Hollie Armitage in action for England Academy. © Getty Images

With a green light on the 2020 domestic playing schedule still on hold which is hoped to include the new 50-over, eight-team regional competition, James Carr, Regional Director for women’s cricket in Yorkshire and the North East, is delighted with the range of talents and experiences confirmed with a trio of new professional playing contracts.

Last week, retainer contracts were offered to Yorkshire captain Hollie Armitage, 2017 World Cup winning-member Beth Langston and England spinner Linsey Smith. The retainer contracts come in an attempt to help the players survive the Coronavirus pandemic while the full-time contracts which would have already started by now will not happen until October. All three players will all transition to full contracts and be joined by two more players.

“What exactly a schedule looks like remains to be seen – there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes – but it’s nice to have something to focus on,” Carr said. “It’s great to have that message sent to the girls that this professional era of women’s cricket can start.” Young Armitage (23) and Smith (25) are two of the brightest prospects in the English game, while the 27-year-old Langston – capped six times by England between 2013 and 2016 – will be aiming to return to the top level. “Beth is one of the quickest bowlers on the domestic scene,” added Carr.

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“She’s (Langston) won a World Cup (as a non-playing member) and has played on both sides of the equator. She’s a brilliant signing. She’s got previous experience with Yorkshire having played with the Diamonds in the Super League. Her presence in the team will bring natural leadership because of what she’s achieved. She will set the tone opening the bowling.”

Carr also feels that with the inclusion of Langston, it will nourish and enrich the squad environment and at the same time give England selectors a headache. Linsey’s played for England on a dozen or so occasions (nine T20s in 2018 and 2019) and is well thought of. She’s currently on an England rookie contract and can push to play more regular international cricket,” he said.

Meanwhile, Armitage had a good last season both at home and abroad in Australia. Having gone out there to play club cricket, she found herself involved for a month with a very well established franchise in Sydney Sixers. She hasn’t played a great deal of cricket in the last five years because of a couple of knee injuries. “Not only will she have support cricketing wise with us, but she will also get excellent science and medical support,” he added.

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Smith and Langston are currently based in Loughborough, but the plan is for them to relocate in the ‘medium-term’, informed Carr. The Yorkshire and North East Centre of Excellence’s team will be called the Northern Diamonds. Danielle Hazell has been appointed as the CoE’s head coach – she will also lead the Northern Superchargers women in 2021.

“We want our resources to be aligned as best as possible,” said Carr. “Dani has lifted silverware with England at World Cups as a player and has previous coaching and playing experience within Yorkshire, and she’s from the North East. That appointment was like a hand in glove,” added Carr.

Whatever cricket is played this summer will be somewhat of an audition for those players hoping to win the final two full-time contracts, with each of the eight CoE’s nationwide contracting five players. That will undoubtedly bring pressure.

“Ultimately, this is the transition into elite women’s cricket,” added Carr. “Pressure comes with the territory. But I’m sure Dani will develop a philosophy and style of play with the girls that means they can play fearlessly and eat any pressure up. The brand of cricket England play, you want to see that at the level below.”