Heather Knight believes the unearthing of seamer Emily Arlott ahead of next week’s Test against India is just the start of England tapping a pool of players capable of making it at international level.
Knight, the England captain, said Arlott’s maiden call-up for her country in a 17-strong squad, which will be trimmed to 15 before heading to Bristol on Sunday for the Test starting three days later, came somewhat out of the blue.
But, with the introduction of professional contracts at domestic level, which 23-year-old Arlott holds with Central Sparks in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, Knight expects she could be the first of many new faces for England.
“She’s come out of nowhere really, which is great,” Knight said. “I don’t know a huge amount about her, apart from the last month or so when I’ve been watching her a little bit more closely and what a great story for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint as well.
“We’ve been calling for domestic competitions to be more professional for a while now and now it is you’re going to get people coming out of the woodwork like Emily has.
“I faced her and Issy Wong a few weeks ago at Edgbaston and it was brilliant. It was great to have two young quick bowlers tearing in trying to get me out, testing me, and Emily, really stood out and has done in the game since. We see her as a player that has the skills to play red-ball cricket as well. I’m so excited to have her around the group.”
Arlott claimed 2 for 48 in Sparks’ win against Knight’s Western Storm. But it was her four-wicket maiden, including a hat-trick, en route to match figures of 5 for 29 as Sparks thrashed reigning champions Southern Vipers that cemented her place in the England squad.
Meanwhile, Lauren Winfield-Hill has taken a significant step towards her goal of re-establishing herself at the top of the order ahead of England’s 50-over World Cup defence next year, albeit in a different format for now.
Knight revealed Winfield-Hill is most likely to partner Tammy Beaumont at the top of the order for the Test match.
After a lengthy struggle with Crohn’s disease, Winfield-Hill has managed to bring the illness under control with medication that has delivered huge physical benefits, including improved training performance and, in turn, match form. She scored an unbeaten140 for England Women A in a pre-season warm-up against England Women at the start of May and opened the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy with 110 for Northern Diamonds against Sparks.
“She’s had a bit of a tough time of it on and off the pitch probably in the last year,” Knight said. “She struggled to get opportunities and fight her way back into the side and, in the Test match format, we would see her as being able to do that job. She’s a quality player.
“She’s in really good form, she’s in a really good place with her health and her cricket, she’s fitter than I’ve ever seen her and she’s a very fit person anyway. I think she’s run the 2k in under eight minutes so I’m excited to see how she goes and I’m sure she’ll grasp the opportunity.”
Wicketkeeper-batter Amy Jones, who opened with Beaumont in the last Ashes Test, has thrived since moving into the middle order – in ODIs after the Ashes series and in T20Is in the last match of England’s Wrold Cup campaign. Jones has two centuries from three matches for Sparks in the 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
“We want Amy to bat in the middle order. It’s something she’s done in white ball cricket really successfully and we see her, and she sees herself now, as a middle-order player, a middle-order player that can dictate a game and win matches.
“We’ve seen her batting at No. 4 for Central Sparks and doing amazingly well. She’s in great form I’m really excited to see what she can do this, this summer.”
The last two Ashes Tests, in 2017 in Sydney and 2019 at Taunton, have ended in draws and, while Knight said England’s first priority was securing a win to start their multi-format series against India, she hoped her side could also entertain.
“I’ve been following the games down at Bristol quite closely and I tried to get as much information about the pitch,” she said “The weather looks like it’s going to be very hot leading into it but it’s generally a reasonably good wicket down at Bristol and a good place to play cricket.
“We’ll have to assess that a little bit more closely when we get down to Bristol… but we always want to want to put on a show, especially as we haven’t had fans in there for so long. India are a very strong side and naturally there’ll be a contest there, they’re going to be hard to beat so hopefully that will be entertaining to watch.
Under the multi-format system for India’s tour, which features three ODIs and three T20Is after the Test, teams will be awarded four points for a win in the Test with two points for a draw and one for no result. A win in the white-ball matches will be worth two points.
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo
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