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Tune in for the Women's World Cup final

Alison Mitchell Alison Mitchell | 08:55 UK time, Thursday, 19 March 2009

So the Australia game didn't quite go to plan, but here's my plea to all England cricket fans out there who have yet to watch top-level women's cricket - if you've been missing the feel good factor recently following the Stanford saga, the India tour and now the West Indies Test series and 20/20 defeat, start paying attention to what the England women's team are doing.

If you can, stay up all night on Saturday to listen to them trying to win the World Cup for the first time in 16 years, and I challenge you not to become absorbed (if you're reading this from Sydney, come and watch! It's only $15 per adult and $7.50 for a child).

I'll be hooking up with ABC radio to provide ball-by-ball commentary on Five Live Sports Extra and online in the UK, with the game starting at 11.00pm UK time. You can also catch updates from me on Twitter (search for BBCTMS).

England will be playing New Zealand in the final, who they've already beaten once in this tournament in the Super Six stage. The 'White Ferns' as the Kiwis are known, have won the World Cup once in 2000, while England's two triumphs came in the inaugural tournament in 1973 and in 1993 - the last time they appeared in the final.

England v New Zealand

Eight of the England squad here in Sydney played in the last World Cup in 2005 and now they form the backbone of a strong, cohesive unit, who clearly share a solid respect for each other, not only as teammates, but also - as batter Claire Taylor described the other day - as friends.

They have to get along well as there's not a lot of time to yourself when you're paired up sharing rooms for the duration of a tour and it speaks volumes that Claire, the oldest player in the squad at 33, can room quite happily with the youngest, Anya Shrubsole, who's just 17.

Women's cricket has come a long way since the last World Cup in 2005. On a global level it is now administered, like the men's game, by the International Cricket Council following a merger with the International Women's Cricket Council.

In England, the sport is growing like never before, and with a committed, determined Clare Connor, a former national team captain, as Head of Women's Cricket at the ECB, the game couldn't be in better hands.

Participation among women and girls at all levels increased by 45% from 2005-07. The increase in 2008 alone was another 49%, and there are some 450 clubs with women's sections compared to just 93 six years ago. This might be helped by the fact that the top 12 clubs can earn Premier League Performance Payments of up to £1,500 per year from the ECB if they meet certain targets regarding women's involvement.

At the highest level, Chance to Shine Coaching contracts, funded by the Cricket Foundation, have been a huge success, enabling England players to have a steady income, working 25 hours a week over an eight-month period, but having the flexibility needed for training and playing.

Six of this World Cup squad are on either full or part time contracts, including captain Charlotte Edwards, and there is money in place to widen that pool, with another contract possibly on offer next September.

While there's so much attention on the England team at the moment, Connor is anxious not to lose sight of the bigger picture, where the emphasis has to be on provision if they're to plan for the future.

"The challenge is firstly to provide enough cricket for women to play," she says. "Then identify talent, make sure the pathways are in place, and ensure that those pathways are visible and, importantly, high quality."

Clare Connor (right) chats to Charlotte Edwards and England coach Mark Lane

On the domestic front, the Super Fours competition was introduced in 2002 to bring together the best players in the country in four teams, and it continues to play a big part in bridging the gap between county and international level.

Sunday's World Cup final will be the culmination of a lot of hard work and will be the pinnacle of these players' careers to date. After the West Indies game when they secured their place in the final, the players belted out their team song from the dressing room - 'Never Forget' by Take That.

They started singing it when they were on a losing streak in India last year. It seemed to help turn their fortunes around, and they've been singing it ever since.

The only distraction to the England camp in this campaign has been the reporting of all- rounder Jenny Gunn for a suspected illegal bowling action following their opening game against Sri Lanka. They dealt with that superbly though, and Gunn's action was cleared just before their Super Six Game against New Zealand.

Behind the scenes, however, there was confusion within the ECB as to which regulations they were supposed to follow when it came to the analysis of Gunn's action. The problem is, there are no published ICC regulations concerning the review of women bowlers reported with a suspected illegal bowling action, and the ICC later said the ECB's regulations for testing didn't apply either, even though they were instructed to carry out the test.

I'm sure it's something which will come up at the imminent AGM of the ICC Women's Cricket Committee. It needs to be addressed.


  • Comment number 1.

    Good Luck Girls!
    I shall do my best to stay awake and listen. It would be great if they could win it. They should get way more recognition as they are clearly a talented bunch. :-)

  • Comment number 2.

    Good luck team...

    Some terrestrial coverage is better than none. Some highlights on BBC TV news would be nice on the Sunday morning!

    When you get back could the BBC build on this by visiting a grass roots club such as Hayes Hurricances (Kent) to see the work being put in to the future England players...

  • Comment number 3.

    Good luck, England.

    The question is, why haven't we seen any of the highlights on the news?

  • Comment number 4.

    i've seen highlights on sky news

  • Comment number 5.

    Briefest glimpse on BBC breakfast news this morning and the results have been mentioned. BUT BBC will not jump on bandwagon until the last possible moment while there is precious football to be covered I'm afraid.

  • Comment number 6.

    Really interesting thanks Alison, as was your blog with biographies of some of the players.

    Is it too much to ask that the BBC gets a half hour highlights package together to show on BBC1 or BBC2 on Sunday? Probably, unfortunately.

    Personally I can watch it all Saturday night on Sky, but there are many who can't.

  • Comment number 7.

    One other encouraging statistic I gathered from ABC radio last night is that women's cricket is currently being played in 98 countries, world-wide. That's terrific! "Viva England," of course, but "Viva too the international opposition."

    And on a frivlous note (a bit of frivolity sometimes helps raise spirits) - On the photo of Edwards, Lane & Connor (above), Mark Lane is saying, ".... and then with both hands thus, you flip 'em over into Sydney Harbour!"

    Very best of luck for Sunday. I'll be following it ball-by-ball.

  • Comment number 8.

    I could not believe how Women's cricket has improved. I used to think Women only scores about 140-150 runs playing whole 50 overs. But that trend certainly have changed. I will definitely watch the final.

    Good luck to England girls.

  • Comment number 9.

    We'll also be offering a full text commentary on the final and our night-owl staff will be over the moon (get it?) to receive comments from you. To join in, text 81111 (with "CRICKET" as the first word).

  • Comment number 10.

    Excellent news Alison, I will definately be tuning in to the coverage on Saturday night.

    I agree with Andy #6 that your previous blog on some of the players was a good read.

    Looking forward to it, come on England!

  • Comment number 11.

    Just want to say Good Luck to the girls in the final - needless to say it's far more entertaining than the boys efforts in the West Indies !!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    ABC has been covering the tournament (, with their first line commentary team. They've had guest commentary from various countries, and it would be preferable, imho, if you did that, rather than use the Five Live stream, or whatever. THAT should be carrying the county action from Abu Dhabi. The BBC needs to commit to covering all the county cricket, all the time. Yes I understand the complexities. I have had to conclude that the problem is much more will than finances.

    England ladies have been brilliant! I am looking forward to their future matches. It's refreshing to see an England team that is there to play cricket, as opposed to the boyz that can only seem to focus on the game for limited times, when not distracted by promotions, WAGs, sponsorship deals, press statements, cruising, pedaloos and celebrating what they haven't accomplished. The ladies really show it's not a problem of resources, talent or opportunity. It's all will, and they have it.


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