A History of Women`s Cricket

Women's cricket has a rich and varied history which stretches back at least 250 years and probably considerably longer. Because it has evolved over that period of time separately from the men's game so it has developed its own characteristics. Unfortunately there are only a couple of books which record this history, strange when you think how comprehensive the literature of the men`s game is.

First Matches
The first recorded Women`s Cricket Match held in England took place in 1745 between Bramley and Hambleton at Godsden Common, near Guildford, Surrey.

"The greatest cricket match that was played in this part of England was on Friday, the 26th of last month,on Gosden Common, near Guildford, between eleven maids of Bramley and eleven maids of Hambledon, all dressed in white.The Bramley maids had blue ribbons and the Hambledon maids red ribbons on their heads. The Bramley girls got 119 notches and the Hambledon girls 127. There was of bothe sexes the greatest number that ever was seen on such an occasion. The girls bowled, batted, ran and catches as well as most men could do in that game."
The Reading Mercury 26 July 1745

The next game of which records exist took place on 13 July 1747 at the renowned Artillery Ground between the women of Charlton and those of Westdean and Chilgrove Sussex. It was apparently a pretty rowdy affair which had to be finished on the following day because of crowd trouble!

From the middle 18th century there are constant press references to women's matches, most of them played, like their male equivalents, in Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey villages. Records also exist for several matches held in Sussex around this time. These were often between rival villages, or teams of married and single women. The winner's prize for such a match might be a barrel of ale or eleven pairs of lace gloves. Such games could lure crowds of 2,000 plus and betting on the result was rife.

The first county match - between Surrey and Hampshire - was held at Ball's Pond, Middlesex in 1811. It was sponsored by two noblemen to the tune of 1,000 guineas and the age of players ranged from 14 to 60.

The White Heather Club

The first club for women, the White Heather Club at Nun Appleton, Yorkshire, was formed in 1887 by eight noblewomen. Its scorebook survives and can be seen at the MCC library at Lord's. The copper plate inscription inside the front cover explains the decision to start the club owing to the '
large amount of cricket being played at Normanhurst and Eridge', the country seats of the Brassey and Neville families. Interestingly within four years the club`s membership had risen from 8 to 50. However this genteel Country House cricket had a professional rival.

The Original English Lady Cricketers

In 1890 two teams called 'The Original English Lady Cricketers', toured the country playing exhibition matches, and effectively put women's cricket on the national map. The teams were raised by a Mr. Matthews who put an advertisement in the press and are the only recorded professional women players to date. The teams were accompanied by a chaperone, and a manager. The players were not permitted to play under their real names; each was given sixpence a day expense money and provided with uniforms, red for one team, blue for the other. Their first game, held in Liverpool, drew 15,000 spectators. While they lasted, they were successful but the teams folded after two years when their manager absconded with the profits.

The Women's Cricket Association (WCA)

In the decades following the 1st World War women became increasingly emancipated and many girl's public schools started playing cricket. The Women's Cricket Association (WCA) was established in 1926 by a group of enthusiasts after a cricket holiday in Malvern. The WCA adopted MCC laws and ran matches throughout the country. In their first season the WCA staged 49 games and established the popular cricket festival which still runs today at Colwall Cricket Club.

By 1927 the WCA had 10 affiliated clubs. Within seven years this had risen to 80 and by 1938, 123 clubs had been formed. By I931 the first county associations had emerged and a match was played between Durham and a combined Cheshire and Lancashire XI. In 1935 he country was divided into five territorial associations: East, Midlands, North, South and West, each with its own administration. At its peak, the WCA had 208 affiliated clubs and 94 school and junior teams.

International Cricket

Women's cricket had been played since the turn of the 20th century in Australia. The Victoria Women's Cricket Association was founded in 1905 and the Australian Women's Cricket Association was founded in 1931.

