Heather Knight looking to lead from the front as England kick off World Cup campaign

Ella Jerman

Heather Knight is relishing the opportunity of proving her credentials as both captain and batter when her new-look England side open their Women’s T20 World Cup campaign against South Africa on Sunday.

The road to redemption begins in Perth for Knight, who despite having steered her country to the 50-over title on home soil back in 2017, endured a tough summer at the helm with Australia outclassing England to win the Ashes.

Since then, the arrival of new head coach Lisa Keightley alongside the emergence of young talent such as Sarah Glenn and Mady Villiers has given the squad a needed breath of fresh air.

And Knight believes their new perspectives will help her steer the side back towards success.

“I’ve always enjoyed taking a leading role, and I’ve taken even more of one since the Ashes,” said Knight. “After a tough summer, we had the chance to assess how we wanted to do things moving forward when Lisa [Keightley] came in. She wants us players to take more ownership, which is exactly what I wanted to do after the Ashes too.

“We’ve got some fresh blood in the squad and myself and Lisa have a really good relationship, hopefully we can implement our ideas on the pitch and bring back success.”

England, who have lost to Australia in three T20 World Cup semi-finals since winning its first edition in 2009, will still go into their opener against South Africa in Perth as favourites, the Proteas’ having only progressed to the knockout stages once.

But Knight knows that’s no reason to become complacent, as her side’s shock ten-wicket warm-up defeat to Sri Lanka and India’s opening-night victory against hosts and defending champions Australia prove this year’s tournament will be the toughest yet.

“It all feels very real now,” she added. “I think India’s win proved just how good this tournament will be. If you’re not completely on it, you’ll be punished because every team has a matchwinner in their side.

“We’ve got some quick bowlers ourselves who are really going to enjoy the conditions. I really enjoy batting at the WACA too - you get really good value for your shots on the quick outfield.

“Our job is to start well against South Africa and deal with the added pressure that comes with a World Cup. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”