Women’s World Cup ‘unlikely to be Covid-free’, says Heather Knight

England captain Heather Knight says the Women’s World Cup is unlikely to be “Covid-free”.

The tournament, starting on 4 March, is being held in New Zealand, where a rise in the Omicron variant caused a record 12,011 community cases on Friday.

On Thursday it was announced that teams could fulfil World Cup fixtures if they have nine fit players.

“It is in place if something does go wrong, but hopefully it doesn’t,” said Knight.

Each of the eight teams in the tournament has a squad of 15 players, with a maximum of three travelling reserves.

If they do not have 11 players available, they will be given the option to field nine, which stronger nations like Australia and England might take if they are playing a weaker side like Bangladesh in the 50-over competition.

All teams can also use female members of their backroom staff as fielding substitutes.

“It’s created a few jokes among the female staff – we’ve got the doctor and the manager down to have a net tomorrow,” said Knight.

“People are desperate to get the tournament on. If something goes badly wrong with Covid, it’s not an ideal situation and hopefully it never happens.

“It’s probably unlikely it will be a Covid-free World Cup, but that is the hope.”

England begin the defence of the title they won in 2017 against Australia in Hamilton on 5 March.

Before then they play warm-up matches against Bangladesh and South Africa on Monday and Wednesday respectively, both in Lincoln.

Knight said they will use those fixtures to settle on an opening partnership, after Lauren Winfield-Hill was replaced by Emma Lamb during the Ashes.

Both players are in the squad, while wicketkeeper Amy Jones and Danni Wyatt also have plenty of experience at the top of the order.

“It’s pretty obvious we haven’t nailed that spot yet,” said Knight.

“We’ve had conversations about that and the two warm-up games will be a chance for whoever we decide to go with to cement their spot and get some form going into the tournament.

“It’s never ideal not being totally sure on your batting line-up leading into a World Cup, but that is the position we’re in. We’ve got a few options.”

There will be live commentary of 20 World Cup games on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and the BBC Sounds app, including every England game, both semi-finals and the final in Christchurch on 3 April.

There will also be video highlights on the BBC Sport website and app.

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