The England legend’s career highlights in her own words.
The former England star looks back on a decorated career that saw her lift every major trophy the game has to offer and become the first ever woman to be named Wisden Cricketer of the Year.
WHETTING THE APPETITE
England v New Zealand, World Cup Final, August 1, 1993, Lord’s
I played for the junior England side against Holland in one of the World Cup warm-ups. It was the first time I’d played against international opposition and we got thrashed but a number of those junior players went on to represent the full England side. I then went to the World Cup final at Lord’s with my mum and one of my best friends to watch England win against New Zealand and we were part of the rush on to the pitch at the end. I got my photo taken with my favourite player, who was the other Clare Taylor at that time, and then five years later we were playing in the same England team against Australia. Playing against international opposition and watching my heroines win the World Cup was the ignition for me.
LIFE IN THE FAST LANE
England v Australia, Fourth ODI, July 19, 1998, Southampton
I got into the England squad as reserve wicketkeeper to Jane Cassar and played one game because of an injury. There was a realisation that even though I’d made it into the England set-up, I still wasn’t quite good enough to get in the side. That was the point at which I decided I needed to get a coach and get serious about this if I wanted to play for the senior side. To get picked I was either going to have to become a better keeper than Jane, which wasn’t likely, or I was going to have to get in as a batter alone. I started working with a guy called Rob Woods down at Guildford but very soon afterwards I got introduced to Mark Lane, who was wicketkeeping coach down there. I started working on my batting with him and the rest is history. We all lived happily ever after!
SHOWING WHO’S BOSS
England v South Africa, Second ODI, June 22, 2000, Trent Bridge
I’m in and out of the squad in 1999, I go across to Australia and New Zealand in early 2000 where we get thrashed, and I get a couple of games that summer. There’s a rain-affected game against South Africa when I get 47 not out and it’s the first time I actually direct a game; I boss the game, getting involved in a chase. When I look back, most of my defining moments are when I got to direct a game rather than be directed by what was happening. It takes a game plan and a certain amount of knowledge of where your strengths and weaknesses are. I’d done it for club and county obviously but in that innings I put a marker down for England and I hadn’t really done that before.
THE LIFE CHANGER
New Zealand v Australia, World Cup Final, December 23, 2000, Lincoln
We didn’t even make the semi-finals after we were beaten by South Africa and some of the girls went home but I stayed in New Zealand, did a bit of travelling, and then went to the final. By now I’ve got my place in the England side pretty much nailed down but watching very, very good players play an amazing game of cricket and win a World Cup for their country got me thinking about how I was going to get myself in that position. When I came home I thought ‘Well, if I want to be one of the best players in the world I’m going to have to make some real changes in my life’. There was quite a lot of pressure on me to either concentrate on my job or my cricket. I had a very good graduate job at Procter & Gamble and it occurred to me that I could carry on working and earn a heck of a load of money, but cricket was what I was interested in. I managed to secure redundancy in 2001 and set off on a semi-professional life. I moved back home with my parents and the attic becomes my bedroom with no heating, no bed and I’m prettymuchsleepingonthefloor. But I’m playing cricket all year round and slowly starting to get better at the game.
UP TO THE TEST
England v Australia, Second Test, July 6-8, 2001, Headingley
Australia are over and we’re getting thrashed in both formats of the game. We got beaten by an innings in the first Test at Shenley, Michelle Goszko scored a double century, and then we went up to Headingley. We get rolled in the first innings, we can’t seem to score more than about 120 against them in any format and they’ve completely got our number. There’s no chink in their armour and my fifty in the ODI at Lord’s is probably the highest score against them all summer to this point. They bat forever, or it feels like it anyway, and I go in early on the third day, basically bat all day, score 137 and make them bat again. That’s where we were then: not to lose by an innings was an achievement in itself. That was my first Test century and the first time I really got Test cricket.
