Developing the game

We’re title sponsors of England Women’s and Men’s international one day cricket, known as the Royal London Series. We also support one day domestic cricket in the Royal London Cup. Over the past 6 years we have been proud to support the development of the game from community grassroots through to international level - levelling the playing field at all levels of the game.

With cricket heavily impacted during 2020 due to covid-19, we were proud to support the men’s and women’s team to return to competitive cricket, and also treat some of the game’s youngsters to a once-in-a-lifetime training session.

ACE programme partnership

We’re proud to announce a new cricket partnership with the ACE programme to support their expansion into a third city in Bristol! We’re committed to levelling the playing across all levels of the game.

The ACE Programme Charity was originally setup by Surrey County Cricket Club in 2020, aiming to address a 75% decline in cricket participation by members of the Black community. After securing significant funding from Sport England late last year, it has now become an independent charity, chaired by former Surrey and England player now director and broadcaster Ebony Rainford-Brent.

A change in order

As a proud partner of the England women’s cricket team we caught up with three of the team’s biggest stars at the end of the 2020 season to talk about the very different year and how they’ve seen women’s cricket progress over the years.

We also talk about the key moments for the future, where now more than ever, it’s important for us all to continue rallying behind the England women’s cricket team.

Surprising future talent

We asked England and Essex cricket legends, Nasser Hussain and Graham Gooch, to surprise Upminster Cricket Club’s under 9s at a training session at the end of the 2020 season. After a particularly tough year, we wanted to treat the rising stars of the game and provide some special motivation for keeping up their practice.

Road to return

In 2020 we went behind the scenes and followed the journeys of six England cricketers as they prepared to return to cricket in very different circumstances. You'll see that despite the challenging environment, the players don't give up easily.

They overcame hurdles and new changes to be ready for their next challenge, taking on some of the best international sides in the world.

Episode 6 - 197 days

Previous episodes

[on screen text] Nation in lockdown March 2020

Mark Wood: I feel absolutely gutted cricket has been suspended

I wish everyone well out there.

Of course everyone’s safety is at the forefront of our minds.

Let’s hope we can get some cricket later this summer.

[on screen text] The players, previously used to training in a team environment, must now keep fit on their own during lockdown.

Chris Woakes: Let’s talk a few things about lock down. I suppose lock down has been tough for a lot of people around the country and around the world all over these past few months.

It feels like cricket was miles away at one point.

Mark Wood: Because of the long break I feel like I’ve missed cricket a lot. I’ve missed seeing the lads, I’ve missed that sort of dressing room environment. I have been speaking to the team psychologist quite a bit while we’ve been away. Just about life in general and you know, Coronavirus and general worries.

Hi everyone, hope you’re well. Hope you’re looking after each other and staying at home. Me and the England lads has been in touch about our fitness and trying to stay mentally fresh. Joe Denly challenged me to do a dance video that he thought I couldn’t do. Well Joe, I have done it.

Chris Woakes: Lockdown, I suppose presented a lot of challenges, for everyone. It was different for us as well in terms of trying to keep fit. You know, we certainly tried to do that at home. We had a lot of things sent to us from the ECB to try and help that. Kettle bells, bands, protein shakes all those sort of things which you know, you take for granted when you go the gym and when you’re away with England.

[Returning to the counties April 2020]

[on screen text] Chris Woakes and Mark Wood return to their counties, as their preparation for the first match increases. It will be the first time they’ve ran into bowl since lockdown.

Chris Woakes: We’ve had a great prep in lockdown. Back with our counties, the ECB have done a great job in keeping us, I suppose, out on the field, being able to get cricket to us and being able to train and get ready for this series. And I’m really excited to play cricket for England again.

Off into the Warwickshire gym, facemasks at the ready, alcoholic hand gel, rubber gloves on already. All a bit different at the minute but just cracking on and getting our training done – off to do a gym session.

Mark Wood: We’ve turned up at practice at Durham and for the last three or four weeks, me and Ben Stokes and we’ve had a really good sort of three or four weeks training together, batting and bowling against each other, and getting used to the balls. And I think that gives you confidence and mentally, when you can switch off at home, and then know you really switch on when you get back to cricket. Being able to do that, while you go in between the two I think it helps and although it is a bit strange, people are excited to get going again.

