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2008 Diary

A Ramble on Women's Cricket
 - with diversions -

This diary will be updated periodically throughout the year.

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[February 25]
With the Ashes safely back in the suitcase to return to London, England must have climbed on the plane for the champagne I suggested earlier if not for the cigar that captain Charlotte Edwards decided to forgo as the ODI series had only been tied and not won. Should England ever beat them, that's a photograph I would dearly like to capture!
It was a fine performance at Bowral by all accounts and while Australia were forced by their circumstances to play for a win - a draw leaving England holding the trophy - England still had to ensure they did the job after Australia decided to start the last day swinging in the hope of setting England a target worth trying for. Leave them too much and England would settle for a draw and too few and England would walk it. It was not a difficult decision for the hosts to make and, while it didn't come off, in cricketing terms, it's what you'd expect of the 'old enemy'. England kept their nerve - no doubt buoyed by the 2-2 ODI series and came away with the victory. The match was probably won when Australia's first innings finished on a poor total, with Isa Guha taking 5-40.

[Isa Guha]

Just as the Australian leg finished I received an email from a guy who lives near Taunton. It read ...
I've very much enjoyed watching the women's game since they started televising it - besides the skills, the marvellous enthusiasm and the wondering where someone like Mithali Raj finds the power to hit sixes, I love the old-fashioned over-rates and the amount of air the spinners give the ball.
I thoroughly endorse the sentiment as you might expect, especially the remark on the enthusiasm and his last few words. I am reminded of coaches who will try and encourage the slow bowlers to fire it in and thus lose, arguably, the main weapon in their armoury. Fire it in and you become just another medium pacer and the game has them aplenty. Check Colvin's figures for the last few years and you'll see what giving it some air can do!
A few days after typing the above paragraph I was working on some pictures from a game between the England Development XI and South Africa, played during the summer of 2007. Sussex and England spinner 'Charlie' Russell is the bowler and shows the amount of air under these delivery is more than you might realise from naked eye observation. It's amazing how far above the batsman's eye line it is and that, of course, makes timing the shot difficult. 'Fire them in' - well that's all right for the odd surprise delivery but vary that flight and the batsman needs all their concentration and skill to score.

[Charlotte Russell]

