Express News Service
CHENNAI: If the current Australian season were to be called Tahlia McGrath’s summer, England’s summer of 2021 really belonged to one person: Sophia Dunkley. The South East Stars batter returned to the England T20I side in 2020 for the series against the West Indies, returning after 18 months, making the most of the limited opportunities she was presented with that year. But 2021 was different.
With 196 runs in three innings in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, Dunkley had secured a spot in the roster for the India series, including the test game.
Getting started at 234 for four and leading the team to 396 for nine, while hitting the lower order of over 40 overs isn’t a bad way to make your Test debut at all. But beyond her undefeated half-century, there was a lot more for Dunkley to celebrate—she had her name etched in the history books. When Dunkley was awarded her Test cap on June 16, she was unaware that she will be the first black woman to play for England in its 87-year 95-game history.
“I actually didn’t realize that was the case,” Dunkley tells daily. While she understands and acknowledges the magnitude of the moment, the middle-class batter is keen that a black female athlete representing England will soon become the norm.
“I think it’s a big step forward in the game. Hopefully in the future we don’t talk about the fifth, sixth and seventh woman playing for England and in the end you don’t have to look at what number it is, you are just another person to play for England. So I think if I’ve had a positive influence on a girl by picking up a cricket bat or inspiring them in any way, that’s something special in itself.”
Dunkley loves Test cricket. As she prepares for the upcoming Ashes Test which starts on Thursday (January 27), she says: “I can watch a test match all day. Playing in that one test match really showed me how great it was and how special that kind of format is. How exciting it was on day two when I think we got four or five wickets in the afternoon very quickly and it was just amazing to be a part of the celebrations.”
With England set to kick off the Ashes multi-format tour with the Test, a last-minute rescheduling meant they had just three days left to prepare for the red-ball format after the T20 stage. And then there was also a Covid scare in the camp where one of the support staff tested positive. The 23-year-old called the situation “not ideal” and said they should prepare indoors before leaving for Australia. As if that wasn’t enough, with rain being a bummer in two T20Is. With very little playing time inside, winning the Test is crucial for England to stand a chance of regaining the Ashes.
Dunkley, who was dropped from the roster for the Ashes home game in 2019, is finally getting the chance to play in an Ashes series. She feels that the two-year wait has done her a lot of good. Pinching herself in disbelief that she’s in Australia for an Ashes series, Dunkley believes she’ll be at her best with a better temperament and clear thinking when she takes the field on Thursday. “Test match, as it goes, can change quickly if several things happen at once. For me, it’s just about what the team needs from me at any given moment. I want to be brave and make an impact and take the game home,” she signed.
BT Sport is home to The Women’s Ashes. Watch Day One of the Only Test live exclusively on BT Sport 2 from 10.30pm GMT in England, Wednesday 26th January. For more information on watching BT Sport, visit www.btsport.com/ashes