Devine boost for New Zealand in crunch game

Injured all-rounder set to take the field against India.
Sophie Devine

Sophie Devine sustained a side-strain while fielding against England during New Zealand’s penultimate league game of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017. She was off the field for 18 overs, and returned to make only eight off 10 balls in an unsuccessful chase of 285.

New Zealand is now left needing to win its last league game against India in Derby on Saturday for a place in the semi-final. The good news is that Devine is available for selection, albeit only as a batter. Devine underwent an exhaustive fitness test on the eve of the game, and looked untroubled to the naked eye.

“At this stage, she is fit for selection,” Suzie Bates, New Zealand’s captain, said before the practice session. “She obviously had a little bit of niggle against England. She will hopefully be ready to go on Saturday. I would pick her just as a batter.”

Devine has usually enjoyed batting against India. She aggregates 181 runs in six matches with a best of 89 in Bangalore in 2015. She has also been in good touch in this tournament, making 93 off 41 balls against Pakistan. Devine also has three wickets in her four bowls, but Bates almost ruled out her bowling against India.

“Obviously with her having done her side, bowling is going to be a major issue,” Bates added. “We will see how she comes through in the training. As a batter she is always in the side, we have to see how she comes across as an allrounder. She has improved over the last 24-48 hours, she will take part in full training today.”

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Sophie Devine blasts 93 from 41 balls

One of India’s problems has been its inability to score against spin bowlers on slow surfaces, and also the failure to hit big shots like some of the other teams. Bates said she respected the batters in India’s line-up, and also revealed that New Zealand would be going with its best bowlers in a crunch game. It means India could be left to negotiate a high percentage of overs from spinners.

“As a group we talk about conditions, but as a captain my belief is that in any condition your best bowler is your best bowler. We have got three very good spinners, and we have also got Ana Peterson and Amy Satterthwaite, who plays as a batter but can also bowl,” she said.

“Derby has been historically a bit slower, but I am saying on a fresh wicket our spinners are still our top bowlers. That’s kind of been how decisions have been made, not necessarily taking the conditions we think. Taking the pace off the ball and the quality of spin bowlers we have, we want to pick them.

“I have seen (Harmanpreet) Kaur hit the ball pretty hard. Mithali Raj is the No. 1 scorer in women’s cricket. We are not going to take their batting line-up lightly,” she added. “Having said that, we believe that we can squeeze them with the ball. We thought we can squeeze England, but Natalie Sciver took the game away. We have to just go there and bowl as well as we can for long periods of time and sort of take out what the batters might do. It’s actually controlling how much pressure we can create with good bowling and good fielding.”

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