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.

Some Baseball History

American friends generally roll their eyes when I tell them that cricket is a much simpler game than baseball. Then I ask them to explain the Infield Fly Rule and their eyes glaze over. That, however, has a rational explanation. It is much harder to explain the Dropped Third Strike Rule. But, thanks to this article, I now know why it exists.

Two interesting things follow from this. Firstly it contains some fascinating history of baseball, including references to a German book dating from 1796 and referring to a sport known as “Englische Base-ball”. So much for baseball being an American invention, I think.

I’m pretty sure I remember the “must run on a third miss” rule from when I played rounders in school, if only because I never managed to hit a ball so that rule was always being applied to me.

Secondly the article provides a great example of how the rules of a sport evolve with time, and in reaction to tactics developed by players. There are silly people around, many of them in the UK, who think that the rules of sports were set in stone late in the 19th Century and should never be changed. However, there are few things more constant in the world than change, and sport is not immune.

Oh, and the article mentions the Dodgers losing a game, which is always likely to put me in a good mood.

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.

Rugby World Cup Kicks Off

If I wasn’t busy in Finland I would be at home watching the Women’s Rugby World Cup on TV. The first round of matches started today in Ireland. Wales had the worst possible draw, beginning their campaign against the mighty Kiwis. Naturally we got thrashed. You’d think that the next game against Canada might be easier, but actually the Canadian women are very good. Thank goodness we have Hong Kong in our group. Canada utterly destroyed them.

Elsewhere the USA got off to a winning start against Italy and England thrashed Spain. Ireland-Australia and France-Japan are being played this evening. Scotland did not qualify for the finals.

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.

Raining Runs at #WWC17

There were three games in the Women’s World Cup today, and a whole lot of runs were scored.

In Derby India took on Sri Lanka. They won the toss, batted, and set a reasonable total of 232. Deepti Sharma (78) and Mithali Raj (53) were the top scorers. Sri Lanka made a brave attempt at chasing the total, but ultimately fell just 16 runs short. Dilani Manodara (61) was the pick of the batters, while Poonam Yadav with 2/23 off her 10 overs was the best of the bowling.

In Leicester Australia were without their captain, Meg Lanning, who has a shoulder injury. Resting her against Pakistan was probably a good call, but it looked like they might come unstuck when they found themselves 7/2 early on. Fortunately for the Aussies, Ellyse Perry (66) once again took control. She was ably assisted by Elyse Villani (59), making up for her golden duck in Bristol on Sunday, and by Alyssa Healy (63*). Eventually Australia posted an impressive 290. Pakistan never got close, with only Sana Mir (45) putting up any serious resistance on their way to 131 all out.

And so to Bristol, where England took on a highly fancied South Africa. Heather Knight won the toss and opted to bat, taking on the fearsome bowling attack that just a few days ago had dismissed West Indies for 48. Of course conditions in Leicester on Sunday suited fast bowling, whereas the Bristol pitch was baking under a hot sun right from the start. Lauren Winfield went early for 24, but then Tammy Beaumont and Sarah Taylor dug in and batted, and batted, and batted.

275 runs later they had set the highest partnership ever in the Women’s World Cup. Taylor was out for 147 having looked absolutely majestic. At one point she hit Shabnim Ismael, probably the fastest bowler in the tournament, for five successive fours. She was playing reverse ramps and scoops with impunity. At the other end Beaumont was less flashy, but timed the ball beautifully and reached 148 without seeming to try hard. With both of them gone, England still had overs left, and threw the bat at everything, finally ending on 373.

The quality of the wicket was shown when SA batted. They had 128 on the board before England took their first wicket, though a few hard chances had gone down on the way there. The key to the match, however, was Katherine Brunt’s bowling. With a miserly 16 off 8 overs she kept the run rate well below what was required. Soon SA were in an impossible position and wickets started to tumble as they took risks. A powerful and breezy 54 off just 24 balls by Chloe Tyron gave a glimpse of what was required, but they needed everyone to score like that for the last 10 overs. It wasn’t going to happen, and they ended up 68 runs short.

