The White Ferns were devastated a week after the start of the Women’s Cricket World Cup when batsman Lauren Down was ruled out of the tournament with a broken thumb.
New Zealand Cricket have confirmed the extent of Down’s injury, sustained in Saturday’s fifth ODI against India, and announced uncapped Wellington Blaze batsman Georgia Plimmer, who turned just 18 earlier this month, as his replacement.
Down was injured when she dove forward to make a catch at the start of the India Round at John Davies Oval in Queenstown on Thursday. As the ball was jammed, she instantly fell to her knees in pain and played no further role as India clinched a consolation win but lost the series 4-1.
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Playing in the middle order, rather than as an opener, where most of his 22 caps have come, Down impressed as the White Ferns won Game 3 of the series last Friday, going unbeaten 64 on 52 balls and ending their 280 chase with a six.
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She also made 30 in Game 5 but will now have to watch the White Ferns contest a World Cup on home soil from afar, looking to emulate the team that won the title the last time the tournament was held in Nova Scotia. Zealand, in 2000.
Down could be seen in tears as she left the pitch on Thursday and White Ferns captain Sophie Devine said on Saturday she knew straight away she had “done some serious damage”, a turn of events which left the team “devastated”.
“It’s a pretty tough cookie, so we knew it was pretty serious.
“It probably shows how much this band cares about each other that we really hugged her around and recognized how important she is to this band.
“She played beautifully… she was really starting to come into her own, so losing her was really tough for this team, but we also know that happens in cricket, and unfortunately that means her tournament is over.”
Plimmer made her debut for the Blaze aged 16 in 2019 and although she made useful contributions in her first three summers in both ODI and Twenty20 cricket, she is yet to score half a century, suggesting that this is a forward-looking selection.
Down appeared to have been behind Maddy Green and Brooke Halliday in the batting pecking order in the middle ahead of his winning innings last week, the ramifications of which are now moot, while the White Ferns could also promote the all-rounders Hayley Jensen and Frankie Mackay if necessary.
Plimmer appears to have passed players who have had international experience but failed to find a place, such as Kate Ebrahim, who leads the scoring charts in the domestic Hallyburton Johnstone Shield competition and has made a few T20 appearances the year last, and Natalie Dodd, who also played last summer.
“[She’s] a player that I’m really passionate about and has a huge future ahead of her,” Devine said of the new signing.
“She is from [Wellington suburb] Tawa, which is really close to my heart.
“She’s a real dynamo on the pitch, and she’s not scared and I think that’s potentially what gave her the chance against other more experienced players.
“She has no baggage, she has no fear of competing in a world event, so if she gets the chance, I know she’s just going to go out there and do what she can do.”
Plimmer will have to go through a five-day transition period before he can join the White Ferns in the World Cup bubble. The team is currently in Christchurch and has warm-up matches on Sunday against Pakistan and Tuesday against Australia before traveling to Mount Maunganui.
Auckland Hearts seamer Molly Penfold has also been called up as a traveling reserve.
White Ferns – Women’s Cricket World Cup
Sophie Devine (c) (Wellington Blaze), Amy Satterthwaite (vc) (Magicians of Canterbury), suzie bates (Otago Sparks) Mady Green (Wellington Blaze), Brooke Halliday (Women from the Northern Districts), Hayley Jensen (Otago Sparks) Francois Jonas (Hearts of Auckland), Jess Kerr (Wellington Blaze), Melie Kerr (Wellington Blaze), frankie mackay (Magicians of Canterbury), Rosemary Mayor (Central Hinds), Katey Martin (Otago Sparks) Georgia Plimmer (Wellington Blaze), Hannah Rowe (Central Hinds), Lea Tahuhu (Wizards of Canterbury)
Calendar – Preparation matches
Sunday February 27: against Pakistan; Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln
Tuesday, March 1: against Australia; Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln
Calendar – World Cup
Friday, March 4, 2 p.m.: v West Indies; Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
Monday, March 7, 11 a.m.: against Bangladesh; University of Otago Oval, Dunedin
Thursday, March 10, 2 p.m.: v India; Seddon Park, Hamilton
Sunday March 13, 11 a.m.: against Australia; Basin Reserve, Wellington
Thursday, March 17, 2 p.m.: against South Africa; Seddon Park, Hamilton
Sunday March 20, 11 a.m.: against England; Eden Park, Auckland
Saturday March 26, 11 a.m.: against Pakistan; Hagley Oval, Christchurch