Cricket fans have been treated to some tantalisingly close matches over the last month, as New Zealand has played host to the 2022 Cricket World Cup. The Detail looks at whether the women’s game is finally getting the attention and recognition it deserves.
Cricketer, broadcaster and sports writer Kristy Havill was standing in the scorers’ box at Hagley Oval in Christchurch last Sunday, as the crucial match between South Africa and India was flipped on its head in the final over.
India was on the brink of a win to go through to the semi-finals of the World Cup. Then a no ball was called.
“Once that no ball was signalled, the free hit and then needing two runs off two balls … what just happened?”
It was a moment Havill, who’s been working at Hagley Oval and writing for LockerRoom during the tournament, won’t forget.
But it’s just one of many nail-biting finishes during an action-packed month of women’s cricket, with the World Cup final still to come this weekend.
Havill reckons it’s the best Cricket World Cup – for men or women – in history.
“Across the board, every game has been of a high quality,” she says.
“Men or women, I don’t think we’ve ever had as many close finishes, either in the last over, or single digit margins, or matches won on the last ball.
“I think it just goes to show that things are really looking up for women’s cricket. Still a long way to go but we’re definitely on our way up, that’s for sure.”
Covid-19 delayed the World Cup for a year – and it finally got underway just as Omicron was sweeping the country. Restrictions on outdoor gatherings, which were lifted last week, have hit attendance figures for much of the tournament.
But Havill says the profile of the women’s game has been helped by the “exponential increase” in media coverage, with every game televised, as well as huge amounts of digital content produced by the International Cricket Council and television networks from around the world.
“Because people can’t travel to be here in person, they’re having to deliver a lot of content on Twitter or Instagram or TikTok to try and engage with everyone.”
Although there’s been progress, Havill says the women’s game still has a long way to go to be on par with the men. An example of the ongoing imbalance is the fact the women’s tournament prize money is about half that of the men.
But she points out that the 2022 Cricket World Cup is probably the first that’s been played at six high quality grounds. In the past, women have been relegated to smaller venues, where the wickets are poorer quality, which in turn affects the quality of the game.
“I think we’ve taken really good strides this tournament, but there’s always things you can work on to get it to the level of a men’s World Cup.”
Former Wellington cricketer Jo Murray tells The Detail the nail-biting finishes and the small but fervent crowds – young boys and girls, parents and grandparents – are the highlights of the tournament.
She’s travelled the country with her husband Robbie Kerr, following their two daughters, Amelia and Jess, who are members of the White Ferns.
She shares her own experiences while she was growing up at Wellington’s Basin Reserve, as her father Bruce played for Wellington and New Zealand.
Murray’s watched women’s cricket develop over the years and says one of the biggest changes is that women’s sport is now covered in the media. When she was younger, you were lucky to see any coverage of a women’s tournament, big or small.
“It’s come a long way from back in those days, when those players back then deserved just as much coverage as we’re getting now.
“They were superstars back in the day, it’s just sad that they didn’t get the same accolades as the players have today.”
* Defending champions England and tournament favourites Australia will meet in Sunday’s World Cup final at Hagley Oval in Christchurch, after England trounced South Africa by 137 runs on Thursday night.