Heather Knight column: England begin epic two-year journey

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Heather Knight

Date: 23 February Time: 01:00 GMT Venue: Hagley Oval, Christchurch

It’s been a fair old while since we last played a one-day international and we’re just so, so excited to get out there again against New Zealand this week.

It’s been a bit different playing the two warm-up games, it really is a different skill and discipline to T20 cricket and you have to get back into the right habits.

You need to do everything for longer – with the ball, the bat and in the field – and that takes a bit of a shift when you’ve been on a steady diet of T20 cricket.

Obviously our preparation prior to coming to New Zealand wasn’t ideal, and then on arrival it was a while before we were able to train together as one group, so I’m actually really thankful we had two really testing warm-up games.

We won one and lost one, but I think we learned a lot.

You’d probably say we were a bit light on preparation going into them and now we know specifically what areas we need to improve upon in order to compete in that first ODI against the White Ferns.

Lisa Keightley hasn’t actually coached us in an ODI just yet, which is one of the strange quirks of Covid-19. I think we were making some real steps forward in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup before the rain intervened at Sydney and I’m hoping that momentum can be continued across ODI cricket.

Sophie ‘Joe Wicks’ Ecclestone and the New Zealand Army

Heather Knight in the nets
Heather in the nets in New Zealand

We use a lot of words these days that had very little relevance 12 months ago.

Not a day goes by now when we’re not talking about ‘bubbles’ and that was never more true than during our time in the Managed Isolation Facility in Christchurch.

At one point we were asked if we knew what the acronym PPE meant and we had to admit we’d all been living in it for the best part of a year.

We’re very grateful to New Zealand for taking us in – they’d be forgiven for leaving us Brits at the door! – and they have looked after us tremendously well.

I had never expected to spend quite so much time being told where to go by the New Zealand Army but there you go, it was a novel experience.

We had 48 hours in our rooms on arrival, so I spent a bit of time on the exercise bike and kept my shoulders loose by chucking a rolled-up ball of socks into my bed! Fortunately we then had access to a yard outside and then had an exemption to train from Day 7.

Access to the yard meant the whole quarantine was very bearable: we had a few HIIT classes over Zoom – run by our own Joe Wicks, Sophie Ecclestone – and a quiz or two, but we spent a lot of time lapping the yard to get our steps in.

Once we could train we had four separate bubbles of seven people, meaning the coaches and players were split up and we couldn’t have any contact with any of the bubbles beyond our own.

That meant the likes of our analyst, Chris Sykes, and our strength and conditioning coach, Ian Durrant, were turning their hands to all sorts of things: slinging, off-spin, wicketkeeper coaching… you name it!

From the sofa to the helicopter

Being split up for so long meant we were de-mob happy upon arriving in Queenstown. And then to top it all, it’s arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world!

We were all just pretty excited to get outside. It was nice just to grab a coffee, to be honest.

The freedom and the sights on offer are a long way away from our respective sofas and we’ve gone from 0-100 pretty quickly.

We needed that release, though, and it has underlined just how much we love being in each other’s company, which is a really good thing.

We’ve also been using Lake Wakatipu as potentially the world’s coldest ice bath – I’m unsure whether I would or wouldn’t recommend!

We’re immensely lucky to be in this country to play international cricket, especially during such a difficult time, and around training there has been the opportunity to get out a bit.

Heather Knight and the England team
Members of the England team, with Heather Knight, right, during their helicopter ride

I went on a pretty special trip in a helicopter, which included our senior assistant coach Tim Macdonald getting to see snow for the first time, and I’m not sure I’ve had many better days off.

We’re not here for helicopter trips, though. We’ve got six big games in the same conditions as the ICC Women’s World Cup in a year’s time.

We’re viewing this tour as the start of a two-year journey that takes in two World Cups and the Commonwealth Games.

I hope in two years’ time we can look back on this as the start of something pretty special, and I’m hoping that starts with a tour full of good performances and the chance to continue moving forward as a team.

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