Like baseball except slower

A 1779 cricket match played by the Countess of Derby and other ladies. (Wikipedia) To say that I do not understand cricket would be an understatement. Clearly it’s exactly like baseball except incomprehensible and, by comparison, slow-moving. Which takes some doing. Oh, and the bats have been squished somehow and the pitching was devised by the ministry of silly walks. And the scores have one too many number in them.

OK, OK, hold the angry letters. I’m not here to be snide. Instead I want to make a comment related to cricket to the effect that if you think women’s rights were invented by Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan this may upset your wicket or whatever it is they do when the funny sticks go flying. July 26 is the anniversary of the first ever women’s cricket match.

Yes, that’s right. Women’s sports, and a game in which the players were hailed in the press as having “bowled, batted, ran and catches as well as most men could do in that game.” And it was played in 1745. Indeed the local newspaper, with perhaps a touch of hyperbole but no sign of condescension, called it “The greatest cricket match that was played in this part of England”. Again, snidely, that may not be saying much. Just kidding. I’m sure it’s a very exciting game that as an added bonus you can watch for hours on end. Over many days. Longer than a baseball double-header, and never a triple play. But I digress.

The point is that women were playing organized cricket in England in the 18th century, sometimes for prizes such as lace gloves but on other occasions for beer in large quantities, and for sizeable prizes. Before sometimes rowdy crowds. And after an unfortunate setback involving embezzling that demolished the Original English Lady Cricketers, it also flourished in the late 19th and early 20th century, and then spread to Australia. And yes, they still play.

So don’t think we invented women’s rights or women’s athletics. And don’t be too sure those 18th-century players would applaud everything we did invent including in gender relations. They might regard some of it as a distinctly sticky wicket.

Whatever that is.