Winfield-Hill believes positivity will be key to World Cup success



Lauren Winfield-Hill believes positivity will be the key to success for England as the champions aim to go back-to-back in the World Cup, which starts in New Zealand this week.


The York-born batter is one of three Northern Diamonds stars in the England squad alongside Katherine Brunt and Nat Sciver.


Eight teams will battle it out from Friday through to the final on April 3. Everyone plays each other once, with the top four teams after the group stage advancing to the semi-finals.


Australia are the overwhelming favourites to claim the 50-over crown England gloriously won at Lord’s in 2017.


Champions six times compared to England’s four, they completed a 12-4 multi-format Ashes series success earlier this month and had been on a 26-game world record winning streak in ODIs through to last September.


England meet Australia in their opening game in Hamilton on Saturday (1am UK).


And Winfield-Hill said: “The Ashes was obviously hugely disappointing. You look at the outcome and score, and it was tough.


“But there were parts when we came so close. That Test Match was ours for the taking, and it could have been a very different story.


“We just lost our way towards the back end with the ODIs.


“But I think it was a wake-up call and chance for reflection.


“Did we go about it the way we wanted to, particularly in the ODI series? I think we lost sight of what’s been working well for us.


“It’s difficult when you have the world’s number one team on top of you. But we went a bit timid and let them keep hitting us while we were down.


“We got hammered in the ODIs, and that was it. We had two games rained off in the T20s, we played pretty well in the one we played and we were involved in one of the best Test Matches of all time and should have won.


“We certainly don’t think they are as head and shoulders above us as that scoreline suggests.”


Of England’s opening game of the tournament,” she said: “It’s a good opportunity to do things a little bit differently against them.


“It was foot on the throat stuff in the (Ashes) ODIs, and we never managed to fight back.


“We haven’t got anything to lose by playing them first up, and we can do things a bit differently - be more aggressive. We want to put down a marker and say, ‘This is how we play, we want to get back to that and stay true to it’.”


England’s squad undertook 10 days of mandatory quarantine upon arrival in New Zealand, with Winfield-Hill taking the opportunity to switch off completely from cricket in order to stay refreshed in the midst of what will eventually be three months on tour.


“My morning routine was to ring my mum and dad and we’d do a crossword together,” she said. “I’d walk up and down my room and we’d solve that.


“I’d also exercise, do some study (strength and conditioning courses), watch trash TV and check in with some mates and family who I hadn’t been in touch with for a while.”


The need for Winfield-Hill and her team-mates to refresh after the Ashes was highlighted last week when the ICC said that should Coronavirus hit squads, then they could still fulfil fixtures with nine players and would be able to draft in female support staff to field as substitutes.


All squads are living in strict bubbles, with replacement players unable to be sourced due to the quarantine rules New Zealand have upon arrival in the country.


While Winfield-Hill, who played seven games in the 2017 triumph, notes that event as a career highlight, she agrees with the suggestion that victory in 2022 would be a bigger achievement with the Covid situation in mind added to defeat in the Ashes.


“100 percent,” she said.


“We are the champions, but I don’t think people would expect us to go back-to-back. But we fully believe we can.


“For us, it wouldn’t just be winning a World Cup. How many teams have gone back-to-back in women’s sports across the globe? It doesn’t happen very often.


“It’s more than just winning a World Cup, it’s a chance to create a bit of a legacy beyond what is already the pinnacle of your sport.


“2017 was definitely the highlight of my career. We dug ourselves out of a hole on a number of occasions.


“But we were reflecting on this last week, and we said that this squad has a really nice blend of players who played in that tournament, some who were in the crowd that day and some other young and new players. That’s a nice place to be in as a squad.”


Winfield-Hill’s close mate Kate Cross is one of those players who was in the crowd at Lord's in 2017.


The Lancashire and Thunder seamer was going through a tough mental battle off the field and used watching England lift the trophy as motivation to get back to the top level herself.


Now, on the back of some excellent recent performances - she took an ODI five-for against India last year - she is preparing for her maiden World Cup campaign.


“This will be very special for Crossy, and she’s doing it at a time when she’s in the form of her life,” said Winfield-Hill.


“Amy Jones wasn’t around then and is now. I was around, have been out of the side since and thought I wouldn’t make another World Cup and I have.


“Everybody has their own little narrative.


“Even Brunty, we weren’t sure whether she’d make another. But here she is bowling as well as she ever has.


“It’s really exciting for us all.”


New players such as spinner Charlie Dean (Vipers) and batting all-rounder Emma Lamb (Thunder) are new players who have benefitted from excellent form in regional cricket last summer.


Lamb actually replaced Winfield-Hill at the top of the order for the final Ashes ODI at Melbourne, but she made a duck.


It is therefore not certain that Winfield-Hill will be in the team against Australia, though she will be ready and raring to go if she is.


A score of 55 off 43 balls in a warm-up win over Bangladesh overnight is proof of that.


“I felt my game was in a pretty good place for the entire Ashes,” she added.


“You go through times when you don’t know where your next run’s coming from and others when you’re not getting the scores but you feel that you’re not too far away. The latter is me.


“From the end of the summer through to the Ashes, it’s about me being a bit more aggressive and taking the attack to them.


“We struggled as an entire batting unit in the Ashes ODIs, and our challenge is to go out and be positive even if you’re losing wickets.


“We went out with a level of intent and then were one or two down early and we didn’t keep punching.


“I feel like my game is in really good order. I’d just like to be more positive from the get-go like I was in the summer.


“I didn’t get a really big score in the summer, but we had some very good partnerships at the top at a good rate to set the game up.


“My career probably needs a big score, but I can’t chase it because the team needs me to go about it a certain way and not just set my stall out to bat for 40 overs to make sure I look after myself.


“If I get the chance, I’m going to go out there and make sure I play a positive role for the team.”


Added to Winfield-Hill’s 55 off 43, fellow Diamond Sciver hit 108 off 101 balls in the 109-run win over Bangladesh, also claiming two wickets.

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