Category Archives: women’s cricket

Found it

(See previous post to make sense of this)

I was wrong, we do have the blue ball.  My manager Neil found it for me straight away.

Isn't it beautiful?

Isn’t it beautiful?

It’s a lovely colour, and not scary at all.  I can see how it would totally get lost against the grass though.


Filed under Cricket, cricket balls, MCC, women's cricket

Scary red balls!

Poster from 1890.  Guess the lady batting looks a little bit frightened...

Poster from 1890. Guess the lady batting looks a little bit nervous…

I was listening to an  interview on our audio archive this morning.  Ken Medlock talks about all kinds of cricket related topics, (, I was really interested by what he had to say about cricket balls and how they are made, during this section the interviewer David Rayvern Allen suddenly drops in a comment about blue cricket balls being used for the women’s game so ladies wouldn’t be frightened by the red balls!  A myth surely?  Like piano legs being covered up for decency’s  sake in Victorian times.  I had to find out – and found evidence that they did exist almost straight away.

According to an exhibition catalogue from a 1963 exhibition of women’s cricketana

“The BLUE BALL made specially by Alfred Reader at the request of Gamages Ltd. in 1897 to ensure that lady cricketers would not swoon at the sight of a red one did not prove practical as it could not be seen again the background of grass and sky.  Of interest is the fact that the weight of this ball, of which a limited supply was produced, is 5 ozs., the same as has been used by women cricketers since 1926.  The ball on exhibit is the only preserved memento of this curious experiment.”

Where is this ball?  We don’t have it, it doesn’t say who owned it in the catalogue – I want to see it!  If anyone has seen a blue ball can you let me know?  I would also like to hear from any ladies (or indeed gents) who have ever found themselves in a state of terror at the sight of a red ball.  This is all intriguing stuff!


…actually, they ARE pretty frightening!

(Bibliography – 1745-1963: Exhibition of Women’s Cricketana by Molly Hide and Netta Rheinberg.)

Photography by Alan Rees.


Filed under archive, bowling, Cricket, cricket balls, History, lady members, women's cricket

Too late?

Last week I had my first go at cricket.  I’m 35 years old and have been a cricket fan for 8 years but until last week had never bowled, caught or hit a ball.  I have never intentionally avoided it, the opportunity just never arose, we didn’t play cricket at school, I never came across any friends playing in the park.  I’ve actually been eager to have a go for sometime, but until now have never known anyone who has the gear.

So how did it go?  Well I wasn’t very good!  The batting was OK, although I think my friend was bowling quite easy ones at me, I did really enjoy the batting I loved the feel and sound of leather striking willow with a nice firm thwack, and didn’t even mind that I ended up with bruises all over my right palm (probably due to poor technique).  The bowling was way harder.  It feels so weird having to keep your arm straight.  I founding attempting a run up too difficult, running while doing a windmill thing with my arms – my limbs wouldn’t stay coordinated.  I tried it without a run up but couldn’t seem to generate enough power to get the ball all the way down the pitch (22 yards is actually a really long way).  My friend eventually gave up trying to teach me a run up and let me bowl my balls from half way down the pitch, which made it easier.  I think I’m more of a batsman.

taking a shot

So what’s next for my cricketing career?  Have a left it too late to realise my obvious potential and take my talent on to the international stage?  I would have thought so…until I came across James Southerton while cataloguing some old photographs.  Our cataloguing team here at the MCC are working our way though a massive collection of old photos, some still currently completely uncatalogued.

J Southerton 2nd from left center row (with a rather sinister looking WG Grace 2nd from right)

J Southerton 2nd from left center row (with a rather sinister looking WG Grace 2nd from right)

I’ve been working on this rather marvelous photo of the United South of England Eleven taken in 1875.  I was entering the details of all the figures onto our persons index and was very interested to read that James Southerton was (and remains) the oldest test debutant.  He made his debut at the age of 49 years and 119 days!  He did OK too, taking 3 wickets in a match against Australia, he also played in the following test before retiring from the international game to run a pub.  The important thing is it means there’s hope for me.  If I spend the next 15 years sorting out my bowling action, get my limbs coordinated and manage to get the ball all the way to the other end maybe I could be the one to break his record.  It’s something to aim for.  Wish me luck!

