She may be the youngest woman to take 50 T20I wickets, but Sophie Ecclestone holds loftier ambitions.
Having just celebrated her 21st birthday – in socially distant fashion, of course – left-arm spinner Ecclestone has enjoyed spending time since the Covid-19 enforced lockdown working on a different aspect of her game, which she hopes will help her achieve her goals.
Largely confined to a general fitness regime as opposed to batting and bowling, however, she does look forward to the time when England Women can return to cricket training, as their male counterparts began to do last week, and playing for her country again.
Ecclestone jumped to the top of the ICC’s T20 bowling ranks with her eight wickets at the World Cup earlier this year in Australia, where her average of 6.12 and economy rate of 3.23 were particularly eye catching. In taking 3 for 7 off 3.1 overs during England’s final group game against West Indies, she claimed her 50th international wicket in the format.
“I didn’t really realise until one of the girls told me before the game,” Ecclestone told ESPNcricinfo. “It was a big achievement for me … the batters will go after you in T20 cricket and I think if you can get them out and win the battle then you’ve done really well as a spinner.”
Ecclestone showed just how much she thrives on the battle with a nerveless display in bowling the Super Over as England defeated Australia in a T20 match in Canberra in February, in the lead-up to the World Cup, restricting Alyssa Healy and Ashleigh Gardner to just eight runs before Heather Knight and Danni Wyatt took their side over the line with the bat.
Last year, Ecclestone became the first player to retain the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s Women’s Player of the Summer award, having topped England’s wicket-taking charts in both the white-ball series against West Indies, and in the Ashes. In 2018, she won the award after taking 20 wickets across six ODI and five T20 appearances for England.
Asked to name her greatest ambition in cricket, having achieved so much since making her international debut at the age of just 17 in a T20 against Pakistan in Bristol, Ecclestone’s response makes it sound easy.
“Just to become one of the best players that’s ever played women’s cricket really, and be one of the best spinners and be remembered by that,” she said.
Keeping fit during lockdown has been helped by the energy required to look after her new 10-month-old puppy, Rex. But Ecclestone has also been in contact with Lisa Keightley, the England Women’s head coach, conducting reviews and setting goals, which include the aim of improving her batting.
With England Women still hopeful of hosting India, who postponed their June-July tour when the coronavirus pandemic hit, and South Africa, who remain scheduled to visit in September, Ecclestone and her team-mates will be looking to test themselves ahead of their planned ODI World Cup defence, due to start in New Zealand in February.
As a tailender, Ecclestone averages 9.60 with the bat in T20Is with a strike rate of 104.34 and has an ODI average of 6.90 with a strike rate of 64.95. While spin has been her first love since bowling in an under-11s game, she saw no reason why, at her age, she couldn’t develop into more of an allrounder or, at the very least, force her way up the order a little.
“It would be really nice to know that I can bat as well as bowl and give seomething else to the team, not just my bowling,” “Ecclestone said.
“I definitely feel the England team are going in the right direction. As the years go by everyone’s getting fitter and stronger and everyone’s trying to improve different aspects of their game, so hopefully we can go to the World Cup in New Zealand and win it again. I hope we can get some international cricket in at the end of the summer.”
Source: ESPN Crickinfo