This game wasn’t billed as the big occasion. On Saturday they are expecting a full house at Taunton; today, we had about 1600 people in to watch the first game of the double-header. The press box was almost empty when the game started. But we were here – and it was worth it.
New Zealand have made waves against Ireland in the last few weeks, but this was different. “We’ve got to be better than we’ve been against the top teams,” Suzie Bates told me when I spoke to her at the weekend. South Africa fall into that category. In Kapp and Ismail they probably have the best pace attack in the world.
Today, New Zealand took them to pieces.
Shabnim Ismail went for 18 off her first over. Raisibe Ntozakhe’s first ball of the day was punished over midwicket for the 50th six of Sophie Devine’s career. Marizanne Kapp had been economical up top; such was Bates’ eye in by the end of the innings that even she was punished with a six in the final over.
“Bates and Devine are seeing the ball like a watermelon,” said Dane van Niekerk after the match. “The striking is unbelievable. They are smacking it so hard at the moment.”
A few years ago South Africa’s final total of 150 would have been plenty to see them over the line. Not any more. Women’s T20 is changing, and New Zealand are at the forefront of that charge.
After the game, Bates talked about a “brand” of cricket: “You can sometimes fall short and not reach it, but with the type of players that we have, you have to encourage playing like that [brand].”
Today wasn’t just about one game of cricket. The White Ferns are setting down a marker. In Bates and Devine they have the most mouthwatering opening partnership in world cricket. Amelia Kerr is fresh from hitting a double century; we didn’t even get to see her or Amy Satterthwaite bat today. One of the best T20 batsmen in the world, Rachel Priest, cannot even make it into this squad.
If T20 is a batsman’s game then it is New Zealand, surely, who must be favourites to take home that T20 trophy come November. And it was today that their campaign really started.
Today was a day of records. Suzie Bates’ first century in T20Is. Bates overtaking Charlotte Edwards record for most career runs in T20Is. And of course the record score in women’s T20Is.
We were lucky to be there to see it.
England have just taken that marker and shredded ir. Bates and Devine may be very very good, but I’m holding to my belief that Wyatt and Beaumont are just as good, if not better.
It’s the South Africans I feel sorry for. I doubt even Lizelle Lee can get them any satisfaction out of today’s carnage.
Agree that I’m looking a bit silly right about now!
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Not at all. As someone else said to you on Twitter, NZ, England and Australia have turned into quick-scoring machines right now. Add in the potential of WI (Taylor and Dottin) SA (Lee, du Preez and Co) and India (Mandhana and Kaur) and we have six teams that, on their day, could shred records.
That’s good for the women’s game, although the “old guard” might be increasingly looking out of place. Edwards has a special place in my heart but I’ve finally realised why England jettisoned her. And I suspect the Indian legend that is Mithali Raj may soon find her time is up too (Kaur already captains their T20 side, as I recall).
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Complete devastation, only blot a couple of drops from young and old, Gunn and Ecclestone. (not that way round!)
Cannot detract from the batting performance though, South Africa too, setting new standards?
New Zealand’s recent form seems like it’s come from nowhere to a casual observer, although I expect there have been signs, for those closer to the camp. They must be on boxes of Weetabix every morning at this point. Bates and Devine have long been excellent players in all formats. The question for NZ is still, can their middle order perform on those occasions they need to, can the side absorb the pressure on the biggest stage, and really turn up for semis and finals? That, for me, is still very much an open question and the main reason I don’t think they are favourites for the WT20 in November. They played brilliantly today, that’s for sure. No offence but the likes of Ireland and SA (at the moment) aren’t who they’ll need to beat.
This series should be a good test for them, though – there will be some pressure, but not as much as the WT20 will involve. That competition will also likely be a bit of an anomaly, as I can’t imagine the pitches in WI will be conducive for attacking batting. Attritional cricket, maybe. We’ll probably see more 120s than 200s and that might suit some sides better than others.