Call for White Ferns bowlers to do damage
Their last coach was a test top order batsman so it is not surprising that bowling strategies are now the primary focus for the New Zealand women's cricket team as the Rose Bowl series with Australia reaches a critical juncture today.
Gary Stead appears to have left the White Ferns batting unit in good shape after four years in charge - judging by New Zealand's run scoring capabilities after two of the four ODIs - and now successor Katrina Keenan is demanding her team be more effective with the ball.
New Zealand's inability to defend 288 at North Sydney Oval on Friday may come back to haunt them because they must now win both remaining games at the venue to claim the trophy for the first time since 1999.
Meg Lanning has ruthlessly led from the front for the Southern Stars with only run outs able to thwart her free-flowing innings of 87 and 72.
The opener has flayed 22 boundaries and two sixes so far and, although exemplary batting by Suzie Bates and Amy Satterthwaite enabled New Zealand to record a victory first-up on Wednesday, Lanning and Rachael Haynes set up a series-levelling win with a rollicking 131-run stand on Friday.
Team management summoned seven-cap medium pacer Lea Tahuhu from Canterbury on Saturday to replace injured Wellington allrounder Sophie Devine and hopefully strengthen a pace attack that has been unable to lasso Lanning.
The 22-year-old, who has two ODI scalps at 86.00, could be thrown into the fray this morning as a replacement for Nicola Browne; Sian Ruck should retain her hold on the new ball while captain Suzie Bates might be required to roll down some medium pacers after not bowling in game two on Friday.
Keenan is less than a month into the job but as a former quick bowler with five tests and 54 ODIs to her credit, she is clearly keen to modify the White Ferns' bowling philosophies.
"The fast bowling mentality in New Zealand has been about bowling short, bowling into the track . . . heavy ball, intimidating. I've come in and said, ‘Hey, that's great but how are we getting people out?' It's great to intimidate and do all those things, but what's our actual plan to get a batsman out?" she asked.
Keenan's concern is of the 16 Australian wickets to fall in the series so far, none has been bowled and there have only been three batters dismissed leg before wicket.
"In terms of our strike bowling, we need to hit off stump consistently, knock it out of the ground. That would be good to see again.
"Over the last few years we've erred on the side of bowling a bit too short and relying on catches behind the wicket from poorly executed cut shots," she said.
"We need to get back to bowling more line and length and pressurising around off stump."
On a positive note, Australia's bowlers have also struggled against century-makers Bates and Satterthwaite, the duo responsible for posting influential second wicket partnerships of 168 and 115.
Bates guided New Zealand to an eight-wicket victory with an unbeaten 122 while Satterthwaite backed up an agonising 98 with 109, her maiden ODI hundred.