Auckland Hearts and Takapuna Ponies' cricketer finds form and titles
In New Zealand and around the world, women's cricket is changing. We are following Auckland Hearts player Lauren Down's journey this season.
With runs on the board and titles in hand, Lauren Down looks back on the 2016/17 cricket season with pride.
Not every result went her way, but two trophies for the Takapuna Ponies adds some shine to a season that saw the Auckland Hearts miss out on the silverware.
The Auckland Hearts were chasing a three-peat in the women's national one-day competition but fell short against Canterbury Magicians - a team they'd beaten twice in the week before the final.
The twenty20 title eluded the Hearts too, but Down says, "It's a massive improvement from where we were last year in terms of T20 stuff."
"Overall a season to be proud of."
Reflecting on her personal contribution to the Hearts' season Down says: "It was definitely a slow start, and obviously form comes and goes, but it was nice to finally find some near the back end of the season and be able to contribute towards the team."
However, in the Auckland premier women's club cricket competition, Down found some of her best form for the Takapuna Ponies, including back-to-back centuries and a total of 561 runs across 11 matches.
"I think the big thing there is enjoyment, we've created such a good team culture within the Ponies set-up, and it is allowing people to go out and express themselves and play however they want to; to play freely.
"I know for me that has been a massive thing, I know I've got 10 other people and the coach's support when I go out there, they trust what I'm doing."
Unfortunately, as captain, Down didn't have as much success at the coin toss.
"I think I only won two tosses all season. So every game, pretty much, we got put into bat."
However, in the team's final two matches of the season, batting first worked in her favour.
On March 18, the Ponies posted 233, with Down notching 101. Her bowlers, led by Roz McNeill, then dismissed Waitakere for 15. The next weekend in the final of the Pearl Dawson Trophy limited overs competition, Down again top-scored with 74 in a team total of 223. Their opponents, Auckland University, were all out for 36 in reply.
The Ponies finished the season as winners of both of Auckland Cricket's premier women's limited overs competitions and were beaten finalists in the twenty20 competition.
Down thinks coach Chris Reid and team manager Damien Cancare have a big role to play in the Ponies' success.
"I don't think there is any other women's club side that has a coach and a manager that turn up week in, week out, like those two do, so we are very lucky."
Echoing the thoughts of White Ferns captain Suzie Bates at the New Zealand Cricket Awards, Down has considered what it would be like to have the opportunity to play test cricket like her male counterparts.
"I think that there have been a few women's test matches played previously, I don't know how many, but for me I would love to play a test match, I think it would be an awesome experience.
"But I think where the women's game is heading, those overseas T20 tournaments, that's where more cricket is coming from at the moment. To have the opportunities to go overseas and play in those tournaments is good for the women's game."
After three back-to-back-seasons of cricket, Down is temporarily putting down her bat.
Following the 2015/16 New Zealand season, Down went to England to play and returned home not long before the start of the 2016/17 season.
While she is back studying full time at Massey University this year, she is also enjoying a return to the turf.
Down will turn out for the Northcote/Glenfield Hockey Club in the senior 1 competition this winter. She has teamed up with a lot of the girls she use to play competitive hockey with.
As a teenager, Down had to choose between pursuing cricket or hockey. When she started missing hockey commitments for Hearts commitments, she knew where her future lay.