New Zealand



Chances of Success Rating 7.9/10 (2nd)



I fully remember the last time I tried to write a piece about the development of New Zealand cricket. It was for Cricinfo, right before their series against England in early 2015, and was entitled “New Zealand’s frustrating decline in women’s cricket”. It seemed accurate enough at the time. New Zealand have not won a world title since their World Cup win at home in 2000. They were fourth-placed in 2013.

I sent it off. Then I turned on the BBC commentary for the first England-New Zealand ODI. Suzie Bates was in the middle of hammering a century. New Zealand didn't lose a wicket until 157 runs were up on the scoreboard. Frantically, I emailed over edits to my piece - which had proudly proclaimed that England had not lost an international match against the Kiwis in 5 years - while the action unfolded.

I stayed up half the night listening to New Zealand defeating England by 67 runs. They went on to win two of the three Championship matches. I was left rather red-faced.

Something has changed with this New Zealand team over the past couple of years. Perhaps it has something to do with the expanding contract system - while most of the team are still only semi-professional, NZC do now offer remuneration for the core squad of players (the value of these contracts being significantly raised last year). It almost certainly is linked to the appointment of former international Haidee Tiffen as coach in April 2015. Tiffen has played in two World Cup finals and won one - not a bad person to have at the helm right now.

Since Tiffen took over, New Zealand have beaten Australia in six out of 12 international encounters. They also clinically annihilated the Sri Lankans in their Championship series in November 2015. Other results have been mixed - but they eventually finished the Championship a close third behind Australia and England; and there is a real sense that this side, who always possessed some potentially-great players, now have players who are starting to fulfil that potential.

That includes the fierce fast-bowling duo Lea Tahuhu and Holly Huddleston, who has revived her career by performing brilliantly in English conditions for Middlesex. It also includes their power hitting top-order: Amy Satterthwaite, who recently hit four successive ODI centuries against Pakistan and Australia; Rachel Priest, who averaged 158 against the Sri Lankans in that 2015 ODI series; Sophie Devine, returning from injury, who hit an 18-ball half-century against India two years ago. And that is without even mentioning captain Suzie Bates - 2013’s Player of the Tournament.

All of these players have one other thing in common: they form the seemingly never-ending series of Kiwi recruits to the County Championship this season. Alongside Huddleston at Middlesex there is Bates at Hampshire, Devine at Warwickshire, Satterthwaite at Lancashire, Tahuhu at Surrey and Priest at Berkshire. New Zealand know which side their bread is buttered: their top players will be superbly well adjusted to English conditions, come the start of this tournament.

In my view - and I’m going to stick my neck out here - that puts them as favourites to take home the World Cup trophy this time around.

Comments

  1. Certainly one of the best sides, conditions should suit New Zealand nicely, with some of their best players getting plenty of time in the middle and scoring heavily in England in recent years. They are one of the most exciting sides to watch. The main stumbling blocks for me with NZ are their recent lack of success in big competitions; a potentially fragile batting lineup after Bates, Priest, Devine and Satterthwaite; and a bowling attack which sometimes goes round the park. They lack specialist pace bowlers with plenty of international experience, and may over-rely on Bates and Devine, who are both more batting than bowling all-rounders these days.

    I have a sense that the side tend to choke a bit on the big occasion, like England do sometimes! In recent years, in big matches around the world, and I'm talking semis and finals like the T20 world cup and the Women's Big Bash, the New Zealand top players have not had it go their way. And in the world T20 semis against West Indies in 2016, they didn't give the impression that they really believed they could win. The current players have usually not ended up on the winning side in these encounters, and have often not had good days at the office. In fact, one of the players to defy this pattern is Sara McGlashan (Winning WBBL with Sixers in 2017 after losing in the 2016 final) who, ironically, no longer plays for the White Ferns. Losing her could be a big blow for them as she brought stability and quality to the middle order.

    Now if you look at recent records in England, it's a bit of a different story, with Bates and Priest both performing well in the KSL 2016 final. This is a more positive (and perhaps more important!) marker to focus on.

    New Zealand should certainly qualify from the group stage in the top 3, and they have it in them to go all the way. But I wouldn't be too surprised if the occasion did the better of them in the semi-final or final. Having said that, they are many a non-Kiwi's (including this one's) second-favourite side, and I for one will be rooting for them in every game, except against England of course!

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  2. An incredibly strong side that should cruise through the group stage. Really impressed with how they've prepared for the tournament by making sure key players have had time in county cricket. I saw Huddleston bowl for Middlesex v Surrey and she looked extremely threatening. A very likable side that I hope do themselves justice this time around. Having said that, I also can't shake the suspicion they might come unstuck in the knock-out matches.

    Watching the Rose Bowl series earlier this year was fascinating (huge credit to NZ cricket for streaming the whole series). NZ had a great opportunity to win the series after a really impressive win in the first match but they were rather easily brushed aside by Australia in the last two games.
    This was in part due to Australia chasing in the 2nd & 3rd ODIs (Australia have won 15 & lost only twice when chasing since the 2013 World Cup) but it also appeared that Australia were just more comfortable and adaptable in the pressure situations.

    NZ were too predictable in their use of bowlers, frustratingly so with the remarkable Amelia Kerr. Kerr caused real problems for the Australians, notably dismissing Lanning in her first over in the 2nd ODI but Bates allowed Lanning to play 11 overs before bringing Kerr into the attack in the decider. Australia were happy to use the pace of Tahuhu (who went at 5.89 rpo and took no wickets in the 2nd & 3rd ODIs after taking 4-59 in the 1st) in particular to help the ball on its way to the boundary. If Bates trusts Kerr with a more attacking role she could be the breakout star of this tournament.

    Incidentally, I thought that Rose Bowl series was a great example of the standard that is likely to become the norm as the game becomes more professional. It was the highest scoring 3 match women's ODI series in history and featured the 2nd, 3rd and 10th highest successful run chases of all time. The surfaces were excellent at both Eden Park and Mount Maunganui. If we see similar pitches for WWC17 it should be a spectacular tournament.

    If NZ are bolder in taking the initiative in the clutch moments they have every chance of taking the title home.

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