Richard Clark Reports
It may have escaped your attention amidst “Ashes Fever”, but history was made at a slightly moist New Road, Worcester, on Sunday 30th August, as Worcestershire Ladies took to the hallowed turf for the first time ever against Devon.
Ostensibly staged as part of the County’s 150th Anniversary Celebrations, the occasion was enough of a success, not least due to the quality of the match provided by the two teams, to hope that it will be repeated more often in the future.
A little context here – my daughter plays for Worcestershire under 13s, but this was my first experience of watching any Women’s County Cricket. As such, I was a little unsure what to expect in terms of standards from a Second Division clash. I need not have worried.
Batting first, Worcs got off to a steady start, with openers Naomi Heywood and Jo Cull putting on 127 together before both departed almost immediately after passing 50. A spot of “ticking over” followed, but a steady 37 not out from Claire Boycott (no relation, and sans either pinny or stick of rhubarb!), and a bludgeoned 29 off 16 balls from Rachel Baldwin meant that Devon were set 237 to win, a target that was probably about 20 beyond par.
From 40-2, and with star name Jodie Dibble (5) back in the hutch, Worcs were in the driving seat, but opener Amara Carr (68) and Cait O’Keefe (42) calmly put on 94, and then Sophie Mackenzie added a purposeful 28 off 26, including the only six of the afternoon, to leave the game evenly poised as Devon wanted 67 off 10 overs with seven wickets in hand.
However, both O’Keefe and Mackenzie fell in short order and the Devonian tail could not emulate Baldwin’s earlier fireworks, leaving them adrift on 201-8 as Worcs won by 35 runs. The added pressure of those extra 20 runs…
For the home side, fittingly on the day, it was a real team effort. Not one player shone higher than any other, although Thea Brookes quietly played a key role in the field with 10 overs for 34 to keep control whilst Devon were in the ascendency, including the key wicket of the well-set Carr, and then a fine steepling catch to dismiss Mackenzie as she looked to cut loose.
As for Devon, perhaps it was telling that three of their players played in un-numbered, un-named shirts, maybe pointing to difficulties raising a full team for the game? Certainly, once the top five had been dismissed there suddenly appeared an imbalance between the teams in those last 10 overs that had not been evident at any stage up to then, and was a pity after the first 90 had been so closely fought.
Off the field, a healthy crowd of around 200 watched on. Admission and parking was free, which should not necessarily be taken for granted at a County ground, so perhaps it was disappointing that more did not venture along.
If I wanted to be critical, more could have been done in terms of marketing the game – Worcestershire CCC’s own website, for instance, carried no mention of the match other than one news piece a mere 24 hours ahead of the game, and my father who is a long-standing County member, was not aware of it until I told him a few days beforehand. Given that they were paying staff to man the bar/catering and to steward the match, one would have thought it would be in their best interests to attract as many people as possible.
All that being said, this was a dipping of a toe in the water, and in that context the day has to be seen as a resounding success. If there is a next time, which there bloomin’ well should be, then the groundwork will have been done and the glitches can be ironed out.