England captain Heather Knight and five other members of the national squad that beat West Indies 5-0 in September’s T20I series will fly to Australia for the Women’s Big Bash League on Saturday. Nat Sciver and Katherine Brunt have already been announced as overseas signings by the Melbourne Stars, while Knight revealed in the presentation after Wednesday’s match that she has signed a deal to play in the competition, as have Tammy Beaumont, Amy Jones and Sarah Glenn.
Beaumont (Melbourne Renegades), Jones (Perth Scorchers) and Knight (Hobart Hurricanes) all held contracts in last season’s WBBL, but the teams they will play for this season remain unconfirmed. Glenn, Player of the Series against West Indies, will be playing in the competition for the first time, and is set to join the Perth Scorchers.
Meanwhile, it is understood that the ECB is open to allowing players to appear in India’s Women’s T20 Challenge, and will sign No-Objection Certificates (NOCs) assuming it is satisfied with the Covid-19 protocols in place.
ESPNcricinfo revealed on Wednesday that the BCCI is likely to stage the three-team tournament from November 4-9 – during the IPL playoffs week – with plans in place to involve overseas players despite the clash with the WBBL, which begins on October 25 in Sydney.
Although the BCCI is yet to make any formal announcements on the tournament’s fixtures or quarantine requirements, it is understood that both the Indian and overseas players will arrive in the UAE by the third week of October. All the three squads would be put up at one hotel, which will be part of a biosecure bubble. Just like the eight IPL franchises, the women’s contingent will undergo a mandatory six-day quarantine at the team hotel during which tests would be carried out on days one, three and five.
The selection process for squads the T20 Challenge has already begun, and English players are expected to be big draws. Sophie Ecclestone, the No. 1-ranked T20I bowler, and Danni Wyatt both appeared in the 2019 edition, and would be among the top overseas players involved if recruited, not least in the absence of Australian internationals due to the WBBL running parallel. Wyatt missed Wednesday’s fifth T20I for personal reasons.
It is understood that at least one top-flight England player had been waiting for an official update on the T20 Challenge before committing to the WBBL, but with details on the Indian competition slow to come out and a mandatory two-week quarantine set upon arrival in Australia, time for stalling ran out. Other players who could find spots might include Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Sophia Dunkley, Anya Shrubsole and Kate Cross.
England players not involved in either competition will have two weeks off at the start of October after leaving the biosecure bubble in Derby, before reporting to Loughborough for a training camp for seven weeks of training before Christmas with no international cricket scheduled for the rest of the year.
“The girls will have a few weeks off, then go back to Loughborough,” Knight said. “It’s fair to acknowledge it’s been quite tough, living in a bubble the whole time. It’s been particularly hard for the girls not playing, so credit to them.
“I think they need [the time off],” said Lisa Keightley, England’s head coach. “It’s been quite draining here – tougher than you might think – so it’s good to have a bit of a break, which they’re all looking forward to.
“It’ll be awesome for those players that are going to get a bit more cricket. It’s been pretty lean so, I’m sure they’re really looking forward to going out there and playing.
“We know [the WBBL] is a really good competition so the standard will be good. If you’re performing in that you know you’re travelling pretty well so it’s very exciting for those girls going out.”
England’s next international series is likely to be in New Zealand in early 2021, with NZC describing the tour as “confirmed” in a press release this week after it had previously been mooted by ECB chief executive Tom Harrison.
Cricket Australia are also in talks with NZC regarding a possible women’s tour, with some possibility that the sides could play a tri-series.
Additional reporting by Annesha Ghosh