Cricket

From ashes, the record-smashing White Ferns rise

The White Ferns are on an incredible record-breaking run. Suzanne McFadden reports.

Schoolgirl Amelia Kerr’s world-record of 232 not out. Sophie Devine’s fastest century, off 58 balls. The White Ferns’ 490 – the highest score ever made in women's, or men's, one-day international cricket.

All those record-breaking feats stem back to the failure of the White Ferns at last year’s World Cup.

That’s how captain Suzie Bates sees it. The aggression, confidence and skill the White Ferns have displayed in their series against Ireland in the past week have been building ever since New Zealand capitulated in the group stages of the World Cup in England almost a year ago.

While New Zealanders were hearing the news over breakfast yesterday of 17-year-old Kerr’s incredible double century knock, the White Ferns were in a bar in their Dublin hotel having a quiet celebration of a “pretty special” week.

“Amelia was an absolute superstar today, but all of the team have performed really well all through the series. Centuries from Leigh Kasperek, Maddy Green and Sophie Devine, and that world record 494 – so many things to look back on and be proud,” says Bates, who left out her own record-breaking ton. (See the impressive list of records below).

“But the team also realise we have a massive challenge ahead of us on the rest of this tour, so we know not to get too far ahead of ourselves.”

What lies ahead is a T20 tri-series against England and South Africa starting next week, followed by an ODI series against the world champion English.

The White Ferns’ despondency at the most recent World Cup, failing to reach the semi-finals for the first time, has sparked a kind of revival in the New Zealand squad. They went on to win a series against Pakistan in November, staged a clean sweep of the West Indies at home this summer, and have now completely whitewashed Ireland in both T20 and one-day internationals.

“We didn’t perform at the World Cup, but we were really trying to create more depth in our squad. Since then we’ve really tried to play an aggressive style of cricket,” Bates says.

She singles out one player, Sophie Devine, for driving the team’s turnaround.

Devine was the New Zealand ODI and T20 women’s player of the year this season, and this week blasted the fastest-ever ton by a White Fern in the second one-dayer in Dublin.

“Sophie has been the highlight for me since the World Cup. She’s just been consistent at the top of the order, and that’s really inspired players to be better,” Bates says.

“Then you bring in Amelia Kerr, and she creates more competition which brings out the best in people.

“That’s probably been the change in the team for me. You’re looking around and there are young players and experienced players who are all performing. You can perhaps take your place in the side for granted, but now you know that people are tapping on the door. It drives you to work harder.

“Sophie has led that, by being determined to smash the ball all over the park. We haven’t actually batted together yet, so it will be nice to form that partnership again.”

While the records piled on by the White Ferns in Ireland will stand proudly in the history books – one or two of them for probably quite some time – it has to be acknowledged that Ireland, ranked 10th in the world, struggled to field their best XI.

“Unfortunately they had a few key players out with injury, and had to blood some new young players. So it’s probably been a shock introduction to international cricket for some of them,” says Bates.

“I felt a little bit sorry for them today when I won the toss for the third time in a row. I’m sure they didn’t want to be chasing leather around again - but that’s international cricket. The way our girls went about the game with intensity, I think Ireland will have learned a lot. It will drive them to train a little bit harder, knowing the standard of cricket that’s out there.”

But how does a series where the Irish put up little resistance in the field – conceding over 400 runs every time their opposition went out to bat in a 50 overs match - prepare the White Ferns for a more demanding assignment?

“Of course, you want to be challenged and put under pressure leading into a tough series, but you also want players, especially batters, to go in with a massive amount of confidence,” Bates says. “It’s hard to find that balance, which we perhaps haven’t got right in the past.

“But we are definitely in a good space, all our batters had time in the middle, and we’ve played some really good cricket. Everyone has taken some confidence from this series, which is sometimes the difficulty you have on a winter tour. Of course, time will tell, because we know we’re coming up against two quality sides. We will have to be on the mark right from the word go.”

In the captain's eyes, success for the White Ferns from their Northern Hemisphere tour would be making the final of the T20 tri-series and a series win in the three ODIs against England.

“The challenge will be finding a way to play the style of cricket we’ve played against Ireland, and play that way against these top teams. Obviously we’re not going to break records every day, but we will play with that same confidence,” she says.

They have a day of travel to rest, and no one deserved it more than Kerr. The Tawa College Year 13 student, who still isn’t old enough to be served a celebratory beer, watched an episode of Love Island to cap off one of the greatest all-round performances in cricket history (following up her double century, after a quick nap, with 5 for 17 at the bowling crease).

“I kept reminding her after we batted, ‘Don’t forget about your bowling, we need to you to keep bowling well for us’,” Bates says.  “She’s got such a point of difference; not many leg spinners can bowl as well as her. 

“I told her that both Sophie and I both started as bowlers in the White Ferns side and became batters. It’s not as taxing on the body, I keep telling her.”

Records smashed by the White Ferns in one glorious week:

  • Amelia Kerr batted through an innings to score an unbeaten 232, the highest score in women’s ODI cricket. The 17-year-old struck 31 fours and two sixes in her 145-ball epic in the third ODI, becoming the youngest double-centurion across all international cricket. (The previous record was held by former Pakistan captain Javed Miandad when he was 19).
  • Kerr was also part of the second-highest partnership in women’s ODI cricket, as she and Leigh Kasperek (113) piled on 295 runs for the second wicket. It was also the largest partnership for the second wicket in women’s ODIs.
  • New Zealand became the first international team to score 400 runs in consecutive games (they did it in three).
  • Sophie Devine blasted the fastest ODI century by a New Zealand woman in the second ODI. She blasted six sixes and 13 fours in her 58-ball century, bettering the record by 14 deliveries. It was second only to Meg Lanning’s 50-ball ton for the fastest in world cricket.
  • The White Ferns’s 490-4 was a world-record total, in both men’s and women’s international cricket, set in a 346-run victory over Ireland in the first ODI.
  • Suzie Bates’ 10th ODI century saw her surpass Debbie Hockley (4066) as the White Fern’s all-time leading ODI runs scorer with 4192 runs. Bates’ 94-ball innings featured the second-highest strike rate (160.63) in an innings of 100 or more in women’s ODI cricket.
  • White Ferns wicket-keeper Bernadine Bezuidenhout equalled the world record for dismissals in women’s T20 internationals with five.
  • Jess Watkin recorded the highest score by a White Fern on T20I debut with an unbeaten 77 from 38 balls.
  • Watkins and Bates’ 142-run partnership was a White Ferns record for any wicket in T20I.

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