Tomorrow New Zealand take on West Indies in Taunton. Here’s hoping that the weather is more typical of the Caribbean and of Wellington.

Super Sunday at #WWC17

All 8 teams were in action today at the Women’s World Cup of Cricket, and I got to see my first live game. The main TV commentary team was in Derby along with a sell-out crowd to watch India play Pakistan. Nearby in Leicester South Africa faced off against West Indies. England were in Taunton taking on Sri Lanka, but I opted to go for Australia v New Zealand in Bristol because I thought it would be the best game of the four. I was right.

The SA-WI game was a disaster. South Africa won the toss and asked West Indies to bat. They then proceeded to rip through the fragile WI batting order, dismissing them for a mere 48. Only Chedean Nation of the WI bats got into double figures. When it was their turn, SA knocked off the runs required in under 7 overs.

Are West Indies really that bad? Certainly they are 0-3 for the tournament thus far, and much be looking forward to playing fellow basement-dwellers, Pakistan. But the smart folks at CricketHer point out that South Africa have a great pace attack and conditions at Leicester this morning suited them perfectly. We’ll see how well those bowlers do when they front up against England in Bristol on Wednesday.

Batting appeared to be difficult in Derby as well, with India struggling to 169/9. The in-form Mandhana and Raj both failed, and it was down to Punam Raut (47) and Sushma Verma (33) with two aggressive knocks to enable them to post a decent total. It was a different matter when Pakistan batted. They could muster only 74 runs between them, with Ekta Bisht taking 5/18. Pakistan must be terrified of her. She took 5/8 against them at a match in Colombo earlier this year.

In Taunton Chamari Atapattu was unable to repeat her heroics from Bristol, but Sri Lanka managed an almost-respectable 204/8 batting first. It wasn’t going to be a stroll for England, and when they lost both openers leaving them 50/2 it looked like it might be a contest. However, Heather Knight (82) and Sarah Taylor (74*) gradually took control and brought home an impressive 7-wicket victory. They looked like they could have chased down 300 without any difficulty.

And so to Bristol. New Zealand won the toss and opted to bat. This was, after all, the pitch on which Atapattu and Lanning had both passed 150 just a few days ago. However, the NZ batters never seemed to be able to get going. Suzie Bates was the most impressive, but a lapse of concentration after passing 50 saw her back in the pavilion. Thankfully Katie Perkins (62) and Erin Bermingham (35) put on a fine rearguard action allowing NZ to post a final score of 219. Interestingly it was the spinners who did most of the damage, with Ellyse Perry looking very ineffective despite getting the ball up around the NZ women’s chins a lot.

In an interview at the interval Meg Lanning said that the pitch looked older and slower, suggesting that there were not a lot of runs in it. Certainly Australia started slowly. Lanning and Perry then built up a partnership, with Lanning looking her imperious self. She hit the only 6 of the match which flew over my head and smacked into one of the flats that line the Ashley Down Road end of the ground. However, she was caught behind off Amelia Kerr on 48, and when Ellyse Villani was bowled the very next ball it looked like we had a match on our hands. Australia were not scoring quickly enough, and if NZ could just keep things tight they were in with a real chance.

The slow scoring continued as Perry and Alex Blackwell rebuilt the Australian innings. With 8 overs left they needed almost a run a ball. However, they had plenty of wickets in hand. Perry picked this moment to accelerate, passing 50 and, shortly thereafter, 2000 career runs in one-day internationals. She holed out on the boundary for 71 trying to end the game with a six, but Blackwell calmly finished the match off with 8 balls to spare.

With everyone having played three games, India and Australia are both 3-0. South Africa look like dark horses with two wins and that wash-out against NZ. England and NZ both look in the hunt, while Sri Lanka have played better than their 0-3 record suggests. The action resumes on Wednesday with Australia-Pakistan, England-South Africa and India-Sri Lanka. I’ll be in the radio studio that day so there will doubtless be some live updates.

