Welcome to Cricket, Americans

Most of my American readers are probably unaware of this. Kevin certainly was. But today is the opening day of the first season of Major League Cricket.

Cricket has been played in the USA before, of course. In particular there has been a lot of contact between the West Indies and folks in Florida. But this is something new. Big money is being thrown at the sport, and inevitably most of it is coming from India.

The inaugural season has six teams based in New York, Washington DC, Dallas-Fort Worth, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Four of those teams are owned by IPL franchises. Indeed, the New York side is called Mumbai Indians New York. (They write it MI New York, but we all know what that means.) However, two are more locally financed. I think you can guess which part of the USA has sufficient wealthy Indian entrepreneurs to start a team.

The San Francisco Unicorns belong to a couple of guys who used to work at Amazon. They’ve doubtless done very well out of their shareholdings. For cricket expertise they have entered a partnership with Cricket Victoria, so expect to see a bunch of Melbourne-based players in their side.

Unicorns is an interesting name for the side. And when I tell you that their supporters’ club is called the Sparkle Army I think you’ll jump to the same conclusions as me about some of the people behind the team. This is San Francisco after all.

Currently there is only one stadium capable of hosting first class cricket. It is in Grand Pierre, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth conurbation. The other teams are all building their new homes, including one in San José, but this season’s games will all take place in Texas.

The games will be in T20 format, so they’ll be roughly the same length as a baseball game, but with way more action. Once they find out about the sport, I’m sure the American public will love it.

Today’s match is between Texas (Chennai) and Los Angeles (Kolkata), and is an evening game so middle of the night UK time. Tomorrow sees San Francisco v New York (Mumbai) and there is coverage on BT Sport starting at 9:15pm. In the USA you will need a Willow TV subscription to watch.


Today on Ujima – LGBT+ History, Worldcon & Women’s Cricket

I was back in the Ujima studio today, and my first guest was friend and colleague, Dr. Jamie Lawson of the University of Bristol. Jamie has written a children’s book on LGBT+ history called Rainbow Revolutions. It is published tomorrow, and I’m very impressed with it. We had a great conversation about the use of the word “queer”, Section 28 and why people are worried it might come back, Ball Culture and the success of Pose, and so on.

Next up I dragged in Harriet Aston who roomed with me at Worldcon. It was her first big convention and understandably she was a bit overwhelmed, which makes her an ideal person to represent that first Worldcon experience. I was impressed that Harriet felt that she was swimming rather than drowning by day 4.

The rest of the show was devoted to women’s cricket and the triumph of Western Storm in the final year of the Kia Super League. I played my interview with Raf Nicholson, and passed on the latest news about the women’s part in the stupid new “The Hundred” series. It is possible that a new Western Storm might rise from the ashes of the KSL after all.

You can catch up on the show via the Listen Again service here.

The playlist for today’s show was as follows:

  • Gil Scott Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
  • Grace Jones – This Is
  • Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back In Town
  • Earth, Wind & Fire – September
  • Bob Dylan – Shelter from the Storm
  • Billie Holiday – Stormy Weather
  • The Impressions – We’re A Winner
  • Jim Steinman – The Storm

My next show will be on October 2nd and will feature an interview with Ellen Datlow that I recorded while we were in Ireland.


As trailed last week, I spent the weekend in Brighton watching the Finals Day of the Kia Super League. The weather was fine, the cricket was exciting, and best of all, WE WON!


Western Storm are now the only team to have won the KLS title twice. And because the league is being discontinued, we get to keep the trophy forever.

There will be much more coverage of the event in my radio show on Wednesday. It will include some good news about the future of women’s cricket in the West Country. I promise not to play The Wurzels, even though “Combine Harvester” is the official team song. But I might have a few storm-related songs.

Farewell, KSL

This weekend I am off down to Brighton for the Finals of the Kia Super League, the UK’s premier competition in women’s cricket. The KSL has been hugely successful in the 4 years that it has run, but this will be the final year of the competition. This is an act of wanton vandalism by the England & Wales Cricket Board.

Let me explain. Back in 2003 the ECB invented T20 cricket, a form of the game that was fast, exciting, and about the same length, time-wise, as the average baseball game. They did not take it very seriously, and promoted it badly. Then, in 2008, India created the Indian Premier League. They poured money into it, they encouraged the best players in the world to take part, they promoted it brilliantly, and it very quickly became the premier competition in world cricket.

The ECB reacted badly to this. The IPL season, while fairly short, does overlap with the start of the English domestic season, which is very long as it includes a contest for 4-day games. They didn’t like English players going out to India to play. But it soon became obvious that if you wanted to be a top-class T20 player you had to go to the IPL and compete against the best in the world.

Having lost that fight, the ECB are trying a new tactic. They have invented a radically new form of cricket called The Hundred. It is slightly shorter than T20, and has some very different rules including overs that are 10 balls long rather than 6. There is no economic justification for this. It exists solely to try to create a new form of cricket in which England would be the home of the premier tournament rather than India (even if that’s because no one else in the world plays it).

