England women shaping up well
Watch the ECBtv exclusive with Jack Birkenshaw in Taunton above
Assistant coach Jack Birkenshaw is confident England women will reap the benefits of their testing build-up to the ICC World Twenty20.
The women took on four male college and Academy sides in the weeks preceding the tournament, a move to designed to challenge them even further despite their status as world 50-over champions.
The initial fruits of their labour were seen during a seven-wicket win over New Zealand women yesterday, the first of two warm-up matches ahead of the start of the tournament on Thursday.
“We’re trying to raise our game and put them under more pressure,” Birkenshaw told ECBtv in the wake of a convincing victory at King’s College in Taunton.
“We had four games against boys sides - we won two and lost two, one of which was tight.
“You’re up against guys who can whizz it down a bit and hit the ball a bit harder; we’re just trying to test them to see how far they can raise their game.”
England restricted the White Ferns to a manageable 122 for eight yesterday before overcoming a minor wobble to overhaul the target with seven balls to spare.
While Birkenshaw admitted there were elements of the performance which require improvement - “we lost it a wee bit near the end and shelled a couple of catches” - he claimed the result was all-important as they seek to build momentum ahead of the opening game of the tournament against India at Taunton.
“We had to raise our game to get over the line in the last couple of overs, but New Zealand are a very good side with some good strikers of the ball, so I’m very happy with that result,” he said.
“They need to get the mindset of winning - keep winning so they know how to win and how to get over the post.
“They’re a better team now than last year. Last year we relied very heavily on Charlotte (Edwards) and Claire Taylor, but this year Sarah Taylor is playing beautifully, Lydia Greenway is playing really well and so is Beth Morgan. They’re all maturing and becoming very good international cricketers.”
Sri Lanka and Pakistan make up the remainder of England’s group alongside India, and the Asian nations are unlikely to relish the sort of conditions which prompted spectators to selve into their winter wardrobe yesterday.
Birkenshaw admitted: “You can’t imagine the Sri Lankans, Indians and Pakistani girls like playing in this, because it’s like the middle of winter.
“But hopefully we’re going to get some sunshine because we want people to watch us play and enjoy women playing cricket.
“When it gets to the later stages, we want to play at our peak, so that they see a real contest, real good cricket - good batting, good fielding, good bowling.
“Perhaps we’ll get more and more people wanting to watch the girls play, and if we play to our potential, any side that beats us is going to have to play really well.”