women's cricket

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An eleven-a-side bat-and-ball game played under the auspices of the International Cricket Council. Women played the game recreationally as early as 1677 in England, when the wife of the Earl of Sussex registered that she was growing tired of the amusement, as played in the village of Dicker, near Hurstmonceaux. Women played inter-village matches in the counties of Sussex and Surrey in south-east England: the Reading Mercury published an account of a match that took place on 26 July 1745, between ‘eleven maids of Bramley and eleven maids of Hambleton, dressed all in white…The girls bowled, batted, ran and catched as well as most men could do in that game.’ Such matches generated boisterous crowds and significant stakes with accompanying betting. Women also played, in more genteel settings, in the grounds of the landed gentry and aristocracy. Organized forms of the game in the later 19th century included the foundation of England's first women's cricket club, the White Heather, in 1887, at Nun Appleton, Yorkshire: six of its eight founding members bore the prefix ‘Hon.’ or ‘Lady’. A commercial initiative of 1890, ‘The Original English Lady Cricketers’, recruited two teams that toured the country playing each other under the watchful eye of a ‘matron’, and giving the players pseudonyms: a crowd of 15,000 attended the first event, at Liverpool's Police Athletic ground, but the venture lasted only two years.

Cricket prospered, nevertheless, in the elite girls' public schools in the early years of the 20th century: the Women's Cricket Association (WCA) was formed in 1926, and the foundations of the organized women's game were established in the 1930s, seen as the ‘Golden Age’ of women's cricket. In 1934, an English side defeated Australia in Brisbane, Queensland, in the first women's Test Match. Women also played the game in parts of India in the 1890s, though initially in mixed-sex teams, and the nationalist drive in that country in the 1930s further boosted the game. The International Women's Cricket Council (IWCC), formed in 1958, comprised Australia, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies. A first World Cup Cricket competition was held in England in 1973, a one-off sponsored event based on invitation: Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago were invited, and England topped the table to finish as champions. Women's cricket continued to bear the stamp of Britain and its empire and dominions.

The IWCC merged with the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2005—in England, the WCA had merged with the England and Wales Cricket Board in 1998—and, at the ICC's World Twenty20 in England in 2009, it was the English team, reigning world champions, that took the title in a final against New Zealand. While the history of the women's game has received welcome attention (see Rachael Heyhoe Flint and Netta Rheinberg's Fair Play: The Story of Women's Cricket, 1976, for a pioneering contribution), and the organization of the game has been brought within a coherent overall infrastructure for the sport, women's cricket remains comparatively marginal in the consciousness of a wider sporting public and almost invisible in a sport media preoccupied with the dominant male-based forms of the game.


Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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