Upbeat New Zealand aim to start well against consistent England
Sophie Devine celebrates with her New Zealand team-mates. © Getty Images
Every team has a nemesis whom they cannot get better off. While the women's game has grown significantly in the last ten years, it has also widened the gap between teams when it comes to ODIs. In this format, England are that nemesis for New Zealand over the past decade. Well, you would have to exclude Australia, as they are a far better and dominating side in ODIs.
Barring England, New Zealand have a better if not equal win-loss ration in comparison with other teams. Of the 15 instances they have come up against each other since February 2011, New Zealand has won only three. However, rather strangely, the hosts might have an upper-hand going into the ODI series against England on Tuesday (February 23).
The biggest positive for Sophie Devine-led side is that they have been playing cricket continuously since the Australia series in September last year. That series was followed by the Women's Big Bash League, Women's T20 Challenge, and the domestic season -- Super Smash T20 and Hallyburton Johnston Shield -- in New Zealand. And the key players have been in good form in the Super Smash before coming into the international series.
Devine, Amy Satterthwaite, and Amelia Kerr led the batting charts, while Lea Tahuhu turned the game around for Canterbury Magicians with the bat in the final to end their trophy drought. Similarly, Frances Mackay and Natalie Dodd would be high on confidence going into the series with their performances from the HBJ Shield and Super Smash.
As &t=186s">Sudarshanan S and Ananya Upendran pointed in our series preview show, Brooke Halliday's inclusion in the squad add some interesting premise to their batting order. With Satterthwaite being the only left-hander in their top six, the 25-year-old Halliday might find a place in the eleven at some point in the series.
Although it seems like all is well, and the hosts might have an advantage going into the series, the absence of their star batter Suzie Bates leaves a large hole in their top-order. With the ball, they will be missing the services of Leigh Kasperek, who is currently playing for Wellington Blaze in the HBJ shield. It adds extra pressure on Devine to lift her game and the team while she is still searching for her first ODI win as a skipper. As a team, too, New Zealand have lost their last nine ODIs going into the series. Their previous victory came against India in February 2019.
On the other hand, despite the better head-to-head record in recent years, England have their own issues to address. Their players have been on a break since the WBBL and are coming straight into the international series. The biggest worry for them would be their bowling attack, especially in the absence of Anya Shrubsole.
Apart from Katherine Brunt, their frontline bowlers have not played much against New Zealand. Sarah Glenn is yet to play against them, and Sophie Ecclestone has played only three so far. In the two warm-up fixtures, the England bowlers managed to take only eleven wickets, conceding more than 275 runs on both occasions.
And that is why the left-arm seamer Natasha Farrant could be the trump card for England in the absence of Shrubsole. Though she was not used fully in the warm-ups, Farrant adds a variety to the attack that otherwise might look one-dimensional. Whether she will start in the first ODI is still doubtful as Freya Davis seem to be their preferred choice if one has to go by the warm-up fixtures.
In the batting department, Tammy Beaumont has provided the stability England needed at the top. Their concern would be the form of Danielle Wyatt, who has not done as well as her teammates in recent past. However, with Wyatt scoring a fifty, Knight would hope that the opener will continue the same in the ODIs.
Fran Wilson batted at six in the warm-ups, below Knight, Sciver and Amy Jones. She will be crucial for them with the bat adding some weight in the lower order along with Ecclestone.
After the first warm-up, Knight said that consistency is key to success in this format. Clearly, England are better at it than New Zealand going into the series. Nevertheless, cricket is a funny sport, and one might never know until the game is actually over. Both the teams have their advantages and disadvantages. But a lot will depend on who gets their team combination right from the go in the first ODI.
England: Heather Knight (c), Natalie Sciver, Katherine Brunt, Tammy Beaumont, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Natasha Farrant, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danielle Wyatt.
New Zealand: Sophie Devine (c), Natalie Dodd, Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Fran Jonas, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Frances Mackay, Katey Martin (wk), Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu.