'Klaas' act, Lee-Wolvaardt show helps South Africa go 1-0 up

Lizelle Lee (R) and Laura Wolvaardt put on 163 runs for the opening wicket. © White Ferns/Twitter

South Africa bagged two crucial Championship points by defeating New Zealand by seven wickets at Eden Park Outer Oval in Auckland in the first match of the three-match ODI series on Saturday (January 25). Lizelle Lee (99) and Laura Wolvaardt with an unbeaten 91 starred with the bat for the Proteas. The duo shared an opening partnership worth 163 runs, which laid the foundation for the run-chase.  Earlier with the ball, Masabata Klass picked up three wickets and helped restrict New Zealand.
On a good batting surface, South Africa won the toss and elected to bowl first. Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp, South Africa’s new-ball bowlers, were disciplined and did not give New Zealand’s opening batters, Lauren  Down and Bernadine Bezuidenhout, any freebies. The runs came at a snail’s pace during this time. Masabata Klass struck on her first ball by removing Down for nine. She later sent back Bezuidenhout for 25 runs.
New Zealand were 51 for two in the 15th over then.
That’s when the ‘Smash Sisters’ – Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine – changed the tempo of the innings. Devine, playing her first match as New Zealand’s captain, played typical blistering innings and took on the bowlers. She scored 27 runs off 30 balls and looked good to get more. That though was not to be as Chloe Tryon struck by removing Devine, ending the 49-run partnership. Bates, who was happy to give Devine the strike when she was at the crease, took over and started to take some risks. She, along with Katie Perkins, added 46 runs for the fourth wicket.
Bates reached her 26th half-century off 71 balls and laid the platform for other batters to capitalise. Unfortunately, Bates soon got out for 53. It was now up to the set Perkins to take New Zealand to a formidable total. She reached her fourth ODI fifty and accelerated after that. She formed a vital 50-run stand with Hayley Jensen (20 in 11 balls) that propelled New Zealand to 259 for the loss of nine wickets. Perkins finished her innings on 78 off 83 balls.
Klass was the pick of the bowlers for South Africa with three wickets giving away just 30 runs. Ayabonga Khaka, with her late strikes in the last over, too picked up three.
In pursuit of a competitive target, Lee and Wolvaardt started on a positive note. Lee was the dominant of the two and took on Rosemary Mair and Holly Huddleston. Devine brought herself on but she too was carted for 12 runs off her first two overs. The Protea openers brought up the 50-run stand in the 11th over and looked good to get more. Lee brought her 18th fifty off just 51 balls. Soon, Lee and Wolvaardt brought up the South African 100 in just the 20th over.
In search of wickets, Devine brought on Amelia Kerr and Leigh Kasperek into the attack, but the elusive opening wicket eluded the duo.  On the other hand, Wolvaardt steadily got to her fifty and along with Lee also brought the 150 up. Against the run of play Lee, fell agonizingly short of a well-deserved hundred. The 163-run opening wicket stand was finally broken when Jensen struck and provided New Zealand with a much-needed breakthrough. Soon after, Sune Luus, too, departed for 15 runs as Bates got her first wicket.
Wolvaardt though remained solid at one end and along with Dane van Niekerk (37) runs continued to consolidate. The duo shared a 64-run stand for the fourth wicket before anv Niekerk was out. Wolvaardt remained unbeaten to see off the chase with nine balls to spare.
Brief Scores: New Zealand 259/9 in 50 overs (Katie Perkins 78, Suzie Bates 53; Masabata Klass 3-37, Ayabonga Khaka 3-43) lost to South Africa 260/3 in 48.3 overs (Lizelle Lee 99, Laura Wolvaardt 91*; Suzie Bates 1-24) by seven wickets.