One of the problems of having multiple different formats of a sport is that players need to be able to function easily within that format. Think of tennis, for example, where some players are specalists at singles and others specialists at doubles. In rugby some players are specialists in the 15-a-side games, and others are specalists in Sevens. In cricket we have seen even the best players having difficulty adjusting their game when moving from the very fast-paced T20 to the longer formats, especially 5-day test matches. Other countries are unlikley to adopt the Hundred format because they want their players to be good in the formats that are used for international games. Meanwhile English players will be acquiring skills in a format that is not used outside England.

The men will at least still play T20. But that means that the already overcrowded English season becomes even more crowded. There will be 4 major tournaments rather than 3.

But for the women the only major tournament is the KSL. That will be discontinued, and England’s top women will only play a format of the game that is played nowhere else in the world.

Futhermore, The Hundred will be played by only 8 teams. That in itself is not a problem. One of the reasons why the English T20 tournament hasn’t been a success is that having all 18 English counties contest it makes for a very long season. The KSL only has 6 teams. But the choice of teams is important. London has been given 2 teams, and one of the knock-on effects of that is that there is no team in the South-West. There’s nothing in Somerset; nothing in Bristol. And most importantly the most successful team in the KSL, Western Storm, will be destroyed.

I’m kind of used to stupid decisions being made by the old men who run sporting bodies, but this is extraordinary. Words fail me.

Up on the Aqueduct

More of the “that time of year” thing. This time it is the review of the year posts on the Aqueduct Press blog. The lovely folks at Aqueduct keep asking me to write these things, so I keep doing them. This year I was a bit late due to the Austria trip, but my contribution is up at last. You can find it here.

Today on Ujima – Hugos, SF, Cricket, REWS & Aretha

Today’s show was centred around a tribute to Aretha Franklin. I played a lot of her music, and I’m sure you are familiar with much of it.

I did run through the list of Hugo winners, because with several of the major fiction awards going to black women that’s very much of interest to my listeners. And I had a woman science fiction writer on the show. That was Anne Corlett whose novel, The Space Between the Stars, I very much enjoyed.

The Listen Again system malfunctioned again for that hour. Apparently it is some sort of BT issue. But we have the archived audio and I have podcast the interview with Anne so you can listen to it.

My second guest was slightly late due to Bristol traffic so I kicked off with coverage of the Women’s cricket. That included my interview with Raf Nicholson which I did between the two matches on Finals Day.

Then I spent a happy half an hour talking to Shauna Tohill of the all-girl rock band, REWS. She was lovely, and I love their music.

Also there was more Aretha.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here. I will podcast the interviews with Shauna & Raf in due course.

The playlist for today was:

  • Aretha Franklin – Say a Little Prayer
  • Rumer – Aretha
  • Arthea Franklin – Eleanor Rigby
  • Arthea Franklin – Bridge over Troubled Water
  • Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady
  • Whitney Houston – My Love is Your Love
  • Tina Turner – One of the Living
  • REWS – Shake Shake
  • REWS – Miss You in the Dark
  • Aretha Franklin – Respect
  • Aretha Franklin – Spanish Harlem
  • Aretha Franklin – Wholy Holy

And, thanks to the magic of YouTube, here are the two REWS tracks that I played.

Yesterday on Ujima – Films, Muslim Women & Hugos

I ended up doing a bonus show yesterday. As I had to go into Bristol for the TV appearance, and I have nothing else urgent on that day, I figured I might as well spend some time in the studio. That meant putting together a show at short notice.

The easiest way to do that is with phone interviews, though it does mean using Skype which can mean very variable quality. I badly need an alternative means of doing phone interviews, especially as the latest versions of Skype actively prevent the use of third party call recorders. (Why anyone would produce a digital phone system and now allow call recording is a mystery to me.)

Anyway, there were people I could interview. In the first hour I talked to Jake Smith of Tusko Films. Jake was the directory for Talking LGBT+ Bristol, the film about the city’s LGBT+ community that we made for Bristol Pride. I figured that if Jake and I were going to be on TV for 3 minutes in the evening, we should have a longer chat about the film as well.

I also recorded an interview with Rivers Solomon because there has been some really exciting news about their next novel project. Getting to write a novel with clipping has to be a dream come true.

The Listen Again system appears to have been fixed, so you can listen to the first hour of the show here.

I did manage to arrange one live interview. On Tuesday there was a flash mob demonstration in the city protesting Boris Johnson’s appalling comments about Muslim women. I was very pleased to have Sahar from Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND) to explain about the different types of headgear that Muslim women wear, and why they wear them. She was joined in the studio by Lisa from Stand Up to Racism.

I had half an hour to fill so I rambled on a bit about the women’s cricket, and about this year’s Hugo finalists. You can listen to the second half of the show here.

While the show is available on Listen Again I won’t put it up on the podcast. But once it has fallen off those interviews will appear there (and in the case of Rivers on Salon Futura). I will try to get an old interview or two up on the podcast in the meantime. And if anyone would like to become a patron of the podcast I would be very grateful. We only need 8 more people at $1/month to cover costs.

If you would like to know more about the Jimi Hendrix album that I was playing tracks from, you can find some details here.

The full playlist for yesterday’s show is as follows:

  • Jimi Hendrix – Jungle
  • Jimi Hendrix – Woodstock
  • clipping – The Deep
  • Bootsy Collins – May the Force be With You
  • Bob Marley – Get Up, Stand Up
  • Santana – Riders on the Storm
  • Janelle Monae – Sally Ride
  • Jimi Hendrix – Georgia Blues

The New Queen of Cricket

During the recently concluded and absolutely enthralling test match between England and India, there was much talk of how Virat Kohli has inherited Sachin Tendulkar’s mantle as the best cricketer in the world. But it isn’t just men’s cricket in which India is producing star performers. The Western Storm’s latest recruit is India’s Smriti Mandhana. She’s played five games thus far, and this is her record:

  • v Yorkshire Diamonds – 48 off 20 balls
  • v Surrey Stars – 37 off 21 balls
  • v Loughborough Lightning – 52 not out off 19 balls
  • v Southern Vipers – 43 not out off 27 balls
  • v Lancashire Thunder 102 off 61 balls

That’s an average of 94 runs per completed innings, and a strike rate of 190.54 — almost 2 runs per ball. Along the way she has hit 29 fours and 16 sixes.

That’s stunning. All I can say is that I hope that run of form continues all the way through to Finals Day.

Ujima Today – Review of 2017

My first Ujima show of the year was today, which was also the first day we were back live on air after the holidays. Indeed, I was the first live show. I marked this by being half asleep as I had been kept awake most of last night by the storms. I do wish that the Jotun would manage to hold their New Year parties on the right night.

Anyway, as I didn’t expect that anyone would want to be a guest today, and there were no back office staff on duty, I decided to make the show a look back at 2017 and re-run some old interviews.

First up was the Sarah Pinborough interview from BristolCon 2016, which was totally 2017 news because last year was the year that Sarah changed from being a moderately successful writer of dark fantasy to a global superstar. Behind Her Eyes has sold over 100,000 copies each in paperback and ebook, and has been listed as one of the 100 top selling books of all kinds in the UK last year. Well done Sarah, I’m absolutely delighted for you. Can I come and stay with you when you buy your Caribbean island? 😉

Also in the first hour I re-ran my interview with D.B. Redfern of M-Shed about Doris the Pilosaurus, because there are still parents wondering what to do with the kids between now and school starting.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

The second hour began with a look back on the women’s cricket season with triumphs both for England and for Western Storm. That included interviews with Lisa Pagett and Stafanie Taylor.

Next up I re-ran my interview with anti-FGM campaigner and WEP parliamentary candidate, Nimco Ali.

And finally there was my interview with Nalo Hopkinson at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The music for today’s show was inspired partly by the New Year’s Eve shows on the BBC, and partly by the trip that Kevin and I made to New Orleans back in the days when I was allowed into the USA. The connection is the very fine Trombone Shorty & New Orleans Avenue who are this year’s discovery from my watching the Jools Holland Hootenanny.

  • The Beat – Mirror in the Bathroom
  • Trombone Shorty – Here Come the Girls
  • Cedric Watson – Zydeco Paradise
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band – When the Saints Come Marching In
  • Jamil Sharif – On the Sunny Side of the Street
  • Chic – Rebels Are We
  • Liane la Havas – Midnight
  • Jamiroquai – Blow your mind

My next show will be on February 7th and will doubtless have an LGBT History focus.

Up On the Aqueduct

It is that time of year when the Aqueduct Press blog blossoms with posts from Aquedistas talking about things that they have enjoyed reading, seeing and hearing over the past year. Today it is my turn. Obviously I can’t talk much about fiction because of the Tiptree judging, but I still managed to go on rather a lot. You can read my post here.

Last Week on Ujima – Crime, Cricket, Umbrellas & Protest

With profuse apologies for the day, here are the Listen Again links for last week’s show.

We started off with my friend Lucienne Boyce talking about her latest historical novel, Butcher’s Block. This is a new Dan Foster mystery novel, Dan being a Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist. We got onto the subject of bodysnatchers, and thence onto the horrors of 18th century medicine. Inevitably, when Lucienne and I get together, we start talking about suffragettes as well. Not in the 18th century, of course, but next year is the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave some British women the vote.

Next up was my report on the Kia Super League Finals Day, including interviews with Raf Nicholson of The Cricketer, and Stafanie Taylor, hero of the hour and captain of the West Indies women’s team.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

The second hour began with a pre-recorded, trans-Atlantic interview with Nancy 3 Hoffman, owner and curator of the world’s only umbrella cover museum. Nancy is packing the museum into suitcases and bringing on it’s holidays to Bristol for a couple of weeks.

Finally I welcomed Amirah and Cat from the Bristol People’s Assembly into the studio. They told me all about the big anti-austerity demonstration that was to take place in Bristol at the weekend. I see from the news reports that it drew some pretty big crowds. It is also the first time I can recall the mayor of a city calling a demonstration against his own policies. Marvin says he has no choice but to make cuts because of reductions in the money he gets from central government, and he wanted people in Westminster to know how angry the people of Bristol are about it all.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The playlist for the show was:

  • Thin Lizzy – Fight or Fall
  • Sade – Is it a Crime
  • Eurythmics – Sisters are Doing It for Themselves
  • Queen – We Are the Champions
  • DJ Bravo – Champion
  • Billy Holiday – Stormy Weather
  • Weather Girls – It’s Raining Men
  • UB40 – One in Ten
  • Bob Marley – Get Up, Stand Up

Thrilling End to County Championship

The women’s county cricket season came to an end yesterday with a nail-biting finish. Going into the final round of games, Yorkshire headed the league with a narrow advantage over Warwickshire, with Lancashire trailing in third. Warwickshire and Lancashire were due to play each other, while Yorkshire had an easier game against 4th-placed Nottinghamshire.

As Raf Nicholson reports, Lancashire pulled off a spectacular 5-wicket away victory, thanks largely to some brilliant bowling from Sophie Ecclestone.

Meanwhile Yorkshire were having a bad day, scoring only 178. Fortunately for them they didn’t need to win. They had a substantial points lead over Lancashire. If the worst came to the worst, taking 5 Notts wickets would gain enough bonus points to tie with Lancashire and take the title on a tie break as they had won the head-to-head. Nottinghamshire, however, were having none of this, and roared to a six-wicket victory. So Lancashire ended up champions by just one point.

Down in Division 2, there was a top-of-the-table clash between Hampshire and Somerset. Hampshire managed to win that one, which I think means that they took the division title, but both teams will be promoted to Division 1 for next season. That’s good news for both Western Storm and Southern Vipers who naturally want their feeder teams playing at the highest level possible.

Storm Over England

One of the disadvantages of being out of the country for much of August is missing out on a lot of the Kia Super League, the women’s T20 competition in England. My local team, Western Storm, includes England superstars Heather Knight and Anya Shrubsole, as well as West Indies captain, Stafanie Taylor. They are a side to be reckoned with.

The campaign started badly with a bad away loss to defending champions, Southern Vipers, who had beaten us in the final last year. However, during Worldcon we roared back with a comfortable win over Loughborough Lightning at Taunton. Over the weekend we scored a massive 10-wicket victory over Yorkshire Diamonds. Today the Storm were at the Oval to play league-topping Surrey Stars. Sadly the result did not go our way.

So where does that leave us? With 4 of the five matches played by each team, both the Stars and the Vipers have qualified for the finals. Those will be on September 1st, and three teams will qualify. In the semi-final the third-placed team in the league will play the second. The winner of that will play the top-placed team in the final.

The Stars look likely to finish top being unbeaten and having an easy final match against Loughborough Lightning. The Vipers are safe in second place, but who will finish third? The Storm and Yorkshire are currently both on 8 points, with Yorkshire having the better run rate. However, Yorkshire have to play the Vipers in their final game, whereas the Storm has a relatively easy home game against winless Lancashire Thunder. Technically the Lightning could still finish third if they beat the Stars and both Diamonds and Storm lose, but the smart money should be on the Storm making the finals.

Sadly I can’t make it to Bristol for the game. I’ll be helping teach Cat Rambo’s Writing and Gender class on Saturday evening and I can’t be at the game and be home in time for that.

If the Storm do get to the finals all bets are off. In T20 anything can happen.

Introducing Rainbow Stumps

The lovely people at Stonewall UK have made huge strides in combating homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football through their Rainbow Laces campaign. However, that’s just one sport among many. I’m much more interested in rugby (where Gareth Thomas and Nigel Owens have already done great work) and cricket. I’m delighted to report that Stonewall’s new cricket-related campaign, Rainbow Stumps, launched today.

The plan is to have representation at T20 matches around the country all through this week. There are both men’s and women’s matches taking place. The good folks at Sky Sports are also on board. Look, here’s Bob Willis:

(For the benefit of non-cricket people, he’s always that sour.)

Athers, Bumble and Naz have also got in on the act.

Of course the whole point is that LGBT+ people want to be involved in sport too. That meant that Stonewall needed to find people with a passion for cricket. How could I refuse? Here’s my contribution.

The timing is rather unfortunate. I would love to be down at Taunton on Saturday to cheer on Somerset and Western Storm, but there is a small matter of a Worldcon keeping me here in Helsinki. Sorry folks.

World Champions

Picture from Cricinfo

There is a hashtag that is familiar to all fans of the San Francisco Giants. That hashtag is #torture, and it refers to the way in which the Giants, three times recent World Series Champions though they might be, have tended to strew their path to victory with agonizingly tight games. England’s journey to triumph in this year’s cricket World Cup has had strong elements of that too. There was the hard-fought defense against Australia, and the last-gasp run chase against South Africa. Would the final against India produce a similarly dramatic game? Neutral fans of cricket all over the world were hoping so. The rest of us were just hoping that we’d still be breathing by the end.

