White Ferns poised to break World Cup drought
Captain Suzie Bates says her White Ferns are in "a good place" ahead of their women's 50-over cricket World Cup opener against South Africa in Cuttack, India, tomorrow.
New Zealand brushed aside Monday's surprise hammering by India to topple world champions England by 13 runs in yesterday's final warmup match and confirm themselves as contenders for a first cup triumph since 2000.
They headed for India buoyed by a 2-1 Twenty20 series win over Australia in Melbourne, their first series victory on Australian soil for 26 years, and are confident of breaking up the England-Australia dominance during the past eight years.
Though India showed on Monday that they will be a handful on their home turf, and the West Indies are also now a major threat in the women's game, that confidence will remain intact following a rare win over England.
New Zealand posted 223 all out in 50 overs, with Sara McGlashan scoring 88 from 90 balls and Lucy Doolan 57 from 77, and held their nerve to dismiss the tournament favourites for 210 in the 49th over.
"To beat England, who are a very strong side, was really impressive and it puts us in a good place heading into the World Cup," Bates said, describing the tune-up win as "massive".
"If we'd had two losses, we would've been a bit more nervous, but with our batters scoring runs and bowlers executing, we are really confident going into our first pool game."
With the 9am starts, Bates said the first 10 overs were tricky for the team batting first, while the wickets had taken plenty of turn later in the day, so playing late and negotiating spin would be crucial for the batsmen.
New Zealand have been something of a third wheel in women's cricket when it comes to major tournaments during the past eight years, with England winning the last 50-over World Cup, in 2009, as well as the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in the same year, while Australia won the previous 50-over World Cup, in 2005, and have won the last two T20 World Cups, in 2010 and 2012.
New Zealand have become accustomed to the bridesmaid's tag, having lost three finals (one 50-over and two T20s) in the space of two years in 2009 and 2010.
But there is genuine belief among the New Zealand team that they can win for the first time since 2000.
"There's very little separating the top teams at this level, so it's very much going to be about sticking to our game plan and our strengths and how people cope with the pressure. We believe we can win at the World Cup," said coach Katrina Keenan.
Runs from the experienced Bates and left-hander Amy Satterthwaite at the top of the order will be vital for New Zealand, as will Sophie Devine's hitting power in the middle order. There are few better strikers in the world.
As well, all-rounder Nicola Browne, who also has few problems finding the boundary, looms as influential.
The slower bowlers are expected to be prominent in India and New Zealand have a few handy ones, most notably Morna Nielsen who bowled well in Australia.
New Zealand will also face Pakistan and Australia in group B before the Super Sixes playoff stage.
Group A is headed by England and includes India, the West Indies and Sri Lanka.
The final will be played in Mumbai on February 17.