The fifth Women’s World Cup was the second to be held in England.
It very nearly didn’t happen at all. Had it not been for a last minute grant of £90,000 from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, the tournament would probably have been cancelled. With women’s cricket still run on an amateur basis, players had to take time off work to compete and there was little time for proper training and preparation. Facilities could be desperately poor; before the England v Netherlands game the players themselves had to roll the pitch. Eight teams took part, all playing each other once during a single group stage with the top two in the points table competing in the final. New Zealand went through the group stage with a 100% record, while England edged out reigning champions Australia in the race for second thanks to a crucial 43-run victory at Guildford.
The win over Australia was set up by an undefeated 105 from Carole Hodges and sealed by fine bowling from 24 year-old captain Karen Smithies (3 for 13) and her experienced fellow seamer Gill Smith (5 for 30). All three would have crucial roles to play in the final against a powerful New Zealand side, whose governing body had been the first in women’s cricket to merge their administration with the men’s game. Their stage was Lord’s, and it was quite a change of scene for a tournament mostly played on club grounds around London and the Home Counties. It was only the third women’s One-Day International to be held at the Home of Cricket.
England batted first and found the going tough against disciplined New Zealand bowling. They were grateful again for Hodges’ determination. Her 45 may have taken 119 ball,s but together with Jan Brittin’s 48 it took them to 96 for 1. A brisk partnership of 57 between Jo Chamberlain and Barbara Daniels then helped them on their way to posting 195 for 5 from their 60 overs. It wasn’t the most daunting of targets, but England knew their strong bowling would keep them in with a chance. Smith was playing the last of her 31 ODIs, during which she claimed 41 wickets at an average of 12 with accurate left-arm medium pace. Smith’s 3 for 29 would be crucial, but all of England’s bowlers came to the party. New Zealand limped along at a fraction over two runs per over, losing wickets whenever it looked like a partnership might develop. Smithies was the most economical, her figures of 12-4-14-1 saying everything about the shackles that held New Zealand back. Two quick wickets leaving them 112 for 7 spelled the end for the visitors, who were bowled out for 128 with five overs to spare. England had sealed their second World Cup triumph.