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!