Knight backs England to shine against West Indies after long lay-off

·4-min read
England's Heather Knight in action against the West Indies (Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff)

Heather Knight feared an international summer would never come to fruition but finally England’s cricketers are ready for their moment in the spotlight.

India and South Africa both dropped out of series but West Indies once again proved the summer saviours with five T20 matches taking place in Derby, starting from Monday.

It’s been a long time coming for Knight and her side, watching her male counterparts face West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland and Australia in a packed calendar.

But it’s certainly worth the wait for the captain, who will contest the first women’s international match between full member teams since the coronavirus pandemic began.

"It's going to be so nice. It's been a long time coming, it's great seeing everyone back playing but we've been a little bit jealous to not be out there playing,” she said.

"Now that it's set in stone, I just can't wait. The work that has gone on behind the scenes has been amazing, the ECB have been brilliant and to get the set-ups that we have, I know that so much has gone in. It's been brilliant.

"The weather owes us one and hopefully we'll get some nice weather at the end of September.

"There were thoughts in the back of your mind that no international cricket would be played. The way that the ECB have been, we knew that, as players, they were going to do everything in their power to try and get some cricket on.

"They've done exactly what they would have done for the guys, which is real progress – I don't think that would have happened three or four years ago.”

The culmination of the men’s programme could prove a blessing for the upcoming series, with Sky Sports streaming all five T20 matches for free on YouTube as part of Women's Big Cricket Month.

Saturday’s third match in Derby will also be live on the BBC, the first time international women's cricket has been on free-to-air television since the 1993 Women's World Cup.

England haven’t played since rain curtailed their T20 World Cup chances in Australia but a chance to play in front of a wide TV audience can start to make up for lost time.

Knight added: "We've got a real opportunity to show what we can do in these five games. So many people are so happy to have cricket back and sport in general so hopefully they'll tune in.

"We've got a game on the BBC so that's a brilliant opportunity.

"We started to see a shift towards the back end of the World Cup in terms of how we want to play as a team. The weather cut that short a little bit and we weren't able to see where we could go.

"We've had a lot of planning time leading into the back end of this summer. We've had a lot of time to sit down as coaches and players to work out the limit of where we can go, that's been quite exciting and hopefully we can show that in the five games.”

Knight is acutely aware at how fortunate England are to be playing this summer, calling on the ICC to “step up” and ensure the women’s game bounces back from the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 86,000 were in attendance for the World Cup Final in Melbourne in March – with Australia beating India in the last match to be played between top nations.

And the significance of women’s cricket – both on and off the pitch – is not lost on the England captain, whose side will wear the Black Lives Matter logo on their shirts.

“We’ve had a chat as players and we definitely want to do something to honour the movement, give our support to it and keep the conversation happening,” she said.

“I’ve spoken to Stafanie [Taylor, West Indies captain] via text and we’re going to speak over the next few days to work out exactly what that looks like for both teams.”