Ian Pont predicts Cath Dalton could be first female to play in EAPL

CATH Dalton has been tipped to become the first female to play in the Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League.

The 19-year-old is starting to make a big impression playing for Halstead 2nd XI in Division Three of the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship – just two years on from when she was featured in this column as a possible star of the future. The Essex-born all-rounder, who is now playing for Middlesex, earlier this year toured South Africa with the England Women’s Academy squad.

Dalton’s bowling coach is Ian Pont, the former Essex player who has coached some of the world’s top fast bowlers and was bowling coach to Bangladesh at last year’s World Cup.

Pont, who recently unsuccessfully applied for the post as bowling coach of Pakistan, believes that “during the next year or so” Dalton will be good enough to play as a batsman for Halstead in the EAPL.

He said: “Cath’s progress in the last two years has been remarkable. People who knew her from when she played at Essex would not recognise her as she is now, and this is partly a problem. Cath is an outstanding batter, with a super technique and it is her batting that is her strongest suit.

“However, the ECB, Middlesex and other teams view her primarily as a quick bowler and it means she has to wait her turn to get a chance to bat. I have the advantage of seeing her hit a ball every week in practice and I don’t think anyone hits the ball quite as hard or as cleanly in women’s cricket.

“Being identified as a potential England quick bowler is wonderful for Cath, but the thing about bowling is that it takes time when you have completely changed your action, which is what’s happened to Cath, far longer than batting. So 2012 is effectively the first time she has bowled.

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“She was selected for the England Women’s Academy (EWA) tour to South Africa this April purely as a bowler and opened the bowling in an ODI and T20 international against the full South African side. Her bowling is definitely a work in progress but she is learning fast. I estimate she will hit her full potential in the next couple of years.

“Her batting, however, is already fully developed for the highest levels in my view. I would say technically she is ready to play for the full England side, but realises she has to wait her turn. She has shown this opening the batting for Halstead men’s 2nd XI and playing with great accomplishment. Playing men’s cricket gives her ‘game sense’ where she bats against faster bowlers than the women’s game and higher standards. This, of course, is massively valuable for her future England career.”

Dalton has featured twice so far for Halstead 2nd XI in Division Three, claiming figures of 7-0-43-3 and scoring 18 batting at No.4 on her debut in a four-wicket win at home to Coggeshall, and then opening and top-scoring with 35 and returning 6-0-22-1 in a seven-wicket loss at Felixstowe.

Pont, who runs his own coaching company Mavericks Cricket Institute, added: “Cath is only 19. She is strong, fit and hugely focused. She is an athlete. Her mindset is remarkable. I am sure that as Cath plays more cricket and other coaches realise what she is capable of, they will correctly select her as a top-four batter who can bowl pace – similar to a Shane Watson or Jacques Kallis-type player (relatively speaking).

“For now, she is just enjoying playing for Halstead and getting exposure to the men’s game. I am certain she will be able to handle herself as a batter in the EAPL at some stage if the chance arose during the next year or so.

“She is not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination and will always have bad days at the office like any player. But I see someone gifted in all-rounder terms and I hope and predict a great future ahead for Cath in time.

“If she can handle the frustrations of having to wait her turn, make it into a positive to get runs and then go out and dominate the women’s game, then she will fulfil her promise.

“Halstead have been wonderful to Cath and I have to thank them for inviting her in and being a part of the men’s teams. She is loving Star Stile. Let’s hope other women can be inspired to make the same journey.”

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