The ICC Women’s World Cup is a special event for any player – it’s a chance to compete on the grandest stage of them all. But there is one player for whom this tournament holds even greater significance. For England wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor, returning from a battle with anxiety, this tournament is her first taste of international cricket for over a year and a defining moment in her career.
From her performances, you’d think she’d never been away; at the time of writing, Taylor is the third highest run-scorer in the tournament – just three runs behind Sri Lanka’s Chamari Atapattu in first place. She capped her return with a stupendous assault against South Africa, finishing with 147 off 104 balls in a partnership of 275 with Tammy Beaumont – a record for England for any wicket in this format.
Former England international and ICC commentator Lydia Greenway believes Taylor is one of England’s prized assets. “For England, it’s so important that she’s out there and performing because she’s a world-class player,” she says. “She just makes it look so, so easy.”
Taylor, who averages 41 from 105 ODIs, including six centuries, isn’t just a star with the bat – she’s also a superb wicket keeper, up there with the very best. “She’s taken match-winning stumpings and she even makes the fielders look good at times when they’ve thrown some bad throws in,” Greenway adds. “She’s without a doubt the best wicket keeper I’ve seen.”
It’s mind-boggling that despite all this, Greenway, who scored 2,554 runs across 126 ODIs for England, thinks that we’ve yet to see the best of the 28-year-old. “She’s got the potential [to be the best all-round cricketer in the world],” says Greenway. “It’s about providing that consistency. We know she’s got a match-winning innings in her, so now it’s about doing it week in, week out for the team.”
England didn’t just miss her runs and catches – her attitude and prolificacy also has a galvanising effect on those around her. “If she’s performing it gives players around her the confidence to do the same,” says Greenway. “Sarah Taylor’s certainly a bubbly character. All the girls in the England squad are brilliant characters and that’s so important. When you’re playing in a team environment you need people to help you out. Big characters in the team help pull you through tough times.”
The one silver lining from her absence was the opportunity it afforded others to gain international experience. “England want Sarah Taylor in the team, but when she hasn’t been available it’s given opportunities to some of the other girls,” adds Greenway. “We’ve seen people like Georgia Elwiss and Fran Wilson come in and get a good run in the team. If Sarah was still in the team, they might not have got that opportunity.”
England reaped the rewards when Wilson delivered a sparkling 81 in their first game of the tournament against India. It was not enough to secure victory however, with India triumphing by 35 runs. The result is a hallmark of what has been perhaps the most competitive World Cup ever, with Greenway branding it “too close to call”.
“Coming in to the tournament you’d have probably said Australia – and rightly so because they are world champions – were favourites,” says Greenway. “But looking around the games and seeing how teams like India, New Zealand and England have been performing, it’s very hard to say who is the favourite.”