News Story

Our current production, Testmatch, delves in to the roots and history of women's cricket as it explodes the mythology of fair play. We caught up with local Boltonian, Abby Mort, who made headlines back in 2022 when she became the first woman to make a century in senior cricket in Bolton.

The great nineteenth century batsman WG Grace once bluntly declared that cricket was not a game for women. Years later, Len Hutton, the former England captain, loftily complained that watching women play was “absurd, like a man trying to knit”.

But the inconvenient truth for unreconstructed men is that women have been playing cricket for 279 years: the Reading Mercury recorded that eleven maids of Bramley played eleven maids of Hambledon in 1745.

The women’s game boomed in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods and later girls in skirts bowled and batted at posh schools such as Roedean. Rachael Heyhoe Flint, who played for England for more than 20 years and captained the side from 1966 to 1978, became (almost) a household name. The number of women players plunged from the mid-fifties but a great revival began at the end of the nineties. Now the women’s game is thriving, including in Bolton.

Nineteen-year-old Abby Mort plays for Kearsley Cricket Club. She first picked up a bat when she was about six and just eleven years later in 2022 hit 107 when playing along with ten men in a second team match. She made the local headlines because she was the first woman to make a century in senior cricket in Bolton. Quite an achievement; Abby is proud of it yet is reluctant to boast. But it’s clear she didn’t take long to get the hang of a game that was to become her passion.

“I have family connections with the Kearsley club and I first went with a group of friends from school,” she said. “We were given plastic wickets to play with and before long the coaches noticed that I was enjoying it a lot. They were great - they asked me to come to training and saw I had some talent before I did.”

As her skills developed, she was on the receiving end of no rude comments from the boys “although they were a bit annoyed that I was better than some of them”.

She now plays one a week for Kearsley (though soggy pitches meant a late start to this season) and is the only woman in any of the club’s teams; she has also played for Lancashire county youth teams in matches across the country (thanks for the lifts, mum) and is joining an all-women team in Ramsbottom that will play matches against men’s sides. “Lots more girls are seeing that there are more chances for playing against men,” she said. “The cricket is of a better standard.”

Abby loves her cricket, prefers to play fifty-over games and is a fan of T20 matches. She is now at a crucial stage in her career as she waits to see what direction it will take; she dreams of walking out to bat at Old Trafford.

“I want to go on playing as long as I can but cricket is the kind of game you both love and hate. It’s the most frustrating sport I have ever played. It can be great some days, a nightmare on others. It’s a team sport but also very individual; you can only be in control of yourself and a lot depends on what your team-mates do.

‘If we start off well, we can often continue well; but if our start is rubbish, we can go on being rubbish. A match can be the most draining day of your life or the most interesting.”

But what makes a really great cricketing day? “When you’ve worked hard and are able to perform at the best of your ability, and when your mates clap you off the pitch – that’s a nice feeling.”

Testmatch is at the Octagon until Sat 1 June.

Tickets from £15