Beware the milestone match.
That was Suzie Bates’ advice to fellow White Ferns veteran Katey Martin as she closed in on Chris Harris’ record for the most domestic List A one-day matches played by a New Zealand cricketer.
That advice turned out to be painfully on-point for Martin, as she notched her record-breaking 155th match for the Otago Sparks against Auckland in Lincoln earlier this month.
Being forewarned, though, didn’t equate to being fore-armed, as the hard-hitting keeper-batter chipped her first ball from 17-year-old Skye Bowden gently to mid-wicket, to be dismissed for a dreaded golden duck.
“That is cricket,” sighs Martin. “I had my best week of preparation, too. So to not perform was pretty disappointing. I’ve had a number of conversations with Suzie about how milestone games tend to be your worst performances, so I’ll add that one to the list!”
A couple of days’ on, though, Martin is able to reflect upon an achievement that reflects over a decade of consistency at the peak of women’s domestic cricket.
“It’s a really special milestone,” she says. “It means a lot to myself and my family.”
Having made every one of her record appearances for Otago makes the achievement even more special.
“One big value of mine is being loyal,” Martin says. “And I really love playing for Otago and couldn’t imagine playing for anyone else. I’ve lived in Christchurch for 13 years now, and Otago Cricket have supported me to continue to play for Otago.”
Now fully immersed in the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield, contested by the country’s six major associations, Martin has had time to dissect a White Ferns’ T20 World Cup that ended in disappointment after a team with aspirations of claiming the title failed to qualify for the semi-finals.
The White Ferns were shocked in their opening game by a stunning century from rising Indian star Harmanpreet Kaur, meaning their next match Australia became a must-win.
They did well enough with the ball to restrict Australia to 153. Then, after a terrible start with the bat – that saw Anna Peterson, Sophie Devine and captain Amy Satterthwaite dismissed with just 13 runs on the board – the White Ferns got themselves back in contention with a promising partnership between Bates and Martin.
However, when Martin mistimed a charge at leg spinner Georgia Wareham to be stumped for 24, with the score at 79, the chase faltered, and the White Ferns found themselves effectively bundled out of the tournament that had barely reached its mid-way point.
“It was really disappointing,” says Martin. “We probably favour our T20 side at the moment and we expected to perform really well.
“I was quite emotional about that Australia game. Obviously being out in the middle and trying to control the game for us to get across the line and then getting out at a crucial time was pretty gut-wrenching.
“It makes it pretty hard for the rest of the tournament when you know you’re out halfway through. We performed with pride in the last couple of games, but it was definitely a difficult tournament.”
Given the first two games were so crucial, the team would have benefited from an extended preparation in West Indian conditions, Martin believes.
If there is one major consolation to be found for the White Ferns, it comes in this summer’s international schedule, which brings Kaur’s much-improved Indians to New Zealand for three ODIs and three T20Is, followed by a three-match tour of Australia in pursuit of the Rose Bowl.
“We are really excited about the summer coming up,” Martin says. “You have just got to park what has happened and move on.
“We’ve got some wrongs to right against India. [This time] it’s our conditions and we absolutely thrive in these conditions.”
Adding to the attraction of a do-over against India is the fact that the T20Is in Wellington, Auckland and Hamilton will be played as double headers alongside the Black Caps v India men’s T20Is.
“It’s really exciting. Any Indian team that comes is enthralling. You get lots of Indians out in the crowd. And being able to play before the guys, hopefully we’ll get a good crowd in all through the day.”
With the advent of an emerging players programme, and List A (50 over) matches now being played on much better surfaces, the women’s game in New Zealand is heading in the right direction, Martin believes.
Challenges, though, remain. The most notable is the advent of full-time professionalism in Australia and England – a move NZ Cricket needs to match if the White Ferns are to remain competitive.
“It goes without saying that the more time you spend doing something, the better you are going to be at doing it,” Martin says. “We need to ensure we are pressing forward and keeping up with those teams, otherwise we will continue to fall behind.”
Having made her international debut in 2003, Martin has witnessed the game’s progression first-hand.
When she started out, matches were typically played on slow pitches that favoured slow bowlers and made playing shots difficult. Even the most strident supporters of the women’s game would have struggled to argue that matches were regularly thrilling affairs.
However, the elevation of matches to premier venues with first class playing surfaces, together with the advent of T20, has seen the women’s game develop into an increasingly popular spectacle.
“We played on some interesting grounds [back then]. When I started, 150-180 was a good score [in a 50 overs game]. You could defend it. Even in 2000 the White Ferns defended 184. Now, domestically, teams are scoring 250-plus. Internationally, if you are not getting 280 then you are not going to win.”
The new style of game suits the hard-hitting Martin. In the West Indies, she blasted 39 against India and 29 against Pakistan at better than a run a ball.
Martin is clearly still at her peak – but the nature of a breaking records based on longevity is that it begs an obvious question: how much longer?
At 33, Martin still has some time up her sleeve. She’s got, she says, half an eye on the 200-appearance mark, and still has a few goals she wants to knock off at domestic and international level.
“I take it year-on-year. I’ve still got some things I want to achieve at the White Ferns level. That will dictate how long I play for. I think I’ve still got a few years left in me. I joke about the 200 mark but you never know, it could be an option.”
Getting to 200 List A appearances would take another four years. That would give Martin four more seasons to achieve her aims of winning another title with the Sparks, claim a World Cup with the White Ferns, and – on a personal note – notch an international century.
“That is every batter’s dream, to score an international hundred,” she says. “Hopefully, if I’m selected, I’ve got another couple of years to try to knock that one off.”
Speaking of centuries, Martin’s milestone match for the Sparks wasn’t a total washout. The catch she claimed from opener Lauren Down in the Hearts’ successful run chase was the 100th of her career.
Given how milestone matches tend to pan out, she’s no doubt relieved to have that one out of the way.