Impressive on and off the field
Posted in England Women
I have been really impressed with the England women's team this last fortnight - both watching them from stands and when bowling at them in the nets.
I got invited down to Taunton to watch the first two NatWest Series ODIs against New Zealand and was at Lord's for the fifth match on Tuesday to help with the post-match presentations.
I hadn't seen the women play for a while so going to Somerset was a good chance to see them play live. On TV it's different to guage the standard but being at the ground you can see the speed of the ball and the quality of the shots.
I saw two close matches - England won the first match, New Zealand won the second - and both were excellent games of cricket.
The amount the players have come on is extraordinary. I last saw England four or five years ago against the Australians at Northampton.
Australia had a lady called Karen Rolton - she is a left-hander like Rodney Marsh and belted it like Rodney too. That was the thing England were missing, someone to give the ball a whack.
Some of the shots down in Taunton were proper shots - square cuts, straight drives, hitting over the top. Gone are the days when fielders were there just to stop singles.
There was some wonderful batting from Lydia Greenway, Charlotte Edwards and Heather Knight. I saw a bit of Claire Taylor at her best.
The fielding was another thing that has improved enormously and that was the turning point in both matches. The team that fielded the best won.
England had some really good spinners playing - Laura Marsh, Holly Colvin and Danielle Hazell. Brunty [Katherine Brunt] bowled like she normally does. I was pleased that Jenny [Gunn] did well at Derby and Isa bowled well at Barnsley.
The team is very well balanced with a very good wicketkeeper in Sarah Taylor.
There was a training day between the two matches in Taunton and they asked me to come to their net session and join in.
England have two good coaches in Laney [Mark Lane] and Birky [Jack Birkenshaw], who have done brilliantly, so I didn't want to butt in. I thought I would have a quick trundle instead. It was the first proper bowl I have had in years. I quite enjoyed it.
It was interesting to see close up what they do, how they practice. They put a lot of hard work in and got the rewards for doing so.
Next week the men begin their npower Test Series with Pakistan.
Does anyone know what to expect from Pakistan? You thought they had some stability with Shahid Afridi as captain and the next minute he has resigned.
Australia were calculating at Lord's and won but Pakistan had a sniff and had they not lost a wicket before lunch on the fourth day, they might have got close.
It all looks a bit different up at Headingley though. It shows the capability that's there in the Pakistan team but they need to be consistent.
England need to be wary though and will have to be at their best.
I can't believe we are almost in August. More than half of the cricket season has passed but my colleagues and I are still trying to get adults involved in the sport.
We are making a big push on increasing participation. We are doing well getting youngsters involved, but it is also important to provide cricket for older people.
As such we are promoting indoor cricket, which is played mostly in the winter, and something called Last Man Stands, which is eight a side matches played midweek in parks around the country. It means you can fit cricket in around work.
You can find more details on their website.