THE jail sentence handed to a former county cricketer, who raped a ‘dozing’ woman, has been described as “encouraging” and the victim has been praised for her bravery by a sexual assault referral clinic.

Alex Hepburn, 23, was jailed for five years after an attack he carried out during the first night of a sexual conquest ‘game’ he helped set up on a WhatsApp group.

Sentencing Hepburn at Hereford Crown Court on Tuesday, Judge Jim Tindal told the “immature” cricketer he and a former team mate had agreed a “pathetic sexist game to collect as many sexual encounters as possible.”

Hannah Taylor, manager of the Glade Sexual Assault Referral Centre, told the Worcester News: “It is encouraging to see a prison sentence being given.

“We don’t see this often enough in cases of rape and sexual assault, so it’s heartening to see this being taken seriously.

“We applaud the victim for coming forward and seeing this case through to the end, when we know how extremely difficult that will have been for her.”

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was required to relive the ordeal during two separate trials, after the first resulted in a hung jury.

Australian-born former Worcestershire all-rounder Hepburn was said by the prosecution to have been “fired up” by the contest to sleep with the most women, before carrying out the rape at his flat in Portland Street, Worcester, in April 2017.

Judge Tindal told Hepburn: “You probably thought it was laddish behaviour at the time.

“In truth it was foul sexism.

“It demeaned women and trivialised rape - a word you personally threw around lightly.

“Only now do you realise how serious rape is.”

A jury had found Hepburn guilty of oral rape at a re-trial earlier this month, but cleared him of a further count of rape relating to the same victim.

The four-day trial at Worcester Crown Court heard that the woman wrongly thought she was having sex with Hepburn’s then county team-mate Joe Clarke after meeting him at a nightclub.

She told jurors she had consensual sex with England Lions batsman Mr Clarke, who left his bedroom in the early hours to be sick in a bathroom, where he passed out.