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2017 Diary

A Ramble on Women's Cricket
 - with diversions -

This diary will be updated erratically throughout the year.

Previous Page  (Thinking of Taking up Bowling... why it's not a good idea)

From Skirts to Pink Balls (or Reflections on 20 years on the web)

A Personal Account with Some Memorable Moments (for me) Along the Way

To many, including me, cricket has been a life-long passion, playing in one form or another from age nine to umpiring in my early twenties and watching the sport at every level all my life since my father took me to a men's Test Match at Lord's in 1950, aged just six. However having sat on the boundary rope at Hove (and you can't do that any more!) as a teenager, watched Greenidge and my favourite batsman of all time Barry Richards club and stroke the ball all over Dean Park, Bournemouth, my watching habits changed markedly in 1993. I have written at some length about how 1993 changed my life (see here) in a tribute to Charlotte Edwards when she retired from international cricket.
When I first saw a game of women's cricket at Guildford the attire was somewhat different from that today.

[Charlotte Edwards]  Carol Salmon

Then and Now - even the colour of the ball has changed
Note Charlotte's WCA (rather than the ECB logo) above
Top Picture Carol Salmon

[Charlotte Edwards]  Don Miles

The game was also very differently administered. The Women's Cricket Association was the English body running the County Championship, overseeing the international cricket in England for the IWCC and much else.

[Sue Metcalf]  Carol Salmon

Sue Metcalf, Yorkshire and England keeper sporting the WCA/England blazer
(Photo courtesy Carol Salmon)

What sticks in my mind from that period? Well there's the 1993 World Cup Final at Lord's obviously. England won the match on a really fine summer's day, the sun beating down throughout. During the day I witnessed a superb slip catch, some canny captaincy to thwart New Zealand's fine opening bat, and acquired an area of sun burn which was so fierce the discoloured area on my shin remained with me for almost a decade.
Or perhaps there's the time I sat around at 'Queen's' for a couple of hours (or so it seemed) while ECB officials decided whether or not to agree with Laurie Walker, the Sussex scorer, and proclaim Sussex the winners of the County Championship by half a point, or the occasion the last match just beat the rain and all the teams that assembled at Queen's (the headquarters) were treated to a really hilarious game by some Hampshire cricketers who got thoroughly soaked playing cricket without either a bat or ball.
The change from divided skirts to trousers gave me a moment of anxiety. I recall clearly being unaware the change was about to take place and drove onto a ground right behind the site screen. All I could see under the screen were trousered legs running around obviously warming up. The air was blue - I'd come to the wrong ground! The guy directing me to a parking place assured me I hadn't and he proved to be right. This was in 1997 at Bristol, and England were due to play South Africa. The ground has changed so I doubt you can peek under the site screen from the car park these days.

'Cambridge'

When I first made the trip to the County Championships at Cambridge all those years ago I had no idea how my involvement with the sport would grow. In those days hardly anyone said "County Championship"; they just said "Cambridge" and everyone knew what you were talking about.  Watching my local county, Sussex, or at least the county in which I grew up and have always felt an affinity both on the cricket field and in other aspects of life, led me to decide my camera kit needed an upgrade. But why carry a camera at all? It occurred to me after watching quite a few games, especially internationals, that there were few cameras about and sometimes none at all. The game was also not represented in the papers to any degree. It seemed to me it would be possible to play for your country for a decade and finish up with fewer pictures of yourself playing than you could count on your fingers. Could this be just? I thought not. Since I had used a camera for many years (I covered my first wedding as photographer at age 16) how difficult could it be? The answer was to be much more than I originally thought!
However, there was one regular stalwart regularly pressing the shutter. She also wrote regularly for the "Kent Messenger" and for "The Cricketer" magazine in its previous incarnation. That was Carol Salmon, someone whose opinion I gather on the state of the game at every opportunity I get.

Carol Salmon

Carol Salmon in action

After a while Carol was doing the writing in every issue of "The Cricketer" and I was taking the pictures, something about which I still have a conscience. She was the tradesman and me only the apprentice. This was in the days when everything was on film. I must thank Craig Prentiss at this point. He gave me much advice and help in the early days. He was a regular professional follower of the England team - the only one in those days I suspect - and you can get some idea of his commitment, and of the sport at the time, by reading a fine volume by Pete Davies entitled "Mad Dogs and English Women". (It is available on Amazon at the time of typing, albeit with a different cover actually showing players in the wrong kit. Don't let this put you off! The correct shirt for this tournament is shown on the cover below). If there is such a thing as a "must read" then this is it!!

