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Key players for the South Africa and New Zealand Women's series

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South_Africa_New_Zealand_Women_T20I_CricketThe Proteas Women have been in great form of late, exemplified by their 3-0 rout of New Zealand Women in the recently completed ODIs. You don’t win that easily versus a top ranked side like Devine’s unit. It was a victory to savour.

But the euphoria was short-lived, for the hosts immediately bounced back in the 5-match T20I series. With the White Ferns having taken a 1-0 lead over the Proteas Women, one wonders what lies ahead.

Here are the key players from both sides.

Rachel Priest

Among the senior-most figures in a powerful line-up, the keeper-batter returned to the White Ferns after a prolonged spell on the sidelines.

And what a stylish return. She starred in a powerful win in the first T20, contributing 37 from just 28 balls, including 4 huge sixes and a four.

Although the 34-year-old attacking batter has already compiled nearly 1,700 ODI runs (with 2 hundreds and 9 fifties), her last two seasons weren’t the most impressive. Her last 19 ODIs before the current series returned only 440 runs.

Now that she’s off to a fine start with several games remaining, another good knock should guarantee her presence for the upcoming T20Is.

Priest’s experience lends credibility to a batting unit that desperately needs some runs and is dearly missing Amy Satterthwaite. Moreover, her T20I strike rate of 107 shows the ease with which she finds gaps and clear the ropes.

That said, the big hitter of the white ball will seek to better her record against the Proteas in ODIs. Against them, she’s collected 173 runs from 10 games, including a vital 86.

Katie Perkins

One of the most useful and dangerous middle-order batters around, never before has the need for someone like Perkins been so pressing to New Zealand as today.

She wasn’t picked for the first game of the series, but the games ahead should strengthen her chance to bat again and show her mettle.

It wasn’t long ago that Perkins gave an example of just why she’s so vital to the White Ferns.

She marked her return to the White Ferns, having already played 69 ODIs from which she’d scored well over 1,100 runs, by immediately rewarding the faith of the selectors with a career-best 78 in the first ODI.

The vital fifty was typical of Perkins’ grit, though it came in a losing cause. On a sluggish pitch where runs didn’t come easy, Perkins soldiered on when the top order didn’t collect too many runs. Moreover, in her 4th fifty in ODIs, she outscored both Bates (53) and Devine (27).

Someone who can both accumulate runs in pressure situations and score freely, Perkins, who had an off day with the bat in the second ODI, will want to make it count in the remaining T20Is.

Holly Huddleston

Bowling economically in T20s at a rate of under 5 in T20Is - thy name is Huddleston! The winner of the revered Phyl Blackler Cup in 2018 (for the best bowler in the New Zealand domestic circuit), Huddleston has been a key member of the Kiwi contingent for the better part of the last five years.

This is a name that South Africa won’t forget easily.

Prior to the ongoing series, the last time these two sides played a bilateral series, most remembered for South Africa’s woeful batting struggles in the 5-2 loss, Huddleston made a striking impression in the third game.

The agile medium-pacer took a magnificent fifer – 5/25 in 10 overs – and dismantled the middle and lower order, including the key wickets of Kapp and the big-hitting Tryon.

Dane van Niekerk

Niekerk, who didn’t feature in the opening T20 of the series, will keenly hope the side will bounce back in the upcoming games. Going 1-0 down already, South Africa seem to be on the back foot. What can the glue of the Proteas Women’s side do in the coming days?

But for now, Niekerk’s return to the side, after a long break due to an injury last year, is perhaps the biggest boost for the ODI series-winning campaigners.

While much of her impressive all-round skills, exemplified by 2,085 ODI runs (1 ton, 9 fifties) and 129 wickets at an enviable economy of 3.5, are yet to hold attention, the return of a proven match winner to the Proteas unit signals a return to normality for the side.

An inspiration in her conduct and a genuine leader, the return of the leg spinner means the likes of Luus will find able support in the spin department.

Moreover, against the White Ferns, Niekerk the batter has already scored 260 runs at a fantastic average of 43 from just 9 games.

Marizanne Kapp

“Kappie” is among the most dangerous all-rounders in the international arena. Surprisingly, she didn’t feature in the first T20. But there are 4 games to go. Kapp, a tireless soldier, should be counted on to strengthen the Proteas unit.

Just the kind of spirit with which one of the South Africa’s all-time legends- 107 ODIs, 1,800+ runs, 1 ton, 8 fifties, 122 wickets, 4 four-fers- brings to the game: focused and quietly determined.

But the Proteas will want one of their finest campaigners against the White Ferns to continue collecting steady returns.

Lizelle Lee

The ball travels far and long when connected with the bludgeoning blade of the great Lizelle Lee, a scorer of well over 2,500 ODI runs, including 2 hundreds and 18 fifties.

This is something that Lee, who made 20 off 23 in the first T20I, would be keen to bring on in the next contests.

A trailblazing batter in the mould of Sehwag and Pietersen, Lee’s ground strokes, particularly toward the cover and midwicket, carry her signature power and stamp of authority.

She has been the batting mainstay for her side, making runs at the top consistently, as exemplified by a career strike rate of 86.

And staying true to her expressive standards of batting, it was Lee who powered the Proteas women to an emphatic win in the opening ODI of the ongoing series, scoring a run-a-ball 99. It was an effort that shone alongside Laura Wolvaardt’s, her usual batting partner making a watchful 91.

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With 4 T20Is yet to come, it could be anyone’s series. That said, here’s how the two sides have fared against one other in their past 5 T20Is

In T20 internationals, New Zealand have enjoyed an upper hand over the Proteas Women, where the past 6 outings are concerned.

The White Ferns have won 5 of their last 6 T20Is against the Proteas women, therefore offering hope that they could repeat their past form against the visiting Proteans after their largely forgettable ODI series.

Prior to the 2020 series, the last the two last faced one other in a Tri-series also involving England. On 28-June-2018, NZ won by a margin of 8 wickets, chasing down a not too challenging 149-run target with nearly 5 overs to spare. Bates (62 off just 45) and Devine (68 off 40)-clearly two of the White Ferns’ most destructive and capable batters- struck fiery fifties to guide the team home.

Then, on 20- June- 2018, NZ, batting first put a mammoth 216 on the board and beat the Proteas Women by 66 runs, which could post only a 150. Bates’ powerful hundred, a feisty 124 off just 66 balls, supported by an equally effective 73 off 48 balls by the current skipper Devine, South African bowlers were darted to all parts of the ground. In reply, only Niekerk’s fifty could offer some fight in an unsuccessful chase attempt.

That said two sides didn’t square each other in the period before, i.e., precisely from 2017- 19. But in the period before, they would only contest each other in 3 World T20s, including 2016, 2014, and 2012.

During the World T20, 2016, held in India, the White Ferns beat the Proteas by 7 wickets on March 26th. South Africa had only put 99 on the board. Kasperek, Nielsen and the now retired Bermingham attacked in tandem shaking up the Protea line up.

In the previous World T20 edition, 2014, held in Bangladesh, SA won by 5 wickets. Batting first, NZ could only put 114 on the board. The Proteas chased it down in the final over. But Kapp, Ismail and van Niekerk’s brilliant wicket-taking spells subdued the White Ferns batting.

Finally, back in the World T20, 2012, in Sri Lanka, thanks to the mighty experienced Nicola Brown’s 3-for, no longer an active cricketer, NZ women defended a respectable 151, powered by Devine’s free-scoring fifty.



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