England Women start their summer with an ODI series against South Africa – with precious ICC Women’s Championship points up for grabs. How will they fare, which way will the game go and how can you watch?
The last ball England were involved in at home was that ball. That ball. That ball from Anya Shrubsole that won a World Cup, catapulted women’s cricket on to the backpages and set in motion a period of 11 months that may well define the future of the women’s game.
There have been prizes and awards and TV shows; new heroes, signed shirts, role-models; a big drive in participation, first-time players and – ultimately – future England players have likely been created.
That’s all behind Heather Knight and her England team now. They’ve since come from behind to draw an Ashes series – disappointingly the Ashes themselves remained in Australia – and enjoyed a productive if slightly frustrating development tour of India.
Now it’s about winning on the field and earning points that will take them towards qualification for the 2021 ICC Women’s World Cup. That starts at Worcester on Saturday.
Strength in depth are the words of the moment, although that will be scant consolation for those players who have missed out.
When the ECB first introduced professional contracts in 2014 there were 15 professional players, that is now up to 22 and it reflects a wider pool of talent.
It’s bad news for Alex Hartley and Fran Wilson – who miss out for the first two ODIs – but Lauren Winfield, Laura Marsh and Georgia Elwiss can all take heart from earning their way back into the squad having missed out in India.
Mark Robinson has lot of decisions to make. Who opens the batting? Who doesn’t open the batting – and therefore slots in at No.6? Which spinners does he choose? Watch this space.
The last time these two sides met was the stressful and far-too-tight World Cup semi-final at Bristol, a game that saw an English wobble before Anya Shrubsole muscled one through point to take England to Lord’s.
The South African mantra is “always rising” and the stats bear that out. They’re a side that’s ever improving, with some genuine match-winners and they’ll pose a real threat.
Watch out for Marizanne Kapp, Dane van Niekerk and Laura Wolvaardt – Kapp and van Niekerk are two of the world’s best while Wolvaardt is a stylish young opener who recently broke Sarah Tayor’s record to become the fastest female ever to 1,000 ODI runs.
HOW TO WATCH
Follow live on ecb.co.uk, listen on BBC TMS, watch on Sky Sports – or buy a ticket and come along! Tickets are available here.