Chris Woakes: Really exciting challenge of going back out there and playing against the West Indies, who’ve obviously done a fantastic job in getting over here and taking the challenge on. So hopefully, that goes well. And obviously in a Coronavirus world, we’re always taking each day as it comes but to be a part of it all, you know it’s all very different, very strange to what we’re used to but it will be great for us to get back out on the field and do what we do best. And you know, the next challenge will be a lot different with no fans, hopefully seeing cricket back out there and back on people’s televisions will bring smiles to people’s faces.

Next time 

[on screen text] The team reunited June 2020

[on screen text] After three months apart, the team are finally reunited at the Ageas Bowl for the upcoming series against the West Indies.

[on screen text] Episode 2 – The Bubble

[on screen text] The England men’s team finally reunites for the first time in three months.

[on screen text] The Ageas Bowl, Southampton

Chris Woakes: It’s great to be back with the England team Always good to join up with the lads again. It’s been a bit different to what we’re used to but I suppose from a cricket point of view, it’s business as usual. We’re training hard, getting ourselves ready for the first Test match against the West Indies on the 8th July.

[on screen text] The players enter the bubble, June 2020

Chris Woakes: Right I’m in my room, heading off to training, come and follow me and see my route to training. Got my coffee machine, number one accessory make sure that comes with me on tour.

Mark Wood: Right, so in my room here, firstly most important bit of equipment is my thermometer. That was my temperature this morning, 36.7c so it’s got to be under 37.5c and we have to take it every morning to make sure, obviously that we haven’t got a fever. Before training we have to fill in a little app to make sure that we’re all ok.

Second bit, before we go downstairs, mask on… street fighter. Then, accreditation, as you can see it’s got a little bit of a chip on so we know where we’re going, who we’ve been around. Handsome lad on the front there.

Chris Woakes: Right, we’ve got some hand sanitisers here, they’re located all over the floor.

Mark Wood: As you can see on the floor, stay safe. You have to face the wall, might seem a bit rude but it’s got to be done. A maximum of four people in here, we all have to face the wall, to make sure that no one is breathing, coughing, spluttering, sneezing on each other.

As you can see, pretty much – I know we’re locked in lockdown but there’s plenty to keep your mind busy. We’ve the golf course just out the back there, which a lot of the lads are playing, table tennis, a game of pool and here we have the Formula 1 simulator.

You can see this is the leaderboard, we play the Melbourne Grand Prix. Jamie Overton is top at the minute followed by Craig, they have never been off it. Stokes, I think was the early leader so he was the one who I think everyone was chasing.

[on screen text]  Coming to terms with cricket in the COVID-19 era

Chris Woakes: It’s good being in the bubble. It’s obviously a little bit different to what we’re used to, but I think we’re all getting to grips with it. I suppose in a way, it’s a bit like being on tour. I mean, there’s a few different things we have to be aware of and you know, I suppose respecting the people that are helping us here in the hotel at the Ageas Bowl. But other than that, it’s just like being on tour. You’re stuck in your hotel room quite a bit but we’re obviously allowed to mingle with each other as long as we adhere to restrictions and as usual there’s always banter around the lads.

Mark Wood: International cricket being back means a huge amount to me. Everybody’s in the same boat which is quite nice because there’s not that sort of edge to it. Everybody’s in sort of training mode, in a camp mode. There’s no bad form. There are no injuries or anything like that. Everybody’s in a great place. Everybody’s getting on well.

I’m sure the coaches are happy. We’ve covered all of our fielding drills, which we’re pushing hard on. The slips are out there nearly every day. Trying to improve their catching as well. Then we’ve got four lads who are starting to ramp it up in the net and charge in against the batters. The wickets have been a little favourable towards the bowlers so, we’ve enjoyed that so far, I’m sure the batters are looking forward to getting out in the middle, out of that sort of net environment so they can see where the ball goes and try to get on top in the next week.

