THE Archbishop of Canterbury’s cricket team is returning to Rome next month for its fifth encounter with St Peter’s Cricket Club, the Vatican side — this time with a difference. For the first time, the Archbishop’s XI contains two women players, Thea Smith and Becky Heath-Taylor. Both are ordinands at Trinity College, Bristol.
Mrs Smith will be ordained on Sunday 30 June in Guildford Cathedral, one day before travelling with the team to Rome. She has played football since the age of seven, and was instrumental in setting up the Trinity women’s rugby team.
Ms Heath-Taylor is finishing her second year, with one more year to go. Her main sport is distance running, and she recently completed the Edinburgh marathon. She played hockey and rounders at school. Both women joined the Bristol diocesan cricket team, current holders of the Church Times Cup, this year.
Women clergy have been playing in the Church Times Cricket Cup competition for several years, and one appeared in the 2011 final. But they continue to be under-represented, despite the growth of women’s cricket, and although more or less equal numbers of women and men are now entering ordained ministry in the Church of England.
The contest between the two sides began in Canterbury in 2014, when the Archbishop’s side narrowly beat the Vatican. The Vatican won the return match in Rome in 2015. Since then, at Headingley in 2016 and Rome in 2017, the Anglicans have been victors. In 2018, a joint Anglican-Roman Catholic side beat an interfaith team at Lord’s.
The match between the two sides will take place on Thursday 4 July at the Capannelle Ground in Rome.