I see no reason not to start this year's review with the same caution mentioned
many times previously. Anyone who has visited this site for a while will know that in the main I
refrain from editorial comment during the season, and indeed during most of the
year. It's not that I don't have opinions (too many some might well say!) but
simply that I feel most visitors want to learn what's happening in the game and
take a look at the one aspect that I can cover rather better than others on the web, and that's in the pictorial
department. However, once a year I feel entitled (it is my site after all!) to sound
off on the last twelve months with my opinions on what seems significant both in
the format of the game and those playing it. This also has the advantage that if
I inadvertently offend anyone, and that's never my intention, they have a few months to cool down before I meet
them on a boundary somewhere <g>!
And that should be the end of any (major) sense of deja vue!
And so my thoughts about 2006 and, if I may borrow the title of a Radio 4
comedy programme, "In no particular order".
Representing Your Country
Surely there is no doubt that representing your country is
the highest accolade any sportsman can aspire to. Olympic medalists wrap
themselves in their country's flag and national team event clothing is usually in colours
taken from the same source. Few however show such respect at the beginning of
each game as Anjum Chopra shown here before taking the field at Shenley
during the summer. She performs a small ritual, perhaps partly for
religious reasons, perhaps partly as a superstition - something most
cricketers have - here alternately pressing her country's cap to her lips
and then her heart. I have not seen this repeated by anyone else. This
type of open display is not one I would expect to see any English player
use, but this is a cultural difference and not one indicating any
less pride in their position. Although she has played many matches it
would seem the knowledge of the honour done her in representing India has
not disappeared, and I find that very refreshing.
A New England Captain
Edwards made her first series appearance on home soil as the captain.
A 4-0 success in the one-days must have been very satisfying even if the
loss of the 2nd Test at the new home of the women's game must have been
equally disappointing. In the Taunton game the dismal batting performance
in the first innings, admittedly against one of the world's finest
bowlers, meant the match looked as if it was over very early on. In the
end, a slow batting performance by the visitors made one wonder if they
really wanted to win. However, the tactic worked and despite a fine
century by the England captain (celebrating above right) and stubborn resistance from many players
(check the times at the crease rather than the scores) came close to
saving the day. But it was not to be and India celebrated their first
victory in a Test against England. The first Test at Leicester could
so easily have proved a victory for the home side. The disappointment here
was the small crowd in spite of the efforts made by the ECB to inform the
local community, many of whom are of Indian ethnic origin of course, about
The first of the one-days, played at Lord's, provided the innings of
the summer. Claire Taylor's (left) record breaking 156* from just
151 balls was truly amazing. Anyone who can break a record set by a
certain I.V.I. Richards has to be rather more than special. And what a
venue to do it! And a good crowd too! Can she possibly top that in the
rest of her career? Unfortunately the chances of many more matches at
Lord's are near zero, but what a high point to look back on whatever the
A rather strange statistic occurred during the Lord's match.
Mithali Raj was not only dismissed on the 111th ball of her innings but on
the 111th ball of the partnership ... maybe Nelson is not just for the
English ... have the Indians ever heard of him I wonder.
[More on the Lord's game later].
The second ODI at Shenley was washed out as you will know. The games of
'backyard' cricket that evolved however proved highly entertaining,
especially Isa Guha's knack of calling a very late no-ball - bowled from
too far in front of the picnic hamper presumably - when any youngster lost
their wicket on the first ball. Now that's the kind of umpiring I can
fully support even if Isa was at one point so convulsed with laughter (see
below ) I am
not sure she could see what was going on! Sarah Taylor coached a row of
close fielders in the art of bending knees and opening your hands to the
batsman. Being confronted with half a dozen short extra covers must have
been a little daunting. One of England's batsman (was it Laura Marsh? - I am
trying to recall) proved so adept at batting left handed I wondered if a
style change might be in the offing.
demonstrates close fielding technique
... and the art of low-fives
Isa Guha recovers from a
fit of laughter to decide
Beth Morgan has overstepped the ice box.
Yes, Beth - that one ...
It's not just policemen that are getting
average age of the England side must be dropping like a stone. In the last
season or two, younger players have shown they can hold their own at the
highest level. Into the squad this year comes Sarah Taylor (right)
who showed immediately that she did not look out of place either with a
bat in her hands, or wearing the keeper's gloves. England now have the good
fortune to be able to call on two keepers of true international quality.
The 4th ODI at Southampton also showed any Sky viewers that Sarah's talent
with the bat should guarantee her an automatic place in the side whoever
takes the gloves.
Somewhere I recall seeing that the average age of the current squad is
just 23 1/2 years. Well it speaks well of the many unsung heroes who run
junior cricket that youngsters are coming through so successfully.
