Dave Fulton pays tribute to the England Women's cricket team following their World Twenty20 triumph.
Last Updated: 18/08/09 5:03pm
The England Women's cricket team are fast becoming the Roger Federer of their game, sweeping all before them with an air of inevitability.
On Sunday, they added the ICC World Twenty20 to the 50-over World Cup and the Ashes after clinically despatching New Zealand in a one-sided final.
I'm sure the England girls couldn't give a stuff but I'd like to add my own personal congratulations. Not only were they excellent on the field but they were a credit to themselves off it: professional, polite, media friendly and they looked like they were enjoying themselves.
Now, I never thought I'd be writing about women's cricket. I used to have a love/hate relationship with the female version of the game - I basically loved to hate it. My rationale was that if the best female players in the world couldn't beat the fourth XI of a men's Kent league side then I wasn't that interested.
Women's golf: brilliant. Women's athletics and tennis: likewise (although why the female tennis players should get the same money as men for playing fewer sets I'll never know); I even admit to having enjoyed women's rugby (albeit for many of the wrong reasons) and I can appreciate the precise skill of women's football when it's played well.
Women's cricket, though, has never floated my boat. You see coaching the University of Kent's women's team left me scarred for life. I had high hopes for the side. We possessed a pair of ferocious opening bowlers, a couple of spinners (ok, that's stretching the truth - they lobbed it up there on a length) and a couple of hockey players who gave the ball a mighty thump.
Our first competitive match in the inter university competition was against a Sports College from Brighton, whose batsmen all played with immaculate techniques to amass 250. We'd done well early but the fifth bowler was my then girlfriend who lost the plot when I called her for overstepping the front line. Thereafter, in between glaring at yours truly, she dished up a series of wides then longhops, which were all pummelled to the boundary; once they'd got the taste of smashing 16 per over those Brighton girls never looked back.
I still felt we had a chance of chasing the total down if our hockey players came off but during my team talk between innings, batters three and four decided that was the time for a spontaneous show of lustful affection. Previously never more than just friends, they were suddenly rolling around in a passionate embrace. Apparently my desire for a 'top-order partnership' had been misinterpreted. From that moment on we never regained our composure: bowled out for 69 would you believe!
I was reminded of the narrowing of the gap between our national cricket teams when I launched my book 'The Captains' Tales - Battle for the Ashes (available in all good book shops!) We advertised the fact David Gower, Mike Gatting, Alec Stewart and Bob Willis would be in attendance along with other former England captains and Phil Hughes the precocious Australian opener. I also said we were hopeful Clare Connor and Charlotte Edwards might be able to make it. One TV crew phoned to say that if the England women's captain past and present were definitely going to be there they would attend - they clearly had no interest in some of the greats of the men's game! Neither girl could make it due to prior commitments but both wrote lovely emails wishing me all the best.
I hope the example set by Charlotte Edwards and her team and the work they do through the Chance to Shine project will encourage the game at grass roots level for both sexes. They, too, will now contest a series against Australia but unlike their male counterparts they will start as clear favourites. It is something they are fast becoming used to.