ICC Europe has today announced the names of 14 players who will represent Europe in a series of matches against an ECB Women's Academy side in August.
This is the first year that a Women's Europe squad has been selected and follows in the footsteps of the selection of a Men's Europe squad in 2006 and 2007. In its inaugural year, the Men's Europe XI side faced a touring MCC side at VOC Rotterdam and then played a repeat match at Lord's the following year in a one-off fixture.
This year will see an extension of events, with the Women's Europe XI taking on the ECB Academy in a series of two 50-over matches and two Twenty20 matches over the course of five days at the prestigious Worksop College in Nottinghamshire.
Following England's successful campaign at the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup in Sydney earlier this year and now with Europe's top three Associate countries all taking part in the 2009 LV Women's County Championships in the UK, this latest squad announcement rounds up a very strong year for Women's European Cricket.
'A Women's Europe XI is a concept which ICC Europe has been considering for some time. After a successful Women's Academy in April and with all three High Performance Programme countries now playing regular fixtures in the UK, this year seemed an appropriate time to raise the standard of the Women's game even further,' said ICC Regional Development Manager Richard Holdsworth.
The ECB Academy, coached by Academy Director Paul Shaw, is formed of the best up-and-coming young players who have been identified as potential future prospects for the national team. After a winter of intensive training camps at the ECB National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough, the Academy side took on Pakistan prior to their ICC World Twenty20 appearance and will now look towards their European counterparts for their next international fixture.
'The Women's Europe XI is a great vehicle for developing women's cricket in Europe and we are delighted to be able to support their growth by offering them competitive opposition in the form of our England Women's Academy side,' said Head of England Women's Cricket Clare Connor. "Given the depth of the England squad, the Europe XI will potentially be facing players who have represented England at international level, possibly even one or two who were involved in the recent ICC Cricket World Cup win in Australia.
'From the ECB's perspective I would like to thank Paul Shaw for being the driving force behind this project. I'm sure he will find the week just as valuable a learning experience for our own Academy players," she added.
The Europe squad includes seven members from Ireland, five from the Netherlands, and two from Scotland. There will be a choice of opening batters with the Netherlands captain Helmien Rambaldo, Cecelia Joyce (Ireland) and Clare Shillington (Ireland) all being selected. Shillington's two half centuries during the 2007-2008 season will see her play a pivotal role in the Europe side as they take to the crease. Medium/fast bowler Jill Whelan (Ireland) will be one to watch following her impressive statistics of 3-7 in the 2007-2008 season, whilst spin options will be covered by experienced leg-spinner Anne Marie Tanke (Netherlands), Helmien Rambaldo, and Kari Anderson (Scotland).
Wearing the gloves will be specialist wicket-keeper Violet Wattenberg (Netherlands) and Charlotte Bascombe (Scotland). Earning another highly contested place in the inaugural squad is spin bowler Eimear Richardson (Ireland), one of Europe's rising talents whose performances at the last two ICC European Women's Academies have impressed the selection committee.
'To be selected as part of the Europe squad is a huge honour,' said Eimear. 'Since attending the ICC European Women's Academy the technical adjustments, along with the experiences and knowledge gained, have all greatly enhanced my all-round game. 'The coaching academies demanded a very high work rate and skill level so I am really looking forward to being part of the Europe squad as it's an opportunity to play a higher standard of cricket, but also work with some of the players and coaches again.'
Fellow academy alumni Charlotte Bascombe has also been selected for this year's squad. Having attended all of ICC Europe's three academies since 2006, the Scotland wicket-keeper is a perfect example of how cricketing talent can be successfully nurtured given the right opportunities. From playing at club level, Charlotte has gone on to represent Scotland, taken on the vice-captaincy role for her national side, and has now been selected for the first Europe XI squad. With international caps in hockey and lacrosse to her name, Charlotte's cricketing aspirations are now firmly at the forefront and look likely to strengthen as international opportunities continue to present themselves to the talented 22 year-old.
The announcement of the Women's Europe XI squad certainly paves an important pathway for high performance cricket for women in Europe and this has not gone un-noticed at executive level. Commenting on the selection Catherine Goodman, Chair of Women's Cricket at Cricket Ireland said, 'The formation of the first ever Europe XI squad is warmly welcomed by Cricket Ireland. This initiative complements our national women's cricket development plans, giving players an opportunity to further develop their skills and competence.
'The women's Europe XI team formation adds a further level to the development of talented women cricketers in Europe and ICC is to be congratulated on this fantastic initiative. I know that in Ireland there will be a great interest and intense competition for places in this team in the coming years.'
The Europe squad will be based at Worksop College and the ECB National Cricket Centre in Loughborough from August 22-28. The coaching team will be led by ICC Regional Performance Officer Philip Hudson and assisted by ICC Regional Development Officer John Stock.
Women's Europe XI squad: