England Women will fly out to New Zealand later this month facing stringent new quarantine measures before their series in February.
The team had originally anticipated being able to train after four days spent in their hotel rooms, but fears about the new UK variant of the virus are making the New Zealand government extra-cautious. Instead, the team will have to undergo a full week in isolation before being permitted to train as a group.
By contrast, the men’s team were able to train just 48 hours after arriving in Sri Lanka earlier in the month, after undergoing three rounds of negative Covid-19 tests.
“It’s tough,” the captain, Heather Knight, acknowledged. “It won’t be a super-pleasant experience. But we’ve got the carrot at the end of it that we can go out and live normally in New Zealand – go out to a restaurant and go to a coffee shop and just do normal things.
“The goalposts have shifted a lot over the last three weeks and the staff in New Zealand have been great in being flexible and making sure the tour is possible.”
Beginning on 23 February, England will face New Zealand in a series of three ODIs, followed by three T20s. It will be the first international 50-over cricket England have played since December 2019, after the pandemic prevented planned encounters against India and South Africa last summer. With the next 50-over World Cup now due to be played in New Zealand in February 2022, it could also be a significant encounter as England prepare to defend the title they won in 2017.
“It’s going to be a really important tool for us,” Knight said. “We’re a year out from the World Cup. We’ve got a really good core of players, but we have to nail down how we want to approach things as a ODI side in the next year, work out what our best XI is and how we’re going to go about winning games of ODI cricket.”
Though Anya Shrubsole will miss the tour due to a knee injury, England have bolstered their bowling department by recalling the left-armer Tash Farrant to the squad, two years after she lost her England contract. “She’s definitely still been on our radar,” Knight said. “She performed really well towards the back end of the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy. Now she’s got a chance to try and push for selection and show off her skills.”
In the absence of Shrubsole, Nat Sciver has been appointed the vice-captain, a move Knight welcomed. “She’s really flourished over the last two years. She’s someone I’d go to on and off the pitch to chat things through. I hope she doesn’t change a thing because she’s already a leader in this group.”
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