And Representing your County
(and the 4s)
Uppingham and Oakham, this year's venue for the County Championships
seemed to serve well enough. The grounds appeared somewhat more spread
than those at Cambridge which gave rise to a few problems at the
presentations. There have been some rumours circulating that the principle
ground at Uppingham (the one with just one pitch) has been sold for
housing. If true it is hard to think of the action as nothing short of
vandalism. (Word has reached me that building has already started - I am
reminded of the saying the decision makers in this case 'know the cost of
everything and the value of nothing' since money can have been the only
consideration.) Charlotte Edwards' splendid innings in the Super 4s on this
ground (see later) shows what a reliable batting wicket it is, which, as regulars will
know I have argued here before, is exactly what is required to fit players
for the next level.
The pitch at Oakham has, of course, been utilised for
a County men's game so I guess there can't be a quarrel with the quality
here although I have had mixed reports of some of the minor grounds in
Kent won the County title this year for the first time. Sussex men may have
claimed their trophy this year but the girls couldn't follow suit as they
had done a few years ago. A disappointing performance against the new
County Champions settled the issue. It was a relief that weather did not
interfere since the points table prior to the game was somewhat in
dispute. Poor weather could have had some rather unpleasant repercussions,
although I hope that would not have been the case. In the end the matter
was settled where it should be - on the pitch! Kent were worthy winners.
But ... hell ... whatever anyone says it's not "Cambridge".
It seems we will we be in Taunton next year at the 'home of women's
guess it would be a logical venue and with Kings College, Taunton Vale
Sports Club, the County Ground etc. to call on it seems there may be
enough pitches. I have some sympathy with players
from the north travelling to this venue. It certainly can't be called
This County tournament is surely the bed
rock of the game, the next step on the ladder for club players, many
hoping no doubt to join the Super 4s and ultimately England. Finding
players in the absence of this competition would simply be impossible!!
A Controversial Report?
During the course of the ODI series during the summer, a report
appeared on that well-known cricket site CricInfo. It stirred a few
comments the day after it popped its head above the barricades. It was
so Rosy at the Rosebowl". It was written following the 4th match
in the series played ... well you don't need to be told where.
I was more than a little puzzled why the frowns appeared around the
ground after its publication for much of what it contained seemed to gel
with my feelings about the sport and I hope no one can contend I am not a
total supporter (indeed addict) of the women's game. True Bob Willis'
comment about "women being spoilt" by the venues was simply old
grumpy doing his usual Eyore impression (see Winnie the Pooh if you need a
reference), but we are all used to that
surely. The author of the report, Jenny Thompson, then goes on to make the
point that Lord's was rather special not only because Lord's always is,
but because the free entrance and the excellent publicity brought in a
crowd that was not only of reasonable size, especially considering the
poor weather, but vociferously got behind the two teams. Sitting in the
main stand provided an almost unique experience at a women's game and I
thoroughly enjoyed it. Much praise must go to the Lord's authorities who
regularly put up on the large screen during the men's Test Match played
there a little earlier, an advert for this match. That screen carried the
message of a free international match probably every 20 minutes or so. I
am not the greatest admirer of a cult that tells me how to dress but I
have to say well done to them this time for their work obviously paid off.
If they were to host the match they patently wanted it to be a success and
it certainly was.
So what of the hundred or two (was it really as few as 200?) that turned
out at the Rosebowl? Well there are a number of things that might be said,
all of which I suspect have more or less truth about them. Did the
Rosebowl authorities give the forthcoming event the same publicity - I
doubt it and if you know better do let me know? Were there public
announcements on the PA during other matches at this venue? I doubt that
Did they offer it free? - no they certainly didn't! At £5 entrance and
£7 for parking they provided a positive deterrent, the later charge being
simply iniquitous ('rip-off' in common parlance might be a more accurate
expression), when the ground has little
or no public transport to reach it, and Jenny discovered a taxi from the
railway station costs a tenner. I have no idea how much of the gate and
parking money goes to the ground but some must surely. Would it not be in
their best interests therefore to get as many "bums on seats" as
possible? Or are they so awash with money selling tickets doesn't matter
to them? Maybe they were ashamed to host a mere women's game....
I have no complaints about the entrance fee. Gill McConway has made the
perfectly valid point that to make all matches free is to devalue the
game. We have seen this season though that one free in a major and popular
venue, well publicised, can bring in a decent crowd. Maybe it's an
experiment worth repeating.
