Cricket: Edwards' heroic feat of endurance

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England 324-3

Ireland 116

England win by 208 runs

Huntingdon's Charlotte Edwards gave herself an 18th birthday present a day early yesterday, scoring 173 not out against Ireland in Pune's palm- fringed Nehru Stadium.

Winning her ninth cap for England, Edwards battled her way through 50 overs, striking 19 fours off 155 balls to produce an innings stunning in its range and also admirable in its character, as England gained an overwhelming win by 208 runs in this women's World Cup match.

Edwards passed the century mark in the 32nd over without offering one chance. Tiring in stifling heat, she was then dropped three times - on 110, 131, and again when she had passed the previous women's World Cup record score of 143, set in 1988 by Australia's Lindsay Reeler. Edwards made that mark in the 44th over - that she carried on to thrash 30 more runs, dehydrated and with cramps in her feet and ankles, speaks of a heart as big as her covered drives are sweet.

Edwards' effort was the centrepiece of another crushing England display: 324 for 3 was their third score over 300 in three matches - and this against an Irish side better by some margin then their previous victims, Denmark and Pakistan. Indeed, should Ireland beat Pakistan tomorrow in Dehli, they would join England in the quarter-finals - but England overwhelmed them all the same. At the close, Edwards was dashingly assisted by the wicketkeeper, Jane Cassar, striking 50 not out off 55 balls.

The Irish coach, John Wills, said: "They respected the good ball, and the bad ball went for four. It was an exhibition of how to play proper cricket, not least when Jane Brittin walked. It was only the merest of snicks, but she was honest, and that's what it should all be about."

To their credit, rather than stonewalling through 50 overs, Ireland set themselves a target between 180 and 200 - but they did not get near it. England bowled them out for 116 in the 42nd over to win by 208 runs; a fierce spell of 4 for 6 in 4.1 overs from the bighearted Yorkshire seamer Melissa Reynard put paid to the innings - her crucial scalp was that of Caitriona Beggs, who had lasted 40 gritty overs for her 49.

That England's bowling has found some bite will be as heartening as Edwards' high score. Less heartening was the news from Bombay - that her score was not, after all, the new world record. The Australian opener, Belinda Clark, had hit an astonishing 229 not out against Denmark, and Australia's total of 412 for 3 passed England's four-day old World Cup record of 376 for 2 comfortably. Tomorrow's game between these two in Nagpur should be some affair.

England won toss

ENGLAND WOMEN'S XI

C Edwards not out 173

J Brittin c Dawson b O'Neill 37

B Daniels c Pratt b Grealey 4

S Metcalfe st Dawson b Biggs 29

J Cassar not out 50

Extras (b6, lb12, w10, nb3) 31

Total (for 3, 50 overs) 324

Fall: 1-72, 2-85, 3-193.

Did not bat: S Redfern, C Taylor, K Smithies, L MacLeod, K Leng, M Reynard.

Bowling: McDonald 10-1-41-0; Pratt 4-0-40-0; Spence 5-0-39-0; O'Neill 10-1-34-1; Grealey 8-0-51-1; Biggs 7-0-49-1; Shillington 6-0-52-0.

IRELAND WOMEN'S XI

N Squire b Redfern 0

L Biggs b Reynard 49

M Grealey b Redfern 0

C O'Leary st Cassar b Smithies 14

C O'Neill run out 8

G Leahy lbw b MacLeod 0

S Dawson c Brittin b Reynard 12

C Shillington st Cassar b Reynard 1

A Spence b Reynard 4

D Pratt c Metcalfe b Leng 0

B McDonald not out 0

Extras (lb4, w23, nb1) 28

Total (41.1 overs) 116

Fall: 1-2, 2-2, 3-30, 4-47, 5-50, 6-94, 7-104, 8-113, 9-115.

Bowling: Redfern 6-2-5-2; Taylor 7-1-18-0; Smithies 10-0-30-1; MacLeod 5-0-16-0; Leng 9-0-37-1; Reynard 4.1-1-6-4.

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