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CRICKET

Australia punish inexperienced Proteas women on opening day of Test match

Australia punish inexperienced Proteas women on opening day of Test match
Darcie Brown of Australia walks from the field with figures of 5 for 21 during day one of the Women's Test match between Australia and South Africa at the WACA on 15 February 2024 in Perth, Australia. (Photo: Paul Kane / Getty Images)

Australia 251-5 (Alyssa Healy 99, Beth Mooney 78). South Africa 76 (Suné Luus 26, Darcie Brown 5-21). Australia lead by 175 runs.

The Proteas women encountered a baptism by fire on their first day of Test cricket since June 2022, trailing Australia by 175 runs on Thursday.

It was a day of harsh lessons for South Africa as they were skittled for 76 runs in just more than one session before Australia quickly compiled 251 runs for the loss of five wickets at the close of play at the Western Australian Cricket Association ground in Perth 

South Africa’s day started wretchedly, with star all-rounder Marizanne Kapp ruled out before play due to illness. It meant that four players – Delmi Tucker, Ayanda Hlubi, Masabata Klaas and Tazmin Brits – all made their debuts in the format. 

The Proteas lack of experience was most evident in their batting display. 

Skipper Laura Wolvaardt, first drop Suné Luus and Nadine de Klerk went out playing away from their body against the moving red-leather ball.

All the damage was done by Australia’s seamers, with 20-year-old Darcie Brown taking her maiden five-wicket haul while Annabel Sutherland and Tahlia McGrath grabbed three and two scalps, respectively.

After being dismissed for the lowest-ever total in Test cricket, South Africa briefly looked like they were back in the contest when an inspired new-ball spell by Masabata Klaas had Australia stuttering on 12 for the loss of three wickets after five overs.

Masabata Klaas

Masabata Klaas of South Africa bowls during day one of the Women’s Test match between Australia and South Africa at the WACA on 15 February 2024 in Perth, Australia. (Photo: Paul Kane / Getty Images)

Masabata Klaas of South Africa celebrates the wicket of Phoebe Litchfield of Australia during day one of the Women’s Test match between Australia and South Africa at the WACA on 15 February 2024 in Perth, Australia. (Photo: Paul Kane / Getty Images)

Masabata Klaas of South Africa celebrates the wicket of Tahlia McGrath of Australia during day one of the Women’s Test match between Australia and South Africa at the WACA on 15 February 2024 in Perth, Australia. (Photo: Paul Kane / Getty Images)

Bowling Master-Klaas

Klaas picked up Phoebe Litchfield in the opening over of the Aussies’ innings after the opener essentially guided the ball to Anneke Bosch at third slip.

After a tidy first spell of Test cricket by Hlubi from the other end, Klaas took two in her third over after some built up pressure.

Ellyse Perry and McGrath – both guilty of driving hard at balls wide of the off stump – were neatly caught behind by wicketkeeper Sinalo Jafta.

From South Africa’s first period of domination, Australia immediately countered with an aggressive partnership between Beth Mooney (78) and Skipper Alyssa Healy (99).

The pair put on a mammoth 155-run fourth wicket partnership before Nadine de Klerk got rid of Mooney, caught at a wide second slip by Luus.

Healy played excellently and put on an 82-run partnership with Sutherland as she steadily approached her maiden Test century.

But the innocuous off-spin of Tucker had other ideas as Healy meekly chipped one straight back to the bowler, dismissed on 99.

“It wasn’t a great day … we didn’t start the way we were supposed to,” Klaas said after the first day’s play.

Klaas said watching the Australian fast bowlers tear through the Proteas’ batting lineup helped her with her bowling plans.

“I watched the first half of the Australian bowlers and I sat there and saw there was some [movement] in the pitch so I said I was going to make use of it,” she said.

“I went to bowl with a positive mindset of hitting my lines and lengths, and I did that and it worked for me.” 

No one getting going

Luus top scored for South Africa after being inserted to bat by Healy. Luus, with 26 runs, was the only top-order batter to reach double figures while Klaas, batting at No 10, added 10 runs.

“Our batters need to bat long, because – as you saw with the Australians – the longer you bat the better the wicket gets,” Klaas said, speaking about where the team needs to improve after day one.

The pitch offered assistance for the Aussie fast-bowlers, especially at the start of the first session, but the Proteas also gifted wickets, playing shots more akin to limited overs cricket.

The loss of Kapp before the Test match is also a big factor, with South Africa so heavily reliant on the all-rounder throughout the multiformat series in Australia.

South Africa requires another inspired bowling performance on day two, to stay within touching distance of Australia in the Test match. DM

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