ECB ‘sorry’ as England Women forced to play India Test on used wicket

England Women “deserve a fresh wicket”, according to an ECB spokesperson after Heather Knight revealed her side’s Test match against India would be played on a used pitch.

England and India have not played each other across four days since 2014 but will meet at Bristol’s County Ground on Wednesday to kick off Knight’s side’s summer.

The red ball has been on the periphery of the women’s cricketing calendar, with just eight Tests worldwide since 2011, and the upcoming game will be played on the same wicket used last week for a Vitality Blast match despite efforts from the England camp to change the strip.

“We are all disappointed that the wicket for the LV= Insurance Test match against India will have had 37 overs played on it,” an England and Wales Cricket Board spokesperson said.

“We know that England Women deserve a fresh wicket and we are 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.

“With the exception of Hove – the venue for the second Vitality IT20, for which a hybrid wicket will be used – all other white-ball matches against India will be played on fresh wickets including the opening Royal London ODI at Bristol on the 27th June.”

Heather Knight File Photo
Heather Knight would have preferred a fresh wicket for England’s clash with India (Mike Egerton/PA)

Knight, who has not played a Test match since July 2019, said the strip being used was “not ideal”.

“I’ve had a look (at the pitch), it is a used wicket,” the England captain said.

“It was used for a Gloucestershire T20 match last week, which I guess obviously isn’t ideal. We would much prefer to be on a fresh one but it is what it is and we don’t know how it’s going to play necessarily.

“Obviously slightly different with it being used, but we’re confident we’ve got the squad and the XI that we’re going to pick to win this Test match.”

It is not the first time attention has been drawn to the 22-yard strip. Before an Ashes Test match at Taunton, England Women had to play the first women’s Test to be broadcast live on a pitch used for New Zealand against Afghanistan 40 days before.

The pitch was also used during the 2019 standalone Ashes Test match at Taunton
The standalone 2019 Ashes Test at Taunton was also on a used pitch (Mark Kerton/PA)

On that occasion, the pitch was sluggish, scoring became increasingly difficult for a number of players and spin became an important factor, and this time the recently-used strip at Bristol could throw up the same problems.

“I guess 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 and see how it plays,” Knight added.

“It’s not ideal but it is what it is and we’ve got to go now and get our head round playing on the pitch we’ve been given.

“We found out last week, which obviously we tried to get changed but it was a little bit too late for that to happen. Obviously it’s unfortunate and it’s not ideal and we’d rather be on a fresh one, but we don’t know how it’s going to play yet, it still could play very well.

“Generally at Bristol you look at the deck sometimes and it looks not great but it actually plays brilliantly. So look, it’s not ideal but it is what it is and we’re obviously going to have to perform as best we can on the wicket we’re given.”

India skipper Mithali Raj said of the wicket: “Firstly, we are here to play a match. Whatever strip we get we will try and get a result out of it, and that’s the thought process.

“Whether it is a used wicket or a fresh wicket, as players and as captain I’m there to support my team to get a result and for that it is important that we follow our strategies accordingly.”