Women's Twenty20: 'I really do believe that we'll win it'
England coach Mark Lane is ready to repeat one-day glory
Thursday 11 June 2009
And now for a competition that England might actually win. While the men's World Twenty20 has already seen the home side teetering on the brink of elimination only to overwhelm a half-interested Pakistan, the women's event has had to wait until today to get under way. Taunton will play host to first South Africa against West Indies before England take on India; tomorrow Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Pakistan make their bows.
The favourites are England, who, captained by Charlotte Edwards, became world champions in the 50-over format by beating New Zealand in Sydney in March. Should they repeat that success over the next week-and-a-half, believes coach Mark Lane, it could do wonders for the women's game in this country. "People said to me before we went to Australia 'you've got the World Cup, the T20, the Ashes [which is later this summer]. Which is most important?'" he said.
"I said, 'Look, I'm a proper Englishman, I'd like to win the World Cup in Australia, but the next best thing, to promote our game in our country, is to do well in the T20.' To get more and more people coming to watch. The women are faster, they're more athletic, they hit the ball harder, they use heavier bats. Suddenly the game is really galloping forward."
Galloping fastest, it seems, are England, who hit a few fences in the World Cup but fully deserved their victory. The hero was Claire Taylor, who Lane has worked with as batting coach and mentor for 10 years. She was player of the tournament at the World Cup and subsequently became the first woman to be named as one of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year.
"It was a very emotional journey," said Lane of the World Cup. "My brother spoke to me on the morning of the World Cup final from England – he said, 'You won't believe the interest back here.' It made us want to put in a performance to please everyone."
That they certainly did. Vital to their success was good preparation, and their build-up to the World Twenty20 has been equally relentless. Lane says the aim has been to take the team out of their comfort zone – to which end, they have been playing men's teams. "It was an eye-opener," said Lane. "The ball comes down and gets hit a lot harder. If you bowl a bad ball it goes for six."
The moment of truth comes today. Lane is confident (England beat New Zealand and then lost to Australia in warm-up games this week) but he says the unpredictable nature of Twenty20 makes it hard to pick a winner. "It's not clear cut," he said. "Anyone could beat anyone, really."
The women's game differs from its male equivalent in more than just the ability to hit sixes, says Lane. "There's a bit more enjoyment," he said. "Our girls can't wait to practise. The England men's team play every day and are together every day – with the women, there's more energy."
Energy, a will to learn, team spirit: these are the elements that could make England World Twenty20 champions at Lord's on Sunday 21 June. "I really believe that we'll win it," said Lane. "If we don't, it won't be for the want of trying or preparation. You need luck. But the harder you work, as they say, the more luck you get."
The Sky Sports ECB Coach Education Programme will hold 22,500 coaching sessions for junior girls this summer.
Women's own: Twenty20 details
As with the Men's Super Eights, the women's tournament consists of two pools of four, with the top two sides progressing to the semi-finals. Group games take place at the County Ground in Taunton, between 11-16 June.
Pool A Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and West Indies
Pool B England, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka
Thurs 18 June: Runner-up of Group A v Winner of Group B (Trent Bridge)
Fri 19 June: Winner of Group A v Runner-up of Group B (The Oval)
Final: Sun 21 June (Lord's)
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