A big summer of women’s cricket gets underway in Fife this weekend as the Eagles and Stormers meet in the opening match of the 2019 Cricket Scotland Regional Series. With two ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifiers on the horizon both teams will be looking to put preparation into practice as they play the first of two fifty-over encounters over consecutive weekends.
“The year ahead is going to be the biggest-ever for Scottish women’s cricket and I’m sure it’ll be the best Regional Series we’ve ever had as well,” said Stormers coach Iain Stewart. “With the Women’s World Cup Qualifier coming up there is a chance for everyone in the two squads to really go places, so there is plenty to play for from day one. If come the end of the summer we see a lot of our players in that Scotland squad then that to me would be a great thing for what we have tried to build into our programme over the winter. It’s been a long time in the planning and it’s really exciting to now be at the business end.”
“It’s a huge season,” agreed his Eagles counterpart Gordon Allan, “and we’re very much looking forward to getting into things again. There is a really good team spirit within the Eagles group and we’re very clear about how we want to go about playing our cricket. The Regional Series is a step towards the national team and it’s therefore very important that we keep on developing, but the competition is about more than just creating a competitive environment. We very much want to win it, and I know the Stormers will feel exactly the same.”
The Stormers go into the competition as defending champions after their victory in the first edition of the newly-rebranded tournament in 2018. Lorna Jack, with 154 runs at 51.33, and Rachel Scholes, with 5 wickets at 10.60, topped the averages last time out, and the Scotland pair will be key to their side’s chances once again.
“There is a lot of experience within the squad,” said Iain, “but we have some really exciting new talent coming through as well. Megan McColl, for example, has really come to the fore over the past few months. She has an outstanding slower ball which brought her I don’t know how many wickets last year in the Strathmore Union.
“We know we’re not going to be bouncing people out like Curtly Ambrose but we have girls who really know their fields and their wicket-taking balls, who have worked really hard on their yorkers and so on, and now it’s a case of making that mental switch to being able to consistently do it under the pressure of a game.
“But I think spin will again be the central factor in the series,” continued Iain. “If you look at any level of cricket, male or female, that’s where games are most often won and lost, and in players like Rachel, Lois [Wilkinson] and Abtaha [Maqsood] we’ve got a lot of top-class bowling at our disposal. We’ve put a lot of work into how we play against spin too.
“Looking at things as a whole we know that there’ll be good days and bad days, that’s the nature of things – the Eagles are a very good side with some top players and a lot of it will be about resilience, how we bounce back if they have a better day than us – but we’re backing our squad because there is so much ability in there. Their commitment over the winter has been so impressive and it’s going to be really exciting to see what happens next.”
After their excellent season for the Eagles last year, seamers Katie McGill and Hannah Rainey will again have a big part to play, while national captain Kathryn Bryce and Cricket Scotland Player of the Year Sarah Bryce are likely to be the lynchpins of the batting line-up once more. The all-round depth of the Eagles squad, however, provides both options and opportunities.
“There is a real chance to step up for some of the girls who maybe don’t have so predominant a place in the national squad at the moment,” said Gordon. “Ikra Farooq, for example, who was drafted into the national training squad over the winter on the back of her performances for Carlton and the national Under-21s, for example, has a great opportunity to show what she can do. Katherine Fraser, too, who was excellent with the ball for us last year. She’s still very young, but the control that she bowls with allows us to create opportunities either at her end or the other.”
“But how we bat, especially against pace off the ball, is going to be crucial,” he continued. “The Stormers have some really experienced spinners and it will come down to how we negate them and try to put them off their stride, especially in the T20 games when we need to look to attack from the start. If we can dominate their spinners, we’ll be in a really good place to make it count.”
Regional Series Fixtures:
Saturday 20th April – Freuchie C.C. (50 over)
Sunday 28th April – Stirling C.C. (50 over)
Sunday 2nd June – Strathmore C.C. (T20 double-header)
Sunday 14th July – Dumfries C.C. (T20 double-header)
Sunday 21st July – West of Scotland C.C. (T20 double-header)
Sunday 28th July – Freuchie C.C. (T20 double-header)
Sunday 8th September – T20 Finals (TBC)