The last few months have put Central Hinds all-rounder Flora Devonshire’s world into a spin.
The 20-year-old left hander is just starting her third year at the University of Canterbury, studying accounting and economics, but during the summer, she unexpectedly made multiple returns on her cricketing investment.
Back in November, Devonshire was picked as a non-travelling reserve for the New Zealand women’s development team touring India. Then on the eve of their departure, head coach Sara McGlashan rang her – one of the other squad members was sick and Devonshire was needed. The catch was the Hawkes Bay player had to be in Christchurch the following day.
She already had her visa organised in case of a call-up, but needed to get her vaccinations. After some last-minute scrambling, she was on her way to the cricket-obsessed country to represent her nation.
Devonshire was picked for the squad as a batter, but in the past, she’d been a very useful medium-pace bowler as well.
“I came to university in my first year and had a bit of an injured back, so I didn’t really bowl much,” she says. “Batting was my focus so I thought I may as well bowl spin.
“I worked on it a bit over winter, but not heaps. India was where it developed as I was told my bowling could be a work-on at the practice sessions.”
One of the assistant coaches for the tour to India was former Black Cap spinner Tarun Nethula, who worked hard with Devonshire to improve her bowling. When she returned to New Zealand, it paid dividends.
“I’d been in the [Central Hinds] squad for all the pre-season stuff – there were a few camps in Hawke’s Bay. I got back from India and [Central Hinds head coach] Jamie Watkins called me up and said he wanted me for the first round of Super Smash,” says Devonshire.
Unexpectedly, she was picked as a bowler, not a batter – and a further surprise was to come on the eve of her Hinds debut against the Wellington Blaze in Palmerston North.
“Jamie came to the hotel room we were in the night before the game and told me I was going to open the bowling. I’d only started bowling spin about a year ago,” Devonshire says.
“My reaction was that I didn’t know nearly enough about what I was doing to open the bowling. There were no other left arm orthodox spinners there, so all of a sudden, I was bowling in the game. I was just thinking that I’d be 12th and it was real cool to be part of everything. Then I’ve just sort of played every game since, which has been surprising.”
That first game against the Blaze went well – Devonshire was the most economical of the Hinds bowlers that day, conceding 20 runs from her allocation of four overs. Batting at 11 that day, she only faced two balls at the end of the innings without scoring.
Despite Devonshire impressing with the ball during Super Smash, the Hinds struggled, losing their first nine games. In that ninth game away to the Otago Sparks, Devonshire was promoted to number eight in the batting order, coming to the crease with the Hinds at 55-6 at the start of the 13th over.
Devonshire finally had time to show her talent with the bat, scoring 39 off 27 balls, before finally being dismissed with two balls to go in the innings. Although the match ended in another defeat for the Hinds, Devonshire was pleased with her own performance.
“Yeah, that was cool. I wasn’t really expecting it because I was new to the team, but I know I’m capable,” she says. “You just wait for an opportunity and see how you go.
“I’ve always liked to play an aggressive style of batting, and it was fun to have the freedom to do it. When you’re batting low in the order you don’t really have much to lose when you go out there, especially in T20 cricket.”
Flora Devonshire helps the Central Hinds secure their first win of the Super Smash season.
In their last Super Smash game of the season, a rain-affected match reduced to five overs a side, the Hinds finally got that elusive win. Chasing down the 39 runs set for victory by the Northern Brave women, Devonshire, batting at five, scored a decisive 22 from 13 balls.
“We started from a point where we had a lot to work on and there was heaps of room for us to grow. As we progressed through the season, we had more and more games that were close, with more positives coming from them. So when we look back on the season, our growth and development were actually really strong, and finishing with a win against the Brave was quite important for us,” she says.
“The whole time, we knew we were good enough to be beating these teams, but things just weren’t all clicking on the same day.”
Like so many cricketers, the sport is in her family’s blood. Her parents, Mike and Susie, have always supported her, along with her two older brothers, Charlie and Max.
The siblings all went to Havelock North Primary School, where they started playing Milo cricket.
“We always played backyard cricket. Dad was the coach of the primary school team,” Devonshire says.
From Year Seven onwards, Devonshire attended Iona College, also in Havelock North, but cricket wasn’t a sport played by many of her fellow students there. So the Havelock North Cricket Club became her outlet, where she played primarily with boys.
“I just found that pretty normal because I’d been doing it since Year Four. I didn’t mind at all because I was friends with some of the boys anyway, and I was just used to it. It obviously would have been more fun if there were more girls,” she says.
Flora Devonshire (left) and Ocean Bartlett on tour in India with the New Zealand Development squad.
Although she was a long way from home when Cyclone Gabrielle hit her home town, her thoughts were with family and friends. Luckily, her parents are safe and well.
“We didn’t really get any flooding at our place. I have friends who were evacuated and who’ve lost their homes in Puketapu. It’s so bad [there],” Devonshire says.
After Iona College she moved to university where she’s now living in a student flat in Christchurch with friends from her first year in halls of residence. After completing the third year of her degree, the chartered accountancy aspect of her course means there will be about another six months of studies in 2024.
“I always liked accounting at school and I thought business was a good area to study, too. It always interested me compared to everything else,” she says.
Devonshire played cricket for St Albans in her first year in the South Island and last year moved to Sydenham Cricket Club. Fellow Central Hind, Ocean Bartlett, is studying in Christchurch as well and also plays for Sydenham, where Felicity Leydon-Davis, who plays for the Otago Sparks, is the player-coach.
As for the future, Devonshire’s main focus is her studies, but if the opportunity of cricket contracts arose – through the Central Hinds or higher honours – it’s something she would definitely consider.
“I think balance is really important. Keep the balance, get my degree and then maybe have a break after that and play some cricket,” she says.
“I think it would be awesome to represent my country one day, but that’s definitely a long-term goal.”