The Canterbury Magicians will begin the defence of their national women's T20 title today.
Slated to play the Northern Spirit at Whangarei's Cobham Oval today and tomorrow, the Magicians will also face the Spirit in a limited-over match on Sunday.
The Magicians, who will be captained by Amy Satterthwaite, will be coached by Brendon Donkers. The majority of last year's squad is again available this season.
The major losses are former English test wicketkeeper Mandie Godliman, who has retired, and Kelly Anderson, who has moved to Dunedin.
Three Magicians representatives, Meg Kendal, Lea Tahuhu and Hayley Jensen, were recently involved in a New Zealand emerging players' team that travelled to Australia where they played alongside five of their Spirit opponents for this weekend.
Runs are usually easy to accumulate at Cobham Oval, something Satterthwaite hopes will continue.
"Normally, it's a pretty batter-friendly pitch and is probably a little bit greener at this time of the year," she said.
To prepare for this weekend's matches the Magicians had played an age-group boys' team and also met Otago in several T20 matches recently.
The games against Otago resulted in convincing wins, although the Spirit are expected to put up more of a fight.
The Owen Steverson-coached Northern Spirit team features New Zealand representatives Nicola Browne and Morna Nielsen, along with five members of the national emerging players squad.
The Spirit finished fourth in both the one-day and Twenty20 competitions last season and Steverson hopes the introduction of more one-day games than Twenty20 matches this season will be hugely beneficial.
"It's a really good move - playing the longer games will give all the players a better opportunity to develop their games," he said.
Is the Canterbury team 'mentally soft'?Related story: North Harbour stun hapless Canterbury team