By Luke Baker
As England’s new male generation continue to impress against New Zealand, Middlesex women’s captain Izzy Westbury believes her county have the female answer to Jos Buttler and Co in the form of Sophia Dunkley.
Dunkley is only 16 years old but is already a mainstay at the top of the Middlesex order – forming a formidable opening partnership with Natasha Miles.
The teenager was the star of the show recently as she led her side to victories over both Nottinghamshire and Somerset in the opening t20 double-header.
She made 66 and 25 without losing her wicket across both innings as Middlesex successfully chased down 139 against Notts and a far less imposing 49 against Somerset.
And Westbury claims there is no doubt in her mind that the youngster, who also turns her arm over as a medium-pacer, will rise to the very top of the game.
“Sophia Dunkley is a very, very exciting prospect – she’s only 16, which is crazy,” said Westbury. “If she doesn’t get an England cap within the next few years then I will eat my hat!”
“We’re seeing in the last few days a lot of talk about the new-look England one-day side in the men’s game with young prospects who aren’t afraid to hit the ball, take some risks and have a go.
“And I think Sophia really does embrace that. She is someone who will really make an impact over the next few years but has already started to make an impression.”
This summer’s Ashes will come too soon for Dunkley but with the England squad set to be announced on July 6, the competition for places is really hotting up.
Middlesex are the only county in Division One of the County Championship without a centrally-contracted player. However, Westbury, who herself won an ODI cap for the Netherlands as a 15-year-old in 2005, has backed a couple of her team-mates to stake a claim for selection this summer.
“In the short-term I think Alex Hartley is pushing towards an England spot for the Ashes,” said Westbury.
“She’s a very talented left-arm spinner and this season she has really focused on adding a second aspect to her game – be it batting or fielding, both of which have come on leaps and bounds.
“I think that she offers a very lucrative package for England in the upcoming Ashes, although whether or not they’ll use her isn’t up for me to say.
“Then Tash (Natasha Miles) has had a few seasons where she has been a solid, top order bat for us and she won player of the season last year.
“We know that we can rely on her and she will always score runs. She’s always in and around the mix for an England call-up.”