Cricket: Otago Sparks ready for CD Hinds

By Anendra Singh

For what it's worth, Otago Sparks coach Warren Lees wants everyone to know his domestic women's cricket team have no captaincy issues.

The former Black Caps coach and his troops arrive this morning to play their Sports Action Twenty20 curtainraiser match against the Central Districts Hinds before the Devon Hotel CD Stags host the Wellington Firebirds in their HRV Cup T20 clash at McLean Park, Napier, from 7pm.

"I absolutely love coaching the Otago Sparks and we certainly don't have any problems with our captaincy or any other issues," Lees said with a laugh when asked how he was enjoying coaching the domestic team from the south with New Zealand captain Suzie Bates at the helm.

Asked if he had any views on the power struggle in the Black Caps team with pockets of detractors trying to oust CD batsman Ross Taylor from his mantle of captaincy, Lees said: "I have many views on the matter but you don't have four hours to listen to them all."

A New Zealand men's coach from 1990-93, Lees is settled in Central Otago in a "semi-retired position", coaching youngsters a few days a week and also fulfilling the role of relief school teacher.

"Otago Sparks lost Nathan King to the men's team [Otago Volts] so there was a bit of a hole so being a long-time Otago person I offered to help the Sparks out," said the 60-year-old who represented his province at first-class level from 1970-88 before going on to represent his country as a wicketkeeper/batsman before Ian Smith, of Havelock North, replaced him.

Focusing on the third round of the women's domestic competition Lees said it would be an interesting weekend of matches considering both the Sparks and Rachel Priest-captained Hinds had won a T20 and one-day match each.

"I think we can say neither CD nor Otago are going to win the competition."

Faced with finding numbers to make up a team in Otago, Lees said the drive was to improve their performance but also ensure the women enjoy the environment enough so they would return the next summer itching to play again.

"We have to face the reality that it's a pastime and hobby so the girls have to enjoy being with each other and learn about each other."

The core of experience in the side gravitates around Bates and fellow international wicketkeeper Katey Martin.

"Former White Fern Sarah Tsukigawa has returned too after retiring a year ago."

The other pivotal player is Victoria Abbott, a pharmacist from Nelson, who is in the New Zealand Emerging Players team who have just returned from an unsuccessful tour of Australia.

Priest, who last week was recalled to the Katrina Keenan-coached White Ferns squad preparing for the Rosebowl tour of Australia after the domestic campaign is over, will be out to secure the No 1 wicketkeeping position with a solid performance.

CD are also without Manawatu teenager Hannah Rowe.

The Hinds have won a one-day match against the Wellington Blaze in the opening round and a T20 game against the Auckland Hearts in Masterton last Friday by a run.

Irish international Eimear Richardson found some form as an opener with 74 runs from 100 balls while occupying the crease for 100 minutes, to eclipse her previous best score of 39.

However, for CD to come away with more than a win they'll have to have other batsmen, such as in-form Priest, Bay-born Sara McGlashan and unwanted White Fern Kate Broadmore, to fire with the bat.

The bowlers will also have to step up, eradicating countless extras and bowling good line and length to stifle Bates and Co.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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