The penultimate Women’s Ashes match, a T20 between England and Australia was one of the best sporting events I’ve been to in a while.
Taking place at Sussex County Cricket Club in the seaside town of Hove in the UK the atmosphere was awesome, the match mattered – the home side were fighting to stay in the series – and it was a beautiful chilly south coast night.
The tone for the evening match was set as I approached a steward at the entrance.
“Excuse me, where’s the press accreditation centre?”
“Where do I pick up my press pass?”
“I’ve no idea, love,” chuckled the elderly fella, grinning widely and pointing me in the direction of someone who may be able to help.
Despite this being an international sporting occasion the friendly local relaxed atmosphere set the tone right from the off.
Seating arrangements, for example, were rather lackadaisical.
The groundsman downed tools and put his feet up to watch the game.
These locals had an awesome vantage point.
The Smurfs arrived…
Photographers were in position (soooo much camera envy here)…
The beers were flowing…
The crowd were in good spirits…
Fathers were spending quality time with their daughters…
There were the traditional late arrivals…
The obligatory trilby-hatted gentleman…
People dressed appropriately for an English summer’s night…
The Mexican wave was doing its rounds…
And all was good with the world. We were ready. We just needed England to do their bit; win here and they’d take the Women’s Ashes to a final game decider in Cardiff a few days later.
England started well…
… skittling the Aussies back to the clubhouse for a very gettable 107-7. Game on.
Half-time, as it were, and the crowd was ratcheting up a notch.
Aussie captain Meg Lanning was out early warming up her fielding in anticipation of the battle ahead.
The Aussie fans were out in force in their green & gold, relishing this battle after their team were disappointing in the men’s Ashes resulting in this amusing T-shirt.
Fans started to get tense…
And were fully focused on the game.
I said, THE FANS WERE FULLY FOCUSED ON THE GAME!
Young girls talked about the game like wizened cricket fans and this girl got cricket down pat: “Bat it, catch it, throw it,” she repeated in a mantra.
Players’ friends and family supported the team. The lady on the left here, Emma, is the sister of one of the players. Can you guess who?
You got it (or did you?)… It’s England’s Lydia Greenway.
Another test for you. This cutie here is the niece of one of the players, with her mum Beki, but who is the related player…
Yup, it’s Aunty Sarah Taylor.
The Boring Ladies were watching. I’m not being rude, they told me that’s their team name for the new season.
Food options were, shall we say limited as at most sports occasions… A pet hate of mine, especially with kids around.
Selfies abounded. Obvs.
Sensible shoes for walking about on grass were de riguer…
Fred Flintstone was absorbed.
For one Anglo/Aussie couple, relations were tested.
The scene was set but the spotlight faded on England as they fell for 87 all out, handing the Ashes to the Aussies, who won away from home for the first time since 2001, with a game to spare.
Yet, despite the disappointment for the home side, I left the ground with a big smile on my face.
This was proper sport; a super friendly atmosphere, support for both teams and appreciation for their endeavours, kids running about mimicking batting techniques, players’ friends and family chatting with the crowd, and no static stadium-style shoal moving inexorably towards the exits, it was a stroll home for most.
I wasn’t the only one who thoroughly enjoyed the game.
Two local likely lads, Simon and Nick, spoke to me after the event.