During and subsequent to the recent Women’s Ashes Test at Canterbury several people, including the respected BBC commentator Lizzy Ammon, suggested that perhaps women’s cricket should be played on shorter pitches:
Sky Sports News then followed this up with a (ahem…) scientific poll, which suggested quite a lot of people (44%) thought this was a good idea:
It should be noted that the key effect of such a change would be to make the bowling appear faster.
A ball from Katherine Brunt would reach the batsman in [back-of-an-envelope calculations] 0.7 seconds rather than the 0.8 seconds it currently does. And given that it takes the human eye 0.2 seconds to see the ball, that’s actually in reality an almost 20% increase in apparent speed.
A spinner’s ball would obviously be less effected in apparent pace, but the shorter pitch would nevertheless allow them to bowl a more accurate delivery more often.
TLDR: It massively rebalances the game in favour of the bowlers, particularly the quicker ones.
So the key question you have to ask is: Were those who voted to shorten the pitch actually watching the same match as us at Canterbury? Because the game we saw didn’t appear to need rebalancing in favour of the bowlers – if anything it was the other way around! Just one batsman posted a score of more than fifty in the match, and the average run-rates for both teams hovered around 2 for much of the 4 days.
On a more practical level, the idea is a non-starter anyway.
Firstly, it would wreck the game for the current generation of elite batsmen and bowlers, who would never truly adjust after years of playing on the longer pitch.
Secondly, it would destroy the art of swing bowling – a key weapon in the armoury of the women’s game – because those two yards are the critical ones where swing really comes into play.
Lastly, it would require the game to change at all levels of the pyramid – you can’t have girls playing for years on a 22 yard pitch, and then suddenly having to adjust to 20 yards at the elite level. And this is a non-starter – clubs won’t (and to be fair, probably can’t) maintain dedicated women’s pitches, remembering that the pitches couldn’t be shared because the women’s foot and crease marks would be located at a point in the men’s pitch that would be downright dangerous.
So, no – there are a lot of things that you might consider changing about the women’s game… but the size of the pitch ain’t one of them!