One hot August day, in a park tucked away in a small village, a group of young lads practiced their cricket skills whilst their mums watched on. Conversation was, as usual, based on ways to entertain children in the summer and pants (amazing how often the subject of pants gets raised). Then the conversation took a different direction and became about league cricket, the 2s were short of players, various possibilities were mooted and dismissed - some serious, some outlandish.
Until one mum said, with a laugh, that she'd play. The silence that followed was palpable, the pause in conversation hanging in the air like the cartoon character that has run off the cliff and stays suspended, legs still furiously running, before crashing to earth. Another mum looked up, and broke the silence with a nod and a whisper that she too would like to pick up a bat. Suddenly the quiet became a buzz, could Eastergate form a women's team? Could we get enough players? Within half an hour a Whatsapp group had been formed and word was spread that anyone interested could be added.
The club chairman was contacted and gave his wholehearted backing. Eastergate Women's team was underway.
It wasn't until January that the women got together for their first official training session. In the sports hall of St Philip Howard High School with plastic bats and tennis balls borrowed from the junior section, the group of mums, friends and partners got to grips with batting, bowling and fielding. The end of April saw the improving weather and the ability to move training outside. To gain experience a "friendly" game was arranged between the ever growing women's group and the juniors. It may not have been the most graceful of games but it definitely gave both sides plenty to think about and left them knowing what they needed to do. As the debut game approached the nerves began to kick in. Are we good enough for this? Do we have any idea what we're doing? Are we going to make complete fools of ourselves? Despite the insecurities running through our minds the club was 100% behind us, a shout was put out with the details of the first game and as the women arrived to play they were joined by over 40 supporters. What a fantastic show of unity from the club and a great display of team spirit.
Priory Park won the toss and elected to field. Despite the nerves, the first batting pair went out and faced the opening bowler. The training had clearly paid off and they were soon off the mark with the first runs. There was a lot of friendly banter and good natured fun between the teams as the runs slowly but steadily made their way onto the scoreboard. The first pair managed 5 runs each in their 4 overs. The following pair responded to the new found confidence and came out to the crease confidently, they kept up the runs and gained 5 between them, unfortunately an over confident run led to one being run out and losing 5 runs. It was, at this point, very fortunate that we had a selection of juniors watching as it was left to them to try and explain to the spectating first team that as it was a pairs match, despite being out the batter was still in. It was then the turn of the 3rd pair, one of whom was Susie, the wife of the umpire. The umpire who also happens to be the club chairman. Club chairman and also the captain of the second team. The other half of the partnership was fiancé to a member of the first team - and a previous Sussex disability team player. So there was no pressure to perform well then. Not one to be put off by nerves they headed out to the square and were soon off the mark, managing to score 2 and 1 runs respectively. The final pair were by now champing at the bit to get out and do their part and started as they meant to go on by sending the ball rolling into the outfield, although unfortunately, due to the length of the grass, not quite managing a 4. They finished on 6 and 8 runs. With just 1 wicket and the added extras plus the starting score of 200 the tally at the end of the innings was 294.
The second innings started well, with fielding tight and bowling clean, just one small upset when Jess mis-threw a ball and it landed further away from the wicket than it had started, followed by a very dramatic body crumple to the ground while Jess tried to regain some dignity (her husband and both her cricketing boys were watching!) This was counteracted with some superb bowling and fielding by all members of the team including a stunning one handed catch by Malia and two very quick reactions by Ash both resulting in catches. With 3 wickets against them Chi Priory were unable to match the target set and it was a well deserved win for Eastergate in their first match.
Both teams played brilliantly with special mention to the Chi Priory youngest player who was just 11 years old. It was a match played in great spirit at a very welcoming ground - even though our band of followers by far outnumbered the home crowd.
Well done Eastergate women, bring on the next game!