A Ramble on Women's Cricket
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The Best in Her Field...(ing)
Only a few weeks after we hear of the departure from international cricket of the England captain, another long-term stalwart of the game hangs up her England shirt. If this starts to feel like the end of several eras, it is probably because it is.
Lydia Greenway played her first match for England in 2003 in a game against South Africa; her last against the same side some thirteen years later. That is a remarkable length of career for any player and shows her worth to England during a period that has included many highs and lows. Throughout, however, England have never lacked the finest fielder this sport has seen in the period I have watched this game.
Fielding is something of an art. True it requires fitness and strength both to be as ready for that awkward moment in over number 49 as at the start of an innings, and it is this ability to concentrate for long periods that is one of the hallmarks of her career. Not only has she more catches to her name than any other current England player, something you might not expect since she rarely fields in the slips, but her accredited run-outs also top the billing. While it's true that she has obviously been blessed with incredible natural ability, it's also true that without considerable practice and hard work ability alone does not translate to the performances we have seen from this player over the years.
Sky TV have, in recent times, frequently shown that remarkable catch of Sarah Taylor's to dismiss the Australian Captain, Jodie Fields who was attempting a reverse sweep. How many have noticed, I wonder, that in their promos for the coming season, Sky have, in past years, featured a few seconds of a remarkable catch by Lydia as the only contribution by a woman to their season build up advert?
If that's how many of those not especially following women's cricket will remember her, then regular watchers will know of the inventiveness of her stroke play especially with the reverse sweep. No England bat has mastered this as well as Lydia and shown what is possible with a good eye, and I've no doubt, once again, plenty of practice.
Her T20 international career commenced with the very first T20 international played by men or women when England took on New Zealand at Hove in August 2004. Since then 73 innings in the 85 matches in which she wore an England shirt produced an average close to 25, a more than creditable performance in a format which is 'do or die'. Her ODI average exceeds 30.
Everyone recalls that famous knock at Southampton that brought home the Ashes in 2013 at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. From a situation where the game seemed lost Lydia rescued England almost single handedly and the Ashes were secure.
Being my usual eccentric self though I am left wondering if, remarkable as it was, this was not her best England performance with the bat. She played an innings at Derby in 2010 which was one of the most outstanding I have watched and in the worst conditions you can imagine against a foe that intended no mercy. The scorecard reads L S Greenway not out 45 from 46 balls - not that remarkable you might think - but my recollections of that game prove to my mind how insufficient a scorecard can be. The weather was appalling and it was amazing the umpires allowed the game to continue when at times the rain was relentless. In these conditions the tallest bowler in either side, Nicola Brown of New Zealand, set two mid-wicket boundary riders and decided the bouncer was the way to go and, in an attempt to restrict the scoring, was bowling them wide of the off-stump. Lydia promptly bisected the mid-wicket fielders pulling as lustily as I have seen anyone since Barbara Daniels retired, and not once but several times. It was the most skilled hooking I have witnessed and in conditions where cricket should not really be played, dark and rainy. It set the pulses racing. I had trouble picking out the ball so how Lydia managed to with unerring accuracy I have no idea! I have no pictures since the rain was strong and I simply could not risk the camera.
Her knock decided the issue that day!
Can you coach people to field as Lydia fields? Only if they have aptitude and application. She obviously has both in spades, and we have yet to see her peer. She will be missed. It is a truism one often hears that the general level of fielding in women's cricket has improved beyond belief. However Lydia is a 'one-off'. Any spectacular catch made by an England player will be compared in your mind with some of 'Lyd's'. If one is dropped, will I be thinking 'Lyd would have got that?' If I am it would be an unfair comparison to make for there has been only one fielder in this class to date.
While her batting helped England throughout her career, it's as the 'Jonty Rhodes' or 'Colin Bland' of the women's game that she will be best remembered, and that comparison is not in any measure an over-statement! In a discipline whose importance has only been fully recognised in recent times, Lydia has set a benchmark others will struggle to follow!
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