Heather Knight column: West Indies hopes, life in the ‘bubble’ and World Cup disappointment

Heather Knight

Venue: Incora County Ground, Derby Dates: 21, 23, 26, 28, 30 September
Coverage: Third game (26 September) live on BBC TV; Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on all games with highlights on BBC TV, live text commentary and in-play clips on BBC Sport website & app

We’ve got cricket!

The last few months have certainly tested my adaptability. As has been the case for many people around the world, there’s been a lot of uncertainty in our cricket world.

After being in limbo with India and South Africa both unable to come here, it’s been great to finally get a bit of clarity with the confirmation that West Indies are coming over for a five-match Twenty20 international series next month. I won’t let myself believe it fully until that first toss on 21 September though!

It’s been absolutely remarkable how quickly the West Indies trip has been organised – massive credit needs to go to the team at the ECB who have made it happen and of course the West Indies board and players for salvaging our summer.

The ECB has really backed up its commitment to the women’s game with its actions over this period, and we as players are super grateful.

As well as all of the matches being on Sky Sports, the third match is live on the BBC. I’ve read that’s the first time England Women will have been live on free-to-air TV since 1993 so it’s a perfect time for everyone to perform.

It’s mad to think our last completed international (thanks again, Sydney rain…) was against West Indies in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup on 1 March. It feels like a lifetime ago.

But I felt then that we were just picking up some nice momentum, so let’s hope we pick up straight away from there, six months on.

Misspelled legends, Sister Act 2 and umbrella golf – life in the ‘bubble’

England's Lauren Winfield
Lauren Winfield makes herself at home in the Derby ‘bubble’

All the West Indies games will be at Derby in a bio-secure ‘bubble’. We had two weeks experiencing what “bubble life” is like when we met up at the beginning of August. for some intra-squad games in what became known as the Heyhoe-Brittin Cup.

Our coach Lisa Keightley came up with the idea to honour two members of English cricketing royalty – the late Rachael Heyhoe Flint and Jan Brittin, who both passed away in 2017 – and to create a bit of healthy competition for the matches.

Each player received a cap for their team, although an unfortunate typo on the caps meant Nat Sciver’s team were representing Jan Britton – who, according to a quick Twitter search, is a bloke from Gloucestershire!

Maybe a sense of injustice spurred Team Brittin on, because they ended up taking the series. There was some good cricket, and some handy performances, which was heartening after such a long time away.

England's Amy Jones
Wicketkeeper Amy Jones and the England squad have been getting used to ‘bubble life’

The bubble set-up was actually pretty good, although a bit strange initially with all the protocols in place. We were looked after very well and it was so nice to catch up with all the girls and staff after a long break.

It wasn’t hugely different to a normal tour, really, in terms of how we spent our time. There was a games room in which we all partook – on one occasion, Mady Villiers and I spent hours and hours chipping golf balls into an upturned umbrella – and there was a lot of up and down attempts at latte art.

On one evening – with all the Covid-19 rules in place – we sat outside to watch Sister Act 2, which was all very lovely except we couldn’t really see the screen.

Players watching Sister Act 2
Watching Sister Act 2… just without being able to see the screen

World Cup postponement

Despite everything on offer for us in the bubble, it wasn’t a great few days when we found out the ICC Women’s World Cup – planned for February and March 2021 in New Zealand – had been postponed by a year.

Everyone was a bit flat, not knowing what cricket we were actually preparing for in Derby.

With the tournament due to be hosted in New Zealand – probably one of the safest places in the world when it comes to Covid right now (go Jacinda!) – it was pretty gutting, to be honest.

You start to think, if it’s not going to happen there, then it won’t happen until the pandemic is over – and at the moment that means a vaccine.

I know they had the qualifying tournament to complete and there was a worry about teams’ preparations – but if you can get domestic competitions to take place in different countries with overseas players, it feels like a missed opportunity.

The concern now is that without a World Cup for which to prepare, will all boards put in the extra time and money that is needed to get women’s cricket on in these times?

I can see a situation where some countries don’t play any cricket at all in the next 12 months and that’s not a good place to be.

I know the whole game around the world is struggling right now, but it’s now more than ever that the women’s game needs support and voices fighting for it to get everyone playing.

It’s why the West Indies series is such good news – not just for us but for the global game – and I do hope we will see more women’s international cricket scheduled over the next six months.

Storming back

On another positive note here, I’m really excited that the centrally contracted England players are able to play in the first few rounds of the new Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.

I love the fact that it’s named after Rachael. I actually got around to reading her autobiography during lockdown, thanks to a loan from Kate Cross.

I knew she was a remarkable lady before that, but I didn’t realise how much she actually achieved in her lifetime. What a woman.

I’m also delighted to be back playing for the Western Storm too.

All we need now is for the weather to do us a favour across September. Surely we’re due a bit of luck on that front?

Heather Knight lifts the KSL trophy at Hove in 2019
Knight won two Kia Super League titles as captain of Western Storm in 2017 and 2019

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