WCB is two years old today (13th November). It has been an amazing two years for women's cricket, and indeed for the blog. To date there have been 253 postings (about one every three days) and they have been read over 103,000 times, which for "a minority sport", played by women, suggests one of two things - either my blogs are spell-binding or there is not enough coverage of women's cricket in the mainstream media - I think it is probably the latter. As a birthday treat to the blog here are some of the blog's, and women's cricket's, highlights of the last two years...........
The blog started with the build up to the Women's World Cup in 2013 in India and my preview in early January 2013 was the first page to be read over 100 times (339). Mid-tournament it was a blog about the disparity in the Net Run Rate calculation for sides batting first and second that got the views (519 - get a life people), probably after it was mentioned by Daggers on TMS commentary. Australia duly won the tournament beating the West Indies in the final.
My attentions then turned to English domestic cricket - the county season. I suggested that more county games needed to be played and got some good feedback and 441 reads, but this paled into insignificance when I wrote a preview of the Div 1 county season in March which was read by 1,897. The preview of the second division was read by 647.
In May 2013 Mark Lane left his post as England Coach and the new Ashes Series format was announced. What a great success that has been, inspiring more Test cricket to be played, not only here (including another Test against India this summer), but also abroad - India have just announced a one-off Test against the touring South Africans. The announcement yesterday that the entire 2015 Ashes series will be televised live is also testament to the success, and interest in, the series.
In the County Championship Sussex beat Yorkshire in the final with Sarah Taylor scoring 128*, and Somerset earned the right to play-off with Essex to claim a place in Division 1. As it happened it rained and the game never took place, so Somerset had to stay in Div 2.
The Ashes Series started and England drew the Test after a mammoth batting effort from Heather Knight (157) with the help of the obdurate Laura Marsh (55 off 304 balls). England lost the first ODI, but won the next two to lead the Ashes Series. They then won all three T20s to win the series 12-4.
In September 2013 I wrote a piece about women's cricket in 2014, which was well read (545). I was still banging on about more county cricket, preferably played with a white ball and an expanded white ball T20 tournament.
Before the rerun of the Ashes Series out in OZ, and the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh in March 2014 England went to the West Indies with a very young side. It was the tour that saw Nat Sciver, Kate Cross and Lauren Winfield on the field and introduced Tash Farrant and Beth Langston to international cricket. They lost the final of a T20 tri-series to WI, having effectively knocked New Zealand out of the competition, but then won the ODI series with Sarah Taylor in good form with the bat.
So on to Oz for the Jan 2014 Ashes (seems an age ago already). England without the "retired" Holly Colvin and the injured Laura Marsh. In a fantastic fluctuating Test England came out on top with Kate Cross coming of age with the ball and Charlotte Edwards holding the England batting together again. England won the first of the ODIs, but with just one more win needed lost the following two quite badly, so it was on to the T20s and Lottie once again steered her team to victory and to the retention of the Ashes.
While England were winning the Ashes (that always sounds so good) a breakaway T20 tournament called the WICL was proposed, akin to the IPL but for the top women, where they would earn a decent wedge for two week's work. Much excitement ensued until the ECB and Cricket Australia effectively kiboshed the idea when they said that they would not sanction such a competition run by an outside agency. Plans are apparently still afoot for a women's T20 Bash in Australia next season, but the WICL lies dormant for the time-being.
And so on to the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh with England without Marsh, Brunt, Farrant, Wyatt and Winfield. Opportunities given to Rebecca Grundy and Jodie Dibble, and Tammy Beaumont and Fran Wilson recalled again. In a fit of madness WCB, with the aid of Syd the Cynic (@FairgroundTown), decided to set up a fantasy T20 competition. We made it simple because we have other things to do with our lives (well Syd does). I'd like to think it went down well and that we made people think about players beyond our own shores. We had 162 teams entered and I finished a respectable 5th in the Experts' League (Raf was last - @RafNicholson). The league tables pages had over 3,500 views. On the field the Aussies beat us in the final, but the story of the tournament was probably the emergence of South Africa, who reached the semi-finals by dint of beating New Zealand in their group match. They are a team that continues to go from strength to strength.
April heralded a preview of the 2014 County season with Kent (Div 1) and Lancs (Div 2) highlighted as the sides to beat (hardly rocket science), and so it proved as Kent swept all before them, and Lancs won automatic promotion from Div 2. At the start of the next month the ECB announced professional contracts for 18 England players - following Australia's lead the previous year. The new "professional era" of women's cricket had begun! [apparently]
Towards the end of May the MCC Women played a Rest of the World team at Lords to help celebrate Lords' bicentenary. It was a splendid event, but, played on a working Monday, attracted almost no crowd. Great for those that played, but a huge waste of money that could have been better spent on grassroots cricket. It also gave me a chance to rant about radio commentators that are unable to identify women players and fail to pronounce their names correctly. The commentator concerned shall remain nameless in this blog entry as he got a bit miffed about the last one!
England's opponents this summer were India in a Test and three ODIs (the first games in the ICC's new Women's Championship - a tournament in which the top eight sides in the world all play each other to earn the right to qualify automatically for the 2017 World Cup), and South Africa for the three T20s that India apparently did not want to play. England lost the Test to a jubilant Indian team, who have been in the doldrums for the past few years. They deserved their victory and their delight at winning was captivating. England pulled up their socks and duly won the two ODIs played (the other being rained off) and then beat South Africa 3-0 in the T20 series, although the Proteas improved with each game played.
I took the chance at the Test to have a chat with Clare Connor about the future of women's cricket - WICL; white ball County cricket: Test matches: and ECB contracts, which was well read, and also with Dan Norcross, the new voice of women's cricket on the beloved TMS (which was well-read by all his family members).
As I write this the Aussies are in the middle of their ICC WC series with the Windies and England are preparing for their tour to New Zealand in the same competition in February, where I too will be, to cover the series for this blog and anyone else I can con into taking some copy from me.
By its very nature a blog is a pure self-indulgence. The fact that so many of you seem willing to spend time reading it makes it slightly less indulgent. I thank you for that; the girls that play cricket at all levels; and Tim Berners-Lee for his role in this nonsense called the internet!