The England team that visits Australia for the next Women’s Ashes “Down Under”, in around about 2026, is likely to be very different to the side that has just suffered a comprehensive defeat in 2022.
By 2026, most of the batters who started this series will have retired – Heather Knight and Lauren Winfield-Hill will be 35, Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt 34, Nat Sciver 33 and Amy Jones 32. Of the bowlers, Katherine Brunt will be 40 and Anya Shrubsole 34.
So what might England look like in 2026?
In the spirit of seeking out a “Next Generation”, I’ve deliberately not included anyone who will be 30 (or older) in 4 years time. But this still leaves us with a team with an average age of 25, and plenty of experience behind them, bearing in mind that all of these players are already playing regional cricket and The Hundred.
- Emma Lamb (Age 28, in 2026)
- Bryony Smith (28)
- Grace Scrivens (22) (Vice Captain)
- Alice Capsey (21)
- Sophia Dunkley (27) (Captain)
- Dani Gibson (24)
- Bess Heath (24) (Wicket Keeper)
- Charlie Dean (25)
- Sophie Ecclestone (26)
- Emily Arlott (27)
- Lauren Bell (25)
Will this be the team in 2026? Almost certainly not – it’s a bit spin-heavy, for starters! And anything could happen. Maybe one of the regional pros currently in their mid-to-late-20s will have a late-career “burst” and step up to international cricket aged 30? Perhaps one of the players listed will be being kept out of the side by a then-18-year-old we’ve currently never head of – the next Alice Capsey, who breaks through in 2024/25? Or, who knows, Katherine Brunt could still be steaming in aged 40, dropping hints about her coming retirement… after one last hurrah at the 2029 World Cup!
But the core of the side is likely to look a lot like this, and the important point is that this isn’t just an academic question – this is where we should be focussing our resources and investment in regional cricket over the next 4 years. In particular, let’s make sure that all these players are given proper opportunities in The Hundred, batting up the order and bowling their full quota of balls; perhaps even by tweaking the playing conditions to prevent sides limiting the opportunities of young players, because they’ve got 3 international all-rounders who bat in the top 4 and bowl 60 balls between them?
Of course this doesn’t guarantee we’ll bring home the Ashes next time we’re over there, but it might help to make it a bit more competitive than it has been this time around.
A nice crystal ball insight!
What would also help is a dedicated, proper, developmental and active England A structure? Accommodating fringe players from the main squad (as the Aussies did!) and up and coming youngsters who we may not even be aware of at the moment! Regular training and a competitive match structure. If not able to play international games try to play counties/100 teams/ RHF or Lottie Cup teams in the different format games? I know this is crystal ballish too, and the age old “when” and “how” will loom up. Time constraints will be a problem too!
Then next an U19, U18, England structure!
Am I going back in time when this “sort of” existed…………
Thought provoking. And yes that point about international all-rounders seems true in The Hundred and the Super Smash. I guess the depth of ability in the game will mature over time and that practice will fade?
Finally, how about Maia Bouchier in that batting order?
[squints at article through mourning veil] Too soon, too soon..🥲
Interesting, Syd – although I think it’s likely that in 2026 we’ll still have at least a couple of the “aged 28+ now” group in the England side. I’ve seen enough though of Scrivens, Heath and Gibson to be confident they will be in or around the team if they stay on track. Very promising players. Bouchier and Griffith maybe as well? Like you say any number of new youngsters could emerge over the next 3 years as well.
It would be interesting to do the same analysis with Australia. Their 2026 team sans-Perry, Lanning, Healy et al would also look very different I expect. Evan “new” players McGrath and King will be 30+ by 2026, Mooney as well.
Yes I agree. Depressing if we continue to regard 30 as the default retirement age in international women’s cricket, as that will make us so much weaker. Management of players via central contracts can keep them fit for so much longer, just look at Jimmy Anderson.
Subject to one reservation, I think Sir Humphrey would have described your selection list as “courageous”, particularly as it is being made four years in advance.
My reservation is that I completely agree with your choice of Sophia Dunkley as captain (assuming, of course, that Heather Knight is too old / too retired to be still in the job).
Which was sort-of the point 🙂
Though it does seem to have upset quite a lot of people, which definitely wasn’t 😦