Liddle joins England Women pace programme as Wong saga shows pressure on young fast bowlers

Ex-Northants assistant adds "scaffolding" to support young quicks, according to women's head coach Lewis

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
10-Nov-2023 • 20 hrs ago
Issy Wong played a solitary T20I in 2023 during a tough period in her development  •  PA Photos/Getty Images

Issy Wong played a solitary T20I in 2023 during a tough period in her development  •  PA Photos/Getty Images

Jon Lewis, England Women's head coach, believes that the recruitment of Chris Liddle to the women's performance programme will help to provide the "scaffolding" needed for the team's crop of young fast bowlers to thrive, in the wake of Issy Wong's high-profile struggle for form last summer.
Liddle, the former Northamptonshire assistant coach, was announced as England Women's performance pace bowling coach on Friday, ahead of the forthcoming England A training camp in Oman, as well as the senior squad's T20I and Test tour of India.
And with Lewis declaring that fast bowling is the "biggest area of growth" in the women's game, Liddle will now work closely with Matt Mason, England Women's fast bowling coach, having been on London Spirit's books in the Women's Hundred for the past two seasons.
"It's an incredibly exciting time to be joining England Women and I'm really looking forward to getting started," Liddle said. "The demand on the fast bowlers has increased over the years and I want to be able to provide them with the skills required to grow and develop to be successful over a long period of time."
The shoring-up of England's pace-bowling set-up comes in the wake of Wong's tough time in the English season just gone. Having been overlooked for the T20 World Cup at the start of the year, she featured in a solitary T20I against Sri Lanka in Chelmsford in September, but struggled visibly with her run-up as England slumped to a shock eight-wicket defeat.
In the wake of that loss, England's captain, Heather Knight, blamed Wong's loss of form on the fact that she had been "listening to a lot of different voices" - a not-so-veiled suggestion that her handling at Birmingham Phoenix had been at fault. In the course of their winless campaign, Wong claimed a solitary wicket in five appearances, but bowled just one set of five deliveries in four of those games.
At the age of 21, however, she remains one of the most promising young talents in the country, and has now been named as part of a 21-player training camp for the Oman leg of England's winter. She is also due to feature for Mumbai in the forthcoming WPL season, having claimed a memorable hat-trick in the tournament's first staging last year.
"Issy obviously had a really tough summer," Lewis said. "There's no doubt that she's a really spirited competitor, but after the Sri Lanka series, I said we would scaffold as much support around her as possible. She's been practising really well up in Loughborough, and the next step for Issy is to move back into competitive cricket.
"But I think to push her straight back into an England jersey would be a mistake after what happened in the summer. I want to give her time, to show us that she's more certain about where she's going to land the ball when it comes out of the end of her fingers. The A side is a really good way to do that. We hope the work that we're doing with her will be really clear for everyone to see."
At her best, Wong remains one of the fastest bowlers in the women's game, and an obvious heir across formats to Katherine Sciver-Brunt, who brought down the curtain on her 19-year career in August.
However, with other young England fast bowlers now competing for international recognition - most notably the 17-year-old left-armer Mahika Gaur, and Lauren Filer, 22, the break-out star from this year's women's Ashes - Lewis said that Wong's difficult development should be taken as a warning for others coming through the system.
"There's definitely an upward trajectory," he said of Wong's return to action. "But is she the finished article yet? No. She's a young fast bowler. All young fast bowlers go through ups and downs. Especially young fast bowlers who haven't played much cricket.
"It takes a long time, and a lot of balls, for fast bowlers to control the ball as they would really wish," he added. "I would expect all of our young fast bowlers to have bumpy journeys over the next two, three, four years, until they get to the age of probably 26-27, when they're much more in control of not only their bodies, but their minds.
"We'll see some ups and downs across the across the next two or three years, but we've got an incredibly exciting group, and now two excellent fast-bowling coaches in Matt Mason and Chris Liddle. I'm really pleased that we're putting the right support around our fast-bowling group, because I really believe that fast bowling in the women's game is the biggest area of growth."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket