Heather Knight aims to 'punch first' against aggressive Australia

England's captain says the team has grown stronger since losing the 2019 Ashes, with a 'lot more leaders in the side'

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Heather Knight ahead of the coin toss, 3rd ODI, England vs New Zealand, Leicester, September 21, 2021

Heather Knight: 'They are very aggressive, and we want to be the same and go right back at them.'  •  Getty Images

Heather Knight wants England to go toe-to-toe with Australia's aggressive mindset during the T20Is which launch the multi-format Ashes in Adelaide and the captain expects the players to show themselves in a better light after the one-sided 2019 series.
England have not held the Ashes since victory in Australia in 2013-14 and the previous series ended at 12-4, which brought the end of Mark Robinson's tenure as head coach, although the last time they were held Down Under in 2017-18, their overall scoreline was tied 8-8 .
Knight again called the build-up "quite average" with the range of Covid-related curveballs that had been thrown England's way, but now that the teams are in Adelaide, she said the minds have been focused.
"We are going to have to be positive and trust our game massively against them," Knight said. "They are very aggressive, and we want to be the same and go right back at them.
"I have made it no secret that the last Ashes [series] was tough, we massively underperformed, and didn't play anywhere near our potential in 2019. Everything we've done has been about addressing that, and when you have a big loss like that, it leaves a bit of soul-searching and what you can do better. We definitely did that, we feel like we've built as a group, taken a lot more ownership and have a lot more leaders in the side."
As with many tours in the Covid-19 era, England have a larger-than-usual squad which is supplemented by further players in the A group which will have concurrent matches against Australia A. The depth of the home side is much talked about, but Knight believes England also now have a far wider group of players capable of performing at the international level. There was a glimpse of this when the main side was twice beaten in warm-up matches in Canberra.
"There's a bigger squad to pick from, I've certainly noticed that in the last year to 18 months," Knight said. "The number of players we are talking about has grown all the time, which we feel is a huge strength for us. Having those selection headaches is really nice."
"T20 cricket is one of our strongest formats, we are really clear how we want to go about playing T20."
Heather Knight, England captain
The initial schedule had this series starting with the Test match, but a reshuffling of fixtures to allow the teams more time to quarantine in New Zealand ahead of the ODI World Cup has meant a shift to begin with T20Is. While that has forced some quick tactical and preparation rethinking, Knight is backing her team's T20 prowess.
Since the heartbreak of seeing their T20 World Cup semi-final washed out in Sydney two years ago, England have won 12 of 14 matches and going back since the 2019 Ashes it's 19 from 26 games.
"T20 cricket is one of our strongest formats, so I think that will suit us quite nicely, we are really clear how we want to go about playing T20," Knight said. "Think the last few series we've really looked to go hard in that first game, previously it's been a weakness of ours. There will obviously be nerves around, that's completely normal, but we are confident we can cope with that and punch first against Australia."
Knight said that England's XI for the opening match had been decided but she would not be revealing it until the game.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo