Prior to this match, Tumi Sekhukhune had faced 81 balls in international cricket, scoring 24 runs in 11 innings, coming in at 9, 10 or 11. She has a “DNB” (Did Not Bat) next to her name on 37 of her 48 international scorecards.
In this match, she has faced 173 balls and scored 42 runs; but it is the former of those numbers that has really counted. In the 1st innings she may have only scored 9 runs, but she was party to a further 48 runs scored at the other end, taking South Africa past 250 and on to 284. Then in the second innings, after coming in as a nightwatcher, she saw off an massive 134 balls while her partners and (as she increasingly grew in confidence) her, took the game to safety – only the 3 centurions faced anything like that many balls in this match.
Oh… and she did it all whilst not being dismissed.
By the end of the afternoon session, England had thrown everything at her – Issy Wong… Sophie Ecclestone… the kitchen sink. Lauren Bell went over the wicket, round the wicket; angling it in, angling it away – nothing worked. England were clean out of plans – Sekhukhune was like a brick wall: England couldn’t have got past her with a bulldozer.
To be fair, there were a couple of chances right at the end – an edge that flew high past vacant 4th slip, and another that Sophie Ecclestone should have held on to at 2nd slip; but they were emblematic of England’s day. To get the win, they were going to have to play flawless cricket, and they didn’t quite do that. Amy Jones dropped one behind the stumps; while Tammy Beaumont under the lid, and Ecclestone again at 2nd slip, couldn’t hold on to two half-chances that were offered later in the morning session. (Beaumont’s would have been a very, very good catch if she’d taken it, but you don’t win matches like this without taking very, very good catches; while Ecclestone’s was technically not a “drop” because it did bounce, but if she’d gone forwards rather than back, I think the chance was there – you may or may not agree!)
The weather was obviously “a” factor in the result, but South Africa were making reasonable progress towards saving the game regardless. With a lead of 48 and 5 wickets in-hand, we were actually potentially looking at a scenario where it was England left with a tricky final session, having been set 150 off 15 overs at the end.
So the South Africans, with all their injury problems, can be proud of their performance. Can England? They will certainly be more disappointed than the South Africans not to get the result – they were definitely the favourites coming into the match; but Bell bowled really well (and Heather Knight clearly agrees, because she consistently opened up with Bell); Wong got crucial wickets; Alice Davidson-Richards got to write her name on the honours board of Test cricket; and Emma Lamb finally got a solid England knock under her belt.
And of course, Nat Sciver did just what we’ve come to expect Nat Sciver to do, taking home the Player of the Match award – she really is the lynchpin of this England team, so crucial to their success in every format.
Heather Knight said in the press conference that she felt England had played the game they wanted to play, and I think they did play positive cricket. The wait for a result goes on, but as with the Test at Manuka in January, this wasn’t by any means a “bore draw”. Hopefully South Africa in particular will look at this match and feel that this is a viable format for the future. How awesome would 4 days at Newlands be for a return fixture in 2024?