West Indies knocking on the big league
For years, four giants have roamed the women's landscape; Australia, New Zealand, India and England have reigned unchallenged, sharing the spoils among them. On Wednesday, though, one of them was toppled at long, long last, when West Indies beat England - the double World Champions and Ashes holders - by 40 runs in the opening ODI in St Kitts.
West Indies, of course, are not new on the scene. Representatives of different islands were part of the first World Cup in 1973 and have been promising much ever since, but only now finally delivered. At the risk of premature exclamation, it does beg the question: has the women's game finally got another major player on the park? Are the Awesome Foursome now the Big Five?
Yes, it is only one victory and we must be mindful that South Africa were giant-killers on more than one occasion in the early 2000s. We must also note that England had lost only one of their previous 24 games and, once bitten, may return to maul their hosts in the subsequent matches. Or perhaps not - West Indies' victory was no fluke.
At the World Cup in March, a youthful and inexperienced side secured fifth place under the calm counsel of young Merissa Aguilleira. Such a world ranking retained some vestiges of superficiality, given the erstwhile dominance of the top four. West Indies' results were also celebrated as a triumph of hope over adversity. They had very nearly missed the tournament itself through board funding issues in the preceding years.
Now it seems that such circumstances may have camouflaged their prowess, even if at the time their fast bowling and hard hitting had certainly raised eyebrows - and then lifted them close to the hairline in the World Twenty20, when they nearly toppled Australia with some blazing cricket.
The young trio of Stafanie Taylor, Stacey-Ann King and Deandra Dottin had impressed in both tournaments and, with veteran Pamela Lavine, they made West Indies a team to watch.
Though they were simmering, nobody expected them to come to the boil so quickly. Twenty-seven-year-old Cordel Jack stole the show on Wednesday with 81, her first international half-century, while Chedean Nation proved another surprise package with her first three-wicket haul for her country. Lavine added three wickets and made 49.
England were supposed to be only keeping warm during their winter but in St Kitts they were scalded. They may have been without two of their major batters, in Claire and Sarah Taylor, but the line-up still managed 197, while their full-strength bowling attack was taken for 235. Debutante wicketkeeper Tamsin Beaumont must have had a shock entering a team not used to losing.
Charlotte Edwards was gracious as ever in rare defeat. "Congratulations should go to the West Indian team for playing well," she said. "They outplayed us and deserved to win, but we'll come back fighting."
Followers of the game had been hoping that England would not pull away even from their own pack of four, with their superior funding and flexible training and availability for international representation afforded by the contracts. (Though it would be churlish, not to mention foolish, to wish the deals away, given the huge strides they represent.)
West Indies' victory may not make a summer but it's hard not to get just a little bit excited. Wednesday's win may yet have portended the beginning of a sustained period of genuine competitiveness in Caribbean cricket. For the game's sake, we must hope so. Then it will be time to search for a Super Sixth, who may be found in the guise of South Africa, who recently enjoyed beating West Indies in a one-day series in the Caribbean. But that's a different story.
Jenny Roesler is a former assistant editor at Cricinfo