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Bronze medal shows New Zealand's 'resilience' - Sophie Devine

Says the group had been "pining" after New Zealand's early World Cup exit and was eager to make amends

Paul Muchmore
07-Aug-2022
Amelia Kerr and Sophie Devine are all smiles after the win, England vs New Zealand, Bronze-medal match, Commonwealth Games, Birmingham, August 7, 2022

Amelia Kerr and Sophie Devine are all smiles after the win  •  Getty Images

For England, a potential bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games seemed a consolation prize. For New Zealand, it's "something really special" and the beginning of a "really exciting time" for their women's team.
Sophie Devine shared her delight as her side stunned hosts England to claim the bronze medal at Birmingham 2022, saying that they had defied expectations to win a spot on the podium.
"I think a lot of people probably wouldn't have expected us to make the semis," Devine said, "so to be able to take away bronze medal, it probably hasn't quite sunk in yet.
"In cricket it's usually just first and second and you don't even play a third-fourth playoff. So it's a bit unique to be able to take away a bit of, not quite silverware, but jewellery. It's really special for this group."
New Zealand had lost heavily to England in their last group-stage match on Thursday night before defeat against Australia in the semi-final barely 12 hours before the start of the bronze medal match. Suzie Bates had suggested after the semi-final loss that the lack of turnaround time could benefit New Zealand, with little time to dwell on their disappointment before playing again for a medal. Devine joked at the toss today that she had slept in the changing rooms at Edgbaston overnight.
New Zealand picked themselves up and bested the host country in all departments. Nat Sciver, England's stand-in captain, said: "The way that we played today we probably didn't deserve to get a medal." Devine, on the other hand, couldn't be more proud of how her side rebounded at Edgbaston on Sunday.
"I think that shows the resilience in this group to be able to bounce back," Devine said. "We were disappointed to lose to Australia last night and to be able to turn around in less than 12 hours and come out and put out a performance like that is something I'm really proud of this in group and shows that we've got a bit of ticker about us, which I think we can keep growing."
Success in Birmingham has at least partially healed the wounds of New Zealand's disappointing ODI World Cup campaign on home soil earlier this year, where they finished sixth in the group stage and failed to progress to the knockouts.
"We were pining over that World Cup at home. They don't come around very often at all, potentially once in your lifetime, career-wise," Devine said. "We were really gutted about that, but I think to be able to come here and represent New Zealand and to be able to take away a medal, that was certainly our aim."
While the experienced heads of Devine and Bates played a huge part in New Zealand's success at the Games - they sat first and third on the run-scorers chart ahead of the final - this was a youthful New Zealand side that has clinched a spot on the podium. Four players made their T20I debuts in the tournament - Izzy Gaze, Eden Carson, Fran Jonas and Georgia Plimmer.
Only two other sides had debutants at the tournament - India (one) and Barbados (six) - and head coach Ben Sawyer praised their impact on the campaign.
"The roles that the girls have played - Fran, for her to bowl the first over in every match and to bowl to Danni Wyatt and Alyssa Healy and some of the greats and she had to bowl a big over to Chloe [Tryon] against South Africa, that's put her under a bit of pressure and she's responded really well," Sawyer said.
"Georgia to run at Darcie Brown the other day and Izzy to keep wicket, the three debutantes we've had just haven't made up the numbers, they've played really big roles. That's going to put us in really good shape."
For 18-year-old Jonas, who bowled an excellent spell of 2 for 22 in the bronze-medal match, the overall experience was "unreal".
"I can't really fathom that we've just won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games, it's super exciting," she said.
"It's been such a good opportunity and a really good experience just to develop my bowling.
"The support we had last night in our game [the semi-final] was unreal and just the roar when there are boundaries and stuff, it's really, really cool. Surreal."
New Zealand will get their moment on the podium alongside India and Australia following the final, but the celebrations had begun swiftly after their victory against England, with group photos, beers on the outfield and a singalong to New Zealand's own pop superstar Lorde on the balcony.
Devine, who is 32 years old and whose international career has spanned almost exactly half her lifetime, assumed the role of "mother hen".
"I think I have to keep an eye on the young ones, because they can be rowdy, and be the old mother hen," she said. "We'll certainly celebrate accordingly and spend some real quality time together because we've been over here for close to a month now and, amazingly, we're not sick of each other. It's just special to be able to spend some time and just reflect on what's been a pretty awesome couple of weeks."
With a new generation of players coming through and now a medal win, Devine was confident of a bright future for New Zealand.
"The really exciting thing is this group is only going to go up," she said. "They're obviously bloody young and they remind me about it too. But yeah, it's a really exciting time for New Zealand cricket and a fantastic result here, but we know that there's a lot more hard work and hopefully a lot more silverware to come."
As women's cricket gains more exposure through the Commonwealth Games, along with hopes of its inclusion in the 2028 Olympics and growing professionalism around the world, it's an exciting time for young female cricketers.
"I sort of wish I was Amelia Kerr or Fran Jonas' age to be able to come through on this but, it's a hell of lot of hard work that goes with it too," Devine said. "It's been built on years and years of female players doing the hard yards, working full-time jobs, and we wouldn't be where we are today, reaping the rewards, without those females laying the platform and the foundation for us to be here.
"So it's a really proud moment, but we need to acknowledge where we've come through. We've also got a really long way to go as well. But I think hopefully everyone that's watched the last couple of weeks sees the value in women's sport and women's cricket and I'm really excited to see where women's cricket can go."

Paul Muchmore is ESPNcricinfo's Social media editor. @paulmuchmore