THE CHANGE OF DIRECTION
World Cup Semi-Final, April 5, 2005, Potchefstroom
I go to the World Cup in 2005 feeling fairly full of myself. I’ve done lots of work and I’m ready to perform. I score a hundred against Sri Lanka, smash the ball about against South Africa to get to the semis and we play Australia on a damp, fairly green pitch and get no runs whatsoever. We struggle to 150-odd and Australia get them five down. I’m hit with the knowledge that pretty much anything can happen in cricket. It doesn’t matter if you give everything up and move back home; you’re in the laps of the gods to some extent. Having done all that hard work you can still get nicked off third ball for nothing and have virtually no impact on the game whatsoever. To watch that World Cup final was really hard and at the end of the tournament I was completely thrown. I felt depressed and with the help of a counsellor over the following few months realised that I was going to have to make another set of big life changes. Four years previously I’d made massive sacrifices from a financial perspective, but worse than that, I’d based my self-esteem and everything to do with life around cricket. There was nothing outside of cricket: I worked within cricket, I played cricket, I coached cricket, ate, slept, and drank cricket; and at the end, the result was out of my control. That floored me. Again, it was time for some changes. I couldn’t just do cricket because it wasn’t working for me. I needed to get a job outside of cricket, earn enough money to move out of Mum and Dad’s and find myself some hobbies. From that moment on, cricket was just going to be ‘a thing’ and not ‘the thing’.
THE MIDSUMMER DREAM
England v Australia, Third ODI, August 21, 2005, Stratford- upon-Avon
The next moment when I thought something might be going right is later that summer when we beat Australia for the first time in an ODI. We’re 2-0 down in the series and we’ve drawn a Test match at Hove and we bat first and score 200 on an average pitch. I anchor the innings with 82 and I feel that I’m getting back to the me that I wanted to be and the way that I wanted to play. I was playing more effectively and less technically correctly, less prettily and more proactively. I’d spent four years trying to make myself into what I thought the best cricketer in the world looked like before the realisation that everything would go much better and I would be much happier if I was just the best me I could be. If the best me I could be was enough to be the best cricketer in the world, then brilliant. But if it wasn’t, I’d been the best I could be and there was nothing more to beat myself up about.
THE TRIUMPH DOWN UNDER
Australia v England, Only Test, February 15-18, 2008, Bowral
Mark Dobson stepped down as head coach during the tour and Mark Lane, who’d come out as assistant, replaced him. Laney had applied for the job twice before and hadn’t got it but this is the job he really wanted. He could see so much that he could do with the women’s side and he had a real idea of what it takes to be an effective cricketer. There was all sorts happening a level above us but we just wanted to concentrate on our cricket and Laney was a brilliant guy to come in, he just got stuck in straight away. It was a defining moment, not just for me – because having my one-to-one coach on tour with me was obviously the best possible scenario – but for the whole squad. It meant Lottie [Charlotte Edwards] had a real opportunity to expand her brief and take over the ethos of the side; she could run the side in the way that she wanted to. I think she wanted to stamp her authority on the side but the style of the previous coach didn’t really allow her to do that. We won the ODI series in Australia for the first time in ages and I hit the winning runs in the Test match. I hadn’t slept much for four days but on the afternoon of the fourth day we were determined not to let the Aussies in, not to let them have a sniff. We realised we would never get a better opportunity to beat them in their backyard. It was a big moment and it was a really good team environment after that.
THE PERFECT PARTNERSHIP
World Twenty20 Semi-Final, June 19, 2009, The Oval
We’d let ourselves down in the field and Australia had scored 160-odd. Then we lose two quick wickets and Beth [Morgan] comes in to bat. I’d played with her since she was a teenager, and we just got on with it and took risks at the right time. By the time you get to your early 30s there’s not much more technical work you can do, it’s about your decision-making when the pressure is on. I’d been practising scoring 12 runs an over in training, I’d worked out how to do it, then spent ages practising, over after over. To be able to deal with the pressure and perform exactly as I’d been practising made it special. The whole point of that practice is that you’ve got a No.11 batsman at the other end, who perhaps gets one run every other ball, so it was a complete bonus in real life that Beth’s a No.4 batsman who can smash boundaries herself and has a lovely little lap shot to move the field around! I love beating the Aussies and even more so after what happened in 2005.
THE LEAVING PARTY
England v Australia, Quadrangular Series Final, July 7, 2011, Wormsley
I knew I was going to finish in the summer of 2011, I’d had a discussion with Clare Connor and Mark Lane about the best time to retire so that the squad had enough time to make any changes before the World Cups in 2012 and 2013. But in one of the warm-up games on our tour of Australia I severely injured my shoulder and went home seven days later. I had a race to rehab because I’d already agreed I was retiring and my goal of having a really brilliant last year – winning in Australia, winning the quadrangular competitions and going out with a real flourish – was out the window. There was no way I was going to be as effective in the quadrangular series as I wanted to be but I did everything I possibly could to be in a place where I could contribute to the team. I played my last game at Wormsley and we beat Australia. Team-wise I couldn’t have really asked for a better finish: we won the Twenty20 and one-day quadrangular series and the performances were shared out amongst the team. I felt like I’d left everything that I wanted to leave within the squad.
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