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Lisa Keightley happy for Australia to carry 'extra pressure' of World Cup favourites tag

Lauren Winfield-Hill will open batting despite indifferent form, confirms England's Australian coach

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
03-Mar-2022
Lisa Keightley is more than happy for Australia to carry the "extra pressure" of being favourites into the World Cup as her side prepares to defend their title, starting against their arch rivals on Saturday.
Keightley, England's head coach, was part of the Australian teams which won the trophy in 1997 and 2005 and was Player of the Series when New Zealand triumphed on home soil in 2000. She believes that England have what it takes to win the World Cup five years on from defeating India in the final at Lord's, despite their comprehensive defeat in the Ashes.
A day after opener Tammy Beaumont said that England had been "written off" unfairly before the tournament, Keightley cited New Zealand's nine-wicket warm-up win over Australia as a chance for a team to build momentum at the right time.
"I'm happy to be where we are and Australia be favourites, that's for sure," Keightley said. "I think that becomes an extra pressure. If Australia look at it that way, I'm not too sure, but we know they've played pretty consistent cricket over the last two years. So, to be honest, they probably are favourites. They mightn't say it but I think we all know that they probably are favourites.
"In saying that, I think there's a number of teams that, if you play well on your day and you take your chances, you can win a game of cricket. If that's against Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, we've got to be playing good cricket, I do know that much for sure, and sometimes you've just got to get over the line and get the points."
Keightley confirmed that Lauren Winfield-Hill would join Beaumont at the top of the order after her half-century in England's first warm-up match with Bangladesh. Winfield-Hill hasn't scored an ODI fifty since November 2016, well before she and Beaumont opened together in England's last fifty-over World Cup campaign.
"It's definitely going to be Lauren and Tammy," Keightley said. "As an opening combination, they've got a lot of experience. They really enjoy batting together. Lauren, in the last 12 matches, is averaging 28 and I expect her to improve that and dominate. The thing that they've done really well throughout the time they've got back together opening is how we start.
"Usually they give us a pretty good foundation and it's up to, as an opening bat for both players, to get big runs for us and extend a partnership as big as they can. I think in our group at the minute we've prepped for them to open for this World Cup, and we're backing both girls in to get us off to good starts and cash in when they can."
Keightley said England's entire batting line-up was "going in the right direction" following the disappointment of the Ashes, in which they were bowled out three times for modest totals as Australia swept the one-day leg of the series 3-0.
"We've seen over the last 18 months that our batters can score runs against good bowling attacks, which has given us confidence, and then we saw in the Ashes, moments of our batters taking it to the Australian bowlers and putting them under pressure.
"A couple of times throughout that Ashes we were in positions to win and that's what you need to do. "The disappointing thing that we all had was we didn't take those moments. It was tough in the last two games."
Keightley also said Tash Farrant had recovered from a bout of food poisoning which forced her from the field mid-over during the Bangladesh match and it was hoped she could regain her strength sufficiently to be available for selection ahead of Saturday's match in Hamilton.
Fellow seam bowlers Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole are "in a good place", Keightley added, with the veteran pair continuing to have their workloads managed, as was the case through the Ashes. Pitches and conditions will dictate whether Charlie Dean, who made her international debut in the home series against New Zealand last year, joins Sophie Ecclestone as a second spinner.
Christchurch is expected to throw up a fast, seam-friendly surface for England's sixth match, against Pakistan on March 24, which could see Dean left out, but Keightley looked forward to the possibility of Brunt and Shrubsole bowling in tandem. Brunt was the leading wicket-taker in the Ashes with 11 from four matches at an average of 13.45 while Shrubsole took three wickets from four matches.
"They both know their bodies really well," Keightley said. "We'll obviously look to see how they're travelling throughout the tournament because we definitely want them at the back end.
"We don't want to show all our cards but we know if they're opening together, our powerplay is usually pretty good, so if we're fully fit and play our strongest side, there's definitely that combination that we like to get together as much as we can. But we'll wait and see on match-ups and pitches and we'll go from there."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo