A Ramble on Women's Cricket
Cricketers are batsmen...
Quite a gap since I last typed this 'Ramble' you might say - and you'd be right. The County Championship, the international season and plans to move house have kept me struggling to upload even a few of the many photos I have taken this summer. I nearly typed 'County Champs' but they will for ever be embedded in my mind with the Cambridge or Taunton festivals which I look back on with much affection, but festivals these days are reserved for the Juniors with their Junior Super 2s and Junior Super 4s.
England triumphed with the two series wins in the T20 format and the 50 over ODIs and congratulations are due for some fine performances. It was unfortunate that the one day in eight they didn't turn up at was at Lord's and against the old enemy. Still that was far from the largest crowd we saw this summer so those at Chelmsford and Bristol, where they seemed to me the most numerous, must have been happy with the performances even if at Bristol the average November day would have felt warmer. On that occasion I was stationed, complete with camera, just five or six feet away from one of those boundary speakers which you'll all have seen at T20 fixtures. Fortunately I noticed other photographers stuffing torn up tissue into their ears and so followed suit. This meant my hearing recovered in 24 hours or so but the noise is quite literally deafening. Also the wind was blowing straight into my face. It's just as well Britain's climate means you're made of tough stuff in this regard. I was rewarded with two excellent games. I must also record my thanks to the professional photographer (name unknown or unheard in the maelstrom of sound) next to me who rummaged through the boot of his car to discover a special type of spanner required to tighten the nuts on my monopod which was gently collapsing under the weight of the camera as the spring system had worked loose.
A number of my acquaintances remarked on how some members of the crowd thought the girls' score was rather low, meaning, of course that women score fewer than the guys do. It was with some satisfaction therefore that we were able to remind them later that the guys and girls' scores were identical, the only difference being the girls were able to defend theirs where the guys were made to look very amateur in the bowling department by my currently favourite player Mahela Jayawardene. If Sri Lanka were going to win they did so in just the manner that pleased one England supporter!!
Mahela Jayawardene in action at Bristol
If you would like to view a few more shots showing a master craftsman at work (along with the occasional shot of his team mates) then this is where to look!
I have to say that, from the boundary at least, the standard of umpiring appeared better than last year although one umpire in particular showed such indifference that Sky even included a head and shoulders shot of him in the titles. I don't know who patched it in but I guess he did so tongue in cheek. Another managed to forget a disc to mark the bowler's run up which I thought was a common umpiring duty these days with the result that Katherine Brunt left the groundsman with a rather large hole to fill after the game.
I was sitting at square leg when Peter Willey gave a leg before wicket decision against an Australian batsman during the ODI Final. I remarked to the guy next to me "that was plumb". He know exactly what I meant as it elicited only a grin. If Peter Willey had given an lbw then ... I don't need to say more. It is encouraging to see an umpire of his calibre doing these games. I do consider it unfortunate though that the decision to use 'first class' umpires means that people of high standard like Lorraine Elgar miss out especially when some 'first class' umpires make it quite clear they'd rather not be there.
However, you'll have seen who were the heroes in these two series. More significant perhaps are the retirees as the series ended. Three of the top four teams have lost a major talented player as Shelley Nitchke, Aimee Watkins and Claire Taylor depart the international stage.
Mike Selvey, a career cricketer himself, has written in glowing terms about Claire's career and indeed about the women's game in the past, once describing Sarah Taylor as the best keeper he had seen all season. It is strange to think a few years ago most journalists would have been incredulous to discover women played the game anywhere except the beach.
There really is little I can say to add to the copious words written on Claire's career. She is probably sick of people mentioning she is the only women to be named one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year but that perhaps more than anything shows how much she has been appreciated by experts in the game. There are many innings of hers I'll not forget at all levels in the sport and, quite rightly, many have mentioned the T20World Cup semi-final game at the Oval in 2009. A close friend, who once played for "England Schoolboys", which will tell you he has been around a while and watched plenty of cricket, reckoned it as on a par with anything Michael Bevan had accomplished. I think he paid her the ultimate compliment. She had the brain and ability to know exactly what was required to finish a team's innings, and to accomplish it. If there is good news here it is that she will continue to mentor new players. They will be fortunate indeed to be able to fall back on all that experience! England will miss her and I predict that shoes that size will not be filled for many a year.
I have seen little of Shelley Nitchke over the years. The number of 'Player of the Match' Awards she has received shows her value to Australia but I have only been able to watch her in action on tours here and the 2009 World Cup. The impression she gives, as does Claire, is of being ever reliable and players like that are not 'two a penny'.
I saw rather more of Aimee Watkins (then Mason) during her stay at Sussex when she became known over here for some mighty hitting, including three cars in the car park on one occasion. Indeed she's the only woman I have seen to make some spectators move their cars as she went out to bat. Her steady bowling was also valuable to the County and I know Sussex were pleased to have her. Before the arrival of Dottin et al she was certainly the hardest striker of a cricket ball I had seen.
These sides have all lost top players. Can they make up the talent shortfall? What they can't make up, quickly anyway, is the sum of their huge experience.