A Difficult Start for Wales Women
The opening weekend of the Women’s County Championship was always going to be a tough ask for all sides involved: consecutive games played over Bank Holiday Sunday and Monday in the scorching heat, with all England players available for their respective counties. This was unfortunately a struggle for Wales, as they were drawn against quality opposition in Berkshire and Surrey.
Wales started strongly against Berkshire, having opted to bowl first, with openers Ffion Wynne and new recruit Danielle Gibson restricting the home side to 32-1 after 10 overs. However, England’s world-cup winning captain and Wisden Cricketer of the Year Heather Knight provided a batting masterclass as she negated the tricky opening spell before beginning to attack the middle overs. Wales’ bowlers toiled in the heat on a good batting pitch, as Carla Rudd also struck 55 to move their score onto 162 before she was dismissed. Knight was eventually dismissed by Lydia Clements for 105, and wickets tumbled late in the innings to leave Berkshire 242-9 after their allocated 50 overs. It was always going to be a difficult chase against a strong attack who were only relegated from Division 1 last season. The start was far from ideal, with Wales losing Gabby Basketter in the first over and was shortly followed by Rachel Priest (0) and Lauren Parfitt (1). Youngsters Alex Griffiths and Georgia Parfitt steadied the ship, the former top-scoring with 20, but with Claire Nicholas and Gibson also removed for ducks in the middle order, the damage was already done and Wales slumped to 85 all out.
Desperate to bounce back from Sunday’s disappointment, the girls travelled to Surrey on another glorious day. Captain Lauren Parfitt lost the toss and the home side elected to bat first on a very flat wicket which offered little to the bowlers throughout the whole day. Openers Bryony Smith and Kirstie White began strongly, adding 66 for the first wicket before the former was bowled by Claire Nicholas. White continued to accelerate, however, making the most of plentiful bad balls that Wales offered and finding the boundary with regularity. She was supported by Aylish Cranstone before being dismissed by Gabby Basketter for an impressive 94.
England’s star all-rounder Natalie Sciver also dominated the attack with class and power, again demonstrating the quality of opposition. She struck 87 off 58 balls with incredible fitness levels on show, before she was run out by Ffion Wynne with the score on 266.
Again, frustratingly, late wickets fell – with all credit due to the Welsh girls who battled relentlessly in the field and impressed with their fielding efforts over both days. Naomi Davies finished the innings brilliantly to finish with figures of 4-24, one thanks to a phenomenal diving catch on the boundary from Gibson.
Surrey finished 283 all out.
Another difficult chase was therefore required, but openers Basketter and Priest began aggressively, with the score on 24 when Priest was unluckily run out.
Basketter continued to accelerate, with captain Parfitt providing steady support, as the pair moved the score to 105 before Basketter was bowled for an impressive 54 off 62 balls. Despite the promising start, Surrey’s accuracy proved difficult to combat as they mounted the pressure following Basketter’s dismissal. The middle order struggled once again as wickets fell without many runs added to the total. Despite some late resistance from Wynne (15), Charlotte Scarborough (9) and Rebecca Struthers (15), it proved too great a task and Wales were dismissed for 161.
There were plenty of positives to take from the weekend and it was a big learning curve for a young side against several formidable players. They will be looking forward to their fixture against Northants next Sunday.