Cricket: Form a matter of training and focus, not hocus-pocus

Suzie Bates
Suzie Bates
If Suzie Bates had a lucky pair of batting gloves, they would have to be under lock and key until game day.

The White Ferns and Sparks captain has had a remarkable season and it is not over yet.

The talented all-rounder has scored three centuries in eight games, her season batting average is well north of 100, she has broken Debbie Hockley's New Zealand record for the number of runs in a season, and she has helped give her side a better-than-fair chance of reaching the one-day final.

Otago has won the tournament only once and that was 50 years ago. But with Bates playing the way she is, this could be the season the drought ends.

The dual basketball and cricket international smashed back-to-back centuries against Wellington on Friday and Saturday.

Saturday's effort was a superb undefeated 164 off 140 deliveries and helped her side post a formidable 332 for four - the highest team total in the history of the competition.

She shared an Otago-record second-wicket partnership of 133 runs with Nicole Bolton and overtook Hockley's 1999-00 season total of 641.

She has now scored 666 runs - the devil's number. But Bates is not the superstitious type. She does not even own a lucky pair of gloves.

Instead, she puts her purple patch down to better preparation and the decision to put her basketball career on the back burner to focus on cricket.

''[Putting basketball on hold] allowed me to go over to Perth and just play more cricket,'' Bates said.

''I guess I've been inconsistent with my training but now I'm playing and training all year round. Just the volume of work we've done on basic technique has really helped and I wouldn't have been able to do that if I'd tried to play basketball at the start of the year.

''I'd have to say I'm in the best form in terms of the number of runs I've scored. It is the most consistent I've ever been and, hopefully, it just continues on.

''The confidence is fairly high and I feel like, unless I get a ripper of a delivery, I've got the technique to get through. It is all sort of coming together.

''With captaining, I struggled initially with all the extra planning and it cluttered my mind a little bit. But the way for me to be at my best is to be as relaxed as possible until I have to actually perform. So that's the routine now. There are no real superstitions.''

Perhaps the biggest improvement Bates has made is pacing her innings better this season. She does not feel she has to be hitting boundaries the moment she gets to the crease and, by giving herself more time to get set, she is better equipped to increase the tempo in the dying stages.

While Bates was the major contributor in the 49-run win against Wellington on Saturday, leg spinner Emma Campbell took four for 43 to help dismiss Wellington for 283. Bolton also batted well, adding 79 at the top of the order.

Auckland (30 points) has been the form team this season and has booked a berth in the final.

Otago (18 points), Wellington (18 points) and Canterbury (17 points) are jostling for the right to join the defending champion.

The Sparks play Northern Districts (13 points) in back-to-back one-day games in Dunedin in the new year, while Wellington has to travel to Auckland to play the favourites.

Canterbury might be the sleeper. The Magicians host Central Districts (9 points) in Rangiora. They are the only team to beat Auckland in the one-day competition this year but may have left their run too late.