CD Hinds v Otago Sparks
Cornwall Park, Hastings
Only one thing is worse than losing - that is coming away none the wiser at the end of the day's proceedings.
And so it came to pass yesterday when the Otago Sparks dusted up their business on the final day of round three of the three-match Action Sports series at Cornwall Park, Hastings, in good enough time to soak up some of that typical balmy Hawke's Bay weather they seldom see.
The Suzie Bates-captained blue and golds finished their second 50-over match with an emphatic eight-wicket thumping to wrap up the series 3-0 on the heels of an equally compelling nine-wicket Twenty/20 win at McLean Park, Napier, on Friday and a 116-run victory in the first of the two one-dayers on Saturday at Cornwall Park.
For the Mike Shrimpton-coached Hinds, finishing last in both forms of the domestic competition is fast becoming a reality considering they have just a T20 and one limited-overs wins under their belt.
Any talk of a summer of performance has fast evaporated with White Fern material not stepping up consistently enough to provide a decent platform for eking out wins.
Yes, to use Otago coach Warren Lee's words, the burden of expectation is high on CD's elite players such as skipper/wicketkeeper Rachel Priest, batsman Sara McGlashan and allrounder Kate Broadmore but isn't that the same for every other team?
More importantly, isn't that the sort of challenge White Ferns, or aspiring ones, should be embracing if they are to help lift New Zealand's plummeting status on the international stage?
New Zealand captain Bates consistently did that for the Sparks at the weekend and, significantly, her lieutenants in the form of No1 White Fern wicketkeeper Katey Martin, ex-White Fern Sarah Tsukigawa and Emma Campbell, to name a few, showed gritty determination all the way.
Look around and all teams possess a nucleus of experienced talent - Wellington Blaze have the likes of Sophie Devine, Michelle Bunkall and Lucy Doolan; Auckland Hearts have Victoria Lind, Katie Perkins and Megan Tremaine; Northern Districts have Nicola Browne, Anna Peterson; and Natalie Dodd; and Canterbury have Amy Satterthwaite, Erin Bermingham and Frances Mackay.
With the Rose Bowl Series against Australia starting on Wednesday with four one-dayers in Sydney, sandwiched between the domestic season and the one-day World Cup in India in January, anything short of pressure cricket would be tantamount to expecting women provincial/club players to perform in the domestic arena against White Ferns.
Yesterday at Cornwall Park, CD were skittled for a paltry 111 runs but, damningly, before the halfway mark of their innings six wickets had fallen for 60-odd runs.
All batsmen, bar opener Sarah Cowan, were top-order material.
The glimmer of hope, after CD failed to go past 26.4 overs on Saturday, was seeing the lower-order yesterday digging a little deeper to occupy the crease to 40.5 overs with No8 Kelly Rangi unbeaten on 38 runs from 58 balls.
Chucked in as an opener in the first round, Bay's Rangi struggled but has since flourished and grown in confidence in the lower-middle order although putting her higher up in T20s, ahead of one-day opener Eimear Richardson, makes more sense because of her ability to be more aggressive and powerful as a hitter.
If Rangi couldn't heck the pace of facing the new ball, the question remains, how could possibly schoolgirl Cowan despite her club experience and an underachieving Bay senior women's stint?
Thankfully, the smart money on the starting point for youngsters appears to be the week-long annual Women's Under-21 Development Tournament starting in Lincoln, Christchurch, before Christmas.
With rookie captain Priest, the constant chopping and changing of bowlers need to be sorted out to enable them to settle into the task although there's enough evidence Sandee Hui needs to go back to the drawing board.
Martin, unbeaten on 11 yesterday and scoring a match-winning 69 on Saturday, became only the third Sparks player to play 100 domestic matches behind Tsukigawa and Megan Kane.
"It's a very proud moment because I've been living in Christchurch for the past eight years so I've been commuting down to Dunedin to support Otago Cricket.
"I'm a very proud Dunedin person so it's good to give something back to the other players and help guide them through," she said after parents Wendy and Steve Martin, a rugby stalwart, were here to witness her milestone.
Ironically, Martin recalled the last time Otago won 3-0 was against CD in Palmerston North three to four seasons ago.
"Sometimes it can be hard to get up for the third game so it was very pleasing we could do it today,"she said, adding she was making the most of her spot as the No 1 wicketkeeper in the country, especially in the 50-over format, through form and after Priest's injury.
While the wicket here was low and slow, playing and winning at McLean Park on Friday night was a highlight for the visitors, who had flight delays that morning.