x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

World Cup women's cricket match excited more than the men

England and Australia went down to the wire last Friday and the World Cup women's match has been the best cricket of the year so far.

The Australia women's cricket team celebrates after winning their super six match over England held in Mumbai, India on Friday. Pal Pillai / Getty Images
The Australia women's cricket team celebrates after winning their super six match over England held in Mumbai, India on Friday. Pal Pillai / Getty Images

As unlikely as it would be, given we are only 42 days into the year, if a poll was taken now on the best cricket game of 2013, you would not have much to pick from for contenders.

South Africa battering New Zealand and Pakistan hardly gets the pulse racing, unless you are a Dale Steyn fan, the India v England one-day series was largely forgettable fare other than England doing their best not to defend 325 in Rajkot, while Australia's games with Sri Lanka and the West Indies have had few close finishes.

Arguably the best cricket game of the year passed a lot of the world by and got minimal media and television attention as Australia defeated England by two runs in their Super Six game at the women's World Cup on Friday in Mumbai.

The game at the Brabourne Stadium had everything. Batting collapses, comebacks, controversy thanks to poor umpiring decisions and real drama at the end before England's No 10 Hannah Colvin was the last wicket to fall as she edged a delivery from Erin Osborne to captain and wicketkeeper Jodie Fields with only three runs needed to complete an unlikely triumph.

The finish to Friday's encounter was reminiscent of the highly-lauded 2005 men's Ashes Test when England beat Australia by two runs in Birminghan.

That match was rated so highly that a DVD of highlights was released, with the title The Greatest Test, such had been the drama.

That will not be happening with Friday's game. Played in front of an almost empty stadium, and with limited media coverage, outside of England and Australia's cricketing press, the thriller in Mumbai could easily be forgotten.

Which is a real shame as the quality in the game towards the end was high, and the only thing missing was spectators and media coverage celebrating it.

Remember the women's World Twenty20 competition last year?

Scheduled at the same time as the men's tournament in Sri Lanka, with games shoehorned in the morning and before the men's games, it was designed to be forgotten.

I wrote a piece back in September arguing that if the women's competition was to have any chance of growing, it had to do so without being in the direct shadow of the men's event, where it was treated as a warm-up to the real action, not exactly a great selling point to those sceptical of the game.

At least this World Cup is on its own from the men's format, though interest in the event from locals in India has still been small, their team going out before the Super Six stages really not helping on that score.

For the tournament and the game as a whole to grow in interest it needs improved quality and memorable moments. Which is exactly what Australia v England provided.

Do not get me wrong, there is still a lot of work to do in the game to get it to a level where there is mainstream interest.

The standard of play is still far too uneven and there are too few competitive sides at the top of the game, though in fairness, rugby league has survived fine over the years with only Australia, New Zealand and England as the forces to be reckoned with.

What the women's World Cup needs is games like Friday to happen more regularly.

That was the best advert for the game there could be.

It certainly would have made the cynical take note.

There is still a chance that Australia and England can meet in next Sunday's final in Mumbai and a close game could really lift interest.

Because if the women keep on putting on better, more interesting games then their male counterparts, people will surely start to take more notice.

gcaygill@thenational.ae

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