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Lancashire Cricket Board - Lancashire recently visited by England Women players
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Lancashire recently visited by England Women players

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If you are looking for a chance to shine in cricket there can be few better incentives than to meet people who have grabbed their chances with both hands and are currently shining on the international stage.

So pupils at Lancashire schools and colleges were very fortunate recently when three of the England Women's team, Lydia Greenway, Danni Hazell and Jenny Gunn, visited the county and fulfilled a wide range of coaching and speaking engagements.

Inevitably, perhaps, the England women felt disappointed at finishing only third in the recent Women's World Cup, but they were buoyed by the great increase in media coverage which the game has attracted. In few counties is the interest and participation in girls' cricket greater than in Lancashire and the England trio found their schedule packed with a range of events involving players at different stages of their cricketing development.

Jennifer Laycock, Womens and Girls Cricket Development Officer for Lancashire takes up the story:

"The England girls joined me at my first session at Unity College in Burnley, where the pupils are at the very beginning of their cricket journey. Very few girls had played before and we were met by a biting wind and dull skies, but we still enthused the pupils, partly by arrangng a bowl-off between the players and the pupils. We had two classes but lessons were 1 hour 45 minutes long which meant we could cover plenty in that time. The England girls provided some great catches and some good coaching tips for the pupils.

"Next, the girls worked with cricketers nearly at the top of the county's ladder when they coached the cricketers on our Emerging Players Programme at Old Trafford. The England girls were on hand to offer support, advice and facilitate practices for the six girls during their skills session.

"On Tuesday the Lady Taverners U13s County Finals was the centrepiece of the day. The England players fully engaged with the girls, helping to warm teams up, joining in warm up games, scoring, umpiring and, of course, presenting the trophies. The girls were impressed with the standard of cricket on show and were keen to give some top tips. They also picked a player of the day, who was presented with four tickets to a Friends Life t20 game of their choice at Old Trafford.

"Then it was back to Old Trafford for the next EPP session, which involved 10 girls on fitness and fielding. The England girls caused more of a stir here, as many of the girls, boys and parents knew who they were and plenty of photos were taken. The girls offered encouragement and even joined in with some of the fitness elements of the session along with giving some great tips for the girls during the fielding session. They also decided for next week they would take the reins and run the fielding session and put the girls through their paces.

"On Wednesday the girls went back to school and to the younger end at Birkdale Primary in Southport. The England Women delivered an entertaining and engaging assembly giving details of their cricket background, Chance to Shine, how the young girls can get playing and what was next. I will follow up this assembly with some curriculum sessions in the next few weeks while Southport and Birkdale will run after-school clubs. It was, and will be, a good team effort to increase participation of girls in Southport and surrounding areas.

"The girls then headed off to Ormskirk West End Primary School where they led curriculum sessions. Ormskirk and West Lancashire has a great girls set up thanks to hard work from  the LCB's Cricket Development Co-ordinator James Cutt and the enthusiasm the England girls brought will only enhance this. It was a good first three days with the girls, with some excellent messages going out to young girls in the Lancashire area.

"The second week saw us return to Unity College in Burnley and we couldn’t believe it was actually colder then the week before! We split the class up and targeted batting and bowling skills in the same lesson. This allowed us to play a fun game to finish, giving the girls chance to practice their batting and bowling skills in a match format. Lunch time club was another success, partly because we had new faces attending. None of these girls are playing cricket out of school and they will be signposted towards the local cricket clubs of Burnley CC and Lowerhouse CC along with Read CC for the older girls to play in the Women's team there.

"Another session with the EPP at Old Trafford followed where the England girls got involved with the flicker and set the girls some targets and scenarios similar to what they experience at England sessions. This pushed the girls but they were eager to learn more from their role models. At the Lady Taverners U15s County Finals on Tuesday the girls got stuck in with the scoring, umpiring and dealing with the photo calls!

"The girls then put the EPP girls through their paces in some head-to-head fielding drills in the evening. The EPP girls were really grateful for the experience and it gave them and added drive to take that next step as they looked up to the girls.

"On Wednesday we had another day in Merseyside at the De La Salle High School. There were girls' curriculum sessions, partly run by the LCB's Cricket Development Co-ordinator Chris Chambers, where St Helens are up to speed with the girls cricket provision out of school. There are girls actively playing at local clubs, district teams and also a senior women's side. The work of the England girls in De La Salle High will demonstrate to a group of girls already engaged in some cricket that the game is worth pursuing to the next level and it will encourage them to join a club."

It's almost necessary to take a deep breath after reading an account like that. It is, though, just one indication of the massive amount of cricket which is organised and encouraged in the county under the aegis of the LCB. Thanks go to the England Girls most of all, but also to the tireless Jenny Laycock, who must sleep sometime but no one can quite work out how. Thanks to the Cricket Foundation, funders of the Chance to Shine Programme, who made it possible for Lydia, Danni and Jenny to attend this extensive programme and all the schools, pupils and teachers too. This visit was a resounding success.

Written by: Paul Edwards

Photos from the vist available in Image gallery on the right.

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