The third game, a weekend fixture in College Park, was perhaps a day that many Irish would prefer to forget, with the exception perhaps of Marianne Herbert who received her first Senior Cap and who bowled quite well and managed to frustrate the New Zealanders somewhat by putting on 23 in a last wicket stand with Catherine O'Neill.
All in all, they came, they saw, they conquered - but what did Ireland learn? What is it that makes New Zealand World Champions, with a population and climate similar to our own, and Ireland simply not?
I would hope that any of the Irish Squad would be able to give you lots of reasons for this, having watched and hopefully learned from them over their visit. This as well as benchmarking personal and team performances are the reasons why visits from these top teams are so important to the development of Irish Cricket.
Some obvious differences to me were:
- A thoroughly professional approach to every aspect of the game, including preparation, both mental and physical, which went as far as their management specifying that the full squad's dietary requirements must compose of solely low fat foods.
- Their squad is comprised of 14 athletes, all capable of running the 100m sprint in close to record times (according to the physio). Superior fitness levels ensured that New Zealand never once required a subfielder. (Ireland's 12th or 13th fielded in each match)
- Cricket, along with Rugby, is the most popular sport in New Zealand and attracts far greater numbers than in Ireland.
There is no doubt that since slipping in World rankings from 5th to 7th in 2000, the Irish approach has improved, with players constantly being pushed for more commitment all year round, increased fitness levels and the application in matches of all they are learning from the coaching they receive.
In order for Ireland to climb that World ranking ladder again though, they need more than this though. They need to study these top visiting teams and ask themselves why they are champions and Ireland aren't, use them as role models and learn from them. It's no longer good enough to think we can beat them and blame luck when we don't. The reality is that there is a wide gap between the top nations and Ireland at present, and players have to look to these teams for inspiration.
With the impending visit from India and the inaugural European Under 21 tournament in Dublin in August, perhaps the Irish women can show us what they have learnt from the visit of the World Champions. Having recently heard that India succumbed to surprisingly heavier defeats by New Zealand than either Holland or Ireland, the mood in the Irish camp must be good. A chance to beat India might just be coming our way!