Women’s Pre Season Tour

(By Amy Hearn and Alice Hart)

In April, the OUCC women headed off to the Desert Springs Cricket Academy in Spain for their first ever overseas tour. The tour was made possible thanks to a generous donation from local supporter Philip Bassett, for which the team were very grateful, and the results of which were evident throughout the season. To be able to spend quality time together as a team, both on and off the field, paid dividends when the season began in May, especially for a side in transition, after having lost a number of key players following the 2017-18 season.

One of the aforementioned players, Imogen Brown, accompanied OUCC to Desert Springs as their resident player-coach, as Graham Charlesworth was busy with the men’s MCCU side at that time. Imogen provided very useful insights both on and off the field, encouraging the newer players to mix with those who were already well-established within the squad.

Team-bonding, then, was the theme of the tour, and perhaps its greatest success. Captain Vanessa Picker delegated responsibilities with authority, and the squad were treated to some hilarious evening entertainment, courtesy of Fliss Gush’s homemade “Cricket or _?” game and Brown’s umpiring-scenario game, enjoyed over pizza one evening. Room allocations were organised so as to encourage integration within the team, and many a great friendship was born.

The OUCC girls were well looked after by the team at Desert Springs, which was a fantastic place to play cricket. The ground itself was picturesque, overlooked by mountains, and perfectly kept. Shortly after arriving, the squad had their first outdoor practice of the season, which proved useful both to brush off the cobwebs and adjust to the conditions in Spain, which were somewhat different to that which the majority of the girls were used to.

They then enjoyed a cool-down in the pool, before a meal in the resort’s restaurant and an early night, with four T20’s scheduled across two days to look forward to. The opposition for the week was Devon Over 60s, and a Wanderers XI consisting of players from the Yorkshire senior teams as well as locals. They each packed years of cricketing experience and expertise. Although they may not have been the most nimble on the pitch, they could read the game perfectly, and were not bad with the bat and ball either. The four games of cricket were played in the right spirit, and with bounteous enthusiasm from all sides.

Although the girls were defeated in all of their matches, the experience was undoubtedly a useful one – in fact, it proved crucial, as they learned how to operate as a team, and discovered their individual roles within the side, before coming into their own as a collective throughout the season.

The girls were able to learn from their opposition’s expertise, and in the last T20 match – in which the Wanderers XI combined with the girls to make two mixed teams – the girls very much enjoyed working with these talented players.

This match also gave OUCC’s token northerner Amy Hearn the opportunity to speak in her mother tongue, and translate for her fellow southerners. Katie Bennett scored the winning runs in a dramatic last over, showing off our tap and run skills that would be a key tactic in the season ahead. Hearn and Emily Wilkins also very much enjoyed sledging fellow team mate Caitlin Deacock when she came into bat. It was the longest period that Deacock has ever been quiet for.

The matches themselves had some interesting highlights (and lowlights). Amy Hearn, Caitlin Deacock and Alice Hart all made their debut for OUCC,  after an intense winter in the nets. Brown decided in one instance to stop the ball with her hat, and in another to chase said hat across the pitch. Emily Wilkins set an arguably low standard for the level of sledging which the girls would, eventually, come to enjoy over the season ahead. She also managed to score 20 runs in one of the matches, a highlight among the low-scoring games which took place on the tour. 

Gush impressed everyone with her bowling, which ultimately saddened the team as she would be on her year abroad for the season ahead. McNab (i.e. Scotland the Brave) performed well, as her brilliant catching and fielding skills shone through, and her excellent bowling installed confidence into the team … though little did they know, that a 23-ball over (i.e‘Shover’) lay waiting in the not-too-distant future. Izzy Harrison did a great job both behind the stumps and as the team’s resident physio – who knew a Brooke’s degree could be so useful?

It was, then, with thanks to the pre-season tour that the girls got off to such a successful start at the beginning of Trinity term, as it set both the tone and the standard, as well as the spirit in which they would play their cricket. From a team-building point of view, the tour itself was invaluable. This was very evident as the atmosphere on the journey home was unrecognisable in comparison to that of the outward journey! The girls would like to thank the OUCC committee, local donor Philip Bassett and Desert Springs Resort for the incredible opportunity.