THE new cricket season may still be a little way off but a large number of Somerset girls are already playing competitive cricket in the Lady Taverners eight-a-side indoor competition.

This winter has seen the largest number of schools ever taking part in the competition including Castle School, Queen’s College and Taunton School.

Caroline Atkins, the Somerset women and girls coach, said: “This is a competition for all Somerset schools girls teams for Under-13s (Years 7-8) and Under-15s (Years 9-10).

“Over the years there has been a considerable increase in the number of schools taking part which is very encouraging.

“About five years ago we only had three or four teams enter each age group which was disappointing. However then along came ‘Chance to Shine’ which meant more cricket coaching in schools and now we have got 21 schools in the Under-13s and 16 in the Under-15s, which is brilliant.

“Entry numbers do vary, but this is now a well-supported competition and it would be nice to get girls cricket into the more schools permanently.

“There are examples of girls inter house cricket being played which is a great way to ensure lots of youngsters get to give cricket a go."

Atkins added: “There will be preliminary rounds with three or four teams in each group and the best four teams going through to the county finals.

“Not so long ago it was straight into the finals whereas now there are one or two rounds before we get to that stage.”

The former England international also goes along and is involved with all of the games which are played.

She said: “A lot of the girls are learning what to do and where to stand almost as they play but it is brilliant to see so much enthusiasm and natural ability.

“There are some decent shots going on and some good running between the wickets as well, and as the girls start to know what is happening the bowling gets better.

“It is a good way to get people playing the game and then hopefully schools will nominate players with a bit of interest to come along to the district training and over the years we have made some real finds as a result of this competition.”