There is no doubt that the oldest and fiercest rivalry in cricket is between Australia and England - it's a battle that always makes for intriguing viewing. Regardless of the form of the teams, these games are tightly contested, and often filled with drama. Most recently, Australia won the multi-format Ashes in July last year, comfortably beating the hosts in their own backyard.
An Ashes debacle - whether men's or women's - almost always results in drastic changes. Kevin Pietersen's sacking after the men's Ashes in 2013 is one such high-profile change that played out in a public forum. For the women, the 2019 failure was followed by Mark Robinson's resignation. A couple of months later, Sarah Taylor bid adieu to international cricket and a few months on, Jenny Gunn and Laura Marsh also called it a day.
The mass exodus meant England had to ring in the changes - they picked several young players who had impressed in the Women's Cricket Super League. Mady Villiers, Sarah Glenn, Freya Davies, are now the faces of a new look England who travelled to Malaysia to play Pakistan in three ODIs and three T20Is. England comprehensively outplayed Pakistan in all departments of the game to gain some much-needed confidence ahead of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup to be held in Australia.
The squad for the mega event is led by Heather Knight and sees Lisa Keightley don the role of head coach. The World Cup, will be only her second series in charge of the squad, following the recently concluded T20I tri-series involving Australia and India.
Danielle Wyatt and Amy Jones form a formidable pair at the top of the order. Wyatt is the more aggressive of the two, often providing fiery starts upfront. However, neither batter had a great outing in the tri-series. They will quickly want to forget that and move on.
Knight, Natalie Sciver and Fran Wilson comprise the middle-order. They will also have the assistance of Georgia Elwiss, the seam bowling allrounder, who pipped Kirstie Gordon, the left-arm spinner, for a place in the squad. Elwiss will also serve as back up to a pace unit that consists of Katherine Brunt, Anya Shrubsole, Kate Cross and Davies. Sophie Ecclestone leads the spin department which includes the talents of Glenn and Villiers.
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"When Lisa Keightley took over in January, it was clear her plans aligned with what we had looked at, and it’s been really exciting to start working alongside her," said Heather Knight. "We’ve been really specific with the players we wanted out here in Australia. We’ve got a lot of different match-winners and proven world-class players, but also a few younger ones too, who so far have taken to international cricket really well. From 1-15, we’ve got a squad that can win games of cricket."
Overall the squad looks well balanced with a good mix of youth and experience. This is a fresh look England team with plenty of 'three-dimensional' players.
In the 2018 edition of T20 World Cup England had been dealt with a body blow when their premier pace bowler Brunt was ruled out to due to back injury. In the absence of Brunt it was Natalie Sciver who took the new ball with Anya Shrubsole. The lanky medium pacer did a terrific job and picked up wickets at regular intervals in the power play. Against South Africa, she was at her miserly best, taking tree wickets for just four runs to rip through their top-order. So far she has picked up 20 wickets in three editions of the T20 World Cup.
Sciver is also one of England's premier batters. She often bails England out when the chips are down. In the fifth season of the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia, playing for Perth Scorchers, Sciver scored over 300 runs and her big-hitting skills came to fore. In the tri-series too, she scored a match-winning fifty and took England over the line against India. The allrounder will definitely play a pivotal role in the showpiece event.
One to Watch:
When Laura Marsh announced her retirement late last year, England’s spin cupboard looked slightly bare. Sophie Ecclestone was the only tweaker to have cemented her place in the unit - she was searching for support. That’s when Sarah Glenn stepped in to the picture and proved to be a match-winner during the series against Pakistan. She largely looked to be the difference between both teams.
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The leg-spinner picked four wickets in the three T20Is and often came to bowl at crucial juncture of the game. She was also amongst the wickets in the tri-series picking up five wickets. Indeed Glenn has proven to be the perfect foil for Ecclestone. The 20-year-old is quick through the air - her flat trajectory often pushing the batters on to the back foot when they should in fact be coming forward. Glenn is certainly a trump card for Knight and it would be interesting to see how she is used during the World Cup.
England were runners-up of the 2018 edition and have a squad that can go all the way. Placed in Group B alongside Pakistan, West Indies, Thailand, England are poised to make it to semi-final. They will be devastated if they don't make it that far.
Following a disappointing finish to the tri-series - where they were the best/ most impressive team on display - England will be hoping they have learnt from their mistakes through that tournament and are able to improve on their performances. Their bowling attack showed great discipline throughout, but now it is for their batters to step up.
Squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Amy Jones, Danielle Wyatt, Natalie Sciver, Katherine Brunt, Georgia Elwiss, Sophie Ecclestone, Freya Davies, Anya Shrubsole, Lauren Winfield, Sarah Glenn, Kate Cross, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson.
February 23: England v South Africa, in Perth (WACA)
February 26: England v Thailand, in Canberra (Manuka Oval)
March 28: England v Pakistan, in Canberra (Manuka Oval)
March 1: England v West Indies in Sydney (Showground)