The Cricketer
James Coyne James Coyne

SPOTLIGHT ON KNIGHT’S WORLD CHAMPIONS

James Coyne spoke to England head coach Mark Robinson about how the World Cup winners must adapt to the cauldron of an Ashes in Australia

The euphoria of the Women’s World Cup win has receded, and England must adapt fast to the challenge of switching from format to format in the harsh light of Australia.

England won the first multi-format Ashes series in Australia in 2013/14 – though would not have done under the updated points system. And head coach Mark Robinson says that the scrutiny on the players continues to increase in marquee tournaments.

“We are massively aware of the pressure of an Ashes series,” Robinson told The Cricketer. “That’s there on the girls all the time. We had it in the 2015 Ashes, when there was a lot of criticism, some of it unfair and taken out of context, if I’m being honest. I don’t think the scrutiny and analysis will ever be quite as high as in the men’s game, but it is getting bigger.

“There’s been a heavy period of cricket, coming out of the World Cup and the Kia Super League back to back, so it will be interesting to see how we adapt.”

Uppermost in the players’ mind will be the four-day Test match at Sydney – the only example of multi-day cricket left in the women’s game. Certainly the all-time run-scoring record of Jan Brittin, who died in September (see page 105), is safe. In a game that must pay its way as a commercial product, there is no demand for women’s Tests among broadcasters.

This will be the first women’s Test played at night, and with a pink Kookaburra, although Robinson believes the shade of the ball is “a bit of a red herring” (please forgive the pun).

“The bigger thing is 100 overs in a day, if the game goes the full distance. Our players are just not used to doing that. Our seamers are having to consider three spells a day – that factor of managing bowlers in the Australian climate.

“Australia are still a formidable side. They’re still the world’s No.1 team over all three formats – even after their World Cup and World T20 defeats.”

The dominance of ODI and T20 cricket at domestic and international level means some of the nuances of the long-form game – knowing when to attack and defend, when to keep slips in – are not perhaps as honed as they might be.

“We have to make sure we don’t go too defensive too early and try to contain,” says Robinson. “And to be fair, Heather is very open about that. She asks when she feels they need help with tactics and fields. The players love Test cricket. They’re all desperate to play more of it.”

To prepare, England played a day/night three-day game at Chelmsford, involving boys from the Essex academy. There is also a three-day warm-up scheduled against a Prime Minister’s XI in Australia.

Robinson says some of the other peculiarities about Australia – larger boundaries, less responsive pitches – do not apply quite so starkly in the women’s game. In women’s limited-overs internationals the boundary size (55m–65m) is standardised, as is the white Kookaburra ball.

“We’d expect a little more bounce, but you don’t like to pre-judge too much,” he says. “As for sideways movement, it just doesn’t really happen. I’ve been in this job two years and I’ve seen one wicket that has seamed – at Leicester for the World Cup game against Pakistan. I’ve seen lots that have spun.”

England have four spin options, including 18-year-old left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone, who has just finished school in Cheshire. Ecclestone will provide back up for another Lancashire slow left-armer, Alex Hartley.

“Sophie went to the West Indies with us [in 2016] and played a few ODIs,” says Robinson. “She ran out of puff a bit towards the end. She was finishing school this summer so couldn’t really commit to what a World Cup campaign required. But she was the outstanding player for Lancashire in domestic cricket and for Lancashire Lightning in a tough Super League campaign. She gets bounce, because she’s tall.”

Otherwise, these are the same players who won the World Cup, including Sarah Taylor (above). After her problems with anxiety – related to busy environments such as airports – Robinson confirms that her well-being will be monitored daily.

“I’m not sure if it will be a more difficult challenge for Sarah with it being a tour, but it will be different,” he said. “With flights in there, we’re very aware that we have to make sure that we’re helping Sarah in every way we can, on a day-to-day basis.”

Amy Jones, the back-up wicketkeeper, is one of three fringe players who will be out in Australia playing women’s club cricket. The others are seam-bowling allrounders Kate Cross and Tash Farrant.

Fixtures

1st ODI | Brisbane - Allan Border Field, October 22

2nd ODI | Coffs Harbour, October 26

3rd ODI | Coffs Harbour, October 29

Only Test | Sydney - North Sydney Oval, November 9-12

1st T20 | Sydney - North Sydney Oval, November 17

2nd T20 | Canberra, November 19

3rd T20 | Canberra, November 21