Two Aussies, Bates’ return bolster Sparks

The Otago Sparks will bring a little more thunder this season — two of them, to be precise.

The team has signed two Australian imports for the Super Smash, which starts in Lincoln on Friday. Sydney Thunder all-rounders Lisa Griffith and Hannah Darlington will significantly bolster the line-up, which also features the return of White Ferns champion batsman Suzie Bates.

Griffith played four games for the Sparks last season and has returned on a similar deal this summer.

The 27-year-old is available for the first five games. She is expected to be replaced by another Australian when she returns home.

Griffith scored 83 runs at a strike rate of 110.66 for the Sparks last season. She also picked up six wickets at an average of 14.16.

Sparks coach Nathan King was looking forward to her having a similar impact this season.

‘‘She has good ability with the bat and the ball and performed really well for us last year,’’ King said.

‘‘She bowls with a bit of pace so hopefully she can be aggressive for us up top and take early wickets.

‘‘She was able to do that last year, so hopefully more of the same. She is also a good stabilising influence in the middle of the order.’’

The 18-year-old Darlington has impressed during the Women’s Big Bash in Australia.

‘‘She is a hard-hitting lower-order batsman and she is a very skilful bowler. She has bowled a lot through the middle and towards the death.

‘‘She has some very useful variations and bowls with really good control.’’

While Darlington and Griffith are expected to have a big impact, the return of Bates is the biggest boost.

She is a world-class player and last month became the first female to play 300 T20 games.

Fellow White Fern Katey Martin also strengthens the line-up. She returned from the Big Bash a week earlier to play for the Sparks in rounds five and six of the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield.

When you add White Ferns all-rounder Hayley Jensen into the mix, the Sparks twenty20 side is a far more potent unit than the one that fronted for the one-dayers.

The Sparks open their campaign against Wellington on Friday. They have a doubleheader on Saturday with a game against Auckland in the morning and Northern Districts in the late afternoon.

On Sunday, they play Auckland again. All four games are in Lincoln.

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