Australia tour proved Kapp is an impossible gap to fill in Proteas women’s team

Australia tour proved Kapp is an impossible gap to fill in Proteas women’s team
Marizanne Kapp of South Africa celebrates with Laura Wolvaardt after taking the wicket during game two of the Women’s ODI series between Australia vs SA at North Sydney Oval on 7 February 2024. (Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

At 34, Marizanne Kapp remains an integral part of the Proteas women’s team. Her absence from the Test side was a massive loss from a middle-order batting and new-ball bowling perspective.

The Proteas women’s innings and 284 run loss to Australia in their one-off Test match was a chastening blow, which came off the back of two barrier-breaking white-ball victories against the same opposition.

Star all-rounder Marizanne Kapp did not play in the Test match. According to Cricket South Africa (CSA), it was due to illness she experienced on the morning of the first day. 

Kapp’s absence from the side was a massive loss from a middle-order batting and new-ball bowling perspective but it gave the Proteas women a jolt into the future without the star player. 

How much longer?

How long the 34-year-old continues to play for the national side is not certain. While her commitment to the country is not in doubt, 15 years of international cricket would take a toll on anyone’s body — especially a seam-bowling all-rounder. 

Kapp’s workload is already being managed by the national team. During the second One Day International (ODI) against Australia — which the Proteas won 84-runs —  she only bowled five overs.  In the lead up to the Test match Kapp also sat out certain training sessions.

Meanwhile, her new-ball bowling partner, Ayabonga Khaka — who had an uncharacteristically wayward time in Australia — elected to not take part in red-ball cricket.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Australia punish inexperienced Proteas women on opening day of Test match

 Outside of Kapp, Khaka and Chloe Tryon — two of whom did not play the Test match — the core of South Africa’s (SA) golden generation of players have all retired in the last 18 months. 

Stalwarts Lizelle Lee, Dané van Niekerk, Mignon du Preez, Shabnim Ismail, and Trisha Chetty all called time on their international careers — yet all of them bar Chetty — continue to play in the various global T20 leagues. 

And while the multi-series tour to Australia ended on a sour note with a thumping defeat, the young bucks, led by 24-year-old Laura Wolvaardt, broke barriers Proteas women’s sides before them couldn’t — beating Australia.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Floundering Proteas women stare down the barrel of massive Test loss against Australia 

“For me it ranks as one of the best [tours] we’ve had because of the fight we kept showing and every time we had our backs against the wall we had to keep fighting, somebody had to pull through,” head coach Hilton Moreeng said after the tour. “We can only build on this.” 

However, there were glaring issues on the field that were largely glossed over by incredible individual performances — mostly by Kapp.

Marizanne Kapp was South Africa’s most important player on the recent tour to Australia, but at 34, her days at the top are coming to an end. 7 February, 2024 in Sydney. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

One-person army 

SA won two matches against Australia. One ODI and one T20I, the first time they have ever beaten the Aussies in either format. 

In the T20I, a superb 75-run partnership between Tazmin Brits (41 off 28) and Wolvaardt (58 not out off 53) guided the Proteas to a six-wicket win. 

In the ODI, Kapp clubbed 75 runs off 87 deliveries before taking three wickets for 12 runs in five overs, to set up SA’s first ODI win over the Aussies. 

Outside of those two matches, SA were easily swatted aside in the other five clashes.

Skipper Wolvaardt’s form seemed to fall off a cliff after the half-century she scored. In her next six outings to the crease, Wolvaardt’s top score was 15, while being dismissed for single digits on the other five occasions.

With Wolvaardt struggling for runs, SA’s ability to remain competitive against the mighty Aussies remained firmly on the shoulders of Kapp.

Marizanne Kapp of South Africa on 7 February, 2024 in Sydney. (Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Best among the Proteas 

In the six white-ball matches, Kapp scored 221 runs at an average of 44.2, easily the best among the Proteas, to go with her six wickets — despite her bowling being limited by workload management. 

No South African batter outside of Kapp passed 50 in the ODI series. Brits struck a half-century in the first T20I, while Wolvaardt did the same in the second, Kapp knocked one in the third. 

On the bowling front, Masabata Klaas (eight) and Nadine de Klerk (seven) were the only bowlers to take more wickets than Kapp in the white-ball series. 

When news broke that Kapp would not play the Test match, following the form in the series, it was hardly a surprise to see SA’s capitulation — particularly with the willow. SA were bowled out for 76 in their first innings. 

The Proteas women have very little Test-match experience, especially compared to Australia, but Kapp has proven time and again that she has the skill set to perform regardless of the circumstances. 

In SA’s previous Test match, in England in 2022, it was Kapp who held the side together to avoid defeat. 

She struck 150 of the team’s 284 first innings runs on that occasion in Taunton — the next-highest Proteas score was 30 — before a rearguard undefeated 43 on the final day to see out the draw in the second innings.

Ayanda Hlubi of SA walks to her bowling mark during day two of the Women’s Test between Australia and SA on 16 February, 2024 in Perth. (Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Building for the future

The stack of retirements and the lack of form displayed by Khaka opened the door for 21-year-old Eliz-Mari Marx — who made her international debut in December against Bangladesh — as well as 19-year-old Ayanda Hlubi, who received her first ODI and Test cap in Australia. 

While both are not the finished products yet, they proved in Australia that they have the temperament and raw materials to excel at international cricket.

“There’ve been youngsters that came through like [Eliz-Mari] Marx. Delmi Tucker showed what she’s capable of doing; Ayanda Hlubi is also one of the finds that we think we can take into the future,” Moreeng said. 

For the first time ever, SA has a professional women’s domestic league this season — both Marx, for the Titans and Hlubi, for the Dolphins, are products of the domestic system. 

While the matches are not televised, the players are being paid professional salaries accompanied with benefits, while the Proteas women receive the same match fee as the men.

The building blocks are in place to ensure that the work done by the departed golden generation and its remnants will not be the final period of broken barriers in women’s cricket in SA. DM


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