The Ashes that's not on your TV sets

Ah for women's cricket, where the TV coverage is dreadful but the action enthralling

Andrew Hughes

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Heather Knight walks off the field after a mammoth 157, England Women v Australia Women, Only Test, 3rd day, Wormsley, August 13, 2013
A re-enactment is probably more conclusive here than a replay © PA Photos
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The male Australian batting collective hangs together as robustly as those early-20th-century balsa-wood flying machines.

There they go, lurching forward valiantly, with a patched-up propeller, a wing and a prayer, heading for the edge of the cliff, surging into the air, wobbling, dipping, straining aloft; then, just when you think they've cracked it and you can feel the cheer rising in your throat, the whole contrivance turns rudder over strut and ends up in a sad-looking heap of debris and despondency.

Australia's women, on the other hand, can bat for long periods of time without suffering a collective panic attack, as Raf Nicholson reminded us recently.

I wanted to watch the only women's Ashes Test, but sadly no television broadcasters are covering it, and the only footage I could find was the official ECB highlights. Surprisingly there was no charge for watching the official ECB highlights. Hopefully I am allowed to talk about the official ECB highlights without stumping up a royalty payment, but if I disappear mid-paragraph, you know that Giles Clarke's secret police have tracked me down.

The highlights are a little basic; a throwback to a world where Kerry Packer didn't exist, and one camera was all the camera you were entitled to. Not being able to see ball, bat or pad at the moment of truth creates an anguished uncertainty for the viewer, and reminds us how tough commentary-box speculation must have been in the old days.

"I wonder if the fielding side will refer that, Ray?"

"They may do, looked like it hit him in the leg."

"Which leg, do you think?"

"Hard to say at this stage, but one of them certainly."

"Well here comes the replay. The ball leaves the bowler's hand and… disappears completely behind the batsman's body. Not too conclusive from that angle."

"I think by the way he's leaning, I'd say it's hit him on one of his thighs, possibly a knee, or maybe somewhere on his left or right shin."

"The third umpire is having another look at it, but to be honest, I'm not sure there's enough to overrule the on-field umpire. Yes, as we expected, he's not out; the 57th consecutive time that's happened. I do wonder whether this system needs a little tweaking."

"Tony, if we had more cameras, we'd get these decisions right every time."

Watching cricket from the wrong direction is a little like reading the book instead of going to see the film. You have to rely greatly on your imagination, particularly when, as in the highlights from Wormsley, the camera is unable to pan left and right either, so most catches take place off stage, like a murder in a Shakespearean sub-plot.

"Hark! Whither did that ball fly?"

Enter narrator, stage left.

"Oh good highlights narrator, pray tell, what news of Elliott?"

"She perished, caught i' the point region."

"Alas, I should have liked to see that."

But even from the perspective of a spectator in a surgical collar standing atop a pair of step-ladders at deep straightish fine leg, I was still able to appreciate watching Anya Shrubsole's deliveries curving prodigiously away from the bat, the mesmerising flight of Erin Osborne's offbreaks, and Sarah Taylor's array of perfect straight drives.

The only good thing about the paltry coverage is that it should persuade us off our backsides and out into the fresh air to watch more of what should be an enthralling series. Perhaps that was the plan all along. In which case - brace yourself reader - well done, Giles Clarke.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

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Comments: 3 
Posted by PONCBE2005 on (August 15, 2013, 5:38 GMT)

Something positive out of the penury that Women's Cricket is suffering from--the ECB highlight(s) that probably ate up a few pennies from the player's pockets--Andrew is creating more spectators.

Lovely comparison with Shakespeare too. I thoroughly enjoyed this article. Keep going, Andrew.

Posted by py0alb on (August 14, 2013, 13:13 GMT)

The Ashes not on tv? In 90% of households that could be either.

It does look like a good game, I really wish it was televised.

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Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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Andrew HughesClose
Andrew Hughes Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73
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