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Cricket celebrates ground-breaking year for women and girls

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Australian Cricket is celebrating a ground-breaking 12 months, with the game reaching new heights both on and off the field and continuing to take major strides toward becoming the leading sport for women and girls.

2017 proved that women’s sport is in high demand in Australia, with more people attending elite women’s cricket than ever before. The Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes Series marked the first time Cricket Australia had ticketed women’s international matches, with a record 29,158 fans attending the matches across Australia.

Total viewership across the six matches broadcast on Channel Nine reached just over 4 million people, with the final One Day International televised on the main channel attracting a significant audience, providing further indication of the growing appetite for the women’s game. The livestream on Cricket Network reached 256,000 viewers across the series with 4.5 million minutes watched online.

Fans around the world were able to enjoy every ball of the action, including Ellyse Perry’s recording-breaking unbeaten 213, thanks to the world-class livestream broadcast of the historic Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes day-night Test at North Sydney Oval.

Made possible by Commonwealth Bank and Cricket Australia, for the first time fans could experience the livestream in full HD while an all-female commentary team provided expert insights of the on-field action. This was in just one part of the Commonwealth Bank’s $15 million investment in initiatives that help level the playing field and promote inclusion in cricket.

The second season of the Rebel Women’s Big Bash League received an unprecedented level of support, only to be outdone by the opening weekend of Rebel WBBL|03 earlier this month, with 8,726 fans turning out to North Sydney Oval. The prime-time match between the Sydney Sixers and Melbourne Stars attracted an average national audience of 422,500 viewers, peaking at 629,000. This was a 59% increase on the WBBL|02 season average, making it the biggest average audience for a regular WBBL match.

A remarkable 2,023 runs were scored across the opening weekend, including a record-breaking 114 off 52 balls from Sydney Sixers all-rounder Ashleigh Gardner. The Sydney Sixers’ 4-242 against the Melbourne Stars was the highest ever total compiled in either the women’s or men’s Big Bash competitions.

Rebel reinforced its long-standing position as a strong supporter of women’s cricket in December by extending its naming rights sponsorship of the WBBL for a further three years, with the deal meaning Rebel and Cricket Australia will continue working together to champion the current stars of the WBBL and inspire more women and girls to play cricket.

Cricket Australia and Mamamia signed a revolutionary digital partnership ahead of WBBL|03, which will ensure this year’s tournament reaches a bigger audience than ever before. The partnership will see Mamamia carry all 47 of Cricket Australia’s livestreamed Rebel WBBL matches this season, in complementing the 12 WBBL matches set to be broadcast once again on Network Ten.

Australia’s professional women cricketers were included in the same collective agreement as the men for the first time in 2017, meaning they will earn a minimum of $55million over the next five years, compared to $7million across the past five years. The wages of women playing domestic cricket (WNCL and WBBL) were also increased by 128%, meaning cricket is the only sport to have gender equity in its remuneration for professional players, with all players, men and women, starting with the same base hourly rate of pay.

At a junior level, participation reached an all-time high with females making up 27.6%, or nearly one in three, of the 1.4 million people playing cricket (393,735). This was a 24.5% increase on the number just one year ago.

This year Cricket Australia is planning for 1,000 girls’ teams to be playing in girls-only competitions around the country as a result of the Growing Cricket for Girls Fund. With additional support from principal partner Commonwealth Bank, the total investment in Growing Cricket for Girls is now $6m over the four years.

Commenting on the successes for women’s cricket over the past 12 months, Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland said: “2017 marks another wonderful year for women and girls cricket in Australia with the game continuing to grow at a rapid rate - particularly at community level. Whilst it's pleasing to see, we understand that a lot more work needs to be done to ensure cricket is the leading sport for women and girls.

“The WBBL continues to raise the bar as one of the best women’s domestic leagues in Australia and has proven to be hugely effective in helping to address perceptions and demonstrate the amazing career opportunities that cricket now provides talented young female athletes.

“The Australian Women’s Cricket Team successfully retained the Ashes on home soil and once again represented their country with pride and inspired young cricketers across the country. While they showed glimpses of their immense talent, we look forward to supporting them over the coming 12 months as they strive to reclaim the World T20 crown in the West Indies next November.

“Our sincere thanks goes to our commercial partners and broadcasters for helping us to maintain the growth in women’s cricket, in particular the Nine Network and Network Ten along with Commonwealth Bank and Rebel.”