West Indies women will tour England for five T20Is in late September, in the first international women’s cricket between major nations since the T20 World Cup final in March.
The ECB have maintained throughout the summer that staging some women’s international cricket was a priority, but were left searching for new opposition after first India and later South Africa withdrew from scheduled tours.
Cricket Ireland had extended an offer for an international series in September in the event that the West Indies tour fell through, but dates have now been confirmed, with the series starting on September 21 and all five matches to be played in the biosecure bubble at Derby.
The third T20I, on Saturday, September 26, will be shown live on the BBC and become the first international women’s fixture shown on free-to-air TV in the UK since the 1993 World Cup final, according to an ECB release.
Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, said he was “delighted” that the tour had been confirmed despite the “enormous difficulties” Covid-19 had created.
“It has been critical to us that our efforts to deliver biosecure standards and support visiting opponents have been equal to those that have so successfully delivered in the England men’s series,” he said.
“There were 86,000 fans in attendance at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final in March and the direction of travel in the women’s game in England and Wales has been relentlessly positive over the last few years. That momentum must continue despite the challenges of Covid-19, and we do not underestimate our role in driving that agenda.”
Clare Connor, the ECB’s managing director of women’s cricket said: “It’s so pleasing after many months of work and communication with colleagues across the international game that we are now able to confirm international cricket for England Women this summer.
“We’re grateful to the West Indies for the pace and determination with which they have worked with us over the last couple of weeks. We’re all still adapting and will need to continue to adapt to the sporting landscape left by COVID-19. That does not mean that we will give any less focus to the women’s and girls’ game and we’re totally committed to continuing our ambitions in that area.”
“We are delighted to be able to confirm this tour and re-start our women’s programme,” said Johnny Grave, Cricket West Indies (CWI)’s CEO. “It has been a real challenge to put everything in place at short notice but knowing that our women’s team will be hosted in the same biosecure environment as our men’s team, following all the established protocols, has enabled us to confirm the tour in under two weeks since we first spoke to the ECB about the potential opportunity.
“We are very proud to have restarted men’s international cricket with the ECB and it’s great that we can now bring back women’s international cricket too.”
A CWI statement said that the board had sought the relevant approvals within the Caribbean, including seeking permission from the various governments to allow for the movement of players and support staff using private charter flights, as well as conducting medical screenings and individual Covid-19 testing for all members of the touring party.
With the fixtures being staged later in September than initially planned, the players in England’s enlarged 24-strong training group will now be made available for the first two rounds of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy on August 29 and August 31.
The squad will be whittled down ahead of the series itself, with the players who are not selected returning to domestic cricket to play for their regional teams in the latter stages of that competition. The clash with the third T20I means that the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy’s final has been pushed back a day to September 27.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Cricket CEO David White told Stuff that his board was “getting close” to confirming a women’s tri-series with Australia and England in February 2021. ESPNcricinfo understands that the ECB are considering the possibility of that tour but are yet to commit to any winter engagements. (ESPNCricinfo)