Th­ese women hold the key

They’ve all played in every one of SA’s 19 matches in five trips to the game’s premier tour­na­ment. And it’s that ex­pe­ri­ence the side will be look­ing up to in the Windies

Sunday Times - - Sport Cricket/results - By TELFORD VICE

● Shab­nim Is­mail is just more than a month into her 31st year, a time when most of us are pleased to have sur­vived the pim­ply reck­less­ness of grow­ing up and are look­ing ahead to years of some­thing like youth be­fore our knees hurt and teenagers no longer recog­nise us as hu­man.

But Is­mail isn’t like other 30-year-olds. As a fast bowler, she has sent down close on 11,000 fast and fu­ri­ous de­liv­er­ies in se­nior matches. So she likely has the knees of some­one twice her age, and they prob­a­bly hurt.

As the re­lent­less pis­ton in the engine that is South Africa’s at­tack, she is an ex­am­ple to fol­low. And she isn’t alone.

Is­mail, Mignon du Preez, Tr­isha Chetty and Dané van Niek­erk have all played in all 19 of the World T20 (WT20) games South Africa have con­tested since the in­au­gu­ral tour­na­ment in 2009.

Things would be dif­fer­ent this time

Does Is­mail, who has played a Test, 86 one­day internationals and 69 T20s for South Africa, feel like a pen­sioner in the dress­ing room? “Not re­ally,” she told the Sun­day Times. “I’m one of the old­est play­ers in the team, but I love the chal­lenge pre­sented by the fact that I am also one of the most ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers.

“It’s a chal­lenge to me be­cause I al­ways want the young­sters to look up to me, so I want to do well.”

Is­mail will want to do well again on Tues­day, when she and her fel­low su­per se­niors will no doubt be part of the XI who take on Sri Lanka in St Lu­cia in SA’s open­ing game of this year’s WT20.

But they have lost all of their warm-up matches, against Eng­land, Aus­tralia and Pak­istan. Only twice in those three in­nings have bat­ters reached 30, and just four of the 18 bowlers have kept the dam­age to less than a run-a-ball.

The South Africans have also had to deal with dis­rup­tion, what with Rais­ibe Ntoza­khe taken out of the equa­tion by an il­le­gal ac­tion and Saarah Smith side­lined with a bro­ken fin­ger. Both off-spin­ners, they would have been use­ful on slow West In­dian pitches.

The only time in the WT20’s five edi­tions that South Africa weren’t elim­i­nated in the first round was in 2014 in Bangladesh, when they lost to Eng­land in the semi­fi­nals. Of those 19 games, they have won only six.

But, Is­mail be­ing Is­mail, there was no shak­ing her be­lief that things would be dif­fer­ent this time.

“As the years have gone by, I can see the im­prove­ment in our per­for­mance in the WT20,” she said. “Now I’d like for us to get over that line of win­ning it.”

I’m one of the old­est play­ers in the team, but I love the chal­lenge pre­sented by the fact that I am also one of the most ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers

Shab­nim Is­mail

Proteas stal­wart

The old­sters are key to that hap­pen­ing, Is­mail said: “Ex­pe­ri­ence al­ways shows on the field. My­self and Marizanne Kapp, you won’t get a bet­ter new-ball partnership.

“You can see the dif­fer­ence when I come into the lineup. Me and Marizanne take the lineup to the next level.”

Fast bowler Kapp, who turns 29 in Jan­uary, has earned 162 white-ball caps in in­ter­na­tional cricket.

Medium pacer Masabata Klaas, who has played 38 ODIs and 24 T20s, will be 28 in Fe­bru­ary.

In­deed, Is­mail and wick­et­keeper-bat­ter Tr­isha Chetty are the only play­ers in the squad to have reached 30.

But, be­fore Smith’s with­drawal, there were also three 19-year-olds. Opener Laura Wolvaardt, per­haps the most gifted crick­eter to have emerged from South Africa in re­cent years, re­gard­less of gen­der, and medium pacer Tumi Sekhukhune are the other kids.

“It’s good for Tumi to be along­side my­self, Marizanne Kapp and Klaas,” Is­mail said. “It’s for the se­nior play­ers to say, ‘Lis­ten, we got this; you just fol­low in our foot­steps’.

“It’s about the se­nior play­ers taking con­trol and mak­ing the young­sters feel wel­come and com­fort­able in the team.

“But not too com­fort­able. . . ”

Opener Laura Wolvaardt, per­haps the most gifted crick­eter to have emerged from South Africa in re­cent years, re­gard­less of gen­der, and medium pacer Tumi Sekhukhune are the other kids

Shab­nim Is­mail made her de­but for the na­tional team in 2007 and is among the fastest fe­male bowlers in the world.

In 2013, skip­per Dané van Niek­erk be­came the first SA woman to take an in­ter­na­tional hat-trick in an ODI match.

Gallo Im­ages

Mignon du Preez was the team cap­tain in all three forms of the game, Test, ODI and Twenty20 from 2007 to 2018.

Tr­isha Chetty is one of a core of young South African women who have bro­ken into the na­tional team in 2009.

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