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Warwickshire and Birmingham Bears women’s squads are back in training at the start of a winter programme restructured to help them improve further on their strong 2016 campaign.

Last season Warwickshire Women finished third in the Royal London One-day League (their best ever position) while Birmingham Bears Women were runners-up in the NatWest T20.

That was an impressive return for the women’s squads based at the Edgbaston Foundation Ground at Portland Road – but the objective is very much to keep building, insists head of women’s cricket Darren Franklin.

“The team did well last season,” Franklin said. “But we have to keep moving forward.

“We are now established in the First Division and to finish third was very pleasing but next year we want to finish first or second. That will be challenging, but it is achievable.

“In the T20 the only improvement on second place is to win it and that’s our aim. Last season we just came up short on the last day at Beckenham when we needed to win one of two games but lost them both. We came up against some very experienced players and our players will be better next time for that experience.”

In a change this winter the women’s first-team and development squads will train together in light of so many of the senior players being abroad. Jenny Gunn and Amy Jones are currently with the England squad in Sri Lanka, Rebecca Grundy, Georgia Hennessey and Laura Crofts are playing club cricket in Australia and Sian Kelly is in Argentina working with their national team’s players.

“With so many players away, we decided to bring the two squads together to create competition,” said Franklin. “It will also mean we have much more contact time with the players with alternate four-hour and two-hour sessions every other week until we step things up as the new season gets close.”

Plans are still in the pipeline for a pre-season tour to Ireland in mid-to-late April ahead of the season-opener against at Kent at the Edgbaston Foundation Sports Ground on April 30.