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Feature

'A crazy day when everything fell into place' - Amelia Kerr on her world-record 232 not out

New Zealand's teenage prodigy reflects on her stunning performance against Ireland

Raf Nicholson
Raf Nicholson
22-Jun-2018
Sometimes it's easy to forget the fact that Amelia Kerr is just 17 years old. There aren't many 17-year-olds who hold cricketing world records, especially not ones as dramatic as the one Kerr achieved against Ireland earlier this month: hitting 232 not out, the highest individual score in women's ODIs.
But when I ask her whether she was aware of the record before she went out to bat, or whether she had ever even heard of its previous holder, Belinda Clark, she shrugs and says, in typical teenage fashion: "Nah."
Given that Clark's score was made in 1997, 3 years before Kerr was even born, perhaps that's fair enough. But she has certainly heard of Clark now. She shows me a message on her phone from the former Australian captain:
'Hi Amelia,' it says. 'I wanted to congratulate you on your world record innings. So pleased for you and your team. Well done and keep up the adventurous and bold play. We need entertainers to help the game grow and your innings was a masterstroke in entertainment. Sincere congrats, keep going, and all the best vs the Poms.'
There is a teenage air of insouciance about Kerr as she talks about her record-breaking innings, which was followed up by figures of 5 for 17, making her the only international cricketer, male or female, to ever achieve a double-century and a five-fer in the same game.
"It was surreal," she says. "It was one of those crazy days where everything falls into place. I was pretty tired afterwards and my body was pretty sore."
A nap in the innings break meant a last-minute dash back onto the field without an opportunity to warm up. "I didn't actually think Suzie [Bates] was going to bowl me, but the wicket was turning and it was just one of those days that just happened for me.
"It's not going to be like that all the time," she adds.
Maybe not, but Wednesday's game at Taunton against South Africa - New Zealand's first international match since Kerr's heroics - did rather seem to continue the theme. The White Ferns racked up 216, the world record total in women's T20Is. Just hours later it was topped by England's own performance against the South Africans, as the home side reached 250.
Yet again Kerr's word of choice when asked to describe the day is "crazy". "The display of batting that was put on in both games was amazing," she says. She shrugs off the suggestion that New Zealand might have been disappointed not to hang on to the world record: "216 was a really good score and we were able to defend that and get the win - that's what matters."
Unneeded with the bat on Wednesday after New Zealand finished their innings only one wicket down, she is clearly chomping at the bit for an opportunity to get out there herself on the Taunton track in the next round of T20 matches on Saturday: "The wicket looked really nice. I'm excited for a few more opportunities with the batting."
The big question is where she might now sit in a batting order which probably contains more firepower than any other side in the world. While captain Suzie Bates told ESPNCricinfo earlier this week that Kerr had made a good case for a promotion up the batting order, Kerr herself is pragmatic about the issue.
"Our top 4 is really established," she says. "At the moment I'm pretty happy where I am, sitting around 6. But definitely in the future I want to keep making my way up the order."
Originally selected for New Zealand back in 2016 for her legspin, she admits that, two years ago, "I wasn't ready to be an international batter. I was still quite young and not physically strong enough." Since then, in conjunction with coaches Christie van Dyk and Matt Bell, she has worked to improve that aspect of her game. "I wouldn't say I'm a massive ball-striker - I probably more time the ball - but the power game is something I definitely want to work on," she says.
"People have looked at me and been like, 'she's just a legspinner', but over time that's something I've wanted to change. I want people to view me as an allrounder."
The other side of that coin, her legspin, is also constantly evolving. First developed practicing with her father (former Wellington cricketer Robbie Kerr) in the back garden at home - "I was pretending I could bowl spin, and Dad thought I was quite good!" she recalls - she now works with Wellington coach Ivan Tissera, and is seen as one of the most promising practitioners of the art in the global women's game.
"I've definitely worked a lot on my bowling, trying to be more consistent. My variations are a really important aspect for me and I think that's what makes me an attacking option. I've got to keep trying to be one step ahead and hopefully not too many people can pick me."
She enjoys playing in England - she took 10 wickets during last year's World Cup, finishing as one of New Zealand's leading wicket-takers in the tournament - and will be staying on after the internationals to play for Southern Vipers in the third edition of the Kia Super League. It's certainly a bit of a coup for the Hampshire-based side, who recruited Kerr long before her world-record innings.
"It was in March, after the tour against the West Indies," Kerr says. "I got a message from [Vipers coach] Charlotte Edwards asking if I wanted to play. I was a bit surprised, but when I saw it I knew that I really wanted to do it."
After that, come September, it will be back home - "I think all the fuss might have blown over by then," says the ever-casual Kerr - and back to school. "Hopefully one day I'll be able to be a professional cricketer," she says. "But I want to have other options in life. I would like to go to university and I do want to be a teacher."
As to whether she will one day beat captain Bates' record as leading run-scorer for New Zealand, as Bates herself predicts? "It would be awesome to do that!" she says. For this 17 year old, the future is bright.

Raf Nicholson is a writer on and historian of women's cricket. @RafNicholson