Sparks looking to star duo for boost up ladder

Suzie Bates.
Suzie Bates.
The Otago Sparks have been boosted with the return of star players Suzie Bates and Katey Martin for the second round of the women's twenty20 competition.

Even with the return of the White Ferns duo it might be too late for the Sparks' title prospects. The defending champion is in last place with just one win in the opening round.

However, with five games in four days, the Sparks (six points) can make significant progress up the competition ladder.

Auckland (16 points) and Wellington (16 points) appear too far ahead to reel in, coach Nathan King said.

''We can certainly get up the ladder. Whether we can get to the top is probably highly unlikely.

''Auckland and Wellington are out in front but the rest of the table is reasonably congested.

''We just want to go there and play as well as we can.''

There is no final this season and the entire second round is being staged at Lincoln in what shapes as a festival for women's cricket.

It is an innovation and perhaps does not suit the Sparks. They squeaked into the final last year and then produced a sensation performance to beat Canterbury.

''There are pros and cons around [getting rid of the final] but it is a great opportunity for all six teams to get out on the park and play in front of [selectors] which is going to be exciting.''

A New Zealand XI will be named at the conclusion of the tournament to play a warm-up game against the West Indies.

For the likes of Kate Heffernan it is an opportunity to impress. The left-armer took four wickets in the final last season but she is struggling with an ankle complaint.

Her twin, Georgia, also has an ankle concern. Both will need to pass a fitness test to play today.

The sisters are also very good netballers and were named as training partners for the Invercargill-based Steel side.

The Sparks open the second round with a tough fixture against Auckland today.

The Hearts, who won the one-day Hallyburton Johnstone Shield, have also been boosted with the return of White Ferns Katie Perkins, who is returning form thumb surgery, and Sara McGlashan.

The Sparks play twice tomorrow. They play Wellington in the morning and Northern Districts in the afternoon.

On Saturday, they play Canterbury and round out the tournament with a fixture against Central Districts on Sunday.

 

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