Chris Woakes: I think it’s really important for us to have cricket back on people’s televisions. For us as cricketers it’s what we know. It’s our day job, so it’s great for us to be back doing what we love. Very different for us to be playing in front of no crowds but we know that we’ve got a lot of support from people watching in their living rooms.

[on screen text] Next time… we talk to the people who helped bring cricket back.

Ashley Giles: We know how much hard work it has taken to get us to this point.

[on screen text] Road to Return

[on screen text] Building the Bubble – Episode 3

[on screen text] ECB management and the players virtually regroup to discuss cricket in a closed doors environment.

Ashley Giles MBE: Let me just share my screen. So how can we return to cricket? We’ve done individual training, which is step one. We’re moving into group training which is step two and the detail of today is the international sport arena, which is step four cross border sport. And again, I want to be clear, it is by creating a bubble where everybody is tested and monitored in and everybody remains in for the whole summer.

Steve Elworthy MBE: Cricket is synonymous with summer and at one point we were contemplating not even having a season. We’ve got to a point now where we’ve got three months’ worth of cricket coming up. We’ve just come off the back of an incredible 2019. We had packed grounds in World Cups and Ashes Series, so we’re going to move into an environment in effectively a year later with nobody in the ground. So, it will be different.

Ashley Giles MBE: Everyone has these thermometers; you take your temperature in the morning. You fill out a little questionnaire on an app and if you tick all of those boxes you can leave your room, which is a good start to the day.

When you leave your room and around the hotel, we are always wearing face masks. There is signage everywhere as to where you can go, what you can touch and what you can’t. Hand sanitiser literally until it’s coming out of your ears.

It continues to be a massive effort from all those involved and the players are really aware of that and thankful, and so am I. I’ve been living in it.

[on screen text] Play resumes, July 2020

[on screen text] Preparations are underway to prepare the grounds for a ‘new-normal’ cricket season.

Steve Elworthy MBE: We’ve got to the point now where we’ve got some international cricket going on and I think it’s going to be fantastic for the summer and it’s about ensuring that the long-term sustainability of the game keeps going.

Phil Scott: If they’re not used to standing in a field for six to seven hours of the day, plus bowling 15 to 25 overs as well in the day the shock of that can cause some issues and that’s one thing we try to mitigate early on. So as you saw the bowlers came back to training and individual training before the batters so that we could slowly build up those workloads to the point that they were ready for Test cricket.

Ashley Giles MBE: it’s also different, not using saliva on the ball for someone like Jimmy Anderson who’ played international cricket for the best part of 18 years, it’s almost second nature to put saliva on the ball when you are walking back to your mark.

Umpires not being able to hold jumpers and caps and them maintaining distance even from the ball. No big celebrations, no high fives and I know that doesn’t sound like a big but again when you’ve played team sports this long it does become just part of what you do.

Steve Elworthy MBE: It will be the first time an international match will happen within a bio-secure bubble. I think there has been an international match played in the past behind closed doors but not with the COVID-19 medical overlay.

Michael Holding: Welcome everyone from around the world to the Ageas Bowl, having the first Test match in this three Test match series.

Steve Elworthy MBE: There has been a huge collaboration across sport, we’ve learnt a huge amount from them as well, it’s not necessarily just been a one-way street. I think the entire cricket family has pulled together incredibly well here.

Mark Saxby: The ECB fully support the message that Black Lives Matter. It has become a message of solidarity and a drive for progress and societal change. There can be no place for racism in society, or our sport and we must do more to tackle it.

Mike Atherton: Incredible work that the ECB have done to get this game on and fingers crossed for all those people that have done the hard work.

[on screen text] Next time…

Jason Roy: It’s great to be back, great to be back in the Three Lions here training in the sunshine, outdoors. Pretty big squad so it’s a lot fun.

Nat Sciver: It’s really important for us to keep that training mind set and if there is cricket on, we are ready for it really.

[On screen text] Road to Return

[On screen text] One day at a time

[On screen text] Jason Roy enters the bubble, July 2020

Jason Roy: So lockdown for me was actually a bit of a blessing to be honest. I’ve got a young daughter and she started walking and stuff, so it was quite cool to be around for that sort of thing because usually, during this period now, I’d be completely busy, I’d hardly be hardly spending any more time with her. I really enjoyed it and it was a nice time to get mentally refreshed I think.

