Wine & Wickets initiative gets women playing game for first time

Abbotskerswell - one of the Wine & Wickets success stories

WOMEN’S cricket initiative Wine & Wickets has proved such a success in Devon it is expected to reappear again in 2018.

A ten-week programme driven on by ECB aimed to get women down to their local clubs playing social softball cricket matches.

Twelve clubs under the umbrella of the Devon Women’s Cricket Association signed up for the scheme, which started with learning the rudiments of the game in-house.

Club coaches, among them Devon cricket captain Josh Bess at Sidmouth, introduced the girls to the game during a series of practice sessions.

To encourage participation each session ended with a glass of wine for those who wanted it, hence the ‘Wine & Wickets’ tag line. ECB came up with a grant of £125 per club to make the sessions possible.

Wine & WicketsWith the basics taken on board the new recruits were invited to take part in one of three tournaments against other Wine & Wickets squads.

An added incentive for competing was collecting a second payment of £125 – and a softball cricket kitbag to take back to their clubs.

Festivals were hosted by Heathcoat, Cornwood and Abbotskerswell.

Matt Cooke, the DCB cricket development officer who looked after the Wine & Wickets initiative in Devon, said the festivals got bigger and better every time.

“There were two clubs at Heathcoat, four at Cornwood and by the time we got to Abbotskerswell we had eight teams from six clubs as Sidmouth and Paignton sent two,” said Cooke.

“More than100 women participated in the three festivals throughout the summer, and on average 15 new women to cricket have attended across the centres running Wine & Wickets.

“A number of clubs where there was zero or very little women’s cricket have now started this summer, which has been fantastic to see.”

The Pairs format used would be familiar to anyone involved in primary schools softball cricket.

Teams start with 200 on the board and bat in pairs for two overs each. Runs scored are added and wickets lost count as five runs taken away.

Clubs taking part in 2017 were: Abbotskerswell, Bovey Tracey, Budleigh Salterton, Bradninch, Cornwood, Heathcoat, Ipplepen, Paignton, Plympton, Sandford, Seaton and Sidmouth.

Cooke said he expected more teams to enter next year, although it is a bit too soon to say what ECB are planning.

“It is intended to continue the momentum of the ECB Women's Softball Cricket Festivals scheme and Wine & Wickets support in 2018, hopefully with more teams taking up the offer,” said Cooke.

“Clubs are continuing to run club training and Wine & Wickets sessions throughout the rest of July and August.

“With a number of clubs starting conversations about further friendly softball fixtures, the future looks bright for women’s softball cricket in Devon.

“We are just waiting to hear from ECB to confirm what the push will be next year.”

Claire Mitchell, a Wine & Wickets recruit from Abbotskerswell, intends to keep playing.

“The festivals may be over but Wine & Wickets will be continuing,” said Claire.

Teams taking part in the final Wine & Wickets Festival at Abbotskerswell