The greatest wicketkeeper of all time
Sarah Taylor was born in Whitechapel on May 20 1989, went to school at Brighton College where she developed as a cricketer, making her England debut in 2006 as a 17 year old. In her 13 year career which finished in September 2019 Sarah made 6,533 runs in her 226 matches for England, the highlights of which were retaining the Ashes in 2008 in Australia and winning the World Cup in 2009 and 2017. Sarah was known for her free flowing batting, in particular her cover drive, and her wicketkeeping which has not been equalled. She often stood up to the stumps and without a helmet, taking breathtaking leg-side stumpings. Sarah was one of the most naturally talented cricketers England has ever produced and her calm demeanour at the wicket made everything look easy.
She could have held her own in the men’s game
She was a wicketkeeper batsman who left the sport as the greatest wicketkeeper of all time and for Adam Gilchrist that included the men. She played much of her cricket at a time when there were no central contracts and all the support that such contracts bring. She was the face of women’s cricket for many years and consequently faced a good deal of scrutiny. She coped with this by adopting a phlegmatic exterior but the pressure of coping with what was expected of her was difficult for her at times and there were periods when she took breaks from the game. In his tribute to Sarah at the Cricket Writers Club in 2019 Mike Selvey called Sarah, ‘the greatest female cricketer of all time because she is the only one who could have held her own in the men’s game.’
Consternation within the MCC
Sarah’s name first hit the headlines in 2004 when she and Holly Colvin appeared for Brighton College in the Lord’s Taverners under 15 Cup, the only girls amongst the 1,000 competing teams. There was consternation within the MCC, with former Sussex player and captain Robin Marlar calling their participation, ‘absolutely outrageous’. Two years later Sarah entered the international stage with a run a ball 61 in her 4th One Day International (ODI) in India, and in her Test debut in Leicester in August scored 9 and 28. A year later Sarah hit a century against Australia, also in India.
The Ashes retained
Sarah began 2008 by being part of the team that successfully retained the Ashes in Bowral, Australia. In August 2008 Sarah shared a partnership of 288 with Caroline Atkins at Lord’s against South Africa with Sarah going on to make 129 which came from just 133 balls with nine fours and a six. A few weeks later in September, Sarah became the youngest woman cricketer to score 1,000 runs in ODI’s when she scored 75 not out against India at Taunton.
World Cup wins
On 30 June 2009 Sarah scored 120 at a run a ball in the 2nd ODI at Chelmsford overtaking Enid Bakewell’s 118 in 1973 as the highest individual score against Australia by an English woman. Sarah opened the batting for England that year in their victories in the 50 over World Cup against Australia and the T20 World Championship.
A break from international cricket
Sarah took her first break from international cricket in 2010 using the time to travel to New Zealand before returning the following year. In 2012 and 2013 Sarah won the Women’s Cricketer of the Year award and there was talk of her in 2013 playing for Sussex men’s second XI team.
In 2014, Sarah was given one of the first central contracts for women players. She was also named as ICC Women’s ODI Cricketer of the Year later in the year.
A strong contribution in the 2017 World Cup
In 2015 Sarah made history by becoming the first woman to play men’s grade cricket in Australia, appearing as a wicketkeeper for Northern Districts against Adelaide at Salisbury Oval in South Australia’s premier cricket competition. Sarah also became the first woman to be inducted into the Legends Lane at the County Ground, Hove.
In May 2016 Sarah announced she was taking a break from cricket due to anxiety. Despite her calm exterior Sarah was finding that an anxiety disorder was affecting her performances. With the help of the ECB and especially with the support of her coach Mark Robinson, Sarah was able to return to international cricket in 2017 in time for the World Cup in England in which she made key contributions in the semi-final against South Africa and the final against India, scoring 54 and 45 respectively. In December Sarah was named as one of the players in the ICC ODI Team of the Year. In June 2019 Sarah was awarded a full central contract and named in England’s squad for the forthcoming Ashes series but a month later withdrew herself due to mental health issues. She then retired from playing cricket in September 2019.
The best T20 player three times
Sarah had in her career played in three victorious Ashes series and been named as the best T20 player in the world three times by the ICC. No-one in the game had achieved more dismissals than Sarah ((232). In her thirteen years Sarah had become a powerful voice within women’s sport and helped to give her sport a far higher profile. Clare Connor, ECB Managing Director of Cricket said of Sarah that ‘she can be immensely proud of everything she has achieved in an England shirt, and of everything she has done for the women’s game.’
Of her time in the sport Sarah told Andrew Miller of ESPNcricinfo that ‘To be in the thick of women’s cricket as it’s gone from strength to strength – not only in England but across the world has been an amazing experience, and I can look back on what women’s cricket has achieved with great pride at playing some small part in it.’