SA ready for their nemesis
The Proteas have beaten the English only once but expect fireworks today
IF South Africa believed they could slip under the radar at this ICC Women’s World Cup, comfortably accepting their underdog status in hopeful progression to the playoffs, their thrashing of the West Indies has certainly blown that plan out of the water.
Suddenly, Dane van Niekerk’s team are on everyone’s radar, with the opposition on high alert for the dangers the Proteas pose.
And in the true tradition of South African cricket, it is the pace bowlers that are generating the excitement with the new-ball pair of Shabim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp in particular being feared.
“We’ll be expecting a bit more pace on the ball compared to Sri Lanka, they’ve got a few slightly quicker bowlers than we have faced in the last two games, maybe slightly less spin. With the bat they’ve also got some really destructive players,” England captain and the tournament’s leading runscorer Heather Knight said ahead of the crunch clash with the Proteas in Bristol today.
Listening to the opposition talking up their chances is something the Proteas will need to get accustomed to. But they will know that it can’t lead to inflated egos, for the cold reality is that England have defeated South Africa in 17 of their last 18 ODI meetings.
It would be a major surprise should South Africa claim the scalp of the hosts – a feat former England batter and now a BBC Test Match Special summariser Ebony Rainford-Brent though felt was definitely within the reach of the Proteas in her tournament preview.
“South Africa are definitely going to cause an upset – they’re a massively rising team,” she wrote.
Proteas coach Hilton Moreeng is certainly aware of the mighty challenge that lies ahead for his team, but wants them to play the ball and not the woman.
“England are a very good team. We realise we are playing the home side, one of the favourite teams earmarked to win the World Cup. They have always given us a run for our money,” Moreeng said.
“But since we’ve landed here, we’ve wanted to worry about our skills and focus on what we do best. The two teams know each other very well. It’s about who does the basics well. At the moment our squad is in a good space. We’re playing well and the team is moving in the right direction.”
There is further reason for optimism. Despite’s South Africa’s dire record against the English, the Proteas were actually victorious the last time these two sides faced off against each other at the County Ground way back in 2003.
The heroine on that blissful day for the Proteas was a 14-year-old schoolgirl Johmari Logtenberg, who shared a 136run partnership with Daleen Terblanche that set up a total that was beyond England’s reach.
South Africa have the youngest team at this ICC Women’s World Cup with 28-year-old’s Trisha Chetty and Ismail the oldest in the squad. After all these years, could it be the chance of another teenage batter, Laura Wolvaardt, to set Bristol alight and inflict damage on the English?
Meanwhile, Chloe Tryon is also ready to light the fireworks up against England.
The South Africa batter has been part of the international set-up since she was 16 and has now progressed to being vice-captain of the side.
Her 92 off 68 balls against Ireland in 2016 is her best score in ODIs to date but she would love to score her maiden hundred during the World Cup.
She scored three runs in the opening game against Pakistan and then saw her chances of bettering that hit by a wash-out against New Zealand in Derby.
She may have calmed her explosive style down over the years, but she says she is still capable of bringing out the big shots if it feels right.
“I take each game as it comes, I like to play my natural game,” Tryon said. “If it’s fireworks, it’s fireworks.
“I used to be a big hitter when I first came into the team but now I have established myself a lot more trying to build an innings and get to that hundred.
“I feel like I’ve fallen short a bit too much now.
“I owe it to myself to get over the line and make my first hundred. It would be the best place to do it at the World Cup. I came in about seven years ago and it’s been a good ride so far. I feel like I’m in my prime at the moment, I’ve learned a lot on the way.
“A lot of other girls came in around the same time as me so we have a good understanding, it has been good.” – addition reporting by ANA