Young Diamonds challenged to displace England star Jenny Gunn

EVEN though Jenny Gunn was born in Nottingham, she still holds a strong affiliation with Yorkshire as she prepares for the 2021 campaign with Northern Diamonds.

Warming up: Northern Diamonds' Jenny Gunn bowls. Pictures: SWPix
Warming up: Northern Diamonds' Jenny Gunn bowls. Pictures: SWPix

The 35-year-old former England international made her Test debut at the age of 17 in Scarborough in 2004 and has enjoyed two previous stints playing domestically in Yorkshire within the last decade.

She arrived back in the White Rose county last year, helping the Northern Diamonds – who represent Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland – to the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final where they lost to Southern Vipers.

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The season was shortened due to the impact of Covid-19 but this year there is a longer version of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy taking place and a Regional T20 competition. The Diamonds get their campaign underway on Saturday against Central Sparks at Emerald Headingley.

All-round talent: Jenny Gunn bats in the Headingley nets.

Gunn is one of five players, along with Hollie Armitage, Phoebe Graham, Beth Langston and Linsey Smith who are all in their first years as full-time professionals with the Diamonds.

Gunn is used to the full-time environment, though, as she was one of the first 18 women cricketers to be awarded central England contracts by the England and Wales Cricket Board in 2014.

“I have been through it before so it is no different for me but it is nice to see some of the other girls who haven’t had that opportunity before chucking themselves into training,” said Gunn.

“You can see that everyone has got fitter and stronger and I think it has pushed on, not just the full-time professionals, but everyone else as well. That is what you want as it is going to take the game even further.”

She continued: “It is a shame we can’t have everyone on the same type of contract at the moment but we are all in it together.

“You play together and train together and you want to push each other. I have said it loads of times but I want someone to kick me out of this team and push themselves for that contract.

“A lot of people realise they can be professional in the women’s game but I don’t think many realised that previously.

“We have got some youngsters in the academy who realise they need to push further – and they can. Anything is possible now.”

Jenny Gunn is the daughter of former professional footballer Bryn Gunn, who spent the majority of his career at Nottingham Forest. It was through her father and his team-mates that she picked up cricket. She explained: “My Dad was a professional footballer and in the summer they played cricket, the whole team did. They needed a fielder one day and I went in for them.

“I wanted to learn more, I wanted to bowl and I wanted to get the men out. Back in the day, they all played cricket because they had a proper summer.”

Gunn has enjoyed an illustrious career on the international stage as she has won Ashes and Cricket World Cup titles while earning over 250 England caps.

At the age of 35, Gunn is showing few signs of slowing down and admits she could continue to play beyond the end of the season.

She added: “I am the worst retiree really because I have retired about three times already.

“I was playing in Australia but came back just before the first lockdown and Danielle Hazell asked me to come and play.

“I would say this would be my last one but I am still learning and enjoying it and if I can still compete then why not?”

When she is not with the Diamonds, Gunn coaches at Trent College in her home city of Nottingham.

She enjoys that side of the game but still likes to be on the field to offer help and advice for the less experienced players.

“As a coach, when the players cross the white line, it is all on them but when you are playing it is so much easier to see something happening and you can talk them through it,” she continued.

“The players know what they are doing most of the time, they just maybe want a senior person telling them to back themselves.”

Gunn’s experience could prove key for the Diamonds this year.

Along with her long list of international honours, she became the first cricketer, male or female, to play in 100 T20 International matches and said: “I am still waiting for that to be asked on A Question of Sport – it will be the only answer I get right!”

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