Loe out but Jensen’s speed a major boost

Otago Sparks all-rounder Hayley Jensen returns to the action in a T20 against Auckland at Eden...
Otago Sparks all-rounder Hayley Jensen returns to the action in a T20 against Auckland at Eden Park Outer Oval today. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Otago has gained one fast bowler but lost another.

White Ferns all-rounder Hayley Jensen has returned from a month-long break and will bolster the attack.

She has been bowling with real heat this season and her ability to bat in the top five is a very welcome bonus.

But the Sparks have lost the services of Molly Loe who has picked up 10 wickets at an average of 16.80.

The teenager injured her back while warming up for Otago during the under-19 tournament in Christchurch this week.

Coach Craig Cumming said the seamer had been doing such a good job with the new ball in the Super Smash and would be missed.

"She has been performing brilliantly well for an 18-year-old and is valued in our group," he said.

"But injuries happen. We’ve been very fortunate up until now to really not have had any.

"Let’s hope it is not too serious and she can recover quickly."

Cumming said the injury was still being assessed and it was unclear for how long she would be out.

Jensen has not played for Otago since late November, so it has been a lengthy break. However, she was playing club cricket in Australia and has recently returned from a training camp with the White Ferns.

"She is probably the quickest bowler in the country and also a very hard-hitting middle-order player.

"When you look at what we might need at this stage of the competition, Hayley has those skills."

The Sparks play Auckland at Eden Park Outer Oval today and their final round-robin game is against Canterbury in Dunedin on January 23.

Cumming believes one more win should be enough to secure a home playoff.

The Sparks have won six of their eight games and are in second place with 24 points.

Wellington is unbeaten and has already locked in a playoff spot with 28 points.

Auckland (12pts) and Canterbury (12pts) are locked in a battle for the remaining spot.

Both the Sparks’ losses have been to Wellington, which is operating at a different level to the other five teams.

Jensen’s return should help bridge the gap.

One area the Sparks are focusing on is trying to cut down on the amount of dot balls.

"I’d like to see us score off more balls and lower the dot-ball percentage from over one through to 20."

The Sparks should not have any trouble getting parity when it comes to boundaries, though.

Suzie Bates is the leading scorer in the competition with 331 runs at an average of 55.16, and Katey Martin has made a late charge up the list and lies in third place with 195 at 24.37. They can both club the ball hard.

The Sparks’ bowling line-up has surprised. Kate Ebrahim, Emma Black and Eden Carson have taken 36 wickets between them.

Super  Smash

Auckland, 11.10am

Otago: Suzie Bates (captain), Poly Inglis, Katey Martin, Kate Ebrahim, Hayley Jensen, Caitlin Blakely, Bella James, Olivia Gain, Eden Carson, Emma Black, Sophie Oldershaw, Marina Lamplough.

Auckland: Lauren Down, Izzy Gaze, Bella Armstrong, Katie Perkins, Holly Huddleston, Arlene Kelly, Jesse Prasad, Saachi Shahri, Fran Jonas, Amie Hucker, Molly Penfold, Skye Bowden.

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