Comment: Women’s Cricket - Lacklustre England fail to meet expectations

West Indies' surprise victory over Australia four days ago spelt the official end of England's defence of the women's cricket World Cup. This might seem disappointing on the face of it, but their unexpected exit can mostly be attributed to desperate luck. They demonstrated evident class in their victories, twice bowling sides out for under 110, and their two losses came by the tiny margins of one wicket and two runs against Sri Lanka and Australia respectively. As the more unexpected match, the former ultimately cost them, and meant that they were off the pace from the beginning.

In that match, it was the bowlers' inability to defend a sizeable total which let them down but their performances were consistently more impressive than those of the batsmen. Katherine Brunt was as consistent as ever, but the chief catalyst for cheap opposition totals was actually the lesser known Anya Shrubsole, taking thirteen wickets in four innings at the mind-boggling average of 7.23. Her prodigious inswing and the technique and energy she demonstrated are the latest sign of the encouraging emergence of more serious fast bowlers in women's cricket.

The batting, carried by Charlotte Edwards, was underwhelming in contrast, particularly in the loss to Australia. Sarah Taylor was a disappointment, recording three consecutive ducks, and though she improved, her domination is hardly proving absolute enough to convince those sceptical of her proposed move to men's second XI cricket. The main difference between men and women is probably the increased power even though West Indies have made progress towards addressing this stereotype thanks to Deandra Dottin whose six-hitting power distinguished her from the rest.

One problem with women's cricket is the quality of its coverage. The cricketers are often praised by mediocre reporters in the most basic terms which many school cricketers would scorn. These ignorant plaudits do not reflect an increasingly equal interest in the men's and women's games. It is a mirage. Equality may be more of a reality in tennis, but female cricketers are frankly patronised in a manner normally reserved for the physically handicapped, which is a gross injustice.

Female interest in cricket at lower levels is another concern. Cambridge is a prime example. Largely, colleges do not even possess a team, and having watched part of the women's Varsity match last year, I can confirm that this lack of interest is reflected in a startling lack of quality. It was not the aforementioned difference in strength which was most evident, but the absence of technique. England's women have proved that the latter is not limited by gender, and as such, efforts should be made to encourage more female participation.

Will Spencer


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