London: England women's pace bowler Kate Cross marked becoming the first female cricketer to play in the 123-year-old Central Lancashire League by taking three wickets on debut on Sunday.
Cross's haul of three for 19 in a seven-over spell for Heywood men's 1st XI away to Clifton helped the north-west side to to an eight-wicket win in the first match of the 2015 CLL Premier Division season.
The 23-year-old Cross, who has played two Tests, nine one-day internationals and four Twenty20s for the England women's team, might have had even better figures had not older brother Bobby dropped a catch off her bowling.
"I never thought I would get the chance to play for the first team at Heywood, the club in which I grew up and learnt my cricket," said Kate Cross in an England and Wales Cricket Board statement issued Monday.
"I'm extremely proud to be the first girl to play in our league and I hope we will see many more," the Manchester-born Cross added.
"It was even more special to get to play alongside my brother, one of my role models, after watching him break records for the club. "I am very grateful to the Central Lancashire League for allowing me to play and I loved every minute of it."
Bobby Cross went some way to atone for his fielding error by scoring 75 out of a total of 123 for two after Clifton had been restricted to 121 for eight. "It was great to see Kate get the opportunity to play and I am just glad she did herself justice and bowled well," Bobby Cross said.
"I really enjoyed being in the same team as her although I am sure she will never let me forget that I dropped a catch off her bowling! Hopefully we can help Heywood win many more games together." Heywood chairman John Rhodes added: "Kate was selected on merit as being one of the best 11 players in the club and that in itself is credit to her for the hard work she puts in.
"I am delighted for her to have taken three wickets and to have contributed to the team winning their opening game of this, our 150th year as a club." Cross is the latest England's women's player to play top-level men's club cricket in England, following in the path of, among others, Arran Brindle who made history by 128 for Louth 1st XI against Market Deeping in the ECB Lincolnshire Premier League in 2011.