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Heather Knight seeks new era as England hope to move on from Ashes drubbing

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England captain Heather Knight has heralded her side’s upcoming series in Malaysia against Pakistan as the start of “a new era”, and an opportunity to move on from this summer’s Ashes thrashing.

After being roundly beaten by a 12-4 margin against Australia, England parted company with head coach Mark Robinson, who had taken charge back in 2015.

Lisa Keightley, the former Perth Scorchers coach, has taken over, but will not start her new role officially until January, leaving only a matter of weeks to stamp her mark on the side before the T20 World Cup in Australia in February.

ALSO READ: Five things on Keightley’s to-do list as England coach

Ali Maiden, who served as Robinson’s assistant and will continue in the same job under Keightley, will coach the team in Malaysia, though Keightley is set to join up with the tour for the T20I leg.

“We’ve made a few changes with Robbo [Robinson] not being head coach [any] more,” Knight told the BBC’s Test Match Special, “and we’ve put a lot of hard work in as a group, and made a few changes from a team point of view as well.

“We’re really excited to get out and see if those changes have come to fruition.

“Lisa’s going to come towards the end of the tour and doesn’t take over officially until January. We’re all really excited to start a new era as a team and move on from what was a tough period for us in the Ashes.”

England have made several personnel changes since the summer, signalling a changing of the guard. Experienced allrounders Georgia Elwiss and Laura Marsh have dropped out of the squad, while uncapped legspinner Sarah Glenn, 24-year-old seamer Freya Davies, and 22-year-old spinner Kirstie Gordon come into the squad.

Mady Villiers, the 21-year-old offspinner who took 2-20 on T20I debut against Australia, is also expected to play a bigger role in the series, while Jenny Gunn and Sarah Taylor have both retired.

“We’ve picked quite a young squad actually,” said Knight. “We picked the squad with half an eye on the World Cup, which comes around in Februrary, and it’s a massive chance for these girls to impress.

“Some of them have had a little taste of international cricket, some of them have had no taste of international cricket [at all]. So it’s a chance for them to show what they’ve done in tournaments like the KSL and see if they can transfer it into international cricket.

“It is an exciting period – it’s also a time of a little bit of uncertainty with Lisa not starting yet, so it’s up to us as players to make sure we’re leading ourselves and being really clear on how we go about things and how we do things as individuals and as a team for the new coach to come in. It’s a really exciting time for people to reinvent themselves if they want to as well.”

England are clear favourites for both the ODI and T20I series, not least with Pakistan’s talismanic Sana Mir missing the series to “plan and reset my future objectives and targets”. The first ODI is on Monday, December 9 at Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpar.



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Live blog – Ranji Trophy

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Follow ESPNcricinfo’s coverage of India’s premier first-class competition



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Live blog – Ranji Trophy

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‘Focus is on handling pressure better’ – Harmanpreet Kaur

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Having come close to the title in two world tournaments over the last three years, India are looking at handling pressure better at next month’s T20 World Cup in Australia by enjoying their cricket and the overall experience.

England pipped India by nine runs by England at the 2017 Women’s World Cup. A year later in the Caribbean, they were beaten by England in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup. This time, Harmanpreet Kaur, the India captain, wants the team to focus on their skills instead of being overawed in big games.

“We were quite close in the last two World Cups, the only thing we need to keep in mind is how to handle pressure in the tournaments,” Harmanpreet said ahead of the team’s departure to Australia.

India aim to be better prepared this time by playing a tri-series with Australia and England, ahead of their T20 World Cup opener against the hosts on February 21 in Sydney.

“This time, rather than thinking we are going for a big tournament, we just want to focus on our skills,” Harmanpreet said. “That will be important for us and when we focus on these things, we produce better results.”India suffered form slump after that semi-final defeat in 2018. It started in New Zealand in February 2019, where they lost the the T20Is 3-0. They then lost to England at home by the same margin.

While they somewhat recovered to beat South Africa 3-1 and West Indies 5-0, their over-dependance on Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet hurt them.

In New Zealand, Mandhana and Rodrigues contributed 72.55 percent of India’s total runs (312 of 430 runs they made). Against England, barring one fifty across three matches, also from Mandhana, the batting was a collective failure.

Shafali Verma’s arrival on the big stage last September, and her ability to take on the bowling upfront has somewhat eased the pressure off Mandhana.

In the Caribbean last November, she outscored both Mandhana and Rodrigues and topped the run charts with 158 runs, including two fifties. Significantly, since Shafali’s debut, India have lost just one of their nine T20Is.”At the start of last season, we did not do well enough in few games when it came to batting,” head coach WV Raman observed. “After that it has settled down. Each one of them have had quite few good hits.

“They are all in good nick and they have also worked on their skills. Which means that you do have a fair bit of security and confidence going into this tournament, given what has happened in the last six months.”

Batting aside, India are banking on their spin-strength to tie up opponents. They’ve picked just three pacers in the squad of fifteen, with no provision for a back-up should one of them pick up a niggle.

Among the spinners, Radha Yadav (left-arm finger spin), Deepti Sharma (right-arm offspin) and Poonam Yadav (right-arm leg-spin) were in the top ten wicket-takers last year, with Radha leading the way with 21 victims at less than six per over).”Definitely (spin is the strength of the team) because our spinners are doing quite well,” Raman said. “They always give us breakthroughs whenever we need them. So I am looking forward to and how our spinners perform there (in Australia).”

There are concerns over Harmanpreet’s form. She averaged just 19 in 10 innings last year, with a best of 43. But she remains unfazed. “It is a part of the game, sometimes you do well. It is about how you deal with it mentally,” she said. “I am feeling very positive right now and very excited to see how I play in the World Cup.

“Performance is something that will never happen 100 per cent because things don’t go in your favour always and you have to accept all those things. But I am really positive and excited.”



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