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Cricket Women Cricket

August 4, 1976: Rachael Heyhoe-Flint made history as Lord’s finally opened doors for women

On this day- LORD’S CRICKET GROUND FINALLY OPENED DOORS FOR WOMEN!

2017 World Cup witnessed India taking on England in the final at the Lord’s cricket ground. The latter won the match and lifted the trophy. Well, this sounds something simple right now but the fight to get there, to the Lords, isn’t all simple. Once again it was Rachael Heyhoe-Flint who fought hard to put Women’s cricket on the maps. 

After organizing the first-ever World Cup in 1973, two years earlier than Men’s World Cup, Rachael Heyhoe-Flint’s next battle was to take the Women’s cricket to the Lord’s Cricket Ground. She tried many times. She even wanted to play the 1973 finals at the Lord’s but her proposal was dismissed.

Those days, women were not allowed inside the stadium. It took a long fight for Heyhoe-Flint to make things happen. She even went on to threaten the Council with a case under the Equal Rights Commission. Looking at the determination of Heyhoe-Flint, and since it was the 50th anniversary of the Women’s Cricket Association, the council finally gave in.

The second ODI match of the Australia tour to England was scheduled at the Lord’s with one condition. The match would take place in the Lord’s if Middlesex loses their match against Lancashire and fail to get into the semi-final. If they did not lose, the match would be taking place in Sunbury Cricket Club. Oh, that’s not it. There were members of the council who were not okay with the decision. They even went on to call that women playing the game is a “distraction”. A member who was present on that day admitted that he prayed for the rain.

A real ‘Fingers-Crossed’ moment for the women’s cricket who wanted Middlesex to lose the match and eventually they did. 

After ending the Test series with three draws, England lost the first ODI, a bit badly. Lorraine Hill’s 106 gave Australia an 87-run win as the hosts failed to chase down 215.

There was hype about the match, and there was media coverage too. It wasn’t easy for women to stay at the Lord’s. For the starters, they had to use men’s dressing room, toilets and everything. It was a bit difficult. 

Also, there were a few regulations in place, including the fact that the women were allowed only in the pavilion, there were not allowed to enter through the Long Room.

Then a terrible incident happened, a photographer sneaked into the dressing room, took a picture of the women changing their clothes, oh, that’s not it. The image appeared everywhere, including the papers where the headlines spoke something similar to “Women taking over” 

That was quite an embarrassment, but those days, most of the coverage for the women’s cricket was about their outfits and how they look. According to the England legend Enid Bakewell, once there was a headline which read “Skipper Loses Lucky Bra!”. You get my point, right?

Now, coming back to the match, we have England waiting to plot the revenge. August 4th 1976 it was. A bright sunny day began at the Lord’s as you could see Heyhoe-Flint leading her team into the ground for the first time after being asked to field first by Gordon.

Nobody had done this before, walking into the Lord’s and the pride on the faces of the players tells you how much it meant to them. They were surrounded by photographers and a good number of crowd. There was a big flag that read “Our Ladies of Lords”. 

June Stephenson bowled the first ball at the Lord’s, and she dismissed Hill early. Then Bakewell took two wickets, so did Southgate. Australia had wickets tumbling at one end with Tredrea safely guarding the other. She went on score her maiden fifty and got out at 54. 

Chasing 162, England had an 85-run opening wicket partnership, and then Watmough joined Bakewell. The team was cruising. Both Bakewell and Watmough scored 50. 

However, Bakewell deliberately ran herself out so that Heyhoe-Flint can come out to bat. Bakewell later in the interview told that it was Heyhoe-Flint’s moment as she was the one who fought hard to bring the women to the Lord’s. She said that Heyhoe-Flint deserved to bat out there more than anyone else. 

In the end, England out over the line with ease and completed the historic moment. All the players received a specially manufactured ball as a gift. Days later, England went on to win the third ODI and lifted the trophy. 

The match witnessed a good crowd. A good turn out means things should be falling in places, well, one must have thought. However, it didn’t. When the Australian team landed back, there were wrong in expecting recognition and sponsors. They didn’t get any. It was like living a life as a superstar one day and the next day, people couldn’t even recognize who they were. Or Should I just say, playing at the Lord’s was just a dream, a one-night beautiful dream and then they woke up and things got back to how it was earlier? 

Sadly, you don’t even find good footage of this historic moment. I tried my best to collect and edit this short video. 

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