My next live game will be England-Australia next Sunday.

Bristol Makes Women’s Cricket History

Because I have three businesses to run, I’m not able to go to every local match in the Women’s World Cup. Looking at the Bristol games in advance of the tournament, I decided not to bother with the Australia v Sri Lanka game. I expected the Aussies to win easily. I was so wrong. Yesterday Bristol produced a game that will go down in legend, and be talked about for decades to come.

Mostly I was right. 10 of the Sri Lanka team, plus extras, managed a measly total of 79 runs. But I had reckoned without Chamari Atapattu (full name, Atapattumudiyanselage Chamari Jayangani, but that’s way too much for white people to cope with). Her 178* lifted the Sri Lankan total to a very defensible 257. Along the way she hit 22 fours and 6 sixes.

Australia had to be at their best to get out of that. Fortunately in Meg Lanning they have probably the best batter in women’s cricket. Ably supported by Nicole Bolton (60) and Ellyse Perry (39*), her 152* powered the favorites to victory with six overs to spare.

In the past, women’s cricket has been notorious for relatively low scores. This tournament is putting an end to that. As far as I can see, there have only been two men’s one-day internationals where players on both sides have scored over 150. One was a match between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in Bulawayo in 2009 when Charles Coventry made 194* for the hosts only to see Tamin Iqbal (154) lead Bangladesh to victory. The other was the legendary 2006 match in Johannesburg when Ricky Ponting’s 164 helped Australia to a massive 434, only for it to be overhauled by South Africa for whom Herschelle Gibbs (175) was the top scorer.

Meanwhile in Taunton India thrashed an increasingly sad-looking West Indies. Only Haley Matthews (43) of the top order fired for the Caribbean side. Smitri Mandhana (106*) continued her fine form in guiding India to victory.

The tournament is taking a short break at the moment, but action will be resumed on Sunday when I, weather permitting, will get to see Australia take on New Zealand. Expect tweetage.

Cricket Update

The Women’s World Cup continues apace. Tournament favorites, Australia, got their campaign underway on Monday with an 8-wicket thrashing of West Indies. Hayley Matthews (46), Chedean Nation (39) and Stafanie Taylor (45) all made decent scores for the Caribbean side, and Deandra Dottin made a rapid-fire 29 off just 20 balls, but the rest of the side was not at the party and a total of 204 was never going to stretch the Aussies. Nicole Bolton (107*) was the star of the Australian innings.

On Tuesday England got back on track with a demolition of Pakistan. Batting first, they racked up a massive 377/7. That total has only been surpassed once in a Women’s World Cup match, by Australia against Denmark who are not exactly top class opposition. Heather Knight (106) and Natalie Sciver (137) scored the bulk of the runs. The match was ended prematurely by rain, but Pakistan were nowhere near the required run rate so no one is going to complain about a calculated result.

New Zealand had an easy time of it against Sri Lanka in their first game, but today they came up against a much tougher opponent: the English weather. Their match against South Africa was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Here’s hoping the weather improves for the rest of the month.

Women’s World Cup – Matches Underway

July sees the Women’s Cricket World Cup being staged in England. It is being contested by the 8 top test countries, and played at a variety of venues around the country. Australia are, as usual, the favorites, but England as the home side should do well too.

Matches began yesterday in Derby with the hosts taking on India. Things did not go as planned. England won the toss and hoped to take advantage of their superior pace bowling by putting India in to bat. The Indians powered to an opening stand of 144 and ended on 281/3. Smriti Mandhana (80), Punam Raut (86) and captain Mithali Raj (71) all contributed. England got off to a terrible start losing their first three wickets for 67, but a strong stand between captain Heather Knight (46) and Frances Wilson (81) steadied the ship. Sadly it was not enough, and three run-outs during the latter part of the innings show that panic had started to set in. India won by 35 runs.

