JAMES Carr, the Regional Director for Women’s Cricket in Yorkshire and the North East, has spoken of his delight at the range of talent and experience secured with a trio of new professional playing contracts.

Last week, retainer contracts were offered to Yorkshire captain Hollie Armitage, former World Cup winner Beth Langston and England spinner Linsey Smith.

Retainers have been offered as a consequence of coronavirus. It had been hoped full-time contracts would have already started. Instead, summer uncertainty means that will not happen until October.

Armitage, Langston and Smith will all transition to full contracts and be joined by two more players.

For now, though, the trio can immediately concentrate on cricket, and Carr could not be happier as he awaits the green light on a 2020 playing schedule, which it is hoped will still involve the new 50-over, eight-team regional competition.

“What exactly a schedule looks like remains to be seen - there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes - but it’s nice to have something to focus on,” he said.

“It’s great to have that message sent to the girls that this professional era of women’s cricket can start.”

Batter Armitage (aged 23), seam bowler Langston (27) and left-arm spinner Smith (25) are all at different stages of their careers.

Armitage and Smith are two of the brightest prospects in the English game, while Langston - capped six times by England between 2013 and 2016 - will be aiming to return to that level.

“Beth is one of the quickest bowlers on the domestic scene,” said Carr.

“She’s won a World Cup (as a non-playing member of the triumphant one-day squad in 2017) and has played on both sides of the equator. She’s a brilliant signing.

“She’s got previous experience with Yorkshire having played with the Diamonds in the Super League.

“Positives are two-fold with Beth.

“Her presence in the team will bring natural leadership because of what she’s achieved. She will set the tone opening the bowling.

“As a bare minimum, she’s going to nourish and enrich our environment.

“And it’s up to Beth to give the England selectors a headache. It’s a win-win.

“The other two girls, they’re young in age without lacking experience.

“Linsey’s played for England on a dozen or so occasions (nine T20s in 2018 and 2019) and is well thought of.

“She’s currently on an England rookie contract and will transition on to a contract with us in October and can push to play more regular international cricket.”

“Hollie had a good summer at home last year and had a good winter in Australia.

“Having gone out there to play club cricket, she found herself involved for a month with a very well established franchise in Sydney Sixers.

“She hasn’t played a great deal of cricket in the last five years because of a couple of knee injuries.

“Not only will she have support cricketing wise with us, she will get excellent science and medical support.”

Smith and Langston are currently based in Loughborough, but the plan is for them to relocate in the “medium-term”, says Carr.

The Yorkshire and North East Centre of Excellence’s team will be called the Northern Diamonds.

Danielle Hazell has been appointed as the CoE’s head coach - she will also lead the Northern Superchargers women in 2021.

“We want our resources to be aligned as best as possible,” said Carr.

“Dani has lifted silverware with England at World Cups as a player and has previous coaching and playing experience within Yorkshire, and she’s from the North East.

“That appointment was like hand in glove.”

Whatever cricket is played this summer will be somewhat of an audition for those players hoping to win the final two full-time contracts, with each of the eight CoE’s nationwide contracting five players.

That will undoubtedly bring pressure.

“Ultimately, this is the transition into elite women’s cricket,” added Carr. “Pressure comes with the territory.

“But I’m sure Dani will develop a philosophy and style of play with the girls that means they can play fearlessly and eat any pressure up.

“The brand of cricket England play, you want to see that at the level below.”