White Ferns survive the fright of their season so far
New Zealand wrapped up its three-match One-Day International series with England in Timaru today 2-0 but only after a big scare as its struggled to score 135 runs to win.
The fact that England recovered from its 165-run loss in the first match played in Oamaru to take New Zealand to within five overs and two wickets may well be the best thing to come out of the series which concludes in Timaru tomorrow.
Another crushing win would have given the New Zealanders a false impression of where they were at going into the CricInfo Women's World Cup in a week's time.
This result will have served as a useful reminder that nothing can be guaranteed.
New Zealand's spin bowlers Clare Nicholson and Erin McDonald were especially effective. Nicholson, opening the bowling again, took 2-17 from her 10 overs while McDonald had 2-18.
In batting, New Zealand overcame Paula Flannery's first ball dismissal by Lucy Pearson as Rebecca Rolls and Haidee Tiffen struck some lusty blows in a productive 60-run partnership in 12 overs.
It looked as if New Zealand would breeze in, but Sarah Collyer began a great England fightback by removing Debbie Hockley four balls after she dismissed Helen Watson. That tore a sizeable chunk out of the batting which was not improved when Emily Drumm tried to pull a ball from leg spinner Kathryn Leng through mid wicket only to be bowled.
It took a stubborn ninth wicket stand from Katrina Keenan and Catherine Campbell to see the Kiwis home.
They came together with 14 runs needed to win and 12 overs to achieve it. They were forced to use up more than seven of the overs to do it.
England coach Paul Farbrace, in surveying the wreckage after the first loss, said every area of the side's play needed to improve.
Yesterday he got the improvement he wanted in the bowling and fielding but the batting remains his greatest concern.
"We needed to give our bowlers 40-50 runs more to make it a more challenging game for our bowlers.
"To defend 130 runs was particularly pleasing.
"But we have to be a little more positive in our batting, we need five or six more boundaries in our innings and we need to have the courage to hit back over the top of the bowlers," he said.
The improvement in the bowling and fielding from Oamaru was 200% better and the side needed to keep improving at that rate.
"It is disappointing when you get so close to winning and you end up just short of victory but it has shown people what we can do.
"New Zealand might say they had an off day, but at the World Cup if you have an off day you are out of it," he said.
Farbrace said the problems with the batting were not new, they had been known about for 12 months.
"They've got to back themselves, to show they have the ability. And all 11 have to contribute, not just the top batsmen," he said.
New Zealand coach Mike Shrimpton said the CLEAR White Ferns did suffer from the ease with which they won the first game.
"When Rebecca [Rolls] got us underway in such a cavalier fashion it looked too easy. Haidee Tiffen and Rebecca had us on target at 70 from 15 overs.
"Then, not for the first time, Rebecca holed out in almost the same position as in Oamaru. They set her up.
"The game was a salutary lesson for us all," he said.
The side needed to get back to basics, something that should be seen in tomorrow's final game. Shrimpton did concede that the side was committed to playing a batting order a little different than might normally be used in order to give some lower-ranked batsmen a chance to bat.
"But in 30 overs after the first 15 we scored only 60 runs for the loss of five wickets, no coach can be happy with that. It was a good wake up call for us."
Shrimpton said New Zealand wanted to play in attacking fashion. That would advance the game in the public profile and make women's cricket more acceptable to more followers.
"The ability to play consistently well is going to be a determining factor in the World Cup. We have to put in place all our targets to achieve our outcomes," he said.