“We’ve really looked at how we played the last two years and after the World Cup and had a look at the areas that we needed to improve in,” Keightley, England’s head coach, said. “We’ve had really good conversations and hopefully we’re picking the players that we think can go out and do that. It’s their time, I think… and the structure underneath, the regional structure, has given them confidence to come in and play at the next level.”
“We’ve had a lot of cricket between here and there,” Keightley said. “It’s always great to get on a bandwagon really early but I think she’s matured. Going over to Australia and seeing her travel and play probably a little bit under the radar, she’s been really clear on what we want her to do and how we want her to play and I just think her time is now.
“She gives us a lot of options with the ball and she can float in a batting order and tends to be able to move quite freely with a good strike rate, so we’ve always had an eye on her. Sometimes the skipper doesn’t want to put too much pressure on a young kid too early and I think she’s done that really well.”
“Obviously Tammy’s an amazing player,” Keightley said. “She’s performed really well over a long period of time and I suppose the challenge is out to Tam to go away and work on things that we’ve been working on and show us why she should be in the squad. I’m sure she’ll bounce back and that’s what we want, really. We want pressure on and players getting better in every format.
“In 50-over cricket you can’t match Tammy’s record. I think it speaks for itself. In T20, I think there’s still some room for growth and improvement there and now it’s up to her to go away and do it. The Hundred’s a fantastic opportunity to do that, and we’ll see what she can do.”
Dunkley’s move to No. 3 has proven successful early in the ODIs and Keightley suggested the middle order, which also includes Knight, could remain fluid depending on match situations and how players settle into their roles.
“It’s been interesting how it’s evolved,” Keightley said of Dunkley’s promotion. “Performing not as well as we wanted up front and losing early wickets and being quite slow has made us think about, well, how can we improve that?
“It’s quite clear how we want the openers to go out and bat in 50-over cricket and then we felt Sophia’s improving. She’s a clean striker. Usually if we lost a wicket or we’re going well her strike rate’s roughly going to be around the same.
“She just gives us that punch-ability, I suppose, if we did lose a wicket, for her to go out and play her natural game and put hopefully the bowlers back under pressure.”
Wicketkeeper Amy Jones, who in ODIs has played in every position from No. 1-7 since her debut in 2013 has batted predominantly at No. 5 since the end of 2019, reaching fifty only twice in that time. In T20Is she moved from opener to the middle order at the end of the World Cup in 2020 with limited success.
“Amy would admit that she probably hasn’t finished games off for us and gone the way that we want probably consistently and we know Heather is cool and calm under pressure,” Keightley added. “If we’re in trouble, she can work with players around her to read the situation a little bit better than probably we have in the past, so I still think three, four and five could be flexible moving forward.”
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo