Tawa College year 12 Melie Kerr will soon have good reason to be absent from school.
Melie is in the WHITE FERNS squad that is about to play a series of six games against Australia, three Twenty20s over the Tasman starting tomorrow and three ODIs coming up in New Zealand.
Melie explained her involvement. “I’m not selected for the three Twenty20s over there, but I meet up with the team next Thursday for the one-dayers that are in Auckland [26 February] and Tauranga [2 and 5 March].
“It’s going to be exciting to play the team that is considered the best in the world.”
It will be the first time she’s played against most of the Australians. “In my first season with the Blaze when I was 14 I played Elyse Villani when she played for Northern Districts, but no one else.”
“But I was watching a bit of the Big Bash and the T20 games will be on TV so I can watch those and do a bit of scouting.”
Melie has been selected for New Zealand as a leg-spinner and lower order bat. In her four previous ODI internationals against Pakistan she wasn’t required to bat at all. But it’s with the blade where she’s been in hot form of late.
Earlier this month she scored 119 for Wellington, which was the 100th century scored in the women’s domestic One-Day competition - she bet Sara McGlashan to it by 14 minutes. She also became the youngest ever centurion in the competition – a tick over two years younger than Suzie Bates was when she scored 183 not out against Auckland when she was 18.
“At the moment I’m in the New Zealand squad as a bowler, but at every other level I’m considered an all-rounder as well. At the start of the [Wellington] Blaze season I was batting about seven and then I worked my up to be opening.
“It is my goal to become an all-rounder at the top level too. In a few years when I am bit bigger and stronger and I keep developing my batting I will be both.”
She followed her century up for Wellington by scoring 110 for the Tawa College First XI against the Wellington College 2nd XI in the Premier College Grade.
What’s it like playing against the boys?
“It’s really good practice for me, each week’s a good challenge!
“With the pace bowlers, each team has one quick bowler. Lea Tahuhu [WHITE FERNS bowler] is probably the same pace as the quickest bowlers in Premier 1. So it is really good practice getting to face bowlers that will challenge me, so that if I do bat at the end of an international cricket match and they bring their fast bowlers on I will be used to it.”
Was her call-up to play Pakistan late last year a surprise?
“No, I didn’t think it would happen this soon. When I was young I had a goal of making the WHITE FERNS when I was about 18. Then last year I had a goal of making the side for the Women’s World Cup later this year [June and July in England].
“I wasn’t really expecting the phone call but when I did I was pretty happy. But I had a big winter and worked really hard and thought that I felt ready. I didn’t feel like I was too young to be playing in the series against Pakistan.”
What was most memorable about her debut series?
“Making my debut was pretty special; I’m never going to get to do that again. But I think the last ODI in Nelson where I got four wickets [4 for 42] and three catches and also the T20 I played in were probably my two favourite games of the series.”
Melie had previously represented New Zealand in indoor cricket. “In year 9 when I had just turned 14 I had played in the U20 indoor cricket world cup and in the year after that the U18 world cup.”
In 2015 she played a series for the New Zealand A team against Sri Lanka A.
The granddaughter of former Black Caps Test opener Bruce Murray, who passed 50 on 49 occasions in 187 first-class innings, Melie comes from a cricketing family.
“My older sister Jess always wanted to be playing sport when she was three or four. But I wasn’t really interested at that age. Then when I was about five or six I joined a team at my club in Tawa with all my friends. There was me, one other girl and lots of boys and I started that way.
“I remember going up to Hastings every January for cricket camp and all my family was there as well, so that is probably one of my favourite cricket tournaments that I played in from about aged seven to 12.”
They say bowling leg-spin is the hardest art in cricket. Melie explained how she started.
“I used to bowl medium pace when I was little. Then one day I was just in the cul de sac outside our house with dad mucking around trying to bowl off-spin and leg-spin and dad said to me that the leggies are coming out quite naturally and said that I should keep practising it.”
Melie was introduced to Cricket Wellington representative coach and Wellington College first XI coach Ivan Tissera, who has been mentoring her for the past several years.
With the help of Ivan and others she’s still developing her bowling craft, including working on a googly which she hopes to add to her variation.
As well as family, another obvious role model is WHITE FERNS all-rounder Sophie Devine, also from Tawa College and who played for Wellington at a young age before going on to play for New Zealand.
Melie used to play other sports, but naturally all her time is taken up with cricket now.
“When I was younger I used to play lots of other sports, because they were all in school time. I used to do running and play football. But I stopped running a few years ago and stopped football in year 11.”
Currently, she’s got up to five quality skills and training sessions and then two strength sessions at the gym a week, plus playing, plus attending school during the week.
If selected in the playing XI in any of the upcoming ODIs, Melie will be the second youngest New Zealand cricketer, male or female, to play internationals against Australia, after current New Zealand Cricket President Debbie Hockley.
Melie, who made her international debut last November against Pakistan aged 16 years and 27 days, is the second youngest New Zealander to debut against any team after Auckland’s Munokoa Tunupopo who played for the WHITE FERNS against England in 2000 a week before turning 16. Hockley, who scored over 4,000 international runs, was 16 years and 80 days when she first played Australia nearly 40 years ago.
Hamilton Boys’ High School have enjoyed a vice like grip on the Super 8 cricket title, but the trophy nearly slipped through their grasp at the recent edition of the annual tournament in Hamilton.
In the final against Palmerston North Boys’ High School, Hamilton appeared to be coasting to victory. Hamilton was 110 for 2 chasing a modest 172. Captain Dilan Nanayakkara explains what happened next.
“I was well set on 43 when I chipped the ball gently back to the bowler for a caught and bowled. I was really annoyed with the way I got out. It was a soft dismissal after working so hard,” he laments.
A rot set in for Hamilton and a flurry of wickets tumbled. With 49 runs required from 90 balls and with 5 wickets in hand, the equation seemed a mere formality for the hosts. However in the space of half an hour, the equation became much more difficult, as 36 was required from 60 balls with 4 wickets in hand and soon 24 from 42 with a solitary wicket remaining.
“It was a wet, slow wicket and Palmerston North bowled really well. We started terribly, but managed to steady the ship. When wickets started falling again it was hard to arrest the momentum back,” Nanayakkara concedes.
Fortunately Hamilton’s batting runs deep. No.11 Declan O’Brien is capable of batting much higher in the order.
“We’ve got a lot of good batsmen in our team, it’s definitely our strength this year. Declan could properly bat at six or seven if needed,” Nanayakkara says.
With the support of middle order batsman Jack Devane (53 not out), Hamilton gradually reduced the target, but not without major anxiety.
“With about 12 runs needed there was nearly a run out. The ball was struck just wide of mid on and the two batsmen hesitated mid pitch. We were lucky to get away with it,” Nanayakkara admits.
The match ventured into the final over where Hamilton needed three runs to win. A single and two dots still left two runs to win from the final three balls of the match. Inexplicably Palmerston North bowled a wide tying the scores. Nanayakkara captures the final moment.
“Palmerston North brought the field up and Declan hit it over cover for four. It was a great moment and a huge relief.”
Nanayakkara laughs, “Declan will get a promotion soon.”
Earlier in the tournament batting proved little hassle for Hamilton who defeated Napier Boys’ High School and Tauranga Boys’ College with relative ease and amassed over 350 against their own 2nd XI (Rotorua BHS withdrew from the tournament). Cullen Aislabie smashed 132 from 80 balls in this match and Nanayakkara chuckles “we showed them whose boss, though I only made five.”
Nanayakkara enjoys captaining Hamilton because there is a “lot of talent” in the team and it’s “less demanding” than other sides he has led in the past because of the skill level of the roster.
Nanayakkara was born in Rotorua, but his parents are of Sri Lankan extraction. He represented Northern Districts U17’s at the recent National tournament in Christchurch. His goals for the remainder of the year are to qualify for the National finals in December and push for a place in the New Zealand U19 team.
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