England's Knight happy to downplay T20 World Cup chances

England's Heather Knight has played down her side's chances at the ICC T20 Women's World Cup Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Captain Heather Knight has downplayed England's chances of lifting the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup trophy next month, admitting it will take some doing to topple home favourites Australia, writes Ella Jerman.

Knight, who led England to ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup glory in the 50-over format on home soil in 2017, knows her side have enough talent to compete across 20 overs but is relishing the battle needed to beat Australia to the title.

Meg Lanning’s side have won four of the last five titles and are currently dominating the Women’s T20I rankings, further boosted with a current squad that features 13 of the 15 players that prevailed in 2018.

Knight’s England, who haven’t won the T20 World Cup since the inaugural tournament more than a decade ago, are aware they are a way off from being favourites for the title.

But victory over Australia via a Super Over in the recent tri-series will have given them renewed confidence ahead of their opener against South Africa on February 23.

“Our first goal is to get out of the group stages,” she wrote in her column for the ICC. “We’re fully focused first and foremost on that first game against South Africa in Perth. 

“We’re taking every game at a time because that’s what worked so well for us back in 2017. We definitely won’t be favourites for the tournament – Australia will obviously wear that tag being at home alongside the record they’ve had in T20 cricket. 

“They’ll have to deal with the expectation while we’ll be focusing on our T20 cricket and reaching those semi-finals in Sydney.

“I think we learnt a huge amount from the tri-series. We were put under pressure in some really tight games, which is the perfect preparations going into a World Cup. 

“We beat Australia in the Super Over and India, but there’s also a lot we want to improve on. 

“The 50-over World Cup is a long time ago now. We’re a slightly different team with a different coach and we’ve brought in a few exciting young players who have done really well leading into this world cup. From 1-15, we’ve got a squad who can win games of cricket.” 

England, who finished the 2018 tournament as runners-up after losing to Australia in the final, are welcoming a new coach to the helm with Lisa Keightley replacing Mark Robinson last month.

By contrast, the squad is one of largely familiar faces with just three – Freya Davies, Sarah Glenn and Mady Villiers – playing in a global tournament for the first time.

And for Knight, the squad isn’t the only source of familiarity, the skipper drawing comparisons to the tournament hype and excitement they experienced three years ago.

“It feels quite similar to 2017 when momentum was built going into the tournament and everyone seemed to know what was going on,” added Knight.

“We’ve been out here in Australia for the last couple of weeks for the tri-series and we’ve seen the World Cup promoted and publicised brilliantly throughout. 

“Whatever happens, it’s going to be a great competition for raising the profile of women’s cricket.”