Proteas women ready for one-off England Test
After a seven-year wait, the Proteas women face England in a one-off Test in the longest format of the game, starting on 27 June.
The Proteas women’s team have excelled in the shorter versions of the game – reaching the semifinal stage of the recent 50-over World Cup and of the T20I World Cup. They will face a different challenge when they meet England in their first Test match in nearly eight years, and only their 13th of all time.
England have played five Test matches since the Proteas played their last match in 2014, with their most recent being a drawn match against Australia in the women’s Ashes series in January this year.
“It’s amazing how well they are doing when you consider the number of games they are playing compared with their counterparts overseas,” Cricket South Africa CEO Pholetsi Moseki told Daily Maverick.
Finding the right length
The Proteas’ preparations for the one-off match at County Ground in Taunton, Somerset, got off to an excellent start with a warm-up match against England “A”.
Opening batter Laura Wolvaardt notched up a century (101 off 148 balls), with Lara Goodall (51) and captain Suné Luus (48) contributing valuable runs before the Proteas were bowled out for 301 in their first innings. Andrie Steyn scored a second-innings half-century.
Despite this positive start with the bat, Proteas women head coach Hilton Moreeng has admitted his batters had struggled the most to adapt.
“The ones we’re battling with currently are our batters. The bowlers have adapted much better; it’s looking good,” said Moreeng.
“Moving from white-ball to red-ball cricket is quite tough. In the other two [shorter] formats you can build partnerships but in this one you need to take it session by session. It’s longer concentration and it’s more taxing on the body and on the mind,” said Moreeng.
Experienced domestic men’s coach and current assistant coach at the Titans, Geoffrey Toyana, commented that batters should not overthink their strategies.
“They have an opportunity to spend some time at the crease but still have to play their natural game and not get bogged down because, at the end of the day, cricket is about scoring runs,” Toyana told Daily Maverick.
Toyana is concerned that the Proteas women’s lack of experience in the format might present itself in the field.
“It’s all about patience, fitness and mentality. It’s tough to go from bowling 10 overs [in a one-day international] – or four overs in a T20 – to bowling 20 to 25 overs in an innings. That mental adjustment will be quite important.”
Moseki, meanwhile, is pleased players who have only played limited-overs cricket will get to experience the longest format.
“We’re very excited. This will be the first time in [almost] eight years that they are playing Tests. It will be a good experience because only a few [current] players have previously played a Test, so it is quite a good experience for the players and I know they are looking forward to it,” Moseki said.
The future of the long format
Despite the weeks of preparation for the Test match on 27 June, the Proteas women are in limbo with regard to Test cricket after this outing. Women’s Test cricket is not an area of focus in the foreseeable future for the International Cricket Council (ICC).
“If you look at the way cricket is going, there is no doubt that white-ball is the way of the future – that is the game that is sought after by the fans, where the broadcasters are putting their resources and what is driving the money,” said Greg Barclay, independent chair of the ICC, earlier this month.
“Therefore, the counties (clubs) that are developing women’s cricket will focus on that. In order to play Test cricket, you have to have the structures in place domestically and they don’t really exist, so I can’t really see women’s Test or long-form cricket evolving at any speed at all.
“That’s not to say they can’t choose to play Test cricket, but I don’t really see that as part of the landscape moving forward to any real extent.”
There are no domestic women’s multi-day tournaments currently in place and no plans to implement one, according to Moseki.
“There are limited resources. It won’t make sense to go into developing something that’s focused on longer formats when they won’t be playing longer-format games [internationally].”
For now, the prospect of the Proteas women playing more Test matches lies in the more powerful cricketing hands of the ICC.
“It is actually quite good, the England Test. Hopefully they’ll play India next and who knows, maybe Australia as well. As and when the opportunity comes to play Tests, it is definitely something that we will encourage,” said Moseki.
“If suddenly the Test format booms among members then it is something that we would consider [having a multi-day domestic format]. I don’t see that happening anytime soon,” he added.
“There are a few countries that play now and then. It will never be as often as the men play but it is nice that now and then the [women] will be able to play it. Hopefully it won’t be [almost] eight years again. It will be nice if at least once a year they do play at least one Test but unfortunately it’s not something you can really control.” DM
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.
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