Having said that I think
Surrey South East Stars allrounder Alice Capsey should be in the England XI, it’s not unreasonable to ask exactly where she fits in.
The case for Capsey is twofold. First that she is the best uncapped player in England. With Emma Lamb now ruled out of that particular race, after making her debut at Chelmsford last week, the only other player you might have an argument about is Eve Jones, who has been in sparkling (sorry!) form over the past couple of years.
I like Jones – she has grafted to adapt to the shorter forms of the game, which didn’t come quite so naturally to her; and given the number of first, second (and even third!) chances given to others over the years, Jones absolutely should have been given a opportunity for England when she was younger.
But what Capsey has over and above anyone else is a second thing: potential. She’s one of England’s best players now, at just-turned-17; so what could she be in a few years? Eve Jones herself is the role model here – if Capsey works as hard in the next few years, as Jones has in the past few, she will absolutely be the best player in the world, and that’s what she should be aiming at.
And that’s why it is so important that she gets into the England XI now. You can learn a lot from having a great coaching team around you, which Capsey has at Stars; but there is still no substitute for playing with and against the best in the world. The Hundred showed Capsey can mix with the Marizanne Kapps and the Heather Knights – she needs to be doing it every day, not waiting until next year’s Hundred to go again.
But how could England slot her into their current XI? Here’s the team I think England should have been sending out against New Zealand.
- Tammy Beaumont
- Lauren Winfield-Hill (ODI) / Danni Wyatt (T20)
- Alice Capsey
- Nat Sciver
- Heather Knight
- Sophia Dunkley
- Amy Jones
- Sophie Ecclestone
- Freya Davies
- Kirstie Gordon
- Lauren Bell
There are a couple of other radical choices in there, so let’s talk about them too!
I think it is time for Lauren Bell – I’ve been saying since she was 14 that she would play for England one day, but that day has come – she is the genuine “strike” bowler that England need to put a bit of fear into the opposition ranks. She’ll go for a few runs, and probably bowl a couple of wides, but that’s a price worth paying, and she’s a good complement for Freya Davies to open the bowling at the other end.
And… Kirstie Gordon? Didn’t she lose her England contract? Yup – but she’s the best attacking spinner in the domestic game, and the numbers back that up. It is true that England would then have two left-armers, but they’ve also now got two right-arm spin options as well – Heather Knight and… who else… Alice Capsey. With Nat Sciver able to also contribute with the ball, baking up the two front-line seamers, that’s absolutely plenty of bowling, in an XI which bats – really, properly bats – down to Amy Jones at 7.
This is definitely a line-up with the future partly in mind – particularly batting Capsey at 3, where she should be long-term, not down at 6 or 7. But it is also an XI for right now – a batting line-up that can hit bags of runs, and an exciting bowling quartet, with Bell and Gordon attacking from one end, while Ecclestone and Davies strangle them from the other. (Ecclestone could, you feel, definitely do with not having to be both England’s main attacking option and their main defensive one, which is what she is too often being asked to be at the moment.)
I’ve championed players in the past – Alex Hartley, once upon a time; and Lauren Bell for many years – though I think this is the first time I’ve said that Bell should be playing “now”, as opposed to some time in the future. And I wrote a piece a couple of years ago saying England should have picked Eve Jones for the 2019 Ashes Test.
But in all my years of watching and writing about this game, I’ve never felt there was quite so clear-cut a case as the one Capsey makes now for making her debut in England’s XI. Her performances in The Hundred are what everyone is talking about, but the final of the Charlotte Edwards Cup arguably told an even more significant story: coming in and ramping her first ball for 4; smashing Katie Levick – lest we forget, the all-time leading wicket taker in the history of the Women’s County Championship – back over her head for 6; then giving a master-class in game-management to see the Stars home, all the while looking like there was never any doubt whatsoever that she’d do so.
Stars captain Bryony Smith afterwards called her a “superstar”.
I’ve heard a lot of players called that by their captains, and it’s usually just hyperbole.
This time though it’s true, and England need to put a shirt on her now.