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Match Analysis

Issy Wong, Lauren Bell seize chance to shine in front of England's old guard

Debutant seamers play their part in rocking South Africa top order

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Issy Wong on debut for England  •  PA Images/Getty

Issy Wong on debut for England  •  PA Images/Getty

England have had their first glimpse of life beyond Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole and it looked pretty bright out there at Taunton.
With Brunt revving up the crowd while sitting in the Somerset Stand and Shrubsole also taking in the view at her home ground, England's retired seam stalwarts gazed down on the action as Issy Wong and Lauren Bell, on international debut, helped reduce South Africa to 45 for 4 on the opening day of the Test.
There's every chance that Brunt, having presented Wong with her Test cap, looked on with satisfaction as she and Bell grabbed their opportunity to try and step into the void she left when she recently announced her retirement from Tests, following Shrubsole's decision in April to call time on her international career.
"They didn't look out of place at all, did they?" said Kate Cross, who claimed four wickets in her new role as seam attack leader. "Wongy steaming in and trying to knock people's heads off at some point, she's been doing that in the nets with us all week so it was great to see her get a chance.
"There's not many times that you'll make your full England debut in a Test match. It's just pretty special. It's been a really nice day. There were some amazing speeches this morning. Katherine Brunt in particular had everyone in tears, talking about when we play Test cricket it feels like we're always fighting to prove that we can play the format and we want more of it.
"So it's always nice when you get the new guard to come in and get that opportunity as well. I thought everyone played with a smile on their face and no one looked nervous. No one looked out of their depths at all. So I thought that's a great place for us to be."
Wong struck with her 12th ball in international cricket, pegging back Laura Wolvaardt's middle and off stumps, then took a screamer of a catch launching herself into the air in the covers to dismiss Sinalo Jafta giving Cross her third wicket.
Bell bowled a probing first spell, and finished the day with the wickets of Lizelle Lee, to a tight lbw decision upheld on impact on umpire's call, and the prize wicket of Marizanne Kapp, spectacularly caught by Tammy Beaumont at mid-off.
Kapp's faultless 150 resurrected South Africa's innings to the point that they had reached 284 by the time they were bowled out to end the day's play, altering the complexion of the match somewhat although it did little to dampen England's spirits, given the performance of the side's newcomers.
Also making their Test debuts were Alice Davidson-Richards, a batting allrounder who offers another seam-bowling option and who dismissed Nadine de Klerk cheaply, and Emma Lamb, who will have the chance to open alongside Beaumont when England begin their response on Tuesday.
For her part, Kapp was particularly impressed by Wong. "When she bowled that first over this morning I told our team doctor I believe she's going to go far," Kapp said. "I think she has what it takes.
"Overall as a unit I feel like they bowled really well. It does get harder to bowl once the ball is so much older and with a quick outfield so I feel like they bowled really well and for me the goal was to just get through the tough sessions and then I knew I could cash in at the back end."
Wong was somewhat of a surprise inclusion having been promoted from travelling reserve when Emily Arlott struggled for fitness after a recent covid infection. Despite having travelled with England squads for the best part of two years, Lisa Keightley, the head coach, said she wanted to carefully manage Wong's workload and suggested that she was more in the frame for a limited-overs role this season.
Wong ended the day with 1 for 54 from 13 overs, and Bell with 2 for 47 from 16 and both were able to reflect on their journey to this point, having progressed through Chance to Shine and become the first full participants of the programme set up in 2005 to address the decline of cricket in state schools to go on and play for England.
"It feels pretty special to be the first people to have been a part of that pathway, hopefully we're the first of many," Bell said.
Wong agreed: "I'm sure there will be other Chance to Shine graduates after Belly and me."
For those that have gone before them looking on, there was reason to hope and believe too.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo