New look White Ferns looking for elusive global triumph at CWG 2022

New Zealand squad for Commonwealth Games 2022 © Getty Images

Women’s cricket will be played for the first time at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) when the ball gets rolling in Birmingham on Friday (July 29). Eight teams, two groups, two semi-finals, and three medals. The concept is simple and it theoretically gives all the eight participating teams, including New Zealand, three shots at a medal.

New Zealand haven’t played international cricket since the first-round exit at their home World Cup earlier this year and are grouped alongside the hosts England, South Africa, and Sri Lanka in Group B. They will start their campaign with the match against South Africa on July 30.

How they made it?

On April 26 last year, The International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) announced that the top six ICC T20I ranked teams as of April 1, 2021, will join the hosts England in the CWG 2022 women’s cricket competition. New Zealand were ranked number four in the format at the time and secured qualification to join the three other teams in Group B.

What have they done in the past?

Since there’s no history of women’s cricket at the CWG, we will have to go by the international records and T20 World Cup performances. And in that regard, New Zealand are one of the top teams in the world.

New Zealand have the third best Win/Loss ratio in the format among the seven teams at the event – Barbados haven’t played T20 cricket at the international level – and they were also the runners-up in the first two T20 World Cups in 2009 and 2010. They also made it to the semi-finals of the global event two more times, having made it to the last four in 2012 and 2016.

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How has their recent form been?

It’s difficult to say how recent is recent enough when it comes to global events. After their semi-final exit at the 2016 T20 World Cup in India, New Zealand have struggled at world events. They have had first-round exits in two T20 and ODI World Cups since then.

As mentioned earlier, they haven’t played international cricket since their exit at the World Cup 2022 in March and haven’t featured in a T20I since February. With all the other six teams – Barbados had some regional T20 matches under their belt – having played T20Is in this period, New Zealand come into the competition with a serious lack of game time.

In their last ten T20Is, New Zealand have managed to win only three games while losing six of them, with one match being abandoned because of rain. On Monday, they did register an emphatic nine-wicket win against a strong England A side in the warm-up fixture to keep them in good stead ahead of their opening match.

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Squad

New Zealand have named a relatively young squad, with veteran players like Katey Martin and Amy Satterthwaite – her retirement had its share of controversy – announcing retirement from international cricket. Initially, Lauren Down and Jess Kerr were part of the squad, but with Down withdrawing to priortise her mental well-being and Jess Kerr not recovering from the foot injury she sustained at the World Cup, New Zealand called up the experienced Lea Tahuhu and uncapped Claudia Green into the side.

Claudia’s inclusion meant New Zealand now have five uncapped players in their 15-member squad. Off spinner Eden Carson, wicket-keepers Izzy Gaze and Jess McFadyen, and 18-year-old Georgia Plimmer are the other uncapped members of the team.

New Zealand squad: Sophie Devine (c), Suzie Bates, Eden Carson, Izzy Gaze, Claudia Green, Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Fran Jonas, Amelia Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Jess McFadyen, Georgia Plimmer, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu

Likely playing XI

1. Sophie Devine 2. Suzie Bates 3. Amelia Kerr 4. Maddy Green 5. Brooke Halliday 6. Jess McFadyen 7. Lea Tahuhu 8. Hayley Jensen 9. Hannah Rowe 10. Rosemary Mair 11. Fran Jonas

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Key Players

Sophie Devine

New Zealand skipper Sophie Devine is one of the best batters in the format and often the most key component of any batting lineup she is part of. It’s going to be the same at the CWG as well and her side’s fortune will heavily depend on the exploits of the top three, consisting of herself, Suzie Bates, and Amelia Kerr.

The void created by Satterthwaite’s absence in the middle order will put more pressure on the top order and Devine might have to play a larger role of batting through the innings if they lose Bates early.

Although she had a reasonably good ODI World Cup, Devine’s T20I numbers in recent times don’t make for good reading. Since the T20 World Cup 2020, she has scored only 208 runs from 11 matches at an average of 18.90 and a strike rate of 99.52. New Zealand will be hoping that Devine will come out of the indifferent form in the format and help them stake a claim for a place in the semi-finals in the tougher of the two groups.

Lea Tahuhu

Tahuhu wasn’t supposed to make this trip with New Zealand’s decision to opt for a younger bowling attack. But as luck would have it, she was added to the squad in the absence of Down and Jess Kerr. The pace bowler will be instrumental to New Zealand’s bowling efforts because of her experience and the ability to bowl at all stages of the game.

New Zealand

Lea Tahuhu will be a key member of New Zealand© Getty Images

The 31-year-old also has some ability with the bat and in the recent past, she has shown – especially in the Super Smash – that she can be handy down the order to wield her willow and help New Zealand with some quick runs. New Zealand will be hoping that Tahuhu and Amelia will lead their respective bowling departments and the pacer will also be keen to prove a point, having lost her central contract with New Zealand ahead of the 2022-23 season.

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X Factor

Amelia Kerr

At 21, Amelia is already one of the members of the leadership group in the side, alongwith the likes of Devine and Bates. Although it’s too early to anoint her to the ‘three wise ladies’ group, the retirement of Satterthwaite means Amelia will have to take on more responsibilities with the bat – something she relishes.

New Zealand have invested more in her batting in recent times and have got good rewards with the decision to push her up the order. With her batting exploits, it’s easy to forget how good Amelia is as a leg-spinner. Her googlies are one of the most potent weapons in the women’s game and New Zealand will need every bit of her if their ambition of unleashing a new era were to come true.

Amelia Kerr in action for New Zealand © Getty Images

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Left field pick: 20-year-old Eden Carson is one of the many new faces in this New Zealand set up. But she has had great success during the domestic season back home where she helped Otago Sparks to a title in the HBJ Shield, while also taking them to the final of the Super Smash 2022. The mild-mannered off spinner will be a good replacement for the wily Leigh Kasperek if she were to make her debut during the event.

Eden Carson has spectacular domestic season with Otago Sparks © Getty Images

Prediction

Where they will finish: Fourth

New Zealand have flattered to deceive a lot in recent times – especially at the global stage- and this re-boot and lack of international match practice compared to their opponents could come back to hurt them. But also, the short-sharp nature of the tournament might be a blessing in disguise for them. It would take only a couple of innings from Devine for them to make it to the semi-finals and from there it could be anyone’s game.

New Zealand’s biggest challenge will be overcoming South Africa for a second semi-final spot from Group B, and they will be hoping to get the better of a struggling Proteas side, and they will also wary of the threat Chamari Athapaththu’s Sri Lanka possess. Despite the young squad, a first-round exit will be a disappointing result for White Ferns owing to the very nature of the competition.