Eve Jones relishing the chance to showcase her talents

Birmingham Phoenix’s Eve Jones admits she had goosebumps at the incredible atmosphere at Edgbaston during her debut for in the ECB’s new flagship competition The Hundred.

Birmingham Phoenix's Eve Jones (left)
Birmingham Phoenix's Eve Jones (left)

Jones was named Hero of the Match in the game against London Spirit after hitting 47 off 41 balls – although she was disappointed to end up on the losing side in a close game.

But she is delighted with the exposure the new-look competition has given women’s cricket – with live television coverage on both the BBC and Sky.

She also played a part on Sunday as the Phoenix notched up their first victory of the campaign against the Manchester Originals at Old Trafford.

“The whole experience has been so good,” she said. “In that first game, there was an unreal atmosphere at Edgbaston – it was electric. The Hollies stand was so rowdy and loud – I had goosebumps as I walked off when I was out.”

Jones is delighted with the immediate positive impact The Hundred has had despite some pre-tournament criticism from sceptics.

“It was important to start the competition with some really good games – and we have achieved that with our game plus the one between the Oval Invincibles and Manchester Originals which launched the whole tournament.

“Both were really good games showcasing some of the talent that is around in the women’s game in this country. This tournament is going to do so much for the women’s game. There has been so much reaction on social media – it shows what we can do and can bring us up to speed with the men’s game.”

It is a far cry from the situation Jones found herself in at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – not long after she had agreed to join Warwickshire and the new-look West Midlands Women’s set-up.

A former England Academy member, she played through the age groups with Shropshire before going on to play for Staffordshire and then Lancashire – while also fitting in the occasional game for Whitchurch.

With the first lockdown in force and no cricket in prospect, she wasn’t sure what the future held.

But last June she was one of the first women in the country to be given a retainer professional contract by West Midlands Cricket – and she was then named as skipper for the Central Sparks for the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy at the end of the Summer.

Then, in September, it was confirmed that she had been awarded a full-time professional contract which has helped her focus on cricket during the winter and develop her game without worrying about how to pay the bills.

“I do feel my game has gone to another level now after a winter training three times a week – the experience of being a full-time cricketer has certainly helped my game,” she said.

“Working with coaches Dom Ostler and Lloyd Tennant, who both have a wealth of experience in the First Class game at Warwickshire and Leicestershire, has helped me so much.”

Of her starring role in the Phoenix’s first game in The Hundred which saw her interviewed on Sky Sports, she says: “I didn’t feel nervous when I went out to bat, but focussed on what I needed to do.

“I started a bit slowly but once I got used to the pace of the pitch I started to hit the ball well and managed to hit the gaps I was aiming for.

“It was only when I was out and walking back to the dressing room that I realised what a great atmosphere there was in the ground.”

To play in the competition, Eve and her team-mates are having to bubble in a Birmingham hotel to reduce that threat of anyone picking up Covid – something which has its draw backs but also advantages.

“I understand the reasons why – there are a lot of people picking up infections so we have to be really careful because this is an important competition.

“We can’t even go out shopping or to meet family or anything like that, so it’s been a bit of a case of train, play, rest, repeat – I’m not even sure what day of the week it is! But at least I don’t have to cook every day or do my washing!

“I am enjoying the training and hoping to make the most of it.”

The Hundred features eight regional teams which were created as part of a draft process – with a number of top overseas stars signed which means Eve has the chance to play alongside Aussie aces Katie Mack and Erin Burns and Indian teenage batting sensation Shefali Verma.

Eve added: “I’ve played with most of the English girls on the team either at Central Sparks or with Georgia Elwiss and Kirstie Gordon at Loughborough. And it’s great to train alongside the overseas players and see how they go about things.”

Head of girls’ cricket at Shrewsbury School Gwen Davies and former Shrewsbury School student Izzy Wong are also part of the Phoenix side.

Eve is also lining up alongside England wicket-keeper batsman Amy Jones who is captaining the Phoenix side – and admits she enjoys batting with her.

“Amy really is a world-class cricketer – she hits the ball so cleanly. I was at the other end when she hit a 6 in the last game, and it was amazing to watch from close up.

“We’ve had a few partnerships over the years, and I always enjoy batting with her – she always keeps the scoreboard ticking.”

Once The Hundred is over, it will be back to Central Sparks action for Jones, skippering the side in both the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy and the Charlotte Edwards Trophy.

Eve said: “We have had a good start in the Rachel Heyoe Flint Trophy, winning three out of four, but we haven’t gone quite so well in the Charlotte Edwards Trophy where we’re one from three.

“But we can still get in the mix in that if we win our remaining games.”

Eve herself has also been in good form – hitting a century in the last 50-over game, and also leading the way for the Sparks in the T20 format.

It has led her to be mentioned in despatches by none other than England legend Charlotte Edwards on Sky Sports during the Women’s Test match between England and India.

Eve said: “It was nice to hear that – I think I had just scored some runs against her side in a warm-up game and had batted the best I have ever batted!”

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