When the Australian women’s team took on New Zealand at Allan Border Square on Saturday afternoon, much of the rust was washed away. Batting, comments, gets the revolving door to work: all of them get into action after the cricket’s usual winter lull extended by the stasis of COVID.
But as far as the players are concerned, one man has the right to scoff at the six months the other has been out of action since the World Cup 20 years earlier this year.
Amy Satterthwaite, the tall, angled left-hander who has struggled near the top of the New Zealand order for so long, has been waiting an extra year and more.
Her previous competitive outing took place in a one-day match against Australia on 3 March 2019. She has spent over 18 months out of the game due to pregnancy, childbirth and maternity leave.
Then he returned to elite sports.
It really helps that her parenting partner is her New Zealand teammate, fast bowler Lea Tahuhu. At least there will be no difficulty for the two at home to explain the motivation to return to play.
During the last Australian summer, Tahuhu was still in the Big Bash League while his wife was heavily pregnant, then played in the T20 World Cup while Satterthwaite in the stands brought up the recent arrival, Grace Marie.
New Zealand and the Melbourne Renegades have each had a hit in recent years. Prior to her pregnancy, Satterthwaite was her second captain, and was a frequent player called on to save the game in crisis.
Having to watch from the sidelines without the ability to step in and fix things is sure to be a big adjustment.
After all this time, coming back home on Saturday must have involved a lot of different feelings. It has also allowed Satterthwaite to add one more appearance in his 99 appearances for New Zealand in T20 cricket.
No easing. When he walked into the center two goals down, New Zealand needed 96 runs from 67 balls, against his country’s biggest rivals, after his team’s biggest hitter was eliminated.
His second ball is on the stump of the foot, a gift he can leave for one time. His fourth goal was an off-break, too full, and Satterthwaite wiped it clean. One of his favorite shots. Out of the middle, airs and then bounces, perfectly separating the distance between the two limit riders to four.
Not much else to comment on: a few miscues, a few singles, an unconfirmed free hit, and finally a glove-sweeping reverse to the wicketkeeper, out for nine. But there must have been a time, nailing that boundary, when Satterthwaite knew he could still play.
It is something to build on. The next few games too. 50 overs cricket has always been a Satterthwaite game over the T20 format. In one day he equaled Kumar Sangakkara’s absurd record of scoring four centuries in a row, and he came in a few strokes to add a fifth.
In the shortest format, New Zealand has no punch power other than Sophie Devine, and super-fast scoring was never Satterthwaite’s bid. He’s calmer to help build the innings, provide stability.
Nowadays, for him, all cricket is doable. But the initial motivator for returning to the team so quickly was that New Zealand was supposed to host the 50th World Cup in February. Now it’s postponed until 2022.
That might be a source of distraction, or it might give Satterthwaite more time to organize his play. Cricket will be different for him. She may have taken maternity leave, but that doesn’t follow the principle of keeping her job as captain. Devine filled in but is now a permanent replacement.
But when Satterthwaite looked around during that first game, he would see a dozen other players who were not smooth sailing, finding that the field was a bit stuck, the slower ball gripped, none of which could have been hit properly.
He would see other people cutting the catch into the middle of the field, or trying to line up six and instead line up in airspace, and feel that they were all part of the same experience. In both teams, only Ash Gardner fired his shots, and he gave Australia the win.
Returning to the game alone would be one thing, returning to the crowd is another. It’s a fair hope to hold: that when other players try hard and their game shines again, this player can do the same. The next two weeks will be the first indication.