For a variety of reasons the pressure will be on for all 14 players named in the England Women's Academy squad to tour Dubai at the end of March, where they are due to take on the Aussie Shooting Stars ("Australia's top emerging women cricketers").
The 14 named players are :-
Tammy Beaumont, Steph Butler, Jodie Dibble, Georgia Elwiss, Tash Farrant, Alex Hartley, Amy Jones, Evelyn Jones, Beth Langston, Sophie Luff, Alex Macdonald, Sonia Odedra, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield.
Amy Jones and Lauren Winfield have only just returned from the England tour to New Zealand (where they both missed the last few games due to injury - hamstring and thigh) and Beaumont, Elwiss and Farrant are all contracted players, who missed out on that tour. Given that she had little to do in New Zealand one might also have expected Danni Wyatt to have made this tour too, but her name is conspicuously missing from the squad.
Dibble, Langston, Odedra and Wilson were all in the Winter Performance training squad (with the 18 contracted players) and have all played for the full England team at some time during their careers. Dibble and Langston are coming back from surgery and injury respectively.
Which leaves just five players from the current Academy squad - Butler, Hartley, Evelyn Jones, Luff and Macdonald - of whom only Hartley plays in Division 1 of the County Championship with Middlesex (Macdonald has also played in the T20 competition for Yorkshire). This will be a big step up, if they get to play.
Leaving Wyatt to one side, this leaves a core of just 12 England contracted players left here in England - the pressure will therefore be on those just outside this core to show what they can do against some decent opposition. And the Aussies should be decent. They have Ellyse Villani and Delissa Kimmince in their ranks. Villani was short-listed for the prestigious Belinda Clarke award in January (won by Meg Lanning) and Kimmince first played for Australia in 2008 and is keen to work her way back into the main Aussie squad.
Katie Mack is also a player to watch. She is a very dedicated cricketer and her recent move to ACT and a good season at the top of the order with the bat, has led to her Shooting Stars selection. On the bowling front off-spinner Jemma Barsby has been on the Aussie radar for a little while and Nicola Carey holds down her place with both the ball and the bat for top state side NSW. Leg spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington also took 6/25 for Sarah Taylor's South Australia side against Tasmania in the WNCL, so might need some watching.
With the Aussies just around the corner for the England Women, this tour - with 4 ODIs and 2 T20s - is crucial in the build up to that series. England looked fragile against New Zealand in their recent tour, losing the ICC WC games 1-2. The Aussies will be much tougher. England need some of the peripheral players to stand up and be counted on this tour. If they fail to do so then it could be a very long and difficult summer for England.