One of the big success stories of the women’s game this summer was the Hundred. Big crowds. Great atmospheres. And importantly, a big stage for the women to showcase their skills to the masses. We are therefore delighted that this month we have the opportunity to speak to an opening batter from the competition’s inaugural winners The Oval Invincibles, Georgia Adams.
It was an incredible summer for Georgia as not only was there a successful Hundred campaign, she scored a 50 for England A and she also captained the Southern Vipers as they retained the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
But, let’s start with the Hundred. A competition that received a mixed reaction in the men’s game, but for the women it’s fair to say it’s a competition that has been transformational.
“It was an amazing experience,” reflects Georgia. “There was obviously so much expectation and hype going into it. It was an unknown and no one was really sure what to expect, but it was unbelievable and definitely exceeded my expectations. The atmospheres at the ground were like nothing I’ve experienced and to lift the trophy at the end was a great feeling. I can honestly say it was the most exciting form of cricket that I have played and the biggest tournament that I have been part of. I absolutely loved it.”
I can promise you that there were no ECB media people present as Georgia answered that question, it’s a genuine feeling shared throughout the women’s game.
Now, Georgia opened the batting for the Invincibles and I was intrigued to hear how difficult it was going to into a new format, especially as an opener. After all, it’s not like you can sit back, watch others and adjust accordingly.
“I’ll be honest, at the start of the competition I struggled a little bit. If you faced 2 or 3 balls and didn’t score a run, you went into a bit of panic mode. But I quickly learnt that the important thing is to stay calm. As the tournament went on, I personally felt I eased into it a little more. I realised I needed to stick to my strengths and just play the way I play. Before this year I hadn’t even opened in T20 cricket for 2 or 3 years. I worked hard with the Vipers before the Hundred to get my mindset, approach and mentality right. I’d be lying to say it wasn’t tough at times but opening in a format like the Hundred does give you a bit of a license so in some respect that kind of took the pressure off me a little bit. When I look back at the tournament now, I probably feel I could have contributed a little more than I did, but you have to remind yourself that opening the batting you’re inevitably facing the best bowlers and it’s a challenge. As the tournament went on you did learn that you have more time than you think. You can afford some dots and catch up later in the innings when the ball is a little softer and the bowlers aren’t swinging or moving it as much.”
And having now played a season, Georgia is confident the tournament will go on to even greater heights in the years to come. “They have set the bar very high and it’s only going to get better. There were so many world class players who weren’t able to come over this year because of Covid. We didn’t see any of the Kiwis and we didn’t really see any of the Australians – only the state cricketers and we saw how talented they were. So, I think the standard of the tournament is only going to get better and better when we do get more of the world class players coming over. I don’t think they’ll be any real tweaks to the format, but I think tactically it’ll be very different next season. Teams will have a lot more data on players so you can see tactics having much more of a role to play next year.”
But more than anything this year the big positive is the impact the tournament has had with children. “I’m very lucky to coach in a state school and every single kid watched the Hundred. They were all desperate to see my medal on my first day back in! Previously, girls didn’t get to see much cricket. The Hundred is changing that. Free to air coverage has made such a difference. Girls can now access cricket no matter what.”
When Georgia was growing up free to air cricket wasn’t an option, so I was keen to learn what inspired her, her Dad aside (Georgia’s father is former Sussex captain Chris Adams).
“Growing up cricket was all I ever knew. I would go down to Hove to watch my Dad play. I’d be there playing in the nets or on the outfield – grounds definitely weren’t as strict then as they are now, because I used to run all over the place! I’d be there playing with all of the other kids. I grew up with Tom Moores. We were joined at the hip and played so much cricket together. When I was 11 or 12, Clare Connor, who was Sussex and England captain, kept nudging my Dad and telling him to get me involved in the Sussex girls’ pathway. Dad was never overly pushy about my cricket and I was very naïve in that I didn’t even realise girls cricket existed. I was so used to being in and around the boys that I never knew the girls played. One day my Dad sent me down there for a trial. I got moved up an age group into the under 13s and never looked back. I loved it. As a kid, I remember I always counted down the hours to training and cricket definitely influenced a lot of the decisions I had to make after that. I went to Brighton College because of Clare Connor – she was by far my biggest influence and such a role model for me growing up. She was the only female cricketer that I was aware of at the time, which goes to show how times have changed and how important it is for young girls to have role models who are accessible. There are so many now. Brighton College was great for my cricket. Clare Connor was my house mistress but soon left. I think she only put up with me for a term! She left and a couple of years later Alexia Walker came in to become head of cricket and girls cricket started to boom. Freya Davies was there with me as well, she’s now in the England team and a lot of the Sussex side went through that route.”
Such was Georgia’s rapid development that it wasn’t long before she was named Sussex captain. “I was always very lucky and felt very privileged by Sussex. They backed me from such a young age and always gave me opportunities. I broke into the side at 15, ran the drinks on and off for a couple of years and then they quite quickly gave me the opening slot. At the time, there were six or seven England players in the side, so it was quite daunting, but I learnt so much from being in and around those girls. Then when I was 20 the England squad was becoming a lot more professional and as a result, we were seeing a lot less of our England players in county cricket, so I was given an opportunity to captain. I’m not sure what kind of job I did in those early years, but I love it now. Captaincy is always a challenge and I had to learn on the job. My biggest skillset in those early years probably lay in my people skills. I could gel people together and I used that as my strength and if I’m honest the tactical side of my game was probably pretty average back then.”
It’s fair to say that has definitely changed.
