England Women have been rebuffed in their request to play on a fresh wicket in their Test match against India on Wednesday and will instead have to compete on a pitch used for a men’s game last week, a situation labelled “not ideal” by the captain, Heather Knight.
England’s first Test against India for seven years will take place at Bristol on a pitch first used for Gloucestershire’s T20 Blast match against Sussex last Friday. It will also be the second consecutive home women’s Test allocated a used wicket, after England’s Ashes encounter at Taunton in 2019.
“We found out last week,” said Knight. “We tried to get it changed, but it was a little bit too late for that to happen. It’s not ideal but it is what it is. We’re going to have to perform as best we can on the wicket we’re given.”
It is also the second time in three days that pitch selections for women’s cricket have come under scrutiny. The former England player Alex Hartley of Thunder criticised the choice of a used wicket for her side’s match against Central Sparks at New Road, Worcester in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy on Saturday. Hartley labelled the pitch, which had already been used for a four-day Worcestershire County Championship game, as “just not good enough”.
Knight was more philosophical. “At Taunton there was a lot of talk about the pitch and it didn’t actually do too much, so we’re going to have to wait and see how it plays,” she said. “I’d much prefer us to be playing on a fresh wicket, but it’s not something we can change now. We’ve got to go out there and get our heads around playing on the pitch we’ve been given.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board issued a statement on Tuesday apologising for the pitch. “We are all disappointed that the wicket for the Test match against India will have had 37 overs played on it,” it read. “We know that England Women deserve a fresh wicket and we’re sorry that we were unable to provide that in this instance.
“With the Test only being added to the calendar in mid-April, coupled with the lack of available first-class grounds, we knew a fresh TV pitch was going to be a challenge. We accept that this issue shouldn’t have arisen and we will make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.”
Despite the pitch, both sides will be keen to push for a positive result. The match will be the first element of a points-based series played across all three formats – identical to that used for the Women’s Ashes – and while the three ODIs and T20s which follow will be worth two points each, a win in the opening encounter is worth four points.
India’s captain, Mithali Raj, who last played a Test in 2014, called for the multi-format points-based system to be adopted across all women’s bilateral series. “This is just the beginning,” she said. “Maybe in the coming years it might also lead to a [women’s] World Test Championship.”
England are likely to field at least one Test debutant, the batter Sophia Dunkley, though it remains to be seen whether the uncapped seamer Emily Arlott – who was a surprise call-up to the squad last week – can fight her way into the final XI.
Knight herself will be able to add to England’s bowling stocks with her part-time off-spin after recovering from a back injury. “I’ve been trying to build it up a lot this week and it’s been coming out really nicely,” she said.
India will be by far the more inexperienced of the two sides, with their most likely XI containing four players who have never played a Test.