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From the Archive: England Women v South Africa 2003

The Cooper Associates County Ground is set to host the women’s Test match between England and South Africa later this month.

Heather Knight’s side will be looking to come out on top in what promises to be a classic encounter.

It’s not the first time that the two sides have met in a four-day game at Taunton though.

Back in 2003, England overcame the Proteas by an innings and 96 runs.

One of the players that day was Rosalie Fairbairn, who currently sits on the Somerset County Cricket Club Board.

We spoke to her earlier this week to discuss her memories of that game.

“It was my first summer playing for England,” she recalled. “Before the game at Taunton, we’d played a Test against them at Shenley and we were quite a new look team at that point. If I remember correctly, the majority of us were new to the squad and it was the start of a new era. We had a load of new players and if I’m honest, a lot of us were getting used to the format of Test cricket. We don’t play four-day cricket in the domestic game, so the first Test was the first time that a lot of us had actually played the four-day format. By the time we got to Taunton for the second Test, we’d learned a lot. Back then, South Africa were not as strong as they are now, but they had some very skilful players and a lot of experience.

Rosalie took three wickets in the match and scored 62 in the England innings.

“My recollection of the game as a whole isn’t the clearest,” she said. “But I do remember when I was getting near to 50. You know what it’s like when you’re batting and realise that you’re close to a milestone. Your run scoring often grinds to a halt, and I remember it being quite a relief when I eventually got past 50. Claire Taylor had scored a century and we were watching her masterclass of how to bat. There’s nothing worse than going into bat when someone’s got a hundred and you know that you have to go out there and keep the pressure up.”

What was it like being in that squad and who did you bond with?

“Lydia Greenaway had joined the squad the previous winter, and this was my first summer with England. We were both really young and inexperienced and we just went out there and had some fun. When you first start out, it can be an advantage to be a bit naïve to what’s going on. I think for many of us it was a great occasion to play Test cricket against South Africa. It felt like a milestone and lots of us had experience of playing at Taunton, so it was a special place for us to be playing.

“Although there were quite a lot of new players involved, there were still the likes of the two Claire Taylor’s, and I learnt a lot from Lucy Pearson at the time. Clare Conner and Charlotte Edwards were also pretty experienced players. You look at the scorecard now and most of those England players went on to become household names. It was a year when a new group of players bedded in.

“There’s a lot of players who were involved back in 2003 who have gone on to have really successful careers in the game after they’ve finished playing. Clare Connor is the interim ECB CEO, Isa Guha has forged a successful broadcasting career and Charlotte Edwards has moved into coaching. That just shows the quality of knowledge and experience that they have got. They’ve proved what women can do both on and off the field and have paved the way for the professionals of today.”

Can she believe how much the women’s game has progressed in the time since 2003?

“I can’t believe that it was 19 years ago,” she joked. “I don’t feel like I’m old enough for it to have been so long ago. In the years leading up to 2003, there had been a big change in the women’s game. I remember the likes of Clare Connor and Charlotte Edwards telling me that they had been on tours where they had to buy their own uniform and pay for everything. By the time I was playing, things had moved on a fair bit, and we weren’t expected to pay for our things.

“Now we have so many contracted England professional players and a number of domestic pros too. That’s been another really big jump in the history of the women’s game and it’s great to see. Back when I was playing, I was at university and had to fit my training around that, and there were a lot of players who had to fit their cricket around their jobs. People were having to take extended holidays in order to go on tour with England. It’s great that cricket is now a prospective career for women and girls.”

Rosalie also feels that the Cooper Associates County Ground is the perfect venue to host the Test match.

“It’s great that Taunton will have a women’s Test again this year. I know that many of the players will have fond memories of playing there. There’s always a lovely reception from the Members and spectators and there’s always a really nice atmosphere. The staff at Somerset are always really accommodating and welcoming to the women’s team and that makes England women’s games at Taunton so special. The players feel really at home there and I think that helps them to perform. Hopefully, they will do so again this summer.”

Tickets are now on sale for the Women’s Test match between England and South Africa at the Cooper Associates County Ground in June.

Members can still claim a 25% discount on tickets by logging into their online account!

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