Hathrill pleased with Kent progress
Hathrill pleased with Kent progress

Kent Women have had a hugely successful 2021 so far, unbeaten in all competitions and already with a trophy to their names and that’s all been overseen by Head coach David Hathrill.

After a frustrating, COVID-impacted 2020, the Horses were eager to get back to competitive action in 2021 and have started with a bang.

Vice-captain Tash Farrant lifted the Vitality Women’s County T20 South East Trophy at the start of May, and the team are now in red-hot form in the Women’s London Championship.

Head coach David Hathrill has been the man overseeing the side’s success, and it is safe to say he has been more than pleased with his team’s showings so far this year.

“We know we have a really strong side on paper” said Hathrill, speaking exclusively to KentSportsNews. “We are a very good group.

“We named a bigger squad this year because we have got a lot of talented young players coming through. We were hopeful before the T20 tournament started that we would be able to compete, and I actually didn’t expect we would have that much success. 

“But the most pleasing thing was the way we played as a group – we played some really good cricket throughout all of the fixtures, and I was really pleased with how we performed.”

Kent’s T20 tournament got off to the perfect start when they defeated Surrey twice in a double header on April 25, by five wickets and then 50 runs. Hathrill admitted he expected a tough day, but was delighted with his side’s start to the competition. 

“We played Surrey the week before in a warmup game and we knew we were two quite evenly-matched sides,” he said. “A lot of the girls know each other through their winter programming with the Stars and I think the first game created a bit of an unrealistic picture.

“We knew going into the second game they would be gunning to come back at us, so we were expecting a much closer affair. It is very challenging playing the same team twice in one day because when you get one performance in it is hard to get up to go again. But whilst it was a close game, I never felt too worried; there is a lot of experience in the side.

“Winning the first game creates a pressure. You can be too relaxed and that is always a worry, but it had the opposite impact for us, and all the girls went into the second game with a real boost.”

The Horses didn’t look back from there. Four more wins took their record to six in a row and before they knew it, they were champions.

“It was nice to have it wrapped up,” said Hathrill, who saw his side’s final day fixtures against Sussex abandoned due to the weather. “It was nice to know that from my point of view. 

“We want to be the best team and play the best cricket. We targeted that last game as a chance to showcase exactly how well we can play without complete pressure on us. Whilst it was a shame to have a washout it allowed us to have a bit of time as a squad off the pitch and to celebrate and reflect, so I was quite happy with that.

“We focus so much on ourselves and what we consider success to be as a group and we felt if we were the best versions of ourselves then the results would take care of themselves. There was probably a bit of pressure to go again in performances on the same day, but not too much.”

Hathrill was quick to highlight his satisfaction at the whole group contributing to the success. With captain and England international Tammy Beaumont absent, players such as 17-year-old Grace Scrivens – who finished as the South East group’s top run scorer with 191 runs in six matches – Kalea Moore and Megan Belt stepped up to help the Horses to T20 success.

Hathrill said: “It makes me incredibly proud. I think it reflects really well on the work that is being done at the county age groups level, for all the county age group coaches to get the girls ready to perform in the team. 

“I think the most pleasing thing for me has been the young players’ integration into the group off the pitch as well. When you have senior players used to playing international level and youngsters coming through it can be quite difficult to integrate them into the squad and for them to feel comfortable, but Grace showed, along with Kalea and all of the girls that came into the team over the year, that when they get the opportunity they are taking it and it is really refreshing to see that they are up to that level and they can play a key role in the team as well.

“I was looking through the leading run scorers and wicket-takers across all the tournaments, and whilst we posted some really impressive scores as a group and bowled fantastically, we weren’t in the top few players because it was very evenly split up and that is a sign, when I think about the group being competitive, that everyone contributed when needed, whether it was a bit of magic in the field, playing that match-winning knock, or coming in and changing the momentum of the game with quick runs and quick wickets. 

“As a group we performed so well and that was reflected in everyone playing a key role.”

And although full of praise for the younger players in the group, Hathrill wanted to credit England internationals Kirstie Gordon and Tasha Farrant too.

He said: “They were outstanding, both of them. It’s easy to look at the performances on the pitch and see how key they have been to us but it’s the way they have integrated younger players into the group and set a culture amongst the younger players. 

“They make it quite demanding but also enjoyable and fun and show our values as a coaching team. They were the perfect people to drag our values off the pitch onto the pitch and they were both absolutely outstanding – others too. It makes me as a coach and the others involved with the team very happy.”

Full focus is now on the Women’s London Championship, a tournament in which Kent have already registered victories over Essex, Sussex and Middlesex. The success so far has been clear to see, but Hathrill is hungry for more.

“The focus is on the 50 over comp now,” he said. “It is going to be a very different challenge because we have lost some of our squad to the regional competition, which is very exciting and good luck to those girls. But for us it is about continuing to play the brand of cricket that we want to play and bringing the T20s into the 50 over stuff. 

“We want the youngsters to keep playing a part and we want to come off after every game knowing we have given it everything we can. I am confident that if we perform to our best, we can be competitive and hopefully successful again.

“We are blessed here to have such a big and talented squad. I think the opportunities we are going to be able to provide to the younger players and some more senior players will be good.

“It will be a really good test for us as a group and show the other counties just how much strength in depth Kent have and that we can be competitive using all our players.”

Ultimately, however, Hathrill is just delighted to be back doing what he loves; coaching his team.

“It still feels a bit strange coming from the lockdown to playing but it is great to have cricket back on, for the girls to be training and playing regularly and for myself to be involved coaching and getting back around. 

“I think the best thing for us was having a full coaching and playing group because when everyone is together you can create that environment, have that banter, and enjoy being on the pitch together. 

“It was great, and hopefully we are starting to move to a time where we can get more cricket on, and people will be allowed into watch as well, because that is a big thing for us.”