Lancashire’s Kate Cross has become one of the first female cricketers to be awarded a central contract, making England the first country in the world to have a fully professional women’s cricket team.
Cross, along with 17 other players, will receive a pay increase and benefit from extra funding as part of a move by the England and Wales Cricket Board to professionalise the women’s game.
Over the past 12 months the women’s game has gone from strength to strength, culminating in back-to-back Ashes victories and a narrow loss in the final of the ICC Women’s World T20 tournament.
Cross played an integral role in England’s Ashes victory in Perth, her pace and accuracy helping England to a historic test match victory.
Clare Connor, the ECB’s Head of Women’s Cricket and former international captain herself, said the contracts marked the dawn of a new era for women’s sport.
Minister for Sport, Helen Grant, also praised the move by the ECB.
“This move will not only reward the exceptional achievements of this current crop of international cricketers but also to demonstrate to girls and women throughout the country that a career in sport is a realistic aspiration for them,” she said.
“England’s women cricketers have led the way with world class performances on the field and it is fantastic that the ECB is now moving to professionalise the sport.”
The domestic women’s game has also received a boost after the creation of a 50-over domestic competition that mirrors the men’s game.
Cross was a surprise inclusion in England’s 2010/11 Ashes squad, when she was called up after injuries to Beth Morgan and Claire Taylor.
Since then she has become a key part of England’s test and limited-overs squads.
England’s women will host India for a one-off Test match in August, before playing three one-day internationals and a three game Twenty20 series against South Africa in September.
Main image courtesy of Cricket Australia via YouTube, with thanks.