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World Cup history beckons Proteas women after Windies wobble

World Cup history beckons Proteas women after Windies wobble
Raisibe Ntozakhe and teammates celebrate her dismissal of Kycia Knight of the West Indies during the third ODI at the Wanderers on 3 February 2022. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Having been ousted in the semis at the last edition of the ODI World Cup in 2017, the Proteas are gunning to become the first South African senior cricket side to win a World Cup.

With just a few weeks until the World Cup in New Zealand, the Proteas women are finally hitting their stride. After a faltering start to their preparation series against West Indies, Hilton Moreeng’s team finally exploded into life in the third of four ODI matches.

On 3 February, the South Africans walloped the tourists by a convincing 96 runs, bowling them out for 203 to defend their total of 299. Central to that imposing total was the elite Laura Wolvaardt, who ground out an impressive ton in scorching heat at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.

“It definitely wasn’t the easiest of innings. It was really hot and I had to work really hard to get singles. It was a big physical effort, but I’m really happy I got to the 100. It’s been a while since I’ve scored a 100 for South Africa,” Wolvaardt said after her player-of-the-match performance.

Known for her artistic shot-making – with her secret weapon, the cover drive – Wolvaardt will be instrumental to any hopes South Africans harbour of making history. Having been ousted in the semifinals at the last edition of the ODI World Cup in 2017, the Proteas are gunning to become the first South African senior cricket side to win a World Cup.

A great improvement

In the opening match of the series, the team was flailing on 87 for five as they chased the visitors’ score of 234. Stranger things have happened, but they were unlikely to win that match. The weather gods spared them, with the game eventually abandoned due to rain.

In the second match of the series there was an improvement. However, the frequency with which the team lost wickets as they posted 160 runs for the islanders to chase was a cause for concern. The likes of Ayabonga Khaka and Shabnim Ismail did excellently with the ball to restrict the Windies to the same 160 South Africa had managed, and it came down to a super over – when the visitors held their nerve to take the lead in the series.

“When we look at the bowling, there’s a big improvement already. To contain them to the total that we had… The bowlers did extremely well. Now it’s just for the batting to fire as well,” Proteas captain Suné Luus said after that second match.

Luus led by example in the third ODI. After losing two early wickets, the South Africans seemed set for another forgettable batting performance. However, the captain and Wolvaardt played out of their skins to lay a solid foundation with a 141-run partnership for the third wicket.

The partnership allowed the hard-hitting Chloe Tryon to enter the scene and go berserk. The all-rounder registered 43 runs from just 24 balls.

Shabnim Ismail in action during the third ODI between South Africa and the West Indies at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on 3 February 2022. (Photo: Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)

“After losing those two early wickets Suné and I decided that we would try to build a big partnership, not just run-wise, but time-wise as well. Throughout the first two our problems were that we were losing wickets at regular intervals, even though our run rate was fine,” Wolvaardt said.

“So, our main thought was just to bat as long as we could. Then we set up a nice platform for Chloe to explode at the end. She just had a full go.”

This is the type of thinking and working in tandem that will ensure the Proteas make it as far as possible at the global showpiece in New Zealand in under a month.

A worthy cause

The series against the West Indies also marks the second annual Black Day ODI, when the Proteas wear all black to raise awareness of gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa. This will happen on 6 February in the final ODI. After the inaugural day during the Pakistan series in Durban 2021, Luus and her compatriots are again aiming to use their platform in front of a massive broadcast audience to highlight GBV.

“Black Day is very important to us and as a team we feel strongly about the fight against GBV… We hope to bring awareness to this issue that affects our country greatly, and hopefully we can make a difference,” she said. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

 

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