And if you have ever wondered, and I certainly had, what the view was
like from that space ship in the sky known as the Lord's media centre, then I can
tell you it is both different and in some ways disappointing. For the 15
minutes or so I was there a sense of intrigue and interest in the view
from such a height turned to a desire for a more conventional view of the
game. True the height means you can study the fielders' positions and the
like more readily and I can see the advantage for the commentators in this
angle, but it gave a slightly removed feel to the proceedings, almost as
if you were watching the game on TV. Although my press pass would have
allowed me to spend the day there I was very happy to take the camera back
to the stands and the immediacy of having a crowd around me and the
players relatively close by.
And by the way, the above does not signify that I agree with all Jenny
types, any more than she is likely to agree with all I do. I mention the
above report simply because my reading of it seemed to clash with those
around me whose opinions I greatly value, and because the choice of venues
for international games is not an easy one! I haven't even mentioned -
until now - the factor that undoubtedly decides two of them - Sky TV. I
have conveniently ignored it, but the ECB cannot and should not, proving
once again it's much easier to criticise when you don't have to do the job
So where should
This leaves an interesting conundrum. What sort of ground gives the
best impression of the women's game? Discounting Lord's as a special case,
and one 'we' can't expect to repeat every season, then the game at Arundel
seemed to me to have the best atmosphere. I have no idea of the size of
the crowd (does anyone? - if so please
let me know!) but it seemed busy. Perhaps I am biased by the fact it
was a fine game of cricket and the countryside setting of one of
the most attractive grounds in the country appeared perfect. Let's go
there again - please! I swear the fact I live only about 45 minutes away
by car hasn't swayed my conclusions - well not much anyway!
One idea that I kicked around with a few friends when I first heard
several years ago that an international Twenty20 was in the offing was
that it should be played as a curtain raiser to a men's county or
international T20. It seems the idea has occurred to others and a recent
press report in Australia is suggests Karen Rolton feels similarly. I'll
be disappointed if those down under get there first but I'll certainly be
keeping an eye to see what kind of crowd they get if they try the idea. I
suspect it will make excellent publicity for the women's game.
Anyone tried the TMS message board?
As there seemed to be a number of message threads concerning women's
cricket I decided to join. I posted three messages immediately and, a few
hours later were told two had to be deleted as they were
"unacceptable". This puzzled me. One was in a thread about Isa Guha.
Many of the comments were more than a little flattering of her appearance
and at least one included a URL to a picture of her. I posted another URL.
This turned out to be "unacceptable". You are now possibly
puzzling about what on earth Isa might have been doing that caused this
picture to offend someone at the BBC. Well, in case you are wondering, she
was fully clothed - in fact you can take a look for
yourselves. Quite why this is unacceptable when another similar
one wasn't is a puzzle that will presumably never be revealed.
The other message concerned the nickname for one member of
the England squad. You will not have to struggle to guess who if I tell
you that unpleasant and defamatory comments were being made about her private life. I gave the
explanation of how it had, in fact, originated. Apparently scurrilous
accusations are "acceptable" - my quotes this time - but my
factual explanation was not. I can't see me returning anytime soon.
Anyway my attempts to quell or at least answer some of the sillier
stuff about the women's game foundered but it seems the BBC are happy to
let others post items which, were we all richer or lawyers, might well
finish up in court.
I assume my third message was acceptable, but you may not be surprised
to learn I have been quite unable to summon up the energy to find out ...
The exercise seems, therefore, to be something of a 'busted flush' and if
you're thinking of joining I wouldn't bother. Fortunately there are some excellent cricket newsgroups on the 'Net,
with a majority of cricketers and supporters who know their sport, that I'd be happy to recommend if you are interested.
Anyone emailed TMS?
On the other hand this may well be worth a try. I have had one message read out - at
least I think it was mine since the info was exactly what I had sent, but
since no name was mentioned, someone else may have had the same ideas - in
the same order...
My catch of the year
Now this is where I cheat as it has been the most difficult year ever
for me to pick my favourite. When Sarah Taylor dived to her right to
dismiss Charlotte Edwards in a Super 4s match at Reading, I was convinced
that was it, and I really didn't need to look any further. I had never
witnessed a wicket keeper take a catch quite like that in women's cricket
before. But just to make life really difficult for me, Sarah pulled off a near identical feat only a
couple of weeks later. I really can't decide which was the better of the
two. I expressed my admiration to the umpire who was standing at square
leg during the second incident. He said he had looked quickly at the
bowler's umpire to see if the catch had been completed safely since Sarah
had been diving away from him, only to see his colleague standing there with his mouth open. He wasn't the only one!
And then Alexia Walker decided to make the job even more difficult with a catch at the County Championships. I cannot recall who I was
standing next to at the time but I remember remarking "She'll never
get that" and actually swinging my camera away from the action. It
was an over the shoulder (or perhaps more accurately over the back) catch which she
can only have seen at the last split second having run full tilt away from
the batsman. In my defence some of her team mates seemed as surprised as I
was judging from the scale of the jubilation that followed.
