International experience sees Charlie Dean through early Charlotte Edwards Cup nerves

England offspinner put pressure on herself to perform for Vipers – and she has

As heartbreaking as a World Cup final defeat to Australia was for England Women, and as draining as their path was to get there, Charlie Dean drew an immense amount of confidence from the whole experience.

Dean, a key find of the 2021 English summer with her offspin, stood tall at the tournament, where she finished with 11 wickets at an average of 18.00 and economy rate of 4.18, including 4 for 23 in a player-of-the-match performance against India, England’s first win of a stunning run of five in a row to turn around their final hopes after losing their first three games.

She also showed her ability with the bat in the final, scoring 21 off 24 balls in a 65-run ninth-wicket partnership with centurion Nat Sciver as England attempted to chase down a mammoth target of 357, eventually losing by 71 runs.

At just 21 and with 13 ODIs, one Test and one T20I to her name since making her international debut in the home series against New Zealand last year, Dean has a bright future ahead and, as such, “moved on quite quickly” from that defeat.

“From playing in the Ashes, I don’t think I expected to play as much as I have,” Dean told ESPNcricinfo. “We were pretty disappointed not to get a win in the Ashes and our World Cup campaign didn’t quite start the way that we wanted it to but there’s plenty of positives to take from the three-month trip away.

“Playing in a World Cup is definitely an experience that I’m not going to forget – especially the game against India when I took a four-for, which was quite unexpected. I don’t think I set out thinking that I was going to pick up many wickets at all and to have a key part in that game really cemented the fact that I could play on an international scale and I really enjoy playing cricket out there with the girls. It’s something I’ve taken a lot of confidence from.”

After a week off to overcome jetlag, Dean was straight back into training at Southern Vipers, direct qualifiers for Saturday’s Charlotte Edwards Cup final on the strength of their undefeated season.

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Dean is second on the leading wicket-takers’ chart for the competition named after the Vipers’ head coach with 10 from four games but, for all the confidence and enthusiasm she brought into the domestic season, she admits to grappling with a self-imposed weight of expectation early on.

“Initially, I had quite a few nerves playing the first Charlotte Edwards Cup game as an international player,” Dean said. “At a regional level we’re kind of expected to perform and do well, so I was pretty nervous.

“But I think once I got through the first game and I bowled alright, I took a lot of confidence from that and I think I’m in a decent rhythm now because I’ve been playing the game since January, which I wouldn’t normally have experienced coming into the English season. I have a lot of overs under my belt and that’s definitely brought me a lot of confidence.

“There’s definitely no-one over me telling me that I need to perform take wickets and do well. I think that’s definitely an internal thing. Cricket is one of those sports where a lot of the game is played inside your own head, so overcoming that and just focusing on what’s in front of me is one of the biggest, tests.”

Dean credits a supportive system at the Vipers, including Edwards, and working with England team psychologist Dr Phoebe Sanders for helping her overcome those initial doubts.

“For me, living in the moment is something that really helps, being present when I’m on the pitch.” Dean said. “Essentially, playing the game of cricket with my mates is all it is, really.”

It’s not the first time Dean has had to overcome self-doubt. With just five ODIs against New Zealand the sum total of her international experience before she was selected for the multi-format Ashes in Australia, she admits it took time for her to find her feet. She took 2 for 24 in Australia’s second innings of the drawn Test and went wicketless in the two ODIs she played.

“I sort of struggled to see myself as an important player in the team pre-World Cup,” she said. “I didn’t quite feel really in it.

“After playing a bit more consistently, I do feel more part of the team and like I can really make a difference and that’s something that I’m excited to, hopefully, depending on the selection of course and form, replicate and play for England for as long as I can.”

Charlie Dean celebrates her first Test wicketGetty Images

Dean enjoyed her sole Test experience and is hoping to feature in the longest format again when England play South Africa in Taunton later this month.

“The longer-format cricket is the most pure form of the game, I guess, and as a self-confessed cricket badger, I just love it, so if I can bowl more overs, the more the better,” she said.

But, before that, it’s all about helping Vipers achieve a burning desire to add the Charlotte Edwards Cup to their 2021 Rachael Heyhoe Flint trophy after exiting in the semi-finals last season.

This year, they have Anya Shrubsole in their ranks as a player-coach following her international retirement at the end of the World Cup, and 17-year-old left-arm seamer Freya Kemp, whom Dean described as “fearless” in taking eight wickets from six matches.

Alongside them is the vastly experienced Danni Wyatt, who has carried some impressive World Cup form into the domestic season and is the Cup’s third-highest run-scorer with 201 from five games. Ahead of her are England team-mate Amy Jones with 245 runs and Aylish Cranstone on 235, the pair set to go head-to-head in the semi-final for Central Sparks and South East Stars respectively earlier on Saturday.

“We’d love to take that cup home, that would be quite poetic,” Dean said. “One thing we discussed was trying to improve our T20 game alongside maintaining our 50-over performances and definitely with the cup being named after Lottie, it would be would be lovely to bring that home.”