Sport

T20 WORLD CUP

Laura Wolvaardt’s way with the bat makes SA believe we will win a World Cup

Laura Wolvaardt’s way with the bat makes SA believe we will win a World Cup
Laura Wolvaardt of South Africa in action during the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final match against Australia at Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town on 26 February 2023. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

In the dying overs of the final of the Women’s T20 World Cup, Laura Wolvaardt provided the country with a glimmer of hope that a cricket World Cup trophy will (eventually) come to South Africa.

When Laura Wolvaardt’s wooden blade thrashed Australian bowlers Tahlia McGrath and Georgia Wareham to all parts of the luscious Newlands cricket ground in consecutive overs at Sunday’s T20 Women’s World Cup final, belief flooded across South Africa – even if for just a short while.

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Laura Wolvaardt of South Africa in action against Bangladesh. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

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Players of South Africa and Australia make their way on to the Newlands, Cape Town field for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Final on 26 February 2023. (Photo: Mike Hewitt / Getty Images)

t20 women's world cup

Tazmin Brits of South Africa takes a catch to dismiss Ellyse Perry of Australia during the 2023 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

Perhaps this was the moment. Just maybe, a senior South African cricket team would go where no other side has gone and clinch a cricket World Cup trophy.

It wasn’t to be and she was dismissed by Megan Schutt two overs later and that hope was destroyed.

And, as the old sporting adage goes: “It’s the hope that kills you.”

That hope has been dangled and snatched away from South Africa’s cricket-loving public over the past month.

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South Africa came into the Women’s T20 World Cup off the back of a tri-series win over West Indies and India. They defeated India in the final of the mini-competition to claim victory.

The confidence-boosting win provided hope that South Africa could finally break the country’s cricket World Cup hoodoo.

Just a week later, they lost the curtain-raiser of the Women’s T20 tournament to Sri Lanka by three runs – and that hope shrunk again.

But the team put their World Cup goals back on track when they found their mojo against New Zealand three days later. The South Africans then only managed to scrape past Bangladesh in their final group-stage match, which made a semifinal loss seem inevitable against the then unbeaten England.

But the South Africans stepped up to produce a hope-renewing six-wicket victory over the English, the second-ranked team in the world, in the semifinal. They once more instilled belief that the improbable was possible.

Underdogs

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Chloe Tryon of South Africa fields in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final match against Australia at Newlands Cricket Ground. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

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Fast bowler Shabnim Ismail of South Africa celebrates the wicket of Georgia Wareham of Australia in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final at Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town on 26 February 2023. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)

The Proteas were always going to be the underdogs against Australia, who were battling for their sixth consecutive T20 World Cup title against a South African side making their first appearance in a final.

But fans queued for hours the day before the final to secure tickets as more than 13,000 joyous supporters in Cape Town believed that this could finally be South Africa’s day after years of cricketing heartbreak.

Australia posted a competitive total of 156 for four after captain Meg Lanning won the toss and elected to bat first.

South Africa’s chase got off to a poor start, sitting on 22 for one after the six-over powerplay. The scoring-rate quickly shot up to more than 10 runs an over as South Africa’s hopes of a World Cup miracle slowly drifted away.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “SA fail at final hurdle as Australia clinch record sixth Women’s T20 World Cup crown

But once Wolvaardt finally got going and her glorious straight blade struck the white leather slung toward her into the Oaks grass embankment off Wareham’s bowling – for her third maximum – the miracle was on the cards once more.

‘World class’

“Laura Wolvaardt, she’s a world-class player,” said Wareham after the starlet’s innings of 61 off 48 deliveries. “I was definitely nervous when she was bombing me over my head.”

Her untimely dismissal meant this World Cup dream was crushed and Australia took the World Cup honours by 19 runs – but, fortunately for South Africa, Wolvaardt has many more World Cups and many more such innings in store.

“You want your players to step up on the big occasion and that’s exactly what she did. She showed her class again today at just the [young] age of 23,” said Proteas captain Suné Luus after the match.

“For us as a team, it’s very exciting to know that she’s going to be here for the next 10 years. I’m so excited to be next to her and see her break all the records in the near future.”

Despite the loss, there remains a sense of excitement and expectation that this team, with magical players such as Wolvaardt, will seal South Africa’s first World Cup triumph when the 50-over iteration rolls around in Bangladesh next year. DM

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