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While the public stands were only sparsely occupied for the women’s ICC World Twenty20 Final, the Pavilion End was packed. Admittedly this was mostly because seating for MCC Members and their friends is unreserved so those wanting a good viewing spot for the afternoon’s proceedings were obliged to turn up early, but the prospect of seeing an England team in a final they were actually expected to win made this far less of an inconvenience.
I had not realised how much I cared about it until the national anthems. I had stood for them before the men’s games at Lord's, respectful but unmoved – except when the Pakistan and Sri Lanka teams stood interleaved with one another in solidarity before their group game – but as the British dirge struck up for the women, I felt the tears welling. Not that I hadn’t been paying attention to the women’s progress: when those headlines about Edwards being a doubt for the semi-final appeared on Cricinfo mid-week, my first reaction to was to panic about Charlotte’s availability for England rather than be concerned about Fidel’s for WI.
But though the MCC were out in force for the final, they do not go in for community singing. Instead, about three dozen women at the Nursery End took on the onerous duty of representing the Barmy Army. I am no fan of their anthem - in its customary form as a baritone bellow it resembles a herd of cattle protesting at being woken up; as rendered yesterday it sounded more as though a fox had got into the henhouse. On the other hand, I usually like the songs for individual players, and the rewording of the old favourite “Michael Vaughan, my Lord, Michael Vaughan” for Jenny Gunn was felicitous.
In the event, the game was rather ruined as a spectacle by Katherine Brunt. A spell of 4-2-6-3 is liable to be pretty significant in any game of cricket, but as an opening burst in Twenty20 it is a gamebreaker. In the afternoon, following a start almost as bad for Sri Lanka, Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews were able to hit lustily enough to establish a total that was at least slightly competitive, but the New Zealand women were unable to achieve anything that gave them any realistic hope of salvation.
Being honest, though, one must admit that the women’s game is never likely to be spectacular. There may be women physically strong enough to bowl at 140kph or hit the ball high into the stands, but none of them are playing international cricket and one suspects that they would anyway be too bulky to be of much use in the field. People who enjoy watching the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Ramnaresh Sarwan or Ian Bell batting well will find plenty to appreciate in women’s cricket – and since I am one, I much enjoyed Claire Taylor’s innings – but there are no Chris Gayles or Boom Boom Afridis to tonk the non-existent Lasith Malingas, Dale Steyns and Brett Lees around.
The pleasant corollary is that there are equally no Luke Wrights or Brendon McCullums. They are powerful enough men that when they mishit a wild slog, it is quite likely to clear the ring and fall safe, but a woman with abominable technique stands no chance at all, given that the women field well and look pretty safe catchers.
It is a pity that the game was not as exciting as the England v Australia semi-final, which was clearly the match of the tournament, but for English fans used to watching embarassing failures in World Cups, the sight of an England team cruising to a world crown was deeply satisfying.
So congratulations to Charlotte Edwards and her team, and thanks. It was a privilege to be able to stand in the Long Room and applaud a winning England team back to their dressing room. You did us proud.
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