Back in June 2019, Bryony Smith made her ODI debut for England. In a rain-affected match at Chelmsford, Smith didn’t get a bat (she was carded to come in at 9) but took 1-20 from 8 overs, as England beat West Indies by 135 runs on D/L.
Following that game, I wrote that then-coach Mark Robinson looked to have found a role for Smith, not as the opening batter everyone thought she was, but as a replacement for the soon-to-retire Laura Marsh – a reliable, economical off-spinner spinner, who offered a bit with the bat as a bonus.
So much for my theories… Smith hasn’t played for England since; while England have continued the search for a long-term spin partner for Sophie Ecclestone, having burned through a number of names in the meantime.
Was perhaps Charlie Dean the answer? You certainly wouldn’t have picked her out at the start of the season – she isn’t even one of the 60-odd “full time” professionals we now have in England. But she obviously impressed Heather Knight, who captained her for London Spirit in The Hundred, and clearly saw something more in her.
Her debut was a solid performance in Bristol – she got hit for a few runs, but the important thing is how you respond to that; and her response today was just the one England would have wanted.
Dean came back into the attack with New Zealand having every prospect of winning the game, despite what felt like a decidedly un-generous Duckworth-Lewis adjustment, that cut the overs available by 16%, but the target by only 8%. I know… I know… it is all statistically proven, taking wickets into account as well as overs, but it still FELT harsh.
But I digress…
New Zealand needed 58 runs from 84 balls, with Katey Martin and Brooke Halliday at the crease – I wouldn’t have put money on the Kiwis at that stage… but equally I’d have been a fool to bet against them. Dean was the obvious bowler for New Zealand to target too – her first two overs had gone for 16; but England had to bowl her, with only 4 specialist bowlers plus Nat Sciver in their lineup.
The pressure was all on Dean in that moment.
And how did she respond?
She bowled her remaining 6 overs straight through, taking 4-20 in the spell: good wickets with good balls, and single-handedly put the game to bed. England simply couldn’t have asked for any more.
Is Charlie Dean the answer to all England’s hopes and prayers? Like the consequences of the French revolution, it is definitely too early too tell. But she has launched her ship on the seas of international cricket, and with a little fortune she could go far.
Good luck, Charlie!