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The troubles facing South Africa Women

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South_Africa_Women_Cricket_problemsUnder ominous skies and nippy breeze, South Africa Women’s entered the SuperSport Park in Centurion hoping to let their bats to do the talking. Sadly, it was the rains that had the last word on February 21, 2018, during the 4th WT20I between Proteas and India Women.

South Africa, who’ve been searching for victories and some soul in this series where they’ve faced unprecedented attack from India, will take heart from the 15.3 overs of cricket that were played. At the point before the rain reared its ugly head, South Africa were cruising at 130/3 with both openers striking half centuries.

Inspirational captain Dane van Niekerk, who had been struggling for form, finally found the middle of the bat in a stroke-filled 55, whilst wicketkeeping batter Lee was in the runs again with 58.

Things have not gone right for South Africa on this tour. They’ve been outplayed and made to rethink their strategies & the strength of their playing eleven.

Perspective on how tough it’s been for van Niekerk’s side.

South Africa Women’s game rarely plummets to the extent that they have to win a do or die contest in a home series. But such has been the outcome of the 2018 India Women’s tour of South Africa that of the 6 games completed so far, India Women have won 4. They have done this with talent and force of will against a side that boasts match-winners like Sune Luus, Shabnam Ismail, Mignon du Preez, Marizanne Kapp and the captain, Dane van Niekerk.

On February 18 at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, lower order batter Marizanne Kapp sneaked a scrappy single off Anuja Patil’s bowling. That run, the 134th of the Proteas’ innings, gave South Africa a hard-fought T20 win against India. It dented India’s hopes, given their form in the previous 2 T20s, of rubbing salt in the Proteas’ wounds.

Despite clinching this important victory in the 3rd T20 to pull back India’s lead in the 5-match T20 series to 2-1, there are troubles aplenty for South Africa.

Troubles aplenty for the Proteas.

The side seems to be lacking in both batting and bowling departments.

For starters, the lackluster form of opening bowler Kapp: a talent with the experience of 53 T20s.  South Africa would not have expected the potent right-hand seamer, who’s known to touch 120-123 kmph, to leak runs like a school grade cricketer.

The first T20 saw Kapp go wicketless while leaking 32 from just 2 overs. The second game saw her concede 29 off 4 overs for no wickets. The only wicket that South Africa’s leading bowler has taken thus far (in a series where there have been no shortage of explosive starts by India’s openers) was of India ODI captain Mithali Raj; this was in a surprise a wicket maiden first over in the 3rd T20.

For someone whose best bowling figures in T20s are an impressive 4/6, Kapp has been taken to the cleaners by Mandhana and Harmanpreet.

Another huge problem is the ordinary form of former limited overs captain Mignon du Preez.

A veteran who normally grinds away accumulating useful runs in the middle, du Preez has collected scores of 20 off 27, 11 off 7 and 31 off 27. On the other hand, India’s middle order has seen the less-experienced Veda Krishnamurthy and newly-capped Jemimah Rodriguez hit the best bowlers in the Proteas unit from the very middle of the bat.

If South Africa are to fire & level the series in the vital remaining contest, the hugely talented du Preez will have to use all that experience to produce some fireworks.

Opening Issues

In brief contests like T20s, the starts given by the openers can tip the scales in a team’s favour and change the fortune of the game. The Proteas must be concerned with how ordinary the showings of the openers were in the first 3 T20s. Their performance in the washed-out 4th game will no doubt be a relief.

For India, the fiery starts of Smriti Mandhana and Mithali Raj – who shared partnerships of 47 and 106 in the first 2 games, featuring beautifully timed strokes and huge hits to the fence – have dwarfed the performances of their South African counterparts.

Although van Niekerk tried to spend time in the middle and focus on finding the gaps, she failed to fire in the first 3 games; big-hitting wicketkeeper-batter Lizelle Lee managed just 39 runs from the first 3 games. Both will have taken heart from their 4th match fifties and be hoping to keep up the momentum.

Some respite in the competitiveness that Sune Luus has brought to the side.

Usually a leg-spinner who bowls with a lion-hearted appetite for wickets and puts a cap on scoring rates, right-handed batter Luus has compiled useful scores of 41 off 34, 33 off 32 and, 18 off 13 in the first 3 games. Though not the most muscled competitor in the game, Luus has been among the runs. She has played a great hand in stitching together useful partnerships when the likes of Lee, van Niekerk and de Klerk have failed to get going.

Although Luus has been successful at finding the odd boundary every now and then, complementing her judicious rotation of the strike, Chloe Tryon’s power hitting has made the real difference to van Niekerk’s ailing outfit. A big striker of the ball and someone who’s unafraid to come down the crease, she has stood out with fiery innings of 32 from 7 balls and 34 from 15 balls. India’s bowlers – whether Patil, Pandey or the miserly Harmanpreet Kaur herself – have failed to curb Tryon’s fire.

With just 1 match to go and their reputation at stake, Dane van Niekerk’s side have everything to play for and everything to lose.

 

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