Cricket is Britain’s biggest summer sport and the ladies game is going from strength to strength, with England winning the ICC Women’s world Cup this month. Here in Sheringham there is one woman who is showing the men how it’s done.
Bethan Cornell, 22 from West Beckham is one of the regulars at Sheringham Cricket Club in the Norfolk Cricket Alliance. The young seam bowler already has an illustrious career across the country and is now back in North Norfolk looking to send the stumps cartwheeling.
As Ladies cricket is still in its infancy in Norfolk some women and girls have to play for men’s teams to maximise their game time. For some young girls this can be a deterrent but Bethan says she disagrees: “I really like playing with the guys at Sheringham. They are a very friendly group and I’ve always been made to feel welcome. To be honest, my gender has never really come up – I’m not the girl I’m just one of the team and if I get picked or dropped for games it’s because of how well I play and not because I’m a girl.” The openness and equality is a real motivator for Miss Cornell and she is very happy with the progressive nature the game has taken in our area.
She has been playing the sport for seven years and due to her gender qualifies for many different sides. She plays men’s cricket for her hometown club Sheringham, plays ladies cricket for Fakenham CC and opens the bowling for Norfolk Ladies in the ECB Women’s County Championship.
Her influence as a youth coach at her clubs paired with the success of the ladies national team has helped give boys and girls equal opportunities, she explained: “At Sheringham both the boys and the girls have all been so excited by the World Cup win and are dead keen to keep playing.”
Unlike most boy’s and mixed gender schools, cricket is very rare in all girl’s schools so Bethan was very fortunate for the chance to discover the sport, she said: “England woman had just won the World Cup so I picked up a letter from school about local clubs and I turned up to Sheringham as they were running a girls session on a Sunday. I loved it so much I began to play often and then play for the boys and later on as I got older and better, for the men and now I have captained the men and I can’t believe it.”
Her rise has been rapid but Bethan has always stayed loyal to Sheringham and the club has been ever present in her life. As mentioned earlier, in 2015 she became the club’s Sunday team captain for a season and was leading the way for men and boys alike.
Despite all the progress Bethan feels there is still much room for improvement. “What I’d really like to see is a more competitive ladies league in Norfolk because at the moment I don’t think there are enough opportunities for me to develop my ladies-specific skills for my county team.” The current ladies league in Norfolk tends to get dominated by the same couple of teams which means the Norfolk players rarely get to face quality opposition locally. The local men’s leagues can only help so much as the playing styles and lengths of the matches are very different.
Overall the ladies game has grown leaps and bounds from where it was even ten years ago. With more and more girls playing than ever before, Norfolk may soon get even more like Bethan Cornell.
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