Sparks hoping to inspire youth

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Craig Cumming hopes the Otago Sparks cricket team can inspire North Otago’s youth.

The new Sparks coach is looking forward to bringing the side to Oamaru for two matches against the Canterbury Magicians this weekend.

“We’re quite excited to be playing cricket for a start . . . the key is it’s a good pitch, it’s a good outfield, and it’s a good facility – the team’s excited about coming up there,” he said.

It will be the first time the Sparks have played in Oamaru since 2018, and the former Black Cap hoped the community would support its return to North Otago.

“Especially the young girls that are playing around the Oamaru community, to come and meet some of the players that they could one day be playing alongside.”

The two one-day matches were the Sparks’ season openers, and would be a test for the side, which had limited training games.

“That’s always tough, but the important thing is we’ve been training on really good facilities, really good grass pitches, so when we’ve been training, we’ve been able to improve.”

The team was training hard, spending most of the winter on indoor artificial turfs, before moving to outdoor grass pitches about five weeks ago, which made a difference.

“We’ve got on grass more this year for training than previous years, which is really important when playing the game of cricket.

“It’s a little bit of the unknown when it comes to this weekend, but we also know the girls have worked really hard preparing for this weekend so let’s see if this translates to doing it well in the middle.”

The Magicians were traditionally a strong fielding side, with a varied bowling attack and good batting skills, which always posed a challenge.

“They’ll be expecting to come down here and pick up two wins and our job is to come in and put them under pressure and see what happens.”

When the Oamaru Mail went to print, the team lists were not finalised, but White Ferns wicket keeper Katey Martin was unavailable for the parks.

Hayley Jensen and Suzie Bates were also unavailable, due to commitments with the Australian Women’s Big Bash League.

However, Bates would return home next week for shoulder surgery and could be out for six to nine months.

North Otago Cricket Association chairman Peter Cameron said it was great to have top level domestic cricket in Oamaru again.

“It’s the first time they’ve been back for quite some time, so we’re really looking forward to hosting it.”

The matches, tomorrow and Sunday, would be played at Centennial Park, with free entry.