• New Zealand faces Sri Lanka on the opening day of the ICC Women’s World Cup in Bristol
- New Zealand has had a mixed time in its warm-up games but hopes to get it right in the tournament
- Sri Lanka finished fifth in the last edition of the WWC in India in 2013
While Australia and England have dominated the Women’s World Cup over its 44-year history, New Zealand is the only team to have broken that hegemony.
That World Cup success came back in 2000, and while inevitably no players remain from that team, four of the team that reached the final in 2009 are back again to bid for the title.
The campaign begins against Sri Lanka in Bristol, and White Ferns skipper Suzie Bates – who was part of the team that made the final eight years ago – believes that her partnership with Rachel Priest at the top of the order will be crucial.
The pair struggled in the final warm-up game, both falling within the first 10 overs in a heavy defeat to England, and Bates admits that preparation could have gone a little better.
She said: “Going into the first game, ideally we would have performed a bit better but having Sri Lanka on Saturday, we’re just really excited about getting stuck into the real thing.
“Our batting was a bit disappointing (on Wednesday) and against Australia as well. Our top order didn’t quite fire and we’ve got players getting in and getting 20s and 30s so it’s about being able to kick on from those scores in our top order, scoring fifties and hundreds to win games.
“That’s going to happen with partnerships as well, in the last 18 months we’ve had some really good partnerships in the top order and I think that will be crucial at this World Cup.”
While the ICC Women’s Championship has reduced the element of surprise coming into the tournament, New Zealand and Sri Lanka have not faced off since 2015.
That was a five-match series in New Zealand, with the home side winning every game relatively comfortably.
However two years on, Bates is taking nothing for granted against the Sri Lankans.
She added: “It’s hard to know what to expect, we haven’t played Sri Lanka in a while now and we often play them at World Cups. The last time we played them was a tour in New Zealand but that was a couple of years ago so it’s a little bit of the unexpected.
“We know they have got some quality players, (Chamari) Athapaththu in particular with the bat, always brings a threat. But we’ve got to go out and execute our skills and if we can do that for 100 overs we’re confident we can beat Sri Lanka.”
Chamari Athapaththu will certainly be a major threat for the Sri Lankans, the all-rounder is Sri Lanka’s all-time leading run-scorer, as well as a useful option with the ball.
And while Sri Lanka has lost both of its warm-up games to India and England, it beat both of those sides four years ago on the way to a fifth-place finish in the tournament – the best performance at the event to date.
This year Sri Lanka begins its campaign against New Zealand, with Australia and England to follow, so getting off to a good start will not be easy.
But as has been shown in the past, any team that underestimates Sri Lanka will pay the price, Bates and New Zealand will be desperate to avoid doing so.
New Zealand: Suzie Bates (captain), Erin Bermingham, Sophie Devine, Maddie Green, Holly Huddleston, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Katey Martin, Thamsyn Newton, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Rachel Priest, Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu
Sri Lanka: Inoka Ranaweera (captain), Chamari Athapaththu, Chandima Gunaratne, Nipuni Hansika, Ama Kanchana, Eshani Lokusooriya, Harshitha Madhavi, Dilani Manodara, Hasini Perera, Chamari Polgampala, Udeshika Prabodani, Oshadhi Ranasinghe, Shashikala Siriwardena, Prasadani Weerakodi and Sripali Weerakkody
Umpires - Claire Polosak and Anil Chaudhary
Match Referee - David Jukes