A young Whanganui side playing well out of its age group is gaining a solid grounding in the art of cricket under the watchful eye of mentor Jessica Watkin.

Watkin has charge of the host side in the Cricket Express Girls Under-18 Tournament being played on the Tasman Tanning pitches at Victoria Park this week.

The start of the tournament on Tuesday afternoon marked the start of Cricket Whanganui's Festival of Cricket which continues next week with the Girls Under-15 Regional Tournament with teams from Northern Districts, Auckland, Wellington, Central Districts, Christchurch and Otago doing battle.

While yet to win a match this week, the Whanganui girls are on a steep learning curve with the majority of the team made up of under-13 and under-15-year-olds up against an older more experienced set of players from throughout the Central Districts Cricket patch.

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Teams from Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, Wairarapa and Manawatu are competing.

Watkin makes a good mentor having played at high levels in recent times, including for New Zealand women's A, just a step down from the White Ferns. Watkin's latest glory was leading the Central Districts women's team to a New Zealand title in the Women's National Under-21 Tournament in Auckland in December.

The all-rounder was the competition's best player, with daylight second, having scored 365 runs and taken 15 wickets across both the 50 over and T20 formats, topping both the batting and bowling tables.

Her highlight was the headline-grabbing 200 from 123 balls against Wellington.
Central Districts regained the under-21 title they won in the 2015-16 season, taking it back from Auckland, with Watkin having played both tournaments.

Making the White Ferns is an obvious goal for the 19-year-old.

"Whether that's short term or long term I'm not sure, but my immediate goal is to find some consistency," Watkin said.

"I can have a great game one day and then not so great the next, so finding consistency is important. I will be pretty busy playing for the Central Districts Hinds in the Women's 50 over competition which involves five rounds with three matches each round this summer.

"We have already played rounds in Levin, Hamilton and Christchurch and have a home round in Palmerston North and Oamaru to go. Then there's the T20 four-day tournament in Christchurch, so there's a lot of cricket coming up this summer."

Watkin has also been appointed Whanganui women's cricket development officer, a part time role that focuses on promoting the game and upskilling those already playing.

"We already have an under-15 side that competed down in Palmerston North two weeks ago and we are are trying to get more girls interested so we can field more teams. We are aiming to form an under-13 side too.

"Tournaments like this one are ideal for growing the game and improving girls' knowledge of cricket and how it's played. While this team is playing an under-18 tournament, there is only one that is 17 and the rest are under-15 and we even have a couple of 12-year-olds and they are learning heaps," Watkin said.

Meanwhile, Wairarapa, Nelson and Taranaki had wins on Day One (Tuesday) with several fine performances recorded.

Wairarapa scored 191/4 after their 30 overs at bat setting the Hawkes Bay girls a challenging chase.

Georgia Atkinson went desperately close to a century with her 98 not out for Wairarapa, while team mate Olivia Roseingrave took three scalps for 13 runs from her four overs.

The Whanganui match against Nelson was a short affair with the host side all out for 59 runs after 21 overs. In reply Nelson reached 60 for just four wickets in 14 overs. Harriet King did some major damage with her 5/13 off five overs for Nelson.

The Taranaki game against Manawatu was a lot closer. Taranaki scored 167/6 from 30 overs, while Manawatu fell short all out for 159 after 26.3 overs. Bronte Hill scored a half century (52) for Taranaki, while team mate Taila Hurley had bowling figures of 4/21 from six overs.

In the morning session on Day Two on Wednesday Hawkes Bay set Whanganui a huge task scoring 259/0 in 30 overs.

The lesser experienced Whanganui girls looked a tad shaky in the second innings with two wickets down for 18 runs. However, they settled into a rhythm and managed to end the game far from disgraced with a solid 168/10 in 29.3 overs.

Hawkes Bay openers Monique Way (101 retired) and Katrina Mairs (94) paved the way for skipper Sophie Pyott to finish the job with a solid 16 off seven balls, including three boundaries.

Talented athlete Rebecca Baker was easily the best of the Whanganui girls with a knock of 68 before falling to a Cate Pedersen catch off a Pyott ball.

Manawatu set Wairarapa a target of 117/10 off 29.2 overs, which Wairarapa easy reached for just two wickets in 16.3 overs with Atkinson again solid with bat in hand scoring a half century (50).

Taranaki beat Nelson by 48 runs with Hurley scoring 94.

The afternoon games continued into the early evening and results were unavailable at press time.

Inspire Net has made it easier for friends and family unable to make it to Victoria Park to follow the fortunes of their favourite team. Inspire Net has made free wifi available across Victoria Park to allow live scoring online.

Dilan Raj said the generous gesture would continue for the foreseeable future.