ICC Women's World Twenty20 June 11, 2009

England's women out-do the men again

Alice Dean at Taunton

South Africa and West Indies opened the much-anticipated World Twenty20 in Taunton on Thursday, an unprecedented opportunity for the women's game. The real interest may have been in the second game, with home team and favourites England facing India but the first match proved a fitting opener, going down to the last three balls.

Shane Warne may have retired from international cricket but he has been reincarnated - almost - in the form of 16-year-old South African, Dane van Niekerk who made her Twenty20 debut in that match. Fellow blonde van Niekerk, who you have guessed is a legspinner, showed how she has copied Warne's action right down to the deliberate walk into bowl and putting the hands together right just before the delivery. The famous suncream is absent, however.

The tournament is well staged. Huge banners everywhere proclaim "Taunton" - alongside the heavy signage for ICC sponsors - leaving you in no doubt where you are, nor that the organising bodies have done a good job in making everything look professional.

Everything, that is, apart from the sightscreen areas, shrouded in black materials. For all that Taunton is coming into the modern era - the new-rise apartment block opposite the pavilion stands in shining testimony - the sight of two or three men scrambling to remove the sheets every other over, for the sponsors' boards to be seen, is nothing other than endearing and a hint at an older charm.

A crowd of 1750 witnessed the first match, which swelled considerably for England's victory. One school party had driven up from Cornwall, while there were also members of the navy who lent hearty cheering voices to proceedings. Rarely can England women have played in front of such an atmospheric crowd, who even cheered them wildly throughout their warm-ups and their cool down.

If this game looked like something of a mismatch then Sri Lanka and Pakistan can only tremble at the thought of what may happen to them in the other Group B matches. India should ease through to the semi-finals but all eyes will be on the favourites England.