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Cricket is a big hit with the girls

Success by England's men and women cricketers is inspiring more females to try the sport, reports William Stewart

As the battle for the Ashes reaches its climax this weekend, the teacher-pupil combination at the centre of England's other victorious cricket team hopes its success will inspire more schools to offer the sport to girls.

Fans can expect a nerve-wracking few days as they wait to see whether Michael Vaughan's men can complete England's first Test series victory against the Aussies in nearly two decades.

But for Clare Connor, a teacher at Brighton college, the job is already done. The 29-year-old captained the England women's cricket team to Ashes glory over Australia last month.

And one of her pupils, Holly Colvin, played a key role. The 15-year-old spinner was picked at the last minute for the first Test at Hove and justified her selection with three first innings wickets including two in two balls. The match ended in stalemate but the England team, this time without Holly, went to on beat Australia in the second Test, giving them a 1-0 series victory.

Ms Connor, a former Brighton college pupil, has been at the centre of the recent rapid development of cricket at the pound;20,466-a-year private school.

Now she hopes girls in schools everywhere will be clamouring to take up the sport. She said: "Women's cricket is already one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Hopefully the success we have had in the national side will translate to even more girls demanding to play cricket and their schools giving them the opportunity to do so."

Anthony Seldon, head of Brighton college, introduced an annual scholarship for the most promising 13-year-old female cricketer four years ago. He named it after Ms Connor who, while a pupil there, was the first girl to play in the boys' first XI.

"I was very keen to encourage girls' cricket in general and wanted to honour the most distinguished former pupil the school has produced," Dr Seldon said.

Since then girls' cricket at the schoolhas gone from strength to strength.

There are three Clare Connor scholars at the school, including Holly, and Brighton college has just won the national under-15 girls cricket tournament for the second year running.

"Cricket is every bit as much of a game for girls as it is for boys because it doesn't require huge muscle or height," said Dr Seldon.

"It is also great for encouraging self-confidence because when you are in front of a bowler, you are entirely on your own."

He said the game was becoming ever more popular at Brighton college, where about 30 girls were now keen cricketers and more played it on a casual basis. The college's team has played most of its matches against state schools.

* william.stewart@tes.co.uk

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