International Cricket

Sophie Ecclesteone – World Cup Ashes wins on agenda

As Sophie Ecclestone’s domination of world bowling rankings moves well into a fifth year, keeping her motivated has become a priority for the England Women’s team. Ecclestone assures them they have nothing to worry about.

After Ecclestone ripped through New Zealand’s line-up with her indomitable left-arm spin, snaring 5 for 25 in nine overs during Sunday’s second ODI in Worcester, captain Heather Knight told the post-match presentation: “She loves taking wickets and we have to do some funky fields to keep her interested.”

Earlier, after England had defeated Pakistan in two home white-ball series where Ecclestone took 11 wickets from five matches across formats, Jon Lewis, their head coach, said: “She has an incredible talent and now our job is to is to make sure that she keeps enjoying her cricket.”

So far, so good on that front.

“A massive one for me is the people,” Ecclestone told the ESPNcricinfo Powerplay podcast. “That definitely keeps me interested, that I travel the world with my best mates and you play cricket for your country with your best mates.

“And the competition, I love the competition. Ashes series, World Cup finals, super overs in a World Cup, that’s what I live for, that’s what I train for and that’s what we all train for. Winning trophies, it’s obviously up there too, so I’ll always keep interested. I wear my heart on my sleeve and you’ll see that.”

Ecclestone made her international debut as a just-turned 17-year-old in a T20I against Pakistan at Bristol in July 2016. Against the same opposition last month, she became England’s leading wicket-taker in T20Is, passing Katherine Sciver-Brunt’s 114. She now has 118 at an average of 14.70 and economy rate of 5.81. In ODIs, she now has 108 wickets at 19.94 and 3.66.

Ecclestone didn’t feature in England’s 50-over World Cup triumph in 2017, by which time she had just four international caps in all, but she played in the Women’s Ashes series which followed a few months later where Australia retained the Ashes in the early stages of a reign which is now nearly a decade old.

Along with the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh this October, next year’s Ashes series in Australia is a key motivator for Ecclestone who, now 25, has been No.1 in the ICC’s world T20I bowling rankings since February 2020 and since March 2022 in ODIs.

“It’s just win a World Cup and an Ashes,” Ecclestone said when asked what remained on her list to achieve. “That World Cup at Lord’s, that was the last World Cup [England] won and we’ve not won an Ashes since because I’ve been a part of them all, so it’d be really nice to do that in the space of six months, win the World Cup in Bangladesh, win the Ashes. It would be an amazing few months for us.”

“It’s just the history,” she added of the lure of another Ashes campaign. “Also a lot of my mates are from the other team now after playing a couple years of Big Bash and I get on them really well now.

“Trying to get one up on your mates and get them out and give them a send-off and have a bit of a laugh afterwards, it’s always just really exciting. They’re a great team to play against, a great cricket team to watch and yeah, hopefully in the new year we can beat them and celebrate hard.”

After her feats in Worcester, Ecclestone was among three players rested for the rain-hit third and final ODI against the White Ferns in Bristol, making way for leg-spinner Sarah Glenn as Danni Wyatt and Lauren Filer were replaced by Sophia Dunkley and Lauren Bell.

Ecclestone and Glenn form part of England’s enviable spin-bowling triumvirate, along with off-spinner Charlie Dean, who took 4 for 38 in the series opener in Durham. That was only the second time all three have played an ODI together but it is a combination Lewis is keen to employ wherever possible.

“I always say I’m biased because I love playing with other spinners,” Ecclestone said. “It’s a nice little trio, me, Glenny and Deano, and we all bring something different whether it’s on the pitch or off the pitch. To have them alongside me and play alongside each other, we help each other out.

“Deano showed her class other day and Glenny held up one end for Deano to take all the wickets, so it’s not about always taking wickets but working hard for each other too.

“If you look at our squad now with the youngsters coming through, you’ve got the likes of Maia Bouchier, she absolutely nailed it the other day, and then you’ve got Alice Capsey, still only 19, she’s ridiculous.

“And me, Glenny, Deano also so young and Lauren Bell, the list goes on and it’s so exciting to have these players to be a part of the next generation of women’s cricket and England cricket and it’s really exciting to see what we can do as a group.”

Ecclestone gives the impression that she’s either very modest, or doesn’t know quite how good she is. She says she isn’t “stats driven” – she didn’t know she was close to Sciver-Brunt’s T20I wickets record – and she’s quick to praise her team-mates, often while deflecting attention from herself. And her team-mates appear to appreciate her as much for her bowling talent as for wearing her heart on her sleeve, as she puts it, and keeping them buoyant in the field.

It seems that as much as her team want to ensure that their prize asset is entertained by what she does, Ecclestone is more than happy to return the favour.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women’s cricket, at ESPNcricinfo

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Most Popular

To Top