Meanwhile in Bristol Sri Lanka took on New Zealand. The Kiwis won the toss and, like England, put their opponents in to bat. They restricted Sri Lanka to 188/9 in their 50 overs, and then proceeded to knock off the required runs with ease. Suzie Bates (106*) and Amy Satterthwaite (78*) provided the bulk of the runs in a 9-wicket victory.

Today Pakistan took the field against South Africa in Leicester. This provided the closest match of the tournament thus far. South Africa won the toss and once again chose to field. Pakistan managed 206, thanks mainly to 79 from Nahida Khan. It should have been a fairly easy chase, and SA were looking good on 143/2. However, a sudden collapse reduced them to 177/7. There were some nervous moments at the end with SA needing 14 off the last two overs. However, their star bowler, Shabnim Ismail, having had a frustrating day with the ball, took charge in the 19th over clubbing 14 off the last 4 balls to finish the game.

Australia play their first game against West Indies at Taunton tomorrow. Sadly I have to be on my way to Plymouth for work, but I’ll be cheering the WIndies on.

England play Pakistan in Leicester on Tuesday and will be hoping to get their campaign back on track.The next game in Bristol is Australia v Sri Lanka on Thursday, and the first one I’ll be able to get to is Australia v New Zealand in Bristol next Sunday.

All of the matches are being shown live, though often on Sky which many people don’t have access to. Hopefully some of you will be able to watch or get to games. If not follow @CricketHer on Twitter for reports.

Yesterday on Ujima – Cricket, Music, Blood & Activism

I was in the Ujima studio again yesterday to do another Women’s Outlook show. Here’s what went down.

My first guest was Lisa Pagett who is Head of Women’s Cricket for Gloucestershire County Cricket Club and also General Manager of the Western Storm, out local women’s T20 franchise. Lisa was there mainly to preview the Women’s World Cup, which will see 15 matches in the South West, split between Bristol and Taunton. Bristol has the England-Australia and England-West Indies games, both of which I intend to be at. (Tickets are only £10, available here.) We also looked forward to the Storm’s campaign in this year’s Kia Super League, and talked more generally about getting women and girls involved in cricket.

Next up I had some live music in the studio. I was joined by saxophonist Sabrina De Mitri and guitarist Paul John Bailey who have a gig coming up supporting Jon Gomme at the Hall soon to be Formerly Known as Colston. They played live for me in the studio. Huge thanks to Ben, my engineer, for keeping on top of the tech for that.

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

The second hour began with Shai from No More Taboo, the menstrual health charity. We talked a bit about some of the issues surrounding period poverty in Bristol, and what No More Taboo is doing to tackle them. We also discussed what we would like to see prospective MPs commit to so we can get some action on this in Parliament. When I first talked to Chloe Tingle when she set up No More Taboo girls unable to go to school because they can’t afford sanitary products was problem in poor countries elsewhere in the world. That it has become an issue in the UK is evidence of just how badly the austerity policies of the current government have impacted British women.

My final guests were Deborah from Co-Resist and Joe from Solar Nest. Co-Resist is an organisation that does activism through art and public engagement, while Solar Nest is a start-up business based at the University of the West of England that aims to build more sustainable and affordable housing. Deborah is managing a public engagement event for the students so that they can get feedback from the people of Bristol as to what they want from such an initiative. She also has some other projects we talk about.

Obviously I’m interested in Solar Nest from an energy and environment standpoint, but the most significant part of this interview was when Joe commented that students today have no hope of ever being able to afford their own home, especially in somewhere like Bristol.

Oh, and Deborah assures us all that clowns are not scary, not one little bit, promise.