Lords, I’m pleased to say, was packed. Or at least it was save for the Members’ Pavilion. Tickets available to the public were sold out, but a large space of prime viewing area is reserved for members of the MCC. There is a massive waiting list for membership, and as a consequence the majority of members are old men. They didn’t seem interested in women’s cricket. More fool them.

It was clear from the start, when the first ball from Jhulan Goswami barely managed to limp its way into the waiting gloves of Sushma Verma, that the final was not going to be a run fest. It was overcast at Lords, and while the general agreement was that Heather Knight was correct to bat first on winning the toss, Ian Bishop’s pitch inspection held out hope of conditions that would favor bowlers.

England got off to a slightly rocky start, losing three wickets for just 63, but they bat deep. Sarah Taylor and Nat Sciver, both of whom have registered big scores in previous matches, began to build a partnership. There was a brief period of rain that had the Lords ground staff looking nervous, but the umpires commendably kept the players out having been told the shower would soon pass. Then, 83 runs into the partnership, disaster struck.

Or rather, Goswami did. Taylor aimed to flick a ball off her pads, but got only the lightest of touches and the ball dropped neatly into the waiting gloves of Verma, now standing much closer to the stumps. Fran Wilson had been the batting hero of England’s loss to India in the group stages of the tournament, but Goswami was determined that wasn’t going to happen again. First ball she send a swinging yorker in that rapped Wilson on the shins plum in front. Catherine Brunt produced a dramatically solid forward defensive to prevent a hat trick, but the damage was done. Brunt, Gunn and Marsh provided some useful runs, but England could only limp to the end of their innings rather than charge.

The team talks over lunch must have been fairly straightforward. England’s total of 228 was short of what was achievable on this pitch, and rain was forecast for later in the afternoon. They needed to take wickets. India had to make sure that they stayed ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis target just in case the game was cut short. For a long time both teams failed to do what was required. England got two early breakthroughs when Anya Shrubsole bowled the out of form Smriti Mandhana for 0, and Mithali Raj was needlessly run out, but Punam Raut and Harmanpreet Kaur steadied the ship. The trouble was that they did it slowly, and the required run rate was beginning to climb. Jenny Gunn, who conceded just 4 off her first four overs, was a major factor in that.

Fortunately for India, Kaur is the most destructive batter in women’s cricket, as her 171 against Australia had shown. Eventually she felt confident enough to start to cut loose. But, as so often happens, a milestone undid her. Shortly after reaching 50 she smashed a ball from Alex Hartley straight into the waiting hands of Tammy Beaumont. It was a glimmer of hope for England. From then on the match was down to who had the most belief.

A strong partnership between Raut and Veda Krishnamurthy took India to within sight of victory. Heather Knight rotated her bowlers, hoping that one of them would have that spark of magic that could create another breakthrough. Eventually she found one in Shrubsole. The first two balls of her comeback over were dispatched effortlessly to the boundary by Krishnamurthy. Then there was a single. And then a ball that rapped Raut on the pads. The Indian batters took too long to decide to ask for a review, but it wouldn’t have mattered as the umpire’s decision to give Raut lbw was sound. India needed just 37 runs. They had plenty of time, and six wickets left, but England, or rather Shrubsole, sensed victory.

Krishnamurthy tried to go deep against Shrubsole, but only found Nat Sciver on the mid wicket boundary. Verma lasted just two balls before being bowled by Hartley. Shrubsole took revenge for her Western Storm teammate, Wilson, by bowling Goswami first ball. Shikha Pandey’s run out showed that panic was setting in among the Indian batters. Their one ray of hope was 19-year-old Deepti Sharma. She looked calm and collected amidst the chaos. When she refused an easy single to keep the strike next over it looked like the act of a mature batter taking responsibility. Shrubsole, however, has way more experience and knew what to expect. A slower ball fooled Sharma who was early on the shot. Nat Sciver gratefully pouched the catch.

Even then the drama wasn’t over. India needed just 11 runs to win. They still had 11 balls in which to do it. Poonam Yadav blocked the next ball. The one after she chipped to mid off and Gunn, unbelievably, spilled a simple catch.

Shrubsole remained calm. Rajeshwari Gayakwad doesn’t bat 11 for nothing. All it needed was one good ball, and by now Anya was in the groove. The ball was delivered, Gayakwad’s stumps went flying, and the stadium erupted.

Figures of 6 for 46 easily earned Shrubsole the Player of the Match award. I may have noted that she was born in Bath and plays for Somerset and Western Storm. Tammy Beaumont, having the biggest run haul, was voted Player of the Tournament. Heather Knight, in her first major tournament as captain, got to lift the trophy.

