DUWCC ready to make its long-awaited return – Palatinate
By Ben Fleming
After a year of restrictions, rules and regulations, the sport of Durham is back in all its glory. Durham cricketers, in particular, who saw the entirety of last season canceled with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, have waited longer than most.
And while the sight of poorly timed shots, long jumps and questionable matches on the racetrack will be welcome.
back with great anticipation, the five highs, post-game pints and wider cricket camaraderie were sorely missed in equal measure.
Reflecting on this welcome return over the past week, DUWCC (Durham University Women’s Cricket Club) club captains Anna Perkins and Antonia Welch are full of optimism.
“It’s great to be back in the sun. It was one of the first years that there was such a sense of community between the men’s and women’s teams and it’s great to see.
Anna and Antonia talk to Palatinate just days after their first round of matches, which saw full wins for the first and second teams against Leeds and Hull respectively.
“It was great to have two wins on Wednesday and to see the cohesion between players who hadn’t really known each other before,” they said. “There have been some remarkable performances from both skippers Helen Fenby and Indy Wood, supported by our newcomers, so it’s good to see that and their leadership roles working.”
With such a positive start and the summer months ahead, it would be easy to forget how tumultuous the past 12 months have been for the club as a whole, as Perkins and Welch explain.
“We lost a lot of players at the end of last year. Combine that with financial cuts, including to newer scholarship funds, and we expected this year to be particularly difficult.
Yet like most sporting outfits in Durham, DUWCC has risen to the occasion in this long and still frustrating offseason. At the start of the first lockdown, the entire club took part in the University Ashes Running Challenge alongside 11 other UK university cricket teams and raised over £ 6,000.
Internally, the club have also sought to progress. Before returning to the grass, the club held a joint meeting, with male and female members, to discuss harassment and sexual assault in universities; share experiences and strive to make a tangible, long-term improvement in the culture within the entire club.
With the club now firmly focused on the issues on the pitch, the first few weeks could not have gone better, with the club now having enough members to launch a new third-team squad, much to Anna and ‘s delight. Antonia.
“We had probably the biggest recruiting ever among teams ranging from beginners to national standards. With the huge influx of cricket rookies it just made sense to expand to a third team to make sure everyone can experience as much cricket as possible and ensure the club can continue to grow.
For one of those players, second-year English student Abi Curran, it’s a welcome return to a sport she started playing at age eight but quit at age 15.
“I can’t think of any other unit that has three women’s cricket teams, that says a lot about the importance of the sport here in Durham. It’s exciting that more and more girls are playing cricket after growing up like so many others being the only girl in the crease.
“DUWCC has been a great way for me to get back into hardball cricket to a competitive level. The support from our captains and coaches has been amazing and it has been so much fun getting back to playing and gelling as a team.
It’s not just the depth, but also the quality of the cricketers on the DUWCC team that stands out. First-team captain Helen Fenby, for example, was selected to play for the Northern Superchargers in The Hundred’s inaugural season this summer.
“Fenners is a great character, for sure,” Welch exclaims. “Having such a top-of-the-line player definitely encourages everyone to play their best when she’s around and provides an ambitious figure for some of our players who aim to turn pro.”
With such a roster of cricketers at their disposal, it’s no wonder DUWCC has set their goals for the season.
“We hope that the first team will finally go all the way and win the BUCS Premiership and be national champions. It would be great if both could win their championship.
At the moment, these are just dreams. But the foundations are in place, on and off the pitch, for a successful season in the sun for women cricketers in Durham. The last words of my interview with the club captains reflect this in a very poignant way.
“You are always welcome at DUWCC.”