Scotland all-rounder Rachel Hawkins admits she will take away “so many fond memories” of representing her country as the 28-year-old announces her retirement from international cricket.
As the sport resumes somewhat ‘normal’ north of the border, Rachel has decided to step back from representing Steve Knox’s Wildcats so that she can focus on her next big challenge of becoming a mother.
She and her partner are expecting a baby and, with her teaching career also taking off, Rachel feels now is the right time to make this move.
“I have loved being a part of the Scotland team’s journey over the last few years, it has been amazing,” the player who has been around the set-up for a number of years and has 16 T20Is under her belt, said.
“When I first came to Scotland I didn’t know much about the national team, but as I started to get into the squad everyone made me feel so welcome and on and off the pitch I have many fond memories.
“I have also made friends for life and I know that with the great batch of young talent that is coming through now led by the excellent Kathryn and Sarah Bryce that the future is bright for women’s cricket in this country.
“For myself it is the end of one journey, but the start of another with my family and I won’t be far away from a boundary edge cheering on the girls in the future that is for sure.”
So how did Rachel, raised in England, end up representing Scotland with such dedication?
“My dad moved up to Scotland in 2012 and I was a student at the time in Sheffield,” Rachel, who is a teacher at Lawmuir Primary School in Bellshill in North Lanarkshire, explained.
“I started coming up to visit him a lot, especially in the summers, and the nearest cricket club at the time was Stirling County.
“They had quality female players there like Kari Carswell, Lorna Jack and Lois Wilkinson and I enjoyed playing at the club and as time went on Kari suggested I try and make it into the Scotland set-up.
“It was all a bit of a whirlwind, but exciting for me and I enjoyed trying to help the team punch above our weight.”
Rachel’s cricketing journey before playing north of the border had begun in Nottingham where she grew up.
“I was about eight when I took up cricket because I had seen my brother, who is three years older than me, playing,” she explained.
“When you are young you take part in lots of activities, but for some reason I just really enjoyed cricket and playing for local club Mansfield Hosiery Mills.
“I went on to play for Nottinghamshire before I qualified to play for Scotland via residency and I got involved in the ECB competitions before playing my first major tournament in Thailand [The World T20 qualifier in 2015].
“The last few years since then have been filled with highs and lows, but the one thing the Scotland team always does is give it everything we have got and I am proud to have played my part.”
Rachel’s favourite match…
Rachel has named the World Cup qualifier with South Africa back in 2017 as her favourite match for the national side.
In February 2017 Scotland headed off to Sri Lanka for the World Cup qualifiers in a bid to reach the showpiece 50-over event in England later that year.
With only four teams from the 10 at the qualifiers to go through to the next stage and established teams like the hosts, India, South Africa and Pakistan it was always going to be a big test for the side.
However, anyone who has seen the Wildcats in action in recent years knows that they like a challenge and they were keen to show what they could do to a wider audience.
The opener in Group B was against South Africa on February 8 at the Mercantile Cricket Association Ground in Colombo and Rachel, then 25, takes up the story.
“It was a game where we were complete underdogs, no one expected anything but a walkover for South Africa, but we gave them a fight,” she recounts.
“We batted first and had a slow start, it was quite daunting facing up to a team like South Africa and the dug out was cautious and nervous.
“I went into bat when we were 46-3 and I was in with Kari [Carswell] and we were batting slowly, lots of dots and lots of nerves on my part. After some pep talks from Kari we decided I should bat freely and go for it.
“On came spinner Sune Luus and my one over smash. I faced three dots in a row then she made a mistake, a short ball that sat up nicely and I stepped back and hit it with full commitment with all of my strength and it went for six over mid on.
“She was not happy, I got stares galore from all surrounding opposition players and a little fist bump from Kari!
“The next ball she bowled too full outside off and I took a big forward stride and hit it hard through the covers for four – I was ecstatic, a classy shot that I was very proud of.
“The dug out were cheering and I could hear my dad shouting from the sideline too!
“My glory was short lived as I didn’t face a ball for the next few overs and then Shabnim Ismail came back onto bowl and had my stumps flying.
“Sad times but I’d had a blast. I then got to watch Kari carve out 50 runs and help us get to 142 as a team.”
As Rachel alluded to, Carswell made 50 from 119 balls while she herself had made 10 with those two cracking shots off Luus and Liz Priddle chipped in with 19.
“Next we went out to field,” Rachel continued.
“I took my favourite usual spot of slip and settled in ready to fight.
“It wasn’t a bad start from us, lots of dots, but the occasional bad ball that was hit hard.
“We stuck with it, and in the third over came an edge. Katie McGill was bowling to Lizelle Lee and I took a sharp catch to my right – We were buzzing to say the least.
“The team kept fighting and kept things quite tight, South Africa never looking like they were breezing along and captain Abbi Aitken-Drummond came into the attack for us.
“Abbi kept me in at slip – and for good reason. A few balls into her spell and I took the slip catch of my life!
“I went full stretch to my right, the ball was slightly behind me and about head height and it just stuck.
“The pictures and video of this catch will always be my favourite. The video was shared on Facebook by our analyst and it’s awesome to look back on. There’s a picture in particular where the whole team are gathered around me post dive which is just amazing.
“The game eventually got away from us and South won, but we will always remember giving them a scare, which they admitted to after the game. We shook them and that’s testament to the hard work and belief we had that day. Credit in particular must go to the coaches who to this day help me practice and nail slip catches season after season.
“The support we received that day from our travelling ‘Tartan Army’ was brilliant. The voices from the sidelines and the passion they show is contagious and helps us wherever we travel in the world.”
South Africa won the game by six wickets and, although Scotland did not make it to the Super Six stage, they did defeat Papua New Guinea by seven runs, Rachel top-scoring with 35.