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Scarlett Hughes & Kelly Castle: Sunrisers pair score 306 and 176 in Essex club game as their team win by 483 runs

Scarlett Hughes
Scarlett Hughes is also the leading run scorer for Essex Women this season with 261 runs including two fifties

When Jonny Bairstow was smashing New Zealand’s attack to all corners of Trent Bridge for 136 off 92 balls as England pulled off a brilliant win in the second Test, he did so in the full glare of TV coverage and a sizeable crowd in Nottingham.

A couple of days earlier, neither TV cameras nor thousands of fans were present as Scarlett Hughes and Kelly Castle broke all kinds of personal and club records in a 40-over Essex Women’s Premier League game in an incredible turnaround in recent fortunes for each player.

They were both members of a Sunrisers side, captained by Castle, that failed to win a single group match in six attempts in the recently completed Charlotte Edwards Cup, which was won by Southern Vipers.

Fast forward a few days, though, and the pair shared an incredible partnership for Billericay Blaze, with 19-year-old Hughes scoring 306 before retiring and Castle making 176.

It enabled their side to total 541-3 against Harold Wood, who they then bowled out for just 58 to win by the mammoth margin of 483 runs.

Under Harry Potter’s spell

Scarlett Hughes and Heather Knight
Scarlett Hughes was on opposite sides to England captain Heather Knight in the Charlotte Edwards Cup

Both had hit centuries before – Hughes making an unbeaten 129 for Essex Under-17s in a T20 game, and 24-year-old Castle scoring 104 not out for Melbourne side EMP in Australia in 2017-18.

But did either of them have an inkling that it might be a special day as they walked out to bat against Harold Wood?

“Not at all. I had watched Harry Potter the night before so I was late for bed and I was caught in traffic on the way to the match so I missed the warm-up,” explained Hughes. “And to top it all off I hadn’t had my usual breakfast.”

There were no such mishaps for all-rounder Castle, who admitted she was “excited” to be making a Billericay debut that had been put back due to “commitments with the county and Sunrisers”.

The pair only came together after Billericay lost two wickets with the score on 55 – skipper Libby Walters’ contribution to a half-century opening stand with Hughes was a single – and for Castle, it was as much a case of watching her partner’s astonishing shot-making as building her own personal score.

“I’ve never seen someone strike the ball so cleanly and so consistently,” Castle said.

“It’s not often you walk off the pitch after scoring 176, but playing second fiddle to someone scoring 300 plus. I feel incredibly lucky to witness first-hand what was being achieved.”

Hughes’ approach was straightforward – to bat aggressively from the first ball.

“I wanted to play how I train, which focuses on hitting strong shots and using the strength I’ve developed in the gym,” she added.

“I put that down to having a professional training regime with input from strength and conditioning coaches, sport psychologists and skills coaches.

“Once I had got to 100, I wasn’t sure if I should retire or go for it – I didn’t just want to push the ball around for another 30 overs. After speaking to Kelly, I decided I was going to look to score only in boundaries or get out trying to do it.”

Second chance for Sunrisers

Kelly Castle
Kelly Castle has captained Sunrisers in both seasons of the Charlotte Edwards Cup

Both players will return to Sunrisers next month for the start of the 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, which is split into two sections, the second half in September.

And Castle – who was joint leading wicket-taker for Sunrisers in the Charlotte Edwards Cup with seven – believes that as well as Hughes, there is the talent within the squad to produce some good results.

“Looking on paper, it says we lost every game (in the Charlotte Edwards Cup), but if you look at us as a team and how far we’ve come, there’s so many wins to take from the competition,” she said.

“We took two games down to the last ball with sometimes luck just not going our way. It’s now just about ensuring we achieve the extra one per cent in each game, which we’re so close to doing.”

Castle added: “I think it’s very exciting that we haven’t shown our best cricket yet. We’ve got a great opportunity at stamping our mark in the (Heyhoe Flint) competition and really changing the narrative – we’re a force to be reckoned with and hopefully our performances will mirror that.”

Sunrisers will, though, continue to give players opportunities to hone their skills in club cricket when possible.

“To have our professional and contracted players return to represent their clubs when schedules allow is important to us,” said regional director of cricket Danni Warren.

“Their presence goes a long way to inspiring those they play with and contributes to the role we believe we can play in developing women’s and girls cricket.

“What Scarlett achieved in her unbeaten 306 is a truly magnificent feat – both Scarlett and Kelly are brilliant role models.”

Hoping for chance in The Hundred

As well as the RHF Trophy, there is also The Hundred to look forward to in August – the brand new format which put women’s cricket on an equal footing with the men’s game in its debut season in 2021.

Both Hughes and Castle would love to be a part of it if they can secure contracts.

“I thought the competition was brilliant last year. I went as a spectator and loved it. Big crowds, with lots of young cricketers in, it was great to see,” said Hughes.

“I’ve come through the Essex pathway from the age of 10 and it’s fantastic the opportunity now exists to be a professional cricketer. My goal is to get as far in cricket as I possibly can.”

Castle agrees about the importance of The Hundred for women’s cricket.

“My current ambitions are to get my foot in the door in a hundred-ball team, I think that’s the next step for me,” she said.

“I’d be quite disappointed to miss out this year based on my (T20) performance. I’d love to be a part of it but if not, then I’m definitely looking towards next year and continuing to make a statement in all the cricket I play.”

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