It was on in pubs. It was on in clubs. It was on across Australia on Saturday and Sunday, and Australia embraced it.
We're talking about women's cricket. Which like women's tennis or women's swimming, it should probably be known as "cricket" without the gender-specific prefix as a qualifier. Because that's what it is. Cricket. And because it's cricket, and because Australians are largely obsessed with said sport, and because the standard was bloody good, we tuned in en masse.
Cricket Australia had the good sense to wallpaper the weekend with cricket. There were three games Saturday, and another three on Sunday, all at the picturesque and very TV-friendly North Sydney Oval (which is kind of like the SCG but with only the cool old green-roofed stands).
The numbers? Very, very encouraging.
According to Channel 10, the early evening Melbourne Stars v Sydney Thunder Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) match attracted an average 432,000 viewers, peaking at 637,000.
To put those figures in perspective, Cricket Australia crowed loudly back on January 2 this year -- a day on which Australians would arguably have had more free time than a pre-Christmas Saturday -- when an average of 372,000 and a peak of 439,000 people watched a WBBL match.
Sunday's match peaked nearly 50 percent higher. The Saturday afternoon WBBL match between the Melbourne Renegades and Adelaide Strikers did well too, winning its timeslot. The people at Channel Seven who programmed Beverly Hills Chihuahua II (yes, it's a real film, you couldn't make that up) probably thought they had the afternoon in the bag. Woof.
The WBBL is a fantastic product. Watch the highlights here of the Brisbane Heat beating Ellyse Perry's Sydney Sixers, and you'll see what we mean. The Heat's West Indian import Deandra Dottin can really, really hit the ball.
The 2016/17 WBBL promises to be really even. It's only early days, but all four teams which have played two matches have had a win and a loss a piece. In one of the televised games on the weekend, a bowler could be clearly seen mouthing an extremely unsavoury expletive after being hit for six.
These are not exhibition matches. There is some serious aggro and competitiveness out there. Plus the really good cricket. TV viewers, as mentioned, are responding to all that.
The obvious next step here is pay parity, or at least something remotely close to it. Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland sounded sensible enough over the weekend when he said:
"A lot of the women that are playing now are actually enjoying the balance in their life of having another career... and they still want that.
"I understand there's an argument to go higher quicker. But I think the best thing to do is transition it. We're going with quite big steps at the moment and we'd like to think that will continue."
The big steps will get bigger very quickly if TV ratings keep rising -- and if men's ratings keep dropping.
The TV ratings for the just-completed Chappell-Hadlee series between Australia and New Zealand were disappointing. They averaged in the mid 900,000s -- compared to 1.2 million nationally for the India One Day series last year.
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