Tally Ho!

Well the past few weeks have made a blur look like slow motion, to say the least. After a whirlwind, during which I wasn’t quite sure what was happening, I suddenly found myself in the lovely Buckinghamshire village of Stokenchurch, covering the Women’s Ashes.

(In case you’re wondering what that’s about – here’s a preview I prepared earlier… http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-11/southern-stars-set-for-battle-in-new-ashes-series/4878554?section=sport )

It’s funny how things just happen. I was planning on heading to the UK this month for a few things, and after a series of possibly-maybe-probably work scenarios I ended up writing some stories for the Sydney Morning Herald and I’m providing daily match coverage for ABC Grandstand.

In fact… here’s a summary of the first four days of the test, which ended in a draw – unfortunately!

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-12/women27s-ashes3a-sarah-elliott-australia27s-southern-stars/4879742/?site=sport&section=cricket

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-14/womens-ashes-test-headed-for-a-draw/4885336

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-15/test-stand-off-leaves-women27s-ashes-series-up-for-grabs/4888652/?site=sport&section=cricket

The strange thing is that I didn’t quite know how this was going to pan out, or how much work I was going to have to do. The plan was that I would just be available to provide “stuff” to the ABC, starting with a daily match report. The wonderful thing is that there was actually a lot of interest in the test (no doubt magnified by the spectacular collapse of the Australian men’s team in Durham) and so I ended up fielding many calls from national radio, as well as metros around Australia.

The Wormsley experience was the shiz. Very posh shiz. When there’s a Veuve Cliquot tent you know you’re somewhere special. Normally at sporting events the press are lucky to get a few manky party pies and sausage rolls, maybe some sangas, and heaven forbid if there’s an ice cream.

Amid the rolling green hills of Wormsley, our view of the test was occasionally interrupted by Jamie Oliver catering. Damn those scotch eggs. And berries with ice cream. Don’t even talk about the Bakewell tart. Did I say diet? Never has a press area been sated with such glee. My one regret is that professional conscience prevented me from smashing at least one glass of champers. I just inhaled.

One end of the ground was called the Dibley End, because the Vicar of Dibley was filmed just a few fields away. The scoreboard had a thatched roof. There was a red telephone box. Dammit it was just all so Enid Blyton, I expected the Famous Five to show up with tonnes of tomatoes and lashings of ginger beer at any moment.

Unfortunately the food had a bit more life than the pitch, which sucked the chance of a result dry. Interestingly enough, it was the Aussies in the tent convinced there could be a result up until the last session. Optimistic or just super-competitive, we just couldn’t accept any international team wouldn’t go in for the kill if there were half a chance.

This gig has confirmed to me how enjoyable radio is as a medium. I’m so used to television but there’s a freedom in radio and a great joy in being able to set a scene with the spoken word. Anyway, I like it.

One of the nice things about this tour is seeing the Aussie girls’ families and partners. They are such a lovely bunch of people. I only know a few of them but I feel like we’re part of a club. There was also a great sense of camaraderie in the press tent. People were sharing transcripts, stats and jokes. It was really like hanging out with a terrific bunch of mates for a few days.

Perhaps one of the things that unite us is that we are free of cricket snobbery. I had very little to do with the women’s game until six months ago, when I suddenly found myself reporting and commentating on the Rose Bowl series. I’m actually really open minded about sport. I don’t care whether I’m doing stories on the high profile stars, the new kids on the block, or the grass roots. If it’s a good story then I’m always captivated. So I’m always bemused when people say “Oh do you actually like women’s cricket?” My response is generally… that’s it’s just cricket. If it’s a good game then I enjoy watching it. If it’s a rubbish game… then I enjoy it as much as a rubbish game involving men.

So I’m afraid I’m no champion of the female version. I just enjoy it on its merits, the same as any sport. Having said that, I have to say that the Southern Stars are a particularly likable bunch – some genuinely nice people with talent to burn.

So the test is done and dusted and there are six matches to go. I’m going to be there for each of them and only the last two are being broadcast live. I’ve been overwhelmed by the interest in my live tweeting of the test and I’ll be doing the same for the other games. Hopefully the interest will eventually translate into broadcast deals, but until then I’ll do my best to let everyone know what’s happening!

PS. Here’s another story I did on Holly Ferling – you’ll hear more about her soon.

http://www.smh.com.au/sport/cricket/big-learning-curve-for-teenage-pace-ace-20130809-2rn75.html?skin=text-only