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February 8, 2003
Australia showed all the fire and passion that has made them the powerhouse of women's world cricket by taking out the World Series of Women's Cricket by beating New Zealand by 109 runs at Bert Sutcliffe Oval at New Zealand's High Performance Centre at Lincoln University today.
The margin of success was embarrassing for New Zealand but it still wasn't sufficient to wipe out the stigma of the World Cup defeat three summers ago, and that issue won't be decided until 2005 in South Africa. Evidence would suggest that Australia are further down the track in preparation for that event than are New Zealand.
It is a fact of sporting success that innovation can often be a key virtue, but so often new things are tried in team sports, before they have been tried out in a competitive atmosphere in the recent history of the side.
New Zealand fell into that trap when trying to rearrange their batting order in an effort to curtail the threat of Australian fast bowler Cathryn Fitzpatrick. The move didn't work, and possibly even rebounded on the home team who capitulated in disappointing fashion for a side who still are the reigning world champions.
The record books were given something of a working over, mainly by Australian captain Belinda Clark. She ended her innings of 80 as the highest scorer in women's One-Day Internationals, supplanting New Zealand legend Debbie Hockley when she passed her record of 4064 runs. Clark now sits on 4077.
The effort started when she scored her third run of the day to be only the second woman to pass 4000 ODI runs.
New Zealand's wicket-keeper Rebecca Rolls also got in on the act when ending the innings on 80 dismissals in ODI to equal the record of England's Jane Cassar. But in New Zealand's innings Julia Price ended up on 79 dismissals.
New Zealand had done a sound job in dismissing the Australians for 214. It is a rare feat and was all the more notable after Clark's innings had looked to steal the initiative well and truly away from New Zealand.
But by bowling with a degree of control, they made life difficult for Clark and she was rarely allowed to strike out for boundaries and the latter part of her innings was spent attempting to lift a run rate that had fallen below what Australian should have expected.
The ploy of opening with 18-year-old left-arm spinner Rebecca Steele, who took one for 38 when bowling through, could be said to have been effective, but at the same time it had to be wondered if bowling her through had been the best option.
The air of mystery that was developed when she opened evaporated when it was clear she was going to bowl through.
Aimee Mason was also effective in bowling 10 overs of off spin to end with one for 34.
New Zealand captain Emily Drumm said she was delighted between innings that the bowlers had done the job that allowed the batsmen a reasonable chase.
"It was our best bowling performance of the series in terms of the consistency they achieved," she said.
Drumm explained that the change in the batting order had been intended to deny Australia early wickets because in the two earlier games New Zealand had been rocked.
"But that is three games in a row now that we have collapsed.
"I've never known Cathryn Fitzpatrick to be so intimidating in a series as she has been here," she said.
Drumm, who was set up by the Australians in each of her innings against them this year, said she never felt it necessary to use a helmet against her because she backed her judgment to get something up to defend herself.
However, she said it was interesting to see on television coverage the involuntary action she was taking in attempting to deal with Fitzpatrick because she didn't realise she was backing off a little.
She said she respected Fitzpatrick immensely and would have to deal with her as best she could and she left the feeling that a good deal of thought would be going into their next meeting, probably next summer in the annual Rose Bowl series.
Drumm said it was always the same Australian players, Clark, Karen Rolton and Fitzpatrick who turned up firing when New Zealand was their opponent.
"Today they lifted their game against us again, because they know that we can threaten them and it is often that fear of losing that drives you to win," she said.
Clark said she knew it would be a good game when they reached the halfway point because Australia had wanted to score 220-plus.
After Fitzpatrick's performance today Clark thought the English team who start the Ashes series next Saturday would be more than a little nervous.
The ploy of changing the batting order had caused the Australians to think a little more about what they were doing.
And she admitted the Australians did lift themselves against New Zealand, but the New Zealanders did the same against them.
"Today was an important day for us. We came here to win the tournament and we have managed to produce the goods when it counted," she said.
Clark said she learned last night that the statistical milestones she achieved were on the horizon but her attitude was that it was more important that she scored well for the team today.
A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches