Observations | HBJ Shield Day One
Written By: Jeet Vachharajani
Picture Courtesy: New Zealand Cricket
The New Zealand Women's domestic season got underway today with the HBJ Shield kickstarting the season. With the live-streaming available, I was able to watch two games that took place. As the game between Canterbury & Wellington got abandoned, we saw a rain-curtailed game between Northern Districts and Otago Sparks and a curtailed game of 20 overs between Central Districts and Auckland Hearts. Here are some of the observations and tactics I noted.
THE 'RIGHT' CUT SHOT
Observed three interesting ways of playing the cut. Marama Downes swings the ball away & Kate Ebrahim was quick to adjust. All she needed was to gauge the line of the ball after it was released & then it was all about getting into the right position. Bella James erred slightly which cost her wicket.
1 - Lauren Down: Nice position. But the error was playing the cut against Claudia Green who is a bowler who hoops the ball back in. It was the wrong shot to play against Green and Down got away with a thick inside edge. Playing the cut shot against an inswing bowler is fraught with risk as ne could easily chop it back onto the stumps.
2 - Kate Ebrahim: Ebrahim was outstanding at getting into the right positions to negotiate the inswing of Shriya Naidu and outswing of Downes. The picture below shows how beautifully she got into the right position to play the cut shot. Her only trigger was to move back once she knew that the line was outside the off & she did it beautifully.
3 - Bella James: James' initial trigger saw her press forward to an outswinger outside the off. Then she had to adjust and transfer her weight on the back-foot to execute the cut shot. It was not a massive technical flaw by any means, but the split-second that she lost saw her being a little late on the cut and edge the ball through to the wicket-keeper.
WHEN IS KATE EBRAHIM FINDING A PLACE IN THE WHITE FERNS SQUAD?
The cold shoulder given to Kate Ebrahim has been very baffling to me for the last couple of years. She is a premier pace all-rounder like none other in New Zealand when it comes to being effective across both formats and in both facets. What a knock she played in Game 1 walking in as an opener and staying unbeaten right till the end.
Two things stood out for me. 1) Her fitness levels as she was sprinting back for 2s even in the last over | 2) Her smartness to negotiate movement in the air. Inswinger or outswingers, she had it covered beautifully by getting into the right positions and having the perfect trigger to negotiate both.
BERNADINE BEZUIDENHOUT MARKS HER RETURN IN STYLE
With Katey Martin having retired, the wicket-keeping spot is still up for grabs. New Zealand have gone ahead with Izzy Gaze, who I feel is still 2-3 years away from becoming established enough to be in the national side. It was honestly a very surprising decision over someone like Nat Dodd, and now with Bezuidenhout back in action after having missed the previous domestic season, New Zealand needs to have these two players in contention.
It was a stellar knock by Bernadine. This came after a clinical outing as a wicket-keeper where she had to dive left and right for quite a few overs as the ND pacers were missing their mark frequently. She provides a major boost in both facets & I'd love to see her make it to the national side if she continues to perform the way she did against a very good Otago bowling lineup. The work she has done on taking on the spinners was on show. I was particularly looking forward to the battle against Sophie Oldershaw, a bowler against whom you cannot afford to come down the track for a wild swing. But not if you can cover the line of the ball nicely, which is what Bernadine exactly did.
IMPROVED LEG-SIDE PLAY OF SAACHI SHAHRI
Ever watched Dwayne Smith demolish fuller-length deliveries with the stand & deliver technique? It's exactly what Saachi Shahri did! She's one of the best drivers of the ball that I have watched in NZ cricket and has a very good technique through the off-side. Today, it was different. She had the challenge of negotiating the inswingers of Claudia Green & Seam-In of Rosemary Mair. How she negotiated them made sense. She stood still and kept picking up and flicking those incoming deliveries through the leg-side.
Being a strong front-foot player, it was yet again evident how she scored with ease on the front foot. But her access rate of the leg-side was much higher than what you'd usually see.
SILLY MID-ON TO LAUREN DOWN
This was an interesting ploy deployed by Nat Dodd. After two balls from Claudia Green, who gets the ball to hoop back in, Dodd signalled Melissa Hansen to move from midwicket to silly mid-on against Lauren Down. This was pretty interesting and it made sense too as Down drives the ball down the ground & with the inswing of Green, there was a likelihood of the ball going straight to that fielder in the catching position. The same wasn't deployed for Shahri who drives the ball, but seldomly down the ground with her core areas being square.
CHANGE IN ANGLE WORKS BETTER FOR MONIQUE REES
There's a common theme in New Zealand cricket and I quite like it. The outswing bowlers who struggle to get their lines right, start switching to Around the Wicket to RHBs to enable a better rhythm. It's what Missy Banks thrives at from Ball 1, & it's exactly what Monique Rees did after she got her radar wrong in the first few balls.
After switching the angle, she got a few to swing away further for multiple wides, but the angle definitely created many more chances and she looked more threatening with it. The angle worked as she managed to get the wicket of Shahri.
Note: The screenshots used for the 'The Right cut shot' & 'Silly mid-on to Lauren Down' are courtesy of New Zealand Cricket's live streams.