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The moment is now for the Proteas Women to achieve World Cup glory

The moment is now for the Proteas Women to achieve World Cup glory
Proteas Women T20 captain Sune Luus. (Photo: Harry Trump / Getty Images)

South Africa has never won a cricket World Cup. The Women’s T20 tournament is the perfect opportunity for the country to set that right.

The Proteas Women are not the favourites going into the T20 World Cup — starting tomorrow evening at Newlands with South Africa taking on Sri Lanka. 

In fact, they are only the fifth-ranked team in the format. 

However, with a monumental tournament on home ground, and arguably their best side yet, there is no better chance for the side to be the first from the country to claim a World Cup trophy.

“It’s massive. I don’t think we’ve realised what we’ve already achieved without playing a game,” said team captain Sune Luus at Thursday’s pre-match press conference.

Women’s cricket has grown rapidly in the past few years and the South African team has grown with it, becoming one of the leading teams in the world.

The Proteas Women played some of their best cricket in the previous edition of the tournament in Australia, topping their group before unluckily going out via the Duckworth-Lewis method to eventual champions Australia.

However, skipper Luus believes the side has grown and become better since that bitter defeat in Sydney. 

“[In the past] three years, a lot of our skills have improved. Going into this World Cup, we’re more confident in our skill set that we have. We have more options going into this tournament as well,” she said.

“We’re a more confident side, although we’re very young. We have a very well-balanced side, experience and youth.

“It’s very exciting for everyone going into this World Cup just knowing the skill set we have and how we’ve developed over the last few years.” 

One game at a time

South Africa’s opening match against Sri Lanka won’t be easy, despite the opponents coming into the tournament ranked a lowly eighth.

The Newlands wicket has proven to be on the slow side over the course of the SA20 and domestic matches this season which could favour the subcontinent side and their plethora of spin options.

The Proteas, though, have decent spin bowling options themselves in all-rounders Chloe Tryon — with her left-arm orthodox bowling — and Luus’ leg breaks. 

But their main spin threat is that of Nonkululeko Mlaba, who is the No 2-ranked spin bowler in T20. 

“She’s been fantastic in our team. She’s started at a very young age and she’s grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years in terms of her bowling,” said Luus about Mlaba. 

“Every game she plays she only gets more confident. She’s going to be vital for us, being our main spinner, controlling the game.” 

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A healthy South African spin crop bodes well for a side that have relied on the exploits of their fast bowlers for so long. 

proteas women

Shabnim Ismail of South Africa bowls during the 2nd Vitality IT20 between England Women and South Africa Women at New Road on 23 July 2022 in Worcester, England. (Photo: Ryan Hiscott / Getty Images)

Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail are still two of the most feared fast bowlers in the game and Ayabonga Khaka, along with Masabata Klaas, always provide more than able support. 

The quartet are sure to fire, if not against Sri Lanka, then on the slightly quicker wickets at St George’s Park and Boland Park. 

South Africa’s task does not get any easier after Sri Lanka. They face a potential do-or-die match against New Zealand on Monday — as both teams are likely to be battling it out for second place in group 1 — before they take on world champions Australia the following Saturday. 

The Proteas Women’s final group stage match is against Bangladesh on Tuesday, 21 February.

The semifinals follow on 23 and 24 February before the final on 26 February. 

In essence, the Proteas only need to play their very best cricket in five matches to go where no other South African cricket side has gone. 

Inspiring the next generation 

The World Cup is about more than just winning matches and “success” according to Luus. With the eyes of the country on its women’s side, it is an opportunity to inspire young girls. 

“Apart from the cricketing things and apart from being successful and winning games, we have a responsibility of inspiring a nation and inspiring young girls to get out of their comfort zones and to imagine a career where they can do anything,” said the skipper. 

“That is one of our biggest roles as a team we would like to play. Not just winning games but also inspiring a nation to give them the opportunity to know that they can be anything they want.”

The role of both inspiring and being successful could add to the pressure South Africa already has as the host nation. But Luus assured that the pressure was there to be embraced. 

“There’s always going to be pressure and you feel it whether you play at home or not… We just need to embrace the moment and embrace the pressure and run with it.

“There’s not much you can do about the pressure and all the people that’s going to be here and all the media saying things. We just have to embrace it and stay in the moment and play good cricket. 

Warming up

SA have played two warm-up matches leading up to the tournament. They lost to England by 17 runs on Monday before thumping Pakistan by six wickets on Wednesday.

“The results showed a loss and a win but for us, both games were wins for us,” said Luus.

England scored a mammoth 246 for seven against the Proteas before the South Africans hit back with 229 for nine in their allotted 20 overs.

“Our batting has come a long way. To score 229, that’s massive and our biggest score yet. That’s really cool to see what we can actually do. Pushing that 160s, 170s if the pitches allow that.”

South Africa’s batters have all had a good knock headed into the tournament and the bowlers have never let the side down on the big stage. 

All the pieces are in place for the side to have their best World Cup yet. DM

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