The recent months have seen notable strides for England women's cricket, particularly in terms of gender equality and on-field performance. In a historic move, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced that the match fees for their women's team would be equalised with the men's team, joining other nations like New Zealand, India, and South Africa in this endeavour. Recently, the ICC also announced prize money parity for all global events.
The summer kicked off with an enthralling Ashes series, where England displayed impressive skills and resilience. Despite being six-nil down, they managed to tie the series with eight points. The series drew record crowds with around 110,000 tickets sold - an increase of 200 percent in comparison to the 2019 series, indicating the growing interest in women's cricket.
Heather Knight, England women captain, emphasized the importance of equality and praised initiatives like The Hundred for giving equal prominence to women's cricket.
"From what has been a remarkable summer and talks about the women’s game, playing a big role in the sport and things like The Hundred putting the women’s game alongside the men’s (is vital). This (equal match fees) is backed up with not just words but actions as well. Boards around the world have started to do it. This is another good step forward," said Knight.
Looking ahead, England are scheduled to play a series against Sri Lanka starting from August 31. In this series, the team has opted to rest several senior players, providing opportunities to young and emerging talents. Sophie Ecclestone, who recently dislocated her shoulder during The Hundred warm ups, will be absent having been rested from the series. Sophia Dunkley and Natalie Sciver-Brunt are also taking a break from both the T20I and ODI squads. The series marks the comeback of players like Maia Bouchier and Freya Kemp, who last represented England in 2022.
"We've rested a few senior players so that gives us a chance to give opportunities to a few youngsters and try and grow the pool of players that we're picking from. Maia deserves an opportunity because we've been carrying around for a long time and she's been amazing in the Hundred as well," Knight continued.
"We want to see how these girls adapt to international cricket, how they are around the group, how they react to things. I think it's really exciting. The more players that we can have, knocking down the door and keeping everyone on their toes … I think really good teams have that competition."
Among the uncapped players included in the squad are Mahika Gaur and Bess Heath. Gaur, who previously represented the UAE, earned praise for her performance in the domestic season, with Knight highlighting her unique physical attributes of being a left-arm bowler with a height exceeding six feet.
"She's unique, a left-arm that's six foot three, which is pretty mad," Knight said. "I think she's had a growth spurt since the first time I met her a couple of months ago. She obviously brings that, and she's got a pretty good action and swings the ball late,” Knight added.
After winning the first-ever series against New Zealand recently, Sri Lanka would be riding on high confidence. And England would not be taking them lightly, Knight said, "They've got a world-class batter in Athapaththu (Chamari Athapaththu), who can be hard to stop when she gets going. And they've got some wily spinners in the middle so we've certainly been preparing for that as a batting group.".
Knight clarified that the decision to rest players should not be misconstrued as taking Sri Lanka lightly. She stated that the upcoming World Cup remains the team's primary focus, "We've rested a few players but that's not because we're taking Sri Lanka lightly. But that World Cup is our next big focus, and you don't always get the opportunity to be able to try new players. We saw this, at the back end of a pretty busy summer, as a chance to do that," she concluded.