In case it gets overwhelmed by imminent events, let's hear it please for the England women's team. To their triumphs in the World Cup and the World Twenty20, they have now added a spanking one-day series victory against Australia. So magnificent was their achievement in taking an unsurpassable 3-0 lead that it prompted their former captain Clare Connor to say: "This is surely one of the greatest teams this country has ever produced, in any sport." That is a big claim to make – wait for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year team award – but it bears close scrutiny. The measure of any good side is to win when it gets tight and that England did last week. Chasing 151 in a match reduced to 29 overs, they eventually needed two to win from the last ball. Horror of horrors, Laura Marsh hit a full toss in the air to mid-wicket. But the catch was spilled; she and Jenny Gunn scrambled the necessary. Lucky, perhaps, but everybody knows about luck and good sides. After the one-day series, England will defend the Ashes they regained in this country four years ago. It will receive a hundredth of the attention of the other contest – and victory for the men may preclude that BBC award – but another twin triumph cannot be ruled out. Women's cricket in England is beginning to mean something important.
Ode to an Ashes urn
There is an Ashes poet. His name is David Fine and he will record in verse, both rhyming and free, scanning and non-scanning, the deeds of the next few weeks, starting at Cardiff on Wednesday. Fine, from Bakewell (wasn't there a limerick about a tart from Bakewell?), is enthusiastic and passionate. However, since cricket lends itself to poetry it seems unfair for him to have the Ashes poetry field to himself. OTFF readers are invited to submit their brief offerings on the Ashes in the next few weeks, beginning with the First Test on Wednesday. Send them to the email address at the end of this column for a chance to win a spiffing Ashes prize.
Edgbaston is polls apart
Recent history always excites the public more than deeds of long ago. It is why the latest popcorn blockbuster invariably finishes miles ahead of, say, 'The Final Test' in lists of all-time favourite movies. But in the case of the Ashes, they may well have got it right, if not in every respect. A poll on skysports.com to judge the most memorable moment since World War Two yielded 4,697 votes. It was obviously a distortion of reality that Jim Laker's unprecedented haul of 19 wickets in 1956 should garner only five per cent of the votes. That says everything about the lack of appreciation for past achievements. Ian Botham's 149 not out at Headingley in 1981 and Shane Warne's ball to Mike Gatting in 1993 were almost level with 17 per cent of the vote each. But way out in front was not an individual achievement but a match, to demonstrate that the team's the thing. The last day of the Edgbaston Test of 2005, when England prevailed by two runs, collected almost half the votes. Some of us are still feeling the tension.
BBC loses battle of image rights
While Sky is claiming the bragging rights with its high definition coverage of the Ashes, that's it for cricket on the Beeb this summer. Its late, late Twenty20 coverage has finished as has its excellent 'Empire of Cricket' series. There is nothing left but the desperate telly adverts (featuring Paul Merton among others) for its outstanding radio coverage.