Sportswomen of the Year 2011: The England cricket team

As we announced earlier in the week, after the BBC announced a female-free shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year, throughout December we will be running a series of features and guest blogs celebrating the achievements of sportswomen from the UK.

This first blog about the England cricket team is by Paul Frame.

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Played: 23, Won: 17, Lost: 5, No result: 1.

On paper, then, a fairly spectacular year for all concerned for the England team. They won five out of seven series and are looking to carry their excellent form that they showed in South Africa into their tour of New Zealand in the new year.

But one of those series losses was the Ashes Test match in Sydney, when Charlotte Edwards showed her class with a century in England’s first innings, but in the second innings nobody else could follow her lead and a collapse allowed Australia to win by seven wickets on the final day.

Though England were to bounce back from this loss to win the Twenty20 series in Australia, the Australians at home were too strong for them in the ODIs and England were thumped, losing 1-4.

Back at home England were at times far too good for most teams, especially when I saw them demolishing the Kiwis by eight wickets at Chelmsford. Although Australia again proved to be a thorn in their side, especially during the ODI loss at Lord’s, England were a far stronger team than earlier in the year and this saw them overcome the Australians in the final at Wormsley.

There then followed a break in international cricket for England that allowed Charlotte Edwards to pick up the ICC women’s cricketer of the year award and win the county championship for Kent (a bright spot in an otherwise very troubling year for Kent CCC), after which England went to South Africa and dominated both series, going unbeaten.

This year has been full of achievement for the team after a particularly difficult 2010 that had seen them lose their World Twenty20 crown and then the Ashes this January. One of the reasons behind their resurgence can be attributed to the return to international cricket of Arran Brindle. Brindle was a key member of the 2005 Ashes-winning side and her return to international cricket has given the team some much needed nous and experience which was sorely lacking on the Australian tour in the longer forms of the game.

Though Brindle scored her maiden ODI ton in South Africa, her best innings wasn’t in international cricket at all, but for Louth CC in the Lincolnshire ECB Premier League ( when she made 128 vs Market Deeping CC. This was the first time that a woman has ever made a hundred in one of the 20 ECB premier leagues that constitute the peak of recreational game and often form a bridge to the professional game; it’s a watershed moment and shows that the game for women is coming on in leaps and bounds from where it was, even though there is still a lot more that could be done by the ECB to further enhance women’s cricket in England and Wales.

So what next for the England side? Well, the squad announced for the tour of New Zealand is a strong one and they’re favourites to win the Twenty20 and ODI series. As an aside, whilst it’s good to see that Sky will be broadcasting coverage of two of these games, the fact of the matter is that just as England fans will be getting into the series, there’ll be no further live coverage, and we’ll have to put up with following Cricinfo to find out the results, which is a disappointment to say the least.

The tour to Australia at the start of the year was dealt a blow when a Sarah Taylor (probably the second best wicket-keeper in England behind James Foster) announced that she could not tour due to financial considerations; surely this is something that the ECB could address? It receives £350m over four years from broadcasting alone; surely 1% of this can go on maintaining 15 players on central contracts, rather than the quasi-employment that operates now where the England captain is not employed by the ECB, but by “Chance to Shine” the ECB’s charity?

On a final note, it was great to see that England’s Twenty20 side getting to play in front of good-sized crowds as a result of the double-header matches with the men’s FL Twenty20 cup games. Cricket fans got the pleasure of seeing Sarah Taylor setting the standards with her glove-work for James Foster to follow, Holly Colvin turning the ball more than Tim Phillips, and Claire Taylor showing more technique than Shahid Afridi and Lydia Greenway pulling off a stunning catch on the mid-wicket boundary.

India tour England next summer in two Twenty20 internationals and five ODIs, so there’ll be another two double-header twenty20 matches at Canterbury and Chelmsford. These double-headers are great value for money and it’s a great way to show everyone that the only “walk-on” a woman needs to do in a cricket match is out to the middle with her pads on, ready to drive the fast bowlers back down the ground for 4.

PS. I’m well aware that this article has barely scraped the surface of the achievements of the side in 2011, so feel free to add your highlights of the year in the comments below or tweet me.

The England squad to tour New Zealand in February and March next year:

Charlotte Edwards (captain) (Kent)

Jenny Gunn (Yorkshire)

Tammy Beaumont (Kent)

Arran Brindle (Sussex)

Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)

Lydia Greenway (Kent)

Isa Guha (Berkshire)

Danni Hazel (Yorkshire)

Heather Knight (Berkshire)

Laura Marsh (Kent)

Beth Morgan (Middlesex)

Susie Rowe (Kent)

Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)

Sarah Taylor (Sussex)

Danni Wyatt (Staffordshire)

Photo: Paul Frame, 2010