Cricket: Battling Brittin destroys Danes: Women's World Cup opens with massive English victory while debate at Lord's concerns methods employed by counties to gain a result

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England 286-3; Denmark 47

England win by 239 runs

TO ENGLISH ears, the sound of a crowd cheering its lungs out for the opposition is sweet indeed. Sympathy for the underdog being one of the more admirable national traits, Denmark received their full share in the heart of the Surrey stockbroker belt yesterday as Janette Brittin and Carole Hodges spurred the hosts to a resounding victory in their opening fixture in the Women's World Cup.

For the Danes, a collection of students and secretaries making their debut in the competition, it was all too easy to identify with King Canute as they strove to stem the tide of English superiority. Brittin, England's most experienced player and a local to boot, scored a measured 104 to pave the way for a record England total in the 60-over format.

Whereupon Denmark slumped to 10 for 5, recovered to reach 46 without further alarm, then lost their last five wickets for one run as Hodges's off-breaks completed the annihilation with a hat-trick. No fewer then seven Danish players made ducks.

None of this, mind, was in the least bit surprising. The Danish Women's Cricket Association was formed in 1976 and when it originally attempted to join the International Women's Cricket Association, England vetoed the application on the grounds that there were no all-women teams. Even now there are just seven, leaving the national selectors a mere 150 practitioners to choose from.

Although the Danes have elected to wear flannels rather than the more traditional culottes favoured by England, they certainly have an old-fashioned notion of decorum. After Barbara Daniels and Jo Chamberlain had walloped 34 runs from the last 16 balls of the England innings, the fielders huddled in midwicket to applaud the batsmen - or batspersons, as the public address announcer repeatedly, if erroneously, insisted - all the way back to the dressing-room.

Later, when Debbie Maybury flung herself at second slip to bring off a stupendous one-handed catch inches from the turf, the incredulous victim, Janni Jonsson, threw both arms up in askance.

Would this be the cue for the tournament's first imbroglio? Not at all. Maybury indicated that it was a clean take and Jonsson, the Danish captain, set the perfect example by giving her the thumbs-up as she trudged away.

The Danish decision to field first had been greeted sceptically in some quarters, being interpreted as a ruse merely to extend the match beyond lunch.

Their coach, Eruk Juul Lassen, denied this by explaining, somewhat obliquely, that 'we didn't want to lie back from the beginning' and citing the triumph of his country's national football during last year's European Championship as a source of inspiration. 'You never know,' he added, eyes twinkling.

However, once Brittin and her more adventurous fellow opener, Helen Plimmer, had enjoyed a stand of 147 for the first wicket, we knew all too well.

Clare 'Romper' Taylor, a burly Yorkshire lass who also turns out as sweeper for the England women's football team, struck four times in her first five overs, prompting the 300-strong throng to switch allegiances.

There is nothing an Englishman likes better than a good loser, especially when the opposition, for once, are the experts.

Scoreboard, page 33

(Photograph omitted)