Ireland’s Paul Stirling and captain Andy Balbirnie struck superb centuries as the tourists chased down a daunting target of 329 to stun world champions England with a seven-wicket win in the third and final ODI at the Rose Bowl on Tuesday.
The past 12 months have seen exponential growth in women’s sport. From the AFLW and the World Cup-winning Jillaroos to the Aussie sevens’ Sydney masterclass and the Sam Kerr juggernaut, Australia’s best sportswomen have never been more visible.
Women’s cricket is arguably leading the charge, thanks to a successful home Ashes series and another exciting instalment of the WBBL.
According to recently-released CommBank research, nearly half (47 per cent) of Australians are more interested in women’s sports now than they were a year ago. Change worth celebrating, but there’s plenty more to do, according to star all-rounder Ellyse Perry.
“For this interest to keep growing, I think there needs to be a focus on inspiring young women to pursue sport outside of school,” Perry says.
The mantra behind the recent push in women’s sport is ‘you can’t be what you can’t see.’ Highlighting achievements and, crucially, televising them, is key to fostering the next generation of superstars. 65 per cent of Aussies say they choose their favourite athlete because they see them on TV often.
Perry lit up the Women’s Ashes series with her dynamic all-round performances, including a record-breaking 213 not out in the day-night Test at North Sydney Oval. Since then, she’s led the Sydney Sixers to the top of the WBBL ladder, setting up a semi-final clash with Adelaide Strikers on Thursday. Both tournaments have been subject to a mix of TV broadcasts and live streaming online.
“Through TV coverage and local grassroots programs, kids will be exposed to more female sporting role models,” Perry says.
“Seeing more women’s sport on TV is a huge deal for me and last year’s Women’s Ashes spurred huge interest in female cricket. I think the more opportunities kids have to be inspired by female athletes, the more likely they will be to pursue sport… and for me, to see young women follow their sporting passion makes it all worth it.”
Of the most watched or listened to women’s sports, cricket is currently on top, ahead of AFL, football and tennis. Meanwhile, 54 per cent of Australians are interested in watching women’s cricket.
“I know I’m biased but it really is a great sport,” says Perry.
“Anyone can get involved in cricket no matter their background or sporting skill. Whether you play or watch, it’s a sport embedded into our Aussie culture, from the Ashes tournaments to grassroots programs.”
For the Australian team, Perry says the next step is to get more Test cricket on the calendar.
“[It’s] absolutely crucial. As popularity increases, the demand for more Test and first-class cricket will increase. Sponsorship is another aspect that helps us grow, with CommBank investing $15 million over three years directly into cricket for women and other diversity initiatives.”
The WBBL semi-finals take place on Thursday and Friday, with the final taking place before the men’s final on Sunday 4 February. Check the Big Bash fixture guide for details.