Brian Viner: Ashes to Ashes, Trescothick and the 'taliswomen'

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The Independent Online

As far as I am aware, I'm not related, even on my mother's side, to Emmeline Pankhurst. Emily Davison, the suffragette who threw herself in front of the King's horse in the 1913 Derby and died of her injuries, has never been one of my heroines.

Yet here I am, just a few weeks after using this column to champion netball, and to lament the scant media coverage of a sport that even the Wales rugby coach, Warren Gatland, thinks could teach his players a thing or two about handling skills, wondering why we have heard and read so little about the latest achievement of the England women's cricket team, who this week retained the Ashes at the Bradman Oval, no less, in Bowral, New South Wales. Until Monday, the Australians had not lost a home series since New Zealand beat them in 1972. Before that, they had gone undefeated since England won the inaugural women's Test series, in 1934-35. But will our girls get an open-top bus ride through Trafalgar Square? I suspect that, if they want one, they'll just have to catch the 139 with everyone else, and prise open a couple of windows on the upper deck.

Of course, there is almost infinitely more interest among the public at large in how England's male cricketers are getting on. Whether the media coverage reflects or drives that is a moot point but, even assuming the former, it still seems worth comparing the column inches that followed the women's victory – about seven and a half of them – with the forests that will have to be felled to accommodate all the supplements next time our men prevail Down Under, on the assumption that newspapers still exist in 2074.

This discrepancy is not helped by the fact that the Ashes were decided by only one Test because Cricket Australia did not consider England worthy of a full series, although, in a way, that should make victory taste even sweeter, and generate even more enthusiastic coverage in the British press, which normally gives proper prominence to reports of Aussie sporting discomfiture. For the record, Charlotte Edwards captained her team to a six-wicket victory, and top-scored herself in the first innings with a marvellous 94.

Moreover, England were without their talismanic – taliswomanic? – all-rounder Jenny Gunn, who was injured. This was like Freddie Flintoff pulling out of a deciding Ashes Test, yet still they won. A less direct comparison with the men's team was in the sudden return home, shortly before the Test match, of the team's coach Mark Dobson, and wicketkeeper Jane Smit, amid rumours of a romantic entanglement. Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher were always said to be close, but never that close. Anyway, whatever the truth of those rumours, which officials have denied, to win the Ashes on Australian soil without your all-rounder, your first-choice wicketkeeper and your coach surely makes a considerable achievement downright miraculous.

Now, if I might be forgiven for switching the focus back to the chaps, the phenomenon of cricketers leaving tours in mysterious circumstances brings me to England's erstwhile opener Marcus Trescothick, who, if life weren't so damn complicated, would be in New Zealand today, playing in the deciding one-day international in Christchurch.

Instead, Trescothick was in my local town of Leominster on Thursday evening, addressing a sell-out audience at the Conservative Club in aid of his benefit year. He was interviewed expertly and sympathetically by the cricket writer Peter Hayter, who is ghosting his autobiography. Rather to my surprise, Hayter did not tiptoe around the issue of the emotional illness that appears to have scuppered Trescothick's England career, and Trescothick talked about it with engaging candour. Hayter asked me not to write too much about what was said on that painful subject – less out of deference to Trescothick's sensibilities than his publisher's – but I think I can reveal that Trescothick recalled going to Torquay on his first school trip, at the age of 11, and being "a wreck" all week. It was an early sign of the acute homesickness that would later turn out to be more of a sickness than most of us can understand.

Happily, Trescothick seemed in excellent form, and every word he uttered illuminated his passion, unusual even by professional standards, for the game of cricket. I'm no psychoanalyst but maybe it is that passion which has helped him come to terms with being out of the England fold. He just wants to bat, and if it's for Somerset rather than England, so be it.

Whatever, he responded thoughtfully to Hayter's questions during the first half of the evening, and the audience's in the second. A great deal was said about the Ashes – winning them in 2005 and losing them last winter – yet, interestingly and just a little disappointingly, not even the women in the audience brought up English cricket's most notable achievement of the year so far, at the Bradman Oval on Monday.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

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