It took Sophie Devine a mere 4 days to adjust to English conditions. She flew in from New Zealand last Wednesday; by Sunday she was out in the middle tonking the Berkshire bowlers all around the park in her trademark hard-hitting fashion. On Monday she did exactly the same to the Middlesex attack, smacking 122 in 78 balls.
When we spoke to her she was relishing being out in the middle again: “It’s nice to be outside – and in the English summer, which apparently I’ve brought with me!”
Explaining her decision to sign for the Bears, she said: “I’ve had a long injury lay off [she missed the Rose Bowl series against Australia back in February due to a dislocated thumb] so for me, coming over here, it was about getting game time. I seriously considered staying at home but the opportunity to come over here and play outside was a big factor for me.”
Strategically it may also prove to be a significant decision ahead of what looks set to be the biggest World Cup in the history of the women’s game. Devine is in fact the latest in a series of Kiwi recruits to the County Championship, joining her skipper Suzie Bates (at Hampshire), Holly Huddleston (Middlesex), Amy Satterthwaite (Lancashire), Lea Tahuhu (Surrey) and Rachel Priest (Berkshire). New Zealand, it seems, are putting faith in the fact that their top players are likely to benefit far more from time over here adjusting to English conditions than an indoor training camp back home.
Devine agrees. “Playing cricket’s always going to be of help. The girls back at home are training hard, but it’s always different when you’re training indoors on artificial surfaces, so it’s massive for us. A lot of the Kiwi girls have been here for a good period of time as well, so they’ll be well acclimatised.”
What does she make of New Zealand’s World Cup chances? She shrugs off the suggestion that they are favourites this time around. “I don’t think so! Australia have to go in as favourites, seeing as they’ve been so dominant since they won the last one 4 years ago. England at home too – it’s always a massive advantage to be playing at home.”
“But anyone on their day can win it. With the format how everyone has to play everyone it opens a lot up, and puts pressure on every single game. It’s going to be tough.”
For the moment, she is enjoying being welcomed into a winning side (Warwickshire remain the only Div 1 side unbeaten so far this season), and one which she says contains “a lot of talent”:
“I haven’t even had a proper chance to train with the team, but they’ve been lovely. They’ve welcomed me in – and I haven’t been given too much rib about my accent!”
Devine may not see New Zealand as favourites in the forthcoming World Cup, but there’s no doubt that a team with her in their top order is going to be tough to beat. Here at CRICKETher we’re pretty certain that we’ll be seeing her walking out to bat at Lords come July 23.