PROTEAS ON THE PROWL

Proteas pro­duce a near-per­fect per­for­mance at Grace Road in CWC

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - ZAAHIER ADAMS

South Africa’s Dane Van Niek­erk (cen­tre) cel­e­brates the tak­ing of the wicket of Shanel Da­ley, who was caught by Laura Wolvaardt. It all hap­pened dur­ing the Women’s Cricket World Cup, South Africa ver­sus West Indies, in Le­ices­ter, Eng­land, yes­ter­day.

WOMEN’S cricket in South Africa wants to be taken se­ri­ously. For years they have shouted from the rooftops, but the only way to con­vince the naysay­ers would only al­ways be through their per­for­mances.

There have been fleet­ing glimpses of ma­tu­rity, no­tably reach­ing the World T20 semi­fi­nal on the same day as the men in Dhaka back in 2014, but never have they come close to al­lay­ing their sta­tus as a poor re­la­tion.

Yes­ter­day, with Le­ices­ter’s Grace Road pro­vid­ing the stage to a global au­di­ence, Dane van Niek­erk’s team put in a per­for­mance of such high qual­ity that it even trended on Twit­ter.

The facts are, South Africa thrashed the West Indies by 10 wick­ets. The cur­rent World T20 cham­pi­ons were dis­missed for 48 – the sixth low­est in ICC Women’s World Cup his­tory – be­fore the Proteas chased it down in just 6.2 overs. There were 262 balls left in South Africa’s in­nings – the third-largest win in terms of balls re­main­ing – when 18-year-old Laura Wolvaardt struck the win­ning boundary.

It cer­tainly was a busy day for the statis­ti­cians. World No 1 ODI bowler Marizanne Kapp re­turned ca­reer-best fig­ures of 4/14 be­fore the medium-pacer’s skip­per Van Niek­erk be­came the only bowler in cricket his­tory to take four wick­ets in an in­ter­na­tional with­out con­ced­ing a run with her leg-spin­ners with fig­ures of 3.2-3-0-4

The car­nage that en­sued was set up by “the fastest bowler in the world”, Shab­nim Is­mail, who ac­counted for Ha­ley Mathews and Windies skip­per Stafanie Tay­lor.

It tore the heart out of the Windies bat­ting and the Caribbean ladies sim­ply had no band aid for a wound that bled even fur­ther when Kapp re­duced the Windies to 16/5 in the eighth over.

“It was quite sur­real. If I could script it I would not have writ­ten it like that. It was very close to per­fect. We knew how de­struc­tive the West Indies can be, so we just told the bowlers to stick to their line and lengths,” Van Niek­erk said of the per­for­mance.

“We had our plans com­ing into the game and it worked to the tee. I’m re­ally proud of the bowlers, es­pe­cially my two open­ing bowlers, they were world class. They are a qual­ity side. Last thing we ex­pected was this. We’ve said from the start. We want to con­cen­trate on our game and play our best brand of cricket.”

Hav­ing closed out a tense run-chase against Pak­istan in their opener last week and with the mid-week match against New Zealand aban­doned due to rain, the Proteas are un­beaten af­ter three matches in Eng­land. There are big­ger chal­lenges that lie ahead with jug­ger­nauts like Aus­tralia, In­dia and Eng­land wait­ing, but yes­ter­day’s de­mo­li­tion of the 2013 World Cup run­ners-up should have filled Van Niek­erk’s team with the con­fi­dence.

“That’s what we are aim­ing for,” Kapp said. “Things are fi­nally work­ing for us. We saw af­ter the close game against Pak­istan, it turned our way, re­ally look­ing for­ward to the rest of the tour­na­ment.”

If you didn’t know who Van Niek­erk, Kapp, Is­mail or Wolvaardt were be­fore, you def­i­nitely know now. Re­mem­ber their names, and some of their friends like Sune Luus, Lizelle Lee and Mignon du Preez among oth­ers, for you’re go­ing to see much more them.

PIC­TURE: LEE SMITH

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