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HEATHER KNIGHT is relishing the opportunity to play cricket in front of a crowd again, as England resume preparations for the defence of their World Cup title in 2022.
England were supposed to defend the 50-over title they won at Lord’s in 2017 in New Zealand next month, but the tournament’s postponement has allowed for three one-day internationals (ODI) and Twenty20s against the White Ferns instead.
The series starts in Christchurch on Tuesday
and will be the first ODI England will have played since December 2019, when they beat Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur, before the appointment of their current head coach Lisa Keightley in January 2020.
“We’re very lucky to be out here and we’re very grateful that it’s been put on, and all the effort that’s gone into it,” Knight said, speaking ahead of today’s first one-day international.
“We’re just so excited to play international cricket again. I think there might be a bit of a crowd in at Hagley Oval, which is a beautiful ground to play cricket at.
“Just being able to play international cricket in front of people is super-exciting … It’s hugely important for the women’s game as well to get cricket back on consistently. Hopefully we can put on a show.”
The England captain recognises the importance of the return of international women’s cricket, and believes her side can show their quality, despite the squad’s lengthy absence from 50-over cricket.
“I think we haven’t played ODI cricket for a long time and New Zealand are a strong side, so I think it’s going to be a really good test for us,” the 30-year-old said.
“Our preparation has been a little bit disjointed, but as a team I feel like we’re really ready to play ODI cricket now.
"I feel like the last couple of days training have shown some real intensity and some real skill about where we need to be, so that’s been great.
“We’ve got a year before the World Cup here in 2022, so that year is going to be key in terms of preparation and showing us where we need to be, how we want to play our ODI cricket.
“We’ve had a really good look, myself and the coaching staff, about where we are as a team in terms of ODI cricket and where we need to get better, where we’re really good as well and how we’re going to be successful in the next couple of years.
“So I’m really excited to start that journey really, it’s been a long time coming.”
England will take on the White Ferns at the Hagley Oval backed by a fully professional domestic set-up for the first time, after the England & Wales Cricket Board decided to offer new professional deals to 41 regional players last year.
Included in England’s 16-strong squad is left-armer Tash Farrant, who was recalled in the absence of injured seamers Anya Shrubsole and Katie George, with Knight praising the new contracts for their impact on the women’s game.
“It’s a brilliant tickbox for the new domestic competition. Tash has obviously been training with her team and was completely ready to step up and be ready to put on an England shirt, so that’s great.
“I think that a winter of training for those girls will really see a big improvement for the standard of the domestic stuff this coming summer, so it’s great that that’s now in place.
“And I think it’s going to be really interesting to watch the results and the individual performances that they take place this summer because I think Tash being called up shows that there are opportunities if people do well and push their case forward.”
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