The Actonians Centenary year produced a memorable season for girls cricket at the club with the amazing weather providing a wonderful backdrop. For several of the games we lived on the edge when it came to getting a full side out, but we managed to field teams in four age groups and play 27 matches, scratching just the once. In addition to the regular matches, the under 10s sent teams to three festivals, winning 8 of their 10 games.
Several of the girls played regularly for their Middlesex and area teams and several more were successful in the trials towards the end of the season. Four of the under 15s made regular appearances in the ladies second team, joining Gio, Amy and Riya who are now well-established in the ladies first team.
Not everything went perfectly. The fielding varied in quality throughout the season, and we lost more wickets than we would have liked to straight deliveries (a game against Ealing where we lost 4 wickets this way in 6 balls sticks in the memory). But it was a season with lots of endeavour and commitment, with a number of standout performances by individuals and teams. The biggest achievement was the success of the under 11 hardball team who entered the county league for the first time and ended up as champions. Perhaps the defining feature, as witnessed in the testimonials, was the fun and commitment which the girls brought to the season.
Report on the under 11 hardball triumph is three quarters of the way down on this link.
The season could be said to have started in January with the indoor tournament in the Gunnersbury Hub. This was the first time we fielded sides in this competition and we were up against teams who had several years of experience in this form of play. With the rules giving the games a much faster pace than the outdoor version, it provided a fascinating challenge. After losing their first match, the under 15s grew into the competition and were a couple of runs short of getting out of their qualifying group. The under 11s made it through to a loud and raucous semi-final where they were narrowly beaten by Highgate. Although we didn’t win a trophy the tournament was a major hit with players, coaches and parents alike.
For the first time since 2019 we were also able to run a full program of indoor winter training. This was very well attended, while a few of the older girls benefitted from coaching/training from a former India captain at the MCC Hub.
As we moved into April, the first fixtures moved gradually and then quickly over the horizon. We were stretched for numbers in the older age groups but had much larger squads in the under 10s and under 11s. One outcome of this was that several of the younger girls regularly played in teams for the older ages, gaining valuable experience as they did so.
Thankfully the team management group had been strengthened by the addition of Kate Winter, who took on the under 13s, and Bobby Bezhadi who added management of the under 11s and under 10s to his longer-standing coaching and recruitment role. Keely remained as head coach for the girls and Chris remained the manager for the now under 15s.
The season proper began on the 1st May with the under 13s playing a national cup game against Harpenden. On a beautiful Sunday morning, with the weather setting the tone for the rest of the summer, Actonians won by 3 wickets to progress to the next round. The under 11s won their first game (against Eastcote) 2 days later and were to go onto be unbeaten until the end of June. The under 15s had a tougher start. Their first game, against Harrow on the 15th, was cancelled in dramatic circumstances and they were then well-beaten by Richmond on the 18th. However, they got their season off the mark on the 25th May with an excellent win over Shepherd’s Bush, their total of 154 being the highest this group have achieved in a non-pairs match.
When we look back on the year the weather will be the defining memory for most of us. This was probably the first season where we came close to having games cancelled due to the heat, and it was a shame that one of the few wet days disrupted the first junior festival on the 26th June.
In the meantime, the good form continued into June. Captained by Abbie Winter the under 13s had a purple patch for the first six weeks of the season, winning 7 matches on the spin. On the 26th May Ealing set the U13s a challenging total of 120, which was blown away by our openers (Emma and Leah) in a 7 wicket win. They followed this up with a tense and thrilling win in the national cup in a low-scoring match against West Ilsley.
The under 11s had a similarly impressive run and were to win 6 of their 8 completed matches: they won on walkovers on five other occasions. The highlight was probably the 22th June game at Ealing which saw an excellent team performance, which was rounded off by Hannah Winter bringing home the narrowest of wins with a brilliant 39.
The under 15s built on their win against Shepherds Bush with wins against Harrow and Eastcote, the former game marked by several excellent Actonians catches. One of the pleasing features of the under 15s had been how well the younger girls had adapted to playing in the team. Valeria (under 12s) was a regular and Abbie, Leah and Emma from the u13s all made several appearances. In addition, virtually every game saw a turnout from at least one of a cohort of under 11s. All of the under 15s put in at least one excellent game, but one of the most striking performances was by Maise who had transformed her batting with a run of hard-hitting scores in the 20s.
By 17th June the girls section had achieved a total of 12 wins out of 13 completed. Success for the under 13s and 15s in the national cup saw us frantically organising games for the next round and reminded us just why it is you can do post-graduate courses in sports administration.
The second half of the season was tougher going, partly because we played more games against the stronger teams. The under 15s lost a national cup game to Beaconsfield on a baking hot Friday evening. The team from Berkshire definitely deserved the win but a late surge by Actonians meant we came within reach of an unlikely victory: this felt like a case where we might have won had we begun the game as well as we finished. The under 13s went out of the national cup (on 26th June) by 138 runs to an excellent Slough team. Thereafter there was a run of defeats against local Middlesex and Surrey opposition, although they ended up as evens with six wins playing six defeats. The Under 11s lost some of their momentum due to a run of games where the opposition conceded, but they continued to impress.
