BRISTOL, England - After trouncing the opposition by 10 wickets with 262 balls to spare, nobody would have begrudged the Proteas women’s side taking the rest of the day off.
It was a Sunday, after all, and the job had been convincingly done. But instead of lazing around the hotel, catching up with loved ones back home or simply absorbing the magnitude of their victory, Dane van Niekerk’s team got straight back down to business.
In fact, they called for an extra practise session immediately after the match was completed. It was a startling sight, considering it was the fast-medium bowlers who had called for the training after reducing the West Indies to 16/5 with an impressive display of seam and swing bowling.
“The girls asked to top up on some of the areas they felt they fell short in,” Van Niekerk explained. “We know that it’s still going to be a tough tournament and we don’t want to be complacent. The most important thing is to stay on top of our game and we know that it’s not going to be like this in every match.
“We spoke about this before we went out to bat that we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves, we still have to face some tough competition, including Sri Lanka who are looking good at the moment.”
A veteran of 80 ODI’s, having debuted eight years ago at the 2009 ICC Women’s World Cup, Van Niekerk is certainly accurate in her assessment that “we still have to face some tough competition”.
South Africa’s next opponents are hosts England in Bristol on Wednesday. Even without the legendary Charlotte Edwards, who now passes judgement from the commentary boxes, the ladies in navy blue remain one of the powerhouses of the women’s game.
The English have certainly reigned supreme in ODI contests with the Proteas over the years, with Van Niekerk only being on the victorious side once in her career in seven attempts.
It is highly unlikely that Heather Knight’s side will “just miss the balls” in the way Van Niekerk described the Windies’ feeble batting efforts at Grace Road.
England’s batting unit is among the strongest in the competition, with Sarah Taylor, Knight, Natalie Sciver and Fran Wilson forming a formidable middle-order.
They will certainly not enter the contest with any form of complacency either. India inflicted a shock defeat on England in the tournament opener, which seems to have galvanised the former champions for they have since swept aside Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the past week.
However, the English remain vulnerable at the top of the batting order with the tournament hosts struggling to settle on an opening combination. Taylor was moved down to No 3 for the last game with Lauren Winfield called up to partner Tammy Beaumont.
South Africa’s impressive new-ball attack consisting of Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp will definitely view this as an opportunity to make early inroads in order to have a crack at England’s “Awesome Foursome” with the ball still shiny and hard.
Van Niekerk is certainly backing her pace duo to get the job done.
“I looked at the (West Indies) dismissals and the way the ball moved and any batter in the world would probably struggle,” Van Niekerk said. “Shubby (Ismail) was nipping them back, and (Marizanne) Kappi was swinging the ball miles -we know when they are on song that is what happens. They’re going to trouble most of the best batters in the world.”