February 6, 2003

Australia has the Rosebowl, now for the World Series!

New Zealand might be the defending world champions but the trans-Tasman Rose Bowl is still out of their grasp after their six-wicket loss to Australia today at Bert Sutcliffe Oval at Lincoln University.

Today's game combined the Rose Bowl and the last round of preliminary games in the World Series of Women's Cricket and the Australians were able to achieve an unbeaten run through the tournament before the final on Saturday.

From the moment New Zealand, who chose to bat first, lost Rebecca Rolls for one and Emily Drumm for eight, they were in strife.

While Michelle Lynch (28), Maia Lewis (43), Haidee Tiffen (28) and Aimee Mason (33) all got going with some sensible but, inevitably, catch-up runs, the early losses, and then the loss of the last five wickets for nine runs in the space of 14 balls meant New Zealand's 174 was hardly going to be competitive.

It was Cathryn Fitzpatrick, the most prolific wicket-taker of the women's cricket world who claimed the third five-wicket bag of her career, and the first against New Zealand, and Emma Twining, who achieved the best figures of her brief career with three for 31, who took control of the game.

Fitzpatrick claimed both Rolls, leg before wicket, and Drumm, caught at gully and then sat back while other bowlers did their work in maintaining the pressure on the middle-order before coming back to more than pick off the crumbs at the end.

Then it was the Belinda Clark-Lisa Sthalekar Show as they scored a record for the first wicket for the Australians against New Zealand of 125 before Clark was bowled for 67, scored off 87 balls, just three short of the 4000 run mark which has only been achieved by New Zealander Debbie Hockley in the past.

Clark scored her 27th half century in One-Day Internationals off 68 balls while the pair brought up their 100-run stand off 126 balls in only 67 minutes.

When Clark was out Sthalekar carried on and scored her third ODI 50, off 73 balls.

New Zealand did have some satisfaction in removing Karen Rolton by virtue of a run out when she had scored 10 runs, although there was some concern that Rebecca Steele had knocked the wickets with her foot and removed a bail before taking off the remaining bail with the ball.

Steele's performance was one of the few points of satisfaction for New Zealand as the 18-year-old convert to left-arm spin bowling took two wickets for 29 runs in the first big test of her fledgling career.

Clark said the Australians had set their sights on improving in every match they play in the competition and today had been the most solid performance they had strung together.

While New Zealand was much more obviously trying to rebuild a side for the next World Cup, Australia too, had come to the tournament with three new players although Clark said Australia seemed to be able to fill holes in their side very quickly.

Clark said she felt she was hitting the ball better than she was at the start of the tournament, and she had been guilty of throwing her wicket away a couple of times.

Picking up Rolls and Drumm had been vital today, just as it was in their first round game and it was a clear sign that their strategy to both players was working.

Clark said she felt Fitzpatrick had bowled as well in the last two years as she had at any other stage of her career.

"And she has got such a good foil in Emma Twining," she said.

Clark thought the idea of a World Series had been a good one and it was a chance to play a lot of cricket over a period long enough to give everyone in the squad a game.

"It is a terrific initiative and it is working well," she said.

Drumm said it had been very hard to build an innings when three top batsmen were out by the time 50 runs had been scored.

"You can see two different teams out there," she said.

One team had great focus with pace and accuracy in their attack and one team that was trying to introduce people but who were not players capable of putting pressure on in the manner of the Australians.

"We had very few options and their bowlers gave us nothing. There is a gulf in quality between the sides," she said.

The Australians were playing very good cricket and it was obvious they lifted themselves against New Zealand because when they played England and India they made mistakes that were never seen against New Zealand.

"They are still beatable but we need to play to the top of our abilities to beat them," she said.

Drumm said the way the Australians batted at the start of their innings, the New Zealanders felt like bystanders for the first 10 overs.

She did feel that Steele had been the find of the tournament for New Zealand and had done well in her first big test against the Australians.

"She is a consistent bowler who varies her pace without bowling bad deliveries," she said.