A semi-final double-header in Dhaka awaits South African cricket tomorrow, and it’s safe to say neither was a lock to reach this stage of the competition.
It’s a big occasion for both the men’s and women’s teams though you suspect for the latter, it’s more of an achievement.
It is definitely a landmark moment for Mignon du Preez and her side, who have made it through to the semi-finals of a global event for the first time. There’s been no big secret to their success either; just pure hard work backed up by a sponsor, that genuinely cares for their well-being.
Until Momentum came along it was left very much to Cricket SA to fund the women’s team and with its attention focused on internal administrative squabbling and other areas of development, the women’s game often took a back seat.
Thanks to Momentum’s support and greater technical backing the coach Hilton Moreeng has had more time to work with the players, they’ve also had a fuller programme of matches in different conditions – in the last year they’ve toured Qatar and the West Indies, and also hosted series – and the culmination of that work is tomorrow’s semi-final against England, who won the inaugural women’s world T20 event in 2009 and were runners-up to Australia two years ago.
While Du Preez’s team have achieved a highlight, for Faf du Plessis’ side qualifying for the semi-finals was also unexpected. The game plan’s been criticised, bowlers have been inconsistent and a few batsmen too. Just think back to South Africa’s match against Australia at Centurion, a week before the tournament started, when they were pummelled. Australia looked like favourites for the event then, South Africa were wondering how to get their fielding right, as well as their batting and bowling.
Well, Australia have taken a plane home, embarrassed by India, and Du Plessis and Co have a semi-final in front of them – such is the fickle nature of 20-over cricket.
Of course now all the ghosts of ICC knockout games past will emerge – Edgbaston 1999, Dhaka 2011, The Oval 2013 – providing probably the biggest challenge for the side.
They certainly have the ability to beat India, their confidence should be up after emerging from a group in which they weren’t given much chance, but it is the mental constraints that will hamper them.
Can they finally overcome the knockout hang-ups that have so bedevilled them in ICC events? It’s a monumental task against the best side in the tournament.
It could be a wonderful Friday for South African cricket – one team has already achieved so much, the other has a chance to change perceptions. - The Star