England Women may be without Charlie Dean for the opening game of the Twenty20 series against India on Wednesday after the outsider picked up a gastrointestinal infection during the recent England A series against India.
Jon Lewis, the England head coach, had hoped to use the 22-year-old as a third spin option during the tour, but captain Heather Knight said Dean was still recovering from her illness and it was doubtful whether she would do so Be ready for the start on Wednesday in Mumbai.
In other promising news for England, Sophie Ecclestone is likely to return to international action after the world No. 1 suffered a shoulder injury that ruled her out of the series against Sri Lanka in September. On Tuesday, Knight described the left-arm spinner as “fit and firing”.
England face India in three T20s at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, followed by a four-day Test – incredibly the first time England’s women have played a Test on the subcontinent in 18 years. It is England’s first appearance since a home T20 series defeat against Sri Lanka in September and could prove a tough test of their ability to cope with sub-continental conditions.
Against Sri Lanka, Knight’s side were bowled out for 104 and 116, with 15 of those 20 wickets coming in a tailspin. In response, Lewis organized an emergency striking boot camp in Mumbai in October, attended by Next Gen crew Alice Capsey, Sophia Dunkley, Danielle Gibson, Bess Heath, Freya Kemp and Emma Lamb. The aim was to provide a preview of the years to come, including the 2024 T20 World Cup in Bangladesh and the 2025 50-over edition in India.
Lewis described the camp as “a really good learning experience” for a group of players who are relatively new to Indian conditions. England’s last tour of India was in 2019, meaning 11 members of the current squad have never played international cricket there, although two of those 11 – Capsey and Lauren Bell – appeared in the Women’s Premier League in March.
The two teams’ most recent bilateral meeting in September 2022 ended in controversy after England lost the last one-day international at Lord’s after Deepti Sharma dismissed Mankad and Dean backed out at the non-striker’s side.
“India are a brilliant team and we know it will be difficult in their own conditions,” Knight said. “We saw huge support in Mumbai during the WPL and it will be difficult to silence these crowds. Playing in India really tests your skills and character in dealing with the noise, heat and conditions.”
The series follows the announcement of the latest England central defender contracts on Monday, with Gibson and Maia Bouchier receiving their first contracts. The 22-year-old wicketkeeper-in-waiting Heath and fast bowlers Lauren Filer and Mahika Gaur are the beneficiaries of the new development deals, which are designed to support players who the England and Wales Cricket Board expects to play an important role in future years.
In addition, the ECB is trying to revitalize domestic women’s football via Project Darwin, which was officially approved at a board meeting last week. This means the existing eight regional teams will be reintegrated into the first-class districts ahead of the 2025 season. The eight district hosts will be identified through a tender process that is scheduled to begin next month.
The regions are currently owned by the ECB and are run independently of the districts. Although this separate structure – introduced in 2020 – was an important first step in expanding the professional player base in England and Wales, from a commercial perspective it has been less successful in growing domestic women’s cricket.
While teams are likely to retain an element of their existing branding following the restructure – for example, Southern Vipers are expected to become Hampshire Vipers – handing over ownership to the counties will allow for joint marketing campaigns and fully coordinated double-headers, two of which are the Strategies that were so successful in women’s cricket in the Hundred and reached a growing audience.