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Women’s cricket has come a long way
On May 19, England’s Charlotte Edwards will lead the MCC Women’s XI against an ICC Rest of the World team in the women’s Lord’s Bi-centennial (200 years) 50-over match. This is the first time that the women’s game will be part of such historic celebrations.
Although women have been playing cricket for over 200 years, little has been written about the history and development of their game. What has been written, pales in comparison to the attention the men’s game receives. For instance, in the Caribbean the men’s game is constantly subjected to critical analysis, commentary and greater coverage. The discussion on women’s cricket generally stops at the reporting of scores even when there are exceptional performances.
The first recorded women’s cricket match took place in Surrey, England in 1745 between the villages of Bramley and Hambledon. Some of the early matches involved single women against married women. Huge crowds, betting, prizes ranging from monies to barrels of ale to lace gloves added to the overall festive environment.
The first women’s cricket club, White Heather, was formed in 1890 in Yorkshire. The Women’s Cricket Association (WCA) was formed in 1926. Although the WCA used the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) laws to organize its matches, it was only from 1932 that women could have used county grounds for their matches.
The first recorded game in Australia took place in 1874 in Bendigo. Initial matches were part of charity events which attracted the general public. Victoria and New South Wales were the major states that were involved.
In 1931, the Australian Women’s Cricket Council (AWCC) was established to develop the game at the national level. In 1958, the International Women’s Cricket Council (IWCC) was established to oversee international cricket.
In 1934, England toured Australia and played the very first test match at Brisbane and won by nine wickets. Although ten countries have played test cricket since 1934, the majority of test matches have involved Australia, England and New Zealand. In 1976 the first women test match was played at the mecca of cricket, Lords, where England defeated Australia. The most popular test series is the Ashes between Australia and England. To commemorate 50 years of test cricket, Australia hosted England in 1984; the first test was played in Bendigo where Australia recorded its first women’s match.
The first Women’s Cricket World Cup was initiated by Sir Jack Hayward and played in 1973 in England, two years before the first men’s World Cup in 1975. Sir Jack Hayward covered 40, 000 pounds of the costs of the 60 overs competition.
Seven teams participated: England, Australia, New Zealand, Young England, Jamaica, an International XI and Trinidad and Tobago. Since 1973, ten World Cups have been played since. Australia has won six titles and England three. Australia defeated the West Indies in the 2013 final in India.
In 2005, the ICC merged with the International Women’s Cricket Council and took full responsibility for cricket. Since the inaugural ICC T20 Women’s World Cup in 2009, Australia have been the most successful team winning two finals, including the 2012 final against England by four runs in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Australia’s Belinda Clark became the first player to score a double century in an ODI match when she scored an unbeaten 229 versus Denmark at the 1997 World Cup in Australia. Pakistan Sajjida Shah at the age of 12 became the youngest international cricketer when she debuted against Ireland in 2000. Shah has the record for the best ODI bowling figures of 7 wickets for four runs against Japan at the 2003 IWCC Trophy in the Netherlands. The first ever international T20 match was played between the New Zealand and England in 2004.
In 2009, England’s Claire Taylor became the first female cricketer to be named as one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year since the inception of the award in 1889. In 2009 the ICC in conjunction with the Federation of International Cricketers Association (FICA) launched its Hall of Fame. In 2010, England’s 1973 winning World Captain Rachael Heyhoe-Flint became the first female cricketer to be inducted. Since then, three other players have been inducted: Australia’s Belinda Clark 2011, England’s Enid Blakewell 2012 and in 2013 New Zealand’s Debbie Hockley 2013.
As the March 2014 ICC T20 draws closer some of the players to keep an eye on are: India’s Mithali Raj, West Indies Stephanie Taylor, Anisa Mohammed and Deandra Dottin, England’s Sarah Taylor, Charlotte Edwards and Katherine Brunt, New Zealand Suzie Bates, Australia’s Ellyes Perry, and Erin Osborne.
It is evident that after 269 years since the first recorded women’s cricket match, women’s cricket has come a long way from being played for charity and recreational reasons.
However, the success thus far must not blind the reality that the women’s game still lags in many aspects and much more work has to be done on and off the field.