To get into the County Ground at Derby, you have to go around the Pentagon. It's a roundabout with an impressive name. On the Pentagon is a giant pair of stumps to tell you how close you are to the ground. But there is also a smaller sign on the roundabout, one that one says: "Derby's done it".
The "it" is to be the co-host of the Women's World Cup, and to get the opening game. Derby doesn't get a lot of world events followed by millions of people, so this means something for them. The staff and organisers looked nervous as the day started. The opening ceremony was underwhelming, featuring kids holding bits of coloured material that didn't really represent the nations they were supposed to (Pakistan was teal, West Indies pink and New Zealand blue). And then the singing of the song was meant to be met with the flags being carried out on the ground, but instead, it was met by one man running manically across the outfield trying to get the attention of the flag holders.
And if the game meant a lot to Derby and the organisers, think about what it meant to the women playing in it. This is the only tournament that they get on their own. The World T20 is tacked on to the men's tournament. Women almost never play Test matches, and while their T20 leagues are growing, none of them has yet caught fire. The Women's World Cup isn't just the peak of women's cricket; it's the peak, the slope, and the entire mountain of the sport.
Not to mention that, as the women's game becomes professional, the pressure to perform and justify your contract also comes into play. They are no longer earnest amateurs and they are no longer playing for family and friends. The stage is bigger; so is the potential for failure.
That extra pressure seemed to play on England and Punam Raut in particular, both of whom started tentatively. Raut amassed dot balls while being dropped early twice; England bowled either too short, or too wide, or both. If Smriti Mandhana was nervous, it was hard to see through the barrage of effortless back-foot square drives and brutal pull shots. If the World Cup wanted an opening ceremony, forget a few unorganised kids holding things, the 20-year-old Mandhana brought her own fireworks.
The crowd was loving it. But then, the crowd seemed to love all of it. They lined up for autographs before the game and screamed for the first ball. Fathers explained the scoreboard and fielding ring to their daughters, boys and girls played throwing games out at the racecourse end, middle-aged women were signed up for cricket clinics by volunteers. A husband and wife (he suppported India, she supported England) argued over which team had the upper hand, and a teenage girl walked around the ground holding a 1990s vintage Hawk cricket bat. There was even a technical recreation of Jenny Gunn's action with a father and son. Not to mention the normal cricket crowd of odd people scoring the match and one guy watching the action in between reading The Turncoat by Alan Murray.
Alan Murray must be some writer to stop you from watching Mandhana slapping 90 from 72 balls. And if Mandhana brought a sledgehammer, Mithali Raj brought in a paintbrush. Wearing her floppy hat, she was stroking the ball like she was painting the scenery and not scoring a run a ball half-century. It was stunning, and not remotely as brutal as the manner in which she had smacked down the journalist who asked who her favourite male cricketer was before the tournament began.
The press still hasn't quite embraced the Women's World Cup. No full-time cricket writer from an English newspaper turned up at Derby, despite the fact that the England's men's team isn't playing today, let alone the fact that they are in the midst of a T20 series that couldn't matter less if it were being played by sock puppets.
It was only six years ago that John Etheridge, The Sun's cricket writer, tweeted "Women's cricket - what is worse? Those who criticise it or those who patronise it?" and followed up with "I'm sorry, but women's cricket is a joke. The standard is truly appalling". He went on to add: "I'm afraid that fewer than 10 per cent of cricket pundits (esp TV commentators) think it is any other than rubbish," and "All the TV comms privately say it is appalling but, of course, they can't say that on air".
In the last few years, attitudes towards women's cricket have changed, especially among the press. But there is still a feeling that women's cricket is such a rare event that it isn't covered like a proper sport. It was Ellyse Perry, speaking to the BBC, who called for more critical analysis of the women's game. Had more of the cricket press turned up today, they would have seen how much the women's game has changed. Harmanpreet Kaur clipping sixes and muscling straight boundaries was a heavy-handed indication of that.
England very much pioneered the professionalism in women's cricket that Kaur's shots represent. But, as the entire game's standard and athleticism has risen, England are no longer the powerhouse they once were. This is a good sign for the world game, but England looked like also-rans in the last WT20, and even after dumping the great Charlotte Edwards in a bid to revitalise their cricket, today they didn't look much better. Their new-look full-time and well-trained outfit managed two wickets in the first 49.5 overs of their bowling, which was a combined effort between bowlers and fielders. And then they batted. They lost early and frequent wickets, slowed down their tempo, rebuilt and came back, only to lose wickets again.
They did make history, when Nat Sciver was given not out, and then out, making her the first-ever victim of DRS in women's cricket history. But mostly they weren't very memorable.
When Heather Knight ran herself out by hitting the ball back to the bowler and taking off, England were pretty much out of the game due to being consistently poor in four parts of the match. But when Katherine Brunt came in to bat with Fran Wilson, they put together the kind of partnership that makes poor days end in wins. They took risks with their shots, and also started pushing their running to dangerous tip-and-run territory, but India couldn't capitalise. In the final over of the Powerplay they took 17 runs, four of them boundaries, from Shikha Pandey. And suddenly England needed 76 off the final ten to win, just two more than India had scored in their final ten.
Then something amazing happened.
Katherine Brunt gave herself room to cut from a full length to point, and took off. The ball travelled towards Deepti Sharma - and at this point, it is important to note that the Indian women's cricket team received its first-ever fielding coach two weeks ago. It's important to note it because Sharma ran in, picked up, turned and threw down the non-striker's stumps like it ain't no thing. The umpire didn't even bother going upstairs; Brunt was lying on her back, covered in dirt.
England never left the dirt.
Ekta Bisht added another run-out, a clever one in her followthrough, that will guarantee that Biju George remains the Indian women's fielding coach for some time. It wasn't just any old player, it was Fran Wilson, England's last hope. Wilson scored her 81 runs at better than a run a ball, and if anyone could have got the tail home, it was her. Instead she became England's third and second-last run-out of the day. England's loss was a true team effort.
India were magnificent. They dropped some catches, and they got very nervous before Brunt was run out, but their bowlers and batsmen were in charge of match from start to finish.
India were embarrassed in the last World Cup; they finished fourth in a four-team group in a World Cup that they hosted. This was a big event for them. They are now professionals; Raj's comments got them more exposure, and they were opening the tournament against one of women's cricket's great sides. India's women team needs one big moment; they lost embarrassingly to Pakistan women in the WT20 last year, a defeat that contributed to their failure to make the semi-finals of another tournament that they had hosted. They needed something big.
The Indian team has not had a lot of big World Cup wins, so beating England in the first game certainly was Something Big. When Veda Krishnamurthy launched herself to complete the catch of Anya Shrubsole, they'd won, they'd done something big. India's done it.