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New Zealand women v England women 2024

Five questions for England women to answer on their white ball tour of New Zealand

Charlie Dean celebrates playing a T20I for England women
by Katya Witney 3 minute read

England women will tour New Zealand for five T20Is and three ODIs starting next week (March 19). Here’s what’s on their check-list ahead of the series.

With the countdown on to the T20 World Cup in October, England only have eight further T20Is scheduled after the series in New Zealand. With that in mind, the series presents an opportunity to solidify plans going into the competition, and to narrow down the playing group earmarked to travel to Bangladesh in six months time.

What spin balance fits best?

With Sophie Ecclestone unavailable for the first three T20Is, England have drafted in leg-spinner Linsey Smith alongside Sarah Glenn and Charlie Dean. In last year’s T20 World Cup, three spinners were preferred in South African conditions to compliment a two-seam attack along with Nat Sciver-Brunt.

However, in their most recent tour of India, in only one of the three T20Is did England go with the three-spinner balance, instead using an extra seamer. While the squad selected for this series only includes two specialist seamers (Lauren Bell and Lauren Filer), how they manage without Ecclestone in the side will also be an important learning experience. Dean took the lead while Ecclestone was out injured against Sri Lanka at the end of the 2023 summer, but only took one wicket across three T20Is (she had more success in the ODI series).

Who are the second/third seamers?

England’s much talked about group of young fast bowlers coming through the ranks is beginning to look suddenly quite thin compared to this time last year. With Bell established as the leader of the attack in T20Is, Filer has been entrusted as her deputy for the New Zealand series.

Mahika Gaur, who had a challenging T20I tour of India, is back in England completing her school exams while Issy Wong’s difficult outing against Sri Lanka last summer was her only match in and England shirt in 2023. Freya Kemp’s back injury is still being managed and she won’t be a part of the T20I series. While clearly trying to strike a balance between experience and workload management, England are risking their fast-bowlers going into Bangladesh undercooked.

Can Dunkley find her form again?

Sophia Dunkley’s form has been the most prominent question over England’s batting lineup over the last year. Promoted up the order to open in 2022 following success in the Hundred, she averaged just 17 in T20Is in 2023, passing 50 once. While Jon Lewis has been clear that he sees the potentially explosive opening partnership between Danni Wyatt and Dunkley crucial, there are signs Dunkley’s place could be under threat.

Tammy Beaumont has been recalled to the T20I squad after an exceptional short-format summer, and Maia Bouchier has also made the trip after deputising for Dunkley against Sri Lanka. A relatively long T20I series could provide an opportunity to Test replacements at the top.

How to solidify consistent success?

While England won their most recent T20I series in India, their results in the format have been patchy over the last couple of years. They were beaten by Sri Lanka for the first time last summer, albeit missing key squad members, having beaten Australia less than two months before.

Even in India, there were definite holes to be exploited. While England put on 197-6 in the first T20I, only three batters made double figures in the innings. Having bowled India out for 80 in the second match, they slipped to 73-6 before reaching their target. In India’s only win in the final match of the series, four batters were dismissed for golden ducks before England were skittled out for 126. While there’s been definite progress in approach over Lewis’ tenure to date, consistent success and being able to dominate games is still not consistently there.

Can the new faces break into the first-choice squad?

The absence of familiar faces for the first part of the series has given a chance to Hollie Armitage and Linsey Smith to force their way into mainstream contention. With England’s spin riches, Smith has a chance to advocate for spot as Sarah Glenn’s understudy and pick up a first international cap since 2019.

Armitage’s sustained domestic returns also give her an outside shot of breaking into a batting order which has been difficult to find a sustained place in apart from its main core. While neither player would necessarily have been on T20 World Cup radar, there’s an opportunity to infiltrate the conversation around the wider squad that will head to Bangladesh in October.

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