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June 10, 2011
Australia and New Zealand's Rose Bowl Series recommences on Sunday, four months after it was dramatically halted when the sides were caught up in the fatal Christchurch earthquake.
On February 22 the quake, which killed nearly 200 people, rocked the Christchurch Novotel where the New Zealand team were gathered ready to head to training. "They were right in the heart of it and saw some pretty scary stuff," said Australia's Shelley Nitschke.
The hotel remained standing but next door the famous Christchurch Cathedral was ruined. New Zealand managed to head 20km away to Lincoln University, linking up with Australia who had been training there and felt the whole indoor centre shake.
The sides then experienced a powerful aftershock when in a supermarket stocking up. "All of the shelves started shaking, tins were falling off," said Nitschke. "It was pretty scary." The two teams stayed in makeshift accommodation on site - some on couches and mattresses - for several nights until it was safe to fly out.
Now, the series will finally reconvene with three ODIs at the Allan Border Fields in Queensland, Australia, after the Twenty20s - which began back in December last year - were levelled at 2-2.
The teams will simply try to focus on the cricket, with New Zealand seeking out their first win this century. "It's a fierce rivalry actually because the Kiwis haven't won it for years, they've come so close so many times," said Nitschke. "We've been two all and we'll win, or there'll be a wash-out so it's getting to be a pretty good rivalry. Whether or not it will be a bit more important [given the earthquake], I don't really know, we'll find out."
Australia will welcome back Jodie Fields to the captaincy after a horror 18 months in which she twice badly injured her hamstring in freak accidents. Alex Blackwell, having led Australia to their first World Twenty20 and recaptured the Ashes after six years, will resume the vice-captaincy and has handled well stepping back to the ranks.
"I've enjoyed captaining and I feel that it's actually been a good thing for my own cricket," Blackwell told ESPNcricinfo. "I'm pleased with the way I've handled it. It was an opportunity that came about because of Jodie's injury, it's just fantastic news that she's fit. She's gone through a terrible time with rehabbing and I know how much work she's put in."
The pair will work together to help a relatively new team adjust smoothly. Australia have a new-look pace attack after Ellyse Perry was announced in the Matildas' World Cup soccer squad, while Rene Farrell, the Ashes hat-trick hero, has announced an indefinite break from cricket.
The younger players recently headed out to India for a training camp, while Sharon Millanta debuted at the age of 30 after consistent performances for New South Wales.
New Zealand will be desperate to recapture a Rose Bowl at long last and will welcome the opportunity for some matchplay before heading to England for the quadrangular also involving India. Having reached the last four World finals but failed on each occasion, there is the prospect of two finals - with Twenty20 and ODI formats on offer - and they will be keen to go one better.
For now, though, the Rose Bowl is there for the taking and New Zealand will not want to be bridesmaids again. Australia will feel no guilt, however, should they dash such hopes once more.
Jenny Roesler is a former assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Jenny Roesler
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