Baroness Rachael Heyhoe Flint died on Wednesday aged 77. She was, among other achievements, the Dr WG Grace of women's cricket - the pioneer without whom the game would not be what it is.

She was the first in her field in so many ways: the first woman to hit a six in test match; the creator of the first women's World Cup in 1973 (two years ahead of the inaugural men's tournament); the England captain in 1976, against Australia, when women were first allowed to play at Lord's; the first woman to be elected to the full MCC committee, almost as great an honour as being appointed to the other Lords - the House of - as a working peer in 2010.

As may be deduced from this CV, she lived with the same gusto that she played cricket, although in one test against Australia at the Oval, she batted with such restraint - in order to achieve a draw - that she spent almost nine hours at the crease in scoring 179. Her highest innings in 22 tests, it enabled her to finish with a batting average of 45.

She was married to former Warwickshire cricketer Derrick Flint and spent her last years nursing him.


In other sports, she played for the England women's hockey team as a goalkeeper.

In football, she became a director of Wolverhampton Wanderers, having been born in the city. The club's major sponsor more than a generation ago, Sir Jack Hayward, was persuaded by Rachael Heyhoe (as she was before her marriage) to take an interest in women's cricket and sponsor the first World Cup. Needless to add, the England team won it under her energetic captaincy.

Wolves managing director Laurie Dalrymple paid tribute this week by saying: "Everyone at Wolves is deeply saddened to hear the news that Rachael has passed away. She was a wonderful lady who meant so much to so many people at the football club, in the city of Wolverhampton, and also much further afield.

"Rachael's contribution to the world of sport, the local community, and in later years politics, cannot be measured, and neither can her seemingly never-ending kindness and generosity of spirit. Her best friend, Sir Jack, helped ensure that Wolverhampton Wanderers were able to benefit from her boundless energy, enthusiasm and unquenchable desire to improve people's lives."

As England's cricket captain, she was unbeaten in her six series in charge. Then she set about the even-more formidable task of persuading MCC to admit females as members, not just kitchen staff, in a nine-year process.

"It was no use going in with a strident attitude saying, 'I'm a woman, I demand the right that after 204 years you have a woman member'," she said.

"I just chat to people, get them on my side, with a light-hearted sense of humour - even though it's a very serious matter you're dealing with - and eventually you have people like Richie Benaud, Colin Cowdrey and Sir Jack Hayward supporting the concept of women members."

MCC president Matthew Fleming said: "This is a terribly sad day for everyone involved in cricket and all of us at MCC. Rachael Heyhoe Flint was a pioneer of women's cricket - she was the first global superstar in the women's game and her overall contribution to MCC, cricket and sport in general was immense. We all loved her."