S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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New Zealand were not meant to chase down the 271-run target at the John Davies Oval in Queenstown. They should not have got closer after having lost the big three of Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine and Amy Satterthwaite inside ten overs for just over 50 runs. After all, since January 2020 New Zealand had won only two of the eight ODIs when chasing. Overall, when the target had been 250 or more, they were successful only three times out of 15.
But Amelia Kerr had other plans. It was a day she made her presence felt - with the bat, with the ball and on the field.
Kerr stroked her way to just a second ODI hundred - her first was a mammoth 232 not out against Ireland. Having batted mostly in the middle order in her career, the allrounder has been given a role to bat at No. 3 in the series as New Zealand try to get their combinations right ahead of the Women's World Cup next month.
After a watchful ten deliveries, the 21-year-old got moving rather quickly. Peppering the square boundary on the off side, Kerr kept the scoreboard moving in the company of Maddy Green, who took her time to get her eye in. Pooja Vastrakar's width was never left unpunished but one of the key characteristics of her knock was against spin. Kerr made use of the depth of the crease, converting even good length balls from Poonam Yadav and Rajeshwari Gayakwad into shorter ones, enabling her to play the cut and the pull. The use of feet to come down the track also stood out.
"As an allrounder, it's my job to score runs," Kerr said. "I knew if we could form a good partnership at some point in the innings and keep the required rate under six then it was very doable."
The next part was telling, giving an insight into the young mind of Kerr. "Some of the pockets [at the ground] were quite big out there. I knew if we could hit those pockets hard, we could run back for two and put pressure on their fielding."
That Kerr manoeuvred the field and got her way through after a tricky phase saw New Zealand lose their experienced hands tells a lot about Kerr's ability. She ran 51 singles, 17 twos and a couple of threes, thereby not solely relying on boundaries.
"She's an athlete and a lot of people see only game days and they don't see the work that goes in behind the scenes," her sister Jess said later on. "We come from running background, I think that helped today. We talked about hitting the gaps and running hard. It takes great stamina to do that and is low-risk cricket."
On the field, too, Kerr was at it, running from long-on to deep midwicket between overs as the hosts tried to have one of their best fielders in crucial positions. The result? Two high catches to dismiss Richa Ghosh and Pooja Vastrakar in the death overs.
Kerr's legspin also made its presence felt as she got rid of a set S Meghana for 49. The opener tried to push one down the ground and ended up spooning up a return catch. Such was Kerr's guile that seven of the nine balls that Meghana faced from her were dots, including a missed stumping chance and the wicket ball.
This is Kerr's first international series after she took the time off for her mental health. And on her return, she has ensured to have her day out almost every single time. Perhaps none more so than in the record chase in the second ODI.