Commonwealth Games 2022 – Lisa Keightley defends England’s youth policy after Tammy Beaumont’s shock omission

Commonwealth Games 2022 - Lisa Keightley defends England's youth policy after Tammy Beaumont's shock omission

England picked two uncapped teenagers, allrounder Alice Capsey and left-arm seamer Freya Kemp in a 15-player squad for the tournament starting on July 29 alongside 20-year-old quick Issy Wong, who made her international debut in last month’s Test against South Africa.

They join the likes of Maia Bouchier, the middle-order batter who has played just three T20Is, allrounder Bryony Smith, who played the last of her four games for England in an ODI against West Indies two years ago, and seamer Freya Davies, who has been unable to break into the England side for the Test or ODI sections of their ongoing series with South Africa despite having 24 white-ball caps.

Davies could get her chance against South Africa in the upcoming T20Is, with the Commonwealth Games squad also forming the T20 outfit for the final leg of the multi-format series, and legspinner Sarah Glenn returns for the first time since the rain-hit T20 leg of the Ashes series in January.

England have already seen some benefits of changing up the ODI side which finished runners-up at the World Cup earlier this year. Wong took 3 for 36 in six overs on debut against South Africa last Friday and Sophia Dunkley, in just her second game since being promoted to No. 3, scored a century.

“We’ve really looked at how we played the last two years and after the World Cup and had a look at the areas that we needed to improve in,” Keightley, England’s head coach, said. “We’ve had really good conversations and hopefully we’re picking the players that we think can go out and do that. It’s their time, I think… and the structure underneath, the regional structure, has given them confidence to come in and play at the next level.”

Keightley said 17-year-old Capsey had progressed even further after enjoying a breakout season for Oval Invincibles in the inaugural season of the Hundred. She has since represented England A in Australia and most recently at home during South Africa’s warm-up matches. Her first senior call-up comes six months after Heather Knight, the England captain, warned against “over-egging” young players like Capsey.

“We’ve had a lot of cricket between here and there,” Keightley said. “It’s always great to get on a bandwagon really early but I think she’s matured. Going over to Australia and seeing her travel and play probably a little bit under the radar, she’s been really clear on what we want her to do and how we want her to play and I just think her time is now.

“She gives us a lot of options with the ball and she can float in a batting order and tends to be able to move quite freely with a good strike rate, so we’ve always had an eye on her. Sometimes the skipper doesn’t want to put too much pressure on a young kid too early and I think she’s done that really well.”

The younger brigade joins experienced hands like veteran seamer Katherine Brunt and Danni Wyatt, who will open the batting – possibly alongside Smith – in the absence of Beaumont, who was a surprise omission from the T20I squad.

Beaumont is one of England’s leading ODI batters and was briefly top of the ICC’s player rankings in the format last year but has not been as prolific in T20Is. She made 97 off 65 balls against New Zealand last September but was used out-of-position in the middle order in the T20 World Cup in 2020, Keightley’s first tournament in charge, and has a career strike rate of 108.37 in the format.

“Obviously Tammy’s an amazing player,” Keightley said. “She’s performed really well over a long period of time and I suppose the challenge is out to Tam to go away and work on things that we’ve been working on and show us why she should be in the squad. I’m sure she’ll bounce back and that’s what we want, really. We want pressure on and players getting better in every format.

“In 50-over cricket you can’t match Tammy’s record. I think it speaks for itself. In T20, I think there’s still some room for growth and improvement there and now it’s up to her to go away and do it. The Hundred’s a fantastic opportunity to do that, and we’ll see what she can do.”

Dunkley’s move to No. 3 has proven successful early in the ODIs and Keightley suggested the middle order, which also includes Knight, could remain fluid depending on match situations and how players settle into their roles.

“It’s been interesting how it’s evolved,” Keightley said of Dunkley’s promotion. “Performing not as well as we wanted up front and losing early wickets and being quite slow has made us think about, well, how can we improve that?

“It’s quite clear how we want the openers to go out and bat in 50-over cricket and then we felt Sophia’s improving. She’s a clean striker. Usually if we lost a wicket or we’re going well her strike rate’s roughly going to be around the same.

“She just gives us that punch-ability, I suppose, if we did lose a wicket, for her to go out and play her natural game and put hopefully the bowlers back under pressure.”

Wicketkeeper Amy Jones, who in ODIs has played in every position from No. 1-7 since her debut in 2013 has batted predominantly at No. 5 since the end of 2019, reaching fifty only twice in that time. In T20Is she moved from opener to the middle order at the end of the World Cup in 2020 with limited success.

“Amy would admit that she probably hasn’t finished games off for us and gone the way that we want probably consistently and we know Heather is cool and calm under pressure,” Keightley added. “If we’re in trouble, she can work with players around her to read the situation a little bit better than probably we have in the past, so I still think three, four and five could be flexible moving forward.”

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo

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