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NZ border opening too late for World Cup

Australia’s women’s cricket side have been crushed by New Zealand’s border go-slow, which ends hopes for a flood of support heading across the Tasman for the conclusion of the tournament.

Australia have four wins from as many games and are cruising towards the semi-finals, scheduled for March 30 and 31, and possibly the final, on April 3 in Christchurch.

Families and friends of the team – as well as many Aussie fans — hoped to make it to New Zealand, anxiously awaiting news from Jacinda Ardern’s government on the border reopening.

It arrived on Wednesday, when the New Zealand prime minister announced the border would open to Australia on April 13 — just too late for the World Cup.

Speaking before the announcement, Rachael Haynes, the leading runscorer at the World Cup, said hopes were high for an influx of support.

“It’d be awesome. We would love to see it,” she said.

“I know that every country is at their own spot in terms of opening up. It needs to be in the best interest of the community first.

“But on a personal note, we would love to have our family and friends over … if the border did open, we definitely see some Australian fans come across.”

Ardern ruled out an exemption for tournament, telling AAP “the date that we’ve set is the date we’ve set”.

Tournament chief executive Andrea Nelson said organisers didn’t believe it was their place to lobby the government over the border.

“We’ve not worked on the border policy aside from bringing in the essential people for the tournament,” she told AAP, meaning ICC staff, players and key contractors.

“I do feel for those Australian families that can’t come and see the team.”

The tournament has coincided with New Zealand’s worst outbreak of the pandemic, and tough COVID-19 restrictions.

Attendance caps have been lifted to 20 per cent, and there are hopes that may rise by tournament’s end.

Very few are supporting anyone but the White Ferns, given the border closures.

Meg Lanning’s side entered New Zealand straight after winning the Ashes last month, forced to spend a week in hotel quarantine before taking a few days leave and getting stuck into tournament preparations.

From the start of the Ashes in January, the team has spent more than two months in close confines, limiting outside contact as they attempt to avoid COVID-19 and achieve their World Cup dream.

Allrounder Tahlia McGrath said it was tough to stomach the border news.

“We’ve all been keeping an eye on the borders. We all have lots of family and friends that are pretty keen to come over but it is what it is. You can’t control that,” she said.

“We’re quite lucky that we’ve got such a close group … so we’re just getting around each other as best we can.”

Australia’s next match is against India on Saturday at Auckland’s Eden Park.

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