Tomorrow, in Perth, the weird ol' phase of Aotearoa's White Ferns playing without coach Haidee Tiffen at the helm gets underway with the first Rose Bowl ODI vs Australia. After being given yet another reality check of the brewing quality of women's international cricket from India, the White Ferns now take on Australia who could prove to be an even tougher challenge for this wobbly White Ferns group.
Bob Carter takes charge, although the squad was selected back on February 10th and featured reasoning from Tiffen. From the squad of 13 who played against India, Bernadine Bezuidenhout and Holly Huddleston drop out, with Bezuidenhout replaced by Katey Martin who returns as the wicket-keeper. Huddleston is replaced by young seamer Rosemary Mair from Central Districts and in the squad of 14 for the Rose Bowl, all-rounder Hayley Jensen is another addition.
Reason of White Ferns hope, is the return of Martin as she adds some much needed oomph to the middle order and is a great bridge between the big-three and the younger players. Martin isn't quite on the big-three level, yet she is the next best batswoman and has consistently been among the leading run-scorers in recent White Ferns cricket.
I would love to see Katie Perkins play a whole lot more than she did vs India as well, especially in a niggly Rose Bowl. Having a batting line up featuring Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Amy Satterthwaite, Martin and Perkins offers plenty of experience and is far more solid than having the younger players hold down the middle order.
Against India, it was Lauren Down, Amelia Kerr and Maddy Green who batted in the top/middle order to fill spots around the big three. This amounted to Down averaging 8.33 in 3inns, Kerr averaging 14.50 in 2inns and Green averaging 9.50 in 2inns; none of which warrants Rose Bowl selection, nor does it instill any confidence that they will step up vs Australia.
Two domestic one-day games were played after the India series and while Kerr, Down and Green scored a few runs, Perkins put up an immense case for selection...
Kerr: 21 off 36, 40 off 61.
Down: 18 off 31, 0 off 3.
Green: 15 off 16, 37 off 46.
Perkins: 52 off 59, 62 off 74.
Kerr should be selected for her bowling, while there is little reason to selected Down and/or Green ahead of Perkins. Having Kerr come in further down the order could also be beneficial for her as she struggled to some extent dealing with the swift batting promotion, against strong opposition.
Mair is an intriguing selection and she will have an opportunity to show why she is 2nd on domestic one-day wickets with 15w @ 15.33avg/3.51rpo as a 20-year-old. The White Ferns seam attack was under-whelming in home conditions, with Holly Huddleston (10ov in 2inns) and Hannah Rowe (7ov in 2inns) both unable to take a wicket. Along with Devine not taking a wicket in her 11ov (3inns), three of Aotearoa's frontline seamers went wicket-less in the India series and now Mair has been added to the attack.
Regardless of the conditions, the White Ferns strength is their spin attack. Anna Peterson, Leigh Kasperek and Kerr offer a point of difference that could challenge Australia on their bouncey pitches. Keep in mind that hard and fast seam is nothing new for Australia's batswomen, so while it could be exciting to see Lea Tahuhu unleashed with the fire of Mair, I suspect it will be the spinners who will be more influential.
That's if the White Ferns can get anywhere near Australia in these games, because after that India series, there appears to be little chance of that. As always, the big-three will need to score runs and they will hopefully have experienced support in both Martin and Perkins. Otherwise we'll have greater reason to question the resources and support given to Aotearoa's women's cricketers.
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Peace and love 27.