England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)

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Fifteen weeks ago was the last time we were on the pitch as an England team in a competitive game. After what has been an outstanding and busy summer, it actually seems strange to have gone so long without a cricket match. Nevertheless, we currently find ourselves one day away from the Ashes’ first women’s game, and to be completely honest, the preparation has been quite unique thanks to COVID.

After some time off in October, we were back in Loughborough for our weekly training camps. We managed to have a great team training boulder, especially with the amazing outdoor tent setup we often find ourselves in during the freezing winter boulders. It’s an invaluable tool for a bowler because we can do realistic miles in our legs on the grass; something you can never quite duplicate indoors.

After spending seven weeks indoors and in the tent, we learned that we were going to do some hot weather training, so we found ourselves on a flight to Oman for two weeks of outdoor prep. We used this time to get out as much as we could in the middle, varying between white ball and red ball practice knowing that once we got to Australia we wouldn’t have much time to get Test -match ready. It was a brilliant two weeks and another way to prepare for competitive cricket in the best possible way.

Leaving Oman in mid-December, we thought we had three final weeks of preparation with our regional teams. However, like many of us on this planet over the past couple of years, our plans have been disrupted quite abruptly by COVID-19.

For the last 10 days before flying to Australia, we were not allowed to come into contact with anyone else. The risk of catching COVID at this point meant not only that you would likely be unwell, but that you would undoubtedly miss the plane to Australia. So everyone has found ways to complete their bowling, batting, and fielding duties, albeit in quite a solitary fashion! And it’s fair to say that our players and staff had a little less fun and social Christmas and New Year than most.

Around Christmas we also learned that entry to New Zealand for the ICC Women’s World Cup requires a harsh 10-day quarantine, and due to the Ashes’ proximity to the World Cup (the team will fly directly from Australia to New Zealand), the programming just wouldn’t work. So a week before flying to Australia we were told that the ashes had been brought forward a week and that we would now start the series with the IT20s, followed by the test and then the ODIs. It’s a good job, we value adaptability.

For the first time ever, we traveled to Australia with an A team, which is fantastic for women’s cricket in England and Wales. Both as a reflection of the growing depth of the domestic game and also because it’s a fantastic upbringing and progression for the A team players. We had two warm-up matches against the A team at the weekend last and they didn’t hurt each other, showing their talent with two wins.

Like I said, unique. But, if the COVID pandemic has taught this group anything, it’s that there is no such thing as perfect preparation. We have learned to adapt and prepare in the best possible way that the circumstances allow us and now it’s about playing cricket. We can forget squad calls for a bit, forget about chat protocols and PCR test schedules – next week is all about IT20 cricket and hopefully getting our Ashes off to the best possible start.


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