When Ramsbottom Cricket Club women’s team won every league game they played last season, they naturally won plaudits all round.
But such was their invincible dominance of the game that they are now seeking an even bigger challenge - against their male sporting counterparts.
Ramsbottom’s women’s first 11 are set to make history by joining the men’s Lancashire League Third XI section next season.
The move follows their success last season, when they won all their games in the women’s Lancashire Cricket Foundation League.
Andy Dalby, the club’s director of cricket, said: “from my side of things, it was a natural progression to approach the chairman about what we do for next season.
“After we spoke about potentially entering a women’s side into the Lancashire League, we then consulted with the girls themselves, the parents, and the supporters to hear their views.
“Once we were certain of their support, we approached the Lancashire League, who were hugely supportive of the initiative.”
Ramsbottom Cricket Club said that while the future of women’s cricket is women playing against women in a competitive league, an interim solution was required to help its female players progress even further.
The move has been broadly welcomed by fans, with one writing on Twitter: “They should replace the [men’s] 1XI after the season they had.”
League officials said the inclusion of the Ramsbottom ladies could pave the way for other leagues to do likewise.
Mike Bibby, chairman of the Lancashire League, said: “There have been a number of changes to the league in the last few years and this is the icing on the cake.”
Ramsbottom Cricket Club, in Bury, was one of the league’s founding clubs in 1892, with the women’s and girls’ section set up in 2020.
Relishing the challenge
As well as playing in the Lancashire League, the women’s and girls’ first XI will continue to compete in the women’s Lancashire Cricket Foundation League next season, where they will aim to retain the trophies they won this year.
John Fox, chairman of the club, said: “We’re really happy to try and be the standard bearer for women’s cricket in the Lancashire League and, hopefully, the North West.
“It’s a big thing from our point of view but we want to stress that it’s the women’s game as much as Ramsbottom Cricket Club. We’re here really to try and help the women’s game progress.”
Along with the success of the first team, the seconds and the U18s side both won their respective leagues last season, while the under 13s are current North West of England Champions and Lancashire County Foundation Softball Cup Champions.
The club also has five players on the Thunder Emerging Player Programme - a women’s regional cricket team which represents Lancashire and the North West of England.
Imogen Young, 17, wicketkeeper-batter for Ramsbottom women’s and girls first XI, said: “I’m looking forward to the challenge of playing against men next season. It will develop us all as players and as a team.”
The team will begin their League campaign away against Bacup on April 20, followed by their first home match against Accrington on April 27.
Shriya Pindoria, one of the women’s team players, said they are relishing the new challenge.
“The team was surprised when the coach asked us about it and everyone said ‘yes’ straight away,” said the teenager.
“We’re excited. It’s cool – I think the men will be quite surprised by us.”