While many eyes will be concentrated on the resumption of the England men’s Test series against India this week, England’s women are to begin their series in New Zealand in the early hours of Tuesday in Christchurch.
Heather Knight and the other 15 members of her squad will be looking to continue the good form of the summer T20 series against the West Indies against a strong New Zealand team whose selection has rewarded strong Super Smash form.
England are not at full strength for the trip, with the vice-captain Anya Shrubsole (knee), the leading runscorer in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint trophy Georgia Adams (shoulder) and Katie George (back stress fracture) missing through injury.
England have played two warm-up games against a New Zealand Women XI, winning the first game by 20 runs with Nat Sciver, vice-captain for this trip top-scoring with 75 from 74 balls, but they lost the second game by 30 runs. Knight described the defeat as “humbling” but it does appear that these games have been used in order to make sure everyone got a run out and reacclimatized to ODI cricket, as England failed to play any 50-over cricket last year.
Tash Farrant’s inclusion represents the end of a long journey back to the international fold, with the left-arm seamer from the South East Stars losing her central contract in 2019. If Farrant makes the starting XI, it will close a seven-year gap since earning her first cap as a 17-year-old. It would appear that she is one of three seamers, alongside Kate Cross and Freya Davies, vying for two seaming options alongside Katherine Brunt
New Zealand have recalled Kate Ebrahim and Thamsyn Newton to their squad after strong showings in the domestic T20 tournament. Ebrahim’s last appearance as a White Fern was in 2018 against Australia and her excellent contributions for the Canterbury Magicians, culminating with a match-winning innings in the Grand Final have tipped the balance. Newton has had to wait even longer, with her last international appearance being in 2017 against Pakistan.
Sophie Devine’s squad will host three ODIs and three T20 internationals. She will be hoping to continue her good form, which included the fastest T20 century in women’s cricket, reaching three figures in only 36 balls.
The importance of the tour cannot be overstated for the England team. Jonathan Finch, the director of England women’s cricket said: “We have a really important 24 months in front of us with two ICC Global Events, the Women’s Ashes and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Our ambition is to be successful across all these events and this tour is the first step towards achieving that.”
With a hopefully full domestic schedule in the summer, and a recently announced first ever tour of Pakistan due in October, England hope to be able to close the gap that Australia’s women have established in recent Ashes and global events.