Com Games Preview: New Zealand

New Ferns, New White Ferns

It’s a new look team holding some new potted ferns. Can this fresh New Zealand team do justice to the White Ferns heritage? I sought some assistance with this preview and asked Kiwi legend and commentator Frankie Mackay to shed some light.

A couple of key issues have impacted the team of late. The loss of key veteran Amy Satterthwaite caused a great deal of confusion and heartache, even anger, among fans and former players. There’s a new coach, the former Australian bowling coach, Ben Sawyer. How much time has he had to put his own stamp on the team? Not much.

The biggest blow of all, the withdrawal of key player Jess Kerr. Such an integral part of the bowling group, underutilised as a batter, Jess had an injury that kept her out of the squad. It was here that I started with Frankie.

The loss of JK will upset the balance of the team slightly. Gives the bowling line up a real point of difference with her ability to bowl hooping inswing to the right handers and because of this is lethal against left handers early as well.

Have seen with both Schutt and Shrubsole over their careers that having an inswinger who has the confidence and skill set to bowl in the powerplay becomes a real weapon for the side. Also her ability to bowl a leg cutter as her variation means she can bowl through the middle and has the ability to get the ball outside the swing arc of a right hander at the back end of the innings. Arguably her strongest format and one she has dominated with bat and ball consistently at the domestic level.

Something perhaps not talked about enough is her batting ability. She has an uncanny knack of hitting the first ball she faces for four which is such an asset to have in T20 cricket. Her batting strike rate in last years Supersmash was 150.82 and because of this was used in pinch hitting roles in the White Ferns with good success.

Without her around this role probably falls to Lea Tahuhu (who was no slouch in the Supersmash either with a strike rate of 180.49) and perhaps there is an opening in the side for someone like  Hayley Jensen or Hannah Rowe to grasp on to and fill the quick scoring void that Jess Kerr has left. Would expect the bulk of the runs to come from the top 4 but middle order contributions from Halliday and the hitters will be vital to New Zealand’s success at the games.

So Jess Kerr will be a loss and will upset the balance of the side but with a few small tweaks NZ will be able to cover the absence.

Hard to argue any of that. Jess Kerr’s absence is indeed a big blow for the White Ferns. Does the squad have the ability to win two games? The key fixtures will be against Sri Lanka and South Africa, the latter weakened by the loss of key personnel. And perhaps, can they spring a surprise on England?

Absolutely they can. South Africa really seem to have jam packed their schedule in the lead in to the comm games and I think that may actually come back to bite them. Hasn’t been a happy tour, players now carrying niggles and generally looking fatigued. And with no real cricket for New Zealand in the lead up to the games this will not be an excuse.

The dangerous thing about T20 is one player can win you a game off their own back, that should be cause for concern with some of the quality strikers that Sri Lanka possess, lead by the skipper in Athapatthu but NZ have some of our own quick scorers and I would expect to see them up the top of the order doing the bulk of the run scoring. Line them up as you have them and watch them go to work.

The White Ferns will be hoping the wickets served up will be pretty flat (well the batters will anyway). I think the danger against Sri Lanka will be if the wickets by that stage have slowed up and are taking turn or if they end up on a small hard to defend ground with Chamari going berserk.

On paper it looks like New Zealand will have too much fire power for South Africa as well especially with some big names missing their too.

England will pose a big challenge as they are a well balanced team with some real x factor players in there. I am predicting another close one, Eden Park 2.0 and whichever team manages that moment of brilliance will be the team that gets over the line. The biggest thing for this White Ferns group is believing they can do it, recent results don’t count for anything when it comes to a smash and grab world event that will be done in 9 days.

The team are excited and rightly so to be living the Commonwealth Games and Team New Zealand experience, there is also a healthy dose of excitement about leaving with a medal around their neck. Dare to dream New Zealand!

It’s hard to ignore the personnel changes in the White Ferns squad. What impact will the recent, well publicised omissions will have on team morale?

It does have to have an impact but the group have had plenty of time together in training camps leading up to this event and looking at the squad there is a real youthful exuberance to go alongside some very experienced campaigners.

Other teams have looked to youth as well to try and harness the fearless mentality and I am excited to see how some of the new players go. The White Ferns have worked exceptionally hard on the culture of the group over the last couple of years and it really shows. It’s a team where care for one another is to the forefront and with that the freedom to express oneself whilst out on the field or in the group means that there will be some pretty exciting results around the corner.

There are some big names and roles to replace however. No Satterthwaite means the leadership triangle has lost a limb with Melie Kerr and Maddy Green likely to step into that role and more will be expected and required from fellow southpaw Halliday and whether New Zealand can utilise her to create certain match ups and target certain bowlers in the way that Satterthwaite would.

No Leigh Kasperek means the WF will be without their leading wicket taker in recent years and this could put a lot of pressure on Melie Kerr to contain and take wickets whilst also being a well of advice for the 2 young spinners in the party Carson and Jonas and for me the biggest loss to cover will be Katey Martin behind the stumps. Quality with the gloves and a constant source of chat and energy in the group her influence will be dearly missed as will her middle to lower order runs which always came at a good clip and complement the big hitters up the top of the order.

Ben Sawyer has not had much time to prepare – even getting to know this playing group – will that hurt the preparation?

I don’t think it will hurt at all. Ben has been involved in the women’s game and has a really good understanding of the players within the group. Perhaps fortunately he has been able to take former coach Bob Carter and former player Sara McGlashan as his assistants who will both have good relationships throughout the playing group.

So far Sawyer has come across as being prepared to call a spade a spade and having a really clear idea of how he wants this group to play (and knows they have the skills to do it). This clarity, combined with a thriving team culture, a good mix of youth and experience and some proven match winners mean the White Ferns stack up as a worrying prospect for other teams.

I think his style will mesh well with the aggressive captaincy approach from Devine, could be a match made in heaven #BenBall perhaps?

The biggest concern is the team coming off no international cricket. Can they hit the ground running in game one and take the pressure off from there? In such a condensed tournament there can be no room for playing yourself into the tournament but Sawyer is definitely a well planned and prepared coach and I am confident this will be something he passes on to the side.

I very much doubt there is a more passionate White Ferns player than Frankie Mackay. In the eyes of many, she should be in England right now, but the Kiwi favourite is happy to champion the young outfit, cheering from home.

What I’m excited to see – the young guns show world cricket exactly what they are all about. Carson and Plimmer are both uncapped as of yet but could put in a match winning performance right from the get go. Melie Kerr showing everyone what a superstar she is and the old girls finally getting some silverware for the cupboard (and around the neck).

Predictions – In Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine and Melie Kerr you have arguably one of the best top threes in world cricket. A bowling attack led by Lea Tahuhu, a solid middle order in Green and Halliday and some quality youth in Carson, Jonas and Plimmer then to me it looks like a well rounded dangerous team. Take them lightly at your peril. Comfortable wins in pool play take them through to the medal matches and you read it here first, this is the team to knock Australia out… in the semi finals.

Whoa! As an Aussie that gives me cause for concern. The Kiwis love nothing more than beating the Aussies, and on this big stage they have the history and the passion to do it. Can they? last word to Frankie:

Going to be some late nights and early starts for the New Zealand fans but after hosting the One Day world cup at the end of the home summer there is an army of fans at home that will be cheering the team on every step of the way. The White Ferns didn’t win the recent World Cup but did endear themselves to the public and a medal will only continue to grow the game in NZ.

Growing the game is what it’s all about. My thanks to Frankie for the generosity of her time and words. If there’s a medal at the end, this is the team to bring it home for 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

Fixtures:

New Zealand is in Pool B with England, South Africa and Sri Lanka:

Embed from Getty Images

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