“Australia are the form team in world cricket over the last five years, and there’s no getting away from the fact that they are favourites coming into the tournament,” Shrubsole said. “In lots of respects, we don’t have anything to lose coming out here tomorrow.”
England endured a particularly bruising ODI leg of the Ashes, losing all three games by hefty margins after failing to pass 200 in any of their innings. However, after a rain-affected T20I series, and the disappointment of running Australia so close in the Test match in Canberra, Shrubsole insisted the one-off nature of their World Cup meeting offered a chance for a refreshed mindset.
“There’s no getting away from the fact that it was a really difficult tour,” Shrubsole said. “At the front end of the tour we played some really good cricket and stood toe-to-toe, but in those last two ODIs we went away from what we’re about as a team and that’s one of the most disappointing things. You accept that you’re going to lose sometimes, but you at least want to lose in the way you want to play.”
England have at least had an opportunity to “park” the Ashes, in the words of the captain Heather Knight, having spent a week in Queenstown following their seven-day quarantine period, before two comfortable victories over Bangladesh and South Africa in their warm-up matches last week.
“We’ve had quarantines, we’ve had some time in Queenstown, we’ve had warm-up games, so I think that’s completely behind us,” Shrubsole said. “We’re just really excited to start our World Cup campaign.”
England’s World Cup defence has already been delayed by a year due to the pandemic, which puts even more distance between this squad of players and the team that won the 2017 competition. And while Shrubsole said she was happy to embrace the happy memories of that last campaign, she also recognised there was no room to rest on past glories.
“That was an amazing tournament to be a part of,” she said. “To be able to play in a World Cup in your home country is something really special, and something that all of the girls who were involved will never forget. But five years has passed, a lot has changed. That has absolutely zero bearing on what happens here. The teams and players have all evolved, and we’re obviously desperate to come here and try and defend this title.
“We showed in the Ashes, if we play our best cricket, we’re really competitive, we just didn’t win those key moments,” she added. “But the beauty of a World Cup is they’re all one-off games. And we believe that if we play our best cricket on any one day, we will be really competitive.”
Australia have received a setback on the eve of the contest with the news that Ashleigh Gardner has tested positive for Covid and will be forced to isolate for ten days. Shrubsole said that the development had put the England squad on “high alert”, and called on sporting authorities to learn to live with a virus “that isn’t going to go away”.
“First and foremost, my thoughts go to Ash,” Shrubsole said. “No-one wants anyone in any team to get Covid and have to isolate, so I can imagine it’s pretty gutting for her and hopefully she’ll only miss a couple of games.
“I’d have been amazed if it was a Covid-free tournament. You obviously have your fingers crossed and hope that, but I guess it just puts everyone on high alert. You know that it’s always a possibility.
“It’s been two years now and Covid isn’t going to go away. Fingers crossed there isn’t too much of it around and we can have a really good tournament.”
In anticipation of a significant number of Covid outbreaks, the ICC adapted the World Cup playing conditions to allow for nine players per side, as well as fielding substitutions from female non-playing squad members. Shrubsole, however, believes that ramping up the tournament’s measures to combat Covid would be the wrong approach.
“Having been involved in some really strict Covid bubbles, my answer would be no,” she said. “They’re really, really challenging and I think to ask players to do that over and over and over again just isn’t sustainable.
“We have to find a way, globally, with governing bodies or whatever when they have series, to make it work with a bit of a backdrop of Covid. I’m absolutely gutted for Ash that it’s happened to her, but I do think it’s inevitable and I don’t think the answer is really strict bio-secure bubbles because they’re just not realistic over a long period of time.”
Both teams will wear black armbands on Saturday, in memory of the former Australia wicketkeeper Rod Marsh, who has died aged 74.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket