How good is cricket season?!
If you’re not already fizzed for the domestic season then sit down and get comfortable because here’s all you need to know about the women’s season ahead…
The new look schedule sees a Burger King Super Smash alignment where both the men and women will play under the same umbrella. This allows the women to squeeze in more fixtures and also means some of their games will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport. A win-win some would say.
Officially starting with a four-day T20 festival at Lincoln on October 25; the season is so close you can almost taste it.
Lincoln’s luxurious grounds, likely to be humming with outrageous yarns and cheers from procrastinating uni students, will set the perfect stage for any team to start off with a hiss and a roar.
Wellington may have taken out the T20 comp reasonably comfortably last summer and although Auckland got up easily in the one-day comp, a tight race to the finish seems inevitable this time around.
With all of that in mind, we thought it would be rude not to give you a cheeky insight into how the teams are shaping up and who you should be keeping a keen eye on.
If the sound of that doesn’t tickle your tastebuds, then let me convince you.
In terms of power rankings, the Wellington Blaze are in a strong leading position. Quickly becoming cricket’s version of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, they have yet again added to their star-studded side with the addition of up and coming WHITE FERN Thamsyn Newton. You can’t beat Wellington on a good day, and with this side you might not be able to beat them on a bad day either.
Nearby windows will be in danger from the sheer power of their top order, with Rachel Priest and Sophie Devine expected to rain on the parade of bowlers from every district. And when it rains, it pours. Their batting line up is equipped with superstar Amelia Kerr, Lucy Doolan, Liz Perry and Suzie McDonald just to name a few.
It’s no secret spinners dominate the women’s game, and with the formidable spinning duo of Lucy Doolan and Amelia Kerr, and back up from the under-rated Deanna Doughty, these bowlers will literally turn heads.
Young Jess Kerr is also expected to make waves this season with her deadly inswingers starting to trouble the nation’s top tier batters.
Player to Watch: Lucy Doolan
One of the biggest characters in the women’s game, Doolan is a crowd favourite on the domestic scene with consistent, game-changing performances last season even sparking a mini social media campaign of #luluforwhiteferns from teammates and the opposition. A classy batter and intelligent off spinner, Doolan played her last game for the WHITE FERNS in 2013 after racking up 73 caps for the country.
Coming off a convincing win in the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield last year, the Auckland Hearts will look to continue to stamp their dominance this season. A quick glance at their arsenal shows they have: 2017/18 domestic bowler of the year Holly Huddleston eyeing up the badges of batters round the fields, Maddy Green riding the success of her dream domestic season last year, legend of the game Sara Mcglashan for the initial T20 festival, and the exciting prospect of Bella Armstrong.
An obviously close-knit bunch, the Aucklanders are always good for some sideline banter and witty on-field jokes, and this will only add to their presence when the T20 Lincoln round rolls along.
Player to Watch: Bella Armstrong
After breaking her finger at an NZ emerging player’s camp earlier this winter, Bella will be fully recovered and ready to go by game one. With real potential to be a genuine all-rounder, team mate Anna Peterson puts much of Bella’s’ success down to her attitude saying “she’s probably more laid back than Melie”– and that’s a scary thought!
The Northern Spirit have taken another step in the right direction with the employment of a fulltime coach – Kari Carswell. They’ve also made the signing of Irish International and former Wellington player, Eimear Richardson. Despite losing veteran Nat Dodd, the young side will be able to draw on Richardson’s experience and any experience Bernadine Bezuidenhout will bring back from her recent stint of international cricket. Though small in size, Bezuidenhout can hit some seriously big bombs as she proved last year when she took out top run scorer in the T20 competition.
Young Nensi Patel could cause some damage also. At just 16 she already has two domestic seasons under her belt and will prove a challenge to batters with her smart slower ball. Watch this space.
Player to Watch: Felicity Leydon-Davis
Felicity will be returning to ND this season as a genuine all-rounder, having only bowled in two domestic games last summer due to her lengthy recovery from back surgery.
Leydon-Davis has been chasing the sun spending her winter in England playing county cricket for Devon and seems to have come back even hungrier for runs and wickets.
Although they might be struggling for decent chat in the field after the retirement of WHITE FERN Morna Neilson, the Otago Sparks still look in good cricket form for their comeback year. Leigh “The Wizard” Kasperek, in hot demand with both bat and ball, is expected to be one of the big dogs alongside Suzie Bates and Katey Martin charged with steering the Sparks ship out of rough water. Kasperek was the leading run scorer in the one-day format last season as well as the third highest wicket taker (it’s fair to say she carried the team as much as I carry the water for the WHITE FERNS – a lot).
Player to Watch: Kate Heffernan
If the Sparks can handle sharing the multi-talented Kate Heffernan with the Southern Steel (Netball) she will be a player to watch this season. Debuting for the WHITE FERNS in March this year, Heffernan offers a point of difference being the only opening left arm quick in the domestic competition.
With the Otago Sparks and Central Hinds previous clashes being colloquially referred to as the “Battle of the Battlers”, it’s fair to say both teams will be looking to shake that tag this season. If the Sparks youth continue their rapid development and the Hinds start turning their potential into performance, there is no reason why both sides won’t make a run for the title.
Having been referred to as a youthful and developing side for as long as I can remember, it feels like this is the Hinds season to really start heating up. Sorry to sound like a loyal Warriors supporter, but this could be their year.
The exciting addition of Northern Districts veteran Natalie Dodd (18 international appearances) will consolidate the top order and her presence behind the stumps will provide the side with some much-needed experience.
The team have had a fantastic pre-season this year, with a number of camps utilising the grass centre in Palmerston North (what a place) and also reluctantly deciding to participate in the Rotorua Mud Run in August.
Despite the battle of a farm-based challenge, it provided the perfect conditioning for that tough fine leg to fine leg slog every cricketer has to endure at some stage in their career.
Player to Watch: Jess Watkin
Fresh off the WHITE FERNS recent tour to Australia, Watkin will be ready to unleash her destructive power hitting onto the domestic scene.
Still soaking up media attention from her record double century at the National Under 21 tournament last summer, Watkin has the rare ability to take games away from the opposition, and all with a smile on her dial.
Rosemary Mair will also be a player to keep a close eye on. A consistent wicket taker with a handy knack for finishing an innings in style, it is impossible ‘Rocco’ will slide under the radar this season.
The girls in red have always been there or thereabouts when it comes to taking ‘W’s’. However, they may struggle with an extremely young side this year, especially with the potential absence of Big Bash players Amy Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu for most of the season. Replacing this international duo will be current WHITE FERN Hayley Jensen. She is an extremely smart bowler capable of going big with the bat which makes her long-awaited return both timely, and exciting.
She will be helped out by currently contracted WHITE FERN Kate Ebrahim, Frances Mackay (46 WHITEFERNS appearances) and recently retired international Erin Bermingham.
Player to Watch: Erin Bermingham
With genuine leg spin that can cut you in half like no other bowler in the league, Erin is the definition of dangerous. But it doesn’t stop there. She is also a gun batswoman who will make other teams wish she had retired from domestic cricket too.
Well, there you have it. That’s my assessment of who to watch for the upcoming season. Now it’s up to you to get around your favourite team and if you make it down to the games, make sure you come and say g’day!
So you don’t miss anything, a full schedule of the season, including TV times can be found here.
I’m pumped, let’s go.