“I always wanted to be a leader and fundamentally I just love playing cricket and the challenge of the game. I didn’t use to bowl much at all so the captaincy got me into the game and kept me in the game the whole time and I think that’s what I love about it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always easy. But since working under Charlotte Edwards at the Vipers my captaincy has thrived. Let’s face it, I have the best mentor ever. I’m very lucky to have Charlotte there to help me through. She’s always on the end of the phone. Always there and listening and she just wants to help – that’s been huge for me.”
Now, in recent years the women’s game has gone through a lot of change. Parking the Hundred to one side the whole women’s game domestically has been transformed in recent years. Regional cricket has been introduced, and importantly so have professional contracts. Players represent their counties, but the best of those are then selected to play for their ‘region’ and the cream of the region get picked by their Hundred franchise, and the best of the franchises get picked for England honours. Players have a pathway and perhaps most importantly, a LOT more games of cricket.
“After the first year of the Hundred got cancelled because of Covid there was a lot of backlash in the women’s game, because a lot of those girls had turned down job opportunities to play in the Hundred and couldn’t fall back on contracts. A huge zoom call was scheduled with about 200 players on it. The ECB announced they were setting up a regional structure. What they have done is set up 8 regions around the country, very much based on what we saw in the Kia Super League but with two additional regions. A region is a combination of two stronger counties with minor counties, so each region has a large pool to feed in it. We (the Southern Vipers) for example have Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight to pull from.”
All of the regions participate in the Charlotte Edwards Cup (a T20 competition) and the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy (50 overs) and Georgia was one of 5 players in the region to receive one of the first batch of professional contracts. “I won’t lie, I was speechless when I received a call saying I was one of the five to receive a regional professional contract. And trust me that takes a lot! The new structure has worked really well. Last year we got to the final of the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy and won, which was a great experience. We played some sensational cricket. But women’s cricket is now playing triple the amount of games that we use to play and that’s all we’ve ever wanted. And the stronger the regional scene becomes, the stronger the Hundred will become. I won’t lie though, the body is starting to cave in!!”
Georgia is only 28 years of age, and she already has an impressive medal haul. The Hundred, two Rachel Heyhoe Trophies, has captained Sussex to promotion from Division 2 of the women’s county championship back in 2017 and will soon past 4,000 runs in both List A and T20 formats of the game combined, so I was interested to learn what she lists as her career highlights to date.
“I was very lucky to have 3 years on the England academy, which took me to some brilliant places. I remember going on a batting camp to India. There was only a small group of us, but I remember we were facing a really talented young leg-spinner in the nets. In the women’s game, we’d never really faced a leg spinner, so to come up against a club cricketer on surfaces like that was a brilliant experience. I remember our batting coach just saying to us that we’d all have 30 minutes each again this boy and he wanted us to pick his googly and try and play it. It was such a learning experience. Such good fun. And I loved India. The best thing is when you look out of your hotel window in places like that and Sri Lanka and you just see kids playing cricket everywhere. You can’t help but smile. In addition to that it had to be winning the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy in the first year, especially in those Covid circumstances. We were a new team so none of us knew what to expect so in a way there was no real pressure. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very competitive and we definitely walked out to win, but to play and dominate as we did, without losing a game was an amazing experience and now I have the Hundred to add to my top 3!”
On the subject of Covid, you had to feel for the women’s game. “It was incredibly tough. But it did have a positive impact for some in terms of giving people a break and it’s fair to say we were all ready to go once we got the go ahead again and I think it actually brought people closer together. The challenging thing was we had to train in separate bubbles. There was a Hampshire bubble and a Sussex bubble, so half of the squad didn’t see each other at all during lockdown!”
At the start of 2021 Georgia was called up to represent England A in three fixtures against the full England’s women’s team and scored an impressive 54 in one of those games as the England A side won the ‘series’. “The games were kept relatively under wraps, but they were good fun. They now want to do a regular England A structure based on your form in the regional structure, which is great as players will get rewarded for performances in the regions. We went up there to take on the full England women side. We did have a few of the England women play for us, like Anya Shrubsole who was our captain – she was coming back from injury and wanted to ease in. We beat them, I got a 50 and Laura Winfield scored a brilliant hundred. It was nice to beat them, but in their defence we’d all played a lot of regional cricket to that point while that was their first game. That was their excuse anyway!”
And are England aspirations still strong?
“I’d love to play for England. It’s always the end goal. But at the same time, I have come to accept that women’s cricket is growing so much with some brilliant young cricketers coming through so if England doesn’t happen I’ll embrace the Hundred and regional cricket with both hands and push myself to win more trophies with the Vipers and the Invincibles. But England is of course still the dream.”
You wouldn’t back against her achieving England recognition. You also wouldn’t back against Georgia being picked up in other domestic tournaments around the world.
“I’d love to play in competitions around the world. I know that I just need to get my name out there and get noticed through my performances. We are now seeing competitions being set up all over the world in women’s cricket. If I can perform in tournaments like the Hundred hopefully doors will open.”
And knowing we do get a large number of kids’ reading our interviews I had to ask Georgia what advice she’d offer up to aspiring young girls interested in taking up the game. “Do it. Embrace the challenge of it and enjoy it. Failure is inevitable in a game like cricket. You’ll fail more than you succeed but that’s okay. It’s all about the journey and how much you learn along the way. When you are up, enjoy it. Make the most of it and definitely capitalise on those ups. But above anything, enjoy it!”
We’re certainly enjoying watching Georgia at the top of the order and 2022 could well be her year. You heard it here first.