In a COVID-free world, both England and West Indies would have been planning for the World Cup in New Zealand early next year. Things, as we know, have not gone to plan since Katy Perry sang the T20 World Cup to a close in March.
There was much room for optimism in the women’s game. Even after the global pandemic scythed through the sporting calendar, the England and Wales Cricket Board remained confident some of that momentum would not be lost and both South Africa and India could be persuaded to take part in a tri-series.
As both sides were eventually forced to stay at home rather than spend the summer in Derby's bio-secure bubble, it was left to the West Indies to save the day. Much like their male counterparts, international cricket was embraced.
While it is not ideal and England’s players have already spent an inordinate amount of time in isolation, the West Indian preparation has been more last-minute. Without any competitive cricket under their belts, it will be wonderful to see two sides with contrasting fortunes battle it out at Derby.
A five-match series means that any rustiness the players from the Caribbean may have at the start still gives them a chance to play themselves into the series.
With nothing at stake, it would have been a perfect opportunity to blood some younger players. Players that had shown some promise in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. Alas, the only player from outside the usual suspects is Sophia Dunkley - a player that has been knocking at the door like a persistent trick-or-treater. Whether Dunkley starts or is given a significant role remains to be seen.
With only inter-squad games being played at Derby this summer, there will be an expectation of decent pitches for competitive cricket. With some late summer sunshine, the decks produced should play with even bounce and offer assistance for spin.
It is quite possible that England could go into the game with three spinners in the shape of Sophie Ecclestone, Maddie Villers, and Sarah Glenn. It is the one area that might count against Dunkley as while she does offer more with the bat, combined the trio is more than capable of chipping in with late order runs.
What could be more interesting is how the seam bowlers will be rotated. We all know what Anya Shrubsole, Katherine Bryce and Kate Cross can do at international level. Brunt and Shrubsole, however much we want them to cannot go on bowling forever, and it would be the perfect opportunity to give Katie George, and Freya Davies was allowed to forge a partnership with the new ball.
The real dilemma with England is at the top of the order, with only two spots to open how do you squeeze in Tammy Beaumont, Amy Jones, and Danni Wyatt? Beaumont made way at the start of the T20 World Cup. It didn’t work, and the logical choice would be to find a spot of Jones further down the order.
When the two sides met at the Spotless Stadium, Sydney in March, England won comfortably. If West Indies are to ensure that doesn’t happen again much will depend on their three world-class players, Deandra Dottin, Stafanie Taylor and Hayley Matthews.
All three can win games on their own, and if all three fire at the same time, then few teams can stop them. West Indies have missed the bowling of Dottin. Injury has meant that she has been able to fulfil her all-round role. Any side that has a player who averages a shade over eighteen will always find life more difficult.
Matthews you would think would pass the 1000 run mark in T20 internationals at some point during the series and with her off-spin bowling relatively economical and with a strike-rate of 18.76 can cause some problems for the England batting line-up.
Much will rely on Taylor, just shy of 3000 T20I runs and with 89 wickets in the same format. It could be a series where she complies some individual landmarks, but she will only be happy if her side can triumph. Only Anisa Mohammed elected not to travel from the West Indies squad that was in Australia early this year.
West Indies are all about their top three but will need three or four of their other regulars to show some consistency. Britney Cooper, Shamilia Connell, Chinelle Henry and Shakera Selman will be keen to show what they are capable.
One thing we are sure off is that we are all grateful for some international cricket. Much of that gratitude goes to West Indies for travelling and to the ECB for remaining patient throughout the summer. Here is hoping for some competitive cricket.
England: Heather Knight, Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Katie George, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danni Wyatt
West Indies: Stafanie Taylor, Afy Fletcher, Hayley Matthews, Aaliyah Alleyne, Cherry Ann Fraser, Natasha Mclean, Shemaine Campbelle, Shabika Gajnabi, Chedean Nation, Britney Cooper, Sheneta Grimmond, Karishma Ramharack, Shamilia Connell, Chinelle Henry, Kaysia Schultz, Deandra Dottin, Lee Ann Kirby, Shakera Selman