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Eileen Ash- the ‘remarkable woman’ of English Cricket who lived 110 years of ‘extraordinary life’

Eileen Ash passed away as the oldest Test cricketer after debuting for England in 1937; ECB payed tribute stating her “a remarkable woman who led an extraordinary life”.

Born at Highbury in London, Eileen Ash started playing Cricket at the age of 5. Ash had made her debut against Australia in 1937 at Northampton in only the fifth Women’s Test match ever contested. On debut, she took 3 wickets in 56 runs.  

Eileen Ash was already working for the Civil Service during her debut and that allowed her to take days off to play for England. She played three Tests in 1937 under her maiden name Eileen Whelan. As World War II broke out, her Cricket career got interrupted and Eileen Ash was seconded to MI6, the foreign intelligence service of England.

The right-arm seamer played four most Tests on the other side of the World War II. She retired in 1949 with a total of 10 scalps, at an average of 23. Her best performance for England was not in a Test match against Australia but in a tour match against Victoria Country XI in Balarat in February 1949 when she hit an unbeaten century before taking five wickets  for 10 runs as England recorded a 170-run win.

Eileen Ash had a life-long honorary membership with the Marylebone Cricket Club. The ECB described her as “a remarkable woman who led an extraordinary life”. This is absolutely no exaggeration, with Ash taking to the skies in a Tiger Moth (1930s British biplane), to mark her 106th birthday, back in 2017. She was conferred the honour of being chosen to ring the bell at Lord’s prior to the England Women’s victory in the 2017 World Cup final. The enigmatic Eileen Ash had her portrait unveiled at Lord’s in 2019.  

In the words of Clare Connor, ECB Managing Director of Women’s Cricket, “Our sport owes so much to its pioneers and Eileen was one of them. I am deeply sad to be saying goodbye to her today. Our thoughts and prayers are with Eileen’s family as they come to terms with losing such a wonderful woman and the end of an astonishing life.

Connor and England captain Heather Knight had paid a visit to Ash about six months before the 2017 Women’s World Cup. They were amazed when the 105-year-old taught Heather Yoga and played Snooker with them. In between cups of tea, the three of them leafed through newspapers and scrapbooks as a celebration of Ash’s time. She regaled them with several incredible tales, that included the time she came to have her bat signed by none other than the legendary Sir Donald Bradman, at a French restaurant in Sydney, in 1949. She once told the BBC how her secrets for a long life were healthy eating, and two glasses of red wine nearly every day.

 

 

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