England Women will begin their international season with a Test against India at Bristol in June in a move which their captain, Heather Knight, hopes will signal a revival of the multi-day format in the women’s game.
With women’s cricket now centred on the 50-over and 20-over formats, a Test is a rarity in the calendar, normally confined to a one-off biennial event as part of the multi-format Women’s Ashes, in which points across all three formats are taken into account when deciding the overall series winner. The Bristol match will be the first non-Ashes women’s Test since South Africa played India in November 2014, the same year England last played India in the format.
“Playing Test match cricket feels very special and it’s definitely rated very highly amongst the players,” Knight said. “It’s really important that we keep Test cricket going in the women’s game. Realistically, T20 is the sport that’s going to grow women’s cricket around the world and we’ve seen that over the last five years, but I’d love to see the multi-format series that we do for the Ashes as the norm going forward.
“One of my proudest moments in an England shirt is scoring a Test century, and that speaks to the way that Test cricket is seen. India don’t play them very often so I think it’s going to be a real occasion for them. Hopefully we can put on a show and make it a really good game of cricket.”
Three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 games against the same opponents will follow and – after the inaugural edition of the Hundred in August – England will face New Zealand in three T20s and five ODIs in September. It is a dramatic contrast with last summer, which was decimated by Covid with the team playing just five T20 games at the tail end of the season.
“It’s absolutely lovely knowing we’ve got a such a packed schedule,” Knight said. “Last year was quite tough not knowing what we were preparing for or what we had coming up so to have two big international tours, the Hundred, and then a trip to Pakistan, and then a massive year next year with Ashes and a World Cup – it’s going to be great to get that bloc of cricket in.”
Fresh from a successful tour of New Zealand in which they won the ODI and T20 series by comfortable margins, Knight’s side will feel confident of success going into the summer. They will also be keen to avoid a repeat of their last Test against India, in 2014 at Wormsley, in which – fresh from being handed professional contracts for the first time – they were bowled out for 92 and 202 and lost by six wickets.
“It was a world record for the amount of lbws, and a very green pitch,” Knight recalled. “I think I scored the grand total of one run in two innings, so it’s probably one that I’ve brushed under the carpet little bit.
“Generally it feels like in a Test match you’re finding your feet in the first couple of days, working out how to go about things, and you get to grips with it towards the end. So it’s going to be really key that we’re clear on how we want to go about that Test match.”
The Bristol ground holds happy memories for Knight’s side: they won a World Cup semi-final there in 2017. It has been selected partly because of its track record in attracting large crowds to women’s matches. The government roadmap should by then be at step 3, which would mean the ground could admit spectators at 50% capacity – approximately 3,750 fans on each day of the match.