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ECB ‘explored every option’ to avoid WPL clash with NZ tour

The ECB has made an unsuccessful request to New Zealand Cricket (NZC) to move the dates of England’s upcoming women’s tour, with four players deemed unavailable for the first three T20Is as a result of their Women’s Premier League (WPL) commitments in India and two others pulling out of their franchise contracts.

NZC confirmed the fixtures in July for the tour, which comprises five T20Is and three ODIs between March 19 and April 6. The BCCI had only publicly announced the window for the WPL last Wednesday, with the final scheduled for March 17 in Delhi – two days before the opening T20I in Dunedin.

ESPNcricinfo understands that the ECB asked NZC to consider shifting the series back but were told it would not be possible. “We explored every option available to us to make sure all our players were available during the New Zealand series, but that didn’t quite work out as we would have liked,” Jon Lewis, England’s coach, said.

“Yes, there are things that other boards could have done, but they’re things that are totally out of our control to be honest. We’ve had to react to the situation as best we can… it’s quite a unique situation. It’s quite complex… we talk to everyone as individuals and work out what we think is the best plan for them.”

Lewis blamed the late release of the WPL’s schedule, which was decided several months after NZC had confirmed the dates of England’s tour. “[The series] was in our diary for a very long period of time,” he said. “The WPL dates came out very late. Moving forward, all the boards around the world will create a window for the WPL similar to the men’s game.”

The ECB told the eight England players with WPL contracts that to be considered for selection in the first three T20Is, they would need to leave India before the knockout stages. Jonathan Finch, the director of England women’s cricket, said: “All players participating in the WPL were given our backing to remain in India for the duration of the tournament.”

Lauren Bell (UP Warriorz) and Heather Knight (Royal Challengers Bangalore) both pulled out of their deals last week. “They withdrew once they learnt that the WPL regulations don’t allow for replacements mid-tournament, not wanting their respective WPL teams to be disadvantaged by their early departure,” Finch said.

Lewis himself will leave the WPL after UP Warriorz’s final group game on March 11, with assistant coach Ashley Noffke likely to deputise if they reach the knockout stages. “I had good discussions with the franchise,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, we’re in a really strong position. We’ve got a lot of cover in the coaching department and UP have been really accommodating.”

“We tried to make sure that all the players that are in New Zealand with us will get a really fair crack, rather than worrying about Nat Sciver-Brunt getting knocked out [of the WPL] on one day, flying in three days later and taking their position in the team,” Lewis said, framing the clash as “a brilliant opportunity” to test England’s depth ahead of the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh later this year.

With Wyatt in India for the full WPL, Tammy Beaumont looks set to open the batting in the first three T20Is and will win her 100th cap in the format. A pedestrian strike rate meant she has spent two years out of the side since her 99th, but she has since shown her dynamism in domestic cricket. “We asked her to go away and improve in certain areas,” Lewis said. “She went away and she did that.”

Mahika Gaur, who has played in England’s last two T20I series, is unavailable as she continues to study for her A-Levels, while Freya Kemp has been picked as a specialist batter for the parallel England A tour to New Zealand after a recurrence of a back injury. Kirstie Gordon (T20s) and Grace Scrivens (ODIs) will captain the secondary tour, while Tash Farrant and Emma Lamb both feature after back injuries.

England T20I squad vs New Zealand: Hollie Armitage*, Tammy Beaumont, Lauren Bell, Maia Bouchier, Alice Capsey+, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone+, Lauren Filer, Danielle Gibson, Sarah Glenn, Bess Heath, Amy Jones, Heather Knight (captain), Nat Sciver-Brunt+, Linsey Smith*, Danni Wyatt+ (*first three only; +fourth and fifth only)

England ODI squad vs New Zealand: Tammy Beaumont, Lauren Bell, Maia Bouchier, Alice Capsey, Kate Cross, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Lauren Filer, Danielle Gibson, Sarah Glenn, Bess Heath, Amy Jones, Heather Knight (capt), Nat Sciver-Brunt, Danni Wyatt

England A squad vs New Zealand: Georgia Adams, Hannah Baker, Alice Davidson-Richards, Tash Farrant, Kirstie Gordon (T20 captain), Freya Kemp, Emma Lamb, Ryana MacDonald-Gay, Sophie Munro, Grace Potts, Paige Scholfield, Grace Scrivens (ODI captain), Seren Smale, Rhianna Southby, Mady Villiers

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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