10th September 2020 marks the 50th Birthday of Australian cricketing legend Belinda Clark – only the second woman inducted in the ICC Hall of Fame. In her career spanning 14 years from 1991 to 2005, the former Australian captain scored 5,767 runs, at an average of 45.95 in ODI’s and 47.49 in Tests. She is an absolute legend in the game of cricket, and at the start of the 50th chapter in her life, we take a look back at her stellar.

Before Sachin Tendulkar scored the first double century in men’s ODI’s, it was Belinda Clark who scored the first-ever in limited-overs cricket.

The 2-time World Cup-winning captain played an incredible knock of 229* from just 155 balls – unheard of in those times – against a hapless Denmark side.

In an interview with Bharath Ramaraj from Cricbuzz, Mel Jones, who stood at the non-striker’s end, described her captain’s innings, “When she came off the ground, everyone was applauding her. We took the picture next to the scorecard and spoke about it for the rest of the tournament.”

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Jones recounts another incident from the match, which defines the Hall of Famer’s personality, “In my head, I’m getting ready for the big celebration. And we were coming back for the second run, and I’ve gone for the big hug, and she stuck out the dead arm handshake saying, ‘come on, we have a long way to go.” While massive sixes and big scores are the names of the game in modern cricket, the way cricket was played in 1997 was very different. In the women’s game, Belinda Clark was one of the pioneers to bring about that change in the cricketers’ mindset.

Speaking on her knock, Clark modestly said in an interview, “I didn’t set out to score a big score but just to make sure I was concentrating well and hitting the ball nicely.” Another aspect in this match perhaps played a part in Belinda’s ground-breaking knock. Earlier on the same day, a 17-year old future English legend, Charlotte Edwards, leapfrogged Clark’s teammate, Lisa Keightley, to register the highest score in women’s ODI’s (173* vs. Ireland).

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Mel Jones spoke about how badly the team wanted to get the record back from their arch-rivals, “We were counting that one down (173) while Belinda was in the middle. So, when she went past that is when we were almost like ‘Ohhh she is getting close to 200’.” She goes on to say, “At the moment it was more about – and apologies to Charlotte Edwards, I didn’t know her as well as I do now – but it was more about here’s England getting excited about this young kid who’s just 17 hitting the highest-ever score in a women’s World Cup and Clarkey comes out and smashes 229 not out.”

Bandra’s Middle Income Group (MIG) Ground witnessed Clark’s spectacular innings, which catapulted women’s cricket into new horizons. Having played an incredible role in developing women’s cricket on-the-field, she continues to be a loyal servant off it. The 1998 Wisden Australian Cricketer of the Year was the former CEO of Women’s Cricket Australia and was appointed as a member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2000. This honour was bestowed upon Clark “for service to cricket, particularly through the Australian Women’s Cricket Team, and to the promotion and development of the game for women and girls.”

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Even though Sachin Tendulkar is the “God of Cricket” and has numerous records in his glorious career, it is rather unfortunate that the general public remembers his double-century as the first-ever.

Before the advent of T20’s and IPL’s and now even T10’s, Clark’s innings redefined and inspired a new generation in cricket. However, in all her humility, Clark said in an interview, “I was excited when Sachin and the Sehwag scored 200 in ODI matches. Great company to be in, don’t you think?”

Image Credit: cricket.com.au/ Belinda Clark Twitter

This article was published first on Female Cricket.

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