This Bank Holiday weekend (Sunday May 4 and Monday May 5) 34 women’s county sides from across the country will get their 2014 Royal London Women’s One-Day Cup campaigns underway.
Comprising four divisions – with division four split into two groups based on geographical location (North & East and South & West) – it is the first time that Royal London will act as the title sponsor for the annual 50-over women’s county cricket competition.
Formerly known as the Women’s County Championship, the competition has been overseen by the ECB since 1998, and in a remarkable sequence, over the past 11 seasons either Sussex or Kent have been crowned champions every year since 2002 – when Yorkshire won the title.
After securing the title for a record sixth time at the end of last summer, current holders Sussex will start their title defence against Essex this Sunday (May 4), at the County Ground in Hove before taking on Warwickshire the next day at St. James’s Montefiore Cricket Club.
Sussex will be led by England women’s wicket-keeper batter, Sarah Taylor, for the first time this season, while England women’s captain Charlotte Edwards will once again oversee things on the field for Kent. Away from the Sussex – Kent rivalry, 2013 Women’s Ashes Player of the Series and Berkshire captain, Heather Knight, will be hoping to emulate her run-scoring exploits from last summer, when she topped the women’s county batting rankings with 604 runs. England women’s spinner Danielle Hazell meanwhile will be looking to build on the 14 wickets that she took last season to boost Yorkshire’s title hopes this year.
Speaking about captaining Sussex this season, Sarah Taylor said: “I’m really looking forward to the season with Sussex and taking on the captaincy role full-time for the first time. The recent success of the England women’s side – especially in the back-to-back Ashes victories – means that the profile and scope of women’s cricket is constantly growing, and I’m hoping that the women’s county game will benefit from this.”
ECB Head of England Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, also commented: “It is very exciting to welcome Royal London on board as the new title sponsor of the women’s 50-over county competition. This move acts as a further example of the increasing profile of women’s cricket at all levels in England.
“The structure, standard and scale of women’s county cricket in England has developed significantly since the ECB first took over the organisation of the women’s county game in 1998. For 34 women’s county sides, in addition to representative teams from Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands, to now to be involved is a wonderful demonstration of the growth that has taken place at the grassroots of the women’s game over the last 16 years.
“It is from this strong base that the England women’s team will continue to progress and perform well on the international stage, as younger players can progress through their county age-group systems to play alongside and against the likes of Charlotte Edwards, Sarah Taylor and Heather Knight.”
In addition to the 50-over Royal London Women’s One-Day Cup, women’s county teams will also compete in the ECB Women’s County Twenty20 Cup in 2014, with fixtures scheduled across July 22 and 23.
Alongside the women’s domestic cricket schedule, England women will host India women in August this year for a one-off Test match and three Royal London One-Day Internationals, before welcoming South Africa women for a three match NatWest Twenty20 International series at the start of September.