On July 3rd 2016, 17-year-old Sophie Ecclestone made her England debut in the 1st T20 versus Pakistan, taking 1-21 in her four overs. After being selected for the 2nd game (taking 2-26) she was then rested for the final T20 in favour of Alex Hartley. An ODI debut followed, in October of that year in the West Indies, with Ecclestone winning two caps in the 5 match series, taking 2-28 and 1-20.
It was a respectable enough start to an international career, but not earth-moving, and in the summer of 2017 Ecclestone was told by England management to concentrate on her A-Levels, while her team-mates were focussed on the small matter of winning the World Cup.
Her international career might have been put on hold in 2017, but her cricket career certainly wasn’t – Ecclestone went back to Lancashire that summer and took an incredible 35 wickets in the season as the Red Roses marched to the County Championship and T20 Cup double; so when it came time to select a squad to tour Australia for the 2017 Ashes, Ecclestone’s name could not be ignored, and she went on to make her Test debut that winter in Sydney.
Ecclestone took 3 wickets in that Sydney Test, and another 3 in Taunton in 2019; but it was in the T20 arena that she was beginning to really make her name for her consistency and economy, rising through the rankings until this March she found herself at the summit – officially the Number One T20 bowler in the world.
Carlsberg don’t do women’s Test rankings – apparently they make something called “beer” instead – but if they did, there’s a pretty good chance that Sophie Ecclestone would now be atop them too, after her performance in the one-off Test versus India this week.
Having taken 4 wickets for 88, at an Economy Rate of 3.4, in the 1st Innings, and then 4-118 at 3.1 in the second, her combined figures of 8-206 were the best achieved in a women’s Test since Ellyse Perry’s 9-70 at Canterbury in 2015.
She couldn’t win the game for England on her own though, and the toothlessness of England’s three specialist seamers on this pitch, with this ball, was cruelly exposed, as Brunt, Shrubsole and Cross between them took just 4 wickets, at a cost of 230-odd runs.
Would playing Emily Arlott or Tash Farrant – who were both in the squad – have changed the outcome? Both, but particularly Farrant, would have offered something different, which England did desperately seem to be searching for at times.
Should England have kept Sarah Glenn in the squad and played her? In hindsight, probably yes; and although I’ll never forget Mark Robinson once reminding me reproachfully during a press conference that “cricket isn’t played in hindsight”, in this case England really did close down their options by sending her back to Sparks last weekend.
(There was Mady Villiers, too, of course – but you get the distinct impression that her role here was to field if someone got injured – it never felt likely she’d make the XI.)
Perhaps the real story here though is not England’s bowling but India’s batting. They put a disappointing 1st innings behind them, and battled back to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat, with just dues in particular to Sneh Rana, coming in at 8 and finishing 80* off 154 balls, and Taniya Bhatia at 9, with 44* off 88 balls.
With the form of Player of the Match Shafali Verma, who hit 159 runs in the match, India will go into the next phase of this multi-format series with every hope of turning over their hosts with the white ball and achieving a famous series victory. If so, the fight we saw today will have been the moment the tide turned in their favour.
“Should England have kept Sarah Glenn in the squad and played her? In hindsight, probably yes; and although I’ll never forget Mark Robinson once reminding me reproachfully during a press conference that “cricket isn’t played in hindsight””
Raf before the match “I think a lot of people are surprised about Glenn, to be fair.” – I think we’ll call that a bit of foresight.
Good game of cricket. I wanted India to show some fight … be careful what you wish for.
The most bamboozling thing about the Test though is the headline of this article. I get that ‘Ecclescake’ and ‘Ecclestone’ sound sort of similar but haven’t managed to work out the link between this Test match and a 17th/18th century French phrase about starving peasants.
Leaving aside the fact that, as an England supporter, it’s not great that we could have lost this match from a follow-on position if a fifth day had been scheduled (and in this professional era, is there any good reason why women play shorter Tests than men and thus have this problem that matches are highly likely to be drawn)? However, as someone who is keen to see women’s cricket advance rapidly, it’s fantastic to see the media using words such as ‘gripping’ and ‘absorbing’ to describe women’s Tests. It seems we’ve come a long way in the short period since the infamous Marsh innings of 55 in 304 balls!
We did check at one point today whether Deepti was threatening Boggy’s “record” there!
This Test had a bit of everything – brilliant batting, excellent bowling, great fielding & catches, tension, excitement and a tinge of disappointment too. Very happy with England’s performance overall. England did just about all they could to try and force a win. India I feel played more defensively, except perhaps Verma. There wasn’t really much option for England but to enforce the follow-on given the rain around and having to get the 20 wickets, but they fell just short in the final victory push. Strong rearguard from India who really dug in and made a game of it.
Verma is one of the leading lights for women’s cricket now and seemingly has abilities beyond those mere mortals possess. She has a relatively short backlift and very little follow-through on her shots, which has the effect that most of her boundaries look like little more than defensive pushes. But defensive pushes that are exquisitely timed and placed and cause the ball to fly off her bat like a tracer bullet! The England bowlers, particularly Brunt, were getting very frustrated being hit to the boundary by her again and again. Her batting style is an almost complete contrast to someone like Tammy Beaumont who has a high backlift and big follow-through. Verma will be a massive part of India’s hopes in the shorter format matches. If she’s allowed to play unchecked for even a short time England will pay the price in runs, I feel.
This Test really made the case for more Women’s Tests, but not just that – we need them to be 5 days, ideally, and also have multi-day domestic cricket even if it is only 3 days or even one-innings 2-day games. You could see that England were tiring long before the end, really. An extra day would have really allowed us to reach a more satisfactory conclusion. England’s fielders and bowlers were not used to this much work. England were in the field and bowling for over 200 overs, and that would be tough for anyone. There will be a lot of weary legs and shoulders over the next few days. England’s team selection was not ideal to be honest, another spinner and strike bowler would surely have been beneficial. But who knows. To have a greater chance of being able to finish these sorts of matches off, we need more impact bowlers with higher strike rates who can be reliably turned to, to take wickets. You can only develop all that with the domestic structure in place to do it.
For example Anya Shrubsole is a brilliant bowler, I’m sure no-one would disagree and yet her Test match strike rate is only 1 wicket per 77 balls (basically 13 overs). It’s better than half that in ODIs and half that again in T20is. So even a great player like Shrubsole hasn’t really yet worked out how to take consistent wickets when batters are under no particular sort of run-rate pressure. It’s a common problem in the developing longer-format game for many players and a very understandable one. The so-called X-factor, something extra like pace, a quick short ball or a reliable yorker, are highly valued commodities. But my point is we need strike bowlers able to exhibit these types of things, with resultant better strike rates, playing test matches. And players are products of their environment to the extent that if we play more domestic multi-day cricket, established players will find a way, and new players will emerge with just the right tools to take wickets and score runs in that format.
And Syd, I think you need to explain just what you mean about Ecclescakes here?! 😉
I enjoyed this Test – and I agree that it was yet another compelling argument to make all Test matches at least five days – the four-day test should be abolished in both the women’s and men’s game. Thanks for all the excellent analysis!