England coach Lisa Keightley has called for England to “lead the way” in playing more women’s Tests, ahead of her team’s one-off encounter against South Africa next week at Taunton.
Keightley labelled the recent remarks by ICC Chair Greg Barclay – who told BBC TMS earlier this month that he felt women’s Tests would not be “part of the landscape moving forward to any real extent” – as “disappointing”, and said that England would be looking to “challenge” Barclay’s vision in next week’s match.
“The last few Test matches has proven that it’s a format that is quite exciting,” she said. “We actually feel like we want to lead the way. The way to do that is to play more Test matches.”
“Realistically, I don’t think every country can play this format, but I do think we should stretch and challenge and still have the desire to improve women’s cricket and to grow it. There’s a few countries that are putting their hands up to play Test cricket for that purpose. The players want to play it, and the organisations are getting in and around it and behind it.”
She also strongly hinted that the ECB would be looking to include a multi-day component in the regional domestic structure going forwards. “You’ve got to learn the craft of Test cricket,” she said. “The countries that are playing Test matches have a pathway that they could slide along the format in. We’re looking to do that going forward, it’s just a matter of how you could put it in a domestic structure and what that may look like.”
After selecting a squad with five potential Test debutants ahead of next week’s match, Keightley was also keen to emphasise that this summer marked a “new cycle” for the England side, after their disappointing showing against Australia in the recent Ashes and World Cup. Spearheading that new cycle is Emma Lamb, who Keightley as good as confirmed would be opening the batting alongside Tammy Beaumont next week, saying: “It’s her time and it’s her chance to show us what she’s got.”
England’s bowling line-up is less decided, though Keightley talked up Lauren Bell, Freya Davies and Emily Arlott as being “exciting” possibilities to open the bowling: “We’ll see how they go throughout the week, and see who’s looking the best to see who gets the opportunity to play their first Test match.” Issy Wong, included in the squad as a travelling reserve only, will not feature in the longer format due to recent injury niggles; but is being looked at for possible inclusion in the white-ball squads later in the summer.
Keightley also shed some more light onto Katherine Brunt’s decision to retire from Test cricket, suggesting that after her recent bout of Covid and subsequent absence from the majority of the Charlotte Edwards Cup (she bowled just 4 overs in the competition), she had simply not bowled enough overs since the World Cup for the Test to be a realistic possibility.
“We knew after the World Cup we needed everything to go right with her prep and it didn’t. In the end she didn’t have the loads behind her to play in this Test match. It would have been high risk,” Keightley said. “Sitting down with Katherine and talking it through, it was pretty obvious that the Commonwealth Games was the focus and she wasn’t going to get up for this Test match.”
“With those conversations she’s gone away and thought about it, and thought the Ashes was too far next year so if she didn’t play in this one she probably wasn’t going to play a Test. It’s been an emotional few weeks for Katherine, coming to that decision… I think she’s made the smart call.”
So Brunt was pushed.
Anyone who delivers 21.1-4-60-5 and 9-2-24-3 in a Test match against the top side in the world, less than 5 months has either (a) decided to go out at the top or (b) been prematurely moved aside.
As a New Zealander, I’m ashamed someone with Greg Barclay’s dinosaur attitude to women’s cricket has ascended to such a position of power at the ICC. That he was a director of NZ Cricket from 2012-20 suggests one reason why NZ Cricket has treated, and continues to treat, women’s cricket here so shabbily.