Ahead of this summer’s busy international programme, England are amidst a weekend of warm-up matches against boys teams: yesterday, a T20 against Bedes School 1st XI, and today, a 50-over fixture against the Sussex Academy.
For coach Mark Robinson, who spoke to CRICKETher after yesterday’s match at Bedes, this is vital match practice in the build-up to the international summer.
“We’re desperate to play some Twenty20 games ahead of the World Cup,” he says, “and with the 50-over series coming up against South Africa we’re trying to combine the two.”
The advantage of playing against these boys teams is that: “You get a bit of pace on the ball.” More importantly, he says it is crucial for England to play together against a different and unknown opposition:
“We play against each other and use the England Academy girls, which isn’t quite the same because you know each other.
“So to come and play an opposition where you don’t know who they are, what they’re going to do, how to problem solve, especially in a T20 game where you have to problem solve very very quickly, work out the wicket – that’s the learning that you want.”
He acknowledges that the clash with today’s round of County Championship fixtures is “not ideal” but stresses that a number of the squad have been released to play county today, including the star of yesterday’s match Amy Jones (for Warwickshire).
Robinson speaks positively about Jones’ start to the season – including a score of 68 for Warwickshire in the Women’s County Championship – and says that since the team returned from India she has “hit the ground running and played outstandingly well.”
He selected her to open the batting yesterday in the absence of Danni Wyatt, who is in India for the one-off IPL-style Women’s T20 Challenge. He hopes that for Wyatt, the opportunity to perform on the big stage will allow her to recover from a slow start to the county season: “It’s good for her ego!” he says with a smile. “She likes the big occasions – playing in front of a crowd on a good wicket.”
Jones, meanwhile, repaid the faith shown in her by Robinson handsomely. She was the key contributor to England’s clinical 51-run victory yesterday against the school side, hitting 76 of their 179-run total and keeping wicket in her usual tidy fashion, including a catch and a stumping.
It will be interesting to see whether Robinson finds a place for her in the forthcoming international fixtures – all of which will be challenging.
“On paper New Zealand are the bigger threat, but South Africa have got players who can win games by themselves,” acknowledges Robinson. “It’s a really good summer because anything can happen. None of the games you can take for granted.”
Ahead of the World Twenty20 in November, he is also hoping that the ECB can arrange some further warm-up T20s out in the UAE, against a different international side. “We’re trying to fill the gap,” he says. “Plan C is being in a tent at Loughborough!”