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An England A Squad down the Proteas

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The new-look England A squad had a thoroughly encouraging win over South Africa at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff. They won a T20 game comfortably by 15 runs, having posted 155 against a Proteas attack missing Marizanne Kapp.

It was officially described as a warm-up, but that applied mainly to the Proteas; the English could only hope and pray that a personal performance would impress the selectors sufficiently to earn a place in the top team.

Marie Kelly began well with two fours, a cover drive and lofted straight drive off Nonkululeko Mlaba’s slow left-armers, but no sooner had Bryony Smith given a straightforward catch to mid-wicket off the admirable Tumi Sekhukhune than Kelly had a piece of rotten luck.

Alice Capsey drove her second ball straight back to the bowler; one finger was enough to break the wicket and the Lightning batter was stranded.

The striker always feels guilt when that happens, but fortunately Capsey’s return to form two days earlier at Beckenham continued here. She and Maia Bouchier added 52 in six overs with enterprising stroke-play. A Sune Luus leg-break undid Capsey’s advance; she chipped to extra, but Bess Heath came in to add a further 79 with Bouchier right into the final over.
It was eventful. Bouchier pushed Nadine de Klerk’s first ball for a single to reach 49, then the umpire had to effect an emergency operation on Heath’s bat – competently handled. Heath swept the next two balls for four. Then drama: Bouchier was stranded at the wrong end as she sat one short of a merited 50. In a desperate attempt to get her on strike Heath ran herself out – an excellent piece of scrambling by the bowler.

That brought Mady Villiers to the crease with two balls left (one more than is often a batter’s fate in T20s.)

She dutifully ran a single to give her partner her chance, but Bouchier, instead of copying Villers’ example and playing tip-and-run, essayed a cross-batted swipe and was bowled. Never mind; she finished top scorer, and the Proteas has a task on their hands.

Linsey Smith was the pick of the England bowlers. She had the dangerous Lizelle Lee caught in the second over off a lofted drive.

Smith is one of a handful of slow left-armers to have their England prospects damaged by Sophie Ecclestone’s excellence. An England team can parade any number of medium-paced right-armers, even two off-spinners. But two left-arm spinners? No way!

When Smith had Laura Wolvaardt caught at third man by Kira Chathli, she had dismissed the Proteas’ two most dangerous strikers. She finished with the admirable analysis 4-0-18-2.
At the other end of the scale Freya Davies had an unprofitable time with the ball. Two of her four overs started with wides to leg, and there were plenty of others. Bryony Smith entrusted her with the last over. Her namesake had delivered the 19th for just seven runs; the Proteas needed an improbable 26 for victory.

Trisha Chetty and Chloe Tryon played cat and nouse with her: would they step to leg or to off, or would they stand firm and swing? They managed to garner ten runs, but they weren’t enough. Davies guessed correctly often enough to prevent a surprise result.



Such is the current strength of English cricket at the moment that you might have offered half-a-dozen different elevens to represent this A squad. As it was, Chathli did play, but not as keeper; that honour went to Heath. Only the experts can say which of them is technically better, but Chathli has impressed me every time I have seen her.

The full England team is undergoing some adaptation at present. Brunt and Shrubsole no longer play tests (they come one per annum if we’re lucky). But Brunt has been restored to the England squad for the coming T20s and ODIs. You could see that as either inevitable or a highly conservative choice.

Two possible alternatives were on view in Cardiff, Danni Gibson and Freya Kemp. Both bowled some testing deliveries. Kemp has the advantage of her left-arm over approach. While England’s batting line-up remains obstinately right-handed, there are several left-arm quicks competing for consideration.


The ECB covered itself in glory in its lack of advance publicity for this game. I found nothing on their website or their twitter account. An Indian website did the honours, then we had the stand-by of hypocaust’s contribution, offering the YouTube address. I wonder what the ECB pays him for his services.

The livestream coverage was competent visually, but there was no sound on offer, either commentary or sound effects. Not a great advertisement for English cricket.


England A 155-5 (Bouchier 49, Heath 43, Capsey 32)
Proteas 140-6 (Luus 45, Wolvaardt 34; L. Smith 2-18, B. Smith 2-20)


England A: Bryony Smith (captain), Marie Kelly, Alice Capsey, Maia Bouchier, Bess Heath (w-k), Mady Villiers, Danni Gibson, Freya Kemp, Kira Chathli, Linsey Smith, Freya Davies

South Africa: Lizelle Lee, Lara Goodall, Laura Wolvaardt, Sune Luus (captain), Chloe Tryon, Nadine de Klerk, Trisha Chetty (w-k), Sinalo Jafta, Ayabonga Khaka, Tumi Sekhukhune, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Anneke Bosch