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Back to school for Alice Capsey but England honours beckon

Teenager targeting involvement on A tour to Australia as next step in remarkable rise

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
Alice Capsey, right, starred for Oval Invincibles in the Hundred  •  Getty Images

Alice Capsey, right, starred for Oval Invincibles in the Hundred  •  Getty Images

It won't be long, you suspect, before international teams start needing to do their homework on Alice Capsey, the 17-year-old winner of the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) Young Player of the Year award. Capsey's dramatic rise to prominence was one of the stories of the summer - but for now she has homework of her own to focus on, settling back into school life and trying to balance studying for A Levels with persistent talk about her England ambitions.
Capsey described winning the inaugural women's Young Player award as a "complete surprise", putting her among the few who didn't see such recognition coming. With Capsey still awaiting her first professional contract she is not currently a member of the players' union - but the PCA's Women's Committee voted to make non-members eligible, and she duly became the youngest recipient of a player-voted award.
Her performances in the Hundred, where she scored 150 runs at a higher strike rate than any of her top-order colleagues while also bagging 10 wickets as Oval Invincibles lifted the trophy, immediately made her the most recognisable schoolgirl cricketer in the country. She followed that up with a starring role in South East Stars' Charlotte Edwards Cup success and, despite being overlooked for England's T20I and ODI series against New Zealand, won favourable mentions from the captain and coach.
"I wouldn't say I'm famous," Capsey said of returning to Bede's School in East Sussex for the start of term with plenty to discuss from her summer holidays. "But yeah, it's been nice.
"It's great to come back to school and just to be around my friends. They keep you grounded by taking the mick a bit. But no, it's been quite an easy transition. My teachers have been amazing. Even when I wasn't at the beginning of term in school, they were sending me work so I was able to keep up with it, which has made it really easy to fit back into classes."
Capsey may have to get cramming, with the prospect of further time away from the classroom over the winter. England will send an A squad to Australia to coincide with their Ashes tour, ahead of the Women's World Cup in New Zealand, and Capsey has already had discussions with her teachers about what will happen if she gets selected.
"We've got a break [from cricket] and then stuff starts back up in November," she said. "Before Christmas, I'll definitely be looking to get fitter, stronger and look to improve in certain areas of my game, to have one eye on that England A tour to try and get selected for that.
"I'm looking to get as much [school] work done this side of Christmas, then I don't have as much to do after. But all of my work's done on my laptop, and all the lessons are recorded, so even when I'm out there, I can still do some schoolwork - which as much as it's probably not what I want to be doing, it's quite important."
Asked about Capsey after England's 4-1 ODI series win last week, head coach Lisa Keightley described her as "a really exciting player" who was firmly on the radar. "She's done really well in T20 cricket this year and it's really exciting to see how she continues to develop to put pressure on England players, and that's what we want."
England A will play three T20s and three 50-over games ahead of the Women's Ashes, which will again be played using the multi-format points system. Capsey's versatility, as a batter capable of opening or slotting into the middle order while also bowling some canny offbreaks, may help bump her up the lengthening queue for senior recognition, but for now she is content to focus on schoolwork and training.
"I don't know what the performances are doing that but that's obviously what you want to hear," she said of Keightley's praise. "And obviously you want to perform, you have an eye on England, but you want to perform for your team and I think I've done that this season, and whatever happens in the future will be great. It's nice to hear but I'm just taking my performances as they come."
So impressive was Capsey's summer that she struggled to "pick out just one" highlight among many. But her verdict on the first edition of the Hundred - and its potential appeal to her cohort of fellow students - was unequivocal.
"For me personally it's been massive," she said. "It's given me a platform to really show what I can do, but also it's grown the women's game so much, for people who weren't interested in women's cricket. Because they came along to a double-header, getting involved and actually then really seeing how exciting it can be. I think it's brought in such a new group of people.
"I had friends from school who had no interest in cricket and then came to a game at The Oval and started following it. So I think it's been really good in the sense that it is definitely bringing new people into women's cricket. Not only my friends but also family, people like that. They're now following cricket, and after the Hundred, they were following the Rachael Heyhoe Flint and Charlotte Edwards Cup. And so I think it's been massive for the influence that it's brought. I can see the impact it's starting to make on the women's game which is amazing to be a part of."
Alice Capsey was speaking following the 52nd cinch PCA Awards, the biggest awards ceremony in English cricket

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick