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England Women vs White Ferns
England Women vs New Zealand Women. ©WHITE FERNS/Twitter

 

Sporting events have been taking place all over the world in the post-COVID-19 era. While men’s cricket has been going on in full swing, women’s cricket too has been taking place slowly. It begun last year with the England-West Indies series; and now every other country has been throwing their hat as well.

And now as the action shifts to the Trans-Tasman region, the White Ferns are ready to take on England in a three-match ODI and as many T20Is. The White Ferns have lost their last nine One Day International games, where their last victory came against India on February 1, 2019. Considering what has been a disappointing string of results for an otherwise powerful limited-overs unit, the visit by England gives the hosts a great chance to come back.

But central to the recent woeful ODI run of the White Ferns is the opposition it encountered.

Of their last nine games, six were against the mighty Aussies. So it will be a tough task for them to get back in the winning zone ahead of the postponed World Cup next year. However, the White Ferns are coming from their domestic season which will certainly help them.

Take nothing away from the fact that the White Ferns’ rivals will be the One Day world champions, England, a team that last played the format in December 2019 against Pakistan. But to offer much-valuable recent white-ball experience, one would remember the daunting form England were in in the five-match T20I series against West Indies whom they hosted last September.

Sarah Glenn, Sophie Ecclestone and the batters were the prized draw that piled heaps of agony for a side that simply wasn’t that good enough.

This time too, Glenn and Ecclestone, along with the medium-pacers would be keen to pounce on swinging, turning conditions.

On the other hand, the hosts won’t be getting the service of experienced star player Suzie Bates, who hasn’t yet recovered from a shoulder injury which she’d sustained during last October’s Rose Bowl series against Australia which they lost by 3-0.

The world needs no introduction on the magic that together Bates and Devine habitually produce for the side, though this time around there won’t be the familiar dazzle.

Additionally, however, the White Ferns unit shall offer the promise of exuberance.

In giving a maiden call-up to teenage spin bowler Fran Jonas and batter Brooke Halliday, who impressed with a quickfire 79 off 56 balls- including three sixes and eight fours (for an NZ XI against England in Queenstown earlier this week) the hosts will be readying to tackle the English challenge with a fine mix of talent.

Halliday was among runs in the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield where she finished as the second-highest run-scorer whereas Jonas placed at the fourth place in the wicket-takers list as well.

“Brooke and Fran both deserve their call-ups on the back of strong domestic form,” New Zealand head coach Bob Carter said. “Brooke’s done a superb job at the top of the order for the Spirit and offers a point of difference as a left-hander.”

“Fran’s an exceptional talent who’s proven she can foot it with our top players. It’s exciting to add a left-arm spinner to our squad and the balance that offers our bowling attack. This is a great chance for them to come in and develop their games. We’ve selected them for a reason and look forward to welcoming them into the group,” he further added.

That said, England will be without their pace-spearhead Anya Shrubsole, such a stand out limited overs star. The medium-pacer will be missing out due to a knee injury, whereas Katie George, dealing with a stress fracture in her back has been ruled out as well.

Historically speaking, the first that the two sides squared against each other in the shortest form was back in 2004 in a solitary T20 , won in thrilling fashion by New Zealand.

In 2007, however, England contained the visiting Kiwi side in a white-ball series also involving three T20Is, winning by a margin of 2-1, the first bi-lateral series between the two involving T20 internationals.

Since then, the two have locked horns in the game’s most exciting format on three separate occasions with English ladies overcoming the White Ferns comfortably in 2012 (winning by 4-0) and 2015 (winning 2-1), with New Zealand only managing a solitary bi-lateral T20 series win in 2010.

Time for the hosts to reverse the tables on one of the dominant powers in the women’s game given home conditions and the familiarity that this factor brings? Who knows.

Now what about the two’s ODI form?

Post the ICC Women’s World Cup, both the teams faced each other in a three-match ODI series where England won by 2-1.

But there are positives too. Both teams have won a warm-up game each. For England, familiar white-ball basher Danielle Wyatt has been among runs, scoring a useful 35 in the first match, followed by a quickfire 54 in the second. Even Sophie Ecclestone, among the stand out spinners in the game today has been in form. She also scored a fifty alongside Lauren Winfield (59 off 39).

On the other hand, the White Ferns’ Natalie Dodd was quite impressive with a 104-ball 91. Furthermore, wicketkeeper-batter Katey Martin, who sparkled in the domestic T20 recently too has been packing a punch with the willow.

Among the key questions for the hosts would be whether Martin, Devine, Kerr can form a winning troika given their match winning talents with the bat?

However, looking at the squad, both teams have covered all bases – be it the opening pair, the combination for the middle-order or the bowlers. That being said, make no mistake about the X-factor in the ambit of the White Ferns, a team that can surprise everyone, a team whose abilities at the crease can upset the game’s most pugnacious forces.

Although the White Ferns would be aware of the flair of the youth and the prized possession that the experience of the English presents: even without Shrubsole, the troika of Glenn, Ecclestone, Brunt are head turners.

The batting trio of Knight, Beaumont, Wyatt offers the prospect of game-changing performances.

Then there’s Sciver who does wonders in both departments of the ball, and was certainly England’s stand-out star in the 2020 World Cup. England would want to keep their winning momentum and one can expect there to be sparks on the 22 yards when two strong sides face each other, this being a bi-lateral series after a gap of half a decade.

White Ferns: Sophie Devine (Captain), Natalie Dodd, Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Fran Jonas, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Frankie Mackay, Katey Martin, Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu

England: Heather Knight (Captain), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Tash Farrant, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Nat Sciver, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danni Wyatt

Fixture:

1st ODI: Hagley Oval, Christchurch, Tuesday 23 Feb

2nd ODI: University Oval, Dunedin, Friday 26 Feb

3rd ODI: University Oval, Dunedin, Sunday 28

1st T20: Sky Stadium, Wellington, Wednesday 3 March

2nd T20: Eden Park, Auckland, Friday 5 March

3rd T20: Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, Sunday 7 March

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