Lottie; a cricket pioneer

I was apparently at Lottie’s debut test on 12th July 1996 – I’m afraid to say I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I was working in Guildford and saw the notice of the fixture on the board outside the ground – Friday to Monday.  I had the following week off, so worked the Saturday, but went down for a pleasant Sunday afternoon with a couple of hundred other spectators, plus a fundraising stall where I purchased a mug commemorating the tour – I still have it. As I recall it, England needed to bat out for a draw and so I went back on Monday to support them, as many of the other spectators would have been working – little did any of us know the career that was just starting.

05 0908 holly on debut
05 Holly Colvin on debut, beating Lotties record for youngest England player

Next I saw Charlotte Edwards was in 2005 – the convenient ball-by-ball coverage beamed to my sofa was about leave terrestrial tv, and given it was ‘that’ summer – when the men’s ashes were regained – in one of my views of the BBC cricket website I noticed that there was also a women’s test and the first test was the week I was off!  I took some reading material and some sunscreen and trundled down to Brighton & Hove. I found a bench on the high side of the ground close to the sightscreen and watched 114 overs – yes, you did read that right (and yes, I did look it up). It caused a bunch of cronies on the bench to my right to reach for their binoculars when at tea they had seen more overs than they normally experienced in one day, all whilst they complained about someone martin-jenkins.  I was somewhat confused by the shouts from the boundary to my left of ‘CHEEEEEESE’ every so often, but was also impressed at a rather young-looking spin bowler, who took a couple of wickets from my end – it turned out she was on her England debut (she has since retired) and she took Charlotte Edwards’ record for the youngest test player for England, by 128 days. I also admired and was rather frustrated by the obdurate batting of the Australian last pair who kept England out to the end of the days play – Nitschke was on also her test debut, batting at number 10, she ended her career opening for the aussies in one day games.

05 2809 done it

05 Ashes won!

I saw the end of the second and last test at Worcester later in the month – I was worried it would all be over on the Friday evening when watching the score on the ECB website and rushed straight up from work to find a deserted ground and runs still to be chased. I was back the following morning to see the win, hear the rather bad dressing room singing (to the tune of Amarillo – show me the way to win the ashes!) and see Katherine Brunt having the enviable task of juggling champagne bottles for man of match and series.

I was also there for the first ODI win on English soil in many years at Stratford and the final game of the tour at Taunton, when the ODI series was tied at 2-2 and the injury of the then skipper, Clare Connor, which would lead to her retirement, left her batting at number 11. The fall of her wicket, in that unusual position, batting with Isa Guha, had many spectators looking to the pavilion for the next batsman when she holed out to mid off, but that was it – the series was lost.  Connie was distraught, but had got her ashes, the first in 40 odd years, and the bus tour and celebrations that came when the men managed the same feat – I have it all still on VHS.

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Having re-discovered the women’s game, I sought out other games the following summer, including a sort of selection tournament called Super 4’s (now defunct, but was the only domestic opportunity to play white ball cricket) which had games at Reading and Aldershot. There was another two test series against India that summer with the last test at Taunton, where a couple of Reading players in the crowd suggested I come back to see Reading in the national club final – they won and I was involved at Reading until recently.

I can’t help but wonder just how many of those playing cricket this weekend, would have considered joining or staying in the game without her involvement

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In between then and now, England – lead by Charlotte Edwards;

  • beat India at home in ODIs but lost the test series in 2006,
  • retained the ashes they had won at Worcester in 2005 by beating the aussies in a one-off test at Bowral (NSW) in 2008, when she top scored with 94,
  • beat NZ at home 3-1 in 2008
  • won the ODI World Cup in Sydney in 2009,
  • whitewashed the aussies that summer in the ODIs 4-0 (one game hailed off!) and retained the Ashes in a single tied test at Worcester,
  • won the T20 World Cup at Lords in 2009 after a fantastic semi at the Oval, where England women chased 5 runs more than the Sri Lanka men scored in the game that followed
  • won a quadrangular ODI series at home in 2011 (I missed the final in hospital)
  • England won the Ashes again in Australia in 2014 winning the one-off test at Perth and then gaining enough points from the remainder of the series to ‘win’, but unfortunately relinquished them last summer at Canterbury.

I was there for all of these, plus many other wins and a few losses in between.

