Sport on TV: Girls just want to have fun but there's 10,000 watching
Sunday 01 September 2013
The England women's victory in the Ashes was arguably more of an achievement than the men's. It was completed across all three formats of the game – a multi-tasking Ashes, something the menfolk would obviously be incapable of – and they had to win the urn back off an Australian team who were actually half-decent.
And yet there's still no equality at the top of the game. The men were allowed to sit around on the field and drink copious beers, and even queer the pitch with their effluent. But if the women had tried anything like that, they would have been summarily turfed off. Unlike the blokes, who were cavorting under cover of darkness, there would have been about 10,000 people watching the girls celebrate, because the men's T20 match was staged straight afterwards. The women weren't even allowed squatting rights in either sense of the word.
Both male and female England teams have turned themselves into highly professional outfits who are very focused on their goals. But while Cook's men have been accused of being attritional and, well, boring – a charge that was once laid at the door of women's cricket in general – Charlotte Edwards's side won the Ashes with a thrilling display at the Rose Bowl (Sky Sports Ashes, Thursday).
Lydia Greenway came in at 9 for 3 – "England are in complete disarray," squawked Paul Allott – and proceeded to hit reverse sweeps to the boundary off her fourth and fifth balls; for the sixth, she charged down the wicket and should have been stumped by a mile, but she survived. "I had to dig in with Charlotte, and we rebuilt," she said, and one wonders how she bats when she's not digging in.
One refreshing aspect of the women's game is the lack of pouting and posturing. Danni Hazell dropped a sitter early in the match but she just kept smiling and laughing about it, and no one seemed to mind too much. No "double teapot" hands on hips, no glowering Stuart Broad among the broads. Then you realise that she's always got a big grin on her face.
That's not to say they don't get upset, though. When the batters are dismissed they can flounce off with the best of them – and somehow that huffy waddle is a lot more acceptable than when Kevin Pietersen does it.
Clare Connor, Edwards's predecessor as captain, was in the commentary box, and at the start of England's run-chase her voice was cracking with emotion. "I know what it means to them," she croaked as Allott waded in with some patriarchal patronising: "You're supposed to be impartial, you know. But we'll let you off."
Every male England captain can expect to become a commentator within minutes of announcing his retirement, and it doesn't take long for them to become jaded and cynical. So after a week that witnessed the passing of rugby's great enthusiast Cliff Morgan, it's good to know that the game still genuinely matters to some pundits.
* As if the Champions' League draw (Sky Sports News, Thursday) didn't go on too long anyway, Billy McNeill managed to drag it out even further by being unable to open the balls after he had got them out of the bowls. Luis Figo and Johan Cruyff must have been wondering who he was. He must have been a player, but his ball skills weren't up to much.
Jamie Redknapp was sporting a full beard for the draw, looking as if he had got stranded at the airport on some Thomson holiday that had gone horribly wrong. Perhaps he is aping Jeremy Paxman with the hirsute look in the hope that it will make his observations seem more acute and penetrating. But sadly it takes more than a bit of fluff on your chin, Jamie. Your analysis will never be razor-sharp.
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