And to make the job completely impossible Caroline Atkins takes a one-hander at the 2nd Test at Taunton
which, I am reliably informed, had the umpires talking about it later in
'catch of the season' terms, and they see plenty of cricket! Jhulan Goswami didn't disgrace herself either,
both at Lord's on the last ball of the England innings, and also at
I am simply going to 'chicken out' of a decision at this point. If
champagne was involved it would have to be a bottle for each! My wallet is
grateful it isn't! A number of supporters, and indeed the press, have been
saying how much fielding has improved in recent years. This has meant not
only that we have started to take fielding that would have been remarked
upon a few seasons ago for granted, but exceptional catching is starting
to appear rather more often. For years an exception to the rule in her
days with England, would Kathy Leng look more like an average
slip today? (maybe... but I suspect she wouldn't! - I have seen some remarkable catches by the
Lengster that stick in my memory).
... and Best Bowling
Charlotte Burton's (left) 6-10 at the County Championships must be one of the
most remarkable performances ever in that tournament and may well be a
tournament record. I am not sure the records are in a sufficiently
pristine state to be able to tell, but if anyone knows of a better set of
do let me know. I
suspect Charlotte would have preferred holding the silverware at the end
of the tournament but it still gives one Sussex player something special to
remember the 2006 'Counties' by..
... with the Bat
This season I saw one of the more remarkable scoreboards I have seen in
many a year. Charlotte Edwards' 199* in a 50-over match was a quite astonishing knock.
It's worth recalling when comparing it with other large totals made in the
past that the only larger 50-over score I am aware of was made against a
much weaker bowling attack. The Super 4s tournament is based on the best
48 (or so) players in the UK. With Claire Taylor's amazing knock at Lord's
it has been quite a year for high scoring. Charlotte's 199* is one of the more
remarkable innings I have seen in any Super 4s or anywhere else for that
matter. Starting as she always does playing her usual elegant game,
it seemed to become more and more powerful as time went on. No one was able to control her in the slightest and no matter where you set the
boundary riders, she found the gaps. Made off just 151 balls in 181
minutes with 29 fours it was an innings to cherish! I really wish I had
had a video camera to record this one. Claire Taylor reached her 100 in
the same match in less time than Charlotte did (73 balls to 96). I
certainly didn't realise that until the scorer mentioned it. That means,
of course, that the latter half of Edwards' innings was made up of 99* runs
off just 55 balls. You never had time to feel, as perhaps you should have,
sympathy for the bowlers! I suspect that even the fielding side may have
had some sympathy for Charlotte when the last ball fell just short of the
boundary so the 200 wasn't passed.
I have been saying for some years that the most
impressive innings I have seen at top level in the women's game was Lisa Keightley's
century at Lord's in an ODI back in the 1990s. Now I will certainly have
to amend that opinion. But which of the two mentioned in this monologue
should I now place at the top of the list? It would be churlish to even
try to choose. Will either record be broken in the next decade or two? I
have my doubts....
At the end of the season I travelled in most relaxed company to Ramsey
in Huntingdon for a charity match organised by Charlotte Edwards. In
memory of her father who had died earlier that year, the proceeds were to
go to the Macmillan Nurses, who do so much to care for cancer sufferers.
It was a splendid day. Early rain relented and the England girls took on a
side in a T20 match that appeared to be composed mainly of local
cricketers. It ended satisfyingly in a tie (at least I think it did ...
the scoreboard seemed as relaxed as everyone else ... and on my way past
it I several times helped out with the names of some of the players in the
England side). Local Cambridgeshire girl Natalie Cowan (below
right) joined the
girls and took the gloves for a while. I am told she keeps for the
Cambridgeshire U15 girls. I guess it will be a day she'll not
After a lengthy lunch, there was an auction of various memorabilia
which included the unlikely sight of Ashley Giles bidding for a Kevin
Pietersen signed bat. I would have thought he could have one of those for
the asking any time. Could he have been simply running up a few prices -
The second T20 in the afternoon showed off the stars of the day
including the 6ft 10-inch Will Jefferson, Phil Tufnell, Nick Knight,
Darren Maddy et al. They were joined by women stars, Clare Taylor and Emily
The England girls appeared to win with Jenny Gunn hitting a six of the
last ball, but again the result seemed the least important aspect of the
It was great to see such a large crowd and newspapers have reported the
amount raised for the charity topped the five figure mark.
And overheard during the day ...
Spectator to England fielder near the boundary: "You've got 14
fielders out there!"
Player: "How much have you drunk?