England Women will kick off a busy summer schedule with their first Test match against India in almost seven years, with captain Heather Knight stressing the importance of keeping the format alive.
Test cricket remains a peripheral part of the landscape in women’s cricket, with just eight such fixtures worldwide in the past decade and six of those Ashes contests.
England and India have not taken each other on in the format since 2014, when the tourists triumphed by six wickets at Wormsley, but that will change when Bristol’s County Ground plays host to a four-day clash, starting on June 16.
That is the first of 15 matches for Lisa Keightley’s side, with India staying on for six white-ball games before New Zealand arrive for three Twenty20s and five one-day internationals.
Despite the prevalence of limited-overs, Knight admits there is something special about donning the whites.
“I love playing Test cricket. One of my proudest moments in an England shirt is scoring a Test century,” she said.
“It’s really important that we keep Test cricket going in the women’s game. Realistically, T20 is what’s going to grow women’s cricket around the world and we’ve seen that over the last five years, but I’d love to keep playing Test cricket and to see the multi-format series that we do for the Ashes as the norm going forward.
“I’d also love to play a Test match in India, which I think it would be a massive challenge.”
Knight, for whom the fixture is almost a hometown date, added that the Test announcement had already generated a buzz around the squad.
“There’s definitely been loads of chat about the Test match here at Loughborough, we’re a week back in training after a bit of a break and all the girls are trying to get their heads around how they’re going to prepare for that Test match,” she said.
“Because you only have one you feel like you desperately want to perform in that match, you know the next one’s not going to come around for a while. It’s going to be a really big occasion and, coming from the south west, I’m really chuffed that it’s going to be down at Bristol as well. Hopefully we can put on a show and make it a really good game of cricket.”
Knight was sanguine about the absence of the biggest stadiums in the country from the schedule, suggesting a regular slot at venues such as Lord’s was a longer range goal.
“I think it’s something that’s an ambition and should be worked towards,” she said.
“We haven’t played at those bigger venues internationally, apart from World Cup finals, for a long time. Places like Taunton or Bristol, where people really come and support us work really well for women’s cricket and Chelmsford has been amazing. Being realistic about trying to sell out the smaller venues consistently should be a target first.”
England Women fixtures this summer:
Jun 16-19: LV= Insurance Test match v India
Jun 27-Jul 3: Royal London ODI series v India
Jul 9-15: Vitality IT20 series v India
Sep 1-9: Vitality IT20 series v New Zealand
Sep 16-26: Royal London ODI series v New Zealand