The White Ferns put years of baggage to one side as they stunned England to win the bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games Twenty20 cricket tournament.
Their eight-wicket win at Edgbaston in Birmingham was their most significant in 12 years, since their semi-final win over the West Indies at the 2010 T20 World Cup in the Caribbean.
Since then, there have certainly been “more downs than ups,” as captain Sophie Devine put it on Sky Sport in the wake of her side’s triumph, which she fueled with an unbeaten innings of 51 off 40 balls and figures of 2-11 with the ball.
Devine was in tears while reflecting on the team’s journey during another interview with 1News and the hope will be that this win – only the White Ferns’ third over England in T20 internationals – can serve as a turning point, ahead of the next T20 World Cup early in 2023.
Devine was one of two players in the White Ferns’ Commonwealth Games squad who were there for their T20 semi-final win in 2010, which was followed by a loss to Australia in the final.
The other was fellow opening batter Suzie Bates, who made 20 off 10 on Sunday to ensure the White Ferns got ahead of the asking rate early in their pursuit of 111.
A proud White Ferns captain held back tears as she reflected on the Commonwealth Games campaign.
Speaking to Sky Sport, Bates touched on the fact that she and the other senior players had plenty of “baggage” from coming up short and failing to live up to expectations over the past decade or so.
Four white-ball tournaments had passed before this one without a White Ferns appearance in the semifinals, including the last one-day World Cup, played in New Zealand in March and April, where they had three narrow losses while in search of a single win to make the top four.
After that failure, Ben Sawyer was appointed as the team’s new coach. The matches at the Commonwealth Games were his first and charge and Bates told Sky Sport he had brought an outsider’s perspective to the team environment.
“It is nice to have someone like Ben who hasn’t been around this New Zealand group, so he doesn’t see it how we see it.
“He just really believes in us. It was probably after the [semifinal loss to Australia] that the most words were spoken and it was about this team really believing in themselves.
“I’m just really excited about what the future holds.”
The White Ferns went into their trans-Tasman semi-final having suffered one of their worst defeats in years when they were held to a meager total of 71-9 by England, who won the group stage meeting by seven wickets.
They bounced back to push Australia close – Meg Lanning’s side only won with three balls to spare – but were left ruining costly errors in the field, and barely had 13 hours to reflect, sleep and get ready to go again.
With Hayley Jensen taking 3-24 and Fran Jonas 2-22 alongside Devine’s 2-11 and Kerr supporting Devine with 21 not out off 15 balls, they completed their chase against England with more than 12 overs to spare, handing the hosts an emphatic defeat .
“To finish off the way we did, I think it just shows the strength of this group,” Devine said on Sky Sport. “To be walking away with a bronze medal is huge.”
“We had to reflect,” she added. “We were gutted and it probably did take a bit of time, but we did need to have that space to grieve almost and to get over it.”
“Ben was awesome this morning, he said what’s been gone and we need to focus on today, we’ve got such an awesome opportunity to hopefully get the bronze medal and here we are, a couple of hours later, being able to celebrate that.”
Former White Ferns Katey Martin and Amy Satterthwaite were both in the crowd for the bronze medal match, having retired following the one-day World Cup – Satterthwaite after NZ Cricket made the shock decision not to offer a contract for the coming year in May.
The pair joined in the celebrations at the end of the match and Devine said that the duo remained part of the White Ferns “family,” even though they were no longer involved as players.
Satterthwaite’s wife, seamer Lea Tahuhu, was also not offered a central contract, but vowed to win her place back and was given a reprieve when two players originally selected for the Commonwealth Games had to withdraw – a second chance that ended with a medal around her neck.