Dunkley won a recall to the England T20I side last September but her appetite for big runs in List-A cricket has seen her make a strong case for an ODI debut this summer and force herself into the reckoning for a place in the Test squad.
A total of 17 central contracts were announced by the ECB on Tuesday (June 8) ahead of England’s international summer which gets underway with a Test Match against India next week. The contracts run between 1 May 2021 to 31 October 2022 in order to align with the professional contracts at the eight regional teams.
All players who previously held a central contract have retained their deals with the exception of left-arm spinner Kirstie Gordon who misses out this time around. She will now be given a regional contract with her domestic side Lightning.
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It marks the start of a busy period for the contracted players including an Ashes series in Australia early next year followed by a defence of their World Cup title.
The award of Dunkley’s central contract follows her recall to the England set-up for the final two T20Is against the West Indies last September after 18 months out of the side. She also featured in all three T20Is in New Zealand in March.
With the security of a full-time regional contract, Dunkley recently spoke to Women's CricZone about how life as a full-time professional has allowed her to relax and enjoy her time in an England shirt.
Having hit early form in pre-season, she now averages almost 100 after three innings in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. She opened her account with a century against Sunrisers, registered a rare duck at the hands of Southern Vipers before making amends with an excellent 92 in a successful run chase against Western Storm last weekend. It was her eighth score of 50 or more in her last 10 List-A innings.
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Speaking after the announcement of the contracts, Jonathan Finch, Director of England Women’s Cricket said: “We’re pleased to confirm a strong group of centrally contracted England Women’s cricketers ahead of a really exciting two years for Lisa, Heather and the team."
“The central contracts, along with the roll out of professional women’s domestic contracts, provide a fantastic opportunity to develop a larger pool of players pushing for selection and help strive for success on the field for England Women.
“We’ve continued to work closely with the England Women’s Player Partnership and the PCA to establish a comprehensive and objective process that underpins the awarding of central contracts. We will keep working in collaboration for the benefit of the players as we continue to grow and develop the professional women’s game.”
As Finch notes, a number of players who have not been awarded central contracts will continue to press their case through the regional 50-over and T20 competitions. Tash Farrant was one such player who impressed in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy last summer and won an England recall during the winter and featured in three internationals during the tour of New Zealand. Sophie Luff, Georgia Adams, Alice Davidson-Richards and Issy Wong are among several others who have used the competition to state their case.
Contracted players: Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Sarah Glenn, Katie George, Heather Knight, Amy Jones, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danielle Wyatt.