It’s a year to the day since 6 women (Helena, Anita, Nik, Gillian, Arch and Sarah C) took to a cricket field for the first time and we saw the beginnings of a Crowthorne Women’s cricket team.
Yesterday, remarkably, they became soft ball Champions of Berkshire.
On a glorious late summer’s afternoon, beneath the shadow of Windsor castle the Coyotes turned last years’ results on their head with outstanding wins against Sonning, West Ilsley and Slough.
The Coyotes had qualified for Finals Day after coming runners up in their group, but knew it was going to be a tough assignment against more experienced cricketers.
We started off against tournament favourites Sonning who have led the way in Women’s softball cricket in Berkshire over the last couple of years with a well- drilled team and some excellent cricketers.
Captain Finucane (G) lost the toss (in fact she lost 3 tosses- something to work on over the winter Gillian) and Coyotes were sent into bat. If the players were nervous, then it didn’t show as the 2 Gillians carried out the game plan to perfection against some tight opening bowling- lots of sharp singles, no swipes across the line which spread some confidence through the team. A solid start.
In came a new pairing of Shaz and Rish and they upped the run rate quickly with a few big shots, excellent running between the wickets and no alarms.
Anita and Sarah Collins continued the serene progress with the bat - a good mix of solid defence and making sure they scored off the bad balls.
This left Hels and Lou to deal with Sonning’s quick left arm bowler and ensure Crows came away with a competitive total. Again more quick running, nudges in to the gaps and a competitive total of 263 on the board- especially with the bowling available to the Coyotes.
On a very slow pitch the ladies went out to field with a reminder on the importance of length. They then proceeded to put together their most complete bowling and fielding performance of the season. Outstanding full bowling from Gillian, Shaz, Rish, Helena and Anita ensured Sonning couldn’t play their favoured big shots to midwicket and some tremendous catching from Gill (Bill) O at midwicket (she’s made that position her own) as well as 4 superb team run outs involving Lou, Rish, Hels and Gill O ensured that the mighty Sonning fell well short of the target.
Sarah Collins behind the stumps showed tremendous skill and courage keeping right up to the stumps and ensuring Sonning had no chance to settle.
On to West Ilsley, another team that had beaten us convincingly in that first tournament. The Coyotes brought in Kate, Nik, Lorna, Jo for this one so new batting pairs were sent out. We knew that West Ilsley were a strong batting side so a big total was needed on the board. Once again the ladies showed great cricketing nous with the bat- Gillian and Kate got us off to a flying start which was then backed up by Lorna and Anita who kept the run rate going at a run per ball. Nik and Gill O batted like they’d been batting together for years with some great running between the wickets .
Helena and Jo then had the fastest scoring partnership of the day adding 30 for the last pair with Jo hitting several boundaries and becoming highest scorer of the day to get us to 278.
Annoyingly, West Ilsley had a lot of good batters and the weak link we were hoping for never came about as they kept up with the required run rate. However the bowlers stuck to the game plan – particular praise to Lorna for bowling her 2 best overs of the season when it really mattered- and West Ilsley still needed 27 off 3 overs as the last pair came to the wicket. This was the first time in the day that the coach (umpire) started feeling nervous, especially as West Ilsley’s star batter started smashing it around. This was where the Coyotes team spirit and effort in the field won through with Kate, Lorna and Hels chasing down some lost causes to ensure 4s became 1s or 2s. Helena then took a crucial wicket of the star batter to keep Coyotes on top. Our Captain then kept her nerve bowling under pressure in the last over and the Coyotes were 1 win away from becoming Champions.
Back to the original line up for the last game against Slough, who have become opponents we have enjoyed playing against despite not managing to beat them very often.
Having enjoyed batting first in the opening 2 matches we were asked to chase, but once again the Coyotes bowling and fielding was too much for our opponents to build a competitive total. This time it was Rish who was the star of the show, bowling 2 overs with hardly a run scored and then taking an excellent catch as she moved to her right. Gill O took another couple of catches (as we’ve now come to expect) and Slough struggled to 236.
Low chases can be nerve-wracking, especially when there’s a Championship to be won. However, Gillian and Gill saw off the Slough opening bowlers who have got a lot of wickets against us this season with no damage. By the time Shaz and Rish had finished we were already level with the Slough total. Anita and Sarah took us well in to the lead and the only remaining doubt was whether Messrs Partridge, O Loughlin and Finucane would make it back from the off licence with the celebratory drinks in time (they did!)
It was left to Hels and Lou to entertain the large and very vocal travelling support with a mix of switch hits (encouraged by the coach for once !) and further boundaries to see Crowthorne to become Champions of Berkshire in style. A pitch invasion ensued and Windsor saw its biggest celebration since Harry and Meghan’s wedding.
Credit to our opponents who all played some excellent cricket and in the spirit of the game. Thank you to Windsor CC for putting on the show and to Verity Johnson at Berkshire Cricket for organising and championing the Women’s game.
A very proud coach of this set of amazing ladies- it’s been a pleasure to coach them and see it all come together on the big day.
I want to say a big thank you on behalf of the Coyotes squad to Hamish for helping out on every single Friday night this summer ( the mosquito bites were worthwhile), Dan Partridge for giving all his support to making sure this was even possible and Katie Finucane and Gabi Jones who have scored many, many Coyotes matches this summer, plus all the other youngsters that have helped at training and with umpiring/scoring (Dylan, Jake, Callum).
Lastly, what made yesterday particularly special was having the families and squad players who stayed and watched, cheered and took photos for all 3 matches. The atmosphere created was supportive and inspiring for the players and one of the Slough players commented to me on how fantastic she thought the club spirit was.
A great day for the Club and Women’s Cricket.
Well done The Champions of Berkshire !