Lisa Keightley: England face step into unknown without duo in South Africa Test

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Lisa Keightley admitted England face a step into the unknown without Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt in next week’s LV= Insurance women’s Test against South Africa.

While Shrubsole brought her international career to an end a couple of months ago, Brunt announced her Test retirement last weekend after a bout of Covid ended any lingering hopes of featuring at Taunton.

The 36-year-old had been leaning towards focusing on the white-ball formats – even if she revealed it was a “heart-breaking choice” – as playing in this summer’s Commonwealth Games was her utmost priority.

Katherine Brunt announced her retirement from Tests last weekend (Mike Egerton/PA)
Katherine Brunt announced her retirement from Tests last weekend (Mike Egerton/PA)

England will therefore embark upon a new era without their two long-time opening bowlers and have drafted in a quintet of players uncapped at Test level for a four-day match which starts on June 27.

Head coach Keightley looked at the positives of being without Shrubsole and Brunt, who is expected to be with the 13-strong group as she looks to build her fitness for England’s white-ball programme.

“It’s over 10 years of those two having the ball and doing what they do,” said Keightley. “Generally they’re very consistent and you know what you’re going to get.

“We don’t know what we’re going to get but that brings excitement, new opportunities.

“It’s an end of an era and we need to create a new one and see which players are going to stick their hand up and lead the way with the ball. Our hand’s been forced and we’ll wait and see how it goes.”

Emma Lamb was part of the England side that reached the 50-over World Cup final earlier this year and is expected to make her Test debut, opening alongside Tammy Beaumont against the Proteas, which marks the start of a multi-format series, with three one-day internationals and three Twenty20s to follow.

All-rounder Alice Davidson-Richards is back in contention after four years out of the England set-up while Freya Davies, who has played 24 limited-overs internationals, is also pushing for a first Test.

Fellow seamers Emily Arlott and Lauren Bell are uncapped at international level but while Keightley welcomes what they offer, she accepted the team will miss Brunt’s fierce drive and determination.

“I think she’s made the smart call (but) she’ll be a big loss,” added Keightley, who was keeping her cards close to her chest as to which of the bowlers would come into the team.

“Her passion and her fire, I don’t know if we’ve got another person in the team that has that fire as much as she does and that competitive edge and ruthlessness.

Emma Lamb, left, is expected to open alongside Tammy Beaumont against South Africa (David Davies/PA)
Emma Lamb, left, is expected to open alongside Tammy Beaumont against South Africa (David Davies/PA)

“We’ll find out if we’ve got another one in the wings that has the same white-line fever.”

Seam bowler Issy Wong has been named as a travelling reserve, while Georgia Elwiss captains an England A team containing Sarah Glenn, Mady Villiers, Lauren Winfield-Hill and Danni Wyatt that will put the touring South Africans through their paces in a three-day warm-up at Arundel, beginning on Tuesday.

Next week marks South Africa’s first Test since November 2014 and they could field up to 10 debutants.

But their hopes of playing in whites more regularly seemed to be dealt a setback after International Cricket Council chair Greg Barclay told the BBC’s Test Match Special earlier this month that women’s Tests will not be “part of the landscape moving forward to any real extent at all”.

Lisa Keightley has called up five uncapped players for the South Africa Test (Mike Egerton/PA)
Lisa Keightley has called up five uncapped players for the South Africa Test (Mike Egerton/PA)

Asked for her thoughts on Barclay’s remarks, Keightley added: “I’ve been in women’s cricket for a few decades now, it’s disappointing to hear.

“We can say ‘we actually feel like we want to lead the way’. The way to do that is play more Test matches.

“Realistically I don’t think every country can play this format, I get that, but I do think we should challenge and have the desire to improve women’s cricket and grow it.”

England Test squad to face South Africa: H Knight (captain), N Sciver (vice-captain), E Arlott, T Beaumont, L Bell, K Cross, A Davidson-Richards, F Davies, C Dean, S Dunkley, S Ecclestone, A Jones, E Lamb.

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