England played their first game against The Rest at Leicester in 1933. The first international tour, to Australia, took place a year later when England won two tests and drew one. The England team went on to New Zealand where Betty Snowball scored 189 for England in the first ever Test between the two countries held in Christchurch in 1935, England won the match. Australia visited the UK in 1937 playing three tests the honours were shared with one win each and a draw at the Oval.

In 1958 the International Women's Cricket Council (IWCC) was founded to organise the increasing amount of cricket, especially in Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa, the West Indies, Denmark, and Holland.

In England during the 1960s the structure of the WCA was altered, the 5 original territorial administrations being replaced by 13 Playing Areas. In order to qualify for development grants a Five-Year Plan was designed. The first two women to be awarded the MCC Advanced Coaching Certificate were Mary Duggan, England Captain 1967 - 1973, and Ruth Westbrook

In 1960 South Africa played England at home in a test series for the first time, England winning the only match not to be a draw. The 1970's saw both the West Indies and India playing their first international matches.

Cricket World Cup
1973 also saw the first ever Cricket World Cup which was sponsored by Sir Jack Hayward, at the prompting of the England captain Rachael Heyhoe-Flint. England beat Australia in the final by 92 runs and Heyhoe-Flint went on to become a household name. In 1976 history was made when the first-ever women's Test was held at Lord's Cricket ground - fittingly between England and Australia.

New Zealand hosted the third Women's Cricket World Cup in January and February 1982. Australia won, beating England by 3 wickets. This followed six weeks of round robin competition between five teams (England, Australia, New Zealand, India and an International XI) playing each other 3 times. Each of the 14 English players plus their manager, assistant manager and physiotherapist had to contribute £250 towards their own traveling costs. Dickie Bird umpired the Women's World Cup and was 'most impressed by the overall standard'.

In 1993 the World Cup was contested by England, Australia, New Zealand, India, the West Indies, Ireland, Holland, and Denmark. England won their second world title, when they beat New Zealand at Lord's with Jan Brittin taking the winning catch off Suzie Kitson's bowling.

The third Test between England and New Zealand held at Guildford in 1996, was the 100th women's Test match worldwide.

Today international cricket is played by eleven countries, with seven playing 'Test' matches of more than one day. Originally these were three day matches, but since 1985 most of these 'test' matches have been played over four days.

Developments in England

On the domestic front, 1988 saw the creation of a new National League for English clubs, the first official County Championships, the introduction of a territorial championship and the appointment of a new England captain.

In 1988 Jane Powell became only the ninth captain of England in 54 years of women's test cricket. Jane Powell, held the post from 1988-1991. She was appointed the England Cricket Development of Excellence Head Coach in 1999.

In 1988 the County Championships were played for the first time over five days on various university grounds at Cambridge. Ten Counties took part, Yorkshire won Pool A, Surrey won Pool B with Yorkshire winning a close final between the two by just 2 runs.

Twenty four teams contested the first ever National League title zoned into four regions. Wolverhampton won the National Clubs Knock-Out for the first time in the 15 years of the competition.

In 1989 England joined Holland, Ireland and Denmark - who had been contesting a triangular tournament since 1983 - in competing for the first official European Women's Championships held at Nykobing Mors in North Jutland. The fifth European Women's Championship took place during July 1999. England maintaining the proud record of never having lost a European Cup match. They finally lost this record in 2001 when they were beaten by Ireland.

On March the 29th, 1998 the Women's Cricket Association voted at an Extraordinary General Meeting to merge with the ECB, thus becoming part of a single governing body which controls Cricket in the UK. The agreement itself was signed at a meeting of the WCA Executive Committee on June the 25th 1998.

Women's Cricket in the UK is now administered within the structures of the ECB. The ECB National Manager of Women's Cricket is Gill McConway and the two main committees which drive the issues that affect women's cricket are:

The 'Women's Cricket Advisory Group' (WCAG) which directs Women's domestic cricket and The 'Women's Cricket International Group' (WCIG) which controls the England National and Developmental sides.

Beyond the ECB the 'International Women's Cricket Council' (IWCC) coordinates Women's International Cricket worldwide