With her ability to bang out a disciplined line and length for long spells at a time, Kate Cross is considered something of a Test match specialist when it comes to women's cricket, although that is not quite the accolade that it really ought to be, given how infrequently the format ever comes around.

Nevertheless, with 14 wickets at 14.92 in her three Test appearances, Cross has featured in half of the six matches that England have played in the last decade, and she is hopeful that India's renewed interest could help to revive the longer format, both internationally and at domestic level.

"The format doesn't come round often but it's really special when it does," Cross said on England's first day of training at Bristol, two days out from the start of the Test. "We all get really excited when the whites come out, and we're just looking forward to getting going on Wednesday now.

"Obviously it's very different to the white-ball game, but we try and embrace it as much as possible, because we know we've only got one opportunity to play a Test match this summer. We want it to be a good spectacle for people to watch, so that everyone buys into it, because we obviously wish we could play a bit more of it."

England's last three Tests have all been against Australia, while India have not played the format since 2014. But Cross knows from past experience that a lack of familiarity need not hold back India's talented line-up, having been on the losing end of their encounter at Wormsley that summer.

Cross recalled that England "probably went into that game a bit naively", as India outplayed them to win by six wickets, with Mithali Raj's half-century sealing a dominant display that had begun with bowling their hosts out for 92 on the first day.

"We'd played more Test cricket than India had in the four or five years leading up to that, so I think it was probably a good leveller for us," Cross added. "They came out and played really hard-fought cricket and beat us quite convincingly, actually. It just goes to show that, even though we don't play the format a lot, there's still nothing that you can take for granted."

The India series is the start of a busy summer for England's women - certainly compared to their Covid-ravaged summer of 2020, when West Indies' belated arrival in September allowed them to get back on the field for the first time since the T20 World Cup in Australia in March.

With the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy already in full swing, and the maiden season of the Hundred fast approaching next month, Cross recognises that now may not be the perfect moment for England's women to push for more red-ball cricket in their itinerary. Nevertheless, a strong showing in Bristol this week can only help the cause, now that the women's game is getting more exposure across the board.

"I'm a big advocate for [domestic red-ball cricket]," Cross said. "The longer format is where you learn the real skill of cricket, how to defend good bowling, and how to bowl for longer periods of time and be relentless with your line and length.

"You can't use your saliva so you've got to find the sweatiest member of the team and use their sweat as best as possible. And that's me. It's always me!"
Kate Cross on shining the ball

"I don't think it would be a bad thing to play a longer format, whether that's two- or three-day cricket domestic level.

"Obviously in the next 12 months, it's really important that we establish what we've got now, with the 50-over competition and the T20, and obviously the Hundred as well. But I'm quite positive about the fact that that it could potentially happen. Maybe in the next five years, we might get to a point where we can do that.

"But I've always said our ratio of training to playing has been quite heavily weighted towards the training side, so it's nice that we've actually got a lot of cricket to play and a lot of look forward to."

As for whether Cross gets to add to her three Test caps, she admitted to some nervousness about the quality within England's seam ranks - with the old guard of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole backed up by the likes of Tash Farrant's left-arm angle, as well as the new kid on the block, Emily Arlott, whose four-wicket over for Sparks against Vipers last week propelled her into the reckoning.

"It's always a worry when you've got people working hard to take your spot," Cross said. "But it's great for the team, it's great for our environment, and I think it just goes to show how important those regional contracts are now.

"Both have been bowling really well," she added. "Ems is a tall fast bowler, which you don't see that often in the women's game, so she hits a bit of a harder length than a lot of us do, which is exciting to see, she's obviously got that extra bit of pace

"Tash is very naturally good at swinging the ball, so that offers something different as well with the left-arm option, so it's exciting to have those options in the squad.

"I'm not sure what the team is going to be, but obviously to win a Test match you need the bowlers to stand up and take 20 wickets over four days, so hopefully we've got the depth in the squad to be able to do that."

Ultimately, though, Cross believes that her prior knowledge of red-ball bowling should give her an edge in selection - and jokes that the banning of the use of saliva means that she brings another important consideration to the team.

"A good line and length in Test cricket is a good line and length in most cricket when you've got the new ball," she said. "That's where I've had success in Test cricket when I have played, because it's about who cracks first basically. Who can be most boring for as long as possible, which is more often than not me.

"The big skill with red-ball cricket is trying to get it to reverse from about 40 overs onwards, because nothing much happens with it after that," she added. "You can't use your saliva so you've got to find the sweatiest member of the team and use their sweat as best as possible. And that's me. It's always me!"

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket