Heather Knight says England's ODI series against New Zealand will be key for 2022 World Cup defence
Watch all five ODIs live on Sky Sports Cricket, starting with the first ODI from 12.30pm on Thursday; seamer Anya Shrubsole will miss first two ODIs due to ankle injury; Knight impressed by progress made by Southern Vipers spinner Charlie Dean and South East Stars Sophia Dunkley
Last Updated: 16/09/21 12:26pm
Captain Heather Knight says the upcoming Royal London ACE ODI series against New Zealand will be key preparation for next year's World Cup title defence.
England will take on the White Ferns at Bristol on Thursday in the first of five games in the space of 11 days, with much of the squad transitioning from a long run of T20 matches in The Hundred and the recent 2-1 series win over the tourists.
But the key targets remain the Ashes, due to take place from January 2022 should coronavirus restrictions allow, and the 50-over World Cup in March and April - before thoughts turn back to the shortest format and next summer's Commonwealth Games.
This week England will be without Anya Shrubsole - Player of the Match in the 2017 World Cup final - after she injured her ankle during the recent T20 series but Knight says rotation was very much in her thoughts given the rapid-fire nature of the fixture list.
"It is a little one (setback)," said Knight of Shrubsole's absence. "Anya has been in the starting XI in the ODI squad for a little bit of time now but I guess what it does do is it gives us time to give other people opportunities.
"With the schedule that we've got, it's five games in 11 days, so we are going to have to manage players really well and make sure we're looking after people, physically and mentally.
"We've had a lot of cricket this summer and on the positive it also gives us a chance to give people an opportunity, give people a go and build that bigger squad that we've looked at doing recently to try and give us a real strong squad of players that we're going to need for what we've got coming up next year.
"It's about balancing wanting to win and putting out a really strong team and being ready for what we've got coming up next year and looking to the future a little bit.
"We're massively building towards the Ashes and that 50-over World Cup in particular, when we're going to try and defend our crown in New Zealand, so this series is really key preparation leading into that."
New Zealand captain Sophie Devine feels the Kiwis are ready to hit the ground running after their 2-1 T20 series loss.
"I think there's a really positive energy in the camp at the moment, which is exciting," the 32-year-old said.
"(We were) unfortunate not to come away with a series win but we know that we pushed England really hard so it's nice to know that they're in for a challenge, they're in for a scrap.
"We trained well (on Wednesday), we've been at Bristol now for five days and had some excellent training which I think is going to hold us in good stead and let us hit the ground running for this first one-dayer."
England's next opponents after New Zealand could be Pakistan next month, although conditions and details of the tour have not yet been confirmed.
Knight believes it would send a "strong message" if her England team do make the trip - not least because England Women have never previously toured the nation.
"There's obviously a lot of things to consider inside of that and we'll be advised on those things by people more in the know," she said.
"I personally think it would be a good thing for us to go to Pakistan. It would be a huge thing as the first ever England women's side to go and tour there.
"We're still in conversations very often with the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) and the PCA (Professional Cricketers' Association) are heavily involved as well," Knight added.
"I think there's a security update due very soon so we're just waiting on that and we're just waiting to see.
"Things are obviously changing very quickly at the moment but we're still in conversation and we're just waiting on a few things to try and work out what's going to happen.
"But obviously what's going on in that part of the world, I think it would be a really strong message if us as female cricketers were to go and play women's sport in that region. So hopefully things are deemed safe.
"That's out of my hands, it's out of the team's hands. It's up to the people above to make those decisions so we're in constant conversations and that will progress, I'm sure, in the next few weeks."
Squad: Heather Knight (Western Storm, captain), Tammy Beaumont (Lightning), Katherine Brunt (Northern Diamonds), Kate Cross (Thunder), Freya Davies (South East Stars), Charlie Dean (Southern Vipers), Sophia Dunkley (South East Stars), Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder), Tash Farrant (South East Stars), Sarah Glenn (Central Sparks), Amy Jones (Central Sparks), Nat Sciver (Northern Diamonds), Anya Shrubsole (Western Storm), Lauren Winfield-Hill (Northern Diamonds), Danni Wyatt (Southern Vipers).
Watch the first Royal London ACE ODI between England Women and New Zealand Women live on Sky Sports Cricket from 12.30pm on Thursday.