In just 200 days the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup will be upon us with New Zealand hosting the tournament for the first time since 2000. The White Ferns took out the 2000 edition and in doing so inspired the stars of the next generation.
Those same stars are now hoping to do the same for a new legion of cricket fanatics in a sports-mad nation.
A budding young basketballer and cricketer, Bates was only 13 years old when the White Ferns beat rivals Australia in a thrilling Final in Lincoln. It’s a match she still remembers vividly and one that left an indelible imprint on her.
“I remember it was the first time I’d seen women’s cricket on TV,” Bates said. “So I didn’t dream of being a Black Cap (anymore). I could now dream of being a White Fern.”
To date, it remains New Zealand’s lone triumphant World Cup campaign in either ODI or T20I cricket, with the White Ferns runners up in the 50-over tournament in 2009 and the Black Caps the same in 2015 and 2019.
The 2000 victory was one they had to work incredibly hard to secure, holding their nerves to defy Australia by four runs in the decider.
Held to 180 by a Cathryn Fitzpatrick three-for after they had elected to bat, the White Ferns ran into a red hot Belinda Clark when it was Australia's turn to bat. The Aussie skipper scored a scintillating 91 off 102 balls and despite none of her teammates passing 20, she looked destined to carry the side to victory.
Clark’s departure in the 42nd over left Australia at 150/7 and opened the door for the hosts. Going into the final over, Australia were nine down and Clare Nicholson only had four runs to defend. The offie didn't need any of them, striking first ball as she took the edge of Charmaine Mason and wicket-keeper Rebecca Rolls held onto a smart catch - but only barely.
It’s a moment that remains embedded in the minds of Bates and her captain Sophie Devine.
“The thing I remember most is the crowd flocking onto the pitch after the game finished,” Devine, 11 years old at the time, recalled. “It doesn’t happen too often anymore. I remember Rebecca Rolls taking the catch - it stuck just in the webbing.
“It’s pretty special to be able to hopefully replicate that in 2022.”
“I remember it going down to the wire and Rebecca Rolls taking a pretty good catch to win it for the first time ever for a New Zealand team and it’s still the only World Cup that New Zealand have ever won,” Bates said. “It was inspiring for me and it made me want to be like her.”
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Just two years later Bates would be representing the Otago Sparks in New Zealand's national women's cricket league. In 2006 she made her own White Ferns debut, rubbing shoulders with some of the heroes of 2000, including Rolls herself.
The veteran all-rounder has been out of action since November last year after undergoing shoulder surgery on an injury she suffered in Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League. She is set to return to playing duties next month when New Zealand tour England. She is not the only experienced member of the team who has battled injuries of late, with Lea Tahuhu sitting out England’s tour of New Zealand earlier this year with a hamstring injury.
For both players, the looming World Cup has been a huge motivation in their rehabilitation.
“Fortunately for me, it got delayed a year, otherwise I probably would have missed a home World Cup,” Bates said, reflecting on the postponement of a tournament originally scheduled for early 2021
“The fact that it’s a 50-over World Cup at home, none of us have ever played at home in a World Cup – it’s been pretty easy to get back up.
“In saying that, there’s some time tough times when you’re injured as Lea can probably talk about too.
“I guess at my age you doubt how much you've still got left in you but I think getting back amongst the group and all of us heading towards the World Cup has made it a lot easier and that’s the end goal.
“I’m looking forward to finally getting back out on the field in England and working towards that home World Cup.”
“I think it’s huge,” Tahuhu added of the World Cup being a motivational factor. “The carrot of being able to play in front of your family and friends right around the country and to inspire a nation – that’s what we’re aiming to do – and being able to win that World Cup.
“And as Suzy said, being able to have the group behind you and knowing that everyone is pushing for you to get back for that makes the training and the rehab that little bit easier.”
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