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1. England, 2. New Zealand, 3= Australia and India
Features : Records tumble in inaugural championship
Analysis : The first ladies
Analysis : Impressive England continue to widen the gap
Series/Tournaments: ICC Women's World Twenty20
Teams: Australia | England | India | New Zealand | Pakistan | South Africa | Sri Lanka | West Indies
Other links: Different Strokes: We are the champions
When Claire Taylor was revealed as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year in 2009, most cricket writers felt the award was a momentous personal achievement without wider signiﬁcance for the women's game. It would not, they agreed, alter perceptions or inspire schoolgirls to pick up a bat or ball. Taylor and the World Twenty20, though, was a pairing which changed all that - and a lot of correspondents' copy.
Mike Selvey of The Guardian, previously ambivalent towards women's cricket, gushed enlightenment after Taylor's perfectly paced run-chase with Beth Morgan as England beat Australia in the second semi-ﬁnal at The Oval. He urged his readers to go and watch future matches, judge the play on merit (meaning don't compare women against men any more than you would in tennis, golf or cycling) and be prepared for conversion. Similar endorsements came fromMike Atherton in The Times and Nick Hoult in the Daily Telegraph. Heady stuff!
Except that was only half the story. The initial moment of genius had come from the ICC, not simply for going ahead with the inaugural women's event, but for running it alongside the men's version, with the semis and ﬁnal played - and televised live - immediately before the men's equivalents.
With such varying standards in international women's cricket it was a risk, but not a shot in the dark; the best of the distaff side had successfully shared the men's stage at domestic and international level several times over the last few years. It was clever, too - and another reason for the initiative's success - to hold all the group matches in Taunton, where the less skilled sides were far away from the forensic attention devoted to the men's tournament.
Over six well-organised days, there was barely time to blink before the predictable elimination of West Indies, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, leaving the Big Four of women's cricket - New Zealand, India, Australia and England - to head off to the semi-ﬁnals in Nottingham and London. Those games produced the same ﬁnalists, New Zealand and England, as the World Cup in Sydney three months earlier, and ultimately the same champions, England.
The cheering in the ﬁrst week was more high-pitched than most cricket punters are used to, as the crowds were largely made up of enthusiastic schoolchildren. On the ﬁeld, thanks partly to the excellent batting tracks at Somerset's ground (and, perhaps, the ﬁelding-drill accident which gave England's spearhead bowler, Katherine Brunt, a black eye and forced her to miss the matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan), there were no outrageous embarrassments; Pakistan were dismissed by England for 60 in 16.5 overs, Sri Lanka made 69 against the same attack, but at least saw out their allotted overs.
While none of the minnows came close to causing an upset, there were unexpected ﬂashes of ﬂair; West Indies opener Deandra Dottin brieﬂy rattled Australia with a 22-ball ﬁfty, the fastest in women's Twenty20 internationals. The other unexpected high was the number of sixes: 22 in the 12 group games, ﬁve in the two semis, although there were none for the Lord's crowd to celebrate in the ﬁnal.
The ﬁrst semi-ﬁnal between New Zealand and India at Trent Bridge was too one-sided to deliver the oscillating tension that can make the shortest format of the game so compelling, but Aimee Watkins's unbeaten 89 from 58 balls was a silky masterclass showcasing some of the best of women's cricket. Likewise, the lopsided ﬁnal was counter-balanced by Brunt's match-winning brilliance - three for six off four overs - and, of course, a home win at HQ.
Truth is, all the necessary convincing and converting had been done at The Oval by Morgan and, most of all, by Taylor (unsurprisingly named the ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year in October). It not only showed the watching world why Wisden had picked her as one of its Five Cricketers of the Year, but made the Women's World Twenty20 an unqualiﬁed success, justifying the decision to run the tournaments in parallel again in the Caribbean inMay 2010. The players had been given a chance to prove their worth, and they grasped their chance with eager hands. And they even managed to romance a few gnarled old commentators along the way.
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