Sportswomen of the year: Teenager Alice Capsey makes history as opening batter at first Hundred match

Alice Capsey with her PCA Women's Young Player of the Year award

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

On a balmy day in July, Alice Capsey sat in the dugout at the Oval staring straight ahead, zoning out from the rising hum of thousands in the stands.

At just 16 years old, she was about to open the batting in the first ever Hundred match. Entrusted with the privilege of setting the tone for the England and Wales Cricket Board’s new flagship tournament, alongside batting partner Georgia Adams, she would be later lauded for her composure.

But at that moment, in her mind, Capsey was still dealing with the shock of even being selected to play.

Back home, on the family dairy farm in Dorking, her parents were completely unaware of the historic role their teenage daughter was about to preside over for her sport. So surprised was Capsey to have been handed the bat, that she had forgotten to warn her parents.

“They had a bit of a go at me after,” Capsey says, sheepishly. “I had to hand my phone in, so I can remember seeing all the messages when I got my phone back [after the match] saying, ‘Why didn’t you tell us? This is important information we need to know!’ They put the TV on for the second innings, and I was going out.”

Back in the dugout, Capsey had more pressing matters at hand – like keeping down her breakfast. “In photos of me, I literally look like I’m about to be sick,” Capsey says, laughing. “I was so nervous, I’m zoned out. Once I got going with that first ball though, I was all right.”

“All right” is quite the understatement to sum up the summer of this precocious all-rounder. For someone who hardly expected to play for the Oval Invincibles, Capsey came out of the tournament as cricket’s breakout star, in a competition that attracted 16 million viewers and attendance records set for the women’s game.

Capsey's 203 runs in six Hundred innings put her in the top four players across the tournament

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Capsey played every single match, bringing her explosive power with the bat and clever spin bowling with the ball, stepping up when the team were saddled with injuries. She hit a half century on her first time out at Lord’s, took 10 wickets overall – including England captain Heather Knight – and lifted the trophy with the Invincibles at the end of August.

Weeks later, she won the T20 Charlotte Edwards Cup with her regional side, South East Stars, and her 203 runs in six innings put her in the top four players across the tournament. A couple of days later, she was back at school in A-level psychology lessons.The excitement around one of England’s brightest future stars has remained strong. Last month she secured her first professional contract with the Stars, and also became the inaugural winner of the PCA Young Female Player of the Year award. Earlier this month, she received a call-up to the England Women A squad, to accompany the senior team to Australia for the Ashes in the new year.

It is a rapid rise for Capsey, who admits she is more used to the quiet life after growing up on Lyne Farm. After watching her older brother’s training sessions as a six-year-old, in just two years she was heading for county trials. Rising rapidly through the ranks, consistently ahead of her age groups, Capsey made her debut for the Surrey senior team at 14 and joined the England Academy that same year.

Capsey received a call-up to the England Women A squad, to accompany the senior team to Australia for the Ashes

Credit: PA

But despite such a dizzying trajectory even she could not have predicted what came next, particularly after spending lockdown zooming around the farm on a quad bike, feeding calves and fixing fences. The ECB’s inaugural Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy last year provided the perfect platform for her to shine.

In one standout innings she hit 73 from 75 balls for the Stars. “I’ve just gone through the steps really, maybe just a little bit younger than some other people,” she says, modestly.

Still under 18, her parents are very much the decision-makers when it comes to her career. Last year, coach Jonathan Batty had to call Capsey’s mother Bridget to ask permission for her to play in the Hundred. Nine days ago, Capsey came home from school to find that every member of her family already knew she was heading to Australia in the new year, after her mother received a selection email from the ECB and could not wait to break the news.

“If I’m not there when they get told, everyone else in the family finds out before me,” Capsey says, shrugging with a smile. It is part and parcel of being the youngest of five siblings, she says – and by 10 years at that.

It is why, she feels, she has been able to thrive in professional cricket at such a young age, not only on the field, but in the locker room, too.

“Having older siblings, it makes you grow up a bit quicker,” she says. “Being part of my regional team and the Oval Invincibles, I was the youngest by quite a way. With older siblings, you fit in a little better, you know how to act. My sister is probably my best friend and I have team-mates who are her age who are also my best mates because I’m so used to that age gap. It felt quite normal.”

That levelheadedness, at still only 17, will continue to serve her well as she makes her first step towards playing for England.

A self-confessed “introvert”, Capsey blushes when asked about the level of attention she has garnered in recent months. Since the summer, she has courted speculation about an England call-up – one which she has an outside chance of receiving while out in Australia.

“I just want to focus on taking all the opportunities to get better really. If that is an [option], then I’ll take it, but I’m not expecting it.”

More pressing is how schoolwork might get in the way of her Ashes experience. No prizes for guessing what might top her priorities.

“I’m out there for cricket – I’m not out there for schoolwork,” she grins.

Sportswomen of the year

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