February 24, 2003

Time for celebrations before heading off for the Tests

Claire Taylor's Winter Diary

Thursday 6th of February saw the first of our two matches against the Indians. After some disappointing results against Australia and New Zealand we were looking forward to getting some runs on the board and winning a match.

We lost the toss and were put into bat on Lincoln 3, a traditionally low, slow wicket. We made 208 runs with Lottie batting well to make 79 not out. The Indians chased well and were in a position to win the match after 40 overs with only 40 odd runs required and six wickets in hand. Some tight bowling from Connor and Collyer and two crucial run outs involving the specialist fine leg Pearson, left them with 11 runs from 18 balls with four wickets... surely a winning position!

A concerted team effort got us a win on the very last ball, Collyer bowling Goswami with India only needing two runs for the win. Very exciting stuff!

After an injury to Mandie Godliman, I've been keeping wicket. With only four matches worth of keeping under my belt since September it's been good to get back behind the stumps for England, something that I've always wanted to do since I joined the squad in 1998.

The very next day we played India again in the third-fourth play-off match on the Bert Sutcliffe Oval. Preparation for the match was the same as for other days although livened up by Spraggy setting the canteen on fire trying to melt butter in the toaster. Again we batted first but were disappointed to only put 191 on the board, Leng batting well for her 80 runs.

England built up pressure early on the Indian top order and they were soon four down for 40. We gathered together as a team and talked about not letting them get away. We talked about tying down one end and giving the Indians a blue wall to hit the ball through. It worked. Sarah Collyer bowled 9.5 overs for nine runs, three wickets and we bowled the Indians out for 101, a 90-run victory much more comprehensive than the one-run victory of the day before!

That night was spent in quiet celebration at a local ale house, sharing a few pints of the local brew with the team and the supporters who had travelled over from the UK. We were home by 10.30pm; a very showbiz evening!

The final of the World Series was contested by Australia and New Zealand. Australia's domination of the tournament was once again in evidence, Belinda Clark making 80 runs to ensure that Australia posted a high total. Early pressure on the New Zealand batting from Cathryn Fitzpatrick dented chances of a repeat of the Kiwi win in the World Cup final of 2000. The English highlight of the day was the victory celebration of Julian Lillington after winning $150 in the "Can you catch" competition in the break. Robbie Keane eat your heart out!

That evening we all went out into Christchurch to celebrate the end of the series with all the other teams. Winning the "How late were you out?" medal was veteran Clare Taylor finally making it home at 5am - good one!

The team relaxed on Sunday, spending the day shopping, packing and recovering from the excesses of the night before (too much dancing!). Early (very early) on Monday morning we left Lincoln, our home for the past two weeks. We were on the bus by 4am and on our way to the airport for flights to Sydney then onto Brisbane. Check-in and departure tax out of the way we headed over to the nearest café for a much needed caffeine fix. We were in Brisbane six hours later getting used to the heat and humidity.

Training on Tuesday left us tired and dehydrated. Two hours of nets followed by a short fielding session were enough for most of us. The afternoon was spent learning how to body board on a beach on the Gold Coast. Our Australian coach, John Harmer, had decided that this was an important part of the knowledge that he could impart to us. We had a lot of fun playing in the waves and even managed to catch the odd one.

Now its back to preparation for the Test series with a two-day practice match against an Australia Youth side. Concentration will be important in the longer version of the game and we'll have to get used to conditions.