England begin their Women’s Twenty20 World Cup campaign against South Africa on Sunday and it is an exciting time for the side.
Many of the faces remain the same but they have a new head coach in charge after Lisa Keightley replaced Mark Robinson in January.
Although Keightley is familiar to many, having previously been in charge of England women’s academy between 2011 and 2015, her arrival still brings a new direction to the group.
While experienced heads like captain Heather Knight, Anya Shrubsole, Katherine Brunt and Danielle Wyatt still form the core of the team, there are some young players coming through who will be keen to impress Keightley and make a name for themselves.
Spinners Sarah Glenn and Mady Villiers will have grown up watching some of the legends of the women’s game that they are now team-mates with and that is a great platform on which to learn.
A World Cup is a hugely exciting time and England have the advantage of being in the easier of the tournament’s two groups alongside South Africa, West Indies, Pakistan and Thailand.
England are ranked No2 in the world for T20 so should be confident of winning all of their group games.
They won’t be complacent because weaker teams can turn into banana skins, especially in the higher-pressure situation of a tournament, but their fortunate draw should allow them to acclimatise and build up towards the latter stages.
Knight’s side have already played two warm-up games, beating New Zealand but suffering a heavy defeat against Sri Lanka, and they now have the chance to find form and try to peak when it matters.
Although they haven’t won the T20 World Cup since 2009, England are the current 50-over world champions and made it to the final of the last T20 World Cup in 2018, so they have plenty of experience of performing on the big stage.
As the hosts, world No1s and four-time winners, Australia are the heavy favourites to lift the trophy on 8 March.
Australia have lost just five of 31 T20 matches since January 2018. They have five or six gun players and some superstars like Ellyse Perry and if they are firing on all cylinders then they will be hard to stop.
Australia’s women are paid as much as the men’s national team and play in the Big Bash, which attracts impressive crowds, and those factors have a direct correlation to their success.
England can’t meet Australia until the semi-finals, but if they do come up against them it should be a great match. Although they suffered a 12-4 loss in the Ashes last summer, they have had some good battles over the years.
Finally, the tournament will be the first to include front-foot no-ball technology, with the third umpire monitoring the line instead of the on-field umpire.
This simple move makes a great deal of sense and I can’t believe it hasn’t come along sooner.
No-balls have been a problem for some time and, provided it doesn’t slow the game down, it will be a welcome addition.