Sophie Ecclestone reflects on T20 Challenge in India and ahead to 2019
Lancashire star Sophie Ecclestone heads into an Ashes summer in a buoyant mood after a brief but productive spell at the Women’s T20 Challenge in India earlier this month.
The left-arm spinner, 20, was invited to play in the three-team tournament alongside England team-mates Danielle Wyatt and Nat Sciver.
Ecclestone’s first taste of overseas domestic cricket yielded two wickets from as many appearances for the Trailblazers side in Jaipur at the start of May, but they missed out on the final played between the Supernovas and Velocity.
Ecclestone, Chester born and the ICC’s Emerging Player of 2018, believes she has returned home a better player and, more widely, feels that expanding the T20 Challenge into a fully-fledged Indian Premier League would be good for the women’s game.
The boosted confidence in her own game is excellent news for both Lancashire and England ahead of a summer highlighted by a home Ashes series and the last Kia Super League competition with the Thunder.
Ecclestone has played three one-day matches for the regular Red Rose women’s side over the past fortnight and is preparing for the start of England’s three-match ODI series against West Indies from next Thursday.
“India was an amazing experience,” she said. “Our side had Smriti Mandhana as captain and Suzie Bates, and it was great to meet different people.
“It’s my first time playing in something like that overseas, so I was quite nervous. But they were such a great bunch of girls who were so welcoming and made it much easier.
“The crowds were quite crazy. The way Smriti deals with the pressure is amazing. The noise at the games was something I’ve never had before.
“I feel like I have come back better for it. Bowling at my own team-mates, Dan and Nat, was weird. But to put myself up against the best in the world can only help me.
“I think an IPL would be an amazing competition. The people in India took to so well. There were 17,000 at the final, and I feel it would grow very quickly.”
Since debuting for England aged 17 in October 2016, Ecclestone has played 15 one-day and 19 T20 internationals plus a solitary Ashes Test match Down Under in November 2017.
“I’m really excited for the summer,” said Ecclestone, whose second Test appearance could come at Taunton in July.
“It’s my first Ashes series at home, and it will be a great experience. Hopefully we can regain the Ashes, which we should rightly have.
“It’s one of the best series in the world, and when you talk to overseas players from other countries but England and Australia, they’d love to have something as special as that.
“To play in that is such an honour, not just for me but my family as well.
“I’ve only ever played one Test match, but it’s something every girl and lad dreams of - a Test in the Ashes.”
Immediately after the Ashes comes the last edition of the Kia Super League, in its current guise, and Ecclestone is desperate to see Lancashire Thunder better their encouraging displays of last season of narrowly missing out on Finals Day by three points to eventual champions Surrey Stars.
“I’m really proud of how we did. We couldn’t really have done much more,” added Ecclestone.