Women enter Lord's inner sanctum

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THE LONG Room at Lord's cricket ground yesterday opened its doors to women and made history when the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) proudly displayed its first female members.

The occasion marked the end of more than 200 years of resistance to women in this, the most famous club in cricket, and took place at the home of the sport.

Tony Lewis, the MCC president, said: "I hope you enjoy your membership. Don't relax too much - we will need your experience and help as the culture of this great club changes."

Assuring the 10 women that they have "not been pawns in the popular game of social or political correctness", he added: "The unanimous thinking of the committee was simply this ... we could not claim to be a great cricket club unless we had a women's team and women members. A simple equation. The first MCC women's team takes the field on May 11 in East Molesey, Surrey."

It had been one matter for a committee to decide on such a change and quite another to persuade almost 18,000 members to agree with it. "It was like turning an ocean-going liner through 180 degrees," he said.

One of the first women members, former England women's cricket captain Rachael Heyhoe Flint said: "I might be referred to as the catalyst, who in 1991 had the temerity to apply to become a member." Among her supporters was the late commentator Brian Johnston, and she said: "I wish Johnners was here today, because during the progress of this, he kept saying to me, `it will eventually happen, but I doubt whether I shall see it in my lifetime'."

Former England cricketer Lord Cowdrey said: "I think it's a wonderful day and I look forward to the day when the MCC ladies cricket team makes a big impact in the game."

Another former England captain, Ted Dexter said: "It it just took a little time to see the wood from the trees."