England woman’s black player’s list saw Ebony Rainford Brent debut in 2001 then Isa Guha in the same year, Sonia Odedra in 2014 and then there came Sophia Dunkley in 2018. In the ongoing multi-format series between England and South Africa, the 2nd ODI saw Sophia Dunkley become the first black woman to score a century for England.
Sophia Dunkley made it to the international scene in 2018 against Bangladesh in West Indies during the T20 World Cup and it was a quiet appearance that went unnoticed. It wasn’t until 2021 that knock at Bristol of 74* took place with her on debut, India on top controlling the Test match and England in trouble that helped Sophia Dunkley gain recognition for her masterclass.
Sophia Dunkley was introduced to cricket by her best friend in the neighbourhood, it was with him that she played her cricket and they then joined a boys club together. One of Sophia’s strong support systems, her mother, backed her play cricket and knew people connected with Mill Hill School, which awarded her a sports scholarship. At Mill Hill she played for the first XI with boys, she happened to be the first girl ever to do so. She went through pathways and made her first-class debut for Middlesex in 2012 in a Twenty20 Cup match against Sussex.
Sophia Dunkley made her international debut in England’s second game of the tournament, against Bangladesh, but wasn’t required to bat or bowl. Dunkley did play all of the remaining England games in the tournament as they progressed to the final before losing to Australia, but her personal best was 35 in a losing cause against West Indies. In February 2019, Dunkley was rewarded by being on the squad for England’s tours of India and Sri Lanka, where she picked up her first international wicket during the Sri Lanka series and played 5 games in total, including the series against India. After being omitted from England’s squad for the rest of 2019 and early 2020, on 18th June 2020 Dunkley was named in the 24 players’ squad to begin training ahead of the international summer of women’s cricket in England where Sophia Dunkley made her Test debut at Bristol and scripted history by becoming the first black women to play Test cricket for England.
Dunkley in her 35 against West Indies showed a cool head and composed attitude, that just was a snippet of her potential that took a blockbuster hit when it unfolded against India on her debut. England was in a commanding position before India struck back strong with 3 wickets in real quick succession and were the big three in set batter Nat Sciver, Amy Jones and another set batter Heather Knight. India had their tail up and outwalked Sophia Dunkley on debut, looked unfazed by everything that went on, wickets of tailenders continued to fall on the other end, but she remained a rock on one end and played a very mature knock handling the strike rotation, England’s 8th wicket partnership between Dunkley and Ecclestone was worth 56 runs and the 9th wicket partnership between Dunkley and Anya Shrubsole was worth 70 that saw England from 251-6 declared on 396-9 with Dunkley unbeaten on 74*. The knock came under pressure and was as pure a knock as it gets in Test match cricket. What the 74* reflected was a bigger image of the Dunkley of 2018 who looked more calm and composed and had England home in a big way in her first Test outing. The knock saw her announce her arrival on the international stage and was the talk of the town.
The talk of the town, Sophia Dunkley got herself recognition and a big name. She from then featured on all of England’s games across all formats and she’s only gotten better with time. She even made it to the World Cup, post which now in her ongoing series against South Africa she was assigned the role to bat at number 3.
She was a middle-order player, but the quality of her game is such that she took no time to adapt to the role and the ability was undoubtedly there. It all fell in a right place, England we’re back at Bristol for the 2nd ODI, Dunkley has been on a good run, Bristol saw her 74* on Test debut and this time witnessed her score a timely fifty that she then powered on and got to her maiden century in international cricket which also saw her become the first black women’s player to make a century for England.
Sophia Dunkley is now even on England’s squad for the Games that start later this month. The 24-year-old for sure has arrived at the big stage to be a big player, could potentially retire as a much bigger one than we are thinking and the career that’s self revived has been a fine script of an international comeback and what brilliant fashion to have done so.
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