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Women's league ushers in new era

England women

The women's game continues to rise in popularity, particularly thanks to the successes of Charlotte Edwards' England team

The 2010 season is one due to go down in the history books as a season that will alter the landscape of women’s cricket in East Anglia for years to come.

On May 2 2010, at Parkers Piece, Cambridge, and at Elton Park, Peterborough, the first balls will be bowled in the inaugural season of the Price Bailey East Anglian Women’s Premier Cricket League.

Sponsored by Price Bailey Chartered Accountants, the league involves teams from Peterborough Town CC, Godmanchester Town CC, Cambridge NCI CC, Mildenhall CC and Bishop’s Stortford CC.

The league, which will be organised and governed by the existing men's East Anglian Premier Cricket League, aims to offer the highest possible standard of women’s club cricket in the region and to use its status to encourage more clubs to take an active interest in women’s cricket with the ultimate aim of having more clubs running women’s teams.

Clubs from the counties of Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Hertfordshire are eligible to apply for membership for the league which will also run a cup competition involving eight clubs towards the end of the season.

Women and girls cricket is the fastest growing sport for participation in the country and has seen a growth nationally from 93 clubs in 2003 to over 500 in 2009.

This growth can be attributed to some excellent grass-roots initiatives such as the Cricket Foundation’s Chance to shine programme, which offers opportunities for hundreds of thousands of school children to play cricket at school each summer.

There is also a growing appetite with the wider cricketing public for the women’s game which has grown since the emergence of the England women’s team as a world power in the game.

The team, led by former Huntingdonshire youth cricketer Charlotte Edwards, are currently world champions in both the 50-over and 20-over versions of the game.

Edwards, who has thrown her support behind the new league and will be its official ambassador, said: “I’m delighted to be an ambassador for the newly-created Price Bailey East Anglian Women’s Premier Cricket League.

Charlotte Edwards

Edwards is excited to be supporting the new league and impressed by progress made since she began playing the game

“As a local girl I grew up having to play boys cricket locally and then all of my women’s cricket in Kent, as there were limited opportunities in this area at the time.

“It’s so fantastic that now there is a league which is aiming to provide cricket for the most talented players in the region.”

The newly created league is part of a wider push to increase the number of opportunities for women and girls to play cricket locally and there are now a number of county leagues who offer competitive cricket for clubs with women’s teams.

The Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Women’s League, The Norfolk Women’s Cricket League, the Two Counties Ladies Challenge (Suffolk and North Essex), the Hertfordshire Saracens League and the Beaumont Seymour League (Essex) all offer league structures playing mostly Twenty20 cricket, which is proving to be a successful entry level for women new to the game.

Michael Kay, ECB women’s regional cricket development manager for London and East, said: “The creation of the Price Bailey East Anglian Women’s Premier Cricket League is a defining moment in the history and the future of women’s cricket in the region.

“Women and girls' cricket is the fastest growing area of our game and the fact that there has been the support for the new league is credit to all of the hard work that is currently taking place in schools and clubs across East Anglia.”

Keith Coburn, East Anglian Premier Cricket League chairman, said: “We are proud to now have a women’s league to sit alongside our extremely successful men’s league and delighted that we are able to support the new league with panel appointed umpires so the quality of officiating will be on a par with the men’s league.”

The women’s league will have a separate management committee but will be represented on the East Anglian Premier Leagues main executive committee.

It will be chaired by Helen Clarke, who is coaching development projects coordinator for LIVING SPORT, the Cambridgesire and Peterborough County Sports Partnership and a bowler for Godmanchester Town.

Clarke said: “We are extremely lucky to have been in cooperated into the existing structure of the East Anglian Premier League, to have Charlotte Edwards lending her support and are extremely grateful to Price Bailey Chartered Accountants for their generous sponsorship.”

For anyone who is interested in taking a look at the action, matches on May 9, will feature Bishops Stortford v Godmanchester Town at Bishops Stortford and Cambridge NCI v Mildenhall at Parkers Piece, Cambridge. Matches start at 1pm.