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

The playlist for the show (excluding the songs that Sabrina and Paul played live) was as follows:

  • Boney M – Dreadlock Holiday
  • David Rudder – Rally Round the West Indies
  • Lianne la Havas – Tokyo
  • Parliament – Children of Productions
  • Pretenders – Sense of Purpose
  • Parliament – Mothership Connection

If you are wondering about the predominance of Parliament, it is because George Clinton & co. are playing Bristol on Monday and I can’t go because I have a previous engagement to host BristolCon Fringe starring the fabulous Clarke Award finalist, Emma Newman.

County Cricket – Down to the Wire

County cricket and nail-biting excitement are not terms that are generally used together. The County Championship is old-fashioned cricket played the way God intended before she realized that T20 games could be a whole lot of fun. Matches are played over four days and often end in draws. It is enough to send your average American sports fan into a coma.

This year, however, is different. As we entered the final week of matches, three teams were in with a shot at the title. Excitingly the top two teams, Middlesex and Yorkshire, were due to play each other at the “Home of Cricket”, Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. Lord’s is the home ground of Middlesex, and Yorkshire are the defending champions. It was a perfect set up.

Except that there was a joker in the pack. Way out in Taunton, tiny Somerset had a game against a hapless and already relegated Nottinghamshire side. It looked like an easy win for the cider boys, and if the two titans of the game slugging it out in London fought each other to a draw, then the cheeky West Country lads could sneak off with the title.

Today was day 3 of the matches. There was much excitement during the day regarding matters of bonus points, but I will spare you the neepery and cut to the chase.

As expected, Somerset wrapped up a victory easily — with a day to spare, in fact. They missed out on only a single bonus point and so racked up a lot of points. They now sit happily on top of the table.

Meanwhile in London fortunes swung back and fore. Yorkshire currently have the upper hand, but there’s a whole day to play and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Middlesex could get a win. Sides have come back from worse positions before. A win for either side will net enough points for the title.

Or it could rain all day. Who knows?

We’ll find out tomorrow. The bookmakers have Yorkshire as firm favorites. They are they reigning champions. They know how to win. And there is enough playing time for them to get there. But Somerset have points in the bag. If Yorkshire slip up tomorrow, something momentous might happen.

In thinking of how to explain this to Americans, my first thought was to talk about the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs were founder members of Major League Baseball and have a history dating back to 1876. They haven’t won the World Series since 1908 (though this year they look to be hot favorites). But they have won, twice.

Somerset’s cricket club was founded in 1875. County cricket was started by Yorkshire and Gloucestershire in 1890, and Somerset was the third team to join the tournament in 1891. In all of that time they have never won the championship.

Tomorrow we could see a little bit of cricketing history being made.

YA and Gender Conference, Italy 2017

Hello academic pals. Here is a conference that you may be interested in. It is called Literature, Translation, and Mediation by and for Children: Gender, Diversity, and Stereotype, and it will take place at the University of Bologna at Forlì in October 2017. That’s a fair way off, but abstracts have to be in by January 31st so you don’t as much time as it seems.

You may be asking why I am recommending this. Well, obviously the subject matter is of interest. But in addition one of the organizers of the conference is Dr. Raffaella Baccolini who was the scholar Guest of Honor at Finncon this year. She’s very smart, and a lovely person. I’m sure she’ll put on a great conference.

Also, there’s the location. Forlì is not actually in Bologna. It is a little way south-east thereof. It is actually closer to Ravenna than Bologna, and if I am going to be in the area there’s no way I am not going to see those mosaics and to pay my respects to Theodora. About half way between Bologna and Forlì there’s a little town called Imola, which is home to the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, one time home of the San Marino Grand Prix. And of course San Marino itself is just a little further along the main road from Forlì.

Actually, to be frank, if I’m going to Italy then I have to go to Rome too because there are things in the Capitoline Museum that I need to see. I would love to go to Pompeii as well, but I don’t know how far the budget will stretch.

Anyway, it sounds like an amazing opportunity, and I shall certainly be submitting a paper. Hopefully some of you folks will be interested in going too. I don’t want to have to consume all of that great Italian food and wine by myself.

You can find the Call for Papers here.