But then progress didn’t materialize as quickly as she imagined. The Kia Super League helped raise the level of women’s cricket, but the matches were not regularly televised and the players were not regularly professional.
By the end of 2020, there are only 16 full-time professional contracts left in women’s cricket – reserved for England internationals.
Hartley says it is “remarkable” that it has taken so long for England to return to Lord’s as well. Between 2008 and 2014, one women’s international match was played there each year. A World Cup victory should have only strengthened the women’s team’s claim to play at the “home of cricket”, but instead that 2017 final was their only appearance at Lord’s in eight years.
Until this summer, the women had played just one home game at the men’s training ground since that landmark day five years ago. “It’s like we’re now championing the fact that England are playing at Lord’s and it’s an amazing moment – but should it be?” says Hartley.
“You feel part of this huge community”
There are signs that will change, with an MCC spokesman telling ESPNcricinfo in January that it was “working closely with the ECB to bring women’s international cricket back to Lord’s every year”.
Lydia Greenway, who has featured in 14 Tests, 126 ODIs and 85 T20 Internationals for England, is delighted they are back at Lord’s as well. She recently retired in 2017, but commentating on the final and her strongest memory remained in the crowd. “I was at the Women’s Euro final to watch the Lionesses and it felt like that day at Lord’s,” she says. “I looked around and it was like the feeling of finding your tribe. Like Lord’s, Wembley was full of female sports fans. You just feel part of this huge community.”
Looking at the opportunities in domestic cricket now, both she and Hartley agree that the women’s game is on the way to where it wants to be, with the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and the Charlotte Edwards Trophy, along with a hundred, helping to boost opportunities. The restructuring of the ECB into regional arrangements saw the development of women’s academies and at the elite level, the second season of the women’s side this year saw an average of 10,400 spectators per match. Also at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Edgbaston attracted an impressive crowd.
“Looking back, when I made my debut for England at 17, I wasn’t exposed nearly as much in terms of the level of cricket that girls are playing now,” says Greenway. “That’s why it’s so great to see them really make the most of everything they’re given.”
How and why the women’s 100 avoided going down in season two
While the men’s competition struggled to raise the bar or capture the imagination, the women’s version was successful
By Tim Wigmore
If the syndrome of the second season was inevitable in this year’s men’s 100, it luckily eluded the women’s competition. Despite the Commonwealth Games curtailing the tournament, this year’s women’s 100 could lay claim to being the best since last year.
With the increased number of overseas players, the quality of cricket has improved. Even with 10 fewer games, the important metrics were also positive: compared to 2021, there were more sixes in this year’s women’s competition. Most importantly, more fans came to watch: 271,000 in total, an average of 10,400 per game.
Perhaps the best indication of the centurion’s development came in the final: not on the field, but off it. For the Oval Invincibles, Dane van Niekerk, official team captain and man of the match in last year’s final, watched from the sidelines: not because she was injured, but because she didn’t make it to the side. Van Niekerk was the victim of a change in the rules on overseas players. Just like last year, sides were only able to field three players from overseas in their XIs, but now they could sign four at a time, meaning the once famous international player would now be missing.