A-lev­els to Ashes

Teenage So­phie Ec­cle­stone signs up for duty

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page -

For So­phie Ec­cle­stone, the game of life trumped the game of cricket when it came to World Cup se­lec­tion this year. But hav­ing com­pleted her A-lev­els rather than lift­ing the tro­phy with Eng­land, the left-arm spin­ner is more than ea­ger to make up for time lost in the mid­dle.

Speak­ing to The Sun­day Tele­graph as the Women’s Ashes moves from white ball to pink in the one-off Test of the multi-for­mat se­ries from Thurs­day, the 18-year-old looks right at home in an Eng­land shirt, com­mand­ing im­me­di­ate re­spect from her Aus­tralian ad­ver­saries.

“We all came to the de­ci­sion,” she said of the ed­u­ca­tion-first ap­proach taken, pre­clud­ing her from turn­ing out in the tri­umphant home tour­na­ment. “I will have to have a ca­reer af­ter cricket so to have my for­mal ed­u­ca­tion done means I can just con­cen­trate on my cricket.”

In this era of pro­fes­sion­al­ism for women in the game, that she can. Al­most all of this side be­gan their jour­neys as semi-pro­fes­sion­als at best, bal­anc­ing con­ven­tional ca­reers with cricket. Now, it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore Ec­cle­stone earns her first full-time Eng­land con­tract.

“It’s quite un­be­liev­able to have kids come up to me and ask for my au­to­graph and know what my name is,” she said. “It feels a bit un­real.” On the avail­able ev­i­dence of six in­ter­na­tion­als played in three dif­fer­ent coun­tries, she had bet­ter get used to it.

It was a ma­jor call for team man­age­ment to dump the ex­pe­ri­enced Laura Marsh in favour of Ec­cle­stone, the for­mer an in­te­gral mem­ber of the side that won the World Cup. But they know the lat­ter is a match-win­ner.

This was high­lighted in her one-day in­ter­na­tional de­but last year in Ja­maica last Oc­to­ber. On that oc­ca­sion, Ec­cle­stone picked up both West Indies open­ers, vi­tal in Eng­land’s abil­ity to de­fend a pal­try 149.

Fast-for­ward­ing to last week, she learned of her Women’s Ashes call-up the night be­fore the sec­ond ODI, told she would part­ner fel­low Lan­cashire player Alex Hart­ley as Eng­land’s new­est spin twins. “I couldn’t sleep that night,” she re­called.

Ear­lier in 2016, Ec­cle­stone’s T20 de­but came two months af­ter her 17th birth­day. She looked the part im­me­di­ately on and off the field, speak­ing en­thu­si­as­ti­cally to re­porters. She doesn’t lack for con­fi­dence. “I am def­i­nitely out there,” is how she de­scribes her personality.

While at the bowl­ing crease, com­par­isons to Kiwi cham­pion Daniel Vet­tori are nat­u­ral for the height she de­liv­ers from, typ­i­cally com­ing around the wicket. “It is so nice be­ing com­pared to peo­ple like that,” she said. “I looked up to him when I was younger.”

The com­par­i­son ex­tends to the va­ri­ety she of­fers as well. It was a stealthy arm ball that earned Ec­cle­stone her maiden Ashes wicket, shoot­ing through the de­fence of Aus­tralian opener Alyssa Healy when she was well on the way to three fig­ures, hit­ting the top of off stump.

“I was buzzing with it to be fair,” she said. “I just couldn’t be­lieve that my first Ashes wicket was Alyssa Healy’s. To know I had got her out, with a good ball as well. It just makes me happy and my fam­ily proud.” Fam­ily forms a ma­jor part of Ec­cle­stone’s life so she is thrilled her par­ents are en route to watch her Test match de­but.

Paul, her dad, is a life mem­ber of Al­van­ley CC in Cheshire and has packed his St George’s flag with the club’s name em­bla­zoned across it.

As is the case for many women in this Eng­land side, her fa­ther and brother in­tro­duced her to cricket. Af­ter com­ing through the ranks at Al­van­ley, Ec­cle­stone made his­tory as a 15-year-old, cho­sen in the men’s First XI. Sure enough, she be­gan with a match-win­ning three for 15.

On this tour, Ec­cle­stone has an­other fam­ily to sup­port her too: the Lancs girls. With Kate Cross added to the squad, it makes three. That swells to four if count­ing Sarah Tay­lor, who rep­re­sents the county in the T20 Kia Su­per League com­pe­ti­tion.

“I am so lucky to have them here,” she said. “I wouldn’t have met them had I not been play­ing cricket. So to have my best mates that I can travel the world with is just amaz­ing.”

Yet for all the glam­our of trav­el­ling the world play­ing cricket for a liv­ing, she can rely on her pals from school, now study­ing at univer­sity, to keep her grounded as she makes her way.

“They give me some stick say­ing that I just play cricket while they are work­ing hard so they can get a good job,” Ec­cle­stone said.

“They can’t be­lieve that I am play­ing cricket and trav­el­ling the world. But they sup­port me all the way. It is just a dream.”

One that has only just be­gun.

Test­ing time: So­phie Ec­cle­stone took her A-lev­els rather than go to the World Cup

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.