She was one of the MCC’s first female members, and as England team manager she created an Ashes trophy for the women
Norma Izard, who has died aged 90, made history in March 1999 when she was one of the first 10 women to be granted honorary membership of MCC; it was a long overdue reward for this pioneer of women’s cricket.
During her 12 years as England’s longest-serving team manager she oversaw the domestic women’s game rise from provincial anonymity to a World Cup triumph against New Zealand at Lord’s in 1993. Five years later, as president of the Women’s Cricket Association, she proved a steady hand during the merger with the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Born in Beckenham, Kent, on September 9 1933, Norma Jean Preston was the only child of William Preston, a Metropolitan police officer and his wife, Olive, née Goss. She was evacuated to the West Country during the war then attended Beckenham Grammar School for Girls – one of the few girls’ schools to have a cricket team; she excelled both in the classroom and on the games field.
From 1951 and 1954 she trained as a PE teacher at Dartford College, where she captained the cricket team, then taught at Kidbrooke School for Girls in Greenwich, Britain’s first purpose-built comprehensive.
An elegant and technically correct attacking right-handed middle-order batter, nimble on her feet, she liked nothing more than coming down the wicket to the spinners. She was also a fine, athletic fielder, and an occasional neat and tidy wicketkeeper. Representing Kent Juniors in 1948, two years later she graduated to the senior side, also playing for Kent Nomads. She was selected for England trials for the 1957-58 tour of Australia and New Zealand but lost out to the rapidly emerging Ruth Prideaux.
Two years earlier she had married an airline executive, Peter Izard. She took a break in the early 1960s to bring up their family, then on her return captained Kent Second XI. She retired from playing in 1983 aged 50.
After a stint as a national selector, in 1984 she was appointed England women’s team manager, operating on a shoestring budget in what was then a strictly amateur game – players had to pay their own expenses, often depending on the kindness of friends.
But Norma Izard brought a more professional approach to her role. Her masterstroke was to secure financing for a full-time coach, Ruth Prideaux. While Norma sought discipline off the field, Ruth instilled it on the pitch.
Their crowning moment came in 1993 when a huge crowd at Lord’s saw England defeat New Zealand by 67 runs to carry off the World Cup. Other highlights included winning the European One Day Championship in Denmark in 1989 and repeating the success on home soil the following year.
Stepping down in 1994, Norma Izard went on to become president of the Women’s Cricket Association, instigating a new Under-17 Territorial Tournament and a development programme.
More from Obituaries
More from The Telegraph