Sophie Devine appointed New Zealand captain; Rachel Priest recalled

Women's CricZone Staff
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Sophie Devine appointed New Zealand captain; Rachel Priest recalled

Sophie Devine celebrates a half-century. © Getty Images

Allrounder Sophie Devine was ‘indefinitely’ named captain of New Zealand ahead of the limited overs home series against South Africa beginning on January 25, and leading in to the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia next month. The announcement was made by New Zealand Cricket at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Thursday (January 15).

The allrounder, who has played over 180 internationals for New Zealand since her debut in 2006, will replace Amy Satterthwaite - who recently gave birth to her first child - as skipper. Sophie Devine is New Zealand’s third captain in 18 months following Suzie Bates’ resignation in September 2018 and Satterthwaite appointment after that.

"I'm really proud and excited to lead the White Ferns," Devine said. "This is a team I’m deeply passionate about and to have the opportunity to help drive its future is a privilege.”

“It’s an exciting time for women’s cricket in this country with the recently signed MOU with NZC, a fresh direction with our new coach Bob Carter, and two ICC World Cups on the horizon.”

"We've got a good mix of talent and experience in the group, and I'm looking forward to leaning on my fellow senior players to try and build on the good work done by Amy and Suzie Bates.”

The allrounder has enjoyed a spectacular few months, being named the Player of the Tournament in the Women’s Big Bash League where she almost single-handedly carried Adelaide Strikers to their first ever final. Devine scored a total of 769 runs in 16 matches at a strike rate of 130.33, and also took 19 wickets through the season. She has followed that up with an equally impressive run in the Super Smash for Wellington Blaze, blasting 315 runs at an average of 52.50 and strike rate of 177.96, including a highest of 112.

Bob Carter, head coach of New Zealand, said that Devine's elevation to captaincy feels like a natural progression.

"Sophie's been an outstanding performer for the White Ferns for more than a decade now, and we feel she’s ready to step up and lead this team,” Carter said. "She has a sound understanding of the game and, most importantly, holds the respect of her fellow players. We believe the leadership can take her game to an even higher level.”

Apart from Devine's appointment, the ODI team to face South Africa was also announced on Thursday and sees the return of veteran wicket-keeper Rachel Priest. The right-hander, who was dropped following a poor 2017 Women’s World Cup in England, recently earned a contract after consistently putting in exceptional performances in overseas leagues. More recently, she has enjoyed a successful Super Smash tournament with Wellington Blaze, scoring 305 runs at a strike rate of 133.18.

Priest aside, Lauren Down also makes a comeback to the squad, while allrounder Jess Kerr has earned her maiden call up.

Down, who made her ODI debut against West Indies in 2018, showed promising form through the Hallyburton-Johnstone Shield scoring 171 runs in six matches for Auckland Hearts, including a match-winning 88 against Otago Volts in the final league match to help her team finish on top of the table with 23 points.

Jess, older sister of Amelia Kerr, has been in top wicket-taking form in recent times taking a total of 26 wickets in 15 matches across formats in the 2019-20 New Zealand domestic season. The right-arm pacer currently sits at the top of the bowling charts in the T20 competition, ahead of sister Amelia.

"To be selected in my first White Ferns squad is a huge honour and it's something I've been working towards for a while," said Kerr, only 21. "To be picked in a squad alongside 'Melie' is pretty special. She's inspired me a lot to get back into playing cricket competitively and push for higher honours. I've loved playing alongside her in the Blaze, but to be representing our country together is even more special."

The squad otherwise has a largely familiar look to it with the likes of Bates, Katie Perkins, Katey Martin, Maddy Green, Bernadine Bezuidenhout, Priest, Down and Devine set to play an integral role with the bat. Holly Huddleston and Rosemary Mair will take up the role of lead fast bowlers in the absence of Lea Tahuhu who has been given time off to be with wife Satterthwaite.

New Zealand have stuck with their spin trio of Amelia, Leigh Kasperek and Anna Peterson, with Hannah Rowe being the only one to miss out in the bowling unit.

New Zealand will play three ODIs and five T20Is against South Africa beginning on January 25 at Eden Park in Auckland.

Squad: Sophie Devine (c), Suzie Bates, Bernadine Bezuidenhout, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Hayley Jensen, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Rachel Priest.