Sophie Devine: England game was 'more than that for me'

The NZ captain, who is returning from taking a break, was just happy to be on the park with her 'good mates'

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
New Zealand captain Sophie Devine lines up for the national anthem, New Zealand Women vs England Women, 1st ODI, Christchurch, February 23, 2021

Sophie Devine was playing her first match since taking a break from cricket in March  •  Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

For Sophie Devine, Wednesday night's hefty defeat at the hands of England was about much more than it appeared.
Yes, New Zealand were thumped by 46 runs off the back of a ruthless display by Tammy Beaumont, whose 97 set England off to their highest T20I score (184 for 4) against the White Ferns. Yes, they were "rusty" in the words of Devine, who put down some crucial chances herself in a ragged team fielding display.
And yes, only one of New Zealand's big three managed to fire upon their reunion, with Amy Satterthwaite putting up a fight to top score for her side with 43 after Devine and Suzie Bates, returning from shoulder surgery, fell in single figures.
But given where Devine has been recently, she saw plenty of positives in the match at Chelmsford, the first of three T20Is with England which will be followed by a five-match one-day series.
"It probably wasn't my greatest game," Devine, the New Zealand captain who was playing her first match since stepping away from the sport in March to manage fatigue and her mental health, said.
"It was ok with the ball but pretty average in the field and with the bat, disappointed not to get more runs, but it's more than that for me.
"To be back where I am now after the last six to 12 months, which has been pretty challenging, it's just nice to be surrounded by my good mates out on the park and with a full crowd as well, it's certainly something I enjoy. It's nice to be out there with the New Zealand fern on my chest."
That said, Devine is under no illusions about her team's need to dust themselves off briskly ahead of the next match, at Hove on Saturday, which will be only their second international fixture since April.
"It's our first game in quite a few months, as long as we're trending in the right direction, that's what we're really focused on."
Sophie Devine, the NZ captain
She saw encouraging things in Satterthwaite's innings, the performance of Hayley Jensen, who took 2 for 26 and scored 16 off 11, and the intent shown by a lower order of Thamsyn Newton, Hannah Rowe and Jess Kerr despite a required run rate that had become unattainable.
"We know we need to be better but it's a really good first step for us," Devine said. "It's our first game in quite a few months, as long as we're trending in the right direction, that's what we're really focused on.
"There was definitely a bit of rust and hopefully, we get that rolling pretty quickly because we don't have long between matches here and certainly with the 50-over games; they're going to roll around super quick. We're going to have to learn and adapt really quickly but, I think, there's been some real positive starts for us."
For England, the benefits of coming off a full summer schedule, including their multi-format series with India and the Hundred, were evident.
While Devine missed the Hundred, where she had been due to captain Birmingham Phoenix, the likes of Tash Farrant - the tournament's leading wicket-taker - and third-highest run-scorer Sophia Dunkley picked up for England from where they had left off, when the T20 competition ended 11 days prior.
Farrant trapped Devine lbw for 2 with her fourth ball of the match and took a screamer of a catch to dismiss Maddy Green, who had put on a key partnership worth 48 with Satterthwaite. Dunkley, promoted to No. 5 with Heather Knight out nursing a hamstring injury, made an unbeaten 23 off 17.
But it was Beaumont who dominated after being somewhat frustrated in the Hundred, where she managed two scores of 42 for London Spirit without producing a truly big innings.
"Once I got to fifty, I just started having fun," Beaumont said of her latest knock, having been a stand-out performer on England's winter tour of New Zealand and a strong contributor against India.
"I was quite disappointed in the Hundred that I didn't play more match-winning innings and kept getting to 40, feeling really good and then getting out. I wanted to be more clinical and ruthless in this series and if I got a start make sure it's more of a contribution to a winning cause."
The England squad had a week off after the Hundred in a diversion from their usual preparation for an international series, but Beaumont believed it had served them well, as had the Hundred for throwing up candidates for England selection.
They include allrounder Emma Lamb, who was a late call-up to the squad when Maia Bouchier and Charlie Dean were ruled out of the first match as possible Covid contacts and then brought into the team when Knight was injured, although Lamb didn't face or bowl a ball on her debut.
"You can see that we've played a lot of cricket recently and it's good to be playing this well against a team as good as New Zealand," Beaumont said. "You don't need a big build-up to these things if people are in form and performing and can get in the right mindset.
"Look at the squad that's been picked. Tash Farrant has quite literally forced her way into the XI through amazing performances, Sophia Dunkley was in brilliant form for Southern Brave, Emma Lamb found herself in the squad and then, due to Heather's injury, in the team. People are knocking down the door and you have to be playing well to stay in the team or get in the team, so I think that's a good thing from the Hundred."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo