The South African women’s cricket team will play a test match for the first time in eight years when they take on India later this month. It’s another dramatic step forward as the team continues its watershed year going from semi-pro to fully professional. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
The South African women’s cricket team will make their return to test cricket after an eight year absence. The one-off test against India will be played in in Mysore from 16 to 19 November and form part of a full tour of the country. Just two players –Trisha Chetty and Matshipi Letsoalo – have played a test before.
The match will be another step forward in what has been a watershed year for the team. Having surprised everyone during the World T20 by beating New Zealand to reach the semi-finals, the side has continued to grow after all the players received contracts earlier this year.
Although they were beaten 0-3 on their T20 tour to England, they rapidly improved as the tour went along. They beat Ireland 0-3 in three T20s straight afterwards. The women have also just beaten Sri Lanka 1-2 in a three-match T20 series in Sri Lanka and 1-2 in a four-match ODI series.
Women’s test cricket has, understandably, not taken off quite like the other formats. England and Australia are the only two teams who play regularly in the format. However, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) scheduled a test for their women against England recently. India recorded a historic victory in that match and the profile of women’s cricket continues to expand its reach.
The series against India will also feature three one day internationals and one T20 game and will give the South African women another opportunity to show why they are the most improved team this year. South Africa have played India in a test once before, back in 2002 in Paarl. They lost by 10 wickets but much has changed for the team since then and this fixture marks an important step forward in their continued development. The team is now fully professional and instead of working alongside their cricketing duties, the players can dedicate all their time to refining their skills.
While there is currently little commercial value in the women’s test format, it’s incredibly beneficial in helping players develop their game. Even inexperienced players learn far more over the course of staying patient for five days than during a three hour slap-and-tickle hit about.
It will be some time yet before women’s test cricket really takes off, but for now, the focus is all on development. For Cricket South Africa’s general manager of cricket, Corrie van Zyl, the investment in the team is starting to pay off.
“The team continues to grow, and impress. The investment made in the team is certainly paying off, and they are contributing to raising their profile within world cricket,” said Van Zyl.
“During the recent tour to Sri Lanka, the Proteas women’s team have excelled in both the ODI and T20 competition in sub-continent conditions.
“Playing test cricket will be instrumental for the process of growing and advancing the cricket skills of our players. We currently have a young and experienced team, which will take value from playing another format.
Contracts for 14 players allowed them to attend national academy camps and the women have assembled at the National Centre of Excellence for another intense session before departing for India on Friday.
Coach Hilton Moreeng echoed Van Zyl’s sentiments. “We only have two players who have played a test match and that was years ago. It is fantastic that SA cricket are now upping the ante and giving the team yet another challenge for us to apply our minds to,” he said.
“We are all fans of the purest format of the game, and we have been in discussions about getting back into it for a long while; we’re grateful to CSA and BCCI for facilitating this for us.”
“We have a really good blend of youth and experience that I believe will carry us through well in not just the test, but the ODIs that all fall under the ICC Women’s Championship and T20 subsequent to that,” the coach said.
There are no home matches scheduled for the South African home summer so this tour is the last time the women will get to play international cricket until next year. DM
Photo: SA Proteas were looking forward to testing their mettle against the best that world number one England can muster, in a three-match T20 series and a three-match ODI series, at Senwes Park Stadium in Potchefstroom from 17 to 31 October. Pictured (from left) are Trisha Chetty, Dinesha Devnarain, Shabnim Ismail and Chloe Tryon. Photo: Rebecca Hearfield (www.gsport.co.za)