Now being down here, in another pretty strange environment. We’re not allowed to be at home obviously, so the contact from them is minimal. So yeah, it’s just going to be a lot of WhatsApp video calls, video messages, voice notes, just to kind of see how everyone is doing especially with the little one obviously, you miss them a huge amount.

[On screen text] The Ageas Bowl becomes the player’s home for the next three weeks.

Jason Roy: Come on in guys, my bedroom. My coffee machine, got my treats that I got for my 30th birthday which was pretty cool. The most important bit of kit in here probably. And a beautiful view, pretty lucky to have a balcony room where I can kind of just relax, kick back and enjoy my coffee. My average coffee and watch some of the lads training.

Who’ve we got here, we’ve got David Willey, David Willey’s this side I think he’s just running laps at the moment which is awesome. We’ve got Liam Dawson, he gets a bit rowdy sometimes, he gets a little bit too loud, have to give him a knock on the glass but he’s all good. Pretty quiet mate to be honest, we just relax, sit out here, enjoy each other’s company listen to some music. That’s about it really, that’s all we can do.

[On screen text] England women train at home, July 2020

Natalie Sciver: My mindset during training in lockdown was a little bit mixed really, I found it good at the start, good to have a bit of a purpose and something to do during the day. I got some rocks in the garden luckily I weight them and they were actually quite a good weight. So I was doing a rock gym and I guess it’s just good to do something different really.

Sophie Ecclestone: So being in lockdown is obviously quite difficult, there’s not much to do. Only an hours exercise a day so basically I’ve spent that time walking Rex, which I’ve already done and I’ve been for a run so I think it’s just keep motivated on what you’re doing and keep fit and take that hour and go and use it and go do something useful.

Tammy Beaumont: The last few months obviously all the gyms been closed and everything we decided to turn my garage into a gym, it’s been a great little DIY project for us. I’ve ended up with quite a decent set up with a squat rack and some plates and we built our own lifting platform which has been so useful to try and get all the power exercises in. Hopefully I’ll be back in a normal gym soon but if not I can make do in my garage.

[On screen text] As the Royal London Series gets closer, the team must adjust to a world with no crowds.

Jason Roy: Great to be back in the three lions here training. I think playing with no crowds is going to be an eye-opener. It’s a huge honour, I love playing for England every time I put the shirt on, whether it’s a training or playing shirt, it’s a special feeling.  I think the crowd and our home supporters have always been second-to-none, have always had incredible home support, whether it’s the Barmy Army or just the general public.

We’ve got a couple more weeks until our first game so looking forward to striking the ball again really. Just trying to hit the middle of the bat and build up as much as possible. It’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot of new faces in and around the squad that have been given an opportunity, rightly so, well deserved. So it’s nice to be seeing a few of the lads kind of putting in the graft now, and in the nets there’s that kind of rejuvenation. Whenever there’s new players around there seems to be a lift in intensity and people coming in. And it’s nice to be a senior player and for people to make sure that we’re putting in the hard graft and we’re showing them what this England team has been about for the last few years.

[on screen text] We reflect on an ODI series behind closed doors and the women continue their journey with individual training.

Jason Roy: It’s going to be very different I think, I guess I can only know what that’s going to be like once we’re in the middle.

Natalie Sciver: It’s really important for us to keep that training mindset. And if there is cricket on, but in a short space of time, we’re ready for it really.

Episode 5 - The covers are off

[On screen text] Road to Return

Commentator: Ah yes, yes, yes! It’s a record. It is a new world record.

Commentator: Astonishing.

[On screen text] The Covers are Off

Jason Roy: Obviously we’re here in this kind of bio-bubble with no crowds. It’s an extremely different experience to what everyone’s used to. Coming off the back of a world cup where the country was bouncing. You get a huge adrenaline rush from the crowd and the home support is always absolutely incredible. And to come into an environment where there’s the groundsman watching, it’s pretty average.

