Northern Spirit captain Brooke Halliday won the toss and elected to bat in the One-Day season opener at Cobham Oval — former Auckland Heart and current WHITE FERN Sam Curtis opening the batting alongside fellow WHITE FERN Natalie Dodd, against fellow WHITE FERNS pace bowler Holly Huddleston.
ONE-DAY ROUND ONE — Northern Spirit 226/7 (Natalie Dodd 93, Emma Parker 48; Regina Lili’i 4-47) beat the Auckland Hearts 201 all out in 45.5 overs (Maddy Green 33, Holly Huddleston 43, Regina Lili’i 31 not out) by 25 runs at Cobham Oval, Whangarei on 26 November 2016
With that line-up, and a fresh pitch, it was never going to be a gentle start to the match and, unfortunately for Curtis, it saw her bowled for a four-ball duck on Spirit debut. Yet it wouldn’t end badly.
Dodd would lead a sterling recovery for the second wicket. Assisted by a watchful Emma Parker, she reached her half-century off 69 balls in the 28th over, courtesy of her eighth boundary. The Spirit hundred and hundred partnership, off 160 balls, soon followed as Dodd punished Feala Vaelua Pula’s entry into the attack to the tune of 11 off the over.
The Auckland-based Samoa international was on One-Day debut for the Hearts; 14-year-old Tauranga whizzkid Nensi Patel meanwhile on One-Day debut in the Spirit XI. Spirit also had the services of former Proteas Women wicketkeeper Bernadine Bezuidenhout, who is working her way through a two-year international stand-down period after shifting to New Zealand, as well as Scotland internationals Kari Carswell and Katie McGill.
But it was the Hamilton pair of Dodd and Parker making all the play, going on to post their 150-stand in the 40th over.
After all that good work, Parker would be denied a maiden half century by just two runs when she was caught off Regina Lili’i in the following over, Bezuidenhout joining Dodd on 87*. But Parker and Dodd had smashed the Northern Spirit record for the second wicket, their stand of 154 eclipsing the 127-run mark that had been set by Dodd and Anna Peterson — now bowling for the opposition — at the Mount in 2012/13.
Peterson would claim the catch that ended, after 44 overs, Dodd’s marathon stay, the opener falling on 93, to Lili’i again.
But at 174/3, she and Parker had built a perfect platform for the rest of the order to throw everything at it at the death. Wickets began to tumble quickly, Maddy Green picking up a two-for and Lili’i going on to 4-46 as Spirit racked up 226/7 from their full 50 overs.
Parker continued her good day out with the ball, now, picking up Hearts skipper Victoria Lind with just her fourth delivery. With the space of the next 11 deliveries, 8/1 would become 13/3 as the Hearts got off to a horror start, rapidly losing both Lauren Down and Katie Perkins — run out without facing.
Sara McGlashan and Green embarked on a steady rebuild putting on 53 runs, but by the 20-over mark McGlashan, too, had departed, and would be shortly followed by Green (33). Then young Nensi Patel took a key maiden wicket by bowling Anna Peterson on 11.
At 82/6, requiring a further 145 at almost a run a ball rate, the defending champion Hearts were under pressure from a side that had won just two matches all up last season. By 129/7 in the 34th over, they still needed a further 88 — and a big finish from their tailenders to get across the line.
Huddleston and Lili’i appeared to have answered the emergency call with a 60-run partnership for the eighth wicket, Huddleston top-scoring with 43 before she was crucially run out by Curtis when a further 38 runs were required.
The heat went on again, Curtis claiming debutante Vaela Pula to have the Hearts 199/9, 28 runs now required from the last 4.4 overs. But the Hearts would only manage two more singles before Curtis struck again in the same over, claiming a first-up win with her new team against her old mates.