Lewis relishes return to international cricket

Maia Lewis is back, and New Zealand women's cricket is all the better for it.

Her part in two match-winning stands over India and England respectively in the last two days has borne that out. Yesterday she scored 50 off 80 balls in a 94-run stand with Emily Drumm and today she hit 32 not out off 77 balls in a 120-run stand with Drumm.

Lewis last played for New Zealand at the 1997 World Cup in India where she captained the side but problems with knee injuries and a lack of motivation resulted in her giving the game away.

However, the sight of New Zealand winning the CricInfo Women's World Cup at Lincoln in 2000 was something of a stimulus to getting involved again. That and the hunger that developed when playing indoor cricket.

"I was quite gutted when New Zealand won the World Cup. I had played in two World Cup finals and lost both of them and I was jealous that I wasn't part of it. That gave me a little bit of hunger," she said.

It wasn't until she started scoring runs in the State League this year that she thought she might be able to play at international level again.

"I went through a patch two or three years ago when I didn't have the motivation. But I played indoor cricket and lost a bit of weight. Then I was just looking to have a good provincial season this summer and didn't consider playing for New Zealand."

But she was asked about her availability and if she had the desire to work towards the next World Cup and subsequently got the call-up.

When she did come back it was to a remarkably different set-up than what she had been used to before.

"There were new people, new procedures and new routines. I was like a new kid on the block. There is much more emphasis on the team with everyone responsible for different areas of our debriefing process and things are quite player dominated," she said.

Lewis said that when she returned to State Shield play last summer she didn't know half the players who were involved. But she has found the skills of the players are more impressive, there is a wider range of shots being played by batsmen, there is more athleticism in the field and there is more variation among the bowlers.

"Mike [Shrimpton] has given the players different options to play balls than was the case before," she said.

"I see my role as supportive at the moment. It is good to bat with the type of players I have around me like Emily and Haidee [Tiffen]. We quite complement each other. I know my own game has matured but I am still not striking the ball well at the moment and there's not the clean hitting," she said. In today's innings she did admit some luck when dropped on nine runs when attempting a sweep shot which wasn't held at fine leg on the edge of the inner fielding circle.

"Emily had said to me if I was going to sweep to sweep hard but I sort of half-lapped it. It is not the sort of shot I would normally play.

"But we knew we had a lot of time and it was important not to get frustrated. We were grafting it out because it was all about the partnership," she said.

With all the cricket she has played through the last few weeks she said the knees that had troubled her and contributed to her absence from the game have stood up well and caused no problems at all.

That has to be good news for the World Cup defenders over the next few years.