As is usually the case with the juniors, the girls season wound down from the second half of July. But there still a couple more highlights to be had before the end of the season.
The under 15s have been at the heart of the girls section for several years and have played in several memorable matches over that time. On 20th July they turned out against Eastcote in what will be their final match in the junior squad, and the match rose magnificently to the occasion. Played under heavy cloud, and eventually finishing in near darkness at 8.30, the game swung back and forth. Eastcote batted solidly and fielded and bowled brilliantly, and by 8.00pm were two wickets away from the win. But some nerveless and dogged batting by Riya, Calla and Megan (helped by a couple of servings of good fortune) swung the match round, and Actonians claimed an unforgettable win in the dark at around 8.30pm.
The under 11s were to bring the season to a close when they played Ealing in a league semi-final on the last day of the summer holidays. One of the biggest crowds saw the girls put up a determined performance, and although they lost out, they can take considerable pride in how far they got.
There were lots of memorable performances during the season, several of which have already been alluded to. But everyone who played regularly deserves an honourable mention for their commitment and the contribution they made.
Best bowler – Alice Stone;
Best batter - Emma Weel;
Best fielder – Molly Ebdon;
Player of the year – Abbie Winter;
Sporting Award – Siena Tracey;
Most Improved Player – Freya Cornish
Most Promising New Member – Emily Emily Hartman
Volunteer of the Year – Kate Winter
A mention should go to all of the captains i.e Abbie Winter, Hannah Winter and Riya Patadia. All of them impressed with their energy and thoughtfulness, and the post-match debriefs amongst the players became a charming element of each of the games.
Like all sports, cricket relies on a network of volunteers to keep things ticking over. In addition to the managers the roll of honour this year includes:
Our scorers – Karina Lo Dico, Gio Tyrer, and Tracy Ashby
Multiple umpire Kevin Mahoney, with regular support from Stuart West
Coaches – Bobby Bezhadi and Keely Juster
The many parents who helped out with scoring, ferrying and match reports
The ground itself, which sometimes feels like it is a living, breathing being
The junior section leader – Clifford Pile.
The managers – Chris, Kate and Bobby
Actonian 2022 season – Coach view
“The way they play as a team is so impressive. It is extraordinary how good they are at encouraging each other and striking that there is never a cross word between them.
They are always talking, and the downside of this is that they sometimes let their attention drift away from the game. They could also do with, as a term, learning how to defend a straight ball.
But they are really good captains, with Abbie and Riya being very impressive. As a team they are always asking the right questions, and it is a joy to umpire them and be involved in coaching them”
“From a scorer’s point of view, the first thing to say is it was great to see them bowl fewer wides as the season went on. It made for better cricket and also made it easier to complete the scorecard. I didn’t see much of the under 11s team, but I know a lot of the squad played in the older age groups. The under 13s played really well as a team and showed excellent morale in absorbing several changes across the course of the season. There was strong and intelligent captaincy across the teams, especially from Abbie and Riya. In the under 15s I was especially impressed by Maisie aggressive batting throughout the season against some quality bowlers. It was great to see several of the under 15s step out into the ladies team, with a couple of highlights being Siena’s 50 for the seconds and Riya’s match-winning 8 for 17 against North London.”
I think the girls from all age groups played some outstanding cricket this season. It was lovely to see the commitment and determination shown in most of the games. I thought that there was a lot of team spirit and teamwork shown but most of all I saw how supportive they can be towards one another. There are many highlights I had the pleasure of seeing and scoring for them, I would add that I saw them grow within themselves and as a team of young cricketers, all their training and hard work showed on the field with some great performances. I think that next season there will be lots of opportunities for them to grow in confidence and skills to see them all improve on parts of the game.
I thoroughly enjoyed coaching the teams in my first year. We had so many amazing highlights with the main one being winning the under 11's hardball league.
The under 10's festivals gave so many more girls the opportunity to play matches and this transition has prepared the new under 11's a great deal.
With the under 11's now moving up to the under 13's age group and the under 10's moving into the under 11's it’s exciting and encouraging to see the girls section starting to blossom.
We look forward to seeing as many of the girls attending the winter nets programme alongside entries into the indoor league competitions which will no doubt prepare us for next seasons summer fixtures.
As we head into winter, it’s time to reflect on the many successes of the summer and think about what we want to work on for next season. Our Friday night sessions were well attended and I was impressed with the work ethic on display. As a coach, it’s always nice to see areas that we have worked on in training being put into action during games, and this was evident in many of the matches I watched. Our fielding was sharper, our bowling more consistent and our batting more resilient, so well done to you all.
The best way to improve any sport you play is to watch it – if you are not able to watch the women’s game on Sky, the BBC have fantastic coverage of women’s cricket – they have match highlights, interviews, articles and podcasts, everything you need to improve your cricket.
Down in Australia, the Women’s Big Bash is underway, with 6 English players playing – more details can be found here :
Just after Christmas, South Africa will host both the U19 and Senior T20 World Cup – making her debut for Scotland will be a former Richmond junior Molly Barbour Smith. Still only 15, she has just been selected for our regional side the Sunrisers academy.