Connor rues final omission


The face says it all - Clare Connor looks downhearted during the 2000 World Cup

Clare Connor could be forgiven for having mixed emotions when she travels to Australia next week to watch England compete in the World Cup.

The former captain played in three World Cups herself, the first in India in 1997 then consecutive campaigns as captain in New Zealand and South Africa.

Although content when she looks back on a career which includes lifting the Ashes, Connor thinks there is a glaring omission from her cricketing CV: an appearance in the World Cup final.

"If I could ask for one more thing, it would be to play in a World Cup final because I didn't get to play in one despite appearing at three World Cups," she told

"Playing in a World Cup is fantastic, though. It's phenomenal to be a sportsman in a World Cup environment. You are surrounded by all the other countries and this opportunity to come out on top. You have to make the most of it."

Connor had played just nine one-day internationals - she would eventually win 93 caps - when she travelled to India 12 years ago to compete in her first World Cup.

"I toured India two years earlier which was my first England tour," she recalled. "I found it really difficult. I got dysentery and dislocated a finger - everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I was quite nervous going back.

"But it was a good World Cup. I was only 21 and was so overwhelmed. I really did not know what to expect.

"I was playing with some absolute legends, the likes of Jan Brittin and Karen Smithies. Then you had the likes of Lottie [Charlotte Edwards], who could only have been 17, setting the world on fire. I was just desperate to play.

Clare Connor

Connor appeals for a run-out during her first-ever World Cup match against South Africa, which England won

"I played in most of the games, batted quite low down the order but bowled eight to ten overs most games. We played in front of some really big crowds."

England reached the last four but lost to New Zealand by 20 runs, with Connor the final wicket to fall - run out in a frantic search for late runs.

Three years later, Connor, now captain, flew to New Zealand with hopes of bringing the trophy back to English soil.

The reality, unfortunately, was completely different. Wins over three minnows could not mask defeats to South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand which resulted in England packing their bags early.

"That World Cup was a huge disappointment," reflected Connor. "I had only been captain just under a year and we really did underperform. There was no reason; we just didn't perform as we could have done."

Hopes were higher in 2005 and Connor, still skipper, travelled to South Africa optimistic of burying the ghost of the previous World Cup.

"I was an experienced captain and player by then," she said. "I knew far more about what was required. We had a good run up to the World Cup. We'd beaten South Africa home and away in 2003 and had a big series win over New Zealand in 2004 at home. We had not beaten them for years.

Clare Connor

Connor top-scored in the 2005 semi-final with 35 but England lost out to Australia

"We were playing some really good cricket. When I look back and talk to Lottie about it, the 2003-2005 period was very much the catalyst for what has happened since."

But once again, having reached the semi-final, hope turned to despair at the hands of the old enemy - Australia.

Having been asked to bat first, England found themselves in a perilous position at 21 for three with Edwards, Laura Newton and Claire Taylor all dismissed by Australian legend Cathryn Fitzpatrick.

"We did underperform when it came to the semi-final," said Connor.

"We got about 150 and bowled and fielded brilliantly. We really showed lots of fight, girls like Isa Guha, Lydia Greenway and Katherine Brunt, and did make it hard for them. If we could have got 20 or 30 more it would have been a really competitive game.

"Hopefully those in the current squad who played in that game will use the experience from that match."