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How India vs New Zealand became a tale of two teenage sensations

The ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 isn’t just keeping us entertained in the moment, it’s serving up storylines aplenty for years to come.
  • Teenagers Shafali Verma, 16, and Amelia Kerr, 19, top scored with the bat for their respective countries in India’s victory over New Zealand on Monday
  • Leg-spinner Kerr also took two wickets, including that of Verma, to keep the White Ferns in it
  • Both youngsters have drawn praise from their elders for their performances

From Ellyse Perry and Dane van Niekerk, to Sophie Devine and Deandra Dottin, the 2020 tournament features some of the greatest talents to ever grace the women’s game, with 14 players maintaining their record of playing in every edition to date.

But a World Cup isn’t all about providing the same players with a platform for success – it’s always an occasion for new stars to be born.

India’s win over New Zealand may prove the prime example of the baton passing between the old stars and the new with two teenagers stepping up to take the reins – and even wickets off each other: Shafali Verma and Amelia Kerr.

“Verma and Kerr are a similar sort of player,” said New Zealand batter Suzie Bates. “You don’t find many players who come into international cricket at the age of 16 around the world.

“We’ve got the likes of Sophie [Devine] who whacks it pretty hard when she gets the chance but we love having youngsters come through who are able to do the same.”

Anyone who turned up to the Junction Oval to see Devine smash sixes would have left disappointed as the White Ferns skipper was dismissed for 14 after mistiming a full toss to point.

Her side were left reeling at 39 for there when their top order of Devine, Bates and Rachel Priest all fell before the halfway mark, and with the experienced Maddy Green and Katey Martin slow in picking up the pace, they knew it would take something special to produce a comeback.

But that’s where Kerr came in.

The game looked to be done and dusted but the 19-year-old defied all odds to set up a nerve-wracking finale, striking four boundaries in the penultimate over to put victory back on the table.

She couldn’t muster a final-ball six as the White Ferns agonisingly missed out, but if her performance showed anything, it’s that New Zealand’s future batting order is in rude health.

“Amelia was outstanding,” said Katey Martin. “She feels pressure like we all do but really takes it with a mature outlook.

“You don’t expect someone to have the cricket knowledge she does aged 19 but she’s been outstanding for us.

“She’s the first one to put her hand up in high pressure situations. That’s what you want.

“Amelia is a once-in-a-generation type player for us. She’s an exceptional young talent and someone who I think will have a long and successful career.”

Judging by their tournament scorecards so far, India don’t need to worry about the future of their batting order either.

They have their own talented teenager in their ranks in Verma, who has taken the world by storm with her fearless opening displays in each of India’s three wins.

Her 46 runs against New Zealand took her tournament tally to 114 after three innings and at the age of just 16, she has already scripted a new record.

No player has ever scored more runs at a higher strike rate at a single World Cup than the teenage prodigy with 172.72.

Her three quick-fire innings, where she hit 11 fours and eight sixes, have not only steered India to the semi-finals of the World Cup, but also drawn praise from the format’s most successful batter in Bates.

“As a senior player, you love to see a youngster come out and hit the ball hard,” added Bates.

“I think India has been searching for someone like her at the top of the order for a long time. She’s just going to get better and better.

“I think we bowled reasonably well at her and got unlucky. She’s great for the game moving forward and for Indian cricket. She’s so young and has so many games ahead of her that she can dominate.”

Verma may have already laid her stake as a future star of the women’s game but if anyone was going to rain on her parade in Melbourne, it just had to be Kerr.

It truly was a tale of two teenagers as New Zealand’s 19-year-old leg-spinner was the only one able to stop Verma in her tracks, taking the innings-changing wicket in the 14th over to finish with figures of two for 21.

In doing so, Kerr broke yet more records – becoming the first player at a Women’s T20 World Cup to score at least 25 runs, take two wickets and two catches in the same match.

But this isn’t a question of who outperformed who. This may be the first time the pair have shone on the same turf but, judging how they lit up Melbourne, it certainly isn’t going to be the last.

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