Jen Barden delighted with Thunder Academy progress
Jen Barden has admitted her delight with the Thunder Academy’s development during the last 12 months
Barden, the senior regional talent manager for the North West, has been speaking about the progress made below senior level following their recent involvement in the Academy Festival played by all eight regions in Shrewsbury.
“I’m very happy with where the girls are at,” she said.
“They’ve really made a shift forwards, which is fantastic to see.”
The Thunder Academy is made up of 14 players aged between 14 and 19, while the squad is supplemented by a sprinkling of players who cross over into the senior squad.
“Those are girls such as Daisy Mullan, Liberty Heap, Sophia Turner, Alice Clarke and Rebecca Duckworth,” she explained.
All five of those players travelled to Shropshire last weekend for a development event which was altered in format from previous years to deal with the ongoing complications surrounding Coronavirus.
“In the past it’s been under the banner of the Regional Development Centre,” said Barden. “We did a year at Taunton and two at Shrewsbury.
“This time it was split into two groups of four teams rather than one big festival. So we played at the weekend following the first four teams through last week.
“I think it actually worked really well because the coaches were able to focus separate time on coaching and scouting rather than doing it all at once and it being a mad few days.
“A big thanks should go to the ECB, and in particular Di Lewis, for making it happen. She did a magnificent job getting it on around all the restrictions.”
The event saw Thunder play five games; one 50-over game, a 35-over fixture, a T20, a T10 and a 100-ball fixture. Thunder won three of those.
The aims were two-fold for Barden and the Thunder, as they looked to blood as many players as possible whilst also ensuring those aforementioned senior girls get as much form as possible under their belts ahead of the resumption of the Charlotte Edwards T20 Cup following the Hundred.
Barden said: “We balanced the opportunities to expose players to different challenges and situations.
“In the last two games, we gave opportunities, which was quite nice to see.
“We wanted to get some really good cricket into them all.
“We had some good role models around the younger players to give them the opportunity to learn from those who have played a bit of senior cricket.
“It was a great chance for all the girls to play in a best v best scenario in all the games.
“We certainly competed across all of our fixtures.”
Thunder won their 50-over clash against Lightning by 158 runs on the back of their 306-6 total. Daisy Mullan, who has played in two Charlotte Edwards Cup games this season, hit a superb unbeaten 102 before Olivia Thomas claimed four wickets.
Another notable victory came in the T20 over Western Storm when, in pursuit of 122, Mullan recorded 55 after Grace Michell’s 3-14 from three overs.
“Daisy was definitely the player of the weekend if you will,” said Barden. “She had a good few days with the bat and also bowled well.
“Grace had a good few days as well - I think she was leading wicket-taker.
“The game on Saturday when we scored over 300 against the Lightning, I said to the girls, ‘Two or three years ago, that was us on the other side of it’.
“The Lightning made some interesting tactical decisions, and in the past our girls may not have capitalised on them. But we identified those pretty quickly.
“For example, they didn’t have a long-on at any point or a cow corner. We just kept finding the gaps. In the past we would have got ourselves out. It was really good to see.”
The Thunder Academy will continue their development in the coming weeks with four fixtures. They play Lightning again, Scotland A twice and the Northern Diamonds.
On the success of the regional structure, both at senior and Academy level, Barden added: “It’s given players a purpose and aim. They can see a pathway now.
“Ask the girls beforehand what their aim was and it was solely to play for England. Now they want to play for the Thunder and in the Hundred as well.
“Even if they don’t make it to the very top, there are still dreams to be achieved.”