There were very few consistent things in 2020, but you can always rely on the excellent Bryce sisters for some consistency when it comes to cricket.
And while Scotland stars Kathryn and her younger sibling Sarah did not play as much as they would have liked during the last calendar year, they did manage to show during the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy (RHF Trophy) just why they are rated so highly by many.
Indeed, their form in that top level English competition for the Loughborough-based Lightning in August and September helped to earn them both full-time domestic contracts with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) heading into 2021.
And this new year will start with a bang with Sarah turning 21 today (January 8) – and that celebration follows hot on the heels on Kathryn, 23, having been named ICC Women’s Associate Cricketers of the Decade between Christmas and December 31.
Forty one full-time domestic contracts have been handed out by the ECB – in addition to the group of 17 centrally contracted England players which includes former Scotland spinner Kirstie Gordon – and being part of it all means that the sisters, originally from Edinburgh, can really put the time and effort needed into their cricket as they aim to keep their careers on an upward curve.
In the 50-over-a-side RHF Trophy, Kathryn showed all her experience for one still so young to outfox a number of batters with the ball in hand.
The all-rounder took 14 wickets in just six matches – including best figures of 5-29 – to finish second in the tournament’s leading wicket takers table.
Only the Southern Vipers’ Charlotte Taylor could top that with 15 scalps and Kathryn, who has previously played for George Watson’s College and Watsonians alongside Sarah, said: “It was great to have the RHF Trophy to focus on and when we were told in late June or so that it would be going ahead later in the summer it really gave us all something to look forward to.
“It gave more purpose to the summer with lots of other sport falling, understandably, by the wayside, so we realised how lucky we were and we knew that every match was going to be of good quality and a test for us.
“Given that it was the first time the tournament had been played I think all of the teams stepped up to the mark quickly and the standard was probably just that bit higher than the county cricket I had played in before.
“With the ball I enjoyed the challenge of mixing things up a bit against different batters and I worked hard on my control so that I could put in some good overs for the team.
“In terms of the [full-time domestic] contract going forward, I think it is great that the ECB have put such a big investment into the women’s game in the current climate.
“They had previously said they were going to hand out a number of contracts, things could have changed, but they stuck to it and it will just allow me to focus that little bit more on my cricket whilst also completing my final year of my degree [at Loughborough University in sport & exercise science].”
Along with Kathryn, Sarah was given a regional retainer contract during the summer – and now she is looking forward to what 2021 may bring backed up by the security of a full-time domestic contract.
“It just gives you a boost and also will help me manage my time as best I can between my cricket and my degree,” Sarah, who is in third year studying for a maths degree at Loughborough University, stated.
“I think in the first few months of lockdown and the subsequent phases people struggled at times for motivation, so when the news dropped about the RHF Trophy getting the go ahead it allowed us to refocus and I just remember everyone being so excited when that first match came along.
“For myself it was nice to be able to open the batting and to be able to play on First Class wickets meant that every ball and every innings was a test.
“In general, I was pleased with how I went [she scored 395 runs from six matches to finish second in the tournament’s runs scorers chart behind Georgia Adams (500) of the Vipers who were the eventual winners] and it was interesting to see how each opponent mixed up their bowlers while I tried to pace all of my innings as well as I could to help the team out.
“The highlight was obviously the 136 not out against the Central Sparks because before that I had got to a decent score and then not kicked on, but that day I did.
“And to make it even more memorable it was great to knock the ball around in the last part of the innings with Teresa Graves (65) to take us over 300 runs and then eventually win the match by 55 runs.”
As well as appearing at the top of the order, Sarah also kept wicket in a number of the games and she feels she learnt a lot in the tournament which she can take forward.
Like most of us, the Bryce sisters will now be keen to put 2020 to the back of their minds now and focus on the future – and with events like the ECB-run ‘The Hundred’ and the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup European qualifiers set to take place over the next 12 months who knows just what this down to earth, talent duo can go on to achieve.
We are certainly excited to find out…