Talk of season-defining games may be premature but these
could certainly be a big few days for the Otago women's team.
The resurgent Sparks have a major opportunity to push for a
place in a final when they meet the Wellington Blaze in a
series on neutral ground at Lincoln's Bert Sutcliffe Oval.
A twenty/20 clash today is followed by two one-day games.
The sides have identical records: three wins in six games (14
points) in the one-day competition, and two wins in three
games (eight points) in the T20 competition.
They are second-equal in both competitions, both of which end
in a straight 1 v 2 final - so the results over the next
three days could be crucial.
The Sparks should head north with confidence, coming off a
dominant performance against Central Districts.
They will also be boosted by the arrival of Australian
all-rounder Nicole Bolton, who is meeting the team in
Bolton, an exciting top-order batsman and offspin bowler,
captains the Western Fury team and is effectively
participating in a player exchange with Sparks captain Suzie
Bates, who will also play for the Fury.
Bates is in a super run of form. She cracked her third
international century in Australia, and has scored 398 runs
(at 99.50) in the domestic one-day competition this summer.
A new face in the Sparks this week is St Hilda's schoolgirl
Caitlin Blakely, named top player at the recent NZCT
Wellington has, at this stage, lost its best player.
All-rounder Sophie Devine injured a foot and was forced to
come home from the White Ferns' tour of Australia.
Devine, who has scored 324 runs (average 81.00) and taken
seven wickets (28.71) for Wellington in the one-day
competition, actually lives in Christchurch, and there is a
suggestion she may play in one of the one-dayers if she feels
she is up to it.
The Blaze has also recruited an import, with South Australian
representative Lauren Ebsary set to join the side.
Wellington's most recent game, a 30-run win over Canterbury,
featured a 97-run partnership for the ninth wicket between
Andrea Stockwell and Michelle Bunkall.
Lincoln, starting today
Otago Sparks: Suzie Bates (captain), Katey Martin,
Sarah Tsukigawa, Nicole Bolton, Lisa Grant, Victoria Abbott,
Millie Cowan, Sarah Osborne, Polly Inglis, Kylie Crowley,
Emma Campbell, Caitlin Blakely.
Wellington Blaze: Lucy Doolan (captain), Michelle
Bunkall, Rebecca Burns, Deeana Doughty, Allex Evans, Leigh
Kasperek, Suzie McDonald, Renee Moffitt, Thamsyn Newton, Sian
Ruck, Andrea Stockwell, Lauren Ebsary.