Ansty Cricket Club, in the heart of Sussex, is your average friendly village cricket club running four Saturday sides, with the 1sts and 2nds playing Sussex Premier League cricket and the 3rds and 4ths in the Mid-Sussex Stoner league divisions 4 and 5.
Back in 2011 they started a women's team on the back of several talented youngsters and a few more senior female players and coaches. The team developed and won Division 3 of the Women's Cricket Southern League in 2013 and would probably have won promotion in 2014 from Division Two, but the league structure was changed to a regional basis for clubs below the Premier league and the Championship. Effectively Ansty stayed in the same league (now known as the Wostrack League after former Surrey cricketer Jenny Wostrack), which they are on course to win this year. Promotion to the Championship should have been their reward, but the Southern League are now mooting the scrapping of the Championship next year due to many teams failing to fulfill fixtures and conceding games. It is a familiar story in women's club cricket.
Undaunted team manager Dave Burt looked around for some sensible alternative cricket for his blossoming young female stars. He felt that many of them could hold their own quite comfortably in the 3rd XI, and so the girls' names were put up for selection and selected on merit. Several of them are now regular members of the 3rd XI team - Megan Janman, Tash Sole, Lucy Western, Ellen Burt, Ellie Monk. In fact Janman has now made 14 appearances and is the 3rd XIs highest run-scorer (345 runs to date) and wicket-taker (25 wickets) with Sole (20 wickets) following closely behind her.
With the standard of games for the girls in the WCSL being rather variable and with the prospect of promotion to a higher standard of cricket next year apparently dashed again, Dave Burt suggested that the committee allow the 3rd XI to field an all-female team for just one week, to see how they got on and the reaction they got from the opposition. If it worked then it could be an option for the 2016 season. The committee agreed.
So it was that last Saturday the Ansty 3rd XI was made up entirely of female players. Their hosts and opponents, Streat & Westmeston 2nd XI (two places above them in the league) were not too phased, as they had seen a couple of the girls play in their away fixture earlier in the season. In fact Janman had scored 34 and taken 4/33, so they knew the girls could play. They were a bit taken aback when they realised the entire team was female, but the respect the girls had earned in the earlier match, meant they knew they had a game on their hands.
Streat won the toss and decided to insert Ansty on a damp wicket. For once Janman missed out, but batsmen 2-7 all got into double figures, with Western (36) and skipper Sofie Cawley (34) top-scoring, as Ansty clocked up 187/6 declaring after 47 overs. It left them 43 overs to try and bowl Streat out. Streat made a decent start reaching 55 before they lost their first wicket, and then moving on to 133/2, but a flurry of wickets curtailed their run chase and they settled for a draw finishing on 152/5. [scorecard is here]
But that is not what this game was really about. It was not about breaking down boundaries or showing that girls can compete with the men. It was about allowing girls to be cricketers and to play their cricket at a level that suits their abilities.
Shortly after the game finished team manager Burt received an email from a member of the opposition. He said "I wanted to tell you how impressed I was with your team's
performance. As a schoolmaster and Level 2 cricket coach I know how long it
takes to produce play of the standard that your girls produced. It was simply outstanding and I think you and your club deserve to
be congratulated on all your efforts. Every one of your players was so focused, disciplined and accurate in their play, and yet there was also a tremendous sense of unity in everything that was done". Praise indeed. Take a bow Ansty CC, manager Burt and, of course, the cricketers (who just happened to be female) who took to the pitch to represent their club.