‘Left hand batter’ is a rare phenomenon in the New Zealand circuit. When Amy Satterthwaite made her international debut in 2007, she had company in fellow southpaws Maria Fahey and Aimee Watkins. But after the latter’s retirement in 2011, there was no one to share in Satterthwaite’s expertise. That is until Brooke Halliday walked into the national side earlier this year.
Halliday has had her share of injuries and setbacks in her journey to the top. Persistent niggles and back pain held her back from competing consistently. A tear in the quadriceps tendon in her knee saw her miss out on a lot of games in 2019-20.
“In previous seasons she’s had some medical things that have held her cricket back a little bit. That’s what makes this story so great,” Joanne Broadbent, former Australia batter and currently the head coach of Northern Districts, Halliday’s domestic side, told Women’s CricZone.
“From not being able to stay on the park full time for the previous two seasons, she’s come a long way. Now that she’s had a full season under her belt, she’s really proven herself all around the ground as well as in and around the group.”
In the 2020-21 domestic season, Halliday raked up 331 runs in eight outings of the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield – the most for Northern Districts – at an average of over 47 and a strike rate in excess of 81. This, in addition to the ten wickets she returned. In the Super Smash, she scored 175 runs and picked up nine wickets.
Last week, Halliday was rewarded with a central contract for the upcoming season by New Zealand Cricket.
“(I will be) working on things that are going to help me score more runs!”
Halliday is clear about her plans for the coming few weeks in the pre-season camp.
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“Probably the biggest thing would be working on my 360 game, developing more shots and may be perfecting some shots a lot more,” Halliday said about her immediate goals.
“When you’re getting picked for against England and Australia, it’s very quick. You don’t really get too much time to work with each other and learn the little things.”
“These camps over the winter period before the England tour going to be really beneficial for me to be able to talk to the likes of Amy Satterthwaite, who is also lefty, and see their approach to camps and tours… it’s going to be really beneficial being around the White Ferns group.”
The upcoming season is quite a significant one due to the Women’s World Cup in 2022. With a central contract under her belt, Halliday’s dreams of playing a home World Cup have become realistic.
“If someone told me, say New Year’s, that I had a strong chance to be selected for a World Cup at home next year, I wouldn’t even think about that,” she said. “That I’m in this position now to be able to work on my cricket even more in the next few months and getting into the World Cup selection is great.”
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February 23, 2021: Halliday's first taste of international cricket. The 25-year-old walked in to bat at No.7 with New Zealand tottering at five for 104 against England. She showed no sign of nerves, unveiling a flurry of crisp drives, showcasing her nifty footwork and gathering runs at ease. She became only the sixth New Zealand batter to score a half century on ODI debut. However, she couldn’t celebrate the achievement much as she was run out on the very ball she reached the milestone.
In the next match, Halliday found herself in the middle earlier at five for 34. And again, some attractive runs ensued as she hit her second half century on the trot. A pristinely timed cover drive took her to the landmark, making her the only Kiwi, across gender, to register fifty-plus scores in her first two ODIs.
Has she become comfortable playing at the highest level?
“Comfortable isn’t the right word. It was all a very new experience,” said Halliday. “What helped me most is the first gig in Queenstown against England and I kept going from there. But I’m not sure if I feel comfortable and if I ever will but it’s been a good start.”
“The contracts tell me that what I have done for New Zealand in the last four months has actually impressed the coaches and selectors. For them to offer me the contract gives me the reassurance that I’m good enough to play at that level against the likes of Australia, England and other countries, which gives me more confidence.”
In her international career so far, Halliday has largely batted in the lower middle-order. This is unlike her role in the domestic setup, where she generally bats in the top order. What has impressed most spectators – and has been a constant in her gameplay – is her drives through the off side: off seamers and spinners alike.
“I loved playing through backward point as well as gully area as well as a drive through covers – nothing looks as beautiful as a left-hander playing a cover drive. The first time I saw Brooke play one, I thought, that looks fantastic,” said Broadbent, heaping praise on the 25-year-old.
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"She is someone who can hit 360 (degrees). She’s also very agile and versatile on the field. You want those versatile fielders to go anywhere.”
Skill-sets aside, Broadbent also gives us an insight into Halliday, the leader and the manager.
“Halliday is very good with player cues. She has her own as well,” said the 55-year-old, who was the Northern Districts assistant coach last year. “Something that’s part of her bowling plan is – if you haven’t got your consistency, just stop, take a breath, get over it, have a bit of a laugh and bowl.”
“(She is) just a real level-headed, calm person, not sure what’s going on inside but the perception that you see is very cool and calm, which is what you want. You don’t want to be showing a lot of emotion and let the opposition know how truly you feel and I think Brooke does that well.”
In an interview, Halliday revealed that her 11-year-old sister has taken to cricket after seeing her play for New Zealand. Although it is yet unknown if she is a left-hander, Satterthwaite’s success and Halliday’s progress could well ensure that ‘left hand batter’ soon becomes a regular profile in New Zealand cricket.