A snapshot of normality in New Zealand could be just what England need to get the ball rolling ahead of next year’s one-day World Cup in the same part of the world, believes Northern Diamonds director of cricket James Carr.
A former Otago local prior to taking up his current role at Emerald Headingley, Carr is expecting Heather Knight and co to prevail in a competitive forthcoming series of three T20s and three ODIs against the White Ferns.
But he is not ruling out the odd speed bump here and there inflicted by star home all-rounder Sophie Devine, a former overseas player with the Yorkshire Diamonds in the days of the Kia Super League.
The series begins with a one-day international in Christchurch on Tuesday February 23 (1am UK).
New Zealand is currently dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic as well as any country in the world at present, with the England squad having had to go through two weeks of hotel quarantine upon arrival Down Under late last month.
Carr, a cricket development officer for the Southland Cricket Association between 2016 and 2018, said: “When they’re not playing and training, I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to go out for coffee and brunch or go to the beach – doing whatever they want really.
“It will feel like normality, and maybe even a bit like a holiday at times.
“That will be good for them, and it could bring out the best in them cricket wise given the state of mind that comes with that.
“It’s a massive series for both sides given what’s on the horizon.
“New Zealand played three T20s and three ODIs in Australia at the start of the Aussie summer, but it wasn’t really much of a contest (Australia won the T20s 2-1 and the ODIs 3-0).
“Being without Suzie Bates (shoulder injury) is a massive loss to them because she bowls her 10 overs, covers a lot of miles in the field and does a very good job at the top of the order as well.
“Having lived and worked in New Zealand, I always want them to do well in series and tournaments.
“You always hope they make it to the semis in tournaments and see what happens from there. But the last two or three World Cups, they haven’t done that with not a lot of change in personnel.
“I hope it’s a close series, a challenging one for both teams, and that the big players perform.
“I don’t expect England to lose the series even though they might lose a game here or there if Sophie (Devine) performs.
“She is one of the best in the world at the minute, and deservedly playing in every form of franchise cricket available to the women.
“They haven’t had the depth to compete consistently with the best teams recently.”
However, Devine is not the only reason why Carr expects England to be tested across six fixtures which will all be televised live on BT Sport.
He said: “A New Zealand XI team made up of developing players, ones who were youngsters when I was over there, has just given England a very good test in two warm-up games, so that issue with depth may be about to change (England won one and lost one in Queenstown this week).
“And the bulk of the domestic season for the women in New Zealand gets going on December 1 right through Christmas and their summer holidays in January, and it crescendos in mid-February.
“That will dovetail really nicely for them in terms of this series.
“There are lots of upshots to that. Their players should come into this series in some form and rhythm.”
There are three Diamonds in the England touring party – Katherine Brunt, Nat Sciver and Lauren Winfield-Hill.
Brunt and Sciver contributed significantly to last summer’s 5-0 home T20 victory over the West Indies at Derby, but Winfield-Hill was a non-playing squad member.
“I’ve not seen a lot of Nat and Katherine given they’ve been down in the East Midlands for much of the winter,” added Carr.
“But Lauren has been back with us, and she’s been training the house down.
“She’s very passionate about her cricket, but also about this new era of professional women’s domestic cricket. She’s been very supportive of everyone, players, coaches, myself in my role.
“It’s a significant series for her. But the one thing Lauren is is agile with her batting. So, providing she gets a slot in the starting eleven, I don’t think it matters to her where that is. She will give it her all.
“I hope she gets that chance across what is a varied tour.
“She didn’t play at all against the West Indies in the summer, but she’s in a good place cricket wise at the moment. Fingers crossed it works out well for her.”