxford blue for cricket and will be joining the school's current cricket coach, the former England player Jason Gallian, in overseeing the sport.

The 1,000-pupil school (60 per cent boys and 40 per cent boys), which has much to celebrate this year – its 450th anniversary for a start, and a visit from the Queen – is basking in the glory of two of its players, who are succeeding at county level, 13-year-olds Nancy Hebron and Olivia Snoaks.

Bowled over: Felsted girls' team in action (Teri Pengilley) Bowled over: Felsted girls' team in action (Teri Pengilley)
Nancy is celebrating having just scored three successive hundreds – and a highest knock of 141 – for the Essex under-13s. She has been picked to play for an England development squad XI and is widely tipped as a future international player. She says she has been involved with cricket "ever since I was a baby".

"My brothers have been playing cricket since they were tiny," she says. One has just graduated from Durham University – renowned for its sporting success – where he played for the cricket team.

"I want to carry on playing cricket and hopefully play for England one day," she says. She is due to tour Abu Dhabi and Dubai next winter with emerging players.

Olivia, by contrast, is a bowler who has just revelled in taking two for 17 in six overs in a limited overs match against a visiting MCC women's side. (In a club match – playing alongside males – she bettered those figures, with four for 17 off eight overs.)

"Me and my twin brother started to play at the same time in the garden. I've also played for Writtle cricket club, my local side, where I played in the boys' team.

"This is my second year at Felsted and I started playing with the girls last year. I'd like to carry on playing for Essex, but I don't really know what will happen after that."

The team has gradually been building up the number of games it has played – it has excellent facilities with five pitches on the main site and three at the preparatory school.

Interestingly, it is not only the private sector that is seeing a boost to women's cricket. In a recent competition, Felsted, a private, co-educational day and boarding school, found itself in a group with three other state schools.

"There are quite a few state schools taking it up," says McLaren. There is still work to be done, she argues, in both sectors. "In some prep schools, they are struggling," she says.

In a spin: Nancy Hebron bowling (Teri Pengilley) In a spin: Nancy Hebron bowling (Teri Pengilley)
One factor that helps Felsted is the prospect of playing indoor cricket during the winter months, at Essex's county ground in Chelmsford, which will help the girls prepare for the summer.

When Jason Gallian arrived at the school, girls' cricket was in its infancy.

"We knew about a couple of girls in the prep school who were playing cricket," he says. "It's early days, but we have seen other schools get involved. There are girls who are very good – good enough to play for the county. There are also girls who are very enthusiastic to learn a new sport."

One, who had only been playing for eight weeks, was celebrating having just scored an impressive 43.

The school takes its cricket seriously. On the day that I visited, it was playing host to three Australian teams who were playing its boys' teams – and reciprocal visits have been planned.

Back to girls' cricket, though, and nationally it has seen increased take-up. So far in 2014, Chance to Shine – the cricketing charity that is aiming for a revival of the sport in state schools – said that in 2014 alone, 87,000 girls so far had been introduced to cricket for the first time, and the figure is certain to rise.

Since 2005, the year in which England retained the Ashes after nearly 20 years in the wilderness, a total of 1.1 million girls have played cricket for the first time, many of whom, the charity says "would never have picked up a bat or ball".

Another school where the sport has been enthusiastically embraced is St Margaret's Church of England, a state primary school in Newcastle-under-Lyme, where 50 per cent of its girls attend weekly cricket sessions.

"The girls have shown great enthusiasm for the game," says Don Mack, who coaches them. "They've embraced the whole concept of cricket from the start and I believe there's no reason why girls shouldn't play cricket at a competitive level just as the boys do."

Andrew Black, the school's headteacher, adds: "The shrieks of joy and excitement say it all for me. All years come together with friendship, appropriate levels of competition and appreciation of others' skills and abilities.

"The girls at St Margaret's don't want to become the tea ladies of the future. They want to be the players!"

If the enthusiasm seen at both schools is replicated across the country, England women's cricket captain Charlotte Edwards need have no fears about her legacy of success drying up.

And – who knows? – maybe the eyes of the cricketing world will be starting to turn in the direction of its women's team in future.

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Senior Research Fellow in Water and Resilient communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: Our team of leading academic...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Special Needs Teaching Assistants...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker