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Proteas in with fighting chance at Women’s T20 World Cup

Proteas in with fighting chance at Women’s T20 World Cup
Dane Van Niekerk and team mates celebrate a wicket. New Zealand White Ferns v South Africa. Twenty20 international cricket. Eden Park Outer Oval, Auckland, New Zealand. Monday 27 January 2020. (Photo: Backpage Pix/Andrew Cornaga)

The ICC Women’s T20 World Cup will take place from 21 February to 8 March 2020. Various countries are legitimate contenders for the title, South Africa among them.

The seventh edition of the International Cricket Council Women’s T20 World Cup is just days from commencing. Australia, who have won the biennial event four times and are the defending champions, are the hosts for the 2020 showpiece.

Going into the 2020 tournament, competition is as stiff as it’s ever been. Despite this, Australia are still firm favourites to seal a fifth title, on home soil. 

However, teams such as England, New Zealand, India and South Africa can cause an upset Down Under. 

#ProteaFire

South Africa head into the tournament with one of the strongest teams they’ve ever assembled.

Their form coming into the tournament is patchy – they have lost three of their last five T20 games.

But they have an edge which might prove priceless: eight of their 15-player squad have appeared in the Big Bash League, an annual Australian T20 cricket league franchise.

“Many of our players have been successful in Australia in the Big Bash both last year and the year before, and I think that experience will benefit us as well. Everybody has done their homework and now it’s about going out there and representing our country with pride,” said captain Dane van Niekerk, speaking to the media during a recent training session.

The team will lean heavily on the leadership of Van Niekerk. The seasoned competitor brings a hatful of qualities to the table. She can whack the ball all over and is a skilled leg-spinner. 

Add to the mix quicks Marizanne Kapp, Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka and you’ve got some serious cricketers on your hands. 

And then there’s the batting of Laura Wolvaardt, Lizelle Lee, Mignon du Preez and Chloe Tryon. 

All-rounder Sune Luus can be a handful on her day, while 21-year-old Tumi Sekhukhune will revel at the prospect of possibly getting the opportunity to shine on such a massive stage.

The team’s best previous finish was a semi-final in 2014 and there is no reason that the Proteas can’t at least emulate that achievement in 2020. 

They failed to make the semi-finals of the last two tournaments but this time around the Proteas have all the tools available to make a serious push for the final, if not the title.

Four-horse race

Australia

The number-one ranked team starts their campaign off with a daunting fixture against India, the team ranked fourth in the latest ICC T20 rankings. 

It’s a key match and will set the tone for what fans can expect over the three-week tournament.

Australians will be confident that their team can kangaroo-kick the Indians aside to get off to the best possible start. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t feel this way.

The team have the wonderful advantage of being at home and they boast in their ranks some of the best T20 players around. 

Captain Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy can terrorise the best bowling line-ups with the willow. They also possess the number-one ranked bowler, Megan Schutt, as well as lethal all-rounder Ellyse Perry in their arsenal.

Despite a recent dip in form, it will take something special to prevent the tournament hosts from going on to clinch their fifth World T20 title, and their second on the trot. 

New Zealand 

The White Ferns have been runners-up twice since the inception of the tournament: once in the inaugural tournament in 2009, then again in 2010 when they were pipped by Australia.  

Their campaign will very much revolve around their skipper Sophie Devine and her performances. She is fresh from a spectacular Big Bash season for the Adelaide Strikers. She topped the table of run scorers, accruing 769 runs at an average of 77, with a strike rate of 130.

Since then she has continued her run of form, adding three half-centuries, an unbeaten century and four wickets in just four T20s at the start of February. 

Big performances from 19-year-old Amelia Kerr, as well as Leigh Kasperek, should help the Kiwi cause for their maiden title.  

England

England, who have won the T20 World Cup once, kick off their campaign with a strong leader at the helm. 

It’ll be Lisa Keightley’s first major tournament in charge, the Australian only having taken over the reins from Mark Robinson in October 2019.

The 48-year-old, who is a former head coach of the England Academy, brings a wealth of wisdom to the role having also previously coached her native country and four-time champions Australia.

They have a wealth of talent in their team and are the team most likely to strip Australia of their crown. To do so on Australian soil, after losing to the champions in the final last time out, will be that much sweeter.

They will rely on experienced campaigners in their endeavour, one of those being Tamsin Beaumont who is heading into her fifth T20 World Cup. In her 64 T20 appearances, the batter has amassed 1,247 runs at a brisk strike rate of 107. Another is Katherine Brunt.

One of England’s greatest-ever fast bowlers, Brunt will come to the fore at another major tournament. With more than a decade of international experience under her belt, Brunt will be an indispensable asset for England.

And of course, everyone needs an outstanding all-rounder. The English have Nat Sciver. She sits at number four in the world in the ICC T20 rankings for all-rounders and boasts impressive figures of over 1,200 runs and 56 wickets in the T20 format.

India

Semi-finalists on three occasions (2009, 2010, 2018), India are hoping to spin their win to the ultimate prize – literally.

Their squad is stacked with spin-bowling options with Shikha Pandey their sole frontline seamer, while all-rounders Pooja Vastrakar and Arundhati Reddy are also in the team to provide extra pace. 

Smriti Mandhana will undoubtedly be their best hope of a memorable display in this tournament. Her willow work is unmatched. With 621 runs in 19 matches, the left-handed opener is the highest run-scorer in the shortest format since the last T20 World Cup. She has scored these runs at a strike rate of 128.57. 

In Australia she will depend on the support of fellow batters Shafali Verma and Jemimah Rodrigues to accumulate the runs, what with their middle order not inspiring any particular enthusiasm. 

Honourable mentions

The West Indies are the only other team, besides Australia and England, to be crowned World Champions. Their triumph came in 2016. 

They have very little chance to replicate this in 2020. But Stafanie Taylor, who won the player of the 2016 World Cup as her nation beat Australia in the final, will be an exciting player to watch in the tournament.

After winning the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Asia region qualifier held in their own backyard, Thailand participated in a T20 tri-series held in Netherlands – alongside Ireland and Scotland. The Thai women were victorious and claimed their place in the main event.

The team will be making their debut in the tournament, and even though not much is expected from them, they should be exciting to watch, especially as they have in their ranks reigning ICC Emerging Player of the Year, Chanida Sutthiruang. DM

Groups

A: Australia, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka

B: England, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand, West Indies

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