South Africa have reached the semi-final of the ODI World Cup twice – in 2000 and 2017. They almost came close to a final berth in the last event, when they missed out with a narrow loss to the eventual winners England. The Rainbow Nation will be hoping to go one better this time, even in the absence of their talismanic skipper Dane van Niekerk.
Laura Wolvaardt emphatically picked South Africa as the best bowling attack in the world in her chat with Women’s CricZone. And it’s not without reason, at least when it comes to the fast bowlers, they have the most potent attack, with Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail headlining it. If these two are not enough, they have the underrated Ayabonga Khaka backing them up with some incredible performances since the 2017 World Cup. In Masabata Klaas, they have another capable seamer to round off the attack.
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Opening duo of Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt
Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt are the most prolific opening duo in ODIs since the World Cup 2017, having made 1695 runs at an average of 52.96 from 31 matches. They have had 15 fifty-plus stand during the period – the most by any pair – with only Rachael Haynes and Meg Lanning matching their five-century partnerships.
Even though Lee will be missing at least the first fixture against Bangladesh, opposition sides will be vary of the firepower they possess and whenever these two come out all guns blazing, South Africa have enough meat in their middle order to post or chase down daunting totals.
Spin bowling in the absence of Dane van Niekerk
There has been enough talk about how South Africa are going to miss van Niekerk in the leadership role, but with the experience present in the side and a capable leader in Sune Luus, they are probably covered in that aspect. But it’s her leg-spin that they are going to miss the most. Van Niekerk was the leading wicket-taker in the 2017 edition when she took 15 wickets at an incredible average of 10.00 from seven matches.
Like in the case of captaincy, Luus will once again have to shoulder the burden of the spin attack. The allrounder has been a reluctant bowler in the past while leading the side despite having a great record in the format. Nonkululeko Mlaba has been impressive in her short career, but hasn’t been among the wickets most times and that inexperience could be something other teams could look to exploit.
Is this time for South Africa?
South Africa have built themselves a solid squad over the years, but haven’t managed to go beyond the semi-final mark in ICC tournaments. They had heart-breaking losses in the last global events – in both ODI and T20 formats. This could be their best opportunity to break that semi-final hoodoo and have a shot at the coveted trophy.
Many shades of Mignon du Preez
Mignon du Preez made her debut in 2007. She is the leading run-getter in South Africa’s ODI history and has led the side in the past. Now as a senior member in the side, the right-hander has transformed into one of the versatile middle-order batters in the world. She will be crucial to the Proteas’ chances with her ability to maneuver the strike against both spin and pace.
Du Preez has been an inspiration for young batters and South Africa will see this tournament as an opportunity to win it for their most-capped player.
While there isn’t much to read into their exits from the World Cup 2017 and T20 World Cup 2020, South Africa still could be put under pressure by sides who have the experience of playing in the knockouts more often than the Rainbow Nation. Kapp and van Niekerk have enjoyed title triumphs in the shorter format with franchise sides in the WBBL and The Hundred. But with van Niekerk absent, Kapp becomes all the more important to the side and they will be looking to wrap her in cotton wool after her recent health issues.