Charlie Dean credits England's 'no-fear' environment with putting her on the fast track

Young spinner is Ashes-bound after impressing during the English summer

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Charlie Dean credits England's "no-fear" environment with putting her on the fast track to becoming an international match-winner after initially being overlooked for a domestic contract.
Dean, the 20-year-old Southern Vipers offspinner, made her international debut against New Zealand over the English summer, playing all five ODIs. In just her second match at this level, she claimed 4 for 36 to help England to victory in a rain-affected match at Worcester, and she added three more before Heather Knight's century sealed a nail-biting victory - and the five-match series - in the fourth fixture at Derby.
After being named in a 17-strong squad to tour Australia for the Women's Ashes in January and February, Dean reflected on what turned out to be a whirlwind season in which she also became one of six players on professional contracts with the Vipers, having missed out during the inaugural round of deals announced a year ago.
"It was a bit of a shock, really, to be told that I was going to be involved in the squad for the New Zealand series," Dean told ESPNcricinfo. "The environment is so open and welcoming that I felt at home pretty quickly on and off the field.
"That team environment is something that really encourages people to show what they can do and there's no real fear of mistakes, there's just, 'this is what we want you to do and this is what you can do, so go out there and do it'.
"Whenever I play a game of cricket, I always want to influence the game, whether that's in the field or potentially with the bat and to do that with my main skill is really a big confidence boost. To be able to take four wickets in the second game really cemented the fact that actually, I can do this, I can perform on the big stage, and that definitely helped me in the next couple of games."
While being a relative unknown might offer a small, short-lived advantage in Australia, Dean is under no illusions about the ferocity of the looming contest, thanks again to advice she's received from within the England camp.
"The rivalry against Australia is something that I've not really come across before," Dean said. "Someone briefed me and said, 'look, you know, they're quite harsh against the old Pommies, so just be careful, know that you're good enough and that's okay'.
"That's something that I can get my head around and sort of be in my own little bubble so that if I play, then the battle won't get to me too much. It's something that you've always got to have in the back of your head and hopefully the things I've done building up to it will prepare me well for that."
"Charlie's been a good find"
Heather Knight
Dean faced a stressful wait to make her England debut after she Maia Bouchier were named in the squad for the three-match T20I series against New Zealand immediately before the ODIs but were forced to isolate as possible contacts of a suspected Covid case in the Vipers team. Bouchier, also named in the Ashes squad, went on to play the next two T20Is, making her international debut in the process.
Dean's lack of red-ball experience makes her somewhat of an unknown when it comes to selection for the Test, which opens the multi-format Ashes series on January 27. Left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone, meanwhile, has played three Tests at the age of just 23, while the other two frontline spinners in England's squad - offspinner Mady Villiers and leggie Sarah Glenn - are yet to make their Test debuts. Sophia Dunkley, who made her Test debut against India in June, bowled only one over of her legbreaks in that match, playing primarily as a batter and scoring a half-century.
Knight, the England captain, was delighted with her expanding spin-bowling stocks and she backed Dean to offer something "different" in Australia, regardless of the format, with the Ashes series also comprising three T20Is and three ODIs.
"They're all in their early 20s, which is quite exciting," Knight said. "They're all very young spinners and traditionally as a spinner you mature in your late 20s, early 30s.
"Charlie's been a good find. She's added something a little bit different and she's had some success so far and I think she'll be good on Australian pitches. She gets a lot of drop, a lot of overspin on the ball, which sometimes you need in Australia when it's flat and it's not turning sideways - you need that movement in the air to try and deceive and she's definitely got that."
Aside from her England appearances, Dean found the ideal shop window in the Hundred, playing alongside Knight for London Spirit when she took six wickets at an average of 28.00 with an economy rate of 1.18 runs per ball. "Her nous probably impressed me the most," Knight said. "I hadn't seen much of her at all before I played with her at London Spirit.
"She's a very canny bowler, not just having the skills, she knows when to use them. She hasn't played any red-ball cricket and we'll have to have a little look at what to do selection-wise there but I think she's got the skills to be able to be successful in all formats and the way she's throwing herself into things.
"The big moment for me when I realised we've got a player on our hands is that game in Worcester where she bowled those real key overs, took a four-for and bowled real pressure areas as well."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo