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Georgia Elwiss welcomes pressure as competition for England Women Test spots heats up

"You never want to get an England cap by default, you want to really earn it"

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Georgia Elwiss plays to the off side  •  Getty Images

Georgia Elwiss plays to the off side  •  Getty Images

Like all of us emerging from what seems like the longest of winters, Georgia Elwiss is feeling the heat - and loving it.
After three rounds of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, competition for places in the England squads ahead of home series against India and New Zealand in September, was keen. Before Saturday's fourth round, the 17-strong squad for next week's Test against India in Bristol had been trimmed to 15, with legspinner Sarah Glenn and seamer Freya Davies returning to their domestic teams.
Elwiss, the allrounder who is hoping to add to her career tally of three Test when the final XI is decided, has "one hundred percent" noticed an increase in the quality of matches - and therefore the number of players pressing for selection - since the introduction of full-time domestic contracts this season for players outside the ECB's centrally contracted list.
"I was asked if that brings more pressure and I think yes, it does definitely, but I think it's a good pressure," Elwiss said. "You're always competing with yourself and I think people around you going for your spot playing well means you've then got to raise your game.
"You never want to get an England cap by default, you want to really earn it, and I think that's what you're going to see. You've seen already the last couple of games, people have put their hands up and it just makes you be on top of your game, and put in those performances, which is how it should be."
Elwiss, who has retained her central contract, was - on paper - a predictable selection for the longest and, for the women, rarest format, having played all three Ashes Tests from 2015 onwards. But contending with injury for a considerable part of the past two years, she has had limited opportunities to gauge her form at international level.
When Elwiss was troubled by back pain on England's ODI tour of India in February 2019, scans revealed a small stress fracture. She was out of action until the Ashes Test nearly five months later and played the second T20I against Australia 10 days after that.
It was her last England cap as a back problem also ruled her out of England's five hastily arranged T20Is against West Indies last summer and she was an unused member of the white-ball squad which toured New Zealand earlier this year.
In the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, Elwiss had a modest start to the season for Southern Vipers with 55 runs and two wickets from three matches. Elwiss has obvious ambitions to remain in the international set-up and, as the domestic 50-over competition is the only indicator of form for any of the players involved, previous experience of Test match conditions will come into consideration. But she has a more pressing aim too.
"My main goal this summer is to stay fit and stay on the park," Elwiss said. "Playing for England is the ultimate goal but I'm under no illusion that I need to be playing well to do that.
"The athleticism of the girls and the fitness levels of the girls have really improved and I think that'll keep us playing a lot longer as well"
Georgia Elwiss
"I'm really pleased that girls around me are doing well and pushing me on because it's going to make me be a better cricketer as well and I suppose if I can do the best I can do in the games that I'm playing then the selection is sort of irrelevant, it will take care of itself, hopefully. Yeah, that's the ultimate goal but I think it's not something that I focus on a lot."
While the new domestic structure has set the stage for someone like Emily Arlott, the 23-year-old Central Sparks seamer who earned a maiden England call-up after four wickets in an over against the Vipers, it has also allowed older players to carry on when they might otherwise have retired.
"Just having that step down, if you decided you wanted to retire from international level and still play, you see people like Jenny Gunn doing that and still really enjoying and thriving in her career," Elwiss said.
"Now you can pretty much go for as long as you want to as long as you're fit and healthy and I think that's been a thing that's come in the last few years as well, the athleticism of the girls and the fitness levels of the girls have really improved and I think that'll keep us playing a lot longer as well."
Having just turned 30, Elwiss describes herself as an "old girl" but, with careful management of her back and another central contract, along with a deal to play for Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred, she is ready for a big international summer she hopes will start with a place in the Test team from Wednesday.
"I love playing Test cricket and I will always want to play Test cricket," said Elwiss at an event earlier this month to mark 50 days until the Hundred starts on July 21. "It suits my game quite well... all I can do is play well in the games that I've got in front of me and hopefully that puts me in a good position.
"But for me the most important thing for me is playing cricket and enjoying cricket."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo