Cowan calls time after nine seasons with Sparks

Otago Sparks batter Millie Cowan pulls a shot to the boundary as Northern Districts wicketkeeper...
Otago Sparks batter Millie Cowan pulls a shot to the boundary as Northern Districts wicketkeeper Bernadine Bezuidenhout looks on during their match at the University Oval in 2017. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Otago Sparks top-order batter Millie Cowan has hoisted her last four over midwicket.

The 28-year-old dual Otago hockey and cricket representative announced her retirement yesterday.

After nine summers in the colours, she felt she could no longer make the commitment to the Sparks.

"I didn’t really think it was fair to the group or myself [to continue] when I couldn’t commit," she said.

"It is quite tough when you live out of town to make training."

Cowan, who is a teacher at Gore High School, said she had been thinking about retiring for some time. She skipped the 2017-18 season but returned the following summer.

Cowan made her debut for the Sparks in January 2012. She played in a twenty20 match against Canterbury and made her one-day debut the next day.

The right-hander ended up playing 64 list A games for Otago and 52 twenty20 games.

There were a couple of huge team highlights.

The Sparks won the one-day competition in 2013-14 and the twenty20 competition in 2016-17.

Cowan’s greatest day with the bat came in early in 2017. She blazed her maiden and only list A hundred with a swashbuckling knock of 105 from 85 balls against Northern Districts at the University Oval.

She combined with Leigh Kasperek in a massive 169-run opening stand to set up a 91-run win.

Cowan also nabbed a wicket to help complete a stunning day

Her father, Robert, was in the crowd and watched proudly as his daughter flayed 17 fours and a six.

Midwicket got a peppering and the fielder at cover was always on alert as well.

"That was a good memory," Cowan said.

"I think Dad remembers it even more fondly."

That was a lot of fun but Cowan said she will miss the people the most.

"There is a pretty good group of people at the Sparks and I’ve spent a lot of summers with them. We are all pretty good mates, really."

Cowan is an accomplished hockey player as well. She played for Southern in the now-defunct National Hockey League.

Cricket fitted in well with hockey and her job as a teacher.

"But it really was the people that kept me coming back. Also when you go through a season and you don’t perhaps play your best for 90% of the games, there is always that game where you think, yeah I can do this."

Cowan’s career averages do not do her justice. She averaged under 14 with the bat in both formats and took 18 one-day and nine T20 wickets with her medium-pacers.

But on her day she could be utterly destructive, as witnessed at the University Oval when she smacked her century.

Cowan got to play with some wonderful players. White Ferns and Otago duo Suzie Bates and Katey Martin are at the top of that list.

Bates yesterday announced she would skip the Women’s Big Bash in Australia because of the difficulty securing a spot in managed isolation when she needed to return home.

That means she will be available to play more games for the Sparks.

Her presence will help offset the lost of Cowan and Felicity Leydon-Davis, who is recovering from back surgery and is unlikely to feature this season.

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