New Zealand's selectors have named a full-strength White Ferns side to play the first three matches in the six-match Rosebowl Series against Australia in February. Emily Drumm, a batsman, and Rebecca Rolls, a wicketkeeper-batsman, return to the side after being unavailable for the tour to India late last year. Their return has intensified the pressure on all positions in the team.
The only new cap is the 21-year-old all-rounder, Beth McNeill, who has performed consistently for the State Canterbury Magicians in this season's State League competition, taking 16 wickets to date.
Her fellow State Canterbury Magician, Maria Fahey, will open the batting with Rolls. She had an outstanding tour of India, averaging 52.25 in the one-day internationals. Fahey claims the opening slot ahead of former White Fern, Kate Pulford. Also returning to the side is pace bowler, Sarah Burke (State Canterbury Magicians), who previously played one match for the White Ferns - as a replacement player in last season's World Series quadrangular tournament. Burke has so far claimed 15 State League wickets.
Drumm and Rolls return to the side bolstered by impressive batting performances for the State Auckland Hearts in the State League. Rolls was top scorer in the League round-robin, with 439 runs, and Drumm was third, with 299 runs. Other players missing from the White Ferns team to India are Anna Corbin, Natalie Scripps, Katey Martin and Sara McGlashan. All four, plus Pulford, have been named in the New Zealand A side.
Another Indian tourist, Michelle Lynch, was unavailable for either side.
Mike Shrimpton, the coach and convenor of selectors, said that the pressure on all players to hold their positions was an encouraging sign for the women's game. "With top-line players all working to consolidate their places, and those in the A side all pushing hard to make the step up, the intensity has gone up a notch. It should make for an exciting season of women's cricket."
This season's Rosebowl Series comprises three home games and three games in Australia. All three matches in the New Zealand leg of the series will be played at North Island venues.
The selectors will re-name the side following the home leg of the Rosebowl and the completion of the New Zealand A series, a seven-match series for which the selectors named 13 players. In addition to the former White Ferns, the A side features three New Zealand Cricket Academy graduates from 2003 - Katey Martin, Ros Kember and Sarah Tsukigawa.
The side has a mix of youth and experience, with three former internationals - Helen Daly (State Canterbury Magicians), Paula Flannery (State Otago Sparks) and Helen Watson (State Auckland Hearts) - all pushing to make a comeback at the top level. Watson will be remembered for her matchwinning fielding during the 2000 women's world cup tournament, won by New Zealand.
White Ferns Maia Lewis (capt), Haidee Tiffen, Nicola Browne, Sarah Burke, Emily Drumm, Maria Fahey, Amanda Green, Beth McNeill, Aimee Mason, Louise Milliken, Rebecca Rolls (wk), Rebecca Steele.
New Zealand A Anna Corbin (capt), Paula Flannery, Amanda Cooper, Helen Daly, Sarah Hill, Ros Kember, Amber Little, Sara McGlashan, Katey Martin, Kate Pulford, Natalee Scripps, Sarah Tsukigawa, Helen Watson.