Book Cover -

Clare Taylor and the well known "kick" which meant you could tell
it was her bowling from a huge distance away!

I think it was the sight of my camera on the boundary which led me to be gradually accepted everywhere I travelled to watch a game. How many regular spectators were there anyway? Very few and being a man gave me a rarity value close to that of hen's teeth. I could hardly not be noticed and originally, for some, it was a little disturbing since I had no relative playing. What was I doing there? Gradually though I became "part of the furniture" and people's natural worries seemed to subside.
I travelled to 'Cambridge' and shared accommodation with the scorer and manager and other supporters of the Sussex team. The social life associated with Cambridge is something I miss to this day. We played five days of continuous 50-over cricket, something many modern players simply can't get their head round, but the evenings were filled too. One night was usually kept for a team dinner at which fines were levied for the nonsense that had taken place during the club season and at other matches. I don't think anyone, including me, escaped without putting our hands in our pockets. One night might be a team BBQ in the garden of the accommodation (three terraced houses) that the team and supporters shared.

[Clare Connor + Rosalie Birch]  Don Miles

While the BBQ heats up Sussex and England all-rounder Rosalie Birch
sorts fresh hair styles for Clare Connor (above) and Charlie Russell

[Charlie Russell]  Don Miles
On one occasion two players went down to the local supermarket to buy some (a?) beer. The player around 30 years of age was refused as being too young but the under age one bought the beer with no problem. It should be obvious who should be flattered and who shouldn't! It also shows how plain daft some laws are which require a sales assistant to guess a person's age. Once in a store in California the guy in front of me in the queue (or should I say "stood in line?) was asked for ID. He was plainly over 70 and I knew he was English. He got quite annoyed and would not accept it when the sales girl said it was a city ordinance that ID had to be shown by everyone. He stormed off without his whisky... Her request seemed perfectly sensible to me - the law is the law - and that one ensures there are no mistakes.
I'd like to pause for a second here to award a medal, and that goes to a 12th who for the 5 days of one 'Cambridge' could not be faulted, always ready with drink, gloves or anything the team required. She paid as much, if not more, concentration to her job than some on the field. She was rewarded later in her career not just with a Sussex cap but an England one. I asked the captain, Clare Connor, if I could make an award at the end of the five days, and the team were called together. I gave her a bottle of champagne for being the most valuable player of the week, and found no one who disagreed with me. Her picture is immediately above, so she also acquired a new hair style though I don't recall if it lasted all that long - probably the champagne didn't either.
1997 was quite a year. South Africa were touring, and I remember that series with some affection. The second game produced three of the most remarkable innings you ever likely to see. Most obviously from the scorecard, Charlotte Edwards made her first international century (116 balls - swift by the standard of those days, or even today) and an innings b "y Jane Smit received special mention for making 50 in just 36.

[Jane Smit]  Don Miles

Jane Smit interviewed by James Colville of Sky TV following the match

At 253 in their 50 overs most onlookers had felt the game already over before any South Africa batsman picked up a bat. That sort of number was considered very high in those days and England had convincingly won the first match with South Africa only managing 148 while chasing 227. But the spectators had reckoned without a canny South African captain, Kim Price, and a number 11 batsman, Denise Reid.

[Kim Price]  Don Miles[Denise Reid]  Don Miles

South African captain Kim Price (left) and Denise Reid.

Denise had held a bat only twice for South Africa to that point, both times batting at number 11. Kim, however, obviously saw something in this youngster and she had the fastest and greatest promotion any batsman can be granted - from 11 to opener. Her 56 off 44 balls (S.Rate 127) not only got South Africa off to a flyer but must have convinced the dressing room they could do this, and they duly obliged. Kim's faith had been totally justified. It was still the tightest possible match with South Africa winning on the very last ball. For many years the aggregate runs for the match, 507, was a record. I also well recall one of the finest photographs of the women's game ever to appear in a national paper. It showed the body of a South African player, head towards the camera, feet pointing almost directly away, with the peak of her helmet buried in the ground. Alta Kotze gave total commitment to that last run!
While I glance at the scorecard I should also mention that it lists one of the two most reliable umpires I have watched officiating in a women's game, Alan Fox.

