Specials – Revisiting the best of Rachael Heyhoe-Flint

  Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, who passed away on 18th January at the age of 77, was a pioneer of women’s cricket and an undisputed great of the game. Due to her noteworthy achievements as a successful captain of England, an administrator and a vocal crusader of gender equality, she has left an indelible mark on the game and the way it is run today.

  Heyhoe-Flint was a major catalyst in the ideation of the first Women’s World Cup in 1973, which predated the inaugural men’s edition by two years. As if this was not enough, she went on to lead England to victory in the tournament. In 1998, she actively campaigned for the path-breaking vote that allowed women to become members of the hallowed Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

  Born in Wolverhampton, Heyhoe-Flint was a first-rate top-order batswoman who played 22 Tests and 23 ODIs in an international career that spanned from 1959-60 to 1981-82. Her tally of 1594 Test runs, scored at an average of 45.54, is currently the third-highest in the women’s game, while her ODI average of 58.45 still remains the highest among those who played at least 20 innings.

  Captaincy came calling for the first time in 1966, when she took over the reins for the home series against New Zealand. Never in her 12 Tests in charge did she taste defeat. In 2010, she was christened a peer in the House of Lord’s, thus taking the title of Baroness Heyhoe-Flint. In the same year, she became the first female inductee in the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.

rachael-heyhoe-flint

       Rachael Heyhoe-Flint – a pioneer of the game who took on the establishment for the sake of a better future for women’s cricket (source – gettyimages/centralpress)

  While her impact was felt beyond the cricketing field, the genesis of Heyhoe-Flint’s commendable journey lay in her credentials as one of the finest batswomen the world has seen. As a tribute to her inspirational career as the first truly iconic female cricketing personality, we look back, in chronological order, at five of her most significant performances for England.

113 and 59* v New Zealand, Scarborough, 1966

  Heyhoe-Flint celebrated her first Test in charge with her maiden century for England. She followed her 113 – which remained her highest score for a decade – in the first innings with an unbeaten half-century in the second. Though the match ended in a dour draw, the new captain led from the front – something which would be repeated several times in the years to come. 

76 and 68 v Australia, Adelaide, 1968-69

  England had secured a series win over Australia after 26 years in 1963, but the challenge now was to defend the ‘Ashes’ (not until 1998 were series between the two nations officially called the Women’s Ashes) five-and-a-half years later in Australia. Heyhoe-Flint had since taken over as captain and was a vital cog as far as the hopes of England, playing in Australia after 12 years, were concerned.

  The skipper duly made a mark in the first Test at the Barton Oval in Adelaide. Coming in at number three, she produced a knock of 76, sharing in a second-wicket stand of 127 with debutante Enid Blakewell (113). With her team trailing by 69, she averted any potential second-innings awkwardness with a patient 68, thus beginning her first overseas series as captain with twin fifties.

114 v Young England, Ilford, 1973

  Heyhoe-Flint’s only ODI century came at the 1973 World Cup against Young England, which was essentially a team made up of U-25 players. She rescued England from a tricky 55/3 with a resolute 114, making up nearly half of her team’s total of 231/6 in the allotted 60 overs. Set a rain-revised target of 152 from 39 overs, Young England went down by 50 runs.

rachel-heyhoe-flint-009

       In 2010, Rachael Heyhoe-Flint became the first female cricketer to be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame (source – gettyimages)

64 v Australia, Edgbaston, 1973

  The inaugural Women’s World Cup was a seven-team round-robin affair, with the title going to the league topper. England and Australia, respectively having 16 and 17 points, played the concluding match at Edgbaston, which was in effect the final. England’s only loss in the tournament had come at the hands of New Zealand.

  Luck favoured Heyhoe-Flint at the toss and she had no hesitation in deciding to bat. With opener Blakewell (118) for company, she was involved in a partnership worth 117 for the second wicket that took the wind out of Australia’s sails. She was eventually dismissed for a busy 64, playing her part in England’s strong total of 279/3, which was enough by 92 runs for a memorable World Cup title.

179 v Australia, The Oval, 1976

  Heyhoe-Flint fittingly produced her career-best score when her team was in adversity against the old enemy. England had been the ‘Ashes’ holders since 1963, but their defence was under serious threat after they were bundled out for a paltry 134 on the first day of the third Test at the Oval. The visitors further seized the advantage by racking up 379 on the board.

