England relishing Leicester return

As Eoin Morgan’s England side attempt to inspire a generation at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, a group of England players who know exactly what it takes to win a global tournament will be getting their summer underway.

Thursday sees the start of England Women’s Royal London ODI series against West Indies, the first act in a summer that also throws up the small matter of regaining the Women’s Ashes.

Grace Road has become something of a happy hunting ground for Heather Knight’s team of late. Despite a consolation victory for New Zealand in Leicester last summer, Grace Road played host to both Knight’s first game as England captain and a memorable World Cup day out.

KNIGHT’S NEW ERA

Three years ago, like this summer, England’s visit to Leicester marked the beginning of the England Women’s home campaign. That time around it also signalled the start of a new era, with Knight taking charge for the first time as captain.

Although the match saw Katherine Brunt claim her 100th ODI wicket, it was Knight’s performance that stole the headlines.

With Pakistan comfortable at 92-3, the new England skipper brought herself on to bowl her off-spin and 73 runs later it was all over – the skipper claiming figures of 5-26 and Pakistan all out for 165.

In the run-chase that followed, 70 runs from Tammy Beaumont and a strong partnership of 96 with Knight saw England home.

Knight finished unbeaten on 50 to seal victory in her first game in charge, in the process becoming the first woman to take five wickets and score 50 in an ODI.

This victory would only be the start though, as 2016 paved the way for what followed.

SCIVER GOES BIG

England’s visit to Leicester the following year brought more fireworks and further success.

Put into bat by Pakistan with drizzle in the air and off the back of defeat to India in the opening game of the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup, a cagey opening ten overs saw England lose both their openers and slip to 42-2.

But under that pressure England responded as Knight again – this time alongside Nat Sciver – set the platform. The pair put on 213, equalling England’s highest World Cup partnership for any wicket, and both reached their maiden ODI tons.

England’s 377-7 was always going to be too much for Pakistan and the hosts won by DLS to help them get over their opening day defeat to India.

Much like the year before, the win at Leicester prompted a fantastic run of form for England, seeing them go unbeaten for the rest of the tournament and eventually crowned as ICC Women’s World Cup winners.

A BIG SUMMER…

England will be hoping that, much like in 2016 and 2017, a good result at Grace Road against West Indies can kickstart their summer, setting them up as best as possible to try and regain the Ashes from Australia come July.

England will know that if they can replicate any of the form from their last few visits to the East Midlands then they’ll be in with a great chance of getting the two wins and four ICC Women’s Championship points they need to automatically qualify for the 2021 ICC Women’s World Cup.

West Indies won’t be easy, though. Fresh from a dominant 3-0 series win in Ireland, and in need of ICC Women’s Championship points themselves, Stafanie Taylor’s team will be keen to crash the party.

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