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England seek World Cup refresh as Kate Cross reveals difficulties of dealing with restrictions

"Still an element of that that might be getting a little bit overlooked from people outside of the cricket environment"

Kate Cross has warned that the difficulties of being required to live in bio-secure bubbles in order to play cricket "might be getting a little bit overlooked", as England approach a critical juncture in their World Cup defence out in New Zealand. Though bio-security protocols in the world tournament in New Zealand allow players to eat outdoors within Covid-safety guidelines and even visit beaches, Cross stressed "the need to have your ways of getting away from cricket".
Narrow defeats in their opening two games, against Australia and West Indies, have left England needing to deploy what captain, Heather Knight, called a "knockout mindset" if they are going to progress from the round-robin group stage, starting with a fixture against South Africa - the team they beat in dramatic circumstances at the semi-final stage of the 2017 competition, before going on to lift the trophy at Lord's.
England have had a few days to regroup after a seven-run loss to West Indies in Dunedin, having moved up to the north island for their next three games - South Africa and India in Mount Mauganui, followed by the hosts in Auckland. Cross, who was run-out in unfortunate circumstances after a 61-run stand for the ninth wicket with Sophie Ecclestone had taken England to within sight of victory, said it was important for the players to find ways to get away from the game.
"We have had a tough start to the tournament," Cross said. "I don't think we can come too far away from saying anything other than that. I think coming here to Mount Maunganui has actually been a really refreshing stage of the tournament for us because we've been away for a long time now, obviously, the Ashes on to the start of this tournament. So it was nice to get a little bit of space have a little bit of time off without all the travel days that we've been having.
"The mood's good… It would be very easy for us to go into our shells at this point. But we know that we've got a lot of improvements to make in order to win these games. And the beauty of it is that we're only losing them by small margins. So if we can play our best cricket, which I've no doubt that we can, then things could very quickly change for us."
It is more than two months since England's squad travelled halfway around the world for the Ashes, before going straight on to the World Cup. During that time they have had to deal with the tighter restrictions laid down by authorities in Australia and New Zealand - having spent almost two years playing in biosecure bubbles due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"You've kind of got the beach on your back doorstep here, it's a lot more refreshing," Cross said of their current surroundings. "[But] we still are confined. Obviously we're confined to our hotels and to not being able to go out to eat in restaurants and stuff, so I think there's still an element of that that might be getting a little bit overlooked from maybe people outside of the cricket environment who don't quite understand it. And we're pretty much two years now that we've been in these environments. So it's very strange as well to think that when we go back home, there's absolutely no Covid restrictions and there'll be no testing for it either.
"When we can start stringing performances together in terms of the batting unit and the bowling unit and the fielding unit together, then I think we can start getting some wins on the board"
Kate Cross
"So it is a big part of the game. I think we've realised that from having to go through so much of it in the last few years that it is difficult, and you need to have your ways of getting away from cricket and being able to kind of refresh yourself. And like I said, hopefully that's what Mount Maunganui has done for us in the last couple of days because we've had a rare day off, which was very, very nice."
While defeat to Australia, the favourites for the tournament, saw England make the second-highest score batting second in a women's ODI - and featured Nat Sciver's scintillating 85-ball 109 not out - there were fewer positives to take from the West Indies game. Afterwards Knight called for an improvement in catching, after England put down seven chances in Dunedin, as well as the team's death bowling.
Both Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, the World Cup-winning leaders of England's attack, experienced off days against West Indies, but Cross said there was no doubt about their ability to make a difference when it counts. With five teams above them already on four points or more, that time is approaching fast.
"I think we actually bowled better against the West Indies," she said. "We probably let ourselves down a little bit in the field, which again is going to be something that we're going to rectify on Monday, and make sure we bring in that energy and look to be positive. I think sometimes when you lose, it's very easy to go into your shells, especially in a tournament like this where there's a lot of eyes on you and a lot of scrutiny, but I think if we can still play that really positive brand cricket that we've played for so long now, we can stand ourselves in good stead.
"As a bowling unit it's important that we remember why we've been so successful in the past 18 months. We might have gone away from those plans a little bit too soon. You've got a bowl your best ball for as long as you can really in one-day cricket. But yeah, Katherine and Anya have obviously got a record that speaks for itself and you know that they'll come into their own when we absolutely need them. And that's again, an exciting thing for me, is that we've not quite seen our bowling unit at its absolute best yet.
"So I think when we can start stringing performances together in terms of the batting unit and the bowling unit and the fielding unit together, then I think we can start getting some wins on the board."