England have announced the 14 players that will make up their squad for the three ODIs against Australia, which will not only count for 2 points each in the Ashes Series, but are also worth two points each in the ICC Women's Championship (the qualifying tournament for the World Cup in England in 2017).
As expected there are no real surprises, except perhaps the omission of off-spinner Dani Hazell (it was confirmed that she is not injured and was simply not selected), as England stick to their tried and tested squad members. The only change from the 15 that went to New Zealand in February (and lost the ICC WC series 1-2) is the addition of Georgia Elwiss and the dropping of Hazell and Danni Wyatt. Despite England's poor middle-order batting on that tour Wyatt was given little opportunity to stake her claim for more permanent selection in the starting 11. She has now been jettisoned from the squad for Sussex's Georgia Elwiss, who had a good "Academy" tour in Dubai, but has not had a great start to the county season here in England, either with the bat or the ball. Her highest score has been 34 and she has just three wickets to her name.
England are emphasising the experience within the squad, with a total of 807 ODI caps amongst the 14 players, but the question is whether experience is enough? Talent, form and confidence are also prerequisites. With the T20 World Cup next year and the 50 over World Cup in 2017, both currently held by Australia, England are going to need a lot more than just experience. The New Zealand tour was the time to blood some youngsters and get those on the fringes into the games, but that opportunity was missed. So it is back to the old guard, at least for the ODIs. Should England be 6-0 down after these three games (as they may well be) one wonders if the squad might change for the Test and then the T20s?
Clare Connor suggested that this squad "is one of real strength and demonstrates the depth of talent currently running through the England women's performance programme". I think it actually shows the opposite. Where are the young batsmen challenging for a spot in a team which has serious middle-order frailties, or even in the squad? Batsmen on the fringes are Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont, both of whom have had plenty of opportunities in the past. The England focus has been on the 18 contracted players, some of whom are getting close to their sell by date. England desperately need to get the Women's Super League up and running. There needs to be a showcase for young talent, which the county championship cannot provide at the present time.
Despite England currently holding the Ashes, the Aussies are clearly favourites to take this series (three ODIs, one Test and three T20s). England will need to scrap for every single point they can and it all starts at Taunton on 21st July.
The squad is :-
WCB will be at all the games tweeting and blogging as usual. It sounds as though the Press Box will be full of journos, but few if any will have seen a county game this season, and none of them were in the Press Box with me in New Zealand. Hopefully that means that I can bring something different to the table when it comes to coverage. Hopefully I will have your company too throughout the series.