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Smart Alex living up to her early promise

By Chris Bailey

ALEX Hartley was fast-tracked into the England set-up at 15 and eight mixed years later, Mark Robinson admits the left-arm spinner has made herself ‘undroppable’ after coming of age in the West Indies.

Hartley was something of a teenage prodigy but struggled to adapt to the rigours of England’s academy, with her batting and fielding deemed not up to scratch.

Since 2013, helped by a move from Lancashire to Middlesex, Hartley has slowly rediscovered her confidence and few English players benefitted from this summer’s inaugural Kia Super League more than she did for Surrey Stars.

She translated that form to the international stage in her first full England tour – claiming 13 wickets and sharing the player of the series award with West Indies skipper Stafanie Taylor.

That was after the 23-year-old took 4-24 as England clinched the deciding ODI in Kingston to win the series 3-2, and Robinson waxed lyrical over her meteoric rise.

“She’s ever such a tough girl, she shows a lot of character all the time,” he said. “There’s elements of the game she needs to get better at but she puts in an incredible amount of hard work.

“She has done it the hard way – she was on the academy, left the academy and was out in the cold.

“She’s made herself undroppable, she has been the outstanding bowler from both teams and the biggest wicket-taking threat.

“There was a lot of talk on how best to play their leg-spinner, but I’m sure the West Indies would have done a lot of talk on how best to get hold of Alex Hartley. She’s come out on top and helped contribute to a great win.”

This was the first time the West Indies had regrouped since their World T20 victory over Australia in April. And though it took the fifth and final ODI to separate the teams, England always looked in command – their two defeats came after throwing away comfortable positions in run chases.

Indeed, England were not to be denied a five-wicket victory after skittling the hosts for 155 on Wednesday, as Nat Sciver came to the fore with an unbeaten 58 from 74 balls.

To clinch the series win in such hostile conditions – with the batters coming under duress – was particularly pleasing for Robinson ahead of November’s tour to Sri Lanka.

“I see them developing all the time,” said Robinson. “Sometimes learning is tough and sometimes learning really hurts and that’s what we had the other day.

“The key bit is taking your lessons and putting things into practice, (batting coach) Ali Maiden has been outstanding, allowing us to regroup and coming up with plans. Plans are great on paper but they have to be put into practice in the middle.

“We showed a lot of character batting second again, and there is a point where there could have been a wobble but the captain (Heather Knight) showed her maturity and Sciver was absolutely outstanding. Once you’ve got that big partnership it puts you in the boxseat.

“I’m really pleased how they’ve done the whole trip. It was a difficult start we had with training on the beach, and the conditions have been so hot, and humid, too, more humid, more like Sri Lanka.

“We stuck in there, we had a couple of wobbles but we’re a young team learning all the time and that’s exciting.”

This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, October 21 2016

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