When Heather Knight and Lisa Keightley sat down this weekend to pick England’s squad for the upcoming series versus India, the second name on the team sheet, after “Knight, H” was probably “Jones, A”. We can talk at length about who the “best” wicket keeper in the world is, but there is little argument that Amy Jones is in the top two, alongside Australia’s Alyssa Healy; and is currently an automatic pick for England.
For so long the Sorcerer’s Apprentice to Sarah Taylor, Jones has blossomed since Taylor’s retirement, and has now amassed over 100 England caps. But she will be 28 next week and while her days certainly aren’t “numbered”, the question now needs to be asked as to who will succeed her in 4-6 years time when she retires?
This dilemma comes about particularly because there is currently no successor in the England squad – should Jones get injured, England would turn to Tammy Beaumont or Lauren Winfield-Hill to fill in. (Interestingly, Winfield-Hill has been keeping her eye in behind the stumps for the Diamonds in the first 3 rounds of the RHF.)
So, who are the key candidates in the RHF “Proving Ground”?
Three can be ruled out instantly: Carla Rudd (Vipers), Amara Carr (Sunrisers) and Gwenan Davies (Sparks) are all in their late 20s – however good they are, they aren’t going to succeed Jones. The remaining hopefuls are therefore: Sarah Bryce (Lightning), Ellie Threlkeld (Thunder), Nat Wraith (Storm), Rhianna Southby (Stars) and Bess Heath (Diamonds).
Below are their stats to date in the RHF, across both seasons.
Though we are talking about wicket keepers, perhaps the key column here is actually not Dismissals but Runs – all the top international sides these days will prefer a competent keeper who can bat over brilliant glove-work – that’s the reason England would turn to Beaumont or Winfield-Hill if Jones was injured.
This suggests that if she can maintain her form with the bat, Sarah Bryce is currently in pole position. Of course, her allegiance is currently with Scotland, but in a joint interview with her sister Kathryn by ESPNCricinfo’s Matt Roller, neither sister ruled out switching to England, which (because they both live in England) would not require a qualification period.
Bryce’s runs are the standard the others need to aspire to in order to get their names in the hat alongside her. Wraith and Threlkeld both have 50s in the bag in the RHF which prove they can bat, but they’ve both got to convert their starts more regularly. With so much regional cricket being played this season, they will have every opportunity to prove themselves and make that case, as will Southby and Heath, the latter of whom has yet to play this season.
Of course, the actual answer to the original question could be “None of the above”. It is not inconceivable that Amy Jones continues for another 8 years, and her eventual successor is someone who isn’t even on the regional radar yet.
Whoever it turns out to be, Amy Jones will inevitably be a hard act to follow, and the England selectors may need to kiss a few frogs before they find their new princess. Just one thing is certain: England need a wicket keeper – you can’t take to the field without one – so it will be fascinating to see who steps up in the RHF over the next couple of years.