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Friendly rivals . . . North Otago under-19 cricketers (in green shirts) and St Hilda's Collegiate First XI players pose for a photo after a friendly game last week. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The cricket season has barely begun and the North Otago under-19 women’s team is already preparing for its biggest tournament of the season.

The North Otago side is playing in an Otago under-19 provincial tournament in Oamaru over Labour Weekend, from which an Otago women’s team will be selected.

North Otago had a friendly against a talented St Hilda’s Collegiate First XI last weekend, and was competitive in the contest. North Otago bowled the St Hilda’s team out within the 20 allocated overs, but failed to chase down the runs in time.

“We didn’t lose wickets, but we were a bit slow in the scoring rate,” coach Hamish Loe said.

“I was pleased with the way the girls didn’t give their wickets away, but we will just have to find a happy medium of run-scoring.

“Generally, all our bowling was pretty good and the girls took some good catches in the field – it was a good hit-out.”

Loe said cricket was growing in strength and popularity, especially in the junior grades.

The North Otago team was made up of all secondary school pupils this year, whereas in previous years primary school-aged girls had been added to make up numbers, Loe said.

“We are slowly building up and getting a bit of interest in girls cricket,” he said.

“It used to be who was available was in, now there is a bit of a selection process which is great.”

Otago Sparks player Ella Brown was due to start working as a development officer for North Otago Cricket, which would help the development of local players, Loe said.

The under-19 women’s grade has been elevated in importance this year before the first women’s under-19 world cup, which is scheduled to be played in Bangladesh next year – depending on how the Covid-19 pandemic plays out.

Whether a national under-19 women’s tournament will go ahead this summer is yet to be confirmed.