England Women will have to get used to playing more cricket after their busiest summer in memory and with a high-stakes winter ahead, Lisa Keightley, their head coach, says.
A season in which they won a multi-format series with India by 10 points to six, peeled away to play for their Hundred franchises and then returned to beat New Zealand 2-1 and 4-1 in T20I and ODI series respectively has left England with plenty to ponder ahead of next year's Ashes and World Cup, but also exhausted.
"The girls need a break," Keightley said. "We've had two international series with the Hundred in the middle, where the players are probably used to going from an international series back into domestic cricket, and then we've got the back end [against New Zealand].
"With the Hundred, they're on telly all the time... you've got to perform and games come really quickly, and then you roll straight over and into an international series. That's new for the players and they're not used to it.
"We got through it, but I think at times players struggled with a bit of mental fatigue. They've got to get used to it because it's only going to be like that moving forward."
The comments come a week after the ECB cited welfare issues for pulling out of their tours of Pakistan, scheduled for next month, even though captain Heather Knight said at the time that the decision was taken out of players' hands.
"We've loved having more cricket, even though the players at times get really tired," Keightley said. "That will improve the more we get used to playing this much.
"The Hundred is going to move cricket in England forward really quickly and players are going to stand out through that, put their hand up for selection in the England squad and teams."
Tammy Beaumont, who scored a century to set up England's 203-run victory in the final ODI at Canterbury on Sunday, admitted she was looking forward to a few weeks off after spending the best part of four months living under strict Covid-prevention protocols.
"You're used to being quite structured and regimented with your cricket training and everything but then you're normally used to going home and just walking down the road and going into a coffee shop or going out for dinner, seeing your friends," Beaumont said. "It's been four months of doing every single protocol.
"We've not had one Covid case in two years, so we've obviously done it well. But I think a few of us are desperate to maybe go on holiday or have some time away and just not think about, 'where's my mask, where's my hand sanitiser, how do I get petrol at the self-service pump?' and all those things that you take for granted in normal life.
"As much as I'm really looking forward to January, and I'm sure we'll be raring to go in the Ashes, I'm also looking forward to a couple weeks of just being a normal person."
Series wins aside, other positives emerged for England out of New Zealand's tour. They were able to experiment with team balance - testing a seven-batter line-up with a view to putting pressure on Australia during the Ashes, as well as the likes of India, South Africa and New Zealand in the World Cup. They also rotated their seam bowlers and gave international debuts to three players, Charlotte Dean, Maia Bouchier and Emma Lamb.
England were pushed in a number of games by New Zealand, however, while the failure of their middle order to fully fire - which was rectified in the final match when the pressure was off - is clearly something to work on.
Keightley believes her players struggled to switch from a T20 style of play - they had three matches in the format to end India's tour then went into the Hundred and opened New Zealand's visit with three T20s - to the ODI format, which was key to preparations for their World Cup defence in March.
"Our transition into 50-over cricket was too slow and we were playing high-risk shots too early in our innings and not hitting down the ground," Keightley said. "In our middle order at times we lost clusters of wickets which we need to improve on and make sure we can stretch partnerships."
Dean was the pick of the debutants, her off-spin playing an important role in England winning the second and fourth ODIs and she demonstrated that her fielding is world class. All three will be aiming for Ashes selection, but the England A tour of Australia which runs parallel to that series offers further opportunity.
"To have three debut, it's really exciting and shows that we're trying to grow and expand our squad," Keightley said. "I'd hope those names are talked about moving forward for that Ashes series.
"It will help us that there's an England A tour as well so we probably don't have to make a huge amount of decisions too early, we know there's a number of players that will be going away, but Charlie Dean didn't do herself any harm."