Sophie Ecclestone: A Spinner with the world at her feet

I think it's apt to celebrate this International Women's Day by focusing on Sophie Ecclestone, England's left-arm spinner who continues to bedazzle fans, coaches and opponents.

At the age of just 21, Ecclestone already has over 100 international wickets to her name including 56 T20 wickets at an average of just 15.46. She's currently ranked the #1 T20 bowler in the world and is just one year removed from finishing the T20 World Cup with 8 wickets at an average of 6.12 average and an outstanding economy rate of 3.23.

If it feels as though Sophie has been around for a while, that's because she has. Ecclestone went on her first England tour at the age of 16, and made her international debut at the age of 17, she's the youngest ever female bowler to take 50 wickets at the T20 level and having achieved so much so soon, you can only imagine what she could go on to become.

Cricket has always been the #1 for Sophie and in an interview with the BBC she speaks about bowling her headmaster first ball and surprising everyone, the headmaster included.

How she bowled one over of seam and one over of spin to see which she preferred, sticking with spin and honing her craft over many years, first playing for Cheshire, before being spotted by Lancashire.

She now plays for the North West Thunder, which is one of the 8 regional hubs in the women's domestic game, established in 2020. In 2019/20 she appeared for the women's IPL trailblazers helping them win their first title.

Later this year she'll be playing for the Manchester Originals in the first edition of The Hundred. A competition that may not be adored by the masses, but one that will help highlight the talent in the women's game.

In a recent interview, Sophie was asked about her career goals

"Just to become one of the best players that's ever played women's cricket really, and be one of the best spinners and be remembered by that,"

I think it's safe to say that she's well on her way to doing just that. Sophie has shown a consistency with ball placement that is very difficult to master. We've recently seen a spin masterclass in India by Patel and Ashwin and their ability to land the ball in the right places was key to building pressure and taking wickets. It's this consistency which separates Sophie from some of the other bowlers currently playing their trade on the circuit.

However, there are plenty of other attributes which make Sophie so entertaining to watch and so difficult to face. Not only does she spin the ball more than most, she also has a variety of variations and speeds which she uses to devastating effect. Her deliveries are extremely difficult to pick up and she constantly forces batters to play through her consistent line.

She also has the advantage of being 6 feet tall, this provides a good angle for Sophie to attack the batsmen, getting good bounce off the pitch. It's hard to see anything detailing the progress of Eccelstone and the expectation is that she'll go on to be one of the greatest spinners if not the greatest spinners to ever play the game.

England have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the spin department with Sarah Glenn and Mary Villiers joining Sophie in one of the most exciting trios in world cricket. When you add that to the pace of Brunt, Shrubsole, Farrant and Davies, England are well placed to win more silverware over the coming years.

So what's next for Sophie after already reaching the summit of the women's T20 game?

The focus now will be on staying there, staying consistent and improving the batting side of her game.

She currently averages 13 with the bat in T20's and 6.58 in ODI's. She's often commented that she would like to improve to the extent that England moves her up the order.

That desire for excellence is what makes Eccelstone such a good bowler, and at this stage we wouldn't bet against her achieving whatever goal she sets herself.

After a dominating display in New Zealand, attention will turn to this summer. Before the concentration moves to the ODI world cup that's set to take place in New Zealand next March, with England looking to defend the title they won in 2017.


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