  The third and final day belonged to the captain as she staged a remarkable second-dig rescue act, batting for nearly nine hours in compiling a stonewalling 179. England were in a dire position at 76/3, still 169 in arrears, but Heyhoe-Flint went on undeterred, shepherding her side to 326 and a series-saving draw. Her effort was then the second-best score in a Women’s Test.

  From being the first woman to hit a six in a Test in 1963 to becoming the first woman to be elected to the full committee of the MCC in 2004, Rachael Heyhoe-Flint’s association with cricket encompassed an array of accomplishments and broke many a barrier. She will always be remembered as the visionary who foresaw a brighter future for every aspiring female cricketer.

Advertisements

In Focus – Eight players to watch out for at the Desert T20 Challenge

  The inaugural eight-nation Desert T20 Challenge, a welcome development for the Associate nations, is underway in the United Arab Emirates. The week-long tournament features eight teams clubbed into two groups: Group A includes Afghanistan, Ireland, Namibia and hosts UAE while Group B will see Hong Kong, Oman, Scotland and the Netherlands battle it out.

  The T20 format provides plenty of scope for lesser-fancied teams to upset an applecart or two, even among the Associates – an apt example of which was Oman’s memorable win over Ireland at the World T20 last year – and one can expect the Desert T20 to be full of twists, turns and game-changing feats. Here is a look at eight players, one from each team, worth keeping an eye on in the tournament.

Najibullah Zadran (Afghanistan)

  23 year-old Zadran has of late become a major impact player for Afghanistan, who arguably possess the strongest unit among the eight teams. Just a month ago, the left-hander clubbed 55* from 24 balls off the UAE bowlers with an asking rate of eleven staring at him. A T20I strike rate of 151.54 – the second-best ever – suggests that no target is out of bounds when this man is in the zone.

najibullah-zadran

      Najibullah Zadran’s remarkable strike-rate of 151.54 makes him a dangerous prospect in the Desert T20 (source – espncricinfo/ICC/sportsfile)

Paul Stirling (Ireland)

  The swashbuckling Stirling may have gone quiet in recent months, but Ireland’s opponents should discount him at their own peril. He can take the game away in a flash and his team, going through a poor patch in the shortest format, will pin its hopes on him to provide a healthy start as well as a few overs of stifling spin. He has a good record in T20Is the UAE, with a tally of 359 runs at 39.55.

Louis van der Westhuizen (Namibia)

  Namibia will look to grab this chance – they gained entry only because Papua New Guinea pulled out – to upstage higher-ranked sides. Louis van der Westhuizen will be key to their fortunes in his dual role of opener and slow left-armer. He recently returned to the side after more than two years, and impressed with a quickfire 56 against KwaZulu-Natal Inland in the CSA One-Day Challenge.   

Mohammad Naveed (United Arab Emirates)

  The UAE sprung a surprise by entering the main round of the Asia Cup T20 last year, and pivotal to their success in the qualifiers was medium pacer Mohammad Naveed, who took seven wickets at an average of 8.14, and more notably, an economy rate of 4.75. One of the rare bowlers with an economy rate under six in T20Is, he will look to continue in the same vein in front of his home crowd.

Babar Hayat (Hong Kong)

  The in-form Hayat, who was named captain last August, epitomizes the new-found spirit of his team that has made impressive strides in the last couple of years. He has the highest T20I score by an Associate batsman – a stunning 122 off 60 balls against Oman in a losing cause last year, and more recently, starred with 159 runs in Hong Kong’s ODI series win over Papua New Guinea.

babar-hayat

    Hong Kong skipper Babar Hayat will be keen to lead from the front in the Desert T20 with his belligerent batting at the top (source – hong kong cricket) 

Khawar Ali (Oman)

  Pakistan-born Khawar Ali provides Oman with a vital multi-utility option suited to the T20 game. Besides being a top-order batsman, he is an accurate leg-spinner who can be an asset in the middle overs. He was the man of the tournament in the World Cricket League in the United States last November, with his best all-round performance of 74 and 5/37 coming in a crucial game against Denmark.

