Pioneering Women of Sussex – Cricketer Clare Connor
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Today England’s women’s cricket team are playing Thailand in the ICC T20 World Cup! It’s a great chance to celebrate local sporting hero Clare Connor CBE. Born in 1976, Clare Connor is former Captain of the England Women’s Cricket Team and is currently Managing Director of Women’s Cricket at the England & Wales Cricket Board.
Being the home of England’s oldest county cricket team, Sussex has no shortage of excellent players to boast of, and that increasingly includes women.
Brighton-born Clare Connor has a lot to do with this. As captain of the national team from 2000 until 2006, Clare notably steered the team to winning the Women’s Ashes in 2005, an achievement England hadn’t pulled off for 42 years, and for which she was awarded an OBE. As current Managing Director of Women’s Cricket at the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), she’s currently spearheading an exciting period for women’s cricket with increased funding and impetus to get as many women and girls as possible playing, watching, and supporting the game.
Clare came to prominence in the cricket world when captaining the Preston Nomads Under-16 side, based at Fulking. An all-rounder, she also played for Brighton College 1st XI, as well as Sussex Women. As early as 1995, when many people didn’t even know women played cricket, and still a teenager, she made her England One Day International debut, and then, later that year, played her first Test match in India. These were the days before women’s cricket became professional and Clare remembers having to pay for her own team blazer for that tour to India.
Clare retired from the game in 2006 after a career encompassing 93 One Day Internationals, 16 Test matches, and various ‘firsts’, including becoming the first woman to play in The Cricketer Cup in 2002 and, in 2006, becoming the first woman to play in the all-star charity side, Lashings World XI. In 2002 she was Vodafone’s player of the year. Her successor as captain, Charlotte Edwards, called her ‘an inspirational leader’.
Despite also working at Brighton College, teaching English and heading up the school’s marketing and PR department, Clare found the time to champion the progress for women’s cricket. In 2009, she became the first woman to be appointed to the International Cricket Council’s Cricket Committee. In 2010 she became a Board member of Sport England, and in 2011 the Chair of the International Cricket Council’s Women’s Committee.
In her former role at the ECB, as Director of England Women’s Cricket, Clare oversaw unprecedented success with the England women’s team winning both the 50 over and the T20 world Cups in 2009 and retaining their number one world ranking from 2009-2013. The team also enjoyed back-to-back Ashes wins in 2013 and 2014. From being a sport generally considered for men – despite a women’s cricket team operating in Yorkshire as early as 1887 – women’s cricket in this time has been slowly but surely grown in popularity amongst players and spectators alike. In 2014 the England women’s team turned professional, in 2016 the domestic Kia Super League was born, and in 2017 more than 1.1 million UK viewers tuned in to Sky Sports to watch England win the Women’s World Cup Final at a sold-out Lord’s Cricket Ground. Excitingly, women’s cricket is due to feature in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Last year Clare was appointed Managing Director of Women’s Cricket at the ECB and will have the chance to build even more solidly on the sport’s growing popularity. As she told Sky Sports one of her plans will be ‘that more people than ever before will be able to say cricket is a game for me.’
Another formidable Sussex cricketer is Chichester-born Holly Colvin, who, aged only fifteen, became the youngest Test cricketer of either sex to play for England. This was on 9th August 2005 against Australia during the Ashes. Unfazed by being centre stage at such a young age, Holly took two wickets in consecutive balls, almost taking a hat-trick.
With grateful thanks to Clare Connor and the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Part of our 100 Pioneering Women of Sussex blog series, to accompany the current exhibition at Brighton Museum, 100 First Women Portraits by Anita Corbin, featuring sports women such as Hope Powell, footballer and the First Woman to achieve a UEFA Pro coaching license, and Nicola Adams, boxer and First Woman to win British Olympic boxing gold medal.