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News Analysis

Players to watch in the Ashes: an emerging allrounder and England's new batting star

With the multi-format series beginning on Thursday here are four players to keep a close eye on

Andrew McGlashan and Valkerie Baynes
19-Jan-2022

Sophie Dunkley and Tahlia McGrath have enjoyed plenty of recent success  •  Getty Images

Tahlia McGrath

Tests: 2 matches, 75 runs at 37.50; 3 wickets at 34.33
ODIs: 8 matches, 179 runs at 35.80; 5 wickets at 44.20
T20Is: 3 matches, 86 runs, strike-rate 134.37
Tahlia McGrath is a very different cricketer to the one who was part of the 2017-18 Ashes series where she made her Test debut at North Sydney Oval. It was a more-than-handy performance with three wickets and 47 - adding 103 alongside Ellyse Perry who made her famous double century - but that would be her last international appearance until a one-off outing in late 2020 against New Zealand.
This season, however, has seen her state her claims as a top-class allrounder having worked on her game at domestic level. Against India she made 74 in the second ODI to help resurrect the chase with Beth Mooney then produced two key innings in the T20I series having batted nicely in Test before finding point. Her return has further added to Australia's middle-order options with the bat and pace-bowling options in the field.

Sophia Dunkley

Tests: 1 match, 74 runs
ODIs: 8 matches, 156 runs at 31.20
T20Is: 21 matches, 149 runs at 21.28, strike-rate 101.36; 1 wicket
After spending 18 months on the fringes of selection through 2019-20, Sophia Dunkley made quite an impression during the English summer of 2021. She debuted at the Women's World T20 in 2018, but it was an assured 74 not out against India in June, when she became the first black woman to play Test cricket for England, that set her on course to make a place in England's middle order her own across formats.
The nerveless nature of that innings pervaded limited-overs series against India and New Zealand when, more than once, she kept a cool head to see England to victory. Her unbeaten 73 batting for the first time in ODIs was instrumental in England's win against India at Taunton and she scored a four off the penultimate ball to clinch a tight chase - and the series - in the third T20I against New Zealand.
In England's warm-ups against England A in Australia, Dunkley struck 15 off 12 balls in the rain-affected 35-over match, where her sharp fielding was also on display with three catches, while in the two T20s, she hit 10 off eight and 17 off 10. Her legspin has been used sparingly by England but she provides another option while her batting is key.

Darcie Brown

ODIs: 3 matches, 5 wickets at 20.40
T20Is: 1 match, 1 wicket
It feels like Darcie Brown, the 18-year-old quick bowler, is on the verge of taking the cricket world by storm. Capable of rapid late outswing and also possessing one of the best bouncers in the game, Brown has put together two impressive WBBL seasons - 29 wickets across the two editions at an economy under a run-a-ball - and earned her first call-up for last year's tour of New Zealand.
In just her second ODI, earlier this season against India, she served notice of her potential with a Player of the Match 4 for 33 with her scalps all being among the top five of the order. She was wicketless on her Test debut at Metricon Stadium and there is an understandable caution about over-bowling her as she continues to develop, but there are few more exciting prospects in the game.

Charlie Dean

Yet to play Tests or T20Is
ODIs: 5 matches, 10 wickets at 19.20, economy 4.64
Something of an unknown in Australia, 21-year-old offspinner Charlie Dean has made the most of her handful of opportunities. She made her debut in the first ODI against New Zealand in September and played all five fixtures. It was her 4 for 36 to help England to victory in the rain-hit match at Worcester - just her second match at this level - which really caught the eye, as did her enthusiasm in the field throughout.
Dean had been in line to feature earlier in New Zealand's tour when she was named in England's squad for their three-match T20I series before she and Maia Bouchier had to isolate as possible contacts of a suspected Covid case in their Southern Vipers team. Fifty overs is Dean's preferred format at this stage and that may be where she features most heavily in this Ashes series, but her ability to deceive batters by generating plenty of overspin and drop makes her a valuable addition for England.