Lisa Keightley's appointment as England women's head coach comes at a time of transition. After an Ashes drubbing this summer, her first task is to turn things around in time for next year's T20 World Cup, but there are bigger-picture considerations too with the ECB set to pump money into the women's game. Here are five things on her immediate to-do list…
Closing the gap on Australia
It's hardly news that Australia are streets ahead of both England and the rest of the women's game, both in terms of their first team and their depth, but after pledging an investment of £20 million over the next two years, the ECB are doing their best to change that.
Of course, that money is no silver bullet, and it will take several years for the national team to reap the benefits, but Keightley will be expected to put up a better showing in the next Ashes series than Mark Robinson's side managed this summer. While Australia will inevitably go into both the T20 and 50-over World Cups as favourites, there is a certain expectation that England should reach the latter stages and be competitive.
Finding a T20 formula
After clean sweeps in India and Sri Lanka and a win against West Indies, England had a 100 percent record in T20Is since their World T20 final defeat going into the Ashes this summer. But their shortcomings in the format were ruthlessly exposed by Australia in thrashings at Chelmsford and Hove: their batting looked rudderless against top-quality pace and spin, while their seam attack was one-dimensional.
Most concerning was the lack of a clear blueprint in the format: allrounder Georgia Elwiss took the new ball to bowl her medium pace at Hove having missed the first game, while Amy Jones was shuffled down the order into a very different role after two failures opening.
While she has only a limited period of time to do so, Keightley needs to find a formula in the short form before England's World Cup campaign starts next spring. Robinson's assistant Alistair Maiden will take charge of their series in Malaysia this winter, but Keightley would do well to sit down with him beforehand to work out how they want England to play.
Getting the best out of Wyatt
The benefits of Robinson's time in charge were evident in no player more than Tammy Beaumont. Averaging 17.25 in ODIs and 8.31 in T20Is before his appointment, she then averaged 47.72 and 29.85 in the respective formats during his tenure, thanks in no small part to his backing despite all the evidence from her international record.
While Beaumont is now a sufficiently complete player that she should have no concerns keeping that form up under a new coach, Keightley can hope to transform the fortunes of Danni Wyatt in a similar way. Wyatt, of course, is an accomplished T20 opener, with an average of 34.11 and a strike rate of 137.66 in the past two years, but she has struggled to translate that form into ODI cricket leaving her with an underwhelming record in 50-over cricket.
Those struggles can in part be attributed to her role - she has generally had to bat at No. 6 or even No. 7 in ODIs - but she should be approaching her peak at 29 by the time the next 50-over World Cup comes round in 2021, and Keightley will be keen to make the most of Wyatt's obvious talents.
Succession planning for the seamers
Katherine Brunt has been a near-constant presence in England's seam attack over the past 15 years, but at 34 she may only have another two years of international cricket left in the tank. While Kate Cross impressed in the home summer, she is 28 herself, and Keightley would do well to make succession plans with the long term in mind.
There are several talented young bowlers in the system: Tash Farrant and Freya Davies have both had a taste of international cricket, while the tall 18-year-old Lauren Bell impressed with the new ball in the Kia Super League semi-final, and tearaway teenager Issy Wonghas been hotly tipped for a bright future. With the number of professionals in the game set to expand rapidly, there has never been a better time to be a young English fast bowler.
Address nagging fitness problems
Robinson's tenure was bookended by his concerns about England's fitness. "They out-ran us," he said in the aftermath of the World T20 semi-final defeat to Australia in 2016. "Fitness is something we've got to get better at, because we missed out on twos." Three years later, after the Ashes Test at Taunton, he reflected: "The only big difference between the two teams really is the athleticism. That's not lack of effort from our team, that's not lack of desire, they've just got better athletes."
While Robinson maintained that "God gives you physical attributes" and nothing could be done about Australia's superiority in that area, Keightley will be keen to address any lingering concerns about her side's fitness early on in her tenure; any post-match press conferences bemoaning England's lack of athleticism will come with a certain sense of déjà vu.