England's captain Heather Knight
London (AFP) - England women’s cricket captain Heather Knight welcomed on Wednesday the news that her side will play a five-day Ashes Test at Trent Bridge next year.
The England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket Australia have agreed to cast aside the longstanding convention that has restricted the women’s Test matches to four-day affairs in 2023.
Just six women’s Tests have taken place worldwide in the last five years, all finishing in draws after time ran out, but now the marquee event of the multi-format series will have three additional sessions to reach a more fitting conclusion.
The move brings parity with a men’s Ashes programme announced at the same time.
The women’s Test begins on June 22, two days after the conclusion of the men’s Edgbaston opener against Australia, and represents a first in England.
And Knight, whose side will also play T20s at the Oval, Edgbaston and Lord’s for the first time, offered a ringing endorsement.
“I’m so happy, I feel like I’ve been banging the drum for five days for a long time, so it’s a special moment,” she told Britain’s PA news agency.
“It feels like the right time, for five days, for bigger grounds, and it feels like it’s been a long time coming. Last year’s South Africa Test was set up nicely but withered out because of rain and it wasn’t given the chance to finish, so this is a really good step by the boards.
“I probably spent most of my career being grateful for what you’re given. When I started out anything was a bonus, you were just happy to be playing the sport you love for England and not even getting paid, but my eyes have opened a bit more.
“You see the inequalities you’ve gone through and not really realised. Moving forward on an equal footing is a logical progression.”
Greg Barclay, chair of the International Cricket Council, said during a trip to Lord’s in June that he did not believe Tests formed “part of the landscape” in the women’s game and could not see the format “evolving”.
Knight says her side are committed to proving the opposite.
“After those comments we talked about trying to save the format for women, to do everything we can to move the game forward, to keep Test matches going and make them appealing,” she said.
“We want to do everything we can to move it forward, to take more risks, to make it exciting to watch. Hopefully being at a massive ground like Trent Bridge will attract loads of people and it could be a really lovely occasion.”
England’s men begin their 2023 schedule with a four-day Test against Ireland at Lord’s on June 1 before attempting to regain the urn from Australia in a five-match series that begins on June 16 and ends less than seven weeks later on July 31 with games at Edgbaston, Lord’s, Headingley, Old Trafford and the Oval.
Former England captain Joe Root is enthusiastic about what lies ahead for both teams, telling PA: “Both teams want the Ashes back. With both series on at the same time there’ll hopefully be an Ashes buzz that both teams can tap into and benefit from.
“It’s a really important step for the women’s game.
“There are few feelings better in cricket than getting over the line and winning a tight Test match, and it can be frustrating when a draw becomes the only option, so it’s sensible to try and get a result over five days and I don’t see why it should be any different from men’s cricket.”
Men’s Ashes Series
First Test: Edgbaston, June 16-20
Second Test: Lord’s, June 28-July 2
Third Test: Headingley, July 6-10
Fourth Test: Old Trafford, July 19-23
Fifth Test: The Oval, July 27-31
Women’s Ashes Series
Trent Bridge - June 22-26
Edgbaston - July 1
The Oval - July 5
Lord’s - July 8
Bristol - July 12
Southampton - July 16
Taunton - July 18