A sports scholarship grant has helped an Edge Hill student progress towards her dream of playing cricket for England.
Emma Lamb, who is in the final year of a Sport and Exercise Science degree, was first presented with the gold status award in 2017 worth £1,000 per academic year.
Other free benefits include annual gym membership on campus, personal training and sport science support tailored to her individual needs. She revealed:
“The scholarship has helped ease the financial burden of being a student and it’s helped me access the training I need to help me progress and give me motivation to do well in my sport.”
The 21-year-old from Preston has been on Lancashire’s books for over a decade and has scored over 2,500 runs in one-day and Twenty20 formats since making her debut in 2012. She has flourished as an opening batter and, latterly, as an off-spinner (recording Twenty20-best figures of 4-17 last July). Added bowling skills have come in handy in the Kia Super League, which has seen Emma play with – and against – some of the world’s best players.
“I learnt a lot, especially as I opened the bowling. There were some highs and lows, especially playing on TV and in front of a big crowd when things didn’t go to plan.
“Playing against the best players meant I definitely got punished for bowling a bad ball but you still get hit when bowling decent deliveries! One thing I really learnt against these players is to always have a back-up plan and never to be afraid to try something new as it could work out well.”
First called up to Lancashire’s academy in 2014, her progress led to achieving national academy honours, even featuring for the senior team in a World Cup warm-up one-day victory over Ireland in April 2017 (an unofficial international). She remains a big part of England’s future although is taking nothing for granted.
“I am still part of the England Women’s academy whilst training with the first-team squad. It is important to have a degree to fall back on as sport can sometimes be a short career if all doesn’t go to plan.”
Being part of the national set-up entails training every other weekend at the England Cricket Board (ECB) main facility in Loughborough University, while she also does sessions with her county at Old Trafford. This means that forward planning is key to juggling her course work.
“My training schedule varies, but it generally gets more full-on closer to the season or ahead of tours, usually around March/April time.
“I have to make sure I plan out my schedule in advance and prioritise doing my studies before training. I have very good support staff at the ECB who help me to do this, so I can always fit everything in.”
At a time when there’s a growing emphasis on women’s sport, there’s rarely been a better time to break through to the senior set-up. Central contacts (there’s currently 22 awarded in each cycle) mean players can turn professional and focus solely on their performance, and extra financial support such as player sponsorships is also likely to enhance opportunities.
The extra funding has been helped by England’s World Cup success on home soil in 2017 – a triumph which earned the BBC Sports Team of the Year award. Ranked second in the world, they were also runners-up in the Twenty20 tournament last year.
One change in the domestic game will be introduced next year, with the Kia Super League being replaced by the ECB’s new 100-ball format (‘The Hundred’), a development Emma believes will be good for the game in this country.
“It will be interesting to see how it goes ahead and how many more viewers we could get on TV due to the shorter format time slot we will have on Sky Sports”, Emma said. “It should be good for the development of women’s cricket in general, particularly with the terrestrial TV coverage which will help raise more interest.”
The BBC will show live cricket for the first time this century from next year, including a Twenty20 home international and up to eight matches in The Hundred including the final. It is hoped that coverage will help increase interest and participation among young people (an ‘All Stars Cricket’ programme is in place to bring 50,000 children into the sport) – a factor cited as a key issue since the previous terrestrial broadcaster, Channel 4, lost the rights to live cricket in the mid-2000s.
Summer sees England face West Indies in three one-day and Twenty20 internationals before the Ashes series in July. The same schedule is in place against Australia with the added addition of a four-day Test match. So, could 2019 see her realise her big ambition?
“I feel that within the next year I will be making the full step-up into the England senior squad if I continue to perform. This is my ultimate career goal, to play for England and make a mark with bat and ball. My aim is also to earn a full-time contract within the next two years.
“The women’s game is evolving and gaining a higher profile. I think within the next few years there will be at least double the amount of full-time contracted players and hopefully the county standard will become full-time in the long term as well.”
Find out more about studying for a Sport and Exercise Science degree here.