Thoughts on the England Squad to take part in the T20 World Cup 2018
The squad selected:
Heather Knight (Berkshire, Captain)
Tamsin Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Sophia Dunkley* (Middlesex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Natasha Farrant (Kent)
Kirstie Gordon* (Nottinghamshire)
Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)
Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire, Wicketkeeper)
Natalie Sciver (Surrey)
Linsey Smith* (Sussex)
Anya Shrubsole (Somerset)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Danni Wyatt (Sussex)
Suspicions are that the England management didn’t find selecting just 15 names for the T20 World Cup easy. There were so many promising performances in this summer’s Kia Super League T20 series, but few players could maintain their best standards all the time. Few cricketers can.
Mark Robinson has stayed faithful to a number of his longest-serving caps. They were short-odds favourites to appear on the list, especially the batters: the skipper, Heather Knight, Nat Sciver, Tammy Beaumont and Amy Jones were all shoe-ins. England are lucky that they have a high-class replacement for Sarah Taylor in Jones, whose presence behind the sticks means the batting strength doesn’t have to be weakened.
If the tournament’s stats proved anything, it was that no new willow-wielder appeared to demand a place. So the two other bats selected are both experienced hands, Danni Wyatt and Lauren Winfield. Wyatt’s figures in the KSL were modest, but the selectors know what she’s capable of. Winfield produced the goods again, finishing second only to Sciver in the English run-totals. Her place wasn’t safe in the 50-over tri-nations, but she restored the management’s faith in her in August. Unfortunately for England’s chances, overseas players dominated the batting charts.
The balance of seven slow bowlers of varying styles against four who need a longer run-up is telling. There’s strong evidence that spinners have greater success in the short-form game; only the very best of the quicks can restrict the run-rate.
But it masks the worrying lack of younger rivals to the tried-and-tested axis of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole. Jenny Gunn has done well to be included yet again. She is held in high esteem by her colleagues and must hope to capture her very best form with bat and ball in the Caribbean.
Tash Farrant regains her place in the squad after a promising start to the KSL campaign. Her percentage of dot-balls placed her second only to Brunt. But her inclusion means it’s bad news for Katie George. Both she and Farrant suffered annoying injuries in mid-competition which helped to explain Southern Vipers’ lack of success.
The addition of Kirstie Gordon’s name to the squad is a great tribute to her success, not only in the recent competition but over the last few seasons. Her presence highlights one of the abiding weaknesses in the way cricket has developed in Britain over the last 150 years. She come from Aberdeenshire, so would obviously have loved to be representing her own nation in a World Cup. But cricket has failed to develop in the Celtic lands as strongly as in other team sports. Her team-mates will surely be grateful to have her adding her skills to their efforts. Her left-arm spin this summer was outstanding. Anyone finishing top wicket-taker (16 at 11.38) needs no further endorsement.
Linsey Smith may consider herself a bit more fortunate. Her bowling figures were matched by others, and her usual batting position of No 11 means she one string to her bow fewer than she would like. But experience on this tour may well help to make her place safe in future seasons.
The one advantage of having three slow left-armers (Sophie Ecclestone was another home banker) is that they turn the ball away to the off-side, threatening the outside of the right-hander’s bat; the ball is less likely to be hit out of the ground on that side of the field.
Sophia Dunkley’s inclusion at the age of 20 is a wonderful story. Anyone seeing her blast her maiden 50 at Guildford will recognise her batting strength. Her leg-breaks will improve with experience. Players like Amelia Kerr and Dane van Niekerk have shown her how effective wrist-spin can be.
Inevitably, a host of players will be devastated at being left out. But that is in the nature of things. This squad of fifteen is a typical balance between the old hands and the most promising youngsters. It should be a tournament to remember. Whether we should put our house on another England victory is more doubtful.
Dates: 9-24 November
Venues: 3 Caribbean Islands