Today marks the start of a new era for England women's cricket as they take on India's women in a four-day Test, their first match since turning professional in May.
18 England players have been awarded central contracts by the ECB, a move that will expose our top players to the very best preparation and training that can be given, as well as a heightened exposure of the women's game in this country and around the World.
Pressure to perform
By being given these advantages the team also face increased pressure to perform. No longer are they a group of the very best cricketers selected to play for their country, they are now classed as elite sportswomen expected to perform to the best of their abilities every match.
This could be difficult to handle for some of the younger players but I am sure the evergreen Charlotte Edwards, who once again leads the side, will support them along this exciting journey.
The first Test against India, to be played at Sir Paul Getty's Ground at Wormsley, is only England's fourth Test match since 2011 and India's first in eight years.
Preparation for the game has involved training camps at their base in Loughborough, a luxury that previously was difficult to organise. England will arrive at Wormsley as prepared as they have ever been for a Test match.
They will also enter the game with their own sponsorship deal with Kia Motors. Previously these deals have been negotiated alongside the men so again this is another step in the right direction.
After this Test England will play three ODIs against India, followed by three T20 internationals against the touring South Africans.
Women's cricket has tended to focus on ODIs so hopefully the professional era will move that focus to Test cricket which, as we all know, is a true test of a cricketers skill and stamina.
Turning professional is too good an opportunity to miss for England's women cricketers so expect them to be giving their all to prove that they do warrant it. Don’t, however, expect there to be too many changes on the pitch but off it there will be a number of improvements taking place which will benefit the game.
England's 18 centrally contracted players
Charlotte Edwards (capt), Tammy Beaumont, Natasha Farrant, Lydia Greenway, Laura Marsh
(all Kent); Katherine Brunt, Danielle Hazell, Lauren Winfield (all Yorkshire); Georgia Elwiss, Sarah Taylor (Sussex); Jenny Gunn, Danielle Wyatt (Nottinghamshire); Rebecca Grundy, Amy Jones (Warwickshire); Heather Knight (Berkshire); Kathryn Cross (Lancashire); Anya Shrubsole (Somerset); Natalie Sciver (Surrey).
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