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Performance, Growth, and Leadership: How 7 Hong Kong Women fared over the UK Summer

This year’s FairBreak Invitational was a roaring success. Across three weeks in Dubai, 12 Hong Kong players had the chance to play with and against some of the world’s best female cricketers and the finest associate athletes. That next year’s Invitational will be hosted on our shores at the Kowloon Cricket Club is both a source of pride and enthusiasm for Cricket Hong Kong and our stakeholders.

Along with ever-growing participation figures at the grassroots level, especially in the age group pathway, CHK encourages its female athletes in the national set up to get as much playing experience and professional development as possible in full member countries.

This past year, seven players from our national team benefitted from significant game time and professional development in the UK. All of them have either been integral members of their club teams or have made key contributions in tough match situations.

Natasha Miles has gone one step further. Miles won the Middlesex CCC Women’s Player of the Year Award for the 2021/22 season. In the Vitality Women’s County T20, she scored 151 runs in 4 innings at a strike rate of 142.5, which included two fifties.

She also played for Gunnersbury in Division 1 of the Women’s Cricket Southern League (WCSL), scoring 129 runs in 3 innings.

‘This year has been one of the best in recent memory,’ said Miles when asked about her stellar season.

‘It’s given me an opportunity to reframe my role as a senior player and to support and share knowledge with those I’ve been playing with, which has injected new life into my game,’ she went on to say.

The Anita Miles Foundation Scholarships

Natasha Miles’ contributions to cricket in Hong Kong go beyond the field and the changing room. As the daughter of the late Anita Miles, Natasha and her father Rodney have strived to continue the legacy of Anita whose tireless efforts helped spread cricket and the women’s game across Chinese schools and communities.

This year, the Anita Miles Foundation partnered with recent ICC Hall of Fame inductee Charlotte Edwards and the Southern Vipers to provide fully funded summer scholarships for ethnically Chinese players Emma Lai and Heiley Lui. Both Emma and Heiley played in Division 1 of the Hampshire Cricket League, with Emma turning out for St. Cross Symondians CC and Heiley playing for Cove CC.

Emma scored 94 runs in 4 games for her team, averaging 47 and striking at 98.95. In a game against second-ranked Aldershot, she walked in with her side in trouble at 73/4. Unperturbed, she top-scored with 54 (60) before taking 1/13 in 5 overs with the ball to set up a win that helped them maintain an undefeated run in the league.

Heiley also made some key contributions across the season. She took a particular liking to Odiham & Greywell CC, scoring 20 not out and taking 2/17, respectively in successive matches against them.

In addition to being part of a supportive team environment, Heiley was especially grateful that Emma and her were able to train with the Southern Vipers coaching staff, including the legendary Charlotte Edwards.

‘Charlotte taught us to bat 360 degrees,’ she remarked in her tour diary, which you can read on the official website of the foundation.

‘We hit various areas using multiple shots. It will help us respond to field placements and allow us to play wiser. My weakness was hitting to the fine leg and third man areas.’

Both players were also given the opportunity to develop their coaching skills at the All Stars Cricket program, where they ran classes for children aged 5-8.

‘I look forward to sharing my [coaching] experiences at All Stars Cricket with cricket development and community cricket development in Hong Kong,’ wrote an excited Heiley in another diary entry.

Mariko debuts for Northern Diamonds

During their UK stint, Emma and Hailey had the pleasure of watching a T20 game between the Southern Vipers and the Northern Diamonds at the Ageas Bowl. While they were seen sporting Vipers jerseys, there was the familiar face of Mariko Hill in the opposition dugout.

While Mariko did not make the playing XI for that game, she did play two games for the Diamonds during the Charlotte Edwards Cup, featuring alongside experienced players such as Leigh Kasperek, Katherine Brunt, Nat Sciver, Lauren Winfield-Hill and more.

Between her commitments for the Diamonds, she turned out for Spencer CC in WCSL Division 1, smashing 73 off 40 in one game.

The Hong Kong all-rounder was also part of the Fairbreak XI squad that played 12 games in the UK between August and September. This included three matches versus leading associate Scotland, against whom the FairBreak XI managed to draw 1-1.

Mariko captained the team on a few occasions on the tour, including in fixtures against the Barmy Army XI and Essex. Against the latter, she dismissed opposition skipper Kelly Castle, who is a professionally contracted player for the Sunrisers.

While she couldn’t convert several quick starts into big scores, Hill continued to shine with the ball, picking up the wickets of Babette de Leede and Robine Rijke in the second game of a three-match series against the Netherlands, another strong associate nation.

‘Moving to England and being part of several teams this season has improved my game drastically,’ said Hill.

‘All of the above inevitably led me to hone in on my skills and perform for Hong Kong in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers, Asia Cup Qualifiers and East Asia Cup.’

Yaz and Ruchi also star for FairBreak XI

There was little doubt as to how competitive the FairBreak XI would be. Yet, few would have predicted that they’d whitewash the Netherlands 3-0. While Mariko starred in the second game, Yasmin Daswani scored a composed 39 off 36 in the first game, coming in after her team had lost two early wickets. Her innings helped lay the foundation for a winning total of 148/4 in 20 overs.

Playing for Spencer CC alongside Mariko Hill, Daswani tallied an impressive 278 runs in 8 innings at an average of 34.75 and a strike rate of 92.67. This included two half centuries and a top score of 74 (80) against Antsy CC.

Ruchi Venkatesh also enjoyed a strong season across the UK, taking 2 wickets for 50 in 9 overs across three games against Scotland.

‘Consistently playing against high-quality opposition and the Scotland national team helped me develop my white-ball bowling tremendously,’ said the off-spinner.

Ruchi played alongside fellow Hong Konger Natasha Miles for Gunnersbury in the WCSL, taking 11 wickets at an average of 24.64 with a best of 4-22 against St Lawrence & Highland Court CC. The efforts of the Hong Kong duo contributed greatly to Gunnersbury’s title winning campaigns in both the 50-over Premier Division and National T20 Cup.

To cap off a stellar season, Venkatesh also notched up figures of 8-45 for Highgate CC against Hamptead CC in the predominantly male Middlesex County Cricket League 3rd Tier Division 1.

Elysa Hubbard: growing the game

Elysa Hubbard is yet another Hong Konger who played in the WCSL. She scored 318 runs across the Division 1 season for St. Lawrence Court and Highland CC, which included two half centuries.

Hubbard continued her great work for the MCC Foundation as part of an MCC touring party that played six games in Nepal along with conducting training sessions for school children.

Prior to the tour of Nepal, she captained an MCC XI team that included Yaz Daswani during a tour of Ireland.

Richer for the experience

Complimenting the FairBreak Invitational, the various high performance and grassroots efforts of CHK are designed to accelerate the growth of the women’s game in Hong Kong. If you’d like to spread the word about what our players have achieved this past summer in the UK, share this article with your network.

- Jay Dansinghani