Tom Cant believes longer format cricket in the women’s game is “here to stay” as the Northern Diamonds senior regional talent manager gave his latest update from below first-team level.
Cant has overseen matches at Academy, Emerging Players Programme and Pathway level over the last month, with many weather-affected.
“Having read and listened to Ottis Gibson, I’m going to sound like a stuck record,” he said, ruefully.
“The weather has majorly affected our season, and maximising opportunities for all players has been hard. I have roughly worked out we have lost about 40 percent of our potential cricket, which is a huge amount of time at the crease or overs in the legs.”
Unfortunately, the Diamonds, a two-day Academy friendly against Thunder was lost to rain at Weetwood at the start of August – both days completely washed out.
It came amidst a summer when the senior teams of England and Australia played out a fabulous five-day Test Match at Trent Bridge as part of a thrilling Ashes series.
Of the washed out friendly, Cant said: “That was a shame because longer format cricket is something that looks to be appearing and is here to stay in the women’s game.
“But it did allow us to get some training and contact time with the girls, which isn’t always easy in the middle of summer when there are lots of games.”
That fixture came hot on the heels of the late July Regional Academy Festival at Millfield School in Taunton, when the Diamonds lost four games and had the other rained off.
There was mixed news for two players in particular. Erin Thomas was the festival’s leading run-scorer with 139 runs, while Beth Slater suffered a shoulder injury whilst diving to save a boundary on the opening day of action.
“Erin was a highlight of the festival for us,” continued Cant. “And Beth has had a successful operation and is on the mend.
“We’ll look back on the festival as a learning curve – the long travel to Millfield, the weather and preparation, etc – and we’ll be better for it next year.
“With several new players in the squad and the festival washout in April, it was the first festival with cricket for half the squad, and it ended up being one of those weeks where we kept coming up just short.
“Our 50-over cricket has been our strongest format this season, and we’ve got a few things to work on in the winter in T20 cricket, which is exciting to look forward to as a coach.
“We played the positive brand of cricket we want to at times.
“We were 48-0 off the powerplay in our game against the Southern Vipers as an example.
“But we couldn’t hold our skills for long enough.”
After the trip to Millfield and the rained off two-dayer at Weetwood, the Academy were back in action for two 50-over games against the Vipers at Northallerton and Darlington on August 8 and 9. The Diamonds won both of them.
In the first game, Ellie Nightingale and Elicia Pollard – 49 and 36 respectively – shared 72 for the ninth wicket to underpin 215 all out. Emily Whiting claimed a superb 4-23 from 9.4 overs as the Vipers responded with 193 all out.
“Our bowling and fielding display was one of our best of the season,” said Cant.
In the second game, the Diamonds won a one-wicket thriller chasing 191.
Lucy Lindley followed Whiting’s lead from 24 hours previous with an excellent 4-29 from 10 overs as they Vipers made 190-9, recovering from 57-6.
The Diamonds then fell from 155-5 to 185-9 before Lindley – from number 10 – hit the winning run. Captain Harriet Robson top-scored with 77.
“It’s important to see the girls play under pressure, and chasing at the back end of an innings can make you do funny things as a batter,” Cant reflected.
Another 50-over victory came against Thunder at Ramsbottom a week later when more of a senior presence was evident across both regions, who were giving game time to their players not on duty in the Hundred.
The Diamonds (204 all out) won by two runs defending a target of 205.
Erin Thomas made 57 and Rebecca Duckworth 82 against her home region before Phoebe Turner starred with 5-31 from 10 overs in a successful defence. The hosts were bowled out for 202.
“It was a rusty performance if we’re honest – one of those days at times with dropped catches,” said Cant. “But the girls stuck with it to get over the line.
“Erin continues to pile on the runs in her first year with the Diamonds.”
Thomas was of six Diamonds Academy players selected for the North v North games at Loughborough earlier this month as part of the England U19 Talent Identification process, though Grace Thompson missed out due to unavailability.
Trudy Johnson, Olivia Miller, Elicia Pollard and Harriet Robson all played.
“Three of those five are in their first year on the Academy, which shows the progress they are making,” said Cant, who was also one of a few members of the Diamonds backroom staff involved at Loughborough.
The Diamonds Talent ID programme, a Diamonds XI played two T20s at Bradford Park Avenue earlier this month, winning one and losing one. Further Talent ID days for Under 13s and Under 15s are planned in the coming weeks.
Cant also said: “There has been a number of good performances from our county teams at all age-groups, and Yorkshire Under 18s have made the national quarter-finals in their 40-over competition.”
The Diamonds Academy and Second XI are also in action again this week, with further matches scheduled.
“It feels like the season has come and gone so quickly,” added Cant.
“I’ve loved every minute of it, and before we know it we will be into selection for the various programmes to start it all again at the back end of October.”