For India it was a case of so near and yet so far. They have twice got to the World Cup final, and lost both times. For them the key moment was their heroic demolition of Australia. That got the attention of the media back home, and was a major reason why the TV audience for the final was 50 million. Here’s hoping that the BCCI now invests in the younger members of the squad (Raj and Goswami will both be retiring soon) to ensure that they are even better prepared next time.

If you would like a far better report than mine of the day, I warmly recommend Melinda Farrell’s piece for Cricinfo.

So there we have it. Women’s cricket has proved conclusively that it can deliver top class entertainment and superb skill. The Kia T20 league will be starting soon, though sadly I will be in Finland for much of it. Here’s hoping that the media continues to take interest.

Of course in all such things we have to remain vigilant. England’s women rugby players are also world champions. Doubtless they too expected life to be onwards an upwards from then on. But today the news broke that the RFU has cancelled all of their contracts. Apparently they think they don’t need to pay their players between now and the next world cup. For all the glory that women on the pitch might garner, it can mean nothing if that doesn’t result in more women in management.

Update: I am reliably informed by someone who was at the match that the Members Pavilion at Lords is inhabited primarily by the older (mostly over 60) MCC members. There is also a Members area in the New Warner Stand, and this is inhabited by the younger (mostly in their 50s) MCC members; the sort who might take their families to a game. This area was very well populated, so clearly there is hope for MCC in the future.

One Game Left #WWC17

I was so busy at Creative Histories that I didn’t have time to look in much on the Australia-India game. A quick check at lunch showed that the start had been delayed by rain. When I checked again I could not believe my eyes.

The match had been reduced to 42 overs a side. India had won the toss and elected to bat. After 25 overs they were reduced to 101/3, Mithali Raj having just misjudged a ball from Kristen Beams and seen her stumps flattened. 17 overs later they concluded their innings with a total of 281/4. That’s 180 runs added for just 102 balls bowled, and only one wicket lost. What happened?

What happened was Harmanpreet Kaur. She had already shared in a partnership of 66 with Raj, but on becoming the senior partner she took over the match. She finished on 171* off 115 balls, including 7 sixes. I got to watch the highlights this morning and it is rare that you see batting so destructive anywhere. It was an innings that Viv Richards or Sachin Tendulkar would have been proud to play. Those Indian fans lucky enough to have paid £10 to watch the match in Derby more than got their money’s worth. They will be able to say, “I was there”, when one of the legendary innings of Indian cricket was played.

Give them their due, the Australians did not give up. Their innings was dealt what was probably a fatal blow when Meg Lanning was bowled by veteran Indian pace bowler, Jhulan Goswami, for an 8-ball duck. Elyse Villani (75) and Alex Blackwell (90) stepped up to the plate to try to keep their side in the match. Blackwell even managed to score faster than Kaur. But neither player could match the dominance of Kaur. Villani was out in the 23rd over, and she was quickly followed by Perry in the 26th, Healey in the 28th, Gardner in the 29th and Jonassen in the 30th. Blackwell tried her best to win the match on her own, but it was too big a hill to climb and Australia were all out with 11 balls remaining and 37 still needed.

So tomorrow’s final will be England v India. The Indian side will be on a massive high after that victory, and will remember beating England in the first match of the tournament. England, however, are on a 7-game winning streak including incredibly close games against Australia and South Africa. They will also have a much bigger crowd behind them than the Australians did. Lords is sold out, so the atmosphere should be incredible.

Whoever wins tomorrow, and a very close match seems likely, the winner will be women’s cricket. Lots of eyebrows were raised when this tournament was given prestige venues and full TV coverage, but it has delivered far more drama and quality cricket than most people expected. Lords has a capacity of 30,000, but the TV audience for tomorrow’s match could easily hit 300 million (more than 3 times that many watched the Champion’s Trophy final between India and Pakistan men earlier in the year). That’s serious eyeballs. The sponsors will be delighted. Getting money and TV coverage for future women’s cricket tournaments will doubtless be a whole lot easier. Here’s hoping that also translates into more money for the players.

Semi Final Drama at Bristol #WWC17

Wow, that a game!

It all started quietly enough. South Africa won the toss and elected to bat on a Bristol wicket that has been favoring setting a target. England bowled and fielded well, restricting SA to 218/6. The amazing Laura Wolvaardt (66) and ex-captain Mignon du Preez (76) were top scorers. Wolvaardt is still only 18, and clearly has a glittering career ahead of her, unless she decides to go to medical school instead which I understand is a possibility.

England started the chase solidly enough. At 139/2 with Taylor and Knight settled it looked like they would wrap the match up comfortably. Then there was a run out, a brilliant throw by SA captain Dane van Niekerk, to get rid of Taylor. This precipitated a collapse which left England at 166/5 with 10 overs to play. Thankfully Fran Wilson, Catherine Brunt and Jenny Gunn all chipped in with useful runs, but wickets continued to fall.

With one over left, England needed 3 to win. Shabnim Ismail, the pick of the SA bowlers, against Jenny Gunn.

Gunn smashed the first ball straight back at the bowler. Ismail tried to take the catch, but the ball was traveling too fast and it didn’t stick.

