The Hundred: Welsh star Claire Nicholas aiming to retain place

By Ffion Wynne BBC Sport Wales
Claire Nicholas
Claire Nicholas won the Kia Super League with Western Storm in 2017 and 2019

Welsh cricketer Claire Nicholas is hoping to retain her Welsh Fire squad place for the Hundred competition, despite its postponement until 2021.

The Hundred was due to launch this summer but has been put back 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nicholas, 33, has fingers crossed that she will be selected again when the new tournament launches next year.

"I do wonder whether that was my last chance, given the time of my life that I'm in," she said.

"I hope they keep the squads the same and that fans can get behind us."

Spin bowler Nicholas has two winner's medals with Western Storm in the Kia Super League.

That competition was scrapped to make way for the Hundred, but Nicholas hopes Welsh Fire can build on the momentum created by Western Storm, who claimed their second Kia Super League title last year.

"We built up such a strong fan base with Western Storm so I really hope that keeps growing," Nicholas told BBC Sport Wales.

Swansea schoolteacher Nicholas and her former pupil Alex Griffiths, a 17-year-old all-rounder, were the Welsh players selected by Welsh Fire for the Hundred.

They would have lined up under former Glamorgan coach Matthew Mott and alongside Australia captain Meg Lanning and team-mate Jess Jonassen in Cardiff, Bristol and Taunton.

Meg Lanning
Meg Lanning, who captained Australia to T20 World Cup glory earlier this year, had been due to play for Welsh Fire in this year's Hundred competition

But male and female players have had their Hundred contracts terminated because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Women players were set to earn no more than £15,000, half the minimum men's salary, but some would have previously played as amateurs.

Plans for the England and Wales Cricket Board to add 40 professional domestic contracts to the 21 players centrally contracted by England are now up in the air.

"I work full time as a teacher so whilst I'm gutted to miss out, the finances aren't as much of a concern as they are for some others," Nicholas added.

"It was definitely the right decision, but when you have a full-time job, a family and then you work so hard over the winter to get ready for the season, it hits hard."

Women's cricket reached unprecedented heights in March 2019 as more than 85,000 fans watched Australia triumph over India in the World T20 final in Melbourne.

Nicholas hopes the eight-franchise Hundred tournament will reach a new generation of potential cricket fans, even if it is a year later than planned.

"It did definitely feel like the right time to launch the Hundred after the success of the World Cup," she said.

"It was huge that it was going to be played alongside the men's competition, but I still hope that cricket in Wales will thrive from having a side involved. I hope we haven't lost that generation from the postponement."

Nicholas, who has had to pay her own expenses for most of a Wales career dating back to 2005, praises two key members of Cricket Wales for pushing the game's development.

"Our head coach Aimee Rees has dedicated so much to us and has never stopped fighting for us to achieve equality," she said.

"Alongside (Rees' late predecessor) John Derrick, who always wanted the women's game to succeed here, they were both instrumental in getting me and the game itself to a better place in Wales."

While all-rounder Griffiths has England Academy training to look forward to, Nicholas' sights are set on retaining her place for the Hundred in 2021.

After more than a decade labouring for recognition, she has more reason than most to hope for a high-profile end to her domestic top-flight career.