Amelia con-Kerr-or

Sunday News - - CRICKET - BEN STRANG

ROB­BIE Kerr was out on the culde-sac toss­ing a ball around with his two daugh­ters.

Jess Kerr, his el­dest, was bat­ting, while his youngest, Amelia, had the ball in hand. Dad, a for­mer Welling­ton player, was where he be­longed – keep­ing wick­ets.

Bowl­ing pace wasn’t work­ing for young Amelia so she started to ex­per­i­ment with bowl­ing leg spin. Some­how, it came out beau­ti­fully.

‘‘She was a nat­u­ral,’’ Rob­bie Kerr said.

‘‘She started out try­ing to bowl fast like every other kid in ju­nior teams . . . but she started bowl­ing leg spin when we were just muck­ing about in the cul-de­sac.’’

Kerr couldn’t of­fer any wis­dom when it came to spin bowl­ing, so he de­cided to find some­one who could.

‘‘I could see that [she had tal­ent], but I didn’t know how to im­prove it so I tried to find the best spin bowl­ing coach in Welling­ton,’’ Rob­bie Kerr said.

‘‘I was di­rected to Ivan Tis­sera, who has coached her ever since, and he’s done a su­perb job.’’

Fast-0for­ward seven years, and Amelia Kerr is be­com­ing one of the stars of women’s cricket in New Zealand and abroad, and at the age of just 17.

Given a chance to open the bat­ting in an ODI against Ire­land this month, she blasted a world record 232 not out in just 145 balls.

Not to ne­glect her bowl­ing, she then went out and snared ca­reer-best fig­ures of 5-17 to pro­duce the finest all-round per­for­mance in the his­tory of one day in­ter­na­tional cricket.

All five of her wick­ets were bowled.

Mother Jo Murray said Amelia’s tal­ent was al­ways ev­i­dent.

This was a girl who scored a Twenty20 cen­tury at the Basin Re­serve when she was just 13, bash­ing 113 from just 65 balls for Tawa Col­lege against Welling­ton Girls’ back in 2014.

Years ear­lier, she was that slightly an­noy­ing lit­tle sis­ter, join­ing in with the older girls dur­ing Milo cricket games and train­ings.

‘‘Jess would have been year 7 or 8, so Melie would have been year 5 or some­thing like that,’’ Murray said.

‘‘She’d be lap­ping it all up and join­ing in. I think they had Sara McGlashan come along and do a train­ing ses­sion with the in­ter­me­di­ate girls and Melie would be the lit­tle sis­ter who would go and join in. ‘‘She loved all that.’’ Two years later, when she was old enough to be play­ing in boys teams at school, Kerr would get frus­trated with her bat­ting.

The prob­lem was she just wasn’t as strong as the boys she was play­ing against.

‘‘Melie re­ally wanted to be able to bat. She had con­ver­sa­tions with Rob after­wards be­cause she was frus­trated she couldn’t hit it to the boundary eas­ily.

‘‘She al­ways looked up to and loved watch­ing Kane Wil­liamson bat, how he would work the ball around, so she was al­ways look­ing at ways of scor­ing runs when she didn’t have the strength when she was younger.’’

Of­ten in cricket, the en­vi­ron­ment you play in when you’re young can shape the way you play when you’re older.

For Amelia Kerr, her early days meant she worked on her tech­nique and place­ment of the cricket ball while bat­ting, and de­vel­oped the men­tal side of her game.

While the boys were us­ing brute force to slap the ball to the boundary, Kerr was grind­ing away, ac­cess­ing every area of the park in or­der to score runs.

Of course, now she has the strength to hit and clear a boundary rope.

Against Ire­land, in that stun­ning 232 not out, Kerr struck 31 fours and two sixes, some of which showed the kind of force and power she could only have dreamed of as a ju­nior crick­eter.

Her power game is put down to tire­less work in the gym and in the nets.

‘‘An­drew Smith with the Fire­birds, he does a lot of stuff with her when she’s in Welling­ton,’’ Murray said of Kerr’s strength and con­di­tion­ing work.

‘‘And Nick Webb has been in­volved from the be­gin­ning with the White Ferns. She def­i­nitely puts a fo­cus on that stuff.’’

Kerr is still a stu­dent at Tawa Col­lege, so it’s tough to imag­ine how she fits ev­ery­thing in.

She doesn’t turn 18 un­til Oc­to­ber, but Kerr al­ready has 20 ODIs and 10 Twenty20 in­ter­na­tion­als to her name. In ODIs, she has a bat­ting av­er­age of 67.66, and a bowl­ing av­er­age of just 18.3.

That doesn’t mean she ne­glects her school work, though.

‘‘I know she was talk­ing about an English as­sign­ment the other day but she’s very or­gan­ised,’’ Rob­bie Kerr said.

‘‘Prior to the tour she worked hard and she caught up with her school work from the West Indies tour, and then got ahead.

‘‘She’s track­ing re­ally well, and I think the school work here is a wel­come dis­trac­tion rather than a stress or any­thing.’’

Rob­bie Kerr said her stan­dard day can be in­tense when she’s in New Zealand, but she gets her work, school and free time bal­ance just right.

‘‘Her day is, get up early, she might do a gym ses­sion or some­times have a hit with Christie van Dyk be­fore school, then she fits her school day in.

‘‘Af­ter school it’s nor­mally two, two and a half hours of some sort of train­ing, whether it’s bat­ting, bowl­ing, field­ing or strength and con­di­tion­ing.

‘‘She’s al­ways tended to keep her week­ends free, and I think that’s a good thing.

‘‘Ini­tially I used to think the week­end is such a good time to fit in a few hours train­ing but now I’ve come around to think­ing, no, it’s very healthy to get your work done dur­ing the week and have that nice time out of cricket with friends and fam­ily.’’

It’s that kind of hard work that has seen Kerr rise to the top of the game.

She comes from a crick­et­ing fam­ily, which helps.

The tal­ent has al­ways been there – it’s in her DNA.

Rob­bie Kerr played for Wel- PHOTOSPORT ling­ton be­tween 1993 and 1998, mainly as a list A player. He scored four fifties for the prov­ince.

Jo Murray was also a Welling­ton rep­re­sen­ta­tive, play­ing for an ear­lier it­er­a­tion of the Blaze.

Grand­fa­ther Bruce Murray was the best of the lot. He’s 60 years older than Amelia Kerr, al­most to the day, but you can see a lot of his game in the young star.

He played 13 tests for New Zealand be­tween 1968 and 1971, scor­ing five fifties open­ing the bat­ting, with a top score of 90.

For Welling­ton, Murray scored more than 6000 first class runs, and had a top score of 213.

His grand­daugh­ter just sur­passed that score, in a 50 over game.

‘‘Grow­ing up, I re­mem­ber know­ing he scored his dou­ble hun­dred for Welling­ton,’’ Jo Murray said.

‘‘They’ve had the best week ever.

‘‘We spoke to dad the other day and he was just say­ing he’s heard from so many dif­fer­ent peo­ple, even peo­ple he hasn’t spo­ken to for 50 years, so he loves the fact that it’s re­con­nected him with a whole lot of peo­ple.

‘‘He’s in­cred­i­bly proud of what she’s achieved.’’

Amelia Kerr bowls against South Africa this week at Taun­ton.

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