And as for over rates - well I spent part of the weekend watching the first ever international T20. England bowlers running back to their marks - amazing - and finding they could have walked comfortably back as the women's over rates usually fall within the T20 time limits anyway. It's not a form of the game I can readily take to as I have mentioned before. OK it's fun all right but I am not sure it's cricket. Let's make sure we stay with the proper stuff most of the time, where skill, guile and careful thought all play a part, and where the game shows different phases requiring different skills from players batting and bowling.
Thanks to a 4am text from an England supporter I was able to update the site early on England's recovery in ODI 2 after a crushing defeat in the first ODI. A short trip across the Tasman shouldn't have given rise to a "straight off the plane" type defeat, so I'll need to wait for an explanation of what happened there. Perhaps just a reaction to the tension of the weeks before. However Claire Taylor appears to have come to the rescue in spades in the second game, and followed that up with a notable score in the third along with namesake Sarah. England's batting seems to have found its feet and if this form keeps up the bowlers have a chance do their stuff. It's great news to see Katherine Brunt back in an England shirt this series after such a long recovery. It must be hugely frustrating to sit and watch your team mates play. As someone mailed me only recently "backs are a bugger" and after my experiences of the last few months you won't get an argument from me on that one.
[Late March]
It has been a while since I added to this diary. A severe accident at home to one of my work colleagues has meant more concentration on the business. However, I've not been so busy that I haven't noticed the results from 'down under'. When did England last have such a successful tour in Australia and NZ? It's a rhetorical question really since it hardly matters. The important thing is it's happened now! With the World Cup just about a year away England must feel their chances are better than in the last few tournaments, but the only certainty is that both the teams they met will be back.
So what was the difference this time? A friend of mine, who follows the game I suspect to keep up with my conversation rather than for any other reason, asked me who I'd rate number one in the world now. I'd have to say 'Australia'. "One swallow" etc... I don't see that one series, however encouraging, can cause a major upset in the rankings however much hope it may bring to the Blue Lions. And while beating NZ in NZ might give a jump up the table to England I don't feel it gives them the top slot. Also we have a resurgent India to face this summer - maybe then we'll know a little more.
And speaking of the World Cup, hopefully fixtures and dates will be revealed soon, as the longer the procrastination goes on the more difficult for would-be spectators from overseas to sort out the necessary time off work and other details. Can you imagine a men's World Cup not having everything nailed down by now? I thought not.
In the absence of home cricket for another few weeks I spent part of the recent holiday watching Sky's highlights on the England v New Zealand men's series. A very strange mixture of matches that was, but it did give me the chance for a possible last watch of the guy I feel has been the best international captain around for some years in Stephen Fleming, although, of course, he's not the captain for this series. It's not the continual winning that makes a great skipper it seems to me, it's the capacity to get the best from what you have. If Warne's not in your side you can't, rather obviously, bowl him, and if he is ... I put a note on this subject to one of the Internet newsgroups saying I considered Fleming somehow made NZ 'more than a sum of its parts'. I was disappointed when someone pointed out he thought Aristotle had said something similar much earlier. He probably wasn't the only one, but it describes Fleming in my book. I can think of only one women's captain I have watched where a similar line has struck me, but I'll spare her blushes by not saying who here.
Also revealing from that series was a long interview with Steve Harmison. I can't recall such a candid talk for years on TV, possibly since I last felt sympathy for an Australian captain whose team Botham had taken apart. There was huge division on the Cricket Newsgroup about whether it showed the man had character in that he realised there was more to life than sport, or whether it showed exactly the opposite and that he did not have the commitment to make an England fast bowler. The only comment I felt hit the nail on the head was Dominic Cork's who said it was a pleasure to listen to an interview and not "hear all this 'positive' nonsense". Cork is right - interviews these days seem to all come out of the same mould, and you could be listening to anyone talking about any match.
And I managed to miss Sehwag's 318 - the fastest 300 in Test history apparently. Work can certainly get in the way of pleasure!
[Early April] And the season is underway - well I have watched a friendly between Sussex and a somewhat under strength Kent. It was a real pleasure to get out in the sunshine even if the wind was straight from the arctic and several batsmen looked in great form with Sarah Taylor and Caroline Atkins leading the way for the Sussex Prawns and Charlotte Edwards looking in the kind of form she must have had down under until a great catch by the Sussex skipper. Two superb catches in the deep by the Kent outfielders showed the pre-season training had kept them on their toes and in form and maybe the cold helped here. Hopefully as the competitions start this coming weekend it will stay as dry but feel a little warmer.

[Neetu David  Don Miles]

On the international front there was some news that will gladden the hearts of Indian supporters in that Neetu David, arguably the finest spinner in the game in recent years, has decided to return from retirement. Many of the England side who will face her this summer will have done so before, but the younger members of the squad who spin themselves will be well advised to watch closely. There will be lessons to be learned from the team balcony.
[Late May]
Much seems to have happened or been announced in the last month. The Asia Cup has come and gone with fairly predictable results although it was encouraging to see a new team in Bangladesh making a mark. The English season ahs started with its usual rain and cold weather mixed with the finest summer days and two more ODIs have been announced in the England schedule, these being against the West Indies. I have to admit to particularly looking forward to these as they were the one team I failed to see during the World Cup in South Africa in 2005 when the rain failed to relent and England drew Australia instead of another team in the semis as a result (assuming of course England had won!). As it happens a ticket to lord's on Saturday July 12th being kindly reserved for me by a friend means I will only get to watch the first game so I have to hope the weather gods are kind.
The County Championship started in fine style for Sussex beating arch-rivals Kent on their home soil at Beckenham. Full cards and stats can be found here.

The Super 4s kicked off with the ill fated T20 tournament. True the games were completed this year but high winds (bails were dispensed with) and the cold certainly did nothing to improve things for the spectators. To add to the excitement a large tent, intended for the use of one of the teams, decided, after first clouting me squarely on the side of the head, to self destruct and steel tubing lay bent and broken on the ground, beyond, it seemed, hope of repair. The walls of a similar tent were removed to prevent it suffering the same fate. The wind prevented any chance of pictures from Loughborough's second pitch and so I have no record of Jenny Halstead's fine 56*, which failed to be the highest score of the day by just one run, being pipped by Charlotte Edwards' 57*. Holly Colvin (4-29) and Nicky Myers (4-31) topped the wicket takers in their eight overs. Ebony Rainford Brent took a particularly fine catch on the boundary to dismiss Kathryn Doherty.

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