Way back in July 2014, I was at Wokingham Cricket Club to watch my beloved Berkshire in the county T20 Cup. The game against Middlesex ought to have been a shoe-in – Heather Knight hit 72 off 60 balls, supported by Corrine Hall (who would go on to captain Hobart Hurricanes in the WBBL) who made 42 off 34, as Berkshire (chasing) made 142-3, which was a lot in them days!
But it wasn’t quite enough – Middlesex had earlier posted 145-6, thanks to a 16-year-old in her first full season of county cricket, who had hit 61 off 52 balls.
Her name: Sophia Dunkley.
Dunkley announced herself as a county cricketer that day; and over the following 6 seasons, she would go on to score over 1,600 runs for Middlesex; but some doubts persisted. She never really settled in the Kia Super League, spending a couple of seasons at Surrey Stars before moving to Lancashire Thunder; and although she made an England debut at the T20 World Cup in 2018, she didn’t get much opportunity to shine, and until this summer she remained on the periphery of England’s radar – one for the future perhaps, but not quite for now.
In the space of a few weeks, Dunkley has officially been awarded a central contract (though in practice she’d effectively had one for several months), made her Test debut, scoring 74* in her only innings, and made her ODI debut, in which she did not bat.
Her performance in the Test was obviously impressive, but the moment she really became an “England player”… as opposed to a “player who’s played for England” occurred on the 4th ball of the 27th over of England’s innings in the 2nd ODI today.
England were actually in a wee bit of trouble – with Tammy Beaumont gone cheaply, they had collapsed slightly and were 125-4. Dunkley and Amy Jones – the last two recognised batters – had their work cut out, with almost 100 still required. Dunkley herself was on 10 off 11 balls, when Deepti Sharma gave her a bit of width outside off stump. Dunkley pounced, like a cat on a mouse, cutting confidently through extra cover for 4 runs.
This was the shot of a player who knew, at last, that she really belonged at this level.
A few overs later she splattered Shikha Pandey for 6 over long too… but that was just the confirmation.
Supported by Katherine Brunt, who more than made amends for what had looked like a potentially disastrous final over with the ball costing 18 runs, she closed out the game, finishing on 73* off 81 balls.
It created a real dilemma for Player of the Match too. Though Dunkley ultimately missed out to Kate Cross, who had earlier taken 5-34, for me Dunkley’s was the key performance – taking as much courage as skill, to stare down the barrel of an Indian attack who were looking in fearsome mood after their early breakthroughs. Jhulan in particular threw everything she had at her, but she battled through – proving herself against one of the greatest bowlers the game has ever known.
Dunks may have been handed her ODI cap last weekend, but she won it today – she’s an England player now… and will be for many years to come.
Absolute brilliance from Cross and Dunkley today. England got a bit sloppy at times, a few dropped catches and gave a few too many runs away near the end. Then although no-one in the top 5 played badly, they were all a bit guilty of getting in then getting out, Knight and Jones in particular giving it away loosely with ill-judged shots.
There was no looseness from Dunkley. Her innings was serene, chanceless and a delight to watch. She has great timing, placement and hitting power but actually her greatest attribute seem to be her temperament. Completely unflustered by the situation of coming in at 92-4 she seems to know exactly how to play the situation like the most seasoned veteran, despite being still only 22. Many would have struggled, and gone into their shells, but she outscored a busy as ever Brunt by a long way.
Cross meanwhile has really impressed of late, she seems to be the most consistent member of the seam attack, and can really dry up the runs and as today showed can be just too hard to get away and has the ability to induce false shots. She’s so reliable. Some great performances from her now (remember that T20i where she defended next to squat in the last over against India).
I was slightly surprised England didn’t bat first, maybe they will in the 3rd game if given the chance.
Improved performance from India, but I feel they missed a bit of a trick in not attacking enough at the right times and gave England too many easy singles. Their batting remains a bit of an enigma with stunning talent mixed with some lack of intent / urgency at times and some patterns of ill-advised shot selection.
As India struggled again with the bat my mind wondered to the question of what Mark Robinson would do in respect of Raj if he was the India coach (if you get my drift!)
I agree with James P.
About a year ago, Syd published a post lamenting the fact that England’s batting lineup was composed solely of mature players. He was very concerned that they would eventually all retire en bloc, leaving the team without any experienced batters.
In my comment on that post, I observed that the incumbent lineup wasn’t all that old, and that England still had plenty of time to find replacements. Well it now looks like the first one has been identified, namely 22 year old Sophia Dunkley …
In fact, I’ll go further than that, and predict right now that she’s a future England captain. I wouldn’t be surprised if she even turns out to be a direct replacement for Heather Knight (as opposed to a replacement for her replacement). After all, Meg Lanning was appointed as captain very early in her international career, and has proved to be a big success.
Additionally, I was very pleased to see Kate Cross doing so well. She’s long been one of my favourite cricketers, and not just because she’s played for Perth Scorchers.
As for the progress and outcome of the match, it was much as I had anticipated. Neither Rodrigues nor Kaur made many runs. I did think, though, that Verma was a little unlucky – she looked not out to me.
By far the best news of the day, however, was that England and South Africa are negotiating over a likely Test match in 2022. I now expect that Australia will play at least one Test, maybe even more than one, in 2022-23. At this stage, the leading candidates appear to be NZ and South Africa, both of which include several stalwarts of the WBBL. But as a long time fan of Caribbean cricket, I’d really like to see a Test against the West Indians (including some further WBBL stalwarts), especially if they can play as well as they did against Pakistan overnight. As for the likely venue, it’s now well known that the SCG is lobbying hard for a women’s Test match.
It is one of the best ODI match I seen. India struggle which much with England bowling.