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Captaincy takes Amy Jones right out of her comfort zone

Wicketkeeper-batter embraces challenge against India after show of faith from Nat Sciver

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Amy Jones speaks to her team in the huddle, England vs India, 1st women's T20I, Chester-le-Street, September 10, 2022

Amy Jones speaks to her team in the huddle  •  ECB via Getty Images

Amy Jones is the first to admit that captaincy doesn't come naturally to her.
So when she was thrust into the role on the international stage because Nat Sciver had chosen to step away for mental health reasons, it was Sciver who initially helped convince her she could do it.
"It's definitely not something I've been gunning for quietly for a while at all," grinned Jones on the eve of Tuesday's second T20I against India in Derby. "But when I was having chats with Nat, sort of getting an inkling that she might go home, we did have a conversation where we were like, 'this could be you, Amy,' and it was very daunting.
"I'd say on the pitch, definitely not something that comes naturally to me. I like to lead off the pitch in my own way, how I go about things, but when it comes to being vocal and speaking in front of the group or management of the game, all of this is all pretty new to me."
But, after leading England to a resounding nine-wicket win in the first match on a damp evening in Durham on Saturday, Jones - the wicketkeeper-batter who is set to make her 150th appearance for England in Thursday's third fixture in Bristol - admitted she rather enjoyed herself.
"One of the most pleasing things about the other night was just how everyone came together," she said. "They know it's not natural for me, but everyone's been really supportive and just helped whenever they can. So it was, yeah, I'd go as far to say I enjoyed it, actually."
England announced last Thursday that Sciver had withdrawn from both white-ball series with India and returned home from the team's camp in Durham to focus on her mental health and wellbeing. Sciver, who had been standing in for injured regular captain Heather Knight since July, said that she was "very emotionally fatigued" after a busy nine months which included an Ashes tour of Australia, the World Cup in New Zealand, a home series with South Africa and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, where the host nation finished a disappointing fourth.
"She's one of my closest friends as well as a team-mate," Jones said. "The first couple of days in Durham, she obviously wasn't herself.
"So when she did, with the help of our support staff, decide that she shouldn't be there, I think it was almost a relief for me as a friend to know that she was going to go back home and get herself right before she joins back up with us, so definitely the right decision for her and everyone's right behind her."
Jones felt she had Sciver's full support in taking on the captaincy, as well as that of Sciver's wife, Katherine Brunt, who is being rested from the T20Is and subsequent three-match ODI series with India.
"She was being really reassuring, she said I'd do a great job," Jones said of Sciver. "And Katherine has also messaged me as well and they've been very supportive. It felt like they thought I was the right person, which definitely gave me a bit of confidence."
Jones captained Birmingham Phoenix through the inaugural season of the Hundred last year before the arrival of Sophie Devine, the New Zealand skipper, at the franchise this year.
"For me, it was daunting, purely because I did a year at the Hundred obviously and nothing either side of that, so it's just the unknown really," Jones said. "That's what I was stressing about the most leading up to the game.
"It's obviously a lot of responsibility and with a young side... I wasn't sure if some of the bowlers would need more help than they did, but everyone just really stepped up, knew their game, and it was a lot simpler than I thought."
In the absence of three senior players, Jones was hugely impressed with her side's performance on Saturday, particularly leg-spinner Sarah Glenn, who took a career-best 4 for 23, including three of India's top four in Shafali Verma, Dayalan Hemalatha and Harmanpreet Kaur.
"Leading into this, missing three key players for us, it would have been easy for us to sort of go into our shell in that first game with a bit less confidence," Jones said. "It just really felt like everyone came together and stood up in a time where we could have gone the other way, so that was really pleasing.
"It was definitely a challenge. I was very nervous. I think for the couple days leading up to it, it was a lot of thinking and it's quite hard to switch off. But now, having played the first one, I can relax a bit more and know that we can get through a game and with the girls helping you it just made it so much easier."
Alice Davidson-Richards was called into the England squad for the remainder of the T20I series as cover for allrounder Sciver. The squad - and captain - for the ODIs starting on Sunday at Hove is yet to be named.
"I'm not sure I'd be throwing my hat in the ring," Jones said. "I think fifty overs is a whole other ball game. But, in saying that, obviously if they think I'm the right person for it then it's something I would never turn down.
"I'm happy just to focus on the T20s now. As always, I would never turned down an opportunity like that, but I'm definitely doing just a little stand-in."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo