41 female players have signed full-time domestic contracts as part of the ECB's new regional set-up, taking the total number of professional women's cricketers in England and Wales to 58.
The ECB had initially planned to award domestic contracts to 40 players in time for the 2020 season, but the process was significantly impeded by the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, 25 players signed regional retainer deals in June, all of whom have now moved onto full-time contracts.
A further 16 players have now signed contracts, including the former England seamer Jenny Gunn who played an instrumental role in the Northern Diamonds' run to the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final this year. Other notable names who will now play professionally include Lauren Bell, Maia Bouchier (Southern Vipers) and Georgia Hennessy (Western Storm).
Alongside the 17 centrally-contracted England players, there are now 58 professional women's cricketers across England and Wales.
Seven of the eight regional hubs have awarded five contracts, while Western Storm and Glamorgan have provided funding for a sixth between them.
Clare Connor, the ECB's managing director of women's cricket, said that the move to full-time domestic contracts was "the most significant step forward for the women's game in recent years".
"In terms of the health of women's cricket in England and Wales, we cannot overestimate the importance of these 41 players having the opportunity to train and work on their skills full-time, with access to high quality coaching and facilities across the eight regions," Connor said.
"Today's news is not only wonderful for the players themselves, it represents a step change for our whole domestic game and for young girls who will now be able to see more opportunity and aspiration in front of them.
"When you add in the profile opportunity of the Hundred next year, the landscape looks even more exciting. After a challenging year in the wake of the pandemic, I'm really pleased with the progress we've made in 2020, just one year after launching our action plan to transform women's and girls' cricket.
"We're delighted that these 41 young women are able to call themselves full-time professional cricketers and we wish them every success."
Contracted domestic women's players:
Northern Diamonds: Hollie Armitage, Beth Langston, Linsey Smith, Phoebe Graham, Jenny Gunn
Thunder: Georgia Boyce, Alex Hartley, Emma Lamb, Ellie Threlkeld, Hannah Jones
Central Sparks: Evelyn Jones, Marie Kelly, Issy Wong, Emily Arlott, Gwenan Davies
Lightning: Kathryn Bryce, Sarah Bryce, Bethan Ellis, Lucy Higham, Abbey Freeborn
Western Storm: Dani Gibson, Sophie Luff, Fi Morris, Georgia Hennessy, Nath Wraith, Alex Griffiths
Southern Vipers: Georgia Adams, Tara Norris, Paige Scholfield, Lauren Bell, Maia Bouchier
South East Stars: Alice Davidson-Richards, Sophia Dunkley, Tash Farrant, Bryony Smith, Aylish Cranstone
Sunrisers: Naomi Dattani, Cordelia Griffith, Amara Carr, Jo Gardner, Kelly Castle