December 14, 2001

O'Leary warms up for season in men's grade

Wellington batsman Anna O'Leary has sharpened up for the busy end of the women's cricket season by playing in men's competitions.

The CLEAR White Fern opener from last year's triumphant CricInfo Women's World Cup team was concerned that with the poor state of women's cricket in the capital she might not be getting the best possible preparation and she has been playing in the Taita senior reserve side.

When she had a tour of India coming up that made good sense but concerns over a lack of security in India for the New Zealand women's team during the war against terrorism in Afghanistan seemed to have made her efforts to no avail.

However, a belated tour to Australia, arranged for next week, has at least meant some competition for the New Zealanders and O'Leary is looking forward to the experience of playing in Queensland, somewhere she has never been before, including the chance to play on the famed international ground, the Gabba.

"It will be great to play there," she said.

And it wil be a good chance to put her preparation to good use. She has already had some benefit from that when scoring a century in the first of three games played as part of the side's tour preparations at Lincoln.

"I decided to play in the men's grade more for my own enjoyment than anything else. Women's cricket has, unfortunately, slipped away in Wellington.

"I had played men's cricket twice before, once when filling in when a team was short.

"I haven't felt too much out of my depth. We actually haven't had a lot of cricket due to the weather.

"My scores have been eight, four and 22. I've been batting at No 3 and it has been challenging. But at least on the two lower scores they got me out. There is pressure there all the time.

"The ball is a bit bigger and the men bowl faster," she said.

However, she was happier with the quality of game she was getting with the men.

"It felt great to get the century on Tuesday. It is always great to be batting on the good Lincoln decks," she said.

The cancellation of the Indian tour had been a blow at the time.

"Especially after you build yourself up for six months and you have it pulled out from under your feet. But there is not much you can do about it.

"Then when the Australian tour was announced my reaction was 'Great here's a tour and it's exciting to be going,'" she said.

O'Leary said she wasn't feeling any extra pressure as a batsman in the absence of the legendary Debbie Hockley.

"There's still a core of us who have been there for awhile and it is up to us to help the younger players along there.

"And I'll just be looking to continue doing my job as an opener," she said.

It was the same for the other members of the top three where at least one of them was expected to make the big scores.

The team flies out to Australia tomorrow morning and returns home next Friday.