Ahsan Malik (Netherlands)

  The canny Malik has grown to become one of the most effective pace bowlers in this format – a T20I record of 43 wickets at 14.81 bears testimony – and is a major factor in the Netherlands’ rise as a T20 force. His action was reported in 2015, but he has since made a return to bowling, albeit with ordinary results. The Desert T20 might just be the vehicle for him to get back to his best.

Con de Lange (Scotland)

  35-year-old slow left-armer de Lange will be Scotland’s lead spin bowler in the tournament. He is also the vice-captain of the team and a seasoned campaigner who has played for multiple first-class sides in his native South Africa as well as for Northamptonshire. His parsimonious bowling played a part in Scotland beating Hong Kong to win the Braidwood Cup last September.      

Review – 2016 Test cricket recap

  Test cricket continued to provide indelible moments and arresting performances in a year that saw 47 matches played in the longest format. As many as 40 matches ended in a result, of which 25 were home wins.

Teams Overview

India

  As the year rolled on, India steadily cemented their unbeaten run dating back to August 2015 and are now placed at the top of the Test rankings, a good 15 points clear of the next best side. They have not lost in their last 18 Tests and given their recent exploits, this streak could well be extended further. Their final Test of the year also saw them rack up their highest Test total of 759/7.

  India won more than one Test in a series in the Caribbean for the first time as they took the four-match rubber 2-0. In familiar home environs, they preyed on New Zealand, who were swept 3-0, and England, who could only manage a sole draw before losing four on the trot. Led by the zealous Virat Kohli and served by the talismanic Ravi Ashwin, India were the the team of the year.

Moment to remember: The Anthony D’Mello Trophy was regained in emphatic fashion, as the unrelenting Indians won by an innings and 36 runs in the fourth Test at Mumbai to clinch their first series win over England in eight years.

Moment to forget: In what was a near-perfect year for India, the closest they came to defeat was on the the final day of the Rajkot Test against England, when they lost six wickets in two sessions during the fourth innings.

Australia

  The year began and ended with impressive series wins for Australia – in New Zealand and at home against Pakistan respectively. However, two demoralising defeats in between raised many questions, especially with regard to their batsmen’s capabilities against high-quality bowling, be it spin or swing.

  Australia had lost just once in 26 Tests against Sri Lanka in a span of over three decades stretching back to 1982-83. In 2016, they lost thrice to the Islanders in three weeks. If this 3-0 humbling was not bad enough, they surrendered to South Africa at home, losing the first two Tests. They remained unbeaten in day/night Tests though, beating both South Africa and Pakistan under lights.

Moment to remember: Despite conceding a total of 443/9 in the first innings, Australia produced a great team effort to beat Pakistan by an innings and 18 runs in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne, thereby securing the series win.

Moment to forget: Under pressure after losing the first Test, Australia’s batting sensationally caved in on the opening day of the second Test against South Africa at Hobart. The hosts crashed to 17/5 before eventually getting bundled out for 85.

India's captain Virat Kohli, second from left, carries a wicket as he celebrates with his team players after their win over England on the fifth day of the fourth cricket test match between India and England in Mumbai, India, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

      Indian players celebrate after winning the fourth Test against England at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai (source – AP photo/rafiq maqbool)

Pakistan

  Pakistan had a healthy diet of overseas fixtures after quite some time, and the results were mixed. A commendable drawn result in England was neutralised by back-to-back reversals in the Antipodes, where they lost four consecutive Tests – two each in New Zealand and Australia.

  In between, they had their only home series of the year in which they beat the West Indies, but not before surviving a scare in the first Test and losing the third. Staying true to their tag of unpredictables, their performances, particularly on the batting front, often swung from the sublime – they came within 39 runs of a world record chase at the Gabba – to the mediocre.

Moment to remember: The momentum was against them after two losses in succession, but Pakistan, guided by Younis Khan’s 218, showed great resolve at The Oval to trounce England by ten wickets and draw the series 2-2.

Moment to forget: A draw was there for the taking for Pakistan on the final day of the second Test at Hamilton, but their batting simply imploded from 158/1 at tea to 230 all out. This series defeat was their first to New Zealand in 32 years.