Ball 2: Gunn gets a single. 2 runs needed, 1 to tie.

Ball 3 is to Laura Marsh who has just come in and has faced only 2 balls. She is clean bowled.

Ball 4: the new batter is Anya Shrubsole. She’s not known for her batting, but somehow she managed to carve the first ball she receives through the covers for 4. England win by 2 wickets with 2 balls left to play.

And breathe.

So England go on to the final at Lords on Sunday. South Africa go home, reflecting on what might have been. The second semi-final will be Australia v India on Thursday.

Last Round Saturday at #WWC17

Yesterday saw all four of the final group matches in the Women’s World Cup. As I noted on Thursday, most of the semi-final places were already decided. The one big question was who would take fourth place. India and New Zealand were playing each other in Derby for that honor.

Suzie Bates won the toss and opted to field. For a while it looked like a good choice as India were reduced to 21/2, losing both openers cheaply. There was also a brief break for rain. However, the weather improved, and with it the fortunes of the Indian batters. Harmanpreet Kaur (60), Vida Krishnamurthy (70) and, inevitably, Mithali Raj (109) enabled them to post a challenging score of 265. The Kiwi women were clearly intimidated by the total they were having to chase, and went too hard too soon. Consequently they were bowled out for 79. It was a sad end to the tournament for a very promising side, but I’m delighted to see India still in the tournament.

Down at Taunton Australia took on South Africa. Australia won the toss and elected to bat. They started slowly and cautiously, but eventually got into their stride and posted a target of 269. Nicole Bolton (79), Ellyse Perry (55) and Beth Mooney (53) all made good scores. For SA leg-spinner Suné Luus took five wickets. Meg Lanning was rested again to give her shoulder time to heal.

In reply South Africa started really well, and they were ahead of the required rate until about the 20th over. However, Australia gradually wrested back control of the game and ended up winning by 59 runs. Laura Wolvaardt (71) was their top scorer.

I spent the day in Bristol watching West Indies play England. It was not Caribbean weather. Given how cold I was in the stands, the West Indies girls must have been in fear of freezing to death. They won the toss and put England in, hoping for some help for their fast bowlers. They did OK. Both Sarah Taylor and Nat Sciver were dismissed for 0, but England has plenty of depth in batting and Heather Knight (67) led her team to a total of 220. Off-spinner Afy Fletcher was the most dangerous bowler, taking 3/33.

It was certainly an achievable target, but it needed the West Indies big guns to fire. Hayley Matthews, who had performed magnificently in the field, did her bit with the bat as well. Unfortunately she also ran out her opening partner, Kycia Knight, and after that the West Indies innings fell apart. Taylor, Dottin and Aguilleira were all out cheaply, and the English bowlers kept such a tight rein on the score that the required run rate soon became impossible. Nat Sciver, incredibly, ended with figures of 3/3 off her 4 overs. Her first ball was a rank long-hop that should have disappeared over the boundary, but Tammy Beaumont took a superb running, diving catch to dismiss Nation.

As it turned out, the match of the day was at Leicester where Sri Lanka and Pakistan were playing for pride, having both failed to win a match thus far. Sri Lanka batted first, making 221 thanks mainly to 84 from Dilani Manodara. Pakistan made a good attempt to chase, but kept losing wickets. They were finally all out for 206, but they had 20 balls left and could have won had they been able to stay in.

The first semi-final will be England v South Africa in Bristol on Tuesday. Sadly I can’t go as I have a very busy week, but England should be confident having comfortably beaten SA (scoring 373) at a match at the same venue earlier in the tournament. The second semi-final is Australia v India at Derby on Thursday. Australia comfortably won their group match in Bristol, but India will feel much more at home in Derby where they have won 4 games, including their early upset win against England, and their victory over Pakistan which saw the tournament’s only sell-out crowd thus far.

Crunch Time at #WWC17

There were three hugely important matches in the Women’s World Cup yesterday, all of which had bearing on who qualified for the semi finals.

At Taunton South Africa thrashed Sri Lanka by 8 wickets, building up a massive net run rate in the process. Captain Dane van Nierkerk was once again the star with the ball, taking 4 more wickets to bring her total for the tournament to 13. Conceding just 6.46 runs per wicket, and with an economy rate of 2.76 runs per over, she is clearly a major asset.

The televised match was Australia v India at Bristol. Meg Lanning won the toss and asked India to bat, which seemed like it might have been a mistake as we watched Mithali Raj (69) become the top run scorer in international women’s cricket, and take her career total over 6,000. Alongside her Punam Raut (106) scored her first century for the side. But although they looked very settled they were not scoring fast. When the team tried to accelerate at the end of the innings wickets fell rapidly and India finished on just 226.

Australia had made more than that at previous games in Bristol, including 256 against England just last Sunday. From the start it was clear that they were capable of chasing down the total. Bolton (36) and Mooney (45) got good starts, and when they were out Lanning (76*) and Perry (60*) finished the job off.

