Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Alice Capsey really is quite good at this crazy little thing called cricket.
Going into this game, despite their midweek loss to Sparks, Vipers were still top of the combined table in the Charlotte Edwards Cup – on course to qualify directly for the final back at the Ageas Bowl next weekend. By the end of it, Stars had turned that around – now, if they win their last game versus Sparks, it’s them that will go straight through to the final… and it’s all thanks to Alice Capsey.
Capsey hit a cool 61 off 46 balls, took 2-9 from just two overs, and snatched a stonking catch, diving forward at midwicket, to dismiss Emily Windsor just at the point when it looked like Vipers might be able to pull off an improbable comeback win.
The only worry for Stars is that she walked off clutching her quad towards the end of the match, having initially injured it trying to turn sharply whilst bailing out of a second run off the penultimate ball of the innings. (Georgia Elwiss ran her out while she was down out of her ground, and clearly in pain, although it would have made no difference not to, as she wasn’t going to face the final ball – but I guess when someone has just done “that” to you, the spirit of cricket be damned!)
In contrast to her previous outing v Lightning, Capsey didn’t get off to the quickest of starts – after 8 overs, Bryony Smith was 42 off 24 balls, whilst Capsey was on just 5 off 13. Capsey didn’t score a single boundary in the powerplay, focussing instead on turning the strike over to Smith by running between the wickets. It wasn’t until Smith was out that Capsey really started to motor, scoring her next 56 runs off only 33 balls, at a Strike Rate of 170.
It is true that Vipers’ bowling was depleted, with Lauren Bell ruled out after coming into close contact with a COVID case, and Charlie Dean off with England… though ironically also having to isolate along with Maia Bouchier, after also coming into contact with presumably the same case. This meant a professional debut for 27-year-old Sussex veteran Chiara Green*, who did a tidy enough job in the circumstances, but was always unlikely to tear through the Stars batting. Vipers were poor in the field too, gifting several boundaries that will have had coach Charlotte Edwards rolling her eyes, in the way that she does!
Nonetheless, the runs still needed to be scored, and Stars scored them convincingly – every single one of their batters (apart from Kira Chathli, who technically batted but didn’t face a ball) reached double figures at a Strike Rate of over 100 – Capsey led the way, but it was a team performance.
With big runs required, Vipers needed to go for it, hence sending in Tara Norris to pinch-hit at the top of the order, alongside Georgia Adams. Capsey, opening the bowling as she did several times in The Hundred, did for them both in her second over – thanks to catches from Kirstie White and Alice Davidson-Richards – and that set the tone for the rest of the match. Despite overtures of a recovery led by Elwiss, no one could quite stick with her, and the Vipers went down to their second consecutive defeat following the resumption of regionals after The Hundred.
Vipers aren’t out of it, of course, and they could yet end up doing to the Stars what the Invincibles did to the Brave in The Hundred – coming through the eliminator and winning the final. But right now the momentum is very much with the Stars and with Alice Capsey in particular.
Six weeks ago, the sports editor of The Guardian asked the editor of this site to write a preview for The Hundred, based around an interview with a player of Raf’s choice. We debated long and hard – Capsey was an exciting prospect, but would she get a game, Raf asked me? I sat at my desk with the Invincibles squad in front of me, and wrote out a team-sheet. “I think so,” I replied, and though it felt like a bit of a gamble, Raf wrote the piece.
But note the caveat in the headline:
The past few weeks have changed Alice Capsey’s life for ever – she is no longer a prospect; she is no longer a “hoping to” – she’s a “did”. She’s one of the 11 best players in England – I know it; you know it; and it won’t be news to her either.
There is an argument that her education still has to come first for the next two years, over and above playing for England, but the equation isn’t the same as it was when Sophie Ecclestone was forced to miss the 2017 World Cup to focus on her A-Levels. Ecclestone at that point was still competing for her England spot with Alex Hartley; and furthermore, the future of the women’s game wasn’t quite so secure career-wise as it is now, five years down the line.
There is absolutely no doubt that Alice Capsey is one of the 11 best players in England.
And the 11 best players in England should be playing for England.
* Serious men’s county cricket geeks may remember Chiara’s brother Matt, who was on the books at Sussex and Surrey as a youngster, around 10 years ago.