James Southerton - he made his debut at an age that all international cricketers these days would have retired by!

James Southerton – he made his debut at an age that all international cricketers these days would have retired by!


Filed under Australia, bowling, cataloguing, Cricket, Cricket records, England, History, MCC, test cricket, WG Grace, women's cricket

Cricket: A Gentleman’s Game?

short leg

Great new story on Taking the Field this week ( Charlotte Horton, who has played for Derbyshire Women and Western Australia Women, talks about her time playing for Wirksworth and Middleton CC.

In recent years there has been an effort in the media and cricketing establishments to promote women’s cricket, this can give the impression that women playing cricket is quite new, but it women’s role in the game has actually been a significant one from it’s origins.

woman bowling

My ‘Origins of cricket’ post a couple of weeks ago featured a woman bowling in an early form of cricket in Medieval times.

This image from the Bodleian library's 'The Romance of Alexander' c. 1340 appears to show monks and nuns playing an early form of cricket together.

This image from the Bodleian library’s ‘The Romance of Alexander’ c. 1340 appears to show monks and nuns playing a form of cricket together.

…so women may well have played cricket from it’s very beginning.   The first recorded game, however, was in 1745, the Reading Mercury reported “eleven maids of Bramley and eleven maids of Hambleton, dressed all in white, the girls bowled, batted, ran and catched as well as most men could do.”  In the years following the women’s game became quite popular with a game in Sussex in 1768 attracting a crowd of 3000.

One of the best known facts about women and cricket is that legendary cricketer WG Grace was taught how to play my his mother, less well known (well I found it surprising!) is that women may have invented overarm bowling.  It is claimed Christina Willes used to bowled overarm to her brother in the early 19th century to avoid getting her arm tangled up in her skirts, he then tried the method out at Lord’s and the rest is history.  Whether this is true or not may never be known but women have certainly been at the heart of the game’s development.

(If you want to do any further reading about the history of women’s cricket I recommend – Maiden Over by Nancy Joy and Mad Dogs and English Women by Pete Davies)


Filed under Cricket, History, oral history, women's cricket

more than a mink coat…

Women: central to a cricket club?

Women: central to a cricket club?

Something that has struck me in listening to the Taking the Field stories is how central women have always been to most of the clubs, these days clubs have thriving girls and women’s teams but in the past women were also important as spectators, administrators or for under taking the vitally important role of making the cricket tea!  Here at the MCC women have not had such a central role for quite as long as shown in this very sweet letter found by MCC archivist Robert Curphey among the secretaries correspondence.

lady letter 2

A copy of the reply was found along side.

lady reply 2

I’m not sure I like the way he agrees that her ‘friends are entirely correct’ – thus she is foolish!  Guess she’s had the last laugh as Betty Archdale, Edna Barker, Audrey Collins, Carole Cornthwaite, Jackie Court, Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, Sheila Hill, Norma Izard, Diana Rait Kerr and Netta Rheinberg became the first honorary lady members in 1999.

It makes me feel very sad that women had to wait until 1999 to be allowed to become members of the MCC, but I suppose perhaps I should just celebrate that we got there in the end, though I wish it had been in time for Madeline Gale to get her dearest wish.

Hear some happier tales of women and cricket at . My Favourites include :

The sky’s the limit –

The girls and girlies of Spondon C.C. –

The tea ladies and Royal Hill Road –

(Letters supplied by Robert Curphey at the MCC Archive.  Photograph of ‘Miss Cricket Queen’ from Yorkshire County Cricket Club: American tour 1964, supplied by MCC Library).


Filed under archive, Cricket, lady members, Librarianship, MCC, women's cricket