History-making cricketer, Liberty Heap, has been included in the England squad for the inaugural ICC Under-19s Women’s T20 World Cup to be held in South Africa in January 2023.
Liberty, who has risen to prominence playing at academy level for North West Thunder and the government-led ECB School Games programme, made history when she became the first female to captain the cricket team at the renowned Stonyhurst College near Clitheroe.
The Burnley-born all-rounder is part of the 15-strong squad travelling to the Rainbow Nation for the historical tournament billed as a showcase for the future stars of the women’s game with 16 teams competing in 41 matches between 14 to 29 January next year.
Liberty says: “It feels unreal to have achieved something that I’ve worked towards and dreamed of for over 10 years by making it into an England side, but it’s also surreal being a part of a new step forward for women’s cricket.
“This is the first ever women’s under-19s T20 World Cup to take place, which is huge for the sport, but it’s also such an amazing personal achievement for each of us who has made it into the squad. It would be incredible to come home as winners, but regardless of the result, the experience itself is something none of us will ever forget.”
Young Achiever of the Year
Liberty, who has now left Stonyhurst and is taking a year out of education to concentrate on her cricket, was named Young Achiever of the Year at our Active Burnley Awards earlier this year.
She now goes to the Active Lancashire Awards, pitting her achievements against those chosen from similar recognition awards throughout the county. The awards, which have been re-launched after the pandemic, will be held at Ewood Park, Blackburn, on Friday 18th November.
Liberty discovered her love of cricket aged 8 after playing it in a PE lesson at primary school. She then asked her parents if she could start playing and joined junior sessions at Lowerhouse CC, where her stepdad Ben Heap captains the first Xl, and who coached her early progress in the game.
She was then chosen for Lancashire under-11s aged 9 and has played there ever since. She still plays the odd weekend game at Lowerhouse if she has no Lancashire or Thunder fixtures.
She is now hoping to secure a full-time professional contract with Thunder and make the squad to play in next summer’s The Hundred competition. Longer term she wants to make her way into the senior England set up.
Success with bat and ball
Based at Lancashire CC’s Old Trafford, NW Thunder is a regional team which represents the three counties which comprise cricket’s North West region – Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria.
Over recent seasons, Liberty has been one of the top run-scorers in the country at regional academy level for Thunder Academy, scoring several half centuries. She has also made appearances for the senior Thunder squad and is currently training with the senior squad to enhance her skills.
She has also been one of the standout performers with the bat in the ECB School Games programme over the past two seasons, knocking 86 from 53 ball for the highest individual score last year, and she was the leading run-scorer in this year’s competition with 119 runs to her name as her Team Brunt emerged gold medal winners.
The School Games is a government-led programme designed to deliver competitive school sport to all young people. With ECB involvement, it is a 20-over competition with 39 under-19 females from across the country playing against each other.
As well as her success with the bat, Liberty has produced some outstanding performances with the ball over the past two seasons. In the School Games final last year, she took a 4-wicket haul as her team went on to win gold, and she is a regular wicket-taker at academy and age group level.
What are her hopes for the tournament?
“Needless to say, I hope England win the World Cup and I get to play an important role in the team and perform to the best of my abilities. Playing in the final, regardless of whether we win or not, has got to be the goal,” says Liberty.
England have been grouped with Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Rwanda. The other teams taking part are Australia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, USA, Ireland, Indonesia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, UAE and Scotland.