Enid Bakewell: ‘I accidentally played cricket while six months pregnant’ | Sport

Enid Bakewell has a strong claim to being the finest female all-rounder England has ever produced. Across 12 Tests and 23 ODIs for her country between 1968 and 1982, she made six international centuries and took 75 wickets with her left-arm spin. Bakewell was inducted into the ICC’s Hall of Fame in 2012 and was awarded an MBE last year.

I was never into dolls as a girl – I had football boots and a cricket bat instead. I used to play cricket with all the local lads on the field adjacent to the vicar’s garden and they would hit the ball into his garden so they could go and scrump his apples. Then he reported us to the police and they came and moved us on! I was the only one with the proper equipment so they all wanted to borrow it – I was an only child so I was a bit spoiled.

I trained as a PE teacher but wasn’t allowed to teach cricket because they said it was unladylike. I was teaching at a girls’ grammar school and the local PE advisor, who was a woman herself, categorically said that I could not teach cricket in lesson time. So I started an after-school club instead.

When I told people I played for England they used to say: “I didn’t know women played cricket.” You don’t hear that now – it’s changed completely. I remember one headline when we were in Australia in 1968-69 – “Skipper loses lucky bra”! – but Rachael changed everything. PR-wise, she was an absolute inspiration.

It wasn’t easy playing cricket with three young children. The purse strings were really stretched and I was tired all the time. I had to work part-time as a swimming teacher so that I could get time off to play in the England matches. I’d put the kids to bed every night and then go out and train. I’d race cars down the road to the next traffic light. I normally won!

We weren’t allowed to be paid for playing even if we got offered money. I once met a bloke who ran me to the ground in a Jag. He offered me sponsorship money and I said: “Well, I’m sorry but I’m not allowed to take money for playing cricket.” We were deemed to be amateur, so we couldn’t even claim travel expenses. It would have made life easier if we could.

I watched 86,000 people at the MCG recently [for the Women’s T20 World Cup final] and thought: “We never had crowds like that.” But I didn’t mind, so long as my dad was there I was quite happy. I played in the first World Cup in 1973, and scored a century in the final at Edgbaston in front of 1,500 people, but my main memory of the match is coming off the pitch and seeing my dad there waiting for me – that and getting presented with my medal by Princess Anne.

Enid Bakewell was awarded an MBE at Buckingham Palace in 2019.

Enid Bakewell was awarded an MBE at Buckingham Palace in 2019. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

I once accidentally played cricket until I was six months pregnant. I was so naive that I didn’t even realise I was expecting. I was still getting right down and fielding to my own bowling. Other people realised before I did – I did wonder why my cricket skirt was getting a bit tight!

Women should rule the world. We’d never go to war then! I always felt, coming from a male-dominated mining village, Newstead in Nottinghamshire, that I was fighting men all the time. I’m always looking for where there are inequalities. I’m definitely a feminist.

After I retired from international cricket, I was a Labour councillor on the local district council for a few years. If I get a new car, it’ll have to be red. I’ve told people I can’t drive a blue car because it won’t match the Labour Party poster in my window, which stays there all year round!

I’m still playing cricket aged 79. I went to La Manga last year to play with an over-40s team from East Anglia. I managed to field in the slips and umpire. I didn’t bat because I’m waiting for a knee replacement. Sixty years of playing hockey has knackered my knees, so I’ve given away my hockey stick now. But I’ll carry on playing cricket. I’d like to bowl again if my arthritic left arm will let me!

Heather Knight has been teaching me how to use FaceTime during lockdown. My son bought me an iPad recently but didn’t give me the instructions for how to use it and I was struggling with some of the buttons. So I had a long chat with Heather and Isa Guha and they helped me out!

I got myself out on purpose once in an international match and I don’t regret it. We were playing Australia in the first ever women’s match at Lord’s in 1976, and I’d scored 50. I thought, ‘Rachael has organised this, she needs to come out and bat, that’s more important than me getting a century!’ So I ran myself out. We still beat the Aussies by eight wickets…

The Pinch Hitter is a new cricket magazine from the team behind The Nightwatchman. Pay what you can to read issues 1 and 2 and support the freelance community during this difficult time.

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