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Allrounder Proteas do SA proud down under

For the past two years, South African women’s sports teams have outdone themselves, and made the nation proud. In 2018, it was Banyana Banyana’s World Cup qualification and Africa Cup of Nations run; in 2019, the netball side’s exploits at the World Cup had South Africans lauding them. This year, the women’s cricket team has grabbed the torch after they exceeded expectations at the T20 World Cup.

After coming off a 3-1 T20 series defeat just two weeks before the World Cup and a warm-up match loss to four-time winners Australia, the Proteas Women’s form going into the T20 World Cup would not have been what they wanted. They were in a tough group as well, which included two former champions: the West Indies and England.

However, the Proteas seemed to thrive under the pressure. Having not beaten England in World Cup matches in seven previous attempts, the Proteas Women claimed victory by six wickets in their opener, and that would set the tone for the rest of their group games.

They then went on to thump Thailand and Pakistan before their match against the West Indies was abandoned.

The Proteas, together with India, were the only two teams to come out of their respective groups unscathed. They also reached the semifinals for only the second time.

The aspect that stands out when it came to South Africa’s invincible group stage progression was the role the allrounders played. Captain Dane van Niekerk, Suné Luus and Marizanne Kapp all had significant outings with both the bat and ball, which, in turn, took pressure off key batswoman Lizelle Lee and pace bowler Shabnim Ismail.

It is possibly a page the South African men’s side could take out of the women’s book after being criticised for their overreliance on Quinton de Kock with the bat and Kagiso Rabada with the ball. 

When the Proteas played England, a robust bowling display limited the Poms to just 123/8 in their 20 overs. Ayabonga Khaka led the attack, with figures of 3/25.

But it was the captain, Van Niekerk, together with Kapp who guided the Proteas to a much-needed victory as they both picked up two wickets and contributed the highest individual batting scores. Van Niekerk scored 46, and Kapp made a 33-ball 38.

The game against Thailand saw the batswomen show that they can put pressure on teams and then leave it to the bowlers to complete the job.

Lee scored a century to help South Africa post a score of 195, and Luus played an instrumental part in both departments as she smashed an unbeaten 61.

With the ball in hand, her leg spin could not be contained by the Thailand Women as she picked up 3/15 and, in tadem with Ismail’s pace, they destroyed the batswomen facing them, to win by 113 runs.

Their encounter against Pakistan followed suit, as Van Niekerk once again finished with the best bowling figures.

This match also proved that the Proteas squad has immense depth as Laura Wolvaardt, who usually occupies the fringes of the side, came in and produced a player-of-the-match performance by scoring an unbeaten, 36-ball 53. The Proteas secured their passage into the last four of the tournament with this victory.

The Proteas, who narrowly lost out to England in the ODI World Cup in 2017, fielded 10 of the same players for this T20 World Cup, and both the experience and heartbreak from that tournament seem to have served as motivation for Van Niekerk and her charges at this one.

Despite losing to Australia by five runs in the semifinals, in a match  that was shortened because of the rain in Sydney, the positive strides they have made at this tournament will not only make the nation proud of them, but will also bring the Proteas the much-needed attention they deserve.

When they return to South Africa, the Proteas will receive a two-week break before we can watch them in action again as they welcome Australia for a T20 and ODI series.

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Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia is a member of the Mail & Guardian's online team.

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