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Proteas women skipper Laura Wolvaardt a superior generational talent with records to boast

Proteas women skipper Laura Wolvaardt a superior generational talent with records to boast
Laura Wolvaardt powered her way to 184 not out in the third ODI against Sri Lanka. She has been in remarkable recent form. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

It’s hard to believe that Laura Wolvaardt is still only 24 years old. She has the most runs in ODI cricket and the highest-ever score.

Laura Wolvaardt is the best batter that has ever played for the Proteas women’s team. While her sweet timing, classy shot selection and elegance at the crease made it clear enough to see, she now has the numbers to back up the claim.

Wolvaardt is the highest run scorer in One Day International (ODI) cricket for South Africa having usurped former skipper Mignon du Preez’s tally of 3,760 in the drawn series against Sri Lanka.

The new skipper surpassed Du Preez’s record number of runs in 48 fewer innings. Wolvaardt is also only 24, with at least eight years of international cricket ahead of her to extend her record.

The ODI series between the Proteas women and Sri Lanka ended in a stalemate. Nonetheless, Wolvaardt took home the Player of the Series award after notching up 335 runs in only three innings.

That included an eye-catching undefeated 184 off 147 deliveries in the final match as she helped the side reach 301 for the loss of five wickets.

The subcontinent side did brilliantly to chase down the record score, thanks to an equally masterful unbeaten knock of 195 off 139 deliveries by Sri Lankan skipper Chamari Athapaththu.

Despite the incredible individual performance, Wolvaardt — who was appointed as captain at the start of the season — was left disappointed with the side’s loss in Potchefstroom on Wednesday.

“On days like today it’s very tough, especially when failing to defend 300,” she said about the captaincy after the match.

“It’s not an easy one to take because a lot of it is me and the bowlers setting fields and plans not working and execution not quite being there which is a bit frustrating.

“I’ve learned a lot this season. I’m still learning a lot. It’s difficult because [every] opposition is different and conditions are different.

“There’s a lot to learn but I’m slowly getting the hang of it. It would be nice if we could learn to defend a bit better.”

Laura Wolvaardt

Laura Wolvaardt celebrates her century during the third Women’s One Day International against Sri Lanka at JB Marks Oval. 17 April 2024. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Back in form

Wolvaardt’s run of form is a continuation of her performances with the willow against the same opposition in the T20 format. Across two innings she scored 158 runs, which included her maiden century in the format in the first match, 102 off 63 balls.

Her recent performances with the bat are a far cry from her struggles in Australia at the start of the year where she only passed 50 once in eight innings.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Laura Wolvaardt’s majestic century guides Proteas women to thumping victory

“I actually spoke to my mom about it, I’m finally scoring runs now as the season is ending which is annoying,” Wolvaardt said. “I’d just love to keep going.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Laura Wolvaardt’s majestic century guides Proteas women to thumping victory

“It’s actually a bit silly because I don’t think I’m doing that much different from what I was doing in Australia.

“In Australia, I just nicked off a few times and I was back in the shed early in all of the ODIs.

“This time I just haven’t nicked off, it’s not like I’m doing that much different in my prep or in my mindset. Cricket is just a bit of a funny game sometimes.”

Record breaker

Wolvaardt’s undefeated innings of 184 — in which she carried her bat through the innings — in Potchefstroom is the highest-ever score in ODI cricket for South Africa, passing Johmari Logtenberg’s unbeaten 153 struck against the Netherlands in 2007.

“I started really well, which doesn’t always happen to me in ODI cricket,” Wolvaardt explained about her record-breaking knock. “To get to my 50 off 35-odd balls was pretty cool.

“And I didn’t really try to do too much outside of my game, I was just timing it and was able to get a few through. [I got] a few on drives through which I always enjoy.”

Marizanne Kapp

All-rounder Marizanne Kapp has been a top performer for South Africa for years. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Wolvaardt had very little support from the other ends. The next highest score came from Marizanne Kapp who played a lively knock of 36 off 34 deliveries before being run-out.

No. 3 Delmi Tucker, who struggled to get the ball off the square, was also run-out, for one off 11 balls.

Wolvaardt was at the other end for both of these and felt it took away some of her enjoyment of the brilliant knock.

“I don’t know if it was my favourite batting performance because I was a bit upset about [the run-outs] for quite a lot of it,” she said.

“[I] whacked some at the end and was able to find a couple of boundaries.”

It was the skipper’s second century of the series, having scored an unbeaten 110 off 141 deliveries in a brilliant chase in the second ODI. It was also her seventh ODI century, four more than second-placed of all-time for South Africa in Lizelle Lee.

“Some days it feels a bit easier than others,” she said. “The 100 I got in the last game was a lot more hard fought and more of a graft whereas this one I was able to time it and hit through the line of the ball.”

The Proteas women are not the dominating international force they have set out to become just yet. But with Wolvaardt in their ranks, they have a generational talent to build the team around for years to come. DM

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