Edgbaston holds a special place in Enid Bakewell’s heart.
Enid was part of the England Women’s team that claimed the first ever Women’s Cricket World Cup at the home of the Bears back in 1973.
The victory was due in no small part to an amazing knock of 118 by the then 32-year-old opener in the final against Australia.
Fifty years on and Enid is eagerly awaiting a return to Edgbaston, this time as a spectator, to watch the new generation of England Women take on the old enemy in a Women’s Ashes IT20 on Saturday 1 July (6.30pm start).
It’s unclear exactly how many people were at Edgbaston on 28 July 1973 for that inaugural World Cup climax but the Warwickshire CCC Annual Report states “the attendance for such an attractive and important occasion was somewhat disappointing.”
There will be nothing disappointing about the size of the crowd when England and Australia lock horns in the first of three T20 Ashes. Edgbaston is the fastest selling Women’s Ashes venue for 2023 with more than 14,000 tickets already sold and only limited tickets now remaining in some stands.
Early Bird tickets are available from only £15, but hurry as these prices end on 9 March. Buy tickets online at tickets.edgbaston.com.
And it means the Ashes clash is likely to set a new record attendance for a women’s match on home soil outside of an ICC or Commonwealth Games tournament.
“It’s hard to imagine what it will be like for those girls to run out in front of, what, maybe 20,000 fans,” said the 82-year-old, who was still playing regularly for an over-70s team until being side-lined by a niggling shoulder.
“It’ll be the most amazing thrill; the atmosphere will be incredible.
“Am I jealous? Absolutely. I don’t really recall the crowd during that ’73 final: I was always focussed on my game. My fondest memories are obviously getting a hundred, receiving the trophy from Princess Anne (who went on to present Enid with an MBE in 2019) and seeing my dad running onto the pitch to be with me at the end.
“It’s fantastic how the women’s game has progressed since those early days when a lot of people didn’t realise women played the game.
“The standard of women’s cricket is brilliant now, getting better every year as more girls go professional, and there have been some really exciting matches. I can’t wait to take my seat for the Women’s Ashes.”
Wolverhampton legend Rachel Flint (later Heyhoe-Flint) was the captain in 1973 – a visionary of the women’s game – and she made it her mission that the British public would wake up to women’s cricket.
She was instrumental in the decision to play those World Cup matches at grounds the length and breadth of the country, from Sittingbourne to Bradford, Ealing to Exmouth, before climaxing in the grandeur of a Test match venue.
On one drive to Sussex, Enid was pulled over by the police on a routine documents check.
She’d left her driver’s licence at her Newstead Village, Nottinghamshire, home so instead pointed to her England blazer draped across the back seats. With a smile, the officer waved Enid on her way.
“Rachael was keen to take the tournament around the country to raise awareness of women’s cricket,” said Enid. “A lot of people didn’t realise women played cricket…and of course sadly many people didn’t want women playing cricket.
“Back then it wasn’t uncommon to see ‘gentlemen only’ signs at parts of cricket clubs, and I remember at one club where we’d played a match there was a line near the bar that women were not permitted to cross!
“A lot of the credit for the way women’s cricket has developed – and the opportunities it now presents for players, clubs and spectators – goes to Rachael.
“She was passionate about making the women’s game professional, she had that vision to expand the game and make it the exciting product it is now.”
Enid first started playing cricket as a nine-year-old in the street with an electrical junction box as a wicket. A six over the local vicarage wall presented an opportunity for the recovering fielder to scrump apples.
The young group – all boys with the exception of Enid – went on to use shears and even scissors to carve out their own strip in a field by the coal mine that dominated the community.
“You couldn’t let it bounce as the ball could fly off in any direction,” recalled Enid, who played domestic cricket for 30 years with the East Midlands Women’s team (later Nottinghamshire) before ending her career in 1999 with Surrey.
“Little did I realise then it would influence my playing style because I regularly used to come down the wicket and hit the ball on the full without it bouncing.”
As a teenager Enid moved to Dartford PE College, Kent, where the Deputy Head Teacher was ex-England cricketer Mary Duggan, while Ruth Westbrook was a lecturer while still keeping wicket for England.
They quickly realized and encouraged Enid’s potential.
Enid narrowly missed out on selection for England’s Test tour to Australia in 1963 and couldn’t take part in home Tests against New Zealand in 1966 having fallen pregnant with the first of her three children.
But she grasped her international opportunity – a four-and-a-half month tour to Australia and New Zealand – with both hands when it came in 1968.
Though she did have to sell a few potatoes to get there!
Enid explained: “There was very little funding then and the players were expected to contribute towards the air fare. We had a big garden with a vegetable patch so I sold potatoes, and books, to raise funds.
“I had to leave my two-year-old daughter at home for what was a very long tour; it was a tough decision but my parents convinced me it was the right thing to do and they would cope.
“I think I made them proud. I got a century on my debut and also scored hundreds when opening the batting in the first and second Tests against New Zealand.”
She would go on to score more than 1,000 test runs at an average of almost 60, as well as taking 50 wickets at an average of 16.62.
Fittingly she closed out her Test career at Edgbaston in 1979 against the West Indies when she scored 68 and 112 not out, and took 10 wickets in the match for 75 runs.
So how would Enid in her heyday take to stepping out at an electric Edgbaston and a record crowd against the Aussies?
“I’d love it,” she said. “It’ll be an amazing occasion and I’m really looking forward to being in the crowd and cheering the girls on.
“I’m not sure if my style was quite cut out for T20 cricket though. I had a tendency to be a bit cautious as Rachael was insistent we shouldn’t lose a wicket before 50 was on the board.
“I’m still playing for the over-70s team when I can. And I took a catch recently as a late stand-in for my daughter’s team!”
You never lose it Enid, you never lose it.
Over 75% sold for Women’s Ashes IT20
For the first time, Edgbaston will host a Women’s Ashes IT20 as the oldest rivalry in cricket returns to Birmingham – and around 15,000 tickets have already been sold!
Watch local stars including Amy Jones and Issy Wong in action as we make history on Saturday 1 July, 6.30pm start. Tickets are available from only £17 for adults and under 16s £5.