The ongoing England A v England B 4-day warm-up match in Loughborough provides significant clues as to how England plan to line up in this summer’s Women’s Ashes.
Openers It looks like England’s preferred opening partnership might be Heather Knight and Lauren Winfield, with Charlotte Edwards dropping down to 4. Personally, I’m not convinced about this – Edwards’ “play every ball on its merits” approach is perfectly suited to the opening role; while Winfield’s attacking shot-making can really only be justified opening in T20, and even there it is debatable, because while Edwards doesn’t tend to do the spectacular, she does the unspectacular so well that even when she is accumulating, she accumulates more quickly than most.
Middle Order With Taylor coming in at 3 and Edwards at 4, this leaves just one space in the middle order, which you’d expect to be occupied by Kent’s Lydia Greenway. If she fails in the ODIs, then perhaps Amy Jones (who is reported to have batted beautifully making a century at Loughborough) is an option for the Test, but only “if”.
All Rounders Despite making another duck in the warm-up match, to go with the two GOLDEN quackers she has bagged in this year’s Women’s County Championship, Nat Sciver’s place is bolted-down for the foreseeable future. Joining her, I’d expect to see Laura Marsh, who offers good, solid batting cover in the late-middle-order, and the ever-dependable Jenny Gunn; although Georgia Elwiss, who is one of just two players to come out of the last winter with her reputation genuinely enhanced (the other being Alex Hartley) is another option here.
Fast Bowlers It’s pretty clear that England still see Kate Cross as the back-up to Shrubsole and Brunt. I think Cross’ batting has something to do with this, because although she has made 50s in the Women’s County Championship, at international level she is seen very much as a “Genuine No. 11”; so barring injuries, it seems unlikely that Cross will play in the ODIs. But the real question is whether England can risk injury-prone Katherine Brunt in a four-day Test match, however well she is bowling? If not, that is where opportunity is likely to come knocking for Cross.
Spinners With Heather Knight offering a classy enough turning ball to open the bowling recently in T20s, and Laura Marsh filling an all-rounder slot, you have to ask if England even NEED a full-time spinner, and whether playing Cross in the remaining slot might not be a better option? Nevertheless, I’d be surprised if England take the field without one of Dani Hazell or Becky Grundy. Grundy was the one in the driving seat more recently, but Hazell has been working hard on a more attacking, wicket-taking approach so I wonder if it is her we’ll be seeing more of this summer?
The XI? The Women’s Ashes is still two months away, so a lot of water is going to flow under a lot of bridges between now and then. Nevertheless here’s the XI I think England are looking to go with:
Knight, Winfield, Taylor, Edwards, Greenway, Sciver, Marsh, Gunn, Hazell, Brunt, Shrubsole.