ICC chair’s comments on women’s Tests ‘disappointing’

Lisa Keightley has described ICC chairman Greg Barclay’s questioning the future of women’s testing as “disappointing”, but says countries that can play red ball games could challenge those views by playing more.

Keightley, the England women’s head coach whose side is preparing to play a Test against South Africa in Taunton from Monday, acknowledged that women’s cricket in some countries lacked the resources to play red-ball matches, but insisted that the countries where it was possible had a part to play in the game’s growth.

She added that the ECB is considering introducing women’s red ball cricket nationally in an effort to tackle one of the hurdles to the growth of women’s testing – the fact that it remains a rarely played format.

“It’s disappointing to hear,” Keightley said. “We can challenge and say, ‘we really feel like we want to take the lead’. The way to do that is by playing more test matches.

“Realistically, I don’t think every country can play this format, I understand that, but I do think we need to stretch and challenge and have the desire to improve and grow women’s cricket. There are a few countries that have their raise hands up to play Test match cricket for that purpose. The players really want to play it and the organizations are crawling in and around and behind it.”

In an interview with BBC Test Match Special earlier this month, Barclay supported England captain Heather Knight’s view that the Women’s Tests should be played in five days, but said that “there is no doubt that white-ball cricket is a way is to the future”.

“To play test cricket you have to have structures in your own country,” he said. “They don’t really exist in any of the countries right now. I don’t really see women’s test cricket evolving at any rate.

“That’s not to say that countries that choose to play test cricket can’t. But I don’t see it’s part of the landscape that’s really moving forward.”

Next week’s game in Taunton will be South Africa’s first women’s test in seven years, while it will be England’s third game in just over a year, after they tied with India in what turned out to be an exciting game until well into the final session in Bristol last June, then played a thrilling Ashes draw with Australia in January, a match that went to the last ball, sparking renewed calls for matches to be played over five days instead of four.

But since 2007, a team other than England, India and Australia has only taken part in a Test once, when South Africa suffered an innings loss at the hands of India in 2014. None of the last five women’s tests yielded a result, making the argument that they should be played in five days.

“I think the last few Test matches have proven that it’s a format that’s quite exciting when we play it to move forward and that’s the biggest challenge in women’s cricket and Test matches where players haven’t played many Tests,” said Keightley, who played nine Tests for Australia between 1995 and 2005. “If you look at South Africa – they could have 10 debutants, we could have five. You have to learn the trade of Test cricket at the same time.

“The countries that play test matches probably have a path they can slide a longer format into, it’s just a matter of where and we want to do that in the future. It’s just a matter of how you do it in a domestic structure and what that might look like.”

England will have to do without their hugely experienced seam bowling duo Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, who have withdrawn from Tests, the latter completely out of international cricket.

As a result, three specialist seam bowlers are among five players lining up next week to make their Test debut – Lauren Bell, Emily Arlott and Freya Davies – after being named to England’s 13-player squad for the match . Pace bowler Issy Wong will be a traveling reserve in Taunton as England continue their planning for the future after the Brunt-Shrubsole era.

Also joining the squad are all-rounders Alice Davidson-Richards, who offers another bowling opportunity, and Emma Lamb, who could fill the other gap in the batting lineup alongside Tammy Beaumont after the position became a bit of a puzzle for England follow Lauren Winfield-Hill’s battle for form early this year in Australia and New Zealand.

Valkerie Baynes is general editor at ESPNcricinfo

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