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These included some great innings by Lottie; her first test ton against Australia in 2011, although in a losing cause when Farrell took a hat-trick in the second innings starting with the wicket of Edwards, my favourite is her ODI ton at Christchurch in 2012 – batting first in rain reduced game, she made 137* from 88 balls with 20 boundaries, in 26 overs, the closest to a T20 ton and totally dominating (the next best score that day was 69), although many quote the T20 innings at Hobart in 2013 of 92*to finally win the last two points to win and retain the ashes, as her best. She is also the ONLY player to get 5000 runs and take more than 50 catches in ODIs (5992 & 52).

you maybe surprised to find that she’s not my favourite player of the last 10 years

She took over as skipper in 2006, and since then has captained 10 Tests, 117 ODIs (including 57* in a row, one short of the record) and 93 T20s. with her 200th game in charge coming last February in Lincoln, NZ.  We are not aware of anyone captaining an England team for anything like this number of games, in any sport.  Only 6 female players have captained more tests, and she is significantly in the lead in other formats of the women’s game.  She’s been pretty successful too; in Tests she has the highest win rate at 40% (above 10 games), in ODIs 65.45% (only bettered by Clark, Drumm, Larsen with 40 games or more), T20’s 74.45% (10 or more games) as recorded by CricInfo. Her longevity as captain also puts her on a par with some of the recent greats in the men’s game; Graeme Smith (11 years, 286 games), Ricky Ponting (10 years, 324 games), Stephen Fleming (10 years, 303 games).

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Of her team mates in her debut test, Jane Smit (Cassar) was the most recent to retire, she made it to 2008.  Overseas, Haidee Tiffen, of NZ (also born 1979) made her debut in 1999, three years after Lottie and retired 7 years ago in 2009. Shelley Nitschke, Australia, who made her test debut in 2005, retired in 2011 and Lisa Sthalekar debuted in 2001 and retired in 2013.

Fortunately, we don’t have to contemplate a past without Lottie in the women’s game – just a future…

In the 10 years I’ve been watching, a number of other England players and team-mates have been and gone from international cricket; Holly Colvin – that young bowler at Brighton in 2005, Claire Taylor – the hero of the world cup semi at the Oval in 2010 with Beth Morgan, Arran Brindle – holder of the world record test partnership, Ebony Rainford-Brent & Isa Guha, now occasionally on BBC TMS and other media,  Rosalie Birch (the player that supporters were shouting Cheese at in 2005), Caroline Atkins, Jo Watts, Lynsey Askew, Charlie Russell, Lauren Griffiths, Laura Harper, Kate Oakenfold, Lucy Pearson, Susie Rowe, Steph Davies, Nicky Shaw, Laura Newton and currently Sarah Taylor…. the list goes on. They have left the game for a myriad of reasons – some focusing on family and bringing a number developing future cricket stars into the world, burgeoning careers in cricket commentary home and away, moving into cricket management and training, or plain worn out and injury issues forcing them back to ‘normal’ careers.

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The toll of international cricket – fitness testing, media commitments, dietary restrictions, living out of a suitcase, jet-lag, ice-baths, being away from family, net sessions, press conferences, let alone actually playing cricket matches – all of these are drains on the many England cricketers… But somehow Charlotte Marie Edwards alone has continued and in fact, actively sought, to continue to suffer, endure and ‘enjoy’ these hardships ….. for almost 20 years!

Her attendance at numerous school assemblies, signing thousands of autographs at international matches, having thousands of old-fashioned pictures and selfies taken, giving kids – whether interested in cricket or sport or not – a day out they will remember, talk about, write about, will perhaps inspire them on to activity, sport or achievement. This hopefully will be part of her legacy, the legacy of a ‘pioneer’ in the modern game, and although I have read and heard criticism of her as a player, a captain and a leader I can’t help but wonder just how many of those playing cricket (or women’s cricket for the pedantic) this weekend would have considered joining or staying in the game without her involvement in the last 10+ years…? Fortunately, we don’t have to contemplate a past without Lottie in the women’s game – just a future without her playing for England.

It seems part of her immediate future is booked, she’s still playing county cricket, and announced earlier this week her involvement in commentary with Sky, so many of us can expect to see her around the International game in the immediate future.

Some of you who have read this far maybe surprised to find that she’s not my favourite player of the last 10 years, when the team has known a fair bit of success.  However, she is pretty much the only ‘chief’ that I’ve known, and the grace, composure and sheer ‘bottle’ she has shown in continuing to show up to commitments in schools and clubs in the last month since her retirement announcement, to me shows her class and ‘professionalism’ in the other definition of the word, and means she continues to have my respect and thanks.

CM Edwards (England Career 1996-2016)

Played; 23 tests, 191 ODIs, 96 T20s

Captained; 10 tests, 117 ODIs, 93 T20s

Batting; 10,273 international runs, inc. 13 tons and 67 50’s

Bowling; 508 overs – 64 maidens – 2081 runs – 75 wickets, plus 78 catches

P.S. All pictures mine, some details from my memory – all errors, my own!

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