Bates keen to repeat prior career highlight

New Zealand great Suzie Bates has a lot of good cricket memories.

But one of her favourites includes getting out for 99.

That bit was not so much fun.

The hat-trick earlier in the game was a hoot.

But watching Otago scamper through for a bye to secure a historic Hallyburton Johnstone Shield win for the Sparks in 2013-14 was a wonderful experience.

They upset Auckland to win their first national title in 51 years.

Bates played an instrumental role in the title win.

She claimed said hat-trick, and carried her side to the cusp of victory with her almost-hundred.

But she could barely watch from the sideline as the Sparks chipped away at the remainder of the target.

"People often ask me what my highlights from my cricket career are," Bates said.

"I haven’t won a World Cup with New Zealand but that HBJ title in Auckland really sits high in my cricket memories.

"I thought I’d blown it but young Caitlin [Blakely] and Polly [Inglis] were brilliant. And now they are in their late 20s and hopefully going to get picked for some high honours."

It is a hard memory to top, but the 36-year-old right-hander will get an opportunity tomorrow.

She will team up with Inglis and Blakely again as Otago looks to defeat Wellington in the final at the University Oval.

It is Bates’ first home final, and it was a real treat to play in front of her family and friends, she said.

"For the amount of cricket I have played, I’ve had very little cricket at home. So to have a home final is awesome.

"And to see how the team has played has been great. The bowlers have turned up every game for us."

The subject of retirement comes up a lot in interviews lately.

She is in the twilight of her career, and had a pact with longtime team-mate Katey Martin to retire together.

But wait — she is still playing, while Martin has made the move to the TVNZ commentary box.

It might be Bates’ last chance, though, to add to the two titles she has helped win in the final.

And the Sparks have a decent chance as well.

They have been playing some impressive cricket. Otago have won the last four on the trot, and it has not always been the White Ferns trio doing the damage.

Emma Black has emerged as a real threat with the ball during the past few seasons. She is the competition’s leading wicket-taker, with 21 scalps.

Blakely has come along from the 18-year-old who ran through for that all-important bye 10 years ago. She stroked 62 from 63 balls to help seal a seven-wicket win against Northern Districts in Dunedin earlier this month. She has probably never hit the ball better.

Keeper Inglis (289 runs at 48.17) has been the most productive of the Sparks batters, and continues to press her case for higher honours.

Captain Felicity Robertson (272 at 45.33) has been good touch as well. She has also picked up nine wickets.

Wellington, who have been able to call on the likes of Sophie Devine and Melie Kerr to help deliver titles in the past, will have to get by without the star duo, and that makes them a lot more beatable.

But they will not be a pushover.

White Ferns discard Leigh Kasperek keeps showing up the national selectors with consistent performances. She is the leading wicket-taker (17 wickets at 18) for the Blaze and their second-leading scorer (277 at 30.78) to boot.

Wellington opener Jess McFadyen (326 runs at 40.75) is the leading scorer in the competition and shapes as a prized wicket as well.

The teams have met twice during the campaign and have a win each.

The Sparks cruised to a seven-wicket on November 18. But the Blaze rebounded to win the following day by 22 runs.

Both games were at the Basin Reserve.

"I think we match up really well against them," Bates said.

"We bowled really well against them during the Super Smash so, if we play as well as we have been, it is going to be a great game."