FOR Letesha Bawden and Jasmine Nevins, Monday’s start to the Cricket Australia Under-18 Female National Championships can’t come quick enough.
The talented Bendigo cricket all-rounders are excited at the prospect at playing for Victoria Country on home soil in front of family and friends.
The championships have been split into two blocks of matches, with a series of T-20 clashes and finals from January 14-18 in Bendigo to be followed by four days of 50 over fixtures from January 20-24 in Ballarat.
Bawden and Nevins will first see action against Northern Territory at Dower Park this Monday at 10am, before a clash later that night against Victoria Metro at the Queen Elizabeth Oval (6.30pm).
The girls will play a second twilight game at the QEO against South Australia next Thursday.
Their selection in a powerful Victoria Country squad comes 12 months after both girls represented their state at the Under-15 Female National Championships in Adelaide.
With scorching temperatures forcing much of last year’s tournament to be cancelled, Bawden and Nevins said they were eager to spend more time out in the middle this time around.
“It’s pretty exciting getting to have all my family and friends come along to watch,” Bawden said.
“Last year was my first time doing it (playing national championships) and it was a great learning experience.
“A lot of our games were heated out, which wasn’t fun, but I made a few runs and made some really good friends.”
Bawden, a right-handed bat and right-arm medium bowler, splits her time playing with White Hills’ under-16 side in the BDCA juniors and Lower Plenty in the women’s state Premier League.
She intends to use the championships as an opportunity to improve her game.
“It’s going to be a big learning curve, especially with so many older girls in the team,” Bawden said.
“It’s obviously going to be a tougher competition than last year.
“We have a fairly strong team with quite a few top age girls, so I believe we can go on and win it.”
Bawden, a star with Bendigo Amateur Soccer League club Spring Gully in the winter, is glad to have her Lower Plenty team-mate and fellow Bendigo cricketer Nevins with her in the squad and believes the 15-year-old is set for a big two weeks ahead.
“Jasmine is a great player .... I believe she can go on to Victorian women’s and even Australia,” she said.
“She’s a great talent.”
Nevins, a right-hand bat and right-arm fast bowler who also plays with Kangaroo Flat under 16s, believed her Premier league experience would hold her in good stead throughout the championships.
“I’ve been playing predominantly firsts this season .… it’s been a good experience for me playing against and with some of the top-end players,” she said.
“I’m taking a lot in and in our latest T20 games I’ve taken a few wickets.
“Our season is going along okay and I am confident we can make finals.”
With a strong core of top-age players in the squad, Nevins believes Victoria Country is primed for its national championship tilt.
“They’re really great and can play the mentor role really well to the younger girls like myself,” she said.
Nevins was lavish in her praise of Bawden’s cricketing abilities.
“Tesh is a good all-rounder, especially her bowling,” she said.
“I know when I am facing her in the nets I am always very wary of her.
“And when I am bowling to her I know I have to get it in the right spot as she definitely knows how to hit a ball. She’s found the boundary plenty of times for us when we’ve needed her to in Premier league.”
Victoria Country draw
Monday, January 14: v Northern Territory at Dower Park (10am); v Victoria Metro at QEO (6.30pm).
Tuesday, January 15: v Cricket Australia XI at Weeroona Oval (10am); v Western Australia at Weeroona Oval (2.30pm).
Wednesday, January 16: Rest/reserve day.
Thursday, January 17: v ACT/NSW Country at Harry Trott Oval (10am); v South Australia at QEO (6.30pm).
Friday, January 18: Semi-finals and finals.