An international career that began almost 18 years ago had its greatest moment in Hobart yesterday. Charlotte Edwards, who played her first match for England as a 16-year-old schoolgirl and is now the team’s venerated captain at 34, conjured a wonderful innings to ensure that the Ashes were retained.
Her unbeaten 92 from 59 balls in the first of three Twenty20 matches was a consummate exhibition of nerveless strokeplay from its first ball, which she square-cut for four, to the last, which she biffed over the midwicket boundary. England won by nine wickets with 13 balls to spare to take an unassailable 10-points-to-four lead in the contest and retain the Ashes.
Edwards shared an unbroken partnership of 114 in 80 balls with the richly gifted Sarah Taylor, who made 50 not out from 37 balls with a flair that was occasionally in the Jos Buttler category. Comparisons with the men may shortly be redundant: the women’s game has never been more vibrant and this result will only enhance its status.
Under the novel system devised to decide the Ashes, which began last summer when England won the home series, the solitary Test is worth six points with each of the three one-day internationals and T20s worth two. England won the Test and the first ODI before losing two nerve-shreddingly close contests.
Edwards admitted to sleepless nights since Australia made 60 in six overs to secure an improbable victory in the third ODI last weekend. England were having trouble completing the job.
When Australia again finished their innings strongly to make 150 for 3, nerves in the England dressing room must have jangled once more. Only three times in 28 matches had a team successfully chased more than 150 to win.
But Edwards was not to be deterred. Her knees are dodgy these days and she can be cumbersome between the wickets. But she is a master of her craft in all three formats and was exemplary off her legs and hitting anything short through the off side yesterday.
“This means the world to me,” she said. “It’s difficult to put into words exactly what I am feeling at the moment – I am absolutely ecstatic. I am so proud of all the girls – every player in this squad has played their part out there.”
The women’s game is rapidly gaining currency and, while the England and Wales Cricket Board deserves immense credit for its promotion, the blessed Charlotte is its public face. She is the leading scorer of all time in one-day and Twenty20 cricket and only Janette Brittin has scored more Test runs.
Edwards, who made her England debut against New Zealand at Guildford in 1996, is beloved by her team and shows no sign yet of retiring. It was characteristic of her that she said: “There are still two matches to play in this Twenty20 series and we want to win both of them.”
On the same bill in Hobart, England’s men then fell to a 13-run defeat in the first of three Twenty20 internationals against Australia. England captain Stuart Broad praised Ravi Bopara’s “awesome” big-hitting cameo at the end of their innings but it was too little too late for the tourists.
Strong innings from the openers Cameron White (75) and Aaron Finch (52) helped Australia reach 213 for 4 and England struggled to respond as Nathan Coulter-Nile took four wickets in the short-form series opener.
Bopara would emerge from the pavilion late in the innings to add 65 from only 27 balls, including two fours and seven sixes, but it was not enough as England ran out of overs having scored 200 for 9.
Broad said: “Ravi was awesome towards the end but we didn’t really play as well as we could have done. Still, 400 runs in a day, in 40 overs, is pretty incredible really. I think scoreboard pressure plays a big part when you’ve got 213 on the board in 20 overs – you’re always going to feel that sort of pressure.”
Bell and Pietersen go under IPL hammer
Ian Bell has surprisingly put himself forward for nomination for next month’s Indian Premier League auction.
Bell, who like the rest of the England Test team could do with early season County Championship runs to put forward his case for inclusion in the next Test side, now runs the risk of not having enough time to do that. As expected, Kevin Pietersen will also be in the auction.
Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara, Jade Dernbach, Craig Kieswetter, Luke Wright, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Alex Hales and Samit Patel are also on the list.