A fresh-look and young Otago Sparks team under a new stand-in captain in Polly Inglis executed a useful win over Wellington Blaze in the opening round of Hallyburton Johnstone Shield at the Basin Reserve.
Blaze had a fresh skipper as well in Lucy Doolan who chose to bat first — but quickly fell victim to England international Alice Davidson-Richards, one of the new faces in the Sparks who were missing their influential trio of WHITE FERNS; Martin, Bates and Kasperek.
Davidson-Richards, a 24-year-old right-arm medium pacer, was on her way to a debut three-fa off just eight overs, going on to claim first drop Rebecca Burns a few overs down the track. Ella Brown would also chime in with a career best 3-34.
When Emma Black soon stopped Suzie McDonald on one, Blaze was on unstable ground at 63 for three, relying on the hard-hitting Rachel Priest to stabilise and anchor the innings.
Priest attacked for a brisk 59, but her own exit came just a few overs later, and the hosts needed a partnership to get themselves back in some sort of control.
They got a lift from number six Thamsyn Newton who would pump an unbeaten 63 off just 56 balls, getting the Blaze up to 212 before the final wicket fell.
Unfortunately for the hosts, however, it was all too soon as nine overs went begging, and it came back to bite them once Inglis and Davidson-Richards started to settle in for what proved a commanding third-wicket partnership.
After having had the Sparks 24 for two, it was a frustrating and rain-interrupted afternoon for the Blaze in the field, the Sparks pair piling on 142 runs together across 29 overs.
The breakthrough came too late for the Blaze, Lucy Doolan grabbing two consolation wickets to equal the Wellington Blaze all-time one-day record of 114.
Sparks skipper Inglis’s unbeaten 83 was meanwhile her new career best, and she got her side home with a handful of overs to spare.
The hosts will have their opportunity for revenge in Round Two this Sunday at the same venue.