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Freya Kemp's new dimension gives England boost for series decider

Maiden half-century provides silver lining despite India's emphatic win

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Freya Kemp struck her maiden international fifty at Derby  •  Getty Images

Freya Kemp struck her maiden international fifty at Derby  •  Getty Images

India and England have both found something they've been looking for ahead of their deciding T20I in Bristol on Thursday.
For the visitors it was victory to draw level at 1-1, built on the back of Sneh Rana's 3 for 24 and Smriti Mandhana's unbeaten 79 which overhauled a modest target of 143 in Derby on Tuesday night. For England it was a rarer discovery, a left-handed teenager who made history with her maiden international half-century.
Freya Kemp became the youngest England player, female or male, to score fifty in a T20I, at 17 years and 145 days, and the second-youngest to reach the milestone for England in international cricket after Sarah Taylor.
Picked as a left-arm seamer earlier in the summer, she had shown hints of what she was capable of with the bat in domestic cricket. Kemp's 24 off 16 formed part of a crucial 45-run partnership with Georgia Adams as Southern Brave defeated Oval Invincibles during this year's Hundred, and she scored 14 off six in Brave's victory over London Spirit.
In her debut season in the Charlotte Edwards Cup, she was Vipers' second-highest wicket-taker behind Charlie Dean with nine at 17.66 and an economy rate of 6.11. Her 21 not out off 13 balls in an unbroken 45-run stand with Dean for the sixth wicket as Vipers beat Lightning early in their title campaign was another indication of her batting abilities.
But none of it quite added up to the impression she made in Derby. Kemp cleared the rope three times in her unbeaten 51 from 37 balls against India alongside her three fours and, in an England batting line-up stacked with right-handers, her presence in the lower middle-order can add another dimension.
"She's a cool character, nothing really fazes her," said England's vastly experienced left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone. "She has a 25-year-old head on herself. It's really nice to see her do well - I'm so pleased for her.
"When we're playing against a team with a left-hand-right-hand combination - like Smriti, for example - it's so hard to bowl at. It's great to have a left-hander in our squad, and it's nice to have her in the nets to bowl at, to be honest."
England lost their other left-arm seamer who bats left-handed, Tash Farrant, to a stress fracture at the start of the summer.
Ecclestone, who bats right-handed, played a match-shaping knock last time England were in Derby, her unbeaten 33 - including 26 off the final over of the innings setting up victory against South Africa in July before her 2 for 24 helped seal a 3-0 series sweep. That match also marked Kemp's international debut and she slotted right in with an important 2 for 18 as England embarked on their succession planning by introducing a clutch of youngsters to their ranks.
In the absence of the resting Katherine Brunt, injured Heather Knight and Nat Sciver, who withdrew from England's pre-series camp in Durham for mental-health reasons, those youngsters have had to take on added responsibilities.
Ahead of a crunch match in Bristol, Ecclestone backed the likes of Kemp, fellow teenager Alice Capsey and young seamer Lauren Bell to keep playing their part, but said it was crucial that England retain the fun factor despite the fact the series is in the balance.
"I think it's massive to keep enjoying ourselves," Ecclestone said. "When we're enjoying our cricket, we're amazing. That gives us the best chance of us winning.
"I think they need to take a bit more responsibility. The young ones can come in and get told what to do a little bit, so it's quite nice for them to have a little bit of their own responsibility over their fields and how they bowl."
Kemp put on 65 runs with Maia Bouchier on Tuesday evening to lift England from a dire predicament at 54 for 5. As it turned out, it wasn't enough and the home side will have to find a way to revert to their success in the first game. There, legspinner Sarah Glenn set them up with a career-best four-for to restrict India to 132 for 7 and a more solid batting display saw them home, led by Sophia Dunkley's 61 not out.
"We would have liked 20 or 30 more on the board," Ecclestone admitted on Tuesday. "Hopefully next time we can go out and get a series win. It was amazing to see Kempy and Bouch bat so well together, which is great to see for the future."
For India, their latest performance represents a vast improvement on their showing in Durham, where they struggled with the bat and were ragged in the field as England overhauled their target with ease to win by nine wickets.
Mandhana, who made 23 in the first match, was pleased her side had turned things around to remain in contention. "After the last match we needed to come back stronger and level the series," she told Sky Sports. "I found my touch back, timing the ball the way I want to. You go out as an opener and try to give your team a good start."
Now all eyes turn to who's going to finish the best.
Meanwhile, the ECB has confirmed that the points for next week's rounds of Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy matches will be shared, after a decision was made to cancel the games due to a clash with the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. With the final at Lord's scheduled for September 25, it was decided there was not enough room in the calendar for a re-arrangement.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo