The nights may be drawing in, but the cricket season is still very much alive in one particular corner of Scotland. The women and girls’ programme at Dumfries Cricket Club is one of the best-established in the country, and as last Sunday proved, the onset of autumn has done nothing to dent their players’ enthusiasm for the game.
“Today we had an outdoor soft-ball session,” said Women and Girls’ Coach Hugh Farries. “These run indoors over the winter, and this was basically a continuation of that. We do various activities, game-based as much as we can, and try and finish off with a game in a suitable format depending on the number who are there. It’s about providing an introduction to the game in a really positive social setting – we want to give anyone who wants to the chance to come along and play.”
Hugh has been involved in the programme at Dumfries from the very beginning, and remains instrumental in its ongoing development.
“It was in 2011 that we started to run women and girls’ sessions on a weekly basis,” he said. “Back then it was slightly awkward to find a vehicle in which to play [competitively], so our first game wasn’t until November, when we went to Peebles to take part in an indoor women’s tournament that [former Cricket Scotland Women and Girls’ Development Officer] Kari Carswell used to organise. That really helped us because we’d never played indoors, and only one had really played an outdoor match.
“We ended up as winners, beating Edinburgh Uni in the final. That stirred a few competitive juices, and gave everyone enthusiasm and confidence because they realised they could do it.”
Looking back at the team who played in the six-a-side competition that day, some notable names stand out.
“That was an interesting side,” said Hugh. “It featured two mother-and-daughter combinations, one of which was Sue and Kirsty Strachan, as well as Rosy Ryan and Rachel Howard, both of whom, along with Kirsty, went on to play for the Scotland Under-17s. So you could say it provided the current Cricket Scotland President, the Women and Girls’ Manager and a full Scotland cap in the case of Kirsty, not to mention a future Scotland Masters hockey international as well. Quite a varied team! But it formed the basis for the next year, when we put out a full hardball side for the first time.
“We played as Dumfries in the Scottish Cup from 2012 and in the Women’s National League in 2013 and 2014, then in the Cup only in 2015,” he continued. “We joined the new West Development League in 2016 and in 2017 also played as part of a West Combined Team in the Scottish League in 2017.We did that again in 2018, and then in 2019 we played with Galloway in a combined Ashleigh Building sponsored women’s team, which we were going to do again this season.”
While the women’s team at the top of the club is flourishing, the roots below it are equally strong.
“We can only really talk about last season, unfortunately,” said Hugh, “but for the very youngest players we have All Stars and Kwik Cricket – or what might be termed Dynamos Cricket now – which is mixed, and then the junior age-group teams – Under-11s, -13s and -15s. Those sides are also mixed, and then there are the midweek and senior teams above that.
“Some of the women play midweek cricket in our local evening league, either for our teams or for some of the others established in the area. And then specifically on the women’s side we have our weekly CricHIIT and women and girls’ training sessions in the summer.
“We try and gear those to who is coming along. If they’re starting out, we tailor it towards that; if they’re more experienced, then they have an opportunity to be supported with individual or group coaching.
“Combining the hardball team with Galloway helped out both clubs in terms of making sure we could get sides out, because although we might field a full side, doing it consistently is a stretch. You need a pool of at least sixteen players to be able to fill any gaps that might crop up, which is quite a lot to come up with all at once. But last season whenever we had a fixture we always had a team, and that is a credit to Galloway as well.”
The summer of 2020 presented a unique challenge to cricket clubs across the country, but despite the lack of inter-club matches over the past few months there have still been positives to take away.
“Because of the difficulties [around COVID] almost all the cricket we played was within the club, but that meant that people got to see the girls play,” explained Hugh. “A lot of the male members were aware of their capabilities, but with everyone going their separate ways to play in the different teams on Saturdays or Sundays, they might not have actually seen them play cricket before.
“The girls got the responsibility of bowling and batting in those games which really helped their confidence, but it has really raised the profile of women’s cricket in the club as well.”
And as he looks to the future, continuing to do so is top of the agenda.
“Ideally we want to get back to what we were doing last year,” said Hugh. “We did that as much as we could this year, even though we started late in the summer. That’s why we’re continuing now, because we’ve got some interest and we’re trying to keep it going. We’d like to get the monthly indoor soft ball going over the winter again too. We go where the interest is, and at the moment we’re getting quite a bit of interest in soft ball, so we’re looking to consolidate that and find opportunities to play soft ball cricket locally or further afield.
“We’ve been pleased with our progress and with the girls that have come through over the past few years. For me a personal highlight has been the progress of Katy Anderson, [who took 1 for 3 on her Regional debut for the Stormers in September]. She’s been playing in our juniors since she was six and always stuck at it, even when she was the only girl in the team in the early days.
“It was so good to see her end up with a Scotland Under-17 cap last year.”