Two rookies and a domestic veteran: A look at the newbies in the England squad
If you make it to the final of a World Cup, it’s likely that your team mostly will remain the same going into the next series post the global event. England started the tournament in New Zealand in the worst possible way with three losses on the trot, but they turned around the campaign and made it to the final against all-conquering Australia.
No longer the World Champions, England will be taking on South Africa in a three-match ODI series to begin their ICC Women’s Championship campaign for the 2022-25 cycle starting from Monday (July 11). As England’s quest to chase Australia continues, there have been a few forced changes in the side that took on Meg Lanning’s side on April 3 at the Hagley Oval.
Anya Shrubsole is no longer going to be a constant figure in the lineup as she has announced her retirement from international cricket. Natasha Farrant, who didn’t feature in a single game during the World Cup, suffered an unfortunate injury and is out of action for at least six months. Lauren Winfield-Hill, who lost her opening position to Danielle Wyatt during the global event, has been dropped while Emma Lamb has kept her spot. Freya Davies is another omission from the 14-member squad for the South Africa series.
Even though the ever-present Katherine Brunt is still there, England have added two young and exciting pacers to their side in uncapped Lauren Bell and Issy Wong. A few impressive domestic performances gave Alice Davidson-Richards a new lifeline in international cricket as she rounds up the squad.
Women’s CricZone takes a look at the three new faces in the squad as England get ready to continue their battle against South Africa.
The first thing you notice about Lauren Bell is how tall she is, and it has been brought to her attention multiple times. Her teammates call her ‘The Shard’ and her height lends a new dimension to the England bowling attack.
“I think it’s useful, it gives me something different. Providing something different to the squad is always going to put you in a better position to get picked for the team,” Bell said in a pre-series media interaction on Saturday.
But Bell is not just all about height. On her Test debut, which was her international debut as well, the six-feet tall bowler got the bowl to swing prodigiously and troubled the South Africa batters. The 21-year-old first came into prominence during the second season of the now-defunct Women’s Cricket Super League (WCSL). Having featured in four matches in 2018 without getting any wickets, Bell came back strongly in the 2019 edition, with eight wickets from nine matches as Southern Vipers made it to the final of the competition.
Despite the tendency to be a bit erratic, Bell drew attention to herself for her ability to swing the ball, and combined with that higher release, she was a handful for the batters. She continued her good run in the inaugural edition of The Hundred, as she took 12 wickets at an average of 15.91 and an economy rate of 6.94. And like in the case of WCSL, Bell helped her side – Southern Brave – reach the final of the newly-formed tournament.
Having played a lot with Shrubsole, Bell added that she has learnt a lot from the veteran pacer. Come Monday, she could be in line for an ODI debut to replace her senior teammate from Brave.
Bell has been part of the England limited over setup for a while now, having toured with the ‘A’ side for the Ashes Down Under and as the travelling reserve at the World Cup. If and when she makes her debut, Bell will add a lot to the England bowling attack, with the likes of Brunt and Wong in the mix. Bell feels that she will combine well with the duo. The ever-reliable Kate Cross being there also gives England a lot of options in the pace department.
From one young exciting fast bowler to another, 20-year-old Issy Wong also made her Test debut alongside Bell and she wasn’t overawed by the occasion in her first international match. The right-arm quick accounted for Laura Wolvaardt, one of the leading batters in the world, twice in the match and was impressive generally with her speed and the ability to surprise the batters.
Even before her international debut, Wong had made a name for herself with her distinct style of bowling and expressive nature off the field. Like Bell, Wong was also part of the Vipers’ side in the WCSL.
Although she didn’t feature in many matches, Wong went viral when she solved the Rubik’s Cube in 33 seconds on the sidelines of a Vipers’ match. Her bold declaration that she wants to be the first bowler to officially hit the ‘80mph’ mark in women’s cricket, also got the world to take note of her.
3️⃣3️⃣ seconds to complete a Rubik’s Cube!!! 😮
— England and Wales Cricket Board (@ECB_cricket) September 1, 2019
Talking about being quick, Wong has shown her ability for power-hitting in various competitions and can be a handy option in the lower order for England in the white-ball formats. Just like her bowling, Wong’s ascent in world cricket has been rapid and the speedster also made her Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) debut during the eighth edition of the tournament.
Wong, who is part of Birmingham Phoenix in The Hundred, could be in line for her ODI and T20I debuts as well in the coming week and one thing we can be assured of: there won’t be a dull moment when she is on the field.
Unlike the two rookie pacers, Alice Davidson-Richards’ story is different. The 28-year-old has been around the circuit for a long time now. She made her England debut back in 2018 during the T20I Tri-series in India – which featured Australia as the third team.
Apart from those five T20Is, Davidson-Richards only featured in a solitary ODI against India during the same tour. The ever-smiling allrounder admitted that she thought her international career was over before that unexpected Test call-up came.
But her comeback from the hiatus wasn’t out of the blue, Davidson-Richards has been a consistent performer for whichever side she featured for. She was one of the best domestic performers for Yorkshire Diamonds in WCSL and she has been a successful contributor to South East Stars in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy (RHF Trophy) as well as the Charlotte Edwards Cup (CE Cup).
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However, it was her performance in The Hundred 2021 that brought her back into the larger conscience and Davidson-Richards showed that she can compete for that seaming allrounder spot with a telling all-round show. She scored 110 runs at an average of 27.50 from seven innings and formed some important partnerships for Northern Superchargers. And with the ball, she took seven wickets at an average of 23.42.
Davidson-Richards wasn’t going to let her comeback go waste as she hit a ton on her Test debut and showed her ability to form partnerships once again, when she – in the company of Natalie Sciver – took England from 121 for 5 to 328 with a 207-run stand.
While it remains to be seen if Davidson-Richards will add any more caps to her ODI debut during the South Africa series, England will be well served to keep the allrounder and her ‘Cheshire Cat’ like smile around the group.