Kate Cross and Alex Hartley have played for the England Women’s cricket team, will both play for the Manchester Originals in the Hundred this summer and will co-host a podcast that will now be available on BBC Sounds alongside Test Match Special.
And in an exclusive interview with SportsmailCricket Correspondent Paul Newman, Cross and Hartley opened the podcast, openly discussing mental health issues.
They also spoke to each other, despite being “ complete opposites, ” that World Cup-winning day in 2017, and the infamous social media back and forth with England’s opening batsman Rory Burns.
The English couple Alex Hartley (left) and Kate Cross (right) gave Sportsmail an exclusive interview
Sportsmailis Paul Newman: Congratulations on your No Balls podcast. It’s a lot of fun and clearly goes from strength to strength.
Now it will be available on the BBC Sounds platform alongside the iconic Test Match Special. Tell us about that and your friendship.
Kate Cross: We grew up age group cricket together in Lancashire but then Al moved to Middlesex to pursue a career in England.
When she got involved in the English setup, our strength and conditioning coach said to me, ‘Do you want to do me a favor? You both live in the Manchester area. Can you get Alex to a gym? ‘He thought you were unfit.
Alex Hartley: I used to be fat!
Cross: It was around the time I was struggling mentally because we always said you dragged me out of that black hole. We became a big part of each other’s lives.
Hartley: You were struggling and I needed guidance. So I was the lighthearted one who tried to encourage you to have fun saying, ‘I think you should stop going out and hit the gym’. We were good for each other.
Cross: We are complete opposites and I think that’s why we get along so well. I hate to say it, but Al is like a breath of fresh air.
We call her “no filter Hartley” because she just says what she thinks. She was like an excited puppy when she got to England. From there our friendship started, but the podcast came years later.
Cross (above), 29, is a mid-height bowler for Lancashire, North West Thunder and England
Hartley: I lost my contract with England in September 2019 and then I was in a bad position mentally. One day someone said, “You two should start a podcast.”
And Crossy said, “You’ll get something out of it tomorrow!” So we just recorded it on our phones. It just took off.
Cross: They are two friends talking. And if one of us is having a bad day, we will deal with that. We don’t plan anything. We call it the Village Podcast. We are not professional. What you see is what you get.
Hartley: It can be a mess. We were so excited when 45 people listened to the first episode, but now it’s thousands.
New man: Where does the name come from?
Hartley: The original name was ‘The full tossers’ but that didn’t work. Then my brother said, ‘What about’ no balls ‘?’ And we thought that would work. It is suitable for two women!
Cross: We now also have merchandise. The more we put in, the more we get out. We are not afraid to take the mickey apart and we try to help people.
And it helps now that Graeme Swann has been on it. He really bought into it. He thinks we should go on tour!
Hartley: I don’t think we won’t be selling Wembley just yet!
Spinner Hartley (above), 27, was part of World Cup-winning England in 2017
New man: And has it helped with your media work?
Cross: Surely. It has made me much more natural in the air.
Hartley: And I am now introduced as ‘No Balls co-host’. It is no longer a World Cup winner …
New man: But you were a big part of that famous 2017 World Cup winning day, Alex?
Cross: She only talks about that day at Lord’s every week in the podcast!
Hartley: I know how difficult that final was for Crossy, because since we were kids, it was her dream to be in the game at Lord’s that I played in …
Cross: I couldn’t understand what kind of person I was that day. I’ve always taken pride in being a team player, but all day long I didn’t know if I wanted England to win. I wanted my friends to do it. It was huge for our cricket. But I was jealous.
When they won I screamed with the best of them, but then I had to take myself away and thought, ‘You’re not involved in this. It’s not your day ‘.
Then I tried to get Hartley to eat something because I knew she was going to get dead drunk and wouldn’t remember anything the next day!
Hartley opened up about the threats she received after a Twitter feud with England’s Rory Burns
Hartley: It was one of the best days of my life. But the goal for four years was to sing the team song at Lord’s and I was so drunk I don’t remember doing it …
New man: Where’s your cricket with Kate? You’re back in the England squad …
Cross: Before the World Cup was postponed, I was convinced that I would be a big part of that team. But when it was called off due to Covid-19, the wind was blown out of my sails.
I did well in New Zealand on our last tour, but it kicked me off the back because you can never take anything for granted in the sport.
New man: You both play for the Manchester Originals in the Hundred this summer. How big is the tournament for the development of women’s cricket?
Hartley: It’s huge. There will be equal opportunities and prize money, that’s all we really want. We do not expect equal pay. Not at this moment. Maybe in a few years.
Cross: It is a bold statement from the ECB. The money will not be what the men earn, but it will be significant to us. Not many women have made six grand for four weeks of cricket. It also gives a lot more people the chance to watch women’s cricket.
We just weren’t visible when I was a kid. Now Jos Buttler and I are on the same poster.
Look at Australia. Ellyse Perry is an absolute superstar. We probably have a better cricket player in Nat Sciver on our team. We need to make people realize that.
Hartley also spoke openly about her mental health concerns on the couple’s No Balls podcast
New man: You have always been very open, Kate, about mental health issues and your struggles with anxiety and depression. It has been a challenging year for everyone. You have helped many people.
Cross: The podcast really helped. We talk about it every week. If I can help someone, why shouldn’t I? I can talk about it better when I go through it.
Hartley: You told me that the best things are often the hardest for you. Sometimes I have to force her to come for lunch to get her out of the house. But Crossy has helped so many people. She is recognizable …
Cross: I posted a photo of me on social media a few weeks ago when I was struggling. I didn’t even know I took it. I just found it in my phone. It shocked me to see myself like this.
It’s that uncontrollable crying in your hotel room because you feel so lonely. It wipes you away. My social media is like a culmination of the good things that happen to me. Sometimes it’s good to show people the bad things.
Both Cross (right) and Hartley will represent Manchester Originals in the Hundred this summer
New man: You experienced the bad side of social media, Alex, when a light-hearted tweet you sent to promote English women coverage on BT Sport, the day the men lost a test in India in two days, was criticized by Rory Burns . Did you receive all kinds of threats after that?
Hartley: It has brought us many new listeners to the podcast! My tweet was taken out of context and the attack that followed is why we all boycotted social media over Bank Holiday weekend.
I didn’t mean to hurt the men as my tweet was sent when the game could have gone anyway and Rory didn’t want to hurt me.
New man: Finally, where do you think you’ll be in 10 years?
Hartley: I hope to comment on cricket somewhere in the world. Commenting together would be good. They haven’t let us do that yet!
Cross: I am doing a masters in sports directorship so I am interested in working behind the scenes to encourage women’s cricket.
Hartley: I told the director of Lancashire cricket last week that Crossy will have his job in five years! He was like, ‘Oh, brilliant!’
Cross: All I can guarantee in five or ten years’ time is that in England you will see large, sold-out crowds for women’s cricket. It’s skyrocketing and it won’t slow down …