With few call-ups coming from beyond the contracted squad of 17, the England women’s team has sometimes felt like a closed shop since professionalism was instituted in 2014. That, however, could all change this winter: for the first time, a women’s “A team” will take on the Australia A team Down Under, in a series that will include both 50-over and 20-over matches and run concurrently with the senior team’s Women’s Ashes series.
“We’re trying to grow and expand our squad,” England coach Lisa Keightley said on Sunday. “I think it [the A tour] will help us – we probably don’t have to make a huge amount of decisions too early.”
Two of the players whose names are sure to be in the mix for A tour selection are the 29-year-old Eve Jones, an opening batter and captain of the Central Sparks and the 17-year-old Alice Capsey, a prodigy who has won silverware this season for South East Stars in the T20 Charlotte Edwards Cup and for Oval Invincibles in the Hundred.
Jones was the leading run-scorer in the Charlotte Edwards Cup, with three half-centuries in six innings, hit an unbeaten century in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, and was fourth on the run-scoring tally for Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred. Capsey, meanwhile, came to prominence with a half-century in her first match at Lord’s in the Hundred, and saw her team to victory in the final of the Charlotte Edwards Cup with 40 not out from 26 balls.
Between them, the pair represent the past challenges and the present opportunities of English women’s cricket. Jones attributes much of her recent success to the professional contract which she received in October 2020, one of 41 new domestic contracts awarded by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Jones has bagged her first Women’s Big Bash League contract: she flies out this week to join the Melbourne Renegades. By contrast, Capsey is part of a new generation who can, if she wishes, walk into a professional contract – be it with England or with the Stars – the minute she turns 18.
The exposure Capsey has experienced this summer, playing in front of crowds of thousands in the Hundred, has meant her name is already being mentioned in England press conferences by Keightley, while preparations for her likely selection in the England A tour have begun.
Jones, meanwhile, has plugged away for years in low-profile domestic cricket without so much as a nod from England. For her, and others, the A tour could be an unprecedented opportunity to break through on to the international stage.
The only shame, perhaps, is that these kind of life-changing opportunities have been quite so long in coming.