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News

England's eye to the future after bowling greats leave the stage

South Africa will be without Shabnim Ismail, Chloe Tryon and Ayabonga Khaka for their first Test since 2014

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
27-Jun-2022
Nat Sciver admits that it's going to feel strange playing a Test match without Katherine Brunt in the England attack.
Brunt remains a key presence in the England Women's camp ahead of their encounter with South Africa starting on Monday. Having announced her retirement from Tests last week, Brunt travelled to Taunton to continue her preparation for the white-ball portion of the multi-format series and impart her knowledge on a clutch of relatively inexperienced seamers vying to fill the void left by her and Anya Shrubsole, who called time on her international career after the World Cup in April.
Barely a month since celebrating her wedding to Brunt in an "amazing" ceremony, Sciver, England's vice-captain, reflected on how her wife would be missed on the cricket field.
"It's going to be different, very strange really," Sciver said. "When we go out onto the pitch, it'll be weird not to see her at the top of her mark or on the pitch. She obviously has provided so much energy and passion to the team and has been a big driver in the field when we need wickets.
"Just being able to throw her the ball when we need a wicket or we need something to happen. She's been that person for a really long time. It takes a lot of skill, courage and energy to be able to do that for us, so it will be exciting to see hopefully some of the youngsters try and be that person for us."
One of those who had been hoping to be that person, seamer Emily Arlott, was ruled out of the match on Saturday after failing to shake the after effects of a recent bout of Covid. That elevated Issy Wong, the 20-year-old express quick from travelling reserve to part of the squad.
Sciver did not want to reveal the playing XI before match-day morning but Lisa Keightley, England's head coach, said last week that Wong's workloads would be carefully managed this summer with a view to potentially handing her an international debut in the white-ball formats.
That puts Lauren Bell, a tall right-arm swing bowler, in the frame to make her international debut, with right-arm quick Freya Davies set to play her first Test having played seven ODIs and 17 T20Is. The experienced Kate Cross is poised to lead the seam attack while Sciver, too, will play a key part, although she said there were plans to reduce her workload slightly given a busy home international season ahead.
"There's been chatter about hopefully me bowling slightly less," she said. "That's where the youngsters can come in, with their energy or to be able to put some overs in for us.
"Obviously, they're inexperienced, but they are very skilful and I think in terms of bowling, shorter spells is probably the way to go. I think what we've seen in practice with the Dukes ball, the condition of the ball changes quite quickly, so I think shorter spells can work for us."
Sciver said the match would be played on a fresh pitch, which had been covered and uncovered during rain showers throughout Sunday. More rain was expected to clear shortly before the toss but showers are forecast throughout the four days of the match.
"It looks a pretty good wicket," Sciver said. "If we get in at Taunton you can really cash in because the outfield is fast and the wicket is pretty true. I think there's a little bit of grass on it so we'll have to take that into consideration at the toss."
South Africa will be without pace bowler Shabnim Ismail and left-arm spinner Chloe Tryon, who have both played one Test and are nursing calf and hip complaints respectively, with another first-choice seamer, Ayabonga Khaka, focusing instead on the shorter formats.
That leaves the visitors set to field eight Test debutants, with only Trisha Chetty, Lizelle Lee and Marizanne Kapp having played any red-ball cricket.
Sune Luus, their captain, said that while South Africa had not played a Test since 2014, she had been encouraged by their three-day tour match against England Women A, where Laura Wolvaardt scored a century and Lara Goodall and Andrie Steyn fifties while Anneke Bosch and Tumi Sekhukhune took five economical wickets between them.
"Obviously we would have loved to have the likes of Aya, Shabnim and Chloe in our Test squad with the experience they bring in and the skills set they have, but we still have an amazing team," Luus said.
"We come off a great warm up match where some of the younger players really performed and put up their hands so I'm still very excited for the Test match and to see what the new players can do, but I guess we're all new players in a Test match so it's going to be something different for all of us."
England (possible): Tammy Beaumont, Emma Lamb, Heather Knight (capt), Nat Sciver, Sophia Dunkley, Amy Jones (wk), Charlie Dean, Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone, Freya Davies, Lauren Bell
South Africa (possible): Laura Wolvaardt, Andrie Steyn, Lara Goodall, Lizelle Lee, Marizanne Kapp, Sune Luus (capt), Anneke Bosch, Trisha Chetty (wk), Nadine De Klerk, Tumi Sekhukhune, Nonkululeko Mlaba

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo