Fellow blogger Syd Egan recently speculated on the England squad to tour New Zealand in February - a tour that I will be lucky enough to be covering. I have to say I cannot wait. For those of you that haven't read Syd's piece yet it is here. His 15 are:
Edwards, Knight, Taylor, Greenway, Winfield, Beaumont, Sciver, Gunn, Hazell, Brunt, Shrubsole, Cross, Jones, Wyatt and Farrant. For what it's worth (which is not a great deal) I think they will probably take Marsh and Grundy rather than Wyatt and Beaumont.
But what of the New Zealanders they will be facing? So far New Zealand have played just three games in the ICC Women's Championship, all against the West Indies, in the West Indies, and they have lost them all. They are bottom of the ICCWC table of eight teams. They will be desperate to get something out of England's tour to New Zealand.
New Zealand currently have 10 contracted players - Suzie Bates, Sam Curtis, Sophie Devine, Holly Huddleston, Hayley Jensen, Felicity Leydon-Davis, Sara McGlashan, Morna Nielsen, Katie Perkins and Rachel Priest. In addition to these another 10 players were also named in the White Ferns High Performance Squad in October - Kate Broadmore, Nicola Browne (who declined a contract), Maddy Green, Georgia Guy, Frances Mackay, Hanah Rowe, Sian Ruck, Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu, and Natasha von Tilburg.
The squad that went to the West Indies in September was the contracted 10, plus Green, Guy, Satterthwaite, Tahuhu. No-one really came out of that disastrous tour with any great credit, except perhaps Sophie Devine who averaged 40.25 in the four ODIs - only Bates, Priest and Satterthwaite averaged in double figures and only Devine, Bates and Priest scored 50s. Debutant off-spinner Georgia Guy also did well and was the top bowler with seven wickets.
You would guess that the selectors will stick with the contracted 10, plus vice-captain Satterthwaite, which leaves just 3/4 slots available. Guy deserves to keep one of them, but the others seem to be up for grabs. Seamer Tahuhu only bowled five overs in the Windies and has not put down a huge marker in the current New Zealand domestic season. Frances Mackay on the other hand has had a good start to the domestic season both with bat and ball, but may already be behind Guy in the off-spinning pecking order. On the opening bowler front Hanah Rowe is a young contender. She has had a decent start to her season with Central Districts and at 18 could provide back-up to Nielsen, Huddleston and Leydon-Davis.
A few of the New Zealand batsmen seem to be in decent nick. Sophie Devine scored back-to-back hundreds in the domestic OD competition for Wellington against Canterbury earlier this month; Amy Satterthwaite scored a hundred for Canterbury against Wellington and 97 against Otago; Sara McGlashan scored a hundred against Otago and was 96* against Northern Districts for Auckland; and Kate Broadmore has scored 53* and 115* for Central Districts, which must put her name in the frame for the final squad. Keeper batsman Rachel Priest has also scored a ton for Central Districts against Canterbury in her first OD of the domestic season.
However there have been few stellar bowling performances by any members of the High Performance squad, which could account for the glut of centurions, and must be of concern to the selectors with only just over two months to go until the England tour begins. To add to their woes captain Suzie Bates has not been in sparkling form with either Otago in New Zealand or, beforehand, in the Aussie WNCL with Western Australia (alongside Charlotte Edwards). She, along with the rest of the White Ferns, will have a maximum of six more domestic ODs and three domestic T20s to find some form and force their way into the squad for a very important series for both teams.