Finally at Derby England faced highly fancied New Zealand. Heather Knight won the toss and elected to bat, banking on her bowlers to win the game as they had against Australia. For a while they looked in deep trouble with Winfield, Taylor and Knight all going cheaply, but the reliable Tammy Beaumont (93) and hard-hitting Nat Sciver (129) enabled England to post an aggressive total of 284. New Zealand in response were never able to keep up with the required run rate and were eventually bowled out for 209.

One of the things that has impressed me about this tournament is the amount of ingenuity used by batters. Several of the England girls have been merrily deploying ramp and scoop shots that were deemed radical in the men’s game only a few years ago. Sarah Taylor plays them both from her normal right-handed stance and left-handed as well (and, baseball fans take note, to switch hit in cricket you alter your stance while the ball is in flight). Yesterday Nat Sciver produced a shot that I have never seen before, and one I suspect most male players would be rather nervous of attempting. Watch and marvel at “The Natmeg”.

All of this means that Australia, England and South Africa have qualified for the semi-finals. The fourth place is between India and New Zealand who face off in Derby on Saturday. The England-West Indies and Australia-South Africa games are also key to deciding who plays who and where. Pakistan v Sri Lanka is sadly only for pride.

Cricket Catch-Up

When I last reported on the Women’s World Cup I was looking forward to the game between West Indies and New Zealand at Taunton. It did not go the way I wanted. 150 was a far better score than West Indies managed against South Africa, but the Kiwis knocked off the runs with consummate ease leaving our girls 0-4 for the tournament.

Elsewhere South Africa pulled off a surprise victory against previously unbeaten India. That threw the race for qualification to the semi finals wide open.

On Sunday I took myself into Bristol again to watch England v Australia. There are no more exciting match-ups in world cricket than that, and I had been touting this one as the game to watch from the start of the tournament. I had no idea how right I was going to be.

England won the toss and elected to bat on a wicket that had been full of runs in the past, and with a warm sun beating down on them. When Sarah Taylor was batting runs seemed ridiculously easy to come by, but when she was out for a rapid-fire 35 off 33 balls things slowed down. Heather Knight threw her wicket away trying to go too fast too soon. Tammy Beaumont dropped anchor to steady the side but then was out for 49 to a ball I still think should have been called a no ball for height. It was left to Catherine Brunt and Jenny Gunn to drag the score up to something respectable, which they did very well.

England finished on 259. Chatting to Lisa Pagett of Western Storm during the interval I opined that we were quite a few runs short. She agreed. Australia were capable of chasing a target like that.

Nicole Bolton and Beth Mooney got them off to a good start but then got got out trying to accelerate. Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry also got themselves well in, and it seemed only a matter of time before they started to raise the run rate. Then, surprisingly, Lanning was bowled by Alex Hartley for just 40, a failure by her astronomically high standards. There was still plenty of batting to come, but Perry went back into her shell and the required run rate began to climb. With 10 overs to go Australia were 14 runs behind England’s pace and the required rate was above 9 runs an over.

Perry, inevitably, began to score faster. With 4 overs left to play, Knight brought back Catherine Brunt to stem the flow of runs. It worked. She dismissed Alex Blackwell and Perry in the same over. Panic set in among the Australian batters and more wickets tumbled. It all came down to Jenny Gunn needing to bowl her final over for less than 16. Then her final ball for less than 6. She got the job done, and England won by just 3 runs. The crowd (in which I include myself) went wild.

England’s performance wasn’t perfect. There were a couple of dropped catches in the field that would have made their lives easier. Catching is, of course, hard, especially without gloves. Vernon Philander dropped an even easier one at Lords in the test match the same afternoon. England’s ground fielding, however, was exemplary. Heather Knight, patrolling the covers, must have saved at least 15 runs turning sure boundaries into singles. This was definitely a case of defense winning matches, and it had the crowd on the edge of their seats for the final hour of the game.

England and Australia both have two games left to play and need one win each to be certain of a semi final spot. Australia play India at Bristol tomorrow, and South Africa at Taunton on Saturday. Neither game is a foregone conclusion.

England play New Zealand at Derby tomorrow, which will be a very tough game. Then they play West Indies at Bristol on Saturday. On past form that should be a win, but as far as West Indies are concerned Bristol is as close as they have to a home match. Also they have run into some form.

On Sunday West Indies played fellow stragglers, Sri Lanka, at Derby. They made a fairly respectable 229 thanks mainly to 46* from Trinidad’s Merissa Aguilleira. Spin Bowler Anisa Mohammed disposed of the core of Sri Lanka’s batting order and West Indies won by 47 runs.

Today West Indies were back in action again at Leicester. Put in to bat by Pakistan, they racked up an impressive 285 thanks to 90 from captain Stafanie Taylor and a destructive 104* from Deandra Dottin. Pakistan’s innings was bedeviled by rain interruptions and the match was finally settled using the Duckworth-Lewis method with West Indies clear winners.

There is, of course, nothing that a West Indies side likes better than beating the English. I’m looking forward to another superb game on Saturday.