The Lowdown - Sarah Taylor August 31, 2006

All sewn up for Taylor

The Lowdown on Sarah Taylor by Jenny Thompson

With so much cricket played these days it is often difficult to keep track of who is who and what they are doing. In this weekly feature Cricinfo will take a look at one player who is making the news, whether at the highest level or as an aspiring talent, and tell you what they are all about. This week, it's the turn of 17-year-old Sarah Taylor, England women's exciting new batting talent.



Sarah Taylor © Getty Images

It's every schoolboy's dream to play for England. But is it every schoolgirl's? For the pupils at Brighton College you could be forgiven for thinking so. They have three students in England's current team - Holly Colvin, Sarah Taylor and Laura Marsh, who left last year. And there's another potential star in the offing - 14-year-old Stephanie Masters. But then again their coach at the college is Clare Connor, the former England captain who now teaches English and heads up the PR department.

A ha, PR, a rat. Is this somehow one big publicity stunt? Actually no; the players are in the international set-up on their merits as their results indicate. Colvin burst on to the scene in last year's Ashes, making her debut aged 15, and Marsh won her call-up this year. But of the talented trio, it's the wicketkeeper/batsman Taylor who's causing the biggest stir after a series-winning fifty against India this summer at The Rose Bowl, aged just 17.

Whispers had been circulating of her inclusion and it was a call-up that surprised nobody but Taylor herself and one which delighted all who saw her at Southampton. "She hits the ball like a man," said one impressed coach, "that's rare in women's cricket." And she has all the shots, not to mention all of the timing.

She's lightning behind the stumps, too, as she showed in the one-dayers; edging out her idol and rival Jane Smit for two matches, inculding the Lord's game. Smit must now be fearing for her place. Rooming together, you'd expect, must be difficult. "Oh no," beams Taylor, ever open and relaxed, "I love her to bits!"

Taylor is already used to negotiating tricky situations after unwittingly becoming embroiled in Girl-gate last year when Robin Marlar found it 'absolutely outrageous' that two girls, Colvin and Taylor, should be playing for Brighton College's first team. But if you're good enough, you're good enough and those comments, like the opposition's often-hostile bowling, were just water off a duck's back to the mature Taylor, who averaged 41 in the boys' side and usurped the first-choice male keeper, who's also older. Boys' first XI cricket is a standard she compares to international cricket - but the pressures can be tougher.

"It's helped dramatically," she says. "With boys' cricket you have to perform to absolute standards because you have to prove yourself because you're a girl. In the women's game you've proved yourself. If you make a couple of mistakes you've got the girls there."

But don't mistake her ease with the press, her ease with the bat, her ease behind the stumps, for nonchalance nor indifference. No. Her attitude - confident without being arrogant - is spot-on and if her maturity at this age is anything to go by, then one day she could be replacing her other idol, Charlotte Edwards, as captain.

Taylor's batting has already invited fair comparisons to the hard-hitting, fluent Edwards, but Edwards goes one further. "I think she's going to be better." When Taylor finds this out she says: "That is fantastic! Woah! If I bat with Lottie, I think 'Oh my God I'm batting with Charlotte Edwards.' Just to be in the same category..."

For now, though, she's just going to concentrate on the game she has chosen over county tennis and hockey. With the other Taylor, Claire, they appear to have batting sewn up. It's a confident England team and with an average age of 23, the 2009 World Cup is already in their sights - including Taylor's of course. "I'd love to be there and hopefully I will be."

Timeline
Aged 11 - Playing in a Sussex Under-15 match she's handed the gloves and found an instant affinity with being behind the stumps: "I love it. I love being a part of a game."

Aged 12 - Was on the verge of heading to St Bede's senior school in Eastbourne when Clare Connor rings to invite her to apply for the Clare Connor Cricket Scholarship at Brighton College.

Aged 13 - Boosted into Sussex women's first team. Also watches first England match (v New Zealand) and discovers her dream. "That's when I knew that everything was going to lead to England."

Aged 15 - Tours Sri Lanka with Brighton College, narrowly avoiding the tsunami

Aged 16 - Makes Brighton College debut. "It has to be said that if I hadn't have gone there I wouldn't have been here today"

Aged 17 - Keeps wicket, tidily, on her England debut at Lord's

She says
"I'm just enjoying my cricket at the moment which helps. Every ball I play on its merit and if I think I can get a run off it I will. I'm looking for a run a ball anyway."

They say - Clare Connor
"Sarah looks the part. She's composed, great hands - very, very natural."

What you may not know - She gives as good as she gets
"I got bad sledging in boys' cricket at first. I played schools that had never played cricket against women before. The first year you had every single type of sledging that could happen. They moved the field in, wolf whistled, '"It's only a girl, we'll get her out next ball."' Just stupid things but then you hit them for four and they shut up." Any sledging back? "I've given a wink and a kiss before."

Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo