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Another 48 hours

Posted in England Women

It is just over 48 hours since I arrived in Sydney but for some reason I feel like I have been here much longer.

After landing at Kingsford Smith Airport on Thursday, I headed to my city centre hotel - all the sides competing at the World Cup are staying there - showered, changed and got a taxi to the picturesque North Sydney Oval for England's final group game against Pakistan.

More than 100 years old, the ground, bathed in sunshine, looks like a miniature SCG with most of the stands topped by a green roof.

The match itself was one-way traffic with off-spinner Laura Marsh bamboozling the Pakistan batters to finish with 5-15 - quite an achievement considering she used to be a quick bowler until recently. She was modest when we did an interview for ECBtv but recording the best ever figures by an English bowler at a World Cup is pretty special.

England knocked off the required 79 with few alarms, captain Charlotte Edwards sauntering over the finishing line as if she was having a casual stroll in the afternoon sun.

The jubilant girls wholeheartedly churned out Take That's 'Never Forget' in the changing room afterwards, as is now their tradition. The media men from the ICC were unsure what to make of it.

Russell Staves

Delivering some 'filth' during Friday's net session at the Alan Davidson Oval

No rest for the wicked as at 9am I joined the players as they went training at the Alan Davidson Oval. The early start seemed to have surprised the groundsman who hurriedly fired up his heavy roller to get the nets prepared while the girls did some stretches with strength and conditioning coach Ian Crump.

When the action began, Claire Taylor kept her team-mates on their toes with a series of huge hits, one of which cracked one young local who had turned up to bowl.

Seizing upon the young girl's misfortune, I offered my bowling services to coach Mark Lane who, politely but somewhat reluctantly, accepted.

Kevin Pietersen would have no trouble branding my off-breaks as 'filth' and the England girls would probably agree after a rather desperate 30-minute spell.

Holly Colvin launched one delivery into a flowerbed, Isa Guha trumped that by carting a full-toss just over a parked 4x4, before Laura Marsh had the audacity to get down on one knee (unfortunately not a marriage proposal) and lifted another long-hop into the trees.

Caroline Atkins, who didn't have the pleasure of facing my drivel, kindly suggested that a change of footwear might help next time. OK, my judo-style Asics Tigers aren't the preferred choice of cricketers worldwide, but a little more talent might be more beneficial.

Tail firmly between legs, I reverted back to the day job and did a video interview with Laney, who used to be my coach at Guildford, and the bubbly Ebony Rainford-Brent - both of which I uploaded to the website during the afternoon while watching the Sheffield Shield Final live on TV and doing my best to avoid the Kit Kat Chunky bars which seemed to be calling my name out from above the mini-bar.

In the evening I was invited to join the team dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant overlooking Darling Harbour, a short walk from the hotel. The seafood risotto seemed a popular choice but I can firmly recommend the Valtellina pizza.

Returning to the hotel, I had a quick drink with Laney, assistant coach Jack Birkenshaw, ECB head of women's cricket Clare Connor, whose excitement at arriving just hours earlier belied the 20-hour journey, and Chris, a sports photographer.

I sat with Jack, who is superb company if you love cricket. Having played for England and coached Leicestershire to back-to-back county championships in a career spanning more than 50 years, he's got a few stories to tell, but he's not one of those "it was better in my day" types.

He adores cricket, which is evident from chatting to him and watching how he interacts with the girls, who almost hang off his every word.

He still bowls a decent off-break too, which is more than can be said for me.

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