England have selected Kate Cross in their squad for February’s T20 World Cup with bowler in line for her first appearance in format since December 2019; seamer discusses facing Australia, her No Balls Podcast with ex-England team-mate Alex Hartley and hoping to get Virat Kohli as a guest
By David Ruse
Tuesday 24 January 2023 15:17, UK
“I had to ask whether he’d rung the right Kathryn!”
That was Kate Cross’ response when England Women head coach Jon Lewis told her she would be part of the squad for February’s T20 World Cup in South Africa.
Having not played a T20 international since December 2019 and with England having swept West Indies 5-0 in a pre-Christmas series, the seamer says her call-up was a shock.
But she will now head to Africa, alongside Katherine Brunt, as England try to win the short-form World Cup for the first time since the inaugural edition on home soil in 2009.
Cross told Sky Sports: “Obviously not being in the West Indies T20 squad after having a spell in the T20 squads this summer without getting a game, I didn’t think I would be a part of the World Cup.
“It was definitely a surprise. The next step is working out how I get into that team as it is such a strong side, with a nice balance of youth and experience.”
How does Cross think she has developed as a T20 bowler since her previous England appearance in the format a little over three years ago?
Cross, Capsey in England World Cup squad
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“It’s about trying to be that versatile bowler that can bowl in all three phases of the game,” she added.
“Opening the bowling is something I have done for a long time and something I am really comfortable with, while through one-day cricket, I think I have got better in the middle overs and understand that a lot more.
“Then being able to come back at the death and finish games off is something I have tried to do in The Hundred. I want to be a bowler a captain can turn to at any point of the game.”
Cross was part of the 3-0 one-day international series sweep in West Indies in early December, taking five wickets in total as Lewis’ tenure as head coach got off to a positive start.
Lewis, who replaced Lisa Keightley in the role, was previously England men’s pace bowling coach and has urged his new charges to play the fearless and aggressive cricket Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum have instilled into the men’s side.
Cross added: “Lewy just wants intent with bat and ball. For us as bowlers, that is the intent to take wickets. That is not having four slips all the time but about being really clear on how you are going to get batters out. He has simplified the game for us in that respect.”
England’s goal next month will be pretty simple – win the T20 World Cup. To do that, they may have to go through Australia, who are the reigning T20 and 50-over World Cup champions and Ashes holders.
Meg Lanning’s side beat England 12-4 on points in the 2021-22 Ashes and then defeated them twice – in their opening game and then in the final – to win the 50-over World Cup for a record-extending seventh time in April.
England were unable to beat Australia at all last winter but did push them on occasions, with Nat Sciver scoring centuries in both World Cup meetings before Heather Knight’s side came up short in run chases.
Cross said: “After that first game at the World Cup, we said ‘no team has pushed Australia like we did that day’. Then I know they scored far too many runs in the final (356) but we scored nearly 300 against the best team in the world. For us it is not a skill thing, it’s a mindset shift.
“If you put our names and Australia’s names down on a sheet of paper, I think they are very similar skill-wise, it’s just how we apply ourselves when we are under pressure. I think Lewy is going to free us up more than anything, it almost feels like you can’t fail.
“There was a point in the World Cup final where we were struggling to take a wicket, a huge partnership was building between Alyssa Healy and Rachael Haynes and we were going around the park.
“How do you enjoy that? Enjoyment comes from success and when you are not having that as a team it is about how you find it. That is something Lewy has instilled in us so far.
“He is telling us this is the best time of our lives, that we are never going to get this opportunity again to travel the world and play cricket, to see these incredible things, to play in high-pressure moments.
“Coming out of the Covid pandemic has helped that. At the height of it, your basic human instincts were taken away from you. You were on your own, you couldn’t leave your hotel room.
“I don’t think you realise the hangover of the pandemic until you take a step back from it. It wasn’t normal to be living like we were. I think it put so much pressure on our cricket.
“It was all you could think about. You couldn’t just nip to the cinema or go shopping. You get sucked into the environment and cricket is the be all and end all.
“Now that you can get out, when you do turn up to cricket, you have the energy to give to the group and are desperate to be there.”
Cross says captain Knight feels “freer and lighter” since returning to the group in the West Indies after a hip injury and subsequent surgery, having been given the chance to get away from the game.
Cross, too, has other things in her life, including her No Balls Podcast with close friend and former England team-mate Alex Hartley, which now runs on BBC Sounds.
The 31-year-old added: “It feels like there is not as much pressure on me to do as well at cricket. There is other stuff I can do if I am not playing for England.
“There used to be so much pressure to keep your contract as if you didn’t play for England there was nothing else. Now we have the domestic structure where you can earn a decent amount, while the podcast has been so good for my development as a person.
“I really had to learn that I am not valued based only on being able to hit back-of-a-length or the top of off stump. You can see how much you are able to help people by not playing cricket but by talking and sharing your experiences.
“Alex and I had always threatened to do the podcast. Then when Al lost her England contract we said, ‘let’s just give it a go, talk about what you are going through, talk about the difficult times’.
“We put a phone between us on a sofa, chatted for about an hour and a half and tried to cut it down to 20 minutes. We had loads of fun and that kept us interested.
“It picked up a lot of traction and now we are getting help from the BBC, which has helped develop our audience beyond the people who just followed us on Twitter and Instagram.
“We didn’t think more than a hundred people would ever listen to us and now we have had something like 3.5million, which is just crazy.
“We have had some incredible names on there, Glenn Maxwell was on our eighth episode. The dream guest would be Virat Kohli as you have that audience in India you can reach out to – although I feel he doesn’t just go onto random podcasts!”
The offer is there, Virat…
Watch England’s T20 World Cup campaign live on Sky Sports Cricket in February. The team’s opening game, against West Indies, is live from 1pm on Saturday, February 11.
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England's Kate Cross on shock T20 World Cup call-up, No Balls Podcast and hoping to meet Virat Kohli – Sky Sports