FOR ONE national captain a trough, for another a cherished peak. Karen Smithies, the leader of the England team, looked ready to vault any moon yesterday evening after she and her colleagues had overturned the odds in style to defeat Australia and so maintain their interest in the Women's World Cup.
Victory was imperative. The Australians are without doubt the game's premier exponents, yet, having crushed their first four opponents with such disdain that they had only once lost more than two wickets, their rusty bats floundered after Carole Hodges had collected her second century in three days to lend substance to the England innings. 'What happened at Headingley?' the veteran asked in all innocence at the finish. Talk about single-mindedness.
The support from the boundary edge was fittingly illustrious. A spry-looking Molly Hyde, Wally Hammond's female counterpart during the 1940s and now in her 80th year, asked if it was all right to sit in the pavilion. 'Of course you can,' said Enid Bakewell, whose century spurred England to victory in the inaugural World Cup final 20 years ago, 'you're royalty.'
A sparky 54-year-old who still turns out for East Anglia, Bakewell recalled that Edgbaston triumph with a mixture of pride and regret. 'The Aussies were so ashamed they vowed never to lose again, and, sure enough, they went and beat us in the next three finals.' Did the rivalry between the old foes ever lead to any unladylike behaviour? 'Not really, although I once used the old ploy of standing in the middle of the pitch while the batsmen were running, but the girl coming towards me carried straight on and spiked my foot. I never tried that again.'
Bakewell's enthusiasm knows few bounds. 'C'mon kiddo, c'mon,' she exhorted at the top of her voice as Gill Smith began to spray down the leg side. 'Keep side-on, keep side-on,' the message evidently got through to the Middlesex left-armer, who proceeded to cut a swathe through the middle order in her second spell, finishing with 5 for 30 and the player of the match award.
The critical blows, though, were dealt by Smithies. Having removed Belinda Clark, the betting shop manager from Ashby-de-la-Zouch struck gold four hours later when she persuaded Denise Annetts, acknowledged as the best batsman in the game, to spoon a catch to extra cover.
Besides disposing of the other opener, Beverley Haggett, amid a stifling stint costing just 13 runs, Smithies manipulated her attack with the touch of an Illingworth, handing Hodges the new ball and seeing the off-spinner yield eight runs from her first half-dozen overs. When Sharyn Bow holed out with 37 balls remaining, the shrieks of joy might have carried all the way to Leeds.
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