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England women's allrounder Natalie Sciver has been showing up boys since her teens. She recalls herself as a 12-year old playing football in Poland's women's league, but rose to prominence as a cricketer when she tussled with Surrey's boys in club cricket. Amy Lofthouse of the BBC catches up with the only player to take a hat-trick for England in T20s.
Sciver fell into cricket as a teenager, playing games against her dad and brother in her back garden, before joining Surrey club Stoke d'Abernon. She played the usual games against boys' teams. "They didn't like it so much when a girl bowled them out," she joked. Her performances led to her being selected for Surrey's academy, which became the pathway to an international career that began when she was selected for England's limited-overs series against Pakistan in 2013. It was not until last October that Sciver made her big impact at the top level, becoming the first England player to take a T20 hat-trick in Barbados
India Women are set to play a Test after nearly eight years, returning to England where they secured a historic Test triumph on their last tour in 2006. In her blog, Grass on the Seam, India Women's cricketer Snehal Pradhan reminisces about that series and the win at Taunton that was built around Jhulan Goswami's remarkable returns of 5 for 33 and 5 for 45.
To say she sliced through the top order is not an exaggeration. She allowed none of the top three to reach double figures. She came back to pick up the resilient Edwards, who batted low due to illness. To get a measure of the quality of her wickets we need no highlights or eye witness accounts. We only need to read the scorecard. LBW, caught behind and bowled. Beaten, edged, and knocked over. Classic fast bowlers wickets. And she was bowling fast.
India Women cricketer Snehal Pradhan writes on her blog that the current women's side resembles the India men's team of the 1990s, which was "famously talented and infamously inconsistent." She hopes that Mithali Raj's team can turn it around just like the men did in the 2000s.
The doldrums of the '90s must give way to the genesis of a new fate. The ingredients are all there. Younger, fitter players have been proving their international credentials over the past couple of years, and some prodigal talent is bubbling under the surface. Only a catalyst is required. Just as the men went from being a one man batting line up to a team with a big three and a big four, the women have the quality to find themselves similarly positioned.
Joe Wilson in BBC Sport traces the remarkable arc of women's cricket in England, comparing the times in which former allrounder Enid Bakewell and current England captain Charlotte Edwards have played their cricket. Of the many memories Bakewell has in her rich career, one is of playing a Test against Australia at Lord's in the 1970s, when the famed Long Room was open only to men.
"It wasn't until 1976 that Lord's let us have a televised match there, and when we first went there I don't think they were going to allow a woman in the scorebox," she says.
"We didn't know if we could use the changing rooms, and we certainly didn't know if we could go through the Long Room. The Aussies didn't know about the tradition of the Long Room, so they walked through - and we followed them."
Women's cricket has been gaining acclaim in recent times and Australia's efficient defence of their World T20 title was another advertisement of their catching up with the men's game. It was set up by an attractive brand of play that has diverted attention squarely on their skills on the field and Greg Baum, in the Age, believes this is only the beginning.
Australia's women cricketers are under the same umbrella as the men, are paid more handsomely than ever before and in recent seasons have played some of their short-form internationals on the same grounds and days as the men. This was the case in Bangladesh, and in the previous women's World T20 in Sri Lanka. Presently, this coupling gives the women's matches the status and appearance of curtain-raisers. In time, they might be seen as authentic double-headers.
Claire Stewart, in the Sydney Morning Herald, details her journey exploring what cricket meant in Afghanistan. She learns the passion it brings forth, with the President said to have called the Afghanistan team the new national army. Support for the women's game, though, is less forthcoming under present conditions and wandering to the stadium without company is unsafe for the same reason. Still with Mohammad Nabi's men, beating a Test nation in their first Asia Cup and qualifying for the World Cup in 2015, cricket is seen as more than an a mere sport.
The only external cricket representative not to let security concerns keep him from visiting the ACB in Kabul during the past 12 years is former Pakistani player, and now ACC representative, Iqbal Sikander. He sits in Murad's office discussing the economic viability of different equipment providers while recounting tales of his time in Australia as part of Pakistan's victory in the 1992 World Cup. "Our only objective is that we want cricket bats in the hands of the youngsters instead of guns," says Sikander. "We want them to stay away from drugs and trouble."
Japan's Shizuka Miyaji is currently training with the New South Wales Women's team, sharpening her chinaman skills under the watchful eye of captain Alex Blackwell. Her six-month stint in Sydney is a considerable step up, after some of the other means Miyaji had to use to learn the game, writes Carly Adno in Australia's Telegraph.
"These kids learn how to play cricket from watching on Youtube. They'll be watching Shane Warne bowl his leg breaks and then you see them go out and try to do the same," Blackwell said. Miyaji is training with NSW and playing first-grade cricket with Universities and Blackwell is confident she will make enormous strides during her time in Australia. "So that's really how the kids in Japan become familiar with cricket because it isn't on live TV anywhere."
Charlotte Edwards described reclaiming the women's Ashes as the "proudest moment" of her career. Speaking to Oliver Brown of the Telegraph, she was pleased with the spike in interest for women's cricket, with all seven matches of the series well-attended and reminisced about her earliest memories of cricket, including the moment that paved way for her 17-year career.
"I watched my father play every week, and I know I wouldn't have achieved what I have otherwise," she explains. "We're very lucky now, though, that girls don't have to rely on their background to get into cricket. The opportunities, whether in terms of one-or-one coaching or the ability to compete in all-girl cricket in schools, are so much greater." A family visit to England's victory over India during the 1993 World Cup would decree her fate. "We all ran on to the pitch afterwards," she remembers. "I knew in that moment that I wanted to play cricket for a living."
England captain Charlotte Edwards remembers when she played Test cricket in a skirt. Her compatriot Laura Marsh learnt her trade in a team full of boys. Now, women's cricket has come into its own on the global stage with greater crowds and higher television coverage promoting Edwards' prediction that in the next 10-15 years, the women's game could attract as many people as the men's version. And just as importantly spur young girls to look at cricket as a career writes Jenny Cornish in the Telegraph.
Zoey Cape, 15, from Somerset, is one of the new generation of female players coming through. A Chance to Shine coach spotted her natural talent on a visit to her school, and she was invited to join Minehead Cricket Club. The teenager had only ever played cricket in her back garden, messing about with her brothers, so it was a big step for her to go to a cricket club. And in July last year, Cape made her debut for Somerset's senior women's side.
Pete Smith in his blog for the Guardian offers an insight into Ellyse Perry, social sciences student, opening bowler and professional footballer for Australia.
The 22-year-old not only plays two sports at the elite level, she does it alarmingly well and has the Botham-esque knack of creating something from not much. She debuted for Australia's senior national football team as a 16-year-old and scored a goal after just 90 seconds. In recent years Perry has found her football niche as an overlapping full-back and regularly sets up goals via her dead-ball acumen, invariably delivered with the same pinpoint accuracy as her 120kph bowling.
In her blog, Lisa Sthalekar recounts her last season in international and domestic cricket and how she arrived at the decision to retire.
Many people have asked me over the past few weeks whether it was a quick, simple decision to call it day. For me, it certainly was neither I often find myself saying to family and friends that I am a realist when it comes to life, and in assessing when to finish up my playing career, my approach to the decision making was no different - be a realist. Simply put, I always reminded myself that at some point everybody has to retire and the magic is in getting the timing right.
So how do you work out when the time is right? I guess the priority for me in this regard has always been to make sure that I would retire when I was at the top of my game, contributing in all facets; not being hidden, whether that be in the field, in terms of when I bowled or where I was in the batting order.