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Women's pioneer Heyhoe Flint dies aged 77

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Women's pioneer Heyhoe-Flint dies aged 77 (1:03)

Baroness Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, the former captain of the England Women's cricket team, and one of the pioneers of the global game, has died at the age of 77 (1:03)

Baroness Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, the former captain of the England Women's cricket team, and one of the pioneers of the global game, has died at the age of 77.

Heyhoe-Flint played 22 Tests and 23 ODIs between 1960 and 1979, and took over as captain in 1966. However, it is as a driving force for women's equality in sport that she will be most remembered.

Her crowning glory came at the 1973 Women's World Cup, when she led England to victory in the inaugural tournament, having been instrumental in setting the competition up in the first place.

According to legend, the concept was inspired by a bottle of "very good brandy" that she had shared with the future owner of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Jack Hayward, as the pair sat down to sketch out an event that would pre-date the men's World Cup by a full two years.

Her initiative came at a time when women still took the field in short skirts, were barred from entering the Long Room at Lord's (the final, and decisive round-robin match, against Australia, was played at Edgbaston as a consequence), and were still some four decades away from the dawn of the professional era now enjoyed by England's modern crop of women's players.

Clare Connor, a successor of Heyhoe-Flint's as England captain, led the tributes from the ECB, where she now serves as head of women's cricket.

"This is overwhelmingly sudden and sad news. It is hard to find the words to fully pay tribute to Rachael. She was so special, so ever-present and now she has gone - but her impact can never be forgotten.

"She was my friend and mentor and inspiration. And I am not alone; her impact, kindness and support was widely felt by so many.

"Rachael was one of our sport's true pioneers and it is no exaggeration to say that she paved the way for the progress enjoyed by recent generations of female cricketers. I will always remember and continue to be inspired by her fortitude, her deep love of the game and her wicked, wonderful sense of humour. We are all in her debt on this very sad day."

After retirement, Heyhoe-Flint continued in the pioneering spirit, and was one of the driving forces behind the seismic vote at MCC in 1998 that finally allowed women members to be admitted to the club.

In 1999, she was one of ten original female Honorary Life Members, and went on to become the first woman to be elected on to the MCC Committee in 2004, and served a second three-year term between 2008 and 2011. She was also the first female player to be inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2010.

MCC President Matthew Fleming said: "This is a terribly sad day for everyone involved in cricket and all of us at MCC. Rachael Heyhoe-Flint was a pioneer of women's cricket.

"She was the first global superstar in the women's game and her overall contribution to MCC, cricket and sport in general was immense.

"Her impact on MCC, be it through events on the field or in the Committee Room, was immeasurable and her enthusiasm, wisdom and gentleness of character will be missed by everyone with whom she came into contact. We all loved her."

Outside of cricket, she was a major force at her hometown club of Wolverhampton Wanderers, where she worked in the PR department from 1990 and served on the board between 1997 and 2003, before being appointed vice-president.

Ben Heyhoe Flint, Rachael's son, spoke on behalf of her family. "We're deeply saddened by the passing of Mum, and yet we're filled with immense pride as we now look back on her achievements in government, cricket, football, charity and community on which she had such a profound influence.

"She tackled all of the above at full speed, showing us how grace, a cheeky sense of humour - and tenacity - can break glass ceilings. We hope that we all can continue the legacy that she leaves behind."

The MCC flag on the Clock Tower at Lord's has been lowered to half-mast as a mark of respect.