England to have first full-time professional women's team

England women's cricket team win the Ashes

England are to have their first full-time professional women's cricket team following major investment by the game's governing body.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has announced "significant" pay rises for the top players.

England's women won back-to-back Ashes series against Australia in 2013-14.

Captain Charlotte Edwards took to Twitterexternal-link to react to the news, writing: "Today is a day I never thought I'd see in my time as a player!"

Former captain Clare Connor, who is now head of women's cricket, told BBC Sport: "Charlotte Edwards and I had to pay for our first England blazer to go on tour to India in 1995 and now 18 years on, what a fantastic day this is for the sport.

"I am incredibly proud of the backing the ECB give the women's game and it is a monumental day for our sport.

"Not a lot will change in how we offer contracts but the huge difference is the amount of money we're talking about.

"Players coming trough our pathway now have the opportunity to aim to play professional sport and for any woman that's an incredible dream."

Ashes win extra special - Edwards

ECB chairman Giles Clarke called the team's success in the Ashes "a real bright spot" and said he hoped they would "become some of the best-paid sportswomen" in the country.

"These pay rises are significant and, as a result, we are proudly creating the first group of full-time women's professional cricketers," he said.

Increases to pay and investment will be funded by revenues from International Cricket Council events held in England.

An ECB statement said players involved in the recent Ashes success will receive bonuses.

The game's governing body has also committed to reviving inner-city cricket over the next 10 years and hopes to attract thousands of new players.

The "Eureka" study, conducted by the ECB and involving almost a million participants, shows that people in inner cities struggle to get access to grass pitches.

A new London-based pilot scheme run by the ECB will build and renovate cricket grounds.

Minister for Sport Helen Grant welcomed the "significant financial commitment" into both the women's game and inner-city facilities.

She added: "Sport generally, and cricket specifically, appeals to people right across the country and it is excellent news that the ECB are acting to improve access and revive interest in cricket in our urban centres."

Shadow Minister for Sport Clive Efford said: "Cricket is showing the way to other sport governing bodies with their investment and by creating a professional team of elite women cricketers they will inspire a new generation young women to play in the future."

Clarke, meanwhile, praised the England women for their involvement in the "Chance to Shine" scheme,external-link which encourages children at state schools to take up cricket.