Sarah Glenn, the bolter in England’s T20 World Cup squad, spoke to Jo Harman for issue 29 of Wisden Cricket Monthly about naturally being drawn to leg-spin, her early inspirations and the moment which decided her future.
As a youngster I bowled seam but I would run up to the crease and my wrist would just flick. My coaches were like, ‘What’s going on here?’ I watched some video clips, of Shane Warne maybe, and decided on leg-spin because it seemed more fun. It wasn’t until I got a bit older that I realised I could add something a bit different to the teams I played for.
I admire Rashid Khan so much because he has so many variations and you never know which ball he’s going to bowl. You can tell batters are almost already defeated before they get to the crease, just because he has that level of skill. Growing up, Shane Warne was a big inspiration and since then Dane van Niekerk from South Africa. I’ve played against her a few times in the KSL (Kia Super League) and she’s really talented.
I had a bit of a weird action when I was growing up. I stayed really tall and my arm was really high up, so I didn’t actually get that much spin. It was unorthodox but it meant I got quite a lot of bounce. Over the last few years I’ve worked on trying to get a bit more spin while still keeping that bounce and control.
The KSL has been a real benefit to me but the first year in 2017 was all quite intimidating. I was recovering from a bad injury so I was quite unfit at the time. It was nerve-racking and I had to deal with a lot of pressure. The senior players like Georgia Elwiss [Loughborough Lightning captain] helped me a lot and in my second and third year I felt I learnt a lot more about my game and how to go about things on and off the field.
Walking into the England dressing room for the first time was surreal. It was overwhelming but I was also full of excitement. You never know in sport what could happen with selection or injury, so I just thought, ‘I’m going to enjoy this and soak it all up’. When I got told I was going to make my debut [in an ODI against Pakistan last December], that’s when it really sunk in. I was shocked how well that tour went, to be honest. I wasn’t expecting to play many ODIs, and maybe one or two T20s [Glenn played all six matches, taking 12 wickets].
It’s really useful playing with Sophie Ecclestone [England’s 20-year-old left-arm spinner] because we’re the same age and going through the same things but she’s got a few years of experience in the side. Off the pitch we don’t really talk about cricket too much, we try to give ourselves a mental break from it. But in games we’ll speak to each other about the wicket or different options. She’s played against a lot of class players over the last few years so she’s really good at saying what worked for her and what might work for me.
I was actually in the crowd at Lord’s when England won the World Cup in 2017. I went with two of my best friends, Alice and Megan, who I grew up playing cricket with, and one of their families. When we won, it was just an unreal moment. I was in the England system at that point and it can feel really far away, getting from the academy into the England squad or working your way up from county level. Sometimes it can be hard to motivate yourself. But seeing that happen, it was just like, ‘Oh my god, that would be an amazing feeling’.
Before the World Cup final I was weighing up my options. I played hockey at England junior level and I was doing that and England Academy cricket at the same time, but cricket is what I’ve grown up with and it’s always meant a bit more to me. I think there’s always that fear that when you know what you want and have to fully commit to it, you might work really hard and not even make it. You have to have things that motivate you. I probably knew deep down that playing cricket was what I wanted to do, especially after being at Lord’s and seeing England win.
I grew up around club cricket, playing for Denby in Derbyshire, and women’s cricket was still a bit unknown. I played with the boys and was one of the only girls, and I still got the odd question when I played against them. I remember a lot of people going to the club to watch the 2009 Women’s World T20 semi-final, and that partnership [of 122 between Claire Taylor and Beth Morgan to chase down 164 against Australia]. When that went off I was going round saying, ‘See, women’s cricket is good, it can be a thing’.
Buy issue 29 of Wisden Cricket Monthly here