Wales Women kicked off their County Championship campaign over the Bank Holiday weekend, playing in Division 2 of the competition in its final year. With the ECB’s restructure due to be implemented in 2020, consisting of 8 women’s teams and no league system, coaches Aimee Rees and Keri Chahal, and all players, are extremely motivated to ensure that their final season as Cricket Wales Women is one to remember.
Their campaign began with two away fixtures against Somerset and Devon, and with the majority of the squad recently returning from a tour to Barbados, they were confident and excited, having already gained valuable game-time prior to the County season. The conditions were in extreme contrast to Barbados, however, with brisk winds, cloudy skies and chilly temperatures throughout both fixtures.
Captain Lauren Parfitt won the toss at Taunton Vale CC, and elected to bat first. On a slow wicket, Wales started positively, with opening pair Gabby Basketter and Rachel Priest playing patiently and punishing the bad ball effectively – putting on 97 for the first wicket before Basketter was dismissed for 34. The clichéd saying of ‘one brings two’ was exemplified, as Priest was bowled by Nicole Richards with the score only progressing to 104, bringing captain Parfitt to the crease with debutant Seren Hughes.
They negotiated a potentially pressurising passage of play sensibly, moving the score on to 150 before Hughes was run out for a measured 21. A cluster of wickets fell in succession thereafter, with Lydia Clements, Alex Griffiths and Georgia Parfitt falling cheaply, before Danielle Gibson was dismissed for 10. Parfitt remained, however, and thanks to some lower-order runs from Claire Nicholas (20), reached her fifty and Wales dug their way back into the game by posting 232 off their 50 overs. Nicole Richards finished with 3-32 for Somerset and Tilly Bond also claimed 3-26.
With Danielle Gibson recovering from a stress fracture in her back, it was debutant Seren Hughes who partnered Ffion Wynne in opening the bowling. She impressed, too – despite going wicketless, she conceded just 31 runs off her 9 overs and was instrumental in applying early pressure to the Somerset batsmen. Wynne made the breakthrough in the third over of the game, having Emma Godman caught by Lauren Parfitt for 1 with the score on 4.
Richards departed soon after, stumped by Priest of the bowling of Nicholas for 18, before a few questionable decisions between the wickets cost Somerset the wickets of their numbers 4 and 5 for ducks, with Basketter and Alex Griffiths claiming a run out each. Pressure lay on the shoulders of captain Sophie Luff, therefore, and she responded well with a composed 71 before she was also stumped off Nicholas’ bowling, this time with Georgia Parfitt removing the bails. She had added over 100 for the fifth wicket with 14-year-old Niamh Holland (37), a partnership which had the game entirely in the balance. With Luff’s wicket, however, fell Somerset’s hopes of victory, as Holland herself was dismissed just one run later and their inexperienced tail were unable to maintain the required run rate. They reached 180 off their allocated overs, with Wales claiming an impressive 52-run victory in their first County Championship outing.
On the Bank Holiday Monday, Wales made their way to North Devon CC for their second fixture, where the coastal venue added an extra breeze and even lower temperatures than the previous day. Parfitt won the toss and chose to bat again, with the pitch being used and most likely to become slower and lower throughout the day.
The decision seemed to backfire, however, as Wales found themselves in deep water at 22-4 after 10 overs, with Rachel Priest caught behind off the first ball of the innings. The bounce of the pitch was inconsistent, and the outfield wet and slow, conditions which the Devon bowlers exploited perfectly. Parfitt battled hard for 20 off 66 balls by adding 50 for the fifth wicket with Alex Griffiths (39) as the opposition continued to bowl accurately and constantly applying the pressure. Dani Gibson added a quick 19 at number 8, before Wynne was last to fall for 1 as Wales failed to utilise their full 50 overs – finishing 132 all out.
Wales were confident as they began their bowling, having seen the slowness of the wicket and its bowler-friendly bounce when they had batted. They were granted the dream start as well, with Wynne bowling Devon’s opener again with the first ball of their innings. Devon’s batsmen dug in well, with young Emma Corney adding a gritty 20 from 64 balls. The big wickets of Georgia Hennessy and Amara Carr were claimed by Alex Griffiths (with a sharp catch at slip from Gabby Basketter) and Claire Nicholas, who was again impressive to finish with 3-24. However, Emily Edgcombe combatted the Wales bowling brilliantly as she finished 48 not out, well assisted by Olivia Churcher (15) as they reached their target in the 42nd over for the loss of 7 wickets. Wales fought hard, taking wickets regularly throughout the innings and refusing to lose hope, but were undone by Edgcombe’s innings. Seren Hughes impressed yet again for Wales, finishing with 3-33, and they will be seeking to bounce back next Sunday against Essex at Panteg CC.