Blog: Courtney Winfield-Hill reflects on an exciting few weeks for the Academy

By Courtney Winfield-Hill, Northern Diamonds head Academy coach

Right across our age-groups, there has been so much more talk about the game of cricket - both from players and their parents - over the last few weeks while the Hundred has been on.

It has been really cool to hear the extra enthusiasm in their voices when they talk about how much they’re enjoying it, whether that’s from what they’ve seen on the TV or live in the ground, and also the future of the women’s game.

When the girls come into my programme, they haven’t watched as much cricket as, say, a 17-year-old boy has. But the Hundred is changing that. It is certainly going to entice more and more girls into the sport over the next few years.

We played two 100-ball games against the Thunder Academy at Bradford Park Avenue earlier this week, and the girls were just buzzing for it.

It is really important that 100-ball cricket is played at Academy level.

I have tried to structure it at the same time as the Hundred so they can take what they’re seeing on TV out onto the field and mimic the pro’s.

They need exposure to it because they could be called in next year.

I think we can underestimate how close the Academy girls across all the eight regions are to playing in the Hundred.

Look at Kalea Moore, who has been playing for the Superchargers. She is only 18-years-old. Down south, Alice Capsey has only just turned 17 and is playing for the Oval side.

You have already got kids in there who are the same age as these Academy girls. If they are good enough, they are absolutely a chance of getting called up.

It was a win and a tie for us against the Thunder. The second game, we needed one to win off the last ball and they took a wicket. They were two close, exciting games.

We also added a few little funky twists in there to provoke more thought and stimulation tactically, which they seemed to enjoy.

We recently played a Regional senior competition at Ampleforth College, bringing all of our three counties - Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland - together. We mixed up the teams and played cricket a little bit differently.

We wanted to get the girls thinking more, and we want them playing the style of cricket that Dani Hazell wants to play with the seniors and also the style England want to play through their ranks.

So we introduced different tactical power cards into the games.

Each team got a choice of a batting or bowling power card at the start of the game, meaning they had to consider the strengths of their team and the opposition. It just adds extra thought to their tactics.

One of those was what I call, ‘Honey, I shrunk the boundary’. That meant the inner circle became the boundary for five balls within the powerplay.

The thinking behind that being that girls are all of a sudden more willing to hit over the top or, in the field, are more willing to dive on the ring because they must save that ball.

It brings out more positivity in their play. Also, if they feel they are playing little silly games within a game, it takes away the pressure you might otherwise feel and gets them playing with more of a license.

It can throw their heads a bit initially, but they soon get used to it.

The team captained by Leah Dobson beat the team captained by Rachel Hopkins in the final.

We also used those tactical power cards against the Thunder, with their players being exposed to it for the first time. And they said they loved it.

After the break for the Hundred, the senior Diamonds girls are back in action next week when they re-start the Charlotte Edwards T20 Cup.

The next few games in that and the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy are pretty crucial for us given the way the tables lie and with the girls being so desperate to re-write the misdoings of last year’s Heyhoe Flint final against the Vipers.

It will be a great end to the summer, although I hope it’s not too exciting! I hope we can get a couple of wins on the board early doors and not need to rely on other results going our way.


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