By Hollie Armitage
I realise how lucky I am to be able to spend the winter in Australia during the current climate, and I’m determined to make the most of it.
I had two weeks in hotel quarantine in Sydney and then another week in the Tasmanian house I’m living in before making my debut for Clarence CC at the weekend. I even captained the side on my debut.
I don’t know of any other English girls who have made it out here for the winter to play club cricket, and I’m sure there won’t be many lads doing the same either.
Thankfully my old Loughborough MCCU coach Salliann Briggs, the current Tasmania coach, pulled a few strings to get me out here to play and do some coaching.
I don’t expect to be playing any state cricket, as I did last year, but I will be training with the Tasmanian squad and playing for Clarence, maybe even a bit of second grade men’s cricket if their Saturday games don’t clash with the women’s stuff.
Quarantine was an interesting experience and went as well as could be expected.
I left England last month expecting to have to do a month’s quarantine, but the borders opened from New South Wales to Tasmania midway through my second two weeks, which meant I finished immediately.
When I got to the airport in Sydney, it was all one-way system through borders controls and to pick up your bag.
You then get escorted through to a bus with others who have just got off your flight. Then you have to check into a hotel, where they put you in a room with no key.
The hotel quarantine is all done in a very secure way, and you’re well looked after. They had mental health nurses on call 24/7 and police at the hotel. You could call anyone at any point.
You get allocated breakfast, lunch and dinner through the quarantine package you have to pay for. But, if you don’t like it, you can order from the hotel room service menu at a discount or even order in off Deliveroo or whatever.
Then it’s up to you to entertain yourself through the day, with mixed results is my case!
I brought a jigsaw with me, but I ended up only getting the edges done in two weeks and left it in Sydney as I was over my hand luggage allowance.
I was thrown into the deep end a bit on my Clarence debut on the Sunday just gone, captaining a new team with girls I’d never met before. But, even though we lost, it was an enjoyable and productive experience.
The regular captain is away playing in the Big Bash, and we are quite an inexperienced side at the moment with four or five players in the Big Bash hub in Sydney. So to take the (T20) game to the last over defending 130 was encouraging.
I got a couple of wickets and was on a hat-trick ball at one point. I also got around 25 with the bat. I felt very rusty, that’s for sure, after three weeks of doing very little and having not batted since the Rachael Heyhoe Flint final with the Northern Diamonds in late September.
I had one hit on the bowling machine going into the game, but I’m sure I’ll get back into it soon.
In Tasmanian club cricket, there are only four clubs with a first grade women’s side. All the state players are distributed across those clubs to ensure the standard is high. But when they are not around, it understandably drops. Things will get back to normal again at the end of the month when the Big Bash finishes.
The current T20 competition runs until the New Year before the 50-overs starts.
Captaincy is a side of the cricket I love. It helps me switch off from my own game a bit and brings out both sides of me – my personality and my will to win. So Sunday wasn’t something I was worried about.
It was a bit of a challenge because I hadn’t met the girls before and there was a bit of a language barrier there. When I get nervous, I talk too quick and they struggle to understand me!
But those relationships will build quickly, and it seemed like the coaches were happy with things. They said it looked like I’d been there the whole year because they were such an easy group of girls to lead.
Before I came out here, myself and Dani Hazell (Northern Diamonds coach) sat down and set out some playing goals for me.
One of those is to be a genuine all-rounder and put my bowling under as much pressure as possible. Even if that’s just bowling in the powerplay in the club games, that will fast track me.
On top of that is batting for longer periods of time and turning my thirties into fifties and fifties into seventies, seventies into hundreds.
It’s about being ruthless with my batting, which will first of all help Yorkshire and the Diamonds and then maybe get my foot in the door for further honours.
In previous years, having been in the England Academy, I’ve thought a lot about moving up to the top level. But, now that I am a full-time pro in the Diamonds set-up, it’s nice to know that I can still make a living by trying to be one of the best domestic players around.
Still, though, my ambition is very much still to play for England. But the main thing at the moment is to just enjoy my cricket.
I also have some coaching duties this winter with the Tasmanian pathway players, the equivalent of the Northern Diamonds Academy side.
For the next fortnight, my coaching will be quite light because a lot of the girls have got exams. But, age wise, they range between 15-18, and it’s something I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into.
Australia is a pretty good place to be at the moment in terms of Covid.
I feel like people here in Tasmania haven’t really got a grasp of what Covid is like in other countries, which is a testament to how well it’s been managed here.
Whilst England is back into lockdown, they are pretty much over it here. There are still little things in place like social distancing in shops. But, other than that, life is pretty much normal again.
I have watched plenty of the Big Bash over the last few weeks, and Katherine (Brunt) and Nat (Sciver) have been nailing it with the Melbourne Stars, who look by far and away the strongest side. I can’t really imagine them losing many games at all if I’m honest and would be my tip to go all the way.
Having played for the Sydney Sixers last winter, I can speak from experience as to how useful the competition is for the development of young English girls.
Look at Sarah Glenn, who is playing her first campaign with the Perth Scorchers. Her game will have moved on leaps and bounds from where it was when she left home.
The way she’s been bowling has been brilliant – taking the new ball at times. And being captained by Sophie Devine, one of the best around, will do wonders for her.