Keightley, the England Women’s head coach whose side is preparing to play a Test against South Africa in Taunton from Monday, acknowledged that women’s cricket in some countries was not well enough resourced to play red-ball fixtures but instisted that the nations where it was possible had a part to play in growing the game.
She added that the ECB are considering introducing red-ball cricket for women at the domestic level in a bid to address one of the hurdles to the growth of women’s Tests – the fact that it remains a rarely played format.
“It’s disappointing to hear,” Keightley said. “We can challenge and say, ‘we actually feel like we want to lead the way’. The way to do that is play more Test matches.
“Realistically I don’t think every country can play this format, I get that, but I do think we should stretch and challenge and have the desire to improve women’s cricket and to grow it. There are a few countries that are putting their hand up to play Test match cricket for that purpose. The players really want to play it and the organisations are getting in and around it and behind it.”
In an interview with BBC Test Match Special earlier this month, Barclay supported the view of England captain Heather Knight that Women’s Tests should be played over five days, however, he did say that “there is no doubt that white-ball cricket is way of the future”.
“To play Test cricket you have got to have structures domestically,” he said. “They don’t really exist in any of the countries at the moment. I can’t really see women’s Test cricket evolving at any particular speed.
“That’s not to say any countries that choose to play Test cricket can’t do so. But I don’t see it being any part of the landscape moving forward to any real extent at all.”
Next week’s match at Taunton will be South Africa’s first women’s Test in seven years, while it will be England’s third in just over a year, after they drew with India in what proved to be an enthralling contest well into the final session in Bristol last June, and then played out a thrilling Ashes draw with Australia in January, a match which went down to the final ball, prompting renewed calls for matches to be played over five rather than four days.
But only once since 2007 has a team other than England, India and Australia competed in a Test, when South Africa suffered an innings defeat at the hands of India in 2014. None of the last five women’s Tests have produced a result, further fuelling the argument that they should be played over five days.
“I think the last few Test matches have proven it’s a format that is quite exciting if we play it to move forward and that’s the biggest challenge in women’s cricket, and Test matches where players have not played many Tests,” said Keightley, who played nine Tests for Australia between 1995 and 2005. “If you look at South Africa – they could have 10 debutants, we could have five. You’ve got to learn the craft of Test cricket at the same time.
“The countries that are playing Test matches probably have a pathway where they could slide a longer format in, it’s just a matter of where and we’re looking to do that moving forward. It’s just a matter of how you could put it in a domestic structure and what that might look like.”
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo
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