Even without the world record, it’s difficult to come out looking favourably against the all-conquering Australians. Teams would struggle to match them in head-to-head records, availability of personnel and depth in the squad, injury replacements, match-ups. The whole Australian system is relentless and you have to be at your best or a freak innings - like Australia found out in the Women's World Cup 2017 semi-final with Harmanpreet Kaur - will be needed to stop them from running away with games in the format.
Australia have moved on from that semi-final and are determined to never let things like that occur again. So, it’s no surprise when Megan Schutt talks about Lauren Down’s innings of 90 in the first ODI as “Lauren Down played the last series against us. There is no real excuse for her making 90. We kind of knew what she did, we all do our individual reviews, who does what sort of stuff, we go through them all.” They pride themselves in not giving an inch and it will take something of a monumental effort from New Zealand to get back into the series and keep it alive when they take on their Trans-tasman neighbours in the second ODI at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui on Wednesday (April 7).
If Australia are on an unbeatable streak, New Zealand have their own problems in the format even without counting the opposition’s form. They were on the polar opposite with their worst losing streak of 11 consecutive losses ended only in the dead rubber against England in February. Six of those defeats came against Australia while England and South Africa accounted for five others. Even before the losing streak started, they lost two series against India and England, managing only to win a match only after the series has been lost. So, that means the last three ODIs they have won all been dead rubbers and they will have to play not just out of their skin, but uncharacteristically to keep the series alive.
ALSO READ: Is Meg Lanning's Australia replicating the success of Ricky Ponting's men from 2000s?
Amelia Kerr, the player of the match when New Zealand defeated England on February 28, talked about how they are prepared to take on Australia keeping their own strengths in mind. In a chat with this portal, she talked about wanting to do well with the bat and put her side in winning positions.
© Women's CricZone
For a while on Sunday, it looked like Amelia would go on to continue on her good form and would guide New Zealand to a competitive total. But with a controversial stumping call ending her innings, the hosts fell from 159 for 2 to 212 all out losing the last eight wickets for 53 runs. In the absence of experienced campaigners Suzie Bates (out with injury) and Sophie Devine (opted out because of bio-bubble fatigue), Amelia will have to continue to take on the responsibility with the ever-dependable Amy Satterthwaite if they are to challenge the Aussies.
It’s not all lost for New Zealand, they were a few positives to take from the first ODI. Down’s innings for example provides them with an option at the top of the order, even as Hayley Jensen’s nightmare run continues at the other end. The bowlers looked sharp in the opening spell, especially Jess Kerr and Rosemary Mair. Lea Tahuhu may have struggled on her comeback from injury, but they would back her to put in better performance in the second match. Jess has been swinging the ball prodigiously, right from the England series. They would look once again to her to provide early breakthroughs in the power play. Amelia’s bowling can be a course of concern with Australia batters seemingly at ease against her, but considering how skillful the young leg-spinner is, it’s again won’t be their biggest concern. If the batters can come together and put up a score on the board, they have the bowling to challenge the visitors.
Australia on the other hand, don’t have many problems to address. They may have failed to put up a good opening partnership so far in the series if one were to nit-pick and Ellyse Perry is still being eased into the bowling, but she had no issues while batting. It remains to be seen whether they will unleash Tayla Vlaeminck and Darcie Brown together. With Nicola Carey doing well with the ball, it’s highly unlikely, although there’s a possibility of Brown getting a debut in place of Vlaeminck as Australia talked about managing the workload of bowlers from time to time.
Other experiments in their lineup will probably have to wait till the series is clinched and Australia will come out all guns blazing come Wednesday. Can New Zealand find their own Kaur, a freak innings, or an unplayable spell, or can they hope for complete team performance with everyone pulling up their socks? Either way, it will make for a compelling watch.
New Zealand: Amy Satterthwaite (c), Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin(wk), Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu, Leigh Kasperek, Kate Anderson
Australia: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes, Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Molly Strano, Georgia Wareham, Belinda Vakarewa, Tayla Vlaeminck