[Alan Fox + Don Miles]

Alan Fox and a much younger me at Taunton in 1997

It was only shortly before this match that the WCA agreed to admit men as members (although one or two claimed honorary membership). Alan beat me by a whisker but believing we were the only two paid up males at that time we considered this meeting had a quorum! And there is a further reason that year has fond associations - it was the first I carried a camera to a match as you will have noticed. I had no telephoto lens worth speaking of and the results look today as if they come from the stone age.
It was just a year later that the WCA merged with the ECB.
While my camera was far from suitable for photographing at the 70 yards frequently found as a boundary distance (unlike some matches today...), it was fine for more close-up work. But look carefully at the shot below.
 [Lucy Pearson]  Don Miles
Lucy Pearson, accomplished swing bowler in the original ECB shirt - note the colour of the 'lions'
During the early years watching England it was also possible to purchase merchandise relating to the tour. The mug shown sits next to my keyboard and contains pens, scissors etc advertising the tour by New Zealand in 1996. It bears the logo also shown on these shirts and jumpers.
[cricket advertising]  Carol Salmon
From time to time you'll probably catch me wearing something like this. These have disappeared in the days of the ECB.
The ECB logo appeared in a pale (Cambridge?) blue (very appropriate at the time perhaps) and was readily distinguishable from the men's colour (Oxford?) blue and that of other sides using the same design. Today you can find them in gold and red and possibly other colours too. But the women's colour has disappeared! As something of a traditionalist I am disappointed with this, feeling it had a distinction all its own.
There is one player who will always stand out for me during the Cambridge days, and that was Surrey and England's Jan Brittin.

[Jan Brittin]  Don Miles

Jan Brittin batting on the Lord's Nursery Ground in a match between the victorious side
in the 1993 World Cup and the side of 2003

[Lord's flyer]  Don Miles

Several designs were tried for the flyer for the event including a number featuring Isa Guha,
but this picture of Clare Taylor, an outstanding player from the 1993 team
won out. She was still representing England in 2003

If I recall correctly the choice of the team names fell to me, so I can only apologise for their lack of originality! It was during this match that I received a gift that remains one of my most valued possessions. Clare Taylor gave me a traditional blue cap with the three pale blue lions. It is duly inscribed "ROMPER" (twice!) on the under side.

[Barbara Daniels]  Don Miles

Barbara Daniels lofts a drive. The slips are (left to right) Charlotte Edwards and Kathryn Leng

Another player from that generation who left a lasting impression on me was Barbara Daniels, above batting in the same match. Until (very) recently I would say the finest back-foot player I had seen. The younger generation are now catching her up. I recall a match at a sports college near Wolverhampton when the coach of the college side realised I had watched the England players before. He asked me, as Barbara went out to bat, if I could make any suggestions on field placing. I recommended a cover point and a wide third man. He duly positioned both on the boundary maybe only 15 yards or so apart and Barbara promptly bisected them. As you can see she was no slouch on the front foot either, as well as being (again until the newer generation came along) the best cover fielder I had seen.
I am also indebted to her for an invitation to an England v India game at Trent Bridge. It proved to be a knife edge affair with England needing 15 from the last over and 4 from the last ball. The hospitality box gave a fine view as two Indian fielders converged at high speed on a ball that had bisected them perfectly. But would it make the rope? It was not travelling all that quickly. All three, the players and the ball arrived almost simultaneously but the ball just won the race. It was quite a day! She was also an early instructor (for me) on the differences between the women's and the men's games, and I am for ever in her debt for the information it would have taken me seasons to pick up for myself.
There was a lot of uncertainty around the merger of the WCA with the ECB. Many were suspicious that the ECB would sideline the women's game and the chances of expanding it would be reduced. It says much for Barbara Daniels' diplomatic skill that she able to convince waverers (like me) to vote in its favour. The idea of losing control made many nervous. They needn't have worried as is now very obvious.

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Next Page : From Skirts to Pink Balls (part 2)