JENNY Gunn, a newly contracted player with the Northern Diamonds, has challenged the rising crop of young Yorkshire cricketers to end her career.

The former England all-rounder, 34, has signed on with the Diamonds as one of five contracted players for 2021; Hollie Armitage, Phoebe Graham, Beth Langston and Linsey Smith are the others.

Gunn describes herself as “the worst retiree”.

Having called time on a 15-year England career - she won three World Cup crowns and five Ashes - last October, she was fully preparing for the end of her career altogether once coronavirus struck the world.

But, having been coaxed back on to the field in August with the Diamonds by coach and former team-mate Dani Hazell, she impressed with bat and ball throughout the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and has done enough to be asked to go again.

Gunn, who is also working as a cricket coach at Trent College in Nottingham, said: “I retired from England, and my plan straightaway was to try and get to Australia and work over there.

“I did some unpaid (coaching) work experience with Cricket New South Wales last winter. It’s a lot different out there, so I did some work with them and for my club side Sydney.

“I came back in March because, at the time, my sister had Covid and I thought, ‘If something happens to one of my family members, I don’t want to be in another country’.

“So I came back and, when cricket got going, Dani Hazell said to me, ‘What are you doing?’

“I didn’t have a lot else going on, and I’d played last winter in Australia and felt in alright shape. So I said yes and really enjoyed it.

“I’m the worst retiree because I thought this summer would be my last. But I enjoyed it and thought, ‘Why not?’ when this contract offer came.

“I had another contract offer. I won’t say from where. But I know there’s a few people moaning on Twitter about me getting a contract at my age.

“But if you look at the bigger picture, I know I’m not going to play for England. So I’m always going to be around and have played at that level. I’ll be able to help future England players get there.

“This coming season will probably be my last, but I really want the youngsters to kick me out of the door and say, ‘This is my time now’.”

While the Northern Diamonds’ catchment area includes Durham and Northumberland, they are based at Emerald Headingley, giving young White Rose up and comers plenty of chance to improve in training this winter and be around experienced heads such as Gunn.

And she will only be too happy to help, as she is currently doing with players - both female and male - at Trent College.

“I really enjoy the stuff I do at Trent College,” continued Gunn. “I’m coaching lads and girls across all years, but at the moment it’s just the first team.

“It’s different having the experience of helping the lads out because I’ve played against a few of them, but it’s showing that women’s cricket is getting so much better in this country that lads don’t mind being coached by a female.”

But, of course, she has been signed by the Diamonds as a player and her performances will be important, as they were this summer in the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy.

She took eight wickets in seven appearances as the Diamonds reached the late September final, only to be beaten by Southern Vipers.

She also posted scores of 20, 50 not out, 29, 15 and 26 not out.

“I was happy with my contributions, but I’m confident we will all be better prepared for next summer,” she said.

“It was a bit last minute this summer with me coming in, but next year we’ll have a lot more plans and I will be able to execute my role much better.”

Not only did Gunn turn down another full-time contract recently, she also turned down a short-term deal from elsewhere prior to the start of the summer RHF Trophy.

So, what attracted her to the Diamonds?

“Straightaway knowing the set-up that Yorkshire have - having played for the Yorkshire Diamonds and in the KSL and the county team as well - it was a no-brainer,” Gunn said.

“I’m so glad I did because the squad just bonded straightaway.

“We have a really good mix of youngsters and players who have played a decent amount of county cricket in the past. We also have a few experienced players.

“It was a really nice balance, and we had a lot of fun in challenging times.

“Phoebe (Graham), Katie (Levick), Beth (Langston), Ami (Campbell) and Rachel (Hopkins) have all played county cricket for years, but they are still desperate to progress.

“They have jumped into the fitness side of things. To do that in November and December is fantastic.

“For what Phoebe did last year, she really deserves the other contract.

“It will be exciting to see how quickly players improve.”

The Diamonds are back in training after the second Covid lockdown having kept in touch, both professionally and personally, online beforehand.

“In lockdown, we’ve been doing fitness work and having Zoom calls with Jim (James Carr, director of cricket). That’s challenging with dogs in the house!” Gunn added.

“The girls also had a Zoom quiz last week, which I couldn’t make because I was working. That was really annoying.

“But my money was on Katie (Levick) to win because she probably spends all her time at pub quizzes. And she did win it!

“We then had our first training session last Wednesday, and it was quite nice to see people.

“We’ll blow the cobwebs away before Christmas and then really start to nail things in the New Year.”