July 30, 2007

Karen Rolton becomes second most prolific batsman in history of women's cricket as Australia wins Rose Bowl Series for 16th time

Australia captain Karen Rolton became the second most prolific batsman in the history of women's cricket as she inspired the Southern Stars to Rose Bowl Series success over New Zealand's White Ferns at the Gardens Oval in Darwin on Sunday.

Rolton, who won the Women's Player of the Year award at the ICC Awards in Mumbai last November, eclipsed New Zealander Debbie Hockley's ODI aggregate of 4,064 runs while scoring an unbeaten 81 in the fourth match of the series that helped Australia retain the Rose Bowl with a nerve-jangling two-run victory.

Rolton, 32, now has 4,102 runs from 113 ODIs and now only fellow Australian Belinda Clark lies ahead of her, with 4,844 runs from 118 ODIs. However, Rolton's average of 52.58 is the best of the trio and she is the only one of them with an average of 50 or more.

In this latest series, Rolton finished as the joint leading run-getter with team-mate Melissa Bulow with 163 runs from five matches, while New Zealand's Nicola Browne was third with 159 runs.

The bowling honours went to New Zealand's Sarah Tsukigawa who claimed 10 wickets at 15.60 while Australia's Sarah Andrews bagged nine at 15.11.

Australia's Shelley Nitschke once again established herself as one of the top all-rounders in the game by scoring 112 runs at 22.40 and taking eight wickets at 21.12.

The 3-2 series victory by the home side means a 16th Rose Bowl for Australia against New Zealand's two that came in 1995 and 1999. The two teams have now played 63 matches in the Rose Bowl with Australia winning 46 and New Zealand 16, while one match, the 1986 series decider, was rained off.

Unlike the last series when the first three matches went down to the wire, this year only the fourth match provided uncertainty right up until the end of proceedings, when the home team sneaked home by two runs. And Rolton was happy that was the only nail-biter this year. "I don't like to be involved in tight finishes," she said with a laugh.

"I think all the games were tough and well-contested but I guess our good record against New Zealand helped us come through in close finishes," said Rolton, adding: "I think New Zealand played good cricket and it has some exciting young players who should make their names in years to come."

Her opposite number Haidee Tiffen called for more consistency from her team. "It was disappointing to lose the series. We need to be more consistent in all facets of the game.

"We have come out of our winter and both the Rose Bowl and the England tour will provide us with an opportunity to expose players to international cricket before the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup in Australia in 2009," Tiffen said.

On the England tour, New Zealand will play three Twenty20 and six ODIs from 12 to 30 August.

Rolton said she had personal and team motives for enjoying Australia's success in the Rose Bowl Series. "From my point of view I am happy that I got through two series without any trouble after undergoing knee surgery last year," she said.

"But from the team's perspective, I am happy with the progress we are making. From the winning 2005 Women's Cricket World Cup squad, we have just two survivors which means we are in a rebuilding process. Therefore we have to make the most of the playing opportunities we get before we defend the title in two years' time," she said.

16-year-old Ellyse Perry, who became youngest Australian ever to play cricket, took four wickets in four matches while 20-year-old Rene Farrell, who replaced an injured Lisa Sthalekar, bagged four wickets in the last two games.

"The two girls made an instant mark on the international scene and I hope they go a long way in their careers," said Rolton. "Of course, the more they will play, the better they will get.

"I am optimistic that we will do well in the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup (in 2009) because we have a couple of tough tours to England and New Zealand ahead of that before the tournament itself. And as that will be held in our backyard it should give us the advantage."

The next Rose Bowl Series will be played in New Zealand while Australia will also tour England next year as part of its preparations for ICC Women's Cricket World Cup.

Sami-ul-Hasan is ICC Communications Officer