Young cricketers in South Tyneside were treated to a training session with a difference when England player Danielle Hazell dropped in.
The 28-year-old, from Durham, who captained her country for the first time last year, led a coaching session with the girls from South Shields Cricket Club, at the weekend.
The one-off visit, organised by Durham County Cricket Board, was in recognition of the club boosting its number of girls taking part in the sport.
During the session, Danielle, who is a right-handed batsman and off-break bowler, put the girls through their paces, testing their speed, batting and bowling skills.
A member of Durham Academy before transferring to Yorkshire, she became one of the first women to be awarded an English Cricket Board professional contract.
She said: “When I first started it was very much a boys’ game, but now there have been great strides made to encourage more girls to play and get involved in the sport.
“The sport can open up a range of opportunities to young players and it’s good to see a push being made to promote girls’ cricket.”
Mark Appleton, junior coach with South Shields Cricket Club, said: “We have had girls in the club for years, but never many of them. Last year, for the first time, we have heavily invested in the girls’ project.
“Some of the coaches worked alongside Durham County Cricket Club and we went around primary schools in the South Shields area to try to encourage more girls to come down and try it.
“We had 15 to 20 girls turning up regularly.”
Coaching sessions take place for girls from 2.30pm until 3.30pm.
Phillip Mellons, Derwentside and South Tyneside club and coach development officer at Durham County Cricket Board, said: “For us at the Board, developing and supporting girls’ cricket is a massive focus and South Shields have been one of the most cooperative clubs I’ve worked with.
“South Shields backed our initiative to give girls more playing opportunities from the set off.
“Getting this number of girls to the sessions on a weekly basis, for less than a year, is impressive. The junior section is thriving and I’m sure it will continue to grow with time.”
Sessions are held at Harton Wellness Centre, South Shields. For details call Jeff Marshall on 07984 033 105 or visit South Shields Cricket Club on Facebook.