Big runs and individuals who stand up on the big stage will be the blueprint for England Women as they take a significant step towards their World Cup title defence on this month’s tour of New Zealand.
Heather Knight, the England captain, has been poring over her team’s ODI stats with head coach Lisa Keightley, who is yet to take charge in a one-day match despite being appointed in 2019, with the coronavirus pandemic reducing England’s international schedule to a five-match T20I series against West Indies last September. That followed England’s washed-out T20 World Cup semi-final, where India advanced as group winners and lost to hosts Australia in the final.
“It felt like we were starting to come together as a side and starting to build,” Knight said of the T20 World Cup campaign. “There’s been some real depth added, and some individuals have really stood up which has been really nice.
“In general I think we’ve embraced the way we want to play in being really aggressive and taking responsibility as an individual to go out and put in really good performances. The signs are really positive, and we need to try and continue that momentum after what has been a disjointed year of international cricket.
“We’ve scored some really big totals in ODI cricket previously and we want do that more often. Consistency and continuing those really good individual performances will be really key for us in this series.”
The New Zealand series begins on February 23 with three ODIs, followed by three T20Is, the latter being double-headers with the men’s matches between Australia and New Zealand.
The ODIs represent England’s first matches in the format since December 2019 when rain prevented a result in the last fixture of their three-match series against Pakistan, which England won 2-0, in Malaysia.
In that match, legspinner Sarah Glenn claimed four wickets in just her third ODI and she has gone on to add depth to England’s bowling attack, alongside left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone, with emerging offspinner Mady Villiers yet to make her 50-over debut after nine T20Is.
During the series against Pakistan, Nat Sciver, Knight, Tammy Beaumont, Fran Wilson and Danni Wyatt made valuable contributions with the bat after Beaumont and Sciver had made runs in an otherwise lean white-ball portion of the Ashes series with the bat for England.
“It’ll be great to get back to playing ODI cricket again,” said Knight, who led her side to victory at the 2017 World Cup and who hopes to defend the title when the tournament is held in New Zealand from March next year.
“We haven’t played in over a year and it’s really important that we can get as much preparation as possible in the 50-over stuff and get used to the conditions ahead of the ICC Women’s World Cup over here next year. We’re playing at grounds that will be used at the World Cup, which is great, but first and foremost it’s important to just get out there as a team and enjoy our cricket again – we’re trying to build as a side ahead of what will be a huge year for us in 2022.”
England’s 16-strong squad for the New Zealand tour trained together for the first time on Wednesday in Queenstown, having completed their 14-day quarantine period in Christchurch the previous day. A special exemption meant that during quarantine they were able to train in small bubbles of eight. Knight said players were now enjoying the freedom of being able to live as “normal” people in New Zealand, where Covid-19 has been kept under control, while the UK remains in lockdown.
“We’ve been training in varying sizes of bubbles for about two months so it’s so nice to have all the girls together,” Knight said. “The Kiwis will be pleased to hear that their quarantine is much better than what I experienced in Australia. I didn’t have an exemption in Australia during the Big Bash so it was literally 14 days by myself in a room.
“All the players found it quite a good experience really, it was one we were dreading a little bit but being able to train that second week made a really big difference. It’s obviously what we’ve got to do at the moment to be able to play international cricket and it was perfectly fine in the end.
“We’re privileged to be able to live a normal life as well – just to be able to go to a coffee shop in the morning – I think the girls are super grateful and very appreciative of being able to do that. We’re just so excited to be playing international cricket again, it’s been a long time and it’s also very important for the women’s game to have as much international cricket as possible.”
England squad: Heather Knight (capt), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Tash Farrant, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Nat Sciver, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danni Wyatt.
New Zealand squad: Sophie Devine (capt), Natalie Dodd, Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Fran Jonas, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Frankie Mackay, Katey Martin (wk), Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite (vice-capt), Lea Tahuhu
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo