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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - First women's cricket match played at Lord's

©Reuters

August 4, 1976 - When you see the England women's cricket team holding aloft the ODI World Cup trophy at the Lord's balcony after beating India by 9 runs in the final of the 2017 WC, it boggles the mind to think that it was only in 1976 that the MCC allowed women cricketers to step out on the hallowed turf.

This was despite the fact that England had won the first-ever World Cup in 1973, played two years before the men's World Cup. The poster girl for England was their skipper Rachael Heyhoe-Flint who had not only played a major role in England's title win but was one of the architects of the event.

Even when England qualified for the World Cup final, they had requested the MCC to allow the final to be hosted at Lord's but the team was denied the opportunity and the final was finally held at Edgbaston in Birmingham, which England won.

Flint, who passed away in 2017, said this in an interview about the inaugural World Cup:

"I can recall that the inaugural tournament created huge public awareness of the very existence of women’s cricket. That was a great bonus because even though the first recorded writings about women’s cricket were in 1745, the general public in the UK were still very ignorant about us.

"I remember the final more than any other game of course - we won it! I was so nervous because of the media and royal attention that I took four overs to get off the mark. But I got a half-century and led England to the title. Princess Anne handed the trophy to us."

 

 

Despite the World Cup victory and repeated requests from Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, when the Marylebone Cricket Club did not allow women to play an ODI at Lord's, Flint even threatened to take the case to the Equal Opportunities Commission of United Kingdom, which turned out to be the deal clincher and the MCC President Aidan Crawley finally agreed with the words "you have done enough to deserve a game at cricket's headquarters".

But the going was slow and it took as many as three years for the promise to materialize. On the 50th anniversary of the Women's Cricket Association, the second ODI of the three-match series between England and Australia was finally played at Lord's. Even then, there was a condition that the match would be possible only if Lancashire beat Middlesex in the second round.

In the case that Middlesex win, the match would not be played at Lord's but rescheduled to the Sunbury Cricket Club. As luck would have it, David Lloyd's Lancashire beat Mike Brearley's Middlesex in a close game and history was created in women's cricket.

Still, several members of the MCC were not pleased at all with the women being allowed access to the dressing rooms and the long room which had until then been the privilege of only men. At the same time, it was a good gesture when the women cricketers found the dressing room decorated with red roses.

Australia scored a respectable 161 on the back of a half-century from Sharon Tredrea. England chased it down easily with half-centuries from Enid Bakewell and Chris Watmough to draw level in the series, which they went on to win after winning the final match.

Unfortunately, the next women's ODI played at Lord's came 11 years later in 1987. Till date, the home of cricket has hosted more than a dozen women's ODIs with the 2017 World Cup final between England and India, being the highlight.

 

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