The White Ferns get their Twenty20 World Cup campaign underway early tomorrow morning when they play Sri Lanka. Niall Anderson runs through all you need to know about their chances in Australia.
Sophie Devine (c), Suzie Bates, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Hayley Jensen, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Rachel Priest, Lea Tahuhu.
Australia, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are their pool play opponents, with two teams moving through to the semifinals.
February 23: v Sri Lanka, Perth, 12am
February 27: v India, Melbourne, 5pm
February 29: v Bangladesh, Melbourne, 1pm
March 2: v Australia, Melbourne, 5pm
The White Ferns were runners-up at the first two T20 World Cups in 2009 and 2010, but haven't got past the semifinals since, including a disappointing pool play exit at the last tournament in 2018.
Star To Watch
Sophie Devine is a legitimate superstar, having been named Player of the Tournament in the Australian Big Bash, where she averaged 77, before becoming the first player — man or woman — to score five consecutive international Twenty20 fifties, which included her first international T20 century against South Africa. A player who can single-handedly change a game, she'll need to be at her best for the White Ferns to progress to the knockout stage.
The White Ferns come into the World Cup on the back of a 3-1 T20 series victory over South Africa, and will also take confidence from their 3-0 series win over India, albeit over a year ago. However, four consecutive losses to Australia are a point of concern.
Keys For Success
The White Ferns can count on Devine, and their seam bowlers (led by Lea Tahuhu and Holly Huddleston) and spinners (Amelia Kerr and Leigh Kasperek) can cause problems for any side. The difference may come in their other batters, with Suzie Bates and Rachel Priest — neither of whom have quite been at their best recently — critical to helping Devine get the Ferns off to a strong, quick start, and ensuring the slower scorers in the side, of which there are too many, aren't exposed.
What They Say
"I want to make my teammates and country proud but also my family, friends and everyone that's helped me on my journey. I hope to inspire a generation of cricketers coming through." — Sophie Devine
"The whole team needs to contribute and I guess that's the challenge for us. We've got some big hitters in Sophie [Devine] and Suzie [Bates] but we need our whole squad performing well." — Maddy Green
"Knowing what that pain feels like makes us very determined to succeed. We're definitely hungry. We've been working hard all year round and we want this bad." — Amelia Kerr
The White Ferns are fourth favourites — at $10 — to win the World Cup, and at $3.85 to reach the final. Sophie Devine is the favourite ($5) to be the Cup's top run scorer.
How Will They Fare?
As the odds suggest, the White Ferns are realistically the fourth best side at the Cup, behind Australia, India and England. However, two of those teams are in their group, and only two advance to the semifinals, meaning a victory over Australia, or more likely, India, is required. The most likely scenario is a pool play exit, but if Devine fires and they make the semifinals, anything could happen from there.