Sasha Putt reports
With one more round of matches to go before the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy takes a break for the summer, our eyes turn to the packed summer of international cricket ahead. England face an intriguing trio of India, New Zealand and Pakistan throughout the summer and into October.
England begin with their strongest opposition – India, in a points-based format akin to the Women’s Ashes, with 1 Test, 3 ODIs and 3 T20 games. Although they both ended in a draw, England were dominated by Australia in their last two tests, failing to bowl them out in any innings. Their last non-Ashes Test saw a similarly poor performance, losing to India after being bowled out for 92 in the first innings. Heather Knight’s side will need to perform much better in the match at Bristol to turn this run of form around.
While the squad for the series was announced on Wednesday, a spot in the final XI for the Test is still up for grabs. Whilst key bowlers Katherine Brunt, Anya Shrubsole and Sophie Ecclestone and a top order of Lauren Winfield-Hill, Tammy Beaumont, Heather Knight and all-rounder Nat Sciver are likely to feature, there are a variety of options for the remaining places.
Strong performances from Sophia Dunkley in the RHF Trophy definitely merits her inclusion in the squad, but it remains to be seen if she can sneak into the Test team to strengthen England’s middle-order.
Likewise, the last few bowling slots will be hotly contested with Freya Davies, Tash Farrant and Kate Cross, continuing their fine runs of form in the RHF Trophy, both on the peripheries of the playing XI – and now youngster Emily Arlott hot in their heels after her surprise inclusion in the squad.
Regardless of the team, England need to use this one-off match to establish how they aim to play Test cricket, and the best approach to translate their white-ball success into the longer format of the game.
For the limited overs series against India the goal is much simpler: get players into form against top opposition and iron out a side for the rest of the summer. With so many promising names bursting on the scene as a result of the RHF Trophy, squad rotation will likely play a part in selection, but England will also want to finish these games with a fairly concrete idea of what their best side looks like in a multi-format series. India will be the toughest opponent England face this summer, and so it is unlikely there will be significant experimenting with the side here.
The New Zealand series presents a much better chance for giving younger prospects the opportunity to play. With The Hundred dominating late July and August, the New Zealand series has been packed into September, with matches coming quickly one after the other. Giving those fringe players the experience of international cricket would be perfect for their development, against a side England comfortably managed to beat earlier this year.
England’s last series against Pakistan should see a mix of the two, with any players showing exceptional form mixing with established stars for what should be another comfortable white-ball series that should confirm the full side which travels to Australia in the new year.
It is this upcoming Ashes series which underpins all of England’s planning for their summer of cricket. Having last held the trophy in 2014, Heather Knight’s side will see the 2022 instalment of the format as the perfect opportunity for an upset against a dominant Australia. For now though, the summer ahead should give plenty of exciting action as England’s women look to find their groove against a trio of eager opponents.
A full list of fixtures can be found here.