World Cup Preparations Begin With Win - Caroline Atkins

I can’t write a piece about women’s cricket without mentioning the World Cup. It’s what everyone’s talking about and so every game this series is a stepping stone of our preparation for the greatest event in women’s cricket. The World Cup will be held in Sydney, Australia during March 2009. Meanwhile, we have had two home series left to play this summer, firstly against South Africa and then against India.

Caroline Atkins

Caroline is all smiles wih her awards at Lord's
© Action Images / Paul Harding Livepic

The first of five ODI’s against South Africa was held at Canterbury. We won the toss and chose to bat. We had a solid start, but it was in the middle and later phases that we accelerated to post 255/5. I was guilty of a sluggish strike rate and despite a comfortable victory margin of 100 runs, it was a performance we all wanted to improve upon.

Next stop was Lord’s, the home of cricket. Lord’s is a special place for any cricket-lover and so to play there is amazing, and to play there for your country is absolutely awesome. We were keen to bat first so when South Africa chose to field, we got our wish. Squirt (Sarah Taylor) and I went in one and two and so the mission to improve from Canterbury began. I’ll have to summarise what happened next as it usually takes me eight hours of sleep for the most brilliant dream to unfold. We dropped and ran, we pierced the field and we continued to hit boundaries throughout. We scored a century each in a new world record of an opening partnership in English international cricket (267).

With five overs of Taylor and Taylor (Sarah and Claire) at the crease we eventually set South Africa a target of 303 to win. It was a great first half, a splendid lunch at Lord’s and then an unforgettable bowling and fielding display. Nunny (Katherine Brunt) attacked the stumps from the beginning and ended up with a superb five for 25 as we bowled South Africa out for 87.

Caroline Atkins in action
Caroline hits out during her century at Lord's
© Action Images / Paul Harding Livepic

We fielded like demons and just the whole day we played the type of cricket we are proud of. It was a treat for the crowd and a new performance benchmark for us.

The third and fourth matches were played at Shenley. Again, we batted first. I was in positive mood opening up with Ebz (Ebony Rainford-Brent) until a full toss got the better of me for three. Ebz hit 48 and Lydz (Lydia Greenway) a fine 62 not out which put us beyond the highest score South Africa had made all tour. We took to the field confident of defending 182 and when we had bowled them out for 108 we secured the series win.

We had a whitewash on our minds going into the fourth ODI. Anya (Shrubsole) made her debut and Lynz (Lynsey Askew) came back from her finger injury. We bowled first and dismissed South Africa for 162, Anya got her first international wicket and Alicia Smith made the first half century of any South African batsman this series.

Our reply began with Beth (Morgan) and Jen (Gunn) in fine style that Ebz continued before Lottie (Charlotte Edwards) and Tails (Claire Taylor) met at the crease to finish the job with seven wickets in hand. That proved to be the end of our series with South Africa as the fifth ODI was washed out at Chesterfield without play.

The next challenge was three Twenty20 matches against South Africa - the next time the two sides meet at the World Cup in March 2009 in Sydney, Australia.

Caroline Atkins, August 2008