It was a match that promised much… and delivered somewhat less. With qualification for the Tri-Series final still very much alive, I was looking forward to “a cracker” whilst Martin Davies from Women’s Cricket Blog predicted “Runs, runs, runs…”
But in the end the first over – a wide from Lea Tahuhu first-up, followed by two more – rather set the pattern for what was to come – an error-strewn contest which players and spectators alike will want to soon forget.
“We were really disappointed with the way we started that game,” admitted New Zealand’s Sophie Devine afterwards. “We were flat, we bowled plenty of extras and we just weren’t there in the field.”
“We can’t afford to play like that against any side – Suzie had to give us a bit of a rarrrrk up!”
(No – we aren’t entirely sure what a “rarrrrk up” is either… but we are fairly sure we wouldn’t want to be on the end of one!!)
“We were probably lucky to be able to pull it back the way we did,” says Devine.
That they had an opportunity to do so was mainly because if anything South Africa looked even more off-colour.
Coach Hilton Moreeng told us:
“We were below par by our standards – it is very frustrating – the inconsistency. If you look at the wicket there was not a lot of daemons in it, so another 20 or 30 runs on the board could have made a game of it.”
Laura Wolvaardt in particular couldn’t get it off the square today and chewed-up a lot of dots on her way to 25 from 37 balls; but Moreeng maintains his faith in her:
“She is a youngster – she is learning, and at the end of the day we are building towards the [T20] World Cup. She is only 19 years old – you can’t box her and say ‘she can’ or ‘she can’t’ – there is a lot that she has got – she is a clean striker of a cricket ball – she has proven it – now she has to go back and see how she can get options here.”
It chimes in with what Wolvaardt herself told us last week – she is still learning as a Twenty20 player and she knows she isn’t the finished article yet; but there is confidence that if South Africa keep faith with her, then she can be.
Asked to chase 148, New Zealand knocked them off with almost 5 overs to spare, but it wasn’t the perfect batting display from them either:
“At times we played a few rash shots!” Devine acknowledged. “It’s important for us to make sure we put away the bad ball and don’t get too carried away with ourselves.”
What made it easier though is that, once again, South Africa did half the job for them, as Moreeng admited:
“When you look at fielding, we didn’t back up the bowling. On a wicket which took a bit of pace off, which actually assisted the bowlers, the fielding wasn’t up to par.”
“The fielding the whole series wasn’t ok – it is one area where we need to go home and have a look at it and see where we can improve.”
“Given the short format in the T20 you can’t afford to give the chances what we are giving, and the way we are fielding at the moment is not gonna help.”
But there are positives to take forward:
“This wasn’t a great series, but there is a lot we’ve learned – there have been some good lessons, so we’ll see what we can adapt in our plans to make sure we go forwards.”
“We’ve got 3 months before the World Cup. We’ve got West Indies in September, away – the ICC Series and a lot of T20s. Luckily for us, we will be in the Caribbean so we will be able to get used to the conditions.”
It wasn’t to be for South Africa in England this summer, despite winning the opening ODI of the tour, but they are still a good side and anyone who underestimates them in the West Indies does so at their peril.
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While I think it’s admirable that South Africa are keeping faith with Wolvhaardt at the top of the order, it doesn’t seem the best move with the T20 world cup coming up. While there is no doubt about her talent, her strike rate often seems too slow for ODI’s let alone for T20’s, it’s a real shame that she may not get the chance to play test cricket, her game would be well suited to that.
A better option would have been to have Van Niekerk open with Lee. She can play big shots and find the gaps in the powerplay overs. She’s also in good form at the moment and seems to bat well with Lee.
This Tri-Series so far:
SA v NZ:
SA play fairly poorly and neither bat nor bowl particularly well. NZ win at a canter x 2
ENG v NZ:
NZ play fairly poorly and neither bat nor bowl particularly well. ENG win at a canter x 2
And strangely enough, ENG v SA
There’s a 50% chance that SA play fairly poorly and neither bat nor bowl particularly well. ENG win at a canter OR 50% chance SA turn up big time, and get one over on England in convincing fashion with inspired performances.
England’s concern from this is that SA are managing to make them look ordinary far more often than other teams. Two heavy recent series defeats by other sides for SA, and yet when they play England they often turn up in style. Strange, good for SA and annoying for England.
For 3 of the top professional teams, the fielding seems to have been a regular weak link for all of them quite often. Fair to say that part of the game hasn’t kept up with the improvements in bowling and (especially) batting?