Exclusive: England's Knight wants more Tests

England

Peter Miller caught up with back to back Ashes winner and World T20 finalist, Heather Knight to talk through an exciting few months for England's women.

In February of this year there was some fantastic news for women's cricket in England. The ECB announced that they would be giving their top players full time professional contracts. While the numbers are limited at present, for the first time female players can see cricket as a legitimate career option.

One of those to benefit from this move is Heather Knight, a member of the successful England side that has won home and away Ashes, made it to a World T20 final and finished third at the World Cup during the last year.

Knight was delighted to be given the opportunity to play cricket full time, telling <b>Peter Miller</b> for <i>Cricket365</i>: "It is amazing news that we found out from the ECB that we are going to go professional.

"It came as quite a surprise to us, it wasn't really expected but it was fantastic news when we found out. It will make quite a big difference just in terms of more time training and not having to worry about paying the bills.

"It is a really exciting time to be part of women's cricket in this country at the moment. When we go into to schools we can tell young girls that they can make a living out of playing cricket."

Back in the northern summer, England played Australia in the home leg of back-to-back Ashes. This was the first time that it had been played as a multi-format event, with points awarded for Tests, ODIs and T20s.

This was something new for the women's game, and while Knight would like to play more Tests, she sees this format change as a good thing.

She said: "I would love to play in a five Test match series. We are not really used to playing Test matches, we don't play any multi day games in domestic cricket. I think the introduction of the new multi format has been amazing.

"In Ashes series previously it has been one Test match with the games tending to be quite negative, purely because if you already held the Ashes you only needed a draw to retain them.

"That doesn't always inspire good attacking cricket. The new multi format prolongs the Ashes over a month or so and I think the series in 2013 every game was a massive match."

In the Test match of the home leg of the Ashes, Knight played one of the great rear guard innings. With England reeling at 116-6, Knight put together a marathon partnership with Laura Marsh lasting nearly six hours. Knight finished on 157, having faced 338 balls. The innings took its toll.

"I remember after it happened I was a zombie for two days after it. I have never batted that long ever. I batted with Laura Marsh for quite a long time, and she is known for telling dreadful stories, so luckily I was staying awake while she was my partner at the other end," Knight recalled.

With the quick turnaround in formats, it presented new challenges for both sides. The teams went from playing Tests to ODIs in no time, something that took some getting used to.

The 23-year-old continued: "It is the same game, it is still a bat and a ball and it is just about reining in your shots a little bit and playing to the situation.

"With Test matches it is more the mental side of the game, about being able to switch on and switch off. When we are preparing for Test matches we do bat for longer sessions, and we work on the shots and the scoring areas you use in Test matches. We look at how you don't get out.

"We had to switch round in the five days that we had between the Test match and the first ODI at Lord's and I think it is fair to say that we didn't adapt quickly. It is really hard because the mind set and the shots that you play vary greatly between the different formats.

"It was my first real experience of doing that quickly, but we learnt from that and improved on it in Australia."

In the return leg, England's women made it back-to-back Ashes wins, set up by victory in the Test match, a game that was a low scoring thriller. In 40 degree heat England's bowlers did brilliantly to win the match by 61 runs.

Knight said: "It was a great Test match to watch but probably a nightmare to be involved in. It went a bit crazy between 5pm and 6pm every day.

"Going in to second innings we lost a few wickets quickly, but luckily we were able to get pulled out of a sticky situation thanks to a good innings from a few of our players.

"It was a bit of a roller coaster of a Test match but those games are the best ones to be involved in and the best ones to win, but probably the worst ones to lose."

The next big engagement in a busy winter was the World T20. It was played in parallel to the men's event, but the result of this was that the group section of the tournament received very little coverage.

Some great batting and bowling performances were lost to the world thanks to a media blackout. Perhaps it is time for the women's game to go it alone rather than having it as a side show to the men's event. Knight sees some merit in this.

She opined: "It is definitely a shame that the games that were played in Sylhet weren't on the TV or radio and that was purely because the men's tournament was on. There were some brilliant games there and some really good crowds. We had 14,000 people to most of our games which was amazing.

"And we went to the semis and the finals in Dhaka and we didn't have anywhere near as many. If the tournament was on its own like the 50 over tournament was in India then the games would be on TV. If the interest is there I don't see why not."

England made the final, but for the second time in a row they lost out to Australia at the final hurdle. England faltered with the bat having been put in by their opponents. Knight top scored with 29, but only four players made double figures as England stumbled to a disappointing 105-8 off their 20 overs.

At the half way stage, Knight says they had some belief but knew it was a massive ask to pull off a win.

She recalled: "When you are in a game you still believe you can win, but 105 was never going to be enough. Our bowlers had been amazing all tournament and giving them that total to defend on a decent enough wicket left us quite disappointed.

"It was one of those bad days, it was just a shame that it happened in the final. Credit to Australia, they completely outplayed us, and unfortunately we were never able to respond to that. They were deserved champions in the end."

England don't play again until they face India August. Knight made it pretty clear which of the formats she was most looking forward to playing: "We are playing India in a Test match this summer, so hopefully Test matches are reviving a little bit because I would love to play more."

<b>Peter Miller</b>

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