Chiswick Women’s Cricket team to play in beginners league

Image above: Chiswick Women’s Cricket Team in action

First time playing competitively

Chiswick Women’s Cricket team are to start playing league matches for the first time this summer.

The team, who came together initially for a bit of fun and exercise during the Covid pandemic, have so far played two matches – both friendlies against the Shepherd’s Bush women’s team, who had similar beginnings to them and are at a similar stage in their development.

That experience has emboldened them to join the Derek Morgan T20 league, so-called after the Derbyshire and England player who was one of the biggest supporters and the instigator of women’s and girl’s cricket in Middlesex.

“We realised we had enough skills and understanding of the game to play” Chiswick Women’s team captain Leonora Yorath told The Chiswick Calendar.

For cricketing purposes Chiswick comes under the county of Middlesex and the league is described as being ‘the entry point for emerging clubs wishing to play league cricket’.

“I’m hoping they are true to their word,” said Leonora, a little anxious that the other teams may not be quite as new to it as they are.

Image above: Chiswick Women’s Cricket Team in the bar

Understanding the levels of tactics

It is slightly nerve-wracking signing up for eight matches – four home and four away – throughout the summer, when you have only just learned how to hold the ball properly.

“The hardest thing about learning cricket is learning how to bowl” she said.

I asked how well she now understood the game.

“I’m getting there” she said, cagily. “I know the rules. I know the basics, but it’s the tactics, there are so many levels to it.”

She and her husband Jim, one of three trustees of the Chiswick Cricket Club, entered a new level in their relationship when, on a four hour drive down to Cornwall, they talked cricket tactics for the entire journey, without either of them getting bored.

Image above: Already award-winning within their own club – Leonora (R)

Club ground recently renovated

Jim has been instrumental in regenerating Chiswick Cricket Club, winning an ‘Outstanding Contribution to Cricket’ award from the English Cricket Board in 2015 for the regeneration of the ground in Dukes Meadows, just off the A316.

The ground, on Riverside Drive, is fully equipped with grass wickets, artificial strip, covers, and recently refurbished changing rooms and nets. It has been in continuous use as a sports ground ever since 1923, when Chiswick Urban District Council acquired the land from the Duke of Devonshire for £150,000. It was the old Fuller’s Griffin Brewery sports club until they gave it up in the middle of the last century.

The club became Chiswick Cricket Club when two old established Chiswick cricket clubs merged in 2010 – Turnham Green Cricket Club (established 1853) and the Polytechnic Cricket Club (1875). There are currently five men’s teams as well as juniors and the fledgling women’s team.

The Middlesex Development League and the Middlesex Disability team also play at the ground, which has had a £300,000 upgrade to its facilities.

Images above: Duck & Ball pub

“It’s a sanctuary”

As well as being leading lights of their respective cricket teams, Leonora and Jim run the Duck & Ball pub in the old cricket pavilion, where we were served a stupendous roast beef and Yorkshire pudding while we talked on Sunday.

“I used to come and watch the cricket” Leonora told me,  but would just chat to people and not really pay attention.”

When Covid put a stop to all our normal activities and she started learning to play cricket herself, it was the comradeship she valued most:

“The thing I enjoyed most was just getting together with a group of women of all different ages and backgrounds and having to take the session at a slower pace. In our daily lives we’re always rushing about. We have such a laugh, it’s a sanctuary.”

Having women in the club has changed the dynamics in the club house too. “Not that it was every too laddish, but It has helped the balance,” said Jim.

It has become a bit more serious now as they gear up for their first season. Some who were only in it for the social side fell away once they decided to join the league and they are keen to recruit new members so they can boost their regular squad: “ten regulars with five or six younger ones, 20 at most”.

Image above: Team pride

Outdoor practice begins Wednesday 19 April

The oldest players are in their fifties, the youngest just 13. They need 13 players to take part in T20 matches.

They started practising last week at the indoor nets at Lords and will begin outdoor practices for a couple of hours on Wednesday evenings on 19 April. Any women interested in joining can join a training session and try it out without having to front up for kit. Even the team shirts are available to borrow initially and the club has enough kit for everyone, so there is no need to have your own.

Once committed, the membership fees are £100 a season and match fees are £10. Contact Leonora through the club’s website.

As well as the fun and the glory of it, there is also the carrot of a team trip to the West Indies next year. The men’s team has already visited the island of Grenada, as seven Chiswick players are Grenadian. They had a fantastic time, have been building up the links and are now planning to go back in February 2024, with Women and Junior players.

Meanwhile if your interest is more in a good Sunday roast, the Duck & Ball is a member of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme, offering a discount to The Chiswick Calendar’s subscribers. The Duck & Ball is open from 11am to 11pm daily. Food is served Tuesday to Saturday from 12pm to 9pm, and 12pm to 6pm for roasts on Sundays.

Image above: Duck & Ball outside area overlooking the pitch

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See also: West 4 Women

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