[This article first appeared on the now defunct website Cricketwoman. - RE]
In 1973, the women were first with a cricket world cup, and in 2004 they will be first with a Twenty20 cricket international.
The England & Wales Cricket Board has announced that the New Zealand women's team, which will be touring England in July and August 2004, will play one game in the new 20-over-a-side format against the host nation at Hove on August 5.
Twenty20 was launched by the ECB in 2003 as a new tournament for the eighteen counties in the men's game, with Surrey finishing up as the champions, but there are no plans as yet for a full-scale male international fixture.
Twenty20 matches are played over a timeframe of approximately two and a half hours, with each team permitted an innings of twenty overs, and each bowler allowed a maximum of four overs. Unlike some of the privatised shortened versions of the game in existence, there is no significant tampering with the Laws of Cricket - the biggest changes being that a free hit is available from the delivery following a no-ball, the period allowed before a batsman can be "timed out" is reduced to 90 seconds, and umpires are instructed to be extremely strict on use of the five-run penalty for time wasting.
The 2003 county competition was generally regarded as a success, being staged in mid-summer when spectators could see a complete game between the hours of 5.30 and 8.15pm. The main criticism was the ECB's insistance of holding non-cricketing activities in conjunction with Twenty20 games, especially pop concerts. Lord's had to give up its right to stage the final when it could not obtain an entertainment licence from the local council to hold an Atomic Kitten concert before the game!
Details of the rest of the 2004 New Zealand tour of England, which will include an nPower Test Series and a NatWest One-Day Series, are yet to be announced.