With just a month to go until England fly Down Under for the Women’s Ashes, coach Mark Robinson has been meeting with his team this week to finalise the squad.
The Ashes squad is officially 15 players, but there may be some wriggle-room in terms of naming different squads for different formats, so who is likely to be in and out?
It is probably safe to say that the 13 players who played during the World Cup are all pretty sure bets to be involved:
- Heather Knight
- Tammy Beaumont
- Katherine Brunt
- Jenny Gunn
- Alex Hartley
- Dani Hazell
- Laura Marsh
- Nat Sciver
- Anya Shrubsole
- Sarah Taylor
- Fran Wilson
- Lauren Winfield
- Danni Wyatt
This leaves officially just 2 spots to fill, so who is in contention?
There were two players named in the World Cup squad who didn’t play: Georgia Elwiss and Beth Langston; and a further three in the contracted squad: Amy Jones, Tash Farrant and Kate Cross.
One thing you need on a long, distant tour is a versatile all rounder to act as an injury back-up, and Georgia Elwiss is that player – a good enough batsman to be selected on merit and a good enough bowler to fill-in when required – it would be a big surprise if she was left behind, so that’s 14!
The final, 15th spot is where all the big questions lie, which is why England might go with two, or even three, 15ths!
Beth Langston was in the World Cup squad and never got her chance, so it might seem unfair to leave her behind, but (as my dad used to say) life’s not fair… and he might have added that professional sport definitely isn’t, so is there an opportunity for A.N. Other?
Kate Cross is as close as England get to a “Test Specialist” – she didn’t have a great Super League (1 wicket, and an economy rate of 9) but that probably shouldn’t have too much bearing on Test selection, and her batting, which has come on a lot over the past couple of years, could be handy, so there is perhaps a case to be made for her in the Test squad.
If England have a “T20 Specialist” it is Tash Farrant, who has played just one ODI but 9 T20s since her debut in 2013. She opened the bowling for the Vipers in the Super League and took 6 wickets at an economy rate of 6.2 – not terrible numbers by any means, but not exactly “banging down the door” either.
Amy Jones (who should have recovered from the broken finger which kept her out of the last couple of rounds of Super League) is England’s official under-glove-butler* but we have a feeling that Tammy Beaumont keeping-wicket for the Surrey Stars in Super League (even when they had a “proper” keeper – Kirstie White – on the field) might have been a sign from on-high that England will look to turn to her if Sarah Taylor gets injured out in Australia.
In addition to the contracted squad, there are a handful of wildcards. Sophie Ecclestone had a fantastic domestic season – topping the wicket-taking charts in the County Championship – but England are pretty flush with spinners right now, with Alex Hartley, Laura Marsh and Dani Hazell, so she will probably have to wait her turn – it will come – but maybe just not quite yet!
The other outside shots are opening batsman Emma Lamb and fast bowler Freya Davies.
Lamb is one of those players who would thrive if the game we played was more like men’s Test cricket – pace on the ball, and 5 days to bat – but it isn’t. Yes there is a (4 day) Test, and yes it is Australia where the pitches will be faster, but there won’t be serious pace on the ball from this Aussie attack; and besides, who would you drop…?
So if England do make an “outside” pick it is more likely to be Davies, who the England management clearly see as a long-term replacement for Katherine Brunt, who is 32 now and therefore unlikely to continue much past next year’s World T20 in the West Indies. Heather Knight obviously rates Davies, trusting her to open the bowling for the Storm in the Super League; and although England got through the World Cup with the injury-prone axis of Shrubsole and Brunt playing every match, they might not be so lucky this time, so taking another “proper” fast bowler might be a wise move.
Will Mark Robinson agree? For what it’s worth, we haven’t got a clue… but we will find out very soon!
* Back-up wicket keeper!
Somewhat bizarre suggestion for Freya Davies! A steady, but erratic bowler for Sussex and in the KSL. Can bowl good spells, but too frequently spoilt with wides?
I think Kate Cross, Tash Farrant and Beth Langston would be at least a bit peeved if they were overlooked in favour of Freya.
She has been given opportunities in the England set up, but I have seen many other young, unsung bowlers in the County and KSL matches who have not had as many favourable chances to shine and could do well with extra chances.
Davies is a very promising young player and definitely a cut above other bowlers not already involved with England. Great action, nice variations and she can bat too. She can be a bit wayward at times with loose deliveries but I’ve not seen her bowl more wides than a lot of other bowlers. She has not yet been given opportunities with full international status but could well do in the next couple of years if she continues to impress. Can’t think who else you mean instead so please be specific.
Not disagreeing with your sentiments regarding Cross Farrant and Langston but I would be curious to who the other unsung bowlers are that you mention Red Rose Renagade? I can’t think of one seamer apart from those mentioned who would deserve higher honours.
It’s interesting to think of the different squad member’s specialisations in terms of T20 vs. ODI and Test matches. Will the fact that the ODI and Test formats are coming first in the fixture list affect the distribution of players in the squad? After all, if one side totally dominates the first four matches, the T20 games will not affect the overall result anyway. The fact the the Aussies are currently holders, coupled with being at home gives them a big advantage.
If I’ve done my calculations right, England need to win at least 2 ODIs OR the Test to be in with a shout going into the 3 match T20 series. That’s not that easy. Therefore I don’t think we can rely too much on the T20 series to get us the points, and the focus at first is certainly going to need to be on the longer formats.
That list of 13 you’ve provided could have as few as 8 starters for the Test match as far as I can see. Gunn, Hazell, Wilson, Winfield and Wyatt are not certain selections for the Test, either because of recent records or their specialisations, so we will need to bring in extra players.
Elwiss I agree is the obvious choice, and has played well in a Test before for England, but the other players should probably include another seam/pace bowler, probably Cross or Langston. Jones could come in, since Taylor has an indifferent Test record considering her talent, and I’m not sure Beaumont acting as backup keeper would be able to keep wicket for a long time as she would need to do in a Test? Having said that we’ve not seen Jones “batting for Jones” enough, she is always trying to score runs too fast and getting out relatively early.
Tash Farrant is good in T20 but I’ve actually never seen her play any other format, so don’t know how effective she’d be. Maybe worth a go in ODIs? Same goes for Ecclestone, who could act as backup for Hartley.
In response to James P and the Warwickshire Loyalist, it would be unfair to name specific examples as everyone would then throw their names in the ring. However, there are young bowlers who could progress to the periphery of the Academy/England set up across a few counties. They would have undoubtedly benefited from the support or chances similar to those given to Freya (and others). The catch 22 is that they do not get enough chances to show their match skills in the County or KSL set up. In many of the KSL matches the international bowlers were given their full allocation of overs, the younger, potential candidates were perpetual fielders throughout. It is difficult with arguments all valid from a variety of areas.
Maybe with the extended KSL 20 overs games next year the younger, unsung seamers may get more match time bowling and throw their caps into the ring!