This summer, in the midst of The Ashes test series, as Pietersen hobbled back from injury, Bell ran up and down the pitch like a man possessed and Warner tried to keep out of trouble, another Ashes series began, this time with the women taking to the crease. Unlike the men’s format of 5 x 5 day tests, the women’s Ashes (or W’Ashes) took on a new format for 2013, using a point system to score out 1 test match, 3 ODIs and 3 T20s. On paper the outcome looked weighted in Australia’s favour with the ICC World Cup already in the trophy cabinet this year, won at the same tournament that England limped home from without getting out of the group stages. However Charlotte Edwards and the women had other plans for their home soil tournament, eventually reclaiming the Ashes after a storming 12-4 win over the Ozzies.
I can’t even begin to pretend I know how to write about cricket. I don’t know the team well enough, I don’t know the game well enough, however this year at least I knew of it at all. The W’Ashes has been going on as an official ‘Ashes’ tournament since 1998 and yet it wasn’t until I trawled the ECB website a few months ago that I realised such a competition existed for the women. I know I don’t speak for everyman, but that’s 15 years and 8 home and away series that the general public probably didn’t even realise happened. If you want to see the disparity between the men and the women’s game then I think this may be one of the best examples.
Which brings us to this year. Yes they won the trophy, however the W’Ashes media coverage is possibly the success story of the tournament. On the opening morning of the first test Channel 4 News gave a guide to the W’Ashes, with player interviews, pre tournament round up and even a little bit of analysis, all subsequently backed up by sports reports, press articles and BBC live blogs. Even Test Match Special upgraded the games from 5 Live Extra to 5 Live, admittedly only when the men’s game was rained off, won already or had finished all together, but its all progress. To top it off even Sky-boys-club-Sport invested in the women’s game, choosing to feature it in their Sunday newspaper advert. For them to feature women’s cricket in the opening few weeks of ALL THE FOOTBALL 2013-2014 pretty much puts this little achievement in perspective. Of course coverage accelerated as England took control of the series, but the fact that it had a starting point to accelerate from shows the level of effort the ECB press team must have put in. Once viewers saw the level of play in the women’s game and the fact that it could be another England victory, they were bound to be hooked, however they needed to be sign posted there first.
Image from http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cricket (thanks)