As the White Ferns take on the West Indies – and the Antigua heat and Tropical Storm Fiona – they’re tapping into the intel gained by bowler Hayley Jensen, who’s been playing cricket in the Caribbean. Merryn Anderson reports.
Hayley Jensen is the one to ask how to survive playing cricket in the hot Antigua sun. But even she will face a new and sweaty challenge returning to the 50-over ODIs.
The 29-year-old White Ferns bowler has been in the Caribbean for almost a month now, playing in two leagues – the 20-over Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and The 6ixty, a new 10-over competition.
Now she’s switching focus to the White Ferns’ tour of the West Indies, with three ODIs and five T20s over the next three weeks, starting this weekend. (Well, that’s if Tropical Storm Fiona allows a start – the first game tomorrow morning has already been postponed by extensive rain falling in Antigua, with the second ODI still set to go ahead early Monday morning NZ time).
Chatting from her hotel room in Antigua after a long day of training and meetings, Jensen is grateful for her air conditioning – a luxury the team won’t have out on the pitch.
“It’s going to be interesting. I’m just thinking about how much I was sweating during 20 overs, let alone 50 overs,” she laughs. “It’s definitely going to feel like a long time out there, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
Now the rest of the New Zealand cricketers have arrived, Jensen has been a key contributor to strategic meetings, able to share details about the conditions and new West Indian players the White Ferns haven’t seen yet.
“The wind was a big factor over there, it was going straight down the pitch so anything that was full and was hitting with the wind went for six,” she describes.
“But it was super hot and super sweaty so you had to keep wiping your hands because the ball would slip out. Towards the end of the tournament, the wickets definitely started to turn a bit more and stay a bit lower.”
The last time the White Ferns played one-day international cricket was during the home World Cup in March, where the side were disappointed with their performance. Their three wins and four losses kept them out of the semifinals.
That was also the last time they played the West Indies, who won a thriller in the tournament opening game – bowling New Zealand out with one ball to spare, three runs short of the total they’d set.
The Ferns rang in the changes, with fresh new players joining the team under a new head coach, Ben Sawyer, who led the team to a bronze medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games last month.
“Having a new coach brought a fresh perspective on everything,” Jensen explains. “He kind of keeps things really simple, especially for the bowling group, so he’s definitely helped me a lot with my game.
“But definitely that bronze medal has helped lift the morale in the team. We’ve had a few bad years, so it’s really brought the team up and we’re looking to continue that form on throughout this series.”
Jensen has been playing with the Trinbago Knight Riders, who finished runners-up in the 6ixty and won the CPL.
“It was awesome to be playing over here in a different environment, seeing how the West Indies clubs go for it,” Jensen says.
“Just being able to play with a bunch of international players as well, who I haven’t really played with before. And it was good preparation leading into the West Indies tour here.”
There are a few new names in the White Ferns side, and a lot of players who haven’t experienced the Caribbean conditions, including young spin bowlers Eden Carson and Fran Jonas, who will likely get a shot on pitches favourable to spinners.
Jensen is looking forward to her match-up with another Hayley – West Indies captain Hayley Matthews. The 24-year-old played for the Barbados Royals this season, with Jensen claiming her wicket in one of the games. “I’ll hopefully be able to do that again,” she says.
It was actually Jensen who was the first to dismiss Matthews in international cricket – the all-rounder from Barbados making her Windies debut against the White Ferns in 2014, getting caught by Lea Tahuhu from a Jensen delivery.
In an unforgettable match for Jensen, she took three wickets from her four overs. The White Ferns won in a Super Over, which Jensen says is her only real memory of that tour eight years ago.
White Ferns captain Sophie Devine (right) with West Indies captain Hayley Matthews.
In their spare time, the White Ferns have been making the most of the beach, swimming and playing beach volleyball. But Jensen admits she loves coming back to her cold hotel room at the end of the day.
They have separate rooms, which means separate air conditioning controls.
“We always joke about Hannah Rowe having her air con on about 16 degrees,” Jensen says.
Members of the White Ferns who aren’t playing on game day will have just as much work as the players – running drinks to the batters and fielders while they battle 30-plus degree heat and burning sunshine.
But Jensen is looking forward to getting out in front of the vocal West Indies crowds again, with their infectious energy buoying on the players.
“There’s a lot of dancing in the crowd, there’s horns going, a big DJ, so everyone’s up and about, yelling, dancing,” she says. “It’s very, very loud out there.”
While the New Zealand-based White Ferns arrived in Antigua on Tuesday, well before their first game, the Jamaican netballers travelling to New Zealand haven’t shown the same timeliness.
The Silver Ferns series against the Sunshine Girls should have started on Saturday, but it’s also been delayed after the Jamaicans didn’t receive their passports and visas back from Washington. Providing they fly out in time, the first game of the Taini Jamison Trophy is now scheduled for Sunday at 4pm in Hamilton, with the second moved to Monday night.
*The White Ferns take on the West Indies in three ODIs and five T20s, with the first match now on Monday at 1.30am NZT, live on Sky Sport 1.