South Africa

  The Proteas had a lacklustre start to the year, but bounced back in the second half. They lost 2-1 to England at home, with the solitary win coming in the final Test at Centurion, by which time the rubber was lost. Centurion also saw them clinch the short home series against New Zealand, under stand-in captain Faf du Plessis.

  Their big moment came later in the year as they sealed their third successive series victory in Australia. Bereft of star players such as A.B de Villiers and Dale Steyn, South Africa scored memorable wins at Perth and Hobart to win 2-1 under the inspiring leadership of du Plessis, who was deservedly awarded the full-time captaincy after de Villiers resigned from the post.

Moment to remember: Buoyed by a 177-run win in the opening Test at Perth, South Africa went a step further and demolished Australia by an innings and 80 runs before lunch on the fourth day at Hobart to seal the series.

Moment to forget: A manic second-innings collapse at Johannesburg cost South Africa the series against England. Trailing by just ten on the first innings, the hosts were 16/0 at lunch on the third day. Just after tea, they were shot out for 83.

England

  England showed promise at the start of a busy year by bearding the South Africans in their own den, but found themselves ending the year with a run of six defeats in their last eight matches. Following the win in South Africa, they did well at home – outplaying Sri Lanka and settling for a drawn result with Pakistan – before the wheels came off in the subcontinent.

  They suffered their first Test defeat to Bangladesh, with whom they drew the two-match series 1-1. In India, after an encouraging draw, England’s fortunes took a turn for the worse as they were beaten 4-0 – the last two matches were lost by an innings despite them reaching 400 in the first innings, which put the bowling attack as well as Alastair Cook’s captaincy under immense scrutiny.

Moment to remember: A Stuart Broad special gave England a series-winning seven-wicket win in three days against South Africa at Johannesburg. The lanky paceman took 6/17 to help bowl South Africa out for 83 in the second dig.

Moment to forget: While they endured many a travail in India, England’s worst display came in the final session on the third day of the Dhaka Test against Bangladesh, where they lost ten for 64 in just 22.2 overs to crash to a 108-run defeat.

bangladesh-v-england

     The Bangladesh team erupt in joy at Dhaka after beating England in a Test match for the first time (source – theguardian.com)

New Zealand

  The Black Caps could not consolidate on the gains of the past two years and ended the year at sixth place in the Test rankings. Their popular captain Brendon McCullum bid farewell with a record-breaking century in his final Test, but that was not enough to prevent his side from losing both the home Tests against old foes Australia.

  As Kane Williamson took over the reins, an African tour followed. While New Zealand easily beat Zimbabwe 2-0, South Africa proved to be a different kettle of fish . Their most trying time came in India, where they were whitewashed 3-0. An impressive home win against Pakistan gave them a much-needed boost as the year drew to a close.

Moment to remember: New Zealand won their first Test series against Pakistan since 1984-85. An eight-wicket win at Christchurch was followed by the series-clinching 138-run triumph at Hamilton, where they took nine wickets in the last session.

Moment to forget: With the series already lost, New Zealand came into the third Test at Indore hoping to salvage some pride. Instead, they were flattened by 321 runs – their second heaviest defeat in terms of runs.

Sri Lanka

  A series in England beginning in May is never easy for a touring side, and it was no different with the Sri Lankans, who suffered a tame 2-0 defeat in the three-Test series. However, two months later, this seemed like a distant memory as Sri Lanka went on to achieve one of their most glittering Test series wins.

  Having beaten Australia only once in their Test history thus far, Sri Lanka spun them out thrice in a row to complete a memorable whitewash. Wily veteran Rangana Herath led the hosts’ charge by grabbing 28 wickets. Both the Tests in Zimbabwe were won as well, with Herath as stand-in skipper. The year ended with a defeat to South Africa, as they lost the Boxing Day Test at Port Elizabeth.

Moment to remember: The catalyst for Sri Lanka’s eventual whitewash of Australia was a remarkable turnaround in the first Test at Pallekele, where they ended up winning by 106 runs despite being bowled out for 117 o the first day.

Moment to forget: A listless Sri Lanka were thumped by an innings and 88 runs in less than three days at Headingley, with their totals reading 91 and 119 in the first and second innings respectively.

West Indies

  A four-match home series against India presented the West Indies with a chance to redeem themselves, but they failed to win a Test and went down 2-0, stretching their winless run against India to 19 Tests and 15 years. Their best effort of the series came at Kingston, where they salvaged a hard-fought draw despite trailing by 304 on the first innings.

