Supporter of women’s cricket Richard Clark explains why we need to move on from Double-Headers.
It’s amazing to think that it’s only six years since the first T20 “double header” took place in this country, during that summer’s World T20 Championships. The semi-finals and finals were all played in that format, of course, with England winning the tournament, beating New Zealand at Lords in the final.
But six years is a long time, and perhaps now is the right time for a re-think, and to consign the double-header to history.
There’s no “revisionism” in this. The double-header games were a fantastic innovation at the time. In fact I’d say they were essential for the women’s game. They brought the one thing that otherwise would not have happened, and which is crucial to any sport – live TV coverage. It’s a simple fact that neither Sky, nor any other TV company would have covered stand-alone women’s games at that time. Crowds in the grounds may have been sparse for those matches, but for the development of the women’s game, at that moment in time, TV was more important than bums on seats
Indeed, I would go as far as to say that England’s semi-final against Australia, in particular, was the most significant match in women’s cricket history. Claire Taylor and Beth Morgan’s pursuit of the Aussies’ daunting total remains, pound for pound the best one-day run-chase I’ve ever seen. Mike Selvey, for one, credits it as his moment of “conversion” to women’s cricket. Without TV coverage it would have had little or no impact.
Fast forward six years. This summer has seen Sky televise every day of the Women’s Ashes live. The crowds at Taunton, Bristol, Chelmsford and Hove (Worcester was nigh-on a sell-out too, until the weather had its say) have proved that there is now an audience for the game that perhaps wasn’t quite there even two years ago. Whether that can translate to other series is debatable at best, but Women’s Ashes cricket, at least, is now “marketable” in its own right. The TV excuse for needing double-headers is no longer there.
The only damp squib of the series was the final game in Cardiff. Yes, of course, that was partly down to Australia already having taken the spoils, but would it have been any different had that not been the case? After all, the series was only decided three days earlier. Had that game been played at, say, Headingley, and marketed as the potential Ashes decider and, dare I add, the only opportunity to watch England – including Yorkies’ Brunt, Hazell and Winfield – and Australia north of Worcester, who is to say what sort of ticket sales might have been achieved?
From a personal point of view, too, the cost of going to a double-header is prohibitive for my family of four, and I also don’t particularly want to subject my children to the “beer snake culture” as the day progresses. I actually want to watch (and be able to watch) good, and affordable, cricket. And I suspect I’m not alone. I suspect, in fact, that the Women’s Ashes is coming to represent that for an increasing number of cricket lovers.
It’s time to let it stand on its own two feet.