Dane van Niekerk in action. © WICB

“I have opened the batting with Lizelle Lee and we had a really successful partnership”, said The Proteas captain Dane van Niekerk who scored an unbeaten 71 of 55 balls to lead her side to a seven-wicket victory in the opening encounter of their three-match T20 International series against Sri Lanka in Cape Town, Newlands on Friday.

In the absence of the hard-hitting Lee due to failing to meet the team’s fitness standards, van Niekerk opened the batting with Tazmin Brits and certainly made a strong case for herself as an opening batter.

“We just felt like I am striking the ball well at the moment especially after the Big Bash League, give ourselves the best chance to face as many balls as I can and hopefully do half the job Lizelle did.”

The Proteas recently dropped Laura Wolvaardt from the T20 squad due to the slow nature of her game, not being able to score quickly and rotate the strike. The South African selectors haven’t really found a suitable batter to open with Lee in T20 cricket.

“When the team is under the pump and the batting line up is under the pump you try to disperse your senior batters as far as you can throughout the batting line up so that was the plan in the past but hopefully the selectors and the coaches see that there is some value at the top”, said van Niekerk.

van Niekerk went on to say that it would be nice to open the batting with Lee more especially because of her explosive. The All-rounder also praised her opening partner for the day, Brits. “I think she did a great job, she was really nervous but the intent she showed today was exciting because we spoke about the brand we want to play and she bought into it, the team comes first and she went out there and tried to hit the ball as hard as she could.”

Reflecting on her side’s 7-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the first T20 International, van Niekerk said they started well with the ball and did not give the visitors loose balls. “They (Sri Lanka) struggled to catch up with the run rate so I have to put it down to a very good bowling performance today.”

The 25-year- old was the star of the show as on top of the 55-ball unbeaten 71 she scored, she also returned impressive figures of 3/12 to help The Proteas restrict Sri Lanka to 90-8 in their allocated 20 overs.

Proteas struggled a lot in the batting department during the 2018 T20 World Cup in the West Indies. With van Niekerk eager to open the batting alongside Lee, it wouldn’t be a surprise when the South African selectors and coaching stuff decide to promote the captain to open with Lee with Brits coming at 3, Mignon Du Preez 4, Marizanne Kapp 5 and the hard-hitting vice-Captain Chloe Tryon at 6.