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Crunch time for Sunrisers, but Grace Scrivens has the know-how

England's U19 Women's captain can play a vital role in turning competition battlers around

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Grace Scrivens has been with Sunrisers from day one  •  Getty Images

Grace Scrivens has been with Sunrisers from day one  •  Getty Images

Bowled out for just 99, England Women's Under-19s clawed their way back into their bout with Australia for a place in the T20 World Cup final. Now, with their opponents 96 for 9 in reply, they needed the clutch moment to go their way, and it did, thanks to captain Grace Scrivens. She floated up a full delivery from around the stumps, beat Maggie Clark's attempted flick and struck the pad dead in front for the final wicket and victory to England by three runs with eight balls to spare.
It was the sort of pressure moment Scrivens revels in and an experience she hopes will help her Sunrisers team as they seek their first win in the history of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy when they open their 2023 campaign against two-time champions Southern Vipers on Saturday.
Without overstating the importance of pre-season form, the signs are positive. Sunrisers won all three matches they played on their winter trip to Desert Springs in Spain, comprising 50-overs fixtures against South East Stars and Northern Diamonds and a T20 with Stars. Then, in 50-over friendlies back on home soil last week, they beat The Blaze and Stars with Scrivens scoring twin centuries. Having faced 110 balls for her 106 against The Blaze, she contributed 101 of her side's 168 against Stars in a match where none of her team-mates reached double-figures.
That's not to suggest Sunrisers are shaping up as a one-woman team. Just as in that World Cup match immediately before England finished as runners-up to India, there were other valuable contributions. Against The Blaze, Amara Carr scored an unbeaten half-century, while Mady Villiers took 3 for 38 having also claimed 3 for 21 off just two overs against Stars. But Scrivens is emerging as a vital cog in the Sunrisers' set-up, as she was for her country at the World Cup, where she was named Player of the Tournament for her 293 runs and nine wickets.
An opening batter and off-spinner, Scrivens has been with Sunrisers since the beginning. In 2020, aged just 16, she scored 137 runs in six RHFT matches at an average of 22.83 with a strike rate of 58.54 and took three wickets. After small improvements to those figures the following season, Scrivens ended 2022 as the competition's leading wicket-taker with 13 at 14.69 and an economy rate of 3.23 and third-highest run-scorer with 297 at 49.50 and a strike rate of 77.54.
"I've learned so much about playing overseas, so much about leading a team," Scrivens tells ESPNcricinfo. "My cricket is only going to improve for that experience. It was the never-give-up attitude. That semi-final was one that I've never experienced before and the ups and downs of that really shows that you can never really be out of a cricket match. I can take that into the Sunrisers, that fight to the end.
"The way we've been playing in Desert Springs has been really positive, winning three from three against two really strong teams in Diamonds and Stars, we can take confidence from in that. I don't think we were far away the last few seasons, it was just that learning how to win and getting over the line."
Danni Warren, Sunrisers Regional Director of Women's Cricket, says there is a sense of belief now permeating the group and she credits Andy Tennant, the former Scotland international who took over as head coach in the off-season, with giving the team "clarity".
"Winning three games on a preseason tour probably meant more to us than it might have done to another team, just from where we've been," Warren says. "To win one breeds a bit of belief, to win two breeds a bit of confidence, to back it up again just shows you that from any position you're able to get yourself into a game and to be competitive. It's hopefully given us something to really build our season on.
"We haven't really looked at it as turning it around... it's more unlocking what their potential is. Andy Tennant has come in as head coach. He's been able to give the clarity that the girls wanted in how we want to play as a team and how we want to play as individuals. That's, in a way, just helped people to find that freedom and that belief, let go of some of the baggage that we've taken from previous years."
She believes Scrivens has a big role to play too as vice-captain alongside Villers to skipper Kelly Castle, especially off the back of her experience leading the U19s.
"It's one of those where you burst on the scene to the public and we're sitting there knowing how much work she's put into getting there over the last few years," Warren says of Scrivens. "She's still only 19. She's opened the batting for three years at this level and that's not an easy thing to do. She's bowled in difficult situations and again never shirked responsibility.
"She's been the kind of person that wants to be in the battle and we knew that all being well she'd be able to go out there and show what she can do. Obviously we now want to be part of helping her take that to the next level and go on and perform for Sunrisers over the summer and hopefully that takes her to even further accolades as and when the time is right."
Scrivens' performances over the English winter can only have enhanced her positioning for a senior call-up at some stage, but it's not her primary goal heading into this weekend. "It's hard to look that far ahead," she says. "I need to work hard and play well in the games for Sunrisers coming up. If that happens, that happens, it's not something I'm really focusing on."
Scrivens is also looking forward to learning from Dane van Niekerk, the former South Africa captain who retired from international cricket after failing a fitness test for her home T20 World Cup in February and joined Sunrisers in a signing Warren describes as a "no brainer" from the team's perspective. She is available for Sunrisers until the end of July, when she will link up with Oval Invincibles for the Hundred.
"That's a really exciting signing and she's obviously an unbelievable leader," Scrivens says. "She's been so successful in international cricket so I want to be around her and learn as much as I can from her. I hope she comes in and just takes the game on and plays in that attacking way that she does, because that'd be really exciting for us."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women's cricket, at ESPNcricinfo