  Not surprisingly, the series against Pakistan in the UAE ended in defeat for the Windies, but they secured a rare win in the third and final Test at Sharjah and also came within 56 runs of victory in the opening match at Dubai. A series win against a higher-ranked team thus remained elusive.

Moment to remember: The West Indies’ five-wicket win at Sharjah was their first in an away Test against a higher-ranked side since 2007-08. Kraigg Brathwaite became the first opener to remain unbeaten in both innings of a Test.

Moment to forget: Needing to win to stay alive in the series, the West Indies were bowled out for 108 after lunch on the final day at Gros Islet to lose by 237 runs. They lost their last seven wickets for just 44 runs.

r-ashwin

      Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin’s consistent all-round performance was a major factor in India maintaining an unbeaten run (source – AP/indiatoday)

Bangladesh

  The Tigers played a mere two Test matches in the entire year, and went without an overseas Test for the second year in succession. Their only series, against England, ended with exultant scenes as they notched their most significant Test win.

  After losing narrowly by 22 runs at Chittagong, Bangladesh grabbed their next opportunity with both hands as they took ten wickets in a session at Dhaka to beat England for the first time in whites and level the series 1-1.

Moment to remember: 19-year-old off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz, playing just his second Test, left England reeling with a match haul of 12/159 as Bangladesh sealed their most memorable Test win at Dhaka by 108 runs.

Moment to forget: It could well have been a series win against England, as Bangladesh fell short by just 22 runs at Chittagong. Requiring 23 with two wickets hand, Ben Stokes struck twice in three balls to break Bangladeshi hearts.

Zimbabwe

  Zimbabwe hosted New Zealand for more than a single Test for the first time since 2005 and Sri Lanka for the first time since 2003-04. However, they could not take advantage of the four home matches as they were defeated by wide margins in each of them. The first Test against Sri Lanka at Harare was their hundredth Test.

Moment to remember: Zimbabwe’s lower order showed admirable grit in recovering from 139/6 to 373 in the first innings against Sri Lanka at Harare, with captain Graeme Cremer scoring 102* from number eight.

Moment to forget: In what was their first day of Test cricket at home in two years, Zimbabwe crashed to 72/8 against New Zealand at Bulawayo, eventually losing by an innings and 117 runs.

Test match of the year

  Bangladesh and England played out an enthralling, see-sawing battle in the first Test at Chittagong. Teenaged debutant Mehedi Hasan Miraz took 6/80 to keep England to 293, to which Bangladesh replied with 248, losing their last six wickets for 27 thanks to a late burst from Ben Stokes.

  England were on the mat at 62/5 in the second innings, before Stokes came to the rescue again with a knock of 85. Chasing 286 for victory, Bangladesh looked good at 227/5. However, they lost their last five wickets for only 36 to give England a 22-run win. Stokes fittingly took two wickets in three balls early on the final day to seal the game.

Test cricketer of the year

  Much of India’s success in the year revolved around Ravichandran Ashwin’s all-round prowess. He was the leading wicket-taker in 2016, with a tally of 72 wickets in 12 Tests at 23.90. If that was not enough, he chipped in with 612 runs at 43.71, justifying his position as the world’s leading Test all-rounder. His return of 13/140 against New Zealand at Indore was a new career high. 

 Ashwin went from strength to strength, starting with a man-of-the-series performance of 235 runs ( including two centuries) and 17 wickets in the West Indies, and then snaring 27 wickets against New Zealand and another 28 wickets as well as scoring 306 runs against England. Reliable with the ball as well as the bat, he has grown to become the most valuable player in the Indian team.

The Cricket Cauldron Test Team of the Year

1) Kraigg Brathwaite (West Indies)
2) Azhar Ali (Pakistan)
3) Joe Root (England)
4) Virat Kohli (India, captain)
5) Steve Smith (Australia)
6) Jonny Bairstow (England)
7) Ravichandran Ashwin (India)
8) Mitchell Starc (Australia)
9) Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)
10) Neil Wagner (New Zealand)
11) Kagiso Rabada (South Africa)
12) Ben Stokes (England)

  Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year.