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Bates Backs White Ferns To Blast Rivals

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Fuseworks Media
Bates Backs White Ferns To Blast Rivals

By Mark Geenty of NZPA

Sydney, March 6 NZPA - At just 21, Suzie Bates is already well versed with taking on the world's best.

But unlike the cauldron of the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium a few months back, she's confident her New Zealand cricket team can go all the way.

Bates, a hard-hitting top-order bat and useful medium-pacer, looms as one of New Zealand's matchwinners in their World Cup campaign which opens against hosts Australia at North Sydney Oval on Sunday.

Already, the sporting natural from Dunedin has packed plenty into her international career. A cricket debut as a teenager in 2006 was followed by basketball a year later, making her a rare double international -- White Fern and Tall Fern.

She was one of the standouts off the bench for the Tall Ferns in Beijing last August as they won just one match, against Mali. The tournament ended with a humbling defeat to eventual gold medallists the United States.

"It's really exciting for us knowing that we have a chance to win a World Cup," Bates told NZPA.

"In Beijing we weren't a medal chance. Playing the US was pretty unreal, but at least this time it's a different focus."

With the Tall Ferns' international programme in limbo following a funding cut, Bates has put all her energy into the cricket World Cup and subsequent World Twenty20 in England. She credits two supportive parents, Dunedin crown solicitor Robin and family court lawyer Jo, with helping her pursue her sporting dream.

Captain Haidee Tiffen yesterday tipped Bates as a potential star of the 15-day tournament.

Bates holds the domestic one-day record score -- 183 for Otago against Auckland -- and from 19 ODIs has a century to her name; 122 off 134 balls against India in Chennai in 2007.

She took an early liking to Australian pitches this week, with 80 against Pakistan and 34 in a disappointing total of 141 against second-ranked India as New Zealand had a warmup win and a loss.

"I try to have a high strike rate and play through to about the 40th over to give our hitters a bash," she said.

And bash it they can, Bates said, predicting New Zealand had the ability to break the common perception of women's cricket.

"We've definitely got some really big hitters, a few that are pretty scary to bowl against. We've got the potential to put up some huge scores to chase."

With several matches televised in New Zealand, Bates hoped the team's entertaining style might inspire more girls to take up cricket.

She recalled watching New Zealand's solitary World Cup win on home soil in 2000, as an 11-year-old.

"It was the first women's cricket I'd ever seen and it gave me the motivation to play."

New Zealand are a confident unit, Bates said, after they led Australia 2-0 in the recent Rose Bowl series which ended 2-2.

The trans-Tasman rivals, along with India and England, all fancy their victory chances in the eight-team tournament which culminates with the final at North Sydney on March 22.

"There are four teams who can beat anyone on their day and it will just come down to who handles the pressure the best," Bates said.

"Our squad believes we can beat anyone, including Australia in their own backyard."

Australia are defending champions and five-time winners.

New Zealand play West Indies on Tuesday and South Africa on Thursday, before the Super Six crossover matches. There are potentially seven matches in 15 days around New South Wales, including the final.

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