The Radlett Women concluded their 2014 Southern League campaign in utterly dominant, record-breaking fashion on Sunday 14 September. Facing Brighton & Hove, a team who had briefly topped the Championship table in the early part of the season, on the top pitch at Cobden Hill, Radlett demonstrated precisely why they should be playing at the top level of Women’s domestic club cricket in 2015.
On a glorious September afternoon Alexis Mannion won the toss and elected to bat on a good looking track. Openers Cath McNeill and Anna Harris set off at a good run rate thanks to some often profligate bowling from the Brighton attack. The team fifty came up in the 12th over and the total had quickly progressed to 64 before Harris was run-out for 25. Mannion joined McNeill and the pair continued to make hay while the sun shone, scoring at a run-a-ball for the next twenty overs during an impressive 114 run partnership.<!–more–>
Mannion brought up her fifty in rapid time and was looking set to overtake McNeill’s score, but her innings came to an end as she was caught for 62 – still her best score of the season. McNeill was now joined by Kathy Morley (19) and took it upon herself to take up the role of chief aggressor with some powerful, yet elegant, stroke play as she advanced relentlessly toward a three figure score. Successive boundaries brought her to 98 and then a quick-run two brought up her second century in a Radlett shirt. A great reward for a fantastic season with the bat. With the milestone reached the tiredness began to show. Two more boundaries and a handful of scampered singles brought McNeill to 111 (Nelson’s score) before Nancy Harman was eventually able to sneak one through her guard and remove the bails.
To a standing ovation McNeill departed, having compiled a career best score, with the total at 246 for 3. The Radlett middle order added another 17 runs in the few remaining overs for the loss of 2 wickets, finishing on a formidable total of 263 for 5.
Brighton’s young side came out to bat with a mountain to climb – a huge total to chase against one of the finest bowling attacks in club cricket. While they continued to play in great spirit and with smiles on their faces throughout they were simply outmatched on this day. Opening bowlers Sian Ruck and Anje Lague were quite simply merciless.
Ruck bowled six straight maiden overs from the off. Lague bowled five. During this time nine wickets fell (six to Ruck, and three to Lague). All 9 of these bats had fallen for a duck. Only a handful of byes had moved the team total above zero. The tenth wicket pair approached the crease with the team total on 3 and the very real prospect of the innings concluding without any runs being scored off the bat.
That ignominious record was saved in Lague’s sixth over (the 12th of the innings) as a quick run single by Dixie McDevitt took the total to 4. The innings may have ended there as in Ruck’s next over she found the edge of McDevitt’s bat only for the ball to pass wide of the slip cordon and race to the boundary. Ruck therefore finished with figures of 6-4 – the best from any Radlett player this season (surpassing the 6-6 recorded by Amy Price in August) and the second best of all time.
The coup-de-grace finally came in the fourth ball of Lague’s seventh over. The ball previously had seen Alex Woodward manage to become only the second Brighton bat to get off the mark with a single to bring the total into double figures, but McDevitt then proceeded to pop up a catch for Ruck to take and end the innings. Lague finished with figures of 4-2 – her best for the Radlett Women. Brighton had been dismissed for 10, some 253 runs adrift – the largest margin of victory in the history of women’s cricket at Radlett.
So there, in spectacular fashion, ended the 2014 season. Radlett had finished the Southern League campaign unbeaten for the second straight year and should now progress to the Premier Division for 2015 (pending some re-organisation to the league structure), where they will face off against the likes of England captain Charlotte Edwards (Wokingham), Anya Shrubsole (Bath) and Lydia Greenway (Hayes). A huge challenge awaits, but it is just where this remarkable team needs to be.