Why women’s sport is big right now
Australians can finally cheer a national cricket team to Ashes victory, with the final match of the women’s series set to be broadcast on free-to-air TV.
The Southern Stars are well ahead of the English women, in contrast to the Australian men’s dismal showing in Britain that prompted the retirement of captain Michael Clarke and a national outcry.
The women’s Ashes is scored using a points system – four points are awarded for winning a Test match, two each for a one day or T20 victory.
The Australians lead the series 8-2, so England would need to win all three remaining T20 games to manage a draw.
The Nine Network’s free-to-air HD channel GEM will show the last match of the series on delay at 9pm on Monday, ahead of the men’s T20 match, which starts at midnight.
But that game may be just a victory lap for the Southern Stars if they come out on top on either early Thursday morning, Melbourne and Sydney time, or on Friday.
Nine Network’s head of sport Steve Crawley said captain Meg Lanning, allrounder Ellyse Perry and wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy were world-class athletes and great entertainers.
“It’s exciting for the Nine Network to bring the Southern Stars’ talents into Australian households, to cap off what’s been a fantastic women’s Ashes series,” he said.
The commentary team will include a mix of people from the Nine Network and British channel Sky, with the final lineup still being finalised.
It has been a good year for Australian sportswomen.
National soccer team the Matildas became the first national side to make the quarter-finals at a World Cup.
Channel Seven broadcast a women’s AFL match earlier this month, the first time the female version of the sport had made it to live, free-to-air television, and it proved a ratings success.
But big differences remain between the pay and recognition offered to male and female Australian athletes in most sports.
Cricket Australia figures show the number of five- to 12-year-old girls playing cricket had grown 18 per cent in the past financial year, with a substantial increase in participation also evident among teenagers and adult women.
There were 525 traditional 11-a-side female club teams, 91 more than the year before.
CA chief executive James Sutherland said he wanted to make cricket the most popular sport in the country amongst girls and women. He said he was glad Australians would get the chance to watch the talented women’s team play.
“They recently became the first ever national cricket team, male or female, to be ranked No.1 in all three formats at the same time, and have repeatedly risen to the big occasion winning the last four ICC world titles,” he said.