It’s hard, it’s really hard work, as a player to find that adrenaline from somewhere, because a lot of the time at the top of the order you’re looking for that adrenaline against the fast bowler or whatever it is. So we’ve had to find different ways of getting used to it. But again, you’ve got to get over it. I mean it’s just the situation we are in now. We’ve just got to crack on but it’s quite a different experience to get used to.

As far as preparation has been concerned everything has stayed the same. We’ve been a consistent performing team over the past few years, so all our training and our prep has stayed exactly the same. You tell yourself that you’re playing for your country and you’re playing for England and you definitely find a way of getting up for it.

[On screen text] England women return to group training at various locations around the country.

Sophie Ecclestone: It’s our first day training today, obviously everyone is really excited to get back. Me, Lamby and Crossy are training up north.

Tammy Beaumont: I’m up in Loughborough, one of the hubs with the other girls from all around the country, but yeah massively looking forward to it. Not going to lie, the 7am get ups are a little bit early from what I’ve been used to so that could be fun but I’m really looking forward to getting the bat back in my hands and hopefully seeing some of the girls even if it is across the pitch and a bit of a social distanced wave.

I think one of the biggest things with training is that’s it’s been quite unusual in that you had to train as an individual a lot and make sure a lot of it’s been done on your own. Which has been really strange for someone who’s in a team sport, used to people kind of bowling at them or doing group field sessions.

Natalie Sciver: I thought the news that training was coming back was brilliant, it was getting a bit tedious training at home, so I was happy to get back training but my body really didn’t agree

Tammy Beaumont: It’s a really high intensity when you’re doing the fielding just on your own. You know, you’re pretty much just running around the whole time. It was certainly a shock to the system but it was really good to be back.

So Dunks how did your first bowl go?

Sophie Dunkley: It went a lot better than expected not going to lie.

[On screen text] Royal London ODI Series Begins

Jason Roy: So it’s been a great start here to our ODI summer, we’ve come off the back of two pretty convincing wins. Two games where we had pretty wobbly starts and the middle order have taken us home which is fantastic to see. Our bowlers have been on great form, bowling incredibly well. Just an extension of what they’ve been doing in the nets. Yeah happy days really. So the series wrapped up with one to play.

Once we go home now, refresh a little bit and come back into that bubble, we are going to be chomping at the bit again. This has been fantastic; Hilton at the Ageas have looked after us extremely well. The Ageas Bowl, they’ve been unbelievable, the hospitality has been great, coaching has been unreal. This experience over the last few weeks will definitely stand us in good stead come the rest of our one day international summer. 

[On screen text] England women prepare to enter the bubble to train for a series against South Africa.

Tammy Beaumont: You know at one point it wasn’t looking like we weren’t going to get any kind of cricket all season. When it’s your job you kind of get quite restless and although I did enjoy having a bit of a mental break from the game and for some personal development, it was actually great to know that I would be getting back to the day job.

So today we are having our COVID-19 tests ahead of going into the bubble in Derby on Monday.

Natalie Sciver:  I’m really excited to get back together with the team. I know it will be a bit different and tour will be a bit strange but it’ll be good to get back together with the girls and regroup as a team and make sure we’re still on the same page still. And still buying into the culture of the team. Making sure that everyone is ready for the Series.

Tammy Beaumont: Obviously the crickets on in the background, it’s great to see the fact the West Indies came over and they’ve had a really good series. And all gone really well with the bio-secure environment and everything. But it’s kind of put it into perspective that our chance to go into the bubble and do the tri-series is happening pretty soon.

[On screen text] Next time

[On screen text] England women reunite in the bubble as they prepare for their upcoming series against South Africa.

Voiceover: The day before the first game.

Come on Fran, come on Dunks do it for the team.

The girls are watching the cricket over there.

Levelling the playing field in 2021

We're excited for the return of fans to cricket stadiums this summer and looking forward to two Royal London Series for the men’s team against Sri Lanka and Pakistan and for two Royal London Series for the women’s against India and New Zealand.

We also have some exciting plans to continue to support and develop the grassroots game throughout the summer.

Come back soon for more information and the opportunity to win some exclusive prizes and experiences.

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