England’s odds-defying recovery at the World Cup, from the cusp of elimination to the semi-finals, was driven by their new spin-twins: Sophie Ecclestone and Charlie Dean; with England’s four seamers notably absent from this “Top 20” (and all bar one from the Top 30).
Ecclestone we know all about by now – she’s the world number one for a reason! But Dean’s rise has been absolutely meteoric, and her 4th placed ranking here is all the more remarkable given that she played just 4 of England’s 7 games.
There’s been a lot of talk about how Dean was picked for England at the tail-end of last summer off her “form” in The Hundred, but in fact that’s not really true – if you were picking on form, you’d have picked Kirstie Gordon or Alice Capsey, both of whom ranked much higher than Dean. Dean is actually much better seen as an example of an old favourite we don’t see too often in cricket any more, in the days of spreadsheets and analysts: “The Hunch”. Heather Knight – Dean’s captain at London Spirit – had a feeling that she saw something in Charlie Dean beyond her numbers, and she was selected off the back of it – that’s “The Hunch”… and it was a good one!
Another name you probably wouldn’t have expected to see here if we’d been having this conversation a couple of years ago is that of Frankie Mackay. Having made her debut in 2011, the now-31-year-old appeared to have won her final cap in 2014. There was a one-off appearance in 2019, but Mackay was already making quite an effective slide into a post-playing career in commentary when she was recalled properly in 2021. Mackay ended up essentially taking Leigh Kasperek’s place in the World Cup squad, to no little controversy among fans, but it proved to be a good call, with Mackay returning 10 wickets at 4.02 in 6 games.
The Indian names on this list are also not the ones we might have expected: no Jhulan, no Deepti, no Poonam Yadav, the #2 ranked bowler at the last T20 World Cup – instead, it’s Pooja Vastrakar (who has also been handy with the bat), Sneh Rana, and in particular number two ranked Rajeshwari Gayakwad with 11 wickets at 3.88, who have stepped up for India, perhaps attesting that there is more depth than we sometimes think in Indian domestic cricket.
And finally, a very honourable mention for our 9th-ranked bowler. Ayabonga Khaka has played her entire 10 year career largely as a support act to two all-time greats – Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp – but what a support act she has been, with over 100 caps and more than 130 international wickets – a vital cog inside the machine that has seen South Africa progress to the point where they are now officially a “Big Team”, qualifying for the World Cup semi-finals ahead of the likes of India and New Zealand.
|1. Sophie Ecclestone||7||14||3.27|
|2. Rajeshwari Gayakwad||7||11||3.88|
|3. Shabnim Ismail||7||11||3.91|
|4. Charlie Dean||4||10||3.69|
|5. Salma Khatun||7||10||3.79|
|6. Frankie Mackay||6||10||4.02|
|7. Hayley Matthews||7||10||4.22|
|8. Sneh Rana||7||10||4.24|
|9. Ayabonga Khaka||7||11||4.74|
|10. Nashra Sandhu||7||9||4.14|
|11. Jess Jonassen||6||8||3.71|
|12. Marizanne Kapp||7||10||4.65|
|13. Nida Dar||7||10||4.68|
|14. Pooja Vastrakar||7||10||4.69|
|15. Lea Tahuhu||6||10||4.76|
|16. Amelia Kerr||7||9||4.46|
|17. Ashleigh Gardner||5||8||3.99|
|18. Alana King||7||8||4.30|
|19. Hannah Rowe||7||9||4.98|
|20. Ritu Moni||7||7||4.14|