Lotus365 Lotus365 News England women vs Sri Lanka – Heather Knight says Sri Lanka series marks start of new World Cup cycle

England women vs Sri Lanka – Heather Knight says Sri Lanka series marks start of new World Cup cycle

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Heather Knight ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/heather-knight-358259) says that England’s T20I series against Sri Lanka marks the start of the team’s new cycle, in the wake of a transformative Ashes campaign this summer, and that the aim of the coming weeks will be to create competition for places ahead of next year’s T20 Women’s World Cup in Bangladesh.

Speaking on the eve of the first T20I at Hove on Thursday, Knight talked enthusiastically about the “freshness” within a youthful squad, from which several notable names will be missing – among them Sophie Ecclestone (who had been due to sit out the series even prior to her shoulder dislocation last week ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://search.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/1393889.html)), Sophia Dunkley and Nat Sciver-Brunt.

In their place come two uncapped youngsters: Mahika Gaur ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/mahika-gaur-1171433), the 17-year-old left-arm seamer who impressed for Manchester Originals having made her international bow for the UAE as a 12-year-old, and Bess Heath ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/bess-heath-916037), Northern Superchargers’ hard-hitting wicketkeeper-batter.

Freya Kemp, ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/freya-kemp-1195947) one of the break-out stars of England’s 2022 season, returns (as a batter only) after a back injury, while Knight promised that one of the main beneficiaries for this series would be Maia Bouchier ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/maia-bouchier-1022077), the talented 24-year-old whose opportunities at international level have been limited to 19 T20Is since 2021, but whose haul of 268 runs at 38.28 in the Hundred was a key factor in Southern Brave’s maiden title.

“We’ve obviously rested a few senior players so that gives us a chance to give opportunities to few youngsters, and try and grow the pool of players that we’re picking from,” Knight said. “Maia deserves an opportunity because we’ve been carrying around for a long time and she’s been amazing in the Hundred as well.

“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.”

The most exciting name on the squad-list, however, is Gaur, whose remarkable physical attributes, allied to her extreme youth, mark her out as a potential superstar of the future.

“She’s unique, a left-armer that’s actually 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 months ago. She obviously brings that, and she’s got a pretty good action and swings the ball late.”

Knight confirmed that Gaur would be handed her England debut at some stage of the campaign, but acknowledged that, as captain, she would be obliged to ease her new recruit into the action and not expect too much, too soon.

“She’s obviously very young, so we’ll have to manage her pretty carefully and make sure we’re looking after her as a person and as a cricketer,” Knight said. “Younger players coming in adds that freshness, and tests my skills as a captain.

“She’s certainly exciting, but I don’t know her super well, so I’ll just try to keep her calm, really, and do the things she’s done domestically that have been so impressive.

“It always feels different internationally. There’s more pressures, more scrutiny. So it’s about how they cope with that and just trying to play the cricket that we want them to play, that fits in with the team.”

The series will be the first in which England’s women will receive equal match fees ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/england-women-match-fees-equal-england-men-1395072) to their male counterparts, a development which Knight said felt like due “reward” for a remarkable summer in which they matched Australia blow for blow in an 8-8 Ashes campaign, and attracted 110,000 fans across the seven matches.

“That [series] felt like a real watershed moment,” Knight said, adding that the challenge for her players now was to keep moving forward, given that Australia’s world-beating team will doubtless be seeking their own improvements ahead of the World Cup, after being run so close this summer.

“With the World Cup a year away, Australia and other teams are going to be looking to get better and improve. There’s a lot of areas that we can still get better in, come Bangladesh in October next year, so this is the start of that that post-Ashes cycle.”

Despite the absence of some big-name players, Knight insisted that England would not be taking Sri Lanka lightly, especially in light of their impressive display in the last T20 World Cup in February, where they beat the hosts and eventual finalists, South Africa, in their opening match at Newlands.

“They’ve just beaten New Zealand for the first time ever too, so they’ll be pretty confident and on a high from that,” Knight added. “They’ve got a world-class better in [Chamari] Athapaththu, who can be really 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.

“We’ve obviously 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.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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