Nicole Bolton is hoping the three-day practice match against an ACT Invitational XI at the Manuka Oval from Friday will help Australia Women acclimatise to the pink ball and playing under lights.
Marizanne Kapp, the South Africa pacer who is the No.1 ODI bowler in the world, and her international team-mate Dane van Niekerk, the leg-spinning allrounder, who are spending the summer in Australia’s domestic set-up, have been named in the ACT XI and facing them will be good preparation for the Australians ahead of the Ashes Test.
After an enthralling ODI series that saw the hosts beat World Cup holders England 2-1, the focus now shifts to the North Sydney Oval when the teams meet in the first Women’s day-night Test from November 9.
Bolton said the limited preparation that all departments got through net sessions, coupled with working with their respective state teams, should hold the players in good stead going into the Test match.
“I think this is amazing preparation for us,” the right-hand batter said in Canberra on Wednesday (November 1). “We haven’t played any cricket with the pink ball and obviously we’ve had limited games under lights, so fielding under lights is going to be a big thing for us, adjusting to the pink ball and as batters, just seeing how much the ball actually swings and moves. We’ve seen in the Shield day-nighters and even in the Tests that the night session is really critical for the batters, so I think (it is all about) just breaking it down and working through it.”
Asked to describe her experience with the pink ball so far, the 28-year old opener was wary of both its behaviour under lights and how the fielding side would be able to deal with it.
“It’s been quite unusual. We’ve obviously had a few training camps where they’ve brought out the pink balls and we’ve been able to use the pink balls back in our home states and it is a lot different,” she explained. “The biggest test is actually going to be fielding with it under lights. We haven’t been exposed to that too much, so I think that’s what we’re going to look at over the next three days.”
Bolton was excited at the coverage the three ODIs received, with the second and third matches being broadcast on live television and streaming globally as well.
“That first week in Brisbane and even that first game, it feels like a bit of a blur,” she said. “There were a few nervous girls in the changing rooms, myself included. Just knowing that it’s now on TV, we’re getting the crowds and everyone to come down and watch us — it’s just a great space for us to be in and obviously our last one-dayer going to the main channel was huge. Now this group is just embracing that. We’re 2-1 up, which is a great spot to be in and just places that much more importance on the Test match.”
Having represented her country 44 times since her debut in an ODI in Melbourne when she scored a match-winning century during the 2013-14 series against England, Bolton has seen the rise in the profile of the women’s game, especially in the last 12 months.
“Sometimes you have to pinch yourself when you’re in this sort of environment. When I first started playing cricket, there was no money involved and there wasn’t really that sort of pathway that you could get to as an Australian cricketer. Now it’s just unbelievable. I know the girls are really thankful that they’ve been given this opportunity and I am as well.”
Bolton’s Test debut in Canterbury in the 2015 Ashes saw her open the batting with Elyse Villani. “I was so nervous,” she revealed. “Debut Test match and when the toss was won and we were batting, I was a little bit nervous in the changing room. Having that experience and going into a second Test – even though that (the first one) was two years ago — I feel like I’m in a good space with my batting. I’m really excited, I know the group is and we’re just looking forward to getting a bit of practice in over the next three days.
“She (Villani) batted unbelievably (in the 2015 Test) and probably the best I’ve seen her bat,” added Bolton. “At the moment, she’s in really good form and the selectors have a really hard decision to make, whether they keep that momentum going at the top or whether they go probably a bit of a conservative approach. I’m not too sure but I think we’ve got the batters here who can bat in any sort of position on any given day so we’ll just be looking to put a fair total on the board.”
But Bolton doesn’t believe that there will be much of a difference in her approach when it comes to opening in Tests or ODIs, despite the uncertainty of facing up to a pink ball. “I think it’d be fairly similar, probably a bit more watchful early in the first ten overs.”
Even though she made two fifties in the ODI series, Bolton was disappointed at not being able to kick on. “Probably not as happy as I would have liked, a couple of starts. Obviously, I pride myself on making big scores at the top of the order but runs is runs at the moment and I’m just hoping that when I get an opportunity out there, I can go big and spend a little bit of time out in the middle leading into the Test.”
Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt will lead the England attack, and Bolton threw light on what Australia’s approach would be against the pair.
“We’ve obviously identified Shrubsole and Brunt being their key bowlers, that’s going to play a huge part in the Test match, in the first ten overs – just nullifying that and building some really big partnerships.
“You just put (Alyssa) Healy against Brunt and there you go! I just think they match up really well. Healy’s obviously very comfortable against Brunt and Brunt probably didn’t get as much swing as she would have liked. But I think Anya’s still very difficult up front, particularly with the leftie, with the ball going across, so I see her playing a huge role in terms of drying up the run rate.”
Mark Robinson, the England coach, has hinted at the possible inclusion of Kate Cross, the fast-medium bowler currently plying her trade with Western Australia in the Women’s National Cricket League. “I said to the girls in the changing room that Kate Cross is bowling as best as she ever has,” Bolton said. “Obviously in the WNCL, she bowled unbelievable and the fact that she’s been sitting on the sidelines has been a good thing for us. It wouldn’t surprise me if they draft her in and going with three seamers like they did for that first Test (in Canterbury). She’s a good addition because obviously Shrubsole and Brunt having to bowl a lot of overs, they might need a bit of assistance.”
After the Sydney Test, the action swings back to Manuka for the Twenty20 International series. “I obviously know the curator pretty well, I’ve worked here (during the 2015 World Cup) and it’s been an absolute road and it’s been fantastic as a batter,” Bolton said of the Manuka surface. “We’ve played a couple of one-dayers here and our batting group definitely enjoys batting here. But I guess it’s good to test ourselves in different conditions.”