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  • Writer's pictureThe Hambledon Club

Guest Speaker: Isabelle Duncan

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Isabelle Duncan is a leading woman cricketer and qualified coach, running her own cricket coaching organisation. She was educated at Charterhouse and Durham University. She captains Albury CC (all-male apart from herself) in the Surrey league and has played for numerous teams over the past twenty years, including MCC, Bunburys, Heataches, Invalids and Nomads. She is also closely involved with the charity Chance to Shine.


Before Grace, our newly elected President, Brian Ford, asked for a moments silence for ROY CLARK who had been an honorary club member, and who had died earlier in the year.

Our Chaplain, The Reverend David Brown, said Grace Apologies for Absence: Bernard Frowd, OBE, Chrissie Marris, Michael Knox, Alan Rayment, Elizabeth Lloyd, Verity Crump, Roger Gibbons, Mike Gordon, Geoff Willis, Ian Duke, Jane & Peter Parsons, Hugh Cocke, Stewart Codling, Barrington Lawes, Andrew Bruce, Julian Lawton-Smith, Martin Davey, Ralph Simmonds, Grayston Burgess, Robin Brodhurst, Nick Bailey, Nick & Gillie Twine, Roy Birch, Anthony Mason.

The President:

1. The President welcomed all members and their guests, and our speaker Isabelle Duncan, known as ‘Izzy’.

2. The members were told that BOB BEAGLEY, who was an honorary member of the club, is now living in a nursing home. Bob had been a very loyal supporter of the club since its seed was sown in 1998, and will be fondly remembered by many, along with Roy who was our other honorary member, and author of 'James Aylward - The Untold Story'.

3. To the delight of our members, the President announced that Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth will be speaking at our 2018 Spring meeting.


The prize raffle of a free lunch was drawn by our Steward and won by Terry Johnson. After deduction of expenses, £180 was raised for Hambledon youth cricket.

The Toasts:

The President asked members to be upstanding for the traditional Toasts:

The Queen’s Mother; The King; Hambledon Club; Cricket; The immortal memory of Madge. Andrew Renshaw asked members to toast the President.

The President: After the cheese and coffee were served, the President was delighted to introduce our Speaker.

Izzy began her talk by admitting that in terms of the great days of Hambledon, she was particularly impressed by Richard Nyren who managed to be a player, a captain and a landlord of the Bat & Ball Inn.

She was educated at Charterhouse and Durham University, and told us how much she loved her current career: being paid to watch cricket by commentating for BBC Five Live on county cricket and women’s internationals! She is a qualified coach and has worked with Chance to Shine; she also captained an otherwise all-male side Albury CC, in the Surrey League.

In the late 1990s, during the various campaigns to allow women to join MCC, she caused some controversy by appearing in an MCC sweater on the front cover of Wisden Cricketer. She described how Rachel Heyhoe-Flint had instigated the process, applying for membership and told the “inside story” of the various votes in the 1990s against, and eventually for, allowing women to become members. The vote was won, eventually, amidst a degree of “emotional turmoil” during the 1999 World Cup in England.

In 2013 Izzy published her “History of Women’s Cricket” and offered us a precise of some of the key moments and individuals in that history – a long one that began in 1745 with a match between two teams from southern Surrey, Bramley v Hambledon, which was played for high stakes. In the 18th century matches between women’s teams were quite common, especially in south-east England, and they played for various stakes and prizes including plumb cakes, or a barrel of tea. They attracted rowdy crowds and featured matches such as Married v Single, or Married v Maidens – generally followed by a good old “knees up.”

Increasingly, such cricket was played by the upper and middle classes, especially as the Industrial Revolution made it difficult for working class women to find sufficient time and energy. In the early 19th century the women’s game went into decline, and when they did play, too often their matches were considered freakish amusements and not taken seriously. An upsurge began around the 1880s in schools, colleges, and villages – and with even a women’s touring side.

The White Heather Club for aristocratic ladies was formed in1887 and flourished until the 1950s. A few years later there were two professional English teams from lower middle classes, coached by county cricketers until their managers absconded with the profits. WG Grace’s mother was a significant influence on the cricket played by her sons, and WG’s daughter played for Clifton Ladies until her illustrious father stopped her playing once she left school.

England led the way in women’s cricket but gradually the other countries of the Empire joined in. In the late 19th century, Australian Rosalie Dean scored a century in both innings and was the first woman cricketer to be mentioned in Wisden, but the 1930s were the ‘Golden Age’ with the first tour of Australia by England in 1934/5, and a couple of years later, Australia’s first Test victory. Post-war, women’s international cricket resumed in 1948 and has often been dominated subsequently by Australia as more countries became involved, although Izzy told us that worldwide T20 is more common than Test cricket – the Ashes excepted.

She described the ‘Superstars,’ including historic names like Myrtle McLagen, Betty Snowball, Molly Hide, and in her view “the finest women cricketer of all time,” Betty Wilson, who was Australia’s greatest all-rounder known as the Female Bradman. Wilson learned to bat by placing a ball in a stocking suspended on the clothes line, and found a shot to hit the ball however it came. Izzy told us with a tear in her eye, that Wilson had to choose between cricket and love, remaining single throughout her life. She was the first player, male or female, to score a century, take ten wickets and take a hat-trick in the same Test Match, and was elected to the Australian Sports Hall of Fame in 1985 – the first woman to be so honoured.

In more recent times, the names were familiar including from England, Baroness Rachel Heyhoe-Flint who was unbeaten in 51 matches. She captained England, led out the first women’s first team to play at Lord’s, hit the first six in a women’s Test, and led England to victory in the first Women’s World Cup Final in 1973. There was praise too for Charlotte Edwards, and Claire Taylor, who in 2009, was the first woman to be selected as one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year and still holds the record for the highest ODI score at Lord’s by a man or woman. Izzy suggested that if we were to encounter Viv Richards we might remind him of the fact!

Izzy concluded by saying that 2017 was a decisive turning point in women’s cricket. It had been a “bumper” year for them, particularly through all the coverage of the Women’s World Cup via new and old media, and culminating in the fabulous Final in which England beat India by a narrow margin, and she marvelled at the broad range of their accomplished women cricketers. She said that, “Crucially this narrow defeat at Lords is a giant leap for women’s cricket in India and the nation must seize the moment and build on this remarkable momentous – anything less would be criminal.”

Book on sale: Isabelle Duncan 2013, Skirting the Boundary the Robson Press

Through applause, the President thanked Izzy for the run-through of the history of women’s cricket and encouraged members to purchase a signed copy of her book for further information! But also for bringing us up to date with the great success of the 2017 World Cup and the great opportunities that have to be grasped by a number of countries, which are slow in doing so, particularly in India which has the greatest possibility to make things happen.

AOB: The President informed the members that a cheque for £500 will be going shortly to the Hambledon Colts. And on behalf of the membership, he also thanked the Bat and Ball staff for what had been a lovely lunch.

Newsletter 38: 21 October 2017

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