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Warwickshire's Hannah Baker was one of 15 players named in England's squad for the inaugural women's tournament in South Africa but she is unwilling to merely soak up the experience and has designs on being one of the leading wicket-takers.

“I love the weather! I was getting bored of English weather. It was 33 degrees when we were training [on Tuesday]. 100 per cent getting my tan on.” To say Hannah Baker is enjoying her first overseas tour feels like an understatement. A massive understatement.  

Back in October, the 18-year-old was one of 15 players named in England’s squad for the inaugural Under-19s Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa. The tournament gets underway on January 14 – England will face Zimbabwe in Potchefstroom 24 hours later – but even though it had long been in Baker’s sights as a source of motivation, the reality is yet to sink in.  

“It was always on my radar, something I wanted to try and achieve and to get the phone call was amazing,” Baker said. “My parents were on holiday, so I was just on my own. I was like this is a bit crazy. [When I told them] they were crying but they loved it, just excited for me.  

“I still can’t believe it; it still feels like a dream. Maybe after the first proper game I play – if I play, cap presentations and stuff, maybe then it’ll be like, ‘Oh right, I am actually playing for England Under-19s.'”

Baker does not come from a long line of club cricketers: her mom and dad preferred netball and football, and she maintains her mom still doesn’t know all the rules – “she knows when I get a wicket, which is the main thing.” They will, however, be easy to spot in the crowd at Senwes Park, setting up camp as their own “barmy army”.  

“They’ve bought a flag,” Baker reveals, though how thrilled she is by this is hard to tell. “They’re not really ones to shout but they’ve got England tops. I think they’re more excited than me.”

Instead, it was thanks to her older brother that she caught the cricketing bug, following him to Beacon CC while in primary school. Quickly identified as a natural spinner thanks to her wristy action, she joined Worcestershire’s pathway at Under-11s. While her rise has not been quite as meteoric as Alice Capsey or her England Under-19s teammate, Sophia Smale, she was undeniably one of the breakout stars of the 2022 domestic season.  

A regular starter for Worcestershire as far back as 2019 – when she was just 15, she made her Central Sparks bow in the penultimate fixture of the 2020 Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, taking 3 for 26 against Northern Diamonds at Headingley. However, it took another 18 months for the teenager to nail down a spot in the XI.

“I turn the ball and not many spinners turn it as much. With the turn and bounce, we can create opportunities and get the batters unsettled.”

A strong county campaign, this time with Warwickshire where she took seven wickets and maintained an economy of 4.4 in six matches, set the tone for the Charlotte Edwards Cup where, as one of nine ever-present players, her seven wickets helped Sparks to their maiden domestic final.

A further nine appearances across The Hundred and Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy followed while she also featured 13 times for Central Sparks Academy and was called up to an England Select XI to face India. The previous summer, she picked up the wicket of Sophie Devine when England A took on New Zealand in Derby.  

The secret to her success? Sarah Glenn, one of her spin-bowling idols alongside Shane Warne and 2017 World Cup winner Alex Hartley, a few minor tweaks during the off-season and, most of all, “just enjoying cricket”.  

“I changed my run-up and alignment a bit because I was coming at an angle and over-rotating, so we just got more momentum towards the bat, and learning to bowl a bit quicker while still having the revs on the ball,” Baker says.  

“At Sparks, bowling with Sarah Glenn, she always helped me out being like, ‘What’s my plan, what’s my field’ and everything like that. I learned loads from her and [we] did really well in the middle overs. At Warwickshire, there’s a few spinners too and there’s always a big backing from the team, which is the best feeling.”

She also believes her batting has “improved a lot” during her time with Sparks, although she quickly shuts down any talk of becoming an allrounder. “Not quite, no,” she replies, laughing off the suggestion.  

England contested a warm-up fixture against West Indies on Monday (January 9), wrapping up a nine-wicket win in the 11th over. Baker picked up 2 for 9 as West Indies were restricted to 65 for 8 and is relishing the opportunity to discomfort batters in favourable conditions.  

“We had a clear plan and as a unit, I feel like we executed it, especially Lizzie Scott upfront. She set the tone for the whole game, and obviously, the batters knocked it off. It was a good performance,” she says. 

“There was a lot of bounce, and it was turning. I’d say [my role] is constricting runs and taking wickets, being an attacking option in the side. And just something different because I turn the ball and not many spinners turn it as much. With the turn and bounce, we can create opportunities and get the batters unsettled.” 

As for her ambitions for the tournament, Baker is not holding back: “I want to be one of the leading wicket-takers and not just be an average bowler. I want to be one of the best.”

This article was written by Elizabeth Botcherby for The Cricketer and published on the 11 January.

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