Side’s steep learning curve to continue

The Otago Sparks will need to find victory in the small wins this season.

And those small wins might not necessarily add up to an actual victory.

The side has strung together eight consecutive losses across both formats this season.

The Sparks have an opportunity to snap that losing streak today. They play the Northern Spirit at Bay Oval, in Mt Maunganui, in a Super Smash game this afternoon.

The visitors will need to lift their standard if they are going to register a breakthrough win.

They were well-beaten by the Auckland Hearts in the opening game in Alexandra late last year and also suffered a heavy defeat to Canterbury at Molyneux Park.

With star player Suzie Bates sidelined for the season, the Sparks’ depth has been sorely tested.

That depth was pressed even further when White Ferns duo Katey Martin and Hayley Jensen were missing earlier in the season.

But they are back and they certainly strengthen the side. Martin brings an enormous amount of experience, and the team dearly needs it because it has its share of greenhorns.

Coach Craig Cumming believes his side can win games if it plays to its potential.

But he has also urged the fans and his team to be patient.

"Winning is one form of success," he said.

"And in this group, when we look at it, we’ve got a huge amount of new players coming into this environment so it is actually understanding what success looks like.

"That is about putting down marker and making sure we understand what we are doing and why and then we can try and repeat it when we do have success.

"Losing hurts ... but for me there was a lot of areas where I’m seeing little improvements.

"Getting better is a process. It is a very inexperienced group who have to play more cricket to get more experience.

"It is a tough level to try and learn at but we’ve got to deal with it."

The Sparks shelved vital catches against Auckland, which proved costly. But some of the ground fielding was of a good standard and the bowling unit had its moments in Alexandra.

Where this side has struggled the most has been at the batting crease.

The team will lean heavily on Martin and Jensen. They have not fired yet but have too much class to continue to miss out.

Polly Inglis’ form with the bat has been the highlight so far. She clouted 62 from 61 balls in a losing effort against Auckland.

It was a career high for her in the format, and Caitlin Blakely will be hoping to turn her one-day form into some runs in the Super Smash.

Sparks v Spirit

Bay Oval, 3.40pm
Otago: Gemma Adams, Caitlin Blakely, 
Millie Cowan, Katey Martin, Hayley 
Jensen, Polly Inglis, Bella James, 
Saffron Wilson, Eden Carson, Emma 
Black, Sophie Oldershaw, Molly Loe.
Northern Districts: Brooke Halliday, 
Felicity Leydon-Davis, Kate Anderson, 
Lucy Boucher, Katie Gurrey, Lauren 
Heaps, Olivia Lobb, Naomi Mathews, 
Nensi Patel, Eimear Richardson, Alisha 
Rout, Charlotte Sarsfield.

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