Women’s cricket has a long way to go before becoming mainstream

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    Having sat and blogged through two days of the ongoing Women’s Ashes Test between Australia and England, it’s not hard to see why women’s cricket still has its knockers.

    Let me preface this by saying it’s come along way – 3,000 people rocked up to North Sydney Oval yesterday, as they did on Thursday, and that’s a lot more than maybe was expected.

    The Cricket Australia live stream has been superb, as was the TV coverage on Nine of the first three one day international matches.

    However, there’s an element of me that’s glad I have other commitments on Saturday and Sunday that will prevent me from watching the entire final two days of the match.

    Let’s be honest, the quality of cricket has been well below what we may be used to. Heck, it’s below the standards many were expected after the one-day matches, which I was pleasantly surprised by.

    The pitch at North Sydney Oval has had no gremlins in it apart from the odd ball keeping low. With the exception of some tail-end wickets at the end of England’s innings and Katherine Brunt’s brilliant bowling to get rid of Rachael Haynes last night, the batters have got themselves out with a selection of poor shots and getting bogged down.

    There’s no way around it: 201 overs of cricket across 12 hours for a return of 15 wickets for just 457 runs is boring.

    It’s dull, boring, lifeless cricket. I’d be saying the same if it were the men.

    That’s only just two and a half runs per over, and it only got that high because of some big overs from Ellyse Perry and Rachael Haynes before the second new ball was taken by England at the end of Day 2.

    It’s a different story if the bowers were jumping out of their skin and the pitch was a minefield. The simple fact of the matter is that it’s not. The ball is not doing a lot, the pitch is not providing extravagant bounce.

    Conditions couldn’t be much easier for batting, yet the runs are few and far between.

    The commentators have done a good job trying to bring some life to the action, but even they were a bit turned away by it all at the end of the second day’s play. I mean, there are only so many ways to describe a ‘forward defensive push to cover’ or ‘a shot worked off the pads to midwicket.’

    Now, some of the blame has to go on the bowling team – and in this case, both teams – as well. Right from the first ball of the Test, ring fields have been set with the primary aim seemingly to prevent runs being scored rather than taking runs.

    It’s made life hard for batters to take singles and keep the scoring rates ticking over, but it’s also meant edges are going through the slips and the like.

    Given all the talk of aggressive intent before the Test match from both teams, it’s been sorely lacking across the first two days, both with the ball and the bat.

    It has to be acknowledged that the players don’t get to play many Tests. In fact, the last was two years ago in the last Women’s Ashes series, so there is an excuse for captains Rachael Haynes and Heather Knight to be caught up in setting defensive fields.

    They are used to trying to save runs.

    There’s also an excuse batters can use for not scoring runs. They are suddenly in white clothes against a – well, pink – ball and have four days to play with instead of 20 or 50 overs. It’s new for them and so most have got bogged down.

    Ashleigh Gardner Australia women's cricket tall

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    But there needs to be a better intent from the sides. Maybe you could say the skills aren’t there to score runs, but that would be a lie because we have seen it in the one-day matches.

    When you have Lauren Winfield scoring four off 56 balls, Alex Blackwell making six off 35 and Beth Mooney 27 off 102 after being ten off 70, you have to wonder what the plans are.

    There is no intent to score runs, no intent to keep the matches moving.

    While crowds have been good at North Sydney Oval, they are going to fall away from future Women’s Tests both in the Ashes and not if the standard of play doesn’t improve. This is a momentous occasion, so of course people are going to rock up and watch.

    But what about two steps into the future when the occasion isn’t so huge. What then?

    People go to see a high-quality cricket match. Not to see 450 runs in two days of play when you full well know the players can do better.

    No-one is asking them to score at David Warner rates, but when there are periods of the game with runs coming along in dribs and drabs – like when Australia scored just six off 12 overs during the middle of the second session yesterday – you have to ask why you’re watching.

    It’s boring, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t find cricket boring in the slightest.

    Playing more Tests might be the answer for the women’s side, but until they do and learn how to score runs and make the game have a little bit of intensity behind it, it’s always going to live in the shadow of their male counterparts.

    It’s not now or never, but the women’s revolution in sports is here. It’s time for cricket to pick up its act or be left in the dust.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,100 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.