Heather Knight column: England captain on winning in New Zealand and playing in front of fans

Heather Knight

I've literally just landed back in the United Kingdom and it feels the right time to reflect on a really positive tour.

Firstly, it was just fantastic to be back playing international cricket, but in addition to that I'm so pleased with how the team performed in New Zealand, with a 2-1 series win in the one-day internationals and a 3-0 victory in the Twenty20s.

We've always said we're unlikely to win every game we play - although it would be nice - but as long as we're always improving as a side, every day, then that means we're heading in the right direction.

I'm especially pleased with how we reacted to a comparative lack of preparation and still managed to put in really professional and clinical performances.

We looked short of cricket in our two warm-up games in Queenstown, but our response to that - especially in the first two ODIs - was so pleasing. I think we learned a lot about ourselves as a side, added some depth and improved as a team. That's three huge ticks.

Individuals rise up the rankings

We sat down as a team a few years ago and targeted a number of ways we could improve. One way was seeing individuals rise up the ICC rankings.

It's great to see we now have Tammy Beaumont as the top-ranked ODI batter in the world and Sophie Ecclestone as the number one bowler in T20 cricket, plus Sarah Glenn has shot up to third.

That's testament to their hard work and talent and I'm so pleased for them, but in addition to them there are a number of players who could be right up there too.

One player I will mention is Amy Jones - if there was a rankings list for wicketkeepers I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone better. She quietly broke a record for the number of stumpings in a three-match series in the T20s and that's her all over, quietly and calmly excellent.

I think over the tour loads of the group put their hands up and that's exactly what you want. I could literally name everyone, but we had contributions from throughout the squad and when you're trying to pick an XI for a World Cup in a year's time you want to be spoilt for choice.

For me, the manner in which our wider group is pushing for selection by putting in performances is one of the standout positives of this trip.

Similarly, we talked after the last ODI about adapting to slower wickets, and that was really on show in the T20 series - on a wicket that had a lot of cricket. Plus our fielding was excellent throughout, a real cherry on the cake.

Goodbye New Zealand

England women
England enjoyed a successful limited-overs tour of New Zealand, winning both the one-day international and Twenty20 series

It's lovely to be home, obviously, but it's a weird situation coming back into lockdown after enjoying the relative freedoms of New Zealand.

I will say that when this country is open again, you're all in for a good time.

I think as a group we're going to miss going out for coffee with each other, or just being able to live our life without worrying about things like face masks, but it does make you appreciate 'normal' life much more when you've been starved of it for so long.

Plus we all got to meet umpire Billy Bowden and his crooked finger, which was an unexpected bonus.

It was also really nice to be able to have a drink with the New Zealand team after the final game. They invited us into their dressing room and it was lovely catching up. It's nice to share those moments with opposition teams.

Sarah Glenn - who, as well as being an excellent bowler, is a fan of a bit of glamour - dressed me and the New Zealand captain Sophie Devine for our impromptu night out. It wasn't quite our usual style but it certainly helped break the ice.

I did manage to squeeze in a wine tour the day after the series. Not many of the players like their wine so it was me and the staff and it was a lovely way to finish off the trip.

I should also pass on our thanks to Laura Clarke OBE, UK High Commissioner to New Zealand, who hosted a lovely day for us in Wellington ahead of the T20 series.

What next? Lots of cricket

We've got a bit of time off now we're back in the UK but come April we'll be back in Loughborough preparing for our summer series.

We're set to host a tour in June-July and one in September - either side of The Hundred - and we're really excited about getting a chance to play in front of our home fans again.

We've also got the new Regional T20 Competition and the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. I'm really pleased about the range and competitiveness of cricket that we'll have on offer this summer.

The international fixtures haven't been 100% confirmed yet but in a Covid-19 world sometimes you need to make decisions late to ensure you've got flexibility, so I'm not too worried about who we play, or what formats we play in.

From my point of view it's all excellent preparation for the ICC Women's World Cup in a year's time back in New Zealand, and having had the smallest taste of playing in front of fans in New Zealand I can't wait to see our supporters again.

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