England to drop World Cup hints during New Zealand T20 series

Heather Knight says hosts won't be afraid to try out their plans, even if conditions don't suit

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
England's upcoming T20I series against New Zealand could give the strongest indication yet of how England plan to line up at the World Cup in Bangladesh.
Speaking from a soggy Southampton before the first of five fixtures on Saturday, England captain Heather Knight said that while conditions were virtually impossible to replicate at home, her side would look to play combinations and scenarios as though they were there.
"All we can do as players is be as prepared as we can," Knight said. "In terms of prepping the team, just little things like playing teams that we think we're going to play in Bangladesh, that are definitely an option.
"Regardless of conditions here, we're going to have that mantra to try and prepare us as if we're playing in Bangladesh and try things out regardless of what the conditions are here.
"So we will see potential things that we'll do in Bangladesh rather than necessarily, 'right, it looks a bit green here, we probably would play a seamer, usually an extra seamer,' we probably won't do that in these conditions.
"Obviously the aim is to try and win, but we've got a bigger picture with the World Cup coming up in the back of the mind as well.
"It's always a fine balance between prepping individuals but also trying to get your team balance and try a few things potentially that might not be conducive to the conditions here, but might actually fit the conditions in Bangladesh. That's going to be the forefront of our decision-making as a leadership group."
If their recent sweep of three ODIs against the White Ferns is any indication, England may have the luxury of keeping an experimental mindset no matter what the pitch, weather or opposition throws at them.
Having romped to victory by nine and eight wickets in the first two games, even chasing a target of 212 in 42 overs at a rain-hit Bristol on Wednesday looked comfortable as England eased to a five-wicket win off the back of Lauren Bell's five-for and a 90-run stand between Nat Sciver-Brunt and Amy Jones, who both scored fifties.
Knight said England were "pretty close" to knowing the make-up of their squad for the T20 World Cup.
"There's just a couple of spots that we want to get finalised and sorted," she said. "In terms of what we want to see, it's the way we want to play in Bangladesh, the skills that we're going to need as batters and bowlers to be successful in Bangladesh.
"Picking fifteens and picking elevens in particular is really tough at the moment. The girls are putting in performances, which is making it a lot trickier for us, which is a really good place to be. It shows the competition that we've got and the players that are performing.
"We're going to need that whole squad in Bangladesh. Someone can get ill on the morning of a game, so we're going to need a squad where we've got enough back-up and enough players that can fill different places in different conditions. We're close and hopefully we'll be pretty set at the back end of the series."
Freya Kemp is available as an allrounder against New Zealand after a long spell playing as a batter only while returning from a back injury.
Sophia Dunkley is also part of the squad after being dropped following a disappointing tour of New Zealand earlier this year. She scored 15 off 24 balls batting a No. 5 in her comeback match during the third ODI earlier this week.
Seamer Bell enjoyed a breakthrough moment in Bristol with her maiden five-wicket haul, having endured a difficult period in which she was working on changing her bowling while facing New Zealand and Pakistan before that.
"It was huge for her," Knight said of Bell's performance. "We had a little bit of a catch-up that morning and she was pretty nervous to see how it would go and she was brilliant. I think it'll be huge for her confidence.
"Sometimes when you're working through those things I on an international stage, and on a domestic stage as well, it can be really tricky because a lot of people are outcome-focused. But ultimately we knew she would come good eventually, it was just a question of when and those things bedding in.
"Going through that tricky period and having to work through it to come up with a few processes that are going to help her as well, a few mental routines that she's now got, to be able to do that, I think that'll be a huge learning for her going forward."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women's cricket, at ESPNcricinfo