January 23, 2002

Northern Districts women need to learn quickly

Anna Wilkins

After a frustrating couple of days in Masterton, we were thrilled to see the sun shining on Wellington's Kelburn Park.

The only interruption to the matches was a streaker. Although he wasn't quite as naked as the Beige Brigade boys in Hamilton, he did manage to turn heads, in the opposite direction.

The wicket, although covered, was still very damp and just walking along it left indentations. The wind and sun had had a chance to dry the adjacent uncovered wicket and it was decided that this would be used for the match.

Wellington captain Anna O'Leary won the toss and not surprisingly put us in to bat on a wicket lacking pace and any bounce at all. Batting conditions proved testing and the Wellington bowlers, in particular openers Frances King and Anna Corbin, exploited them well.

Our batting showed little regard for the conditions, let alone any adaptation. After consulting our scorecard you'd be forgiven for thinking we were batting on a minefield. It was far from a minefield, and our dismissal for 88 in the 40th over was inexcusable.

Of greater concern was that the second match was almost identical. Again Wellington asked us to bat, again we batted poorly, again we failed to bat our 50 overs, and this time we were dismissed in the 44th over for 93.

At this level you must learn from mistakes and do so very quickly. A first-class season comprised of only 10 matches at most, is not kind to slow learners.

We do not lack ability with the bat. Our batsman look competent at the crease, sometimes even dominant and we are good strikers of the ball. However we have so far not demonstrated any batsmanship or the ability to build an innings, graft through difficult patches and occupy the crease for a substantial length of time.

A few batsmen did the hard work against Wellington, got a start and then threw it away with a poor shot option.

We did produce some of the best cricket shots in both matches. What we have to learn is that there is more to batting than just being able to do the biomechanical stuff right. Anybody can hit a ball hard and straight in throw-downs, and look good while hitting a bad ball to the fence. But unless you are prepared to build an innings and have a plan for how and where you are going to score your runs, more often than not the scorebook will have little regard for you.

The progress made by our bowlers is pleasing. They are demonstrating, in that discipline, the approach we need to take to batting. They have natural ability and they can bowl with pace and swing as well as anyone. This season they have stood up as competitors who are thinking about what they are doing, how they are going to get wickets and how they are going to make the batsman play. Our batsman could learn from them.

Our final round this weekend is against the State Auckland Hearts on Auckland's North Shore. The last time our sides met we came away with an upset win. It was based around the batting of one individual who got us to a defendable total, and the bowlers did the rest. We have one last opportunity to turn the batting effort around and we must do it if we are to put any pressure on the reigning champions. The Hearts are a strong side, but cricket